I've been in Holland for about 3 weeks now. Started withA Home-Food Production Workshop in Eindhoven, followed by the entertaining Ignite Fest in Amsterdam, then two workshops in Rotterdam (Permaculture Entrepreneurship and Home-Scale Sustainability with Varvara from Rahovitza).

I got the pleasure of meeting urban gardener and blogger Max and fellow Permaculture teacher Marenke Spoor. Both are based in Rotterdam and are great local resources to anyone in the region looking to get more involved.

In the meantime, I also got to visit my friends in Leeuwarden at the Leer School Permacultuur, for which we are organizing a design workshop on January 14th. This workshop will be especially different from the ones I have taught so far. Very design intensive and extreme interactive. It will be taking place on a dairy farm near Leeuwarden, for more information, contact Irma (info@leerschoolpermacultuur.nl).

The motivation behind the title of this blog post is the fact that everything here is absolutely controlled and governed by human industry. Even the water table. It's nuts! Personally, I cannot say I have ever in my life seen
an environment so regulated. The Dutch are so rich with water and moisture in their landscape. There is the possibility of creating so much edge in the garden. My dreams of participating in the design of a "Chinampas" system could become a reality here in Holland. However, with the rich water resources, there is also the impending doom that the sea might one day decide to take back some of its land if the human-regulated systems
malfunction or the society no longer has the energy to maintain the levies. But it seems as though the Dutch have a very good grasp of how to handle this. I visited a group of Perma/dynamic enthusiasts near Appeldoorn last week and they seemed to have the right idea with focusing on mobile structures such as yurts and caravans; since the wetland ecosystem is always shifting, one never knows when it is time to just get up and go.

The Dutch have been earth movers for generations. That is how they have been able to master the swampland, but unfortunately the high amount of industrial development in the region has anhialated most of the original biodiversity. Since there is so much water here, there is potential to bring that biodiversity back very quickly. This abundance of water moderates temperature and contributes to Holland's mild winter and cool summer. Though unless the Dutch gardener begins to adapt his garden to the wetland environment (i.e. focus on plants that enjoy a high water table and soggy poorly-drained soil), then the water here can become quite cumbersome as shown through all the energy spent growing the popular grocery store vegetables here. The concept of a "swale" has radically different applications in this climate than my own (Bulgaria). The landscape is flat, and there are puddles of water all around. It is a wetland, a river delta. An ecosystem in which soil is created and washed away very fast.

Where I am used to swaling a landscape to capture water, the Dutch need to dig (or create hills) to protect their plants from the water. The water is here. There is no need to capture it. The focus is on making sure it is clean and well maintained. Knowing that the water table is highly regulated, I would be interested in learning about how.

What are the modern mechanisms that control the water table in Holland?

 I have studied many maps of this place (elevation, soil quality, population densities), but have yet to find one that charts the actual "water control" stations. Does anyone know where I could find one that would show me the hydrology of the region? 

I would also like to look at a distribution map of industrial activity. Where can we expect the most amount of pollution?
Another interesting view is how this place looked originally. Comparing that, to a modern-day map is mind blowing! I would love it if someone can explain to me some history.

I have plenty more questions about this region. This tour has taught me now important it is to "get to know a place" when teaching permaculture. Please find me on facebook and skype if you are from Holland and are fairly knowledgeable about its landscape and history.

Skype: mihailkossev
FB: Mihail Kossev

 This event had a modest turn out. Most people who came were searching for ways to improve their current financial stability by incorporating permaculture principles and practices. During the lecture, I tried to make an overview of certain principles through examples of existing businesses that I have been particularly impressed by, or even been a part of… 
The most important principle OBSERVATION was covered by an analysis of the inputs and outputs of the modern business, and where someone can jump in to meet certain needs. Students concluded that a Permaculture economy does not mean a limited cash flow, simply a much more efficient way to allocate labor and organize society that may actually give way to MORE economic exchange, rather than less.

We discussed STACKING and STOCKING functions in a business, and related it to labor management by analyzing the value and intrinsic characteristics of volunteer services. The RELATIVE LOCATION principle was used as a segue-way into thinking globally and acting locally, using urban beekeeping/honey production as an example of how a primary industry can develop in densely populated places such as the Netherlands.

My friend Dimo from Waste No More Farm is my signature example of a business that USES BIOLOGICAL RESOURCES. He interrupts a waste stream and sees it as a resource.

The principles of DIVERSITY, COOPERATION, ENERGY CYCLING, ENERGY EFFICIENT PLANNING, NICHE MANAGEMENT and EDGE EFFECT were all discussed with examples of existing business such as my CSA in upstate New York, BKFarmyards in Brooklyn, NY and Covoiturage in France.

The final exercise encouraged students to align the permaculture principles to a certain sector of a business plan. We covered HUMAN RESOURCES together and then the class was divided into two groups: MARKETING and FINANCE... and this is what they came up with…


Applied to

Applied to Marketing

Applied to Finances

Paying attention to worker needs.
Paying attention to feedback from advertisements.
Good book-keeping
Volunteerism = student + labor + new ideas + money saved…
Using something functional as an advertisement, such as an event to advertise a product or facility
One expenditure covers many needs.
Using compost toilets! We humans are a resource!
Giving the customers incentives to come back.
Re-investing your profits into the functionality of the
Making sure that the work environment is a well-balanced and relaxing one
Place your ads wisely... target your audience! Do they use internet? Go to cafes? Where do they shop?
Keep the money local! – Spend/sell primarily within the community!
Making sure everyone in the group has a wide variety of tasks in the work day
Put out many different kinds of adverts.
Maintain many different sources of income. Not only by having different products, but also different points at which money (or any other asset) enters the organization. i.e. CSA, donations, courses, etc.
Cooperation skills being developed and discussed within the group to make things run more smoothly
See: Stacking functions :))

Also, placing a priority on internet advertisement.
Put priority over keeping costs low rather than incomes high.
Practice what you preach = OFFER GOOD
Internet is kind of organic, ain’t it? i.e. "viral" emails, low paper consumptions, etc.

Basically, word-of-mouth advertisement is ideal and that is easiest done online nowadays.
Cut down costs and close your own system by producing your own
biological resources –compost, mulch and plant species.
Be patient and allow everyone find their own place within the group. Don't rush to assign tasks before understanding each person's likes and dislikes. Highlight people’s strengths and match them with compliments to their
Always have an audience in mind when formulating a marketing strategy.
Observation is important to receive feedback as to how certain long-term and short-term investments are doing.

Later, I asked the groups to each come up with a permaculture-related business. When both groups were done presenting, I asked them to brainstorm ways that they could combine the two ideas. This group was easy since they thought of a school and an old folks’ home. Great focus on edges in a design, once again!

This weekend, at Kemps en Co in Eindhoven, Holland -- we held a workshop in which we covered: the basics of permaculture, guild planting, soil-building, plant propagation and home garden design. Throughout my first few days in Holland, I have been particularly impressed by "Dutch Design" in the context of efficient use of space, fantastic bicycle infrastructure and an overall concern for the environmental impact of economic activity. I made sure to include these as central themes in the lecture (especially the stacking of functions in of food production elements with limited space)...
The turnout was good and the room was filled with an enthusiastic group of individuals, mostly from Eindhoven's Transition Town Movement. I am impressed at how much activity there is here and the potential for community integration and involvment in transition movements is grand. People gathered from a variety of skill and knowledge bases -- we welcomed beginner gardeners and had them collaborate with PDC-graduates, which offered the kind of diversity I was seeking for a weekend workshop such as this.
The classic design challenge involved students in brainstorming a schematic for four different types of human habitats: 
-- a suburban home garden
-- a 2-BR apartment with a south-facing balcony
-- a developped community

-- a rural cottage *
*a site which my hosts Markus and Varvara of Rahovitza Slow Tech Campus -- have been developping for the past ten years.

Presentations were particularly impressive, considering the limited amount of time participants were given to come up with their concepts. It was a great start to an enlightening journey for them all. I hope everyone will find ways to implement some of these principles in their day-to-day lives. All the designs highlighted the concept of the edge effect in permaculture, keeping planted gardens dense and productive, while also placing special consideration on how the people were  to interact within the system.

Even the venue (a fair trade goods shop) employed a touch of "perma-thinking" -- they offered catering which included local, sustainably produced cakes; which were a delicious treat during the coffee breaks. Overall, I hoped that this workshop also served as a networking opportunity for participants to meet like-minded individuals in their area. Most importantly, WE HAD FUN!

And now... onto Rotterdam... :)
Click below to view page... :))