Geoff Leads a Teaching Tour of the Greening the Desert Site


Okay, welcome everybody. We’re going to do a tour
around the site like a circle. So we’ve got, now it’s about 11 years from when we started and it
looked like, more or less, any of the bare blocks
around the road here. And we’ve got a time lapse that can be run at any time in the cafe, so you can see a 10-year time lapse of
how it’s all changed. We started with nothing. Nadia and I purchased the
land and then we created a society and gave the
land to the society. But we had no funding. So we started really slowly and got funded as we created some success. And then, course by
course, we volunteered. And the course has really financed the site’s starting point. Then eventually, we got some
funds from Lush Cosmetics. Lush Cosmetics. Organic. Now, we make our own cosmetics. But then Muslim Aid
Australia started to fund us and we became their champion
sustainable project. So, we went in the opposite
direction to most aid projects. Most aid projects put a lot
of money in to start with and they look really
good the day they open. And then 10 years later,
they’ve sort of gone down to something that doesn’t work much. 10 years ago, this looked terrible. I had no money at all . And all the locals thought we were crazy and we probably were . And nobody was interested. Because it didn’t look very attractive and it was very hard work. The things that we did,
Jeff and I, we actually, the first thing we did, we
didn’t want to build any walls. We made sure the walls actually is open and people would drive past and walk past and they could see what we’re doing because we want them to be curious. We don’t want to tell them
what we’re doing and why. You come and have a look. No, we just done our things
and we just let them. They stop and they come and ask us, “What are you doing?” And then we tell them what we’re doing and that’s where it becomes an interest. But after a few years,
then we build our wall because it’s known and
now we need more secure. Every year, more people came. More foreigners. As we got results, we got a little bit
more funding every year. After five years, people locally
started to get interested. We were obviously getting bigger. Every year, we got more people. Every year, we got more funding. So last year, we opened after 10 years. It was our opening day, was
last year, this time last year. And we even had some aid organizations criticize us for doing too good a job. They said, “You made the cafe “look like something that
would fit into Paris. “You made the bedrooms
look beautiful upstairs “and lots of people want to
come and stay with AirBnb.” But I argued that why
shouldn’t we do that for aid. Doesn’t everybody here deserve what everybody else has and then
we change the world together? So last year was the busiest year. Last year had the most
funding and the most people. We just had a course with 60 for two weeks and now we have a practical with 25. Now, the Ministry of
Agriculture take our courses. And schools and there’s
lots of interest now. Two things in the living
system are very important. By design. And that’s what’s got most of the result. We built soil. Because we’ve partnered
with trees that do this. I’m going to show you what
happens in a year’s time. [Adnan] Okay, I’ll translate. So this has just been cut. And it’s regrowing already. It’s cut at the start of
the cooler time of the year. And it’ll regrown quite big by the time it’s hot again in March, April. It’s been many variations of that where we’re feeding the soil. So this terrible soil has
changed a lot in 10 years. And we’re directing water
to soak into the soil. It’s not a lot of rainfall. And if it falls on the site, it sucks in because of our roots where, actually, it goes into the ground. Some runs off the road. But most of what is used here by people, or all of what is used here by people in kitchens and sinks and
showers and toilets stays here. So the more people we have,
the more water we have. And we’ve got more people,
so we’ve got more water. Those are the two most
valuable parts of the design. [Amal] Ah okay. Thank you. design. Everything else is diversed. It has come because we’ve
been able to do that. We’ve been able to introduce
lots of different living things because we do that. So I’m going to remind you of this tree as we get up the back of the
site because it’s some not cut and I can show you what
happens in one year. And then we’ll show you the
water features as we go. Okay, next stop. We’re going to have to stop,
walk, stop, walk, stop, walk, stop to do a tour. Just come as close as you can, but try not to come around the corner. Shout, shout, shout
down here to the ladies. [Adnan] Say it again, I’m sorry. So these are wicking beds. These are beds that water from underneath. You’re going to see a lot of them. Over here under the shade cross, worm farms that create fertilizer. There are tens of thousands
of worms in those bars. And they make solid fertilizer and liquid fertilizer from our waste food. And our trees are here
again starting to grow. The nearest wicking
bed, these wicking beds use the least amount
of water of any garden. They are minimum water
you can do in the world. because the water’s
coming up from underneath. No evaporation. But this one on the corner here has a worm farm tower in the big tube. So we can put food scraps in there and the worms are eating it and you water through there
and it fertilizes as well. This year, we put in our first
mulch pit banana circle there and we’ve got a second
mulch pit banana circle next to our garden around the corner. So this sink here, the water from this sink goes straight
into the banana circle. The water from the cafe
goes straight down there to a reed bed behind the
Western side of the building. And the toilet here is a compost toilet like all the toilets on site. Minimum water, only wash water. Next stop. Okay, so quick stop. This is a little reed bed. And those two kitchen
sinks go through here. And then it goes from here to the garden. Because these are kitchen
sinks, it has a grease trap hee. You have to trap the
grease before it gets here. Otherwise, it’ll all sticky up. So that’s a lot of water that
other people are wasting. Okay, next stop. So this is our nursery obviously, where we propagate a lot
of trees and vegetables. These are all new wicking
beds all the way through here. At this time of year,
we’ve taken the shade off, but in the summer, the shades over, so we can grow further into the summer. And we’re going to build more gardens in the middle, but that’s later. And this electric air
pump you can hear running is pumping air through compost tea. So what, Sam’s going to pull the sack out. And those are socks. And Sam’s going to wear them afterwards . It’ll inoculate his feet. You don’t have to translate that. But they’re compost and biochar. So in that drum is compost
and the organism’s getting blown into the water and the
biochar is not like charcoal. It’s past charcoal. It’s got no tree oils left, so it’s, Like if I rub my hands
with it, I’ll go black. But if put that under attack,
it’ll come straight off. It won’t burn again. It’s not like charcoal
where you can burn it again. It’s past that stage. But it’s got millions
of little holes in it. So these become, this is where the organisms in here can move in and have like a house. But it’s all crushed like that, so fine. So when you charge the
compost tea into the biochar, you have very stable
organisms in the soil. They’re very safe. The compost tea is good and
this actually creates houses for all these little organisms
to live in, in the soil. So with a small amount
of compost like that, we can fertilize most of the site. But it has to have oxygen in the water. They can’t live if it’s not
got oxygen in the water. So if you switch it off, you only got about six hours to use
it, otherwise it won’t be. I’m just going to wash. Sorry. Hey guys, just a quick wash, it’s gone. There’s no tree oils. It’s not sticky. That’s the difference
between charcoal and biochar. Next stop. I’m going in and you’re going along. Probably. You just keep going along. I’m going in. You keep going along. Move up a little bit and
then you get more room because I’ll just go all
the way along the fence. I can walk up and down in here. Okay, so this is the engine
of fertility on site. This makes more fertilizer
than any other element. And it produces eggs. And some chicken meat. So, every week, mulch is taken from under the roost where they’ve been dropping manure. From under where they sleep, under here, this here, this mulch , it’s taken over here and that’s replaced. It has to be a third of
a cubic meter at least. Then a third of a cubic meter
of sheep and goat manure. And a third of a cubic
meter of food scraps. The chickens then scratch it all apart. After one week, we put it back together here. They’re not quite as
interested, but nearly as interested in this pile,
so they scratched that apart. We make a new pile. We move that one down and this one down. Now, we’re three weeks. They’re quite interested in this one. You can see where they’re scratching. And they were tidied up
this morning by the way . Then, we move it down here. That’s week one, week two,
week three, week four. . Then we go down here. Then, it leaves and goes to
the garden as fertilizer. So if you make a new pile every week, and you have all the piles working, you have one cubic meter coming
out this door every week. That’s 52 cubic meters a year. 50 cubic meters, let’s say, on
3,000 square meters of land. If you take off the buildings, it’s only 2,000 square meters, two dunham. That’s 25 cubic meters of dunham. That’s two cubic meters That’s two cubic meters
a week heading to dunham. You’re going to change the soil fertility. Not a question, not a question. Here, we also have rabbits at the top. At the next house is rabbits, that we bring some rabbit
manure into this as well. And if we want to, we
can take temperatures. So, we want the temperature
to stay between 55 and 65 at the beginning and get
cooler as it goes down. And we added a little bit of water, especially in summer,
but keep it quite shaded. Okay, just come up this way. Just keep coming up this way. That’s the rabbit door there. This is a water harvesting swale. I’m stood in a water harvesting system. It goes all the way to the road. This is the longest one on the property and it starts at the lowest
point on the highest boundary. So this will all be up to here in water from here all the way up until the road and all suck into the site. So there’s three of these on site. So I don’t let any water run off the site. Whether it’s rain or it’s irrigation, these stop it and get it into the soil. Now these are the most important large earthwork features for water harvesting. [Amal] What? These are the most important
earthwork features. It’s easy to just not realize what it is. We actually need to install these all the way from to here to Iman. Yeah, I agree. We need to install these
all the way to Iraq. And all the way to to Aqaba. And all the way to Syria. [Amal] Is there lights under there? -No.
-Or just holes? No, it is what you see. It’s a swale. It’s a water harvesting swale. It’s an ancient system. Nabateans were pretty good at it. We can do it with bulldozers, laser levels, satellite levels. We can do it real high tech. I’m just about to put a load through Saudi with big machines. Not a problem. You could rehydrate Jordan. Jordan could be oversupplied with water instead of under supplied
if you did the right thing. Wouldn’t be that expensive. This is just a very small version. Okay, this way. Coming through. Just come around, all around. Come around, keep coming. We can crowd in a little bit. So we’re getting a bit forested up here. This used to be really
infertile, this area. This was the worst part of the site. Keep coming! This is a really important
part to understand. Keep coming! Come on through. You’re all right. I don’t bite. You can come closer. Come on. Oh, sorry. I’ve got the camera man. All this has grown in a year. The tree I showed you at the
beginning is the same tree. These are the last ones here that the interns are going to cut this week. All that is going to feed the soil. This tree is as good as a
feeder as looser Alfalfa. But we’re feeding the soil. And the roots have nitrogen fertilizer. [Amal] Sorry? The roots have nitrogen fertilizer. So when we cut, we get all of
this back in a year’s time. And this tree is very friendly. Doesn’t have any spikes. But the site was so poor, we couldn’t start with this one very well. The site was so poor
originally, we needed prosopis. We needed spiky trees to start with. So all around you, all the way
around the site and there’s some hanging over the
fence, there are prosopis. Because we had to start
with a much tougher tree. Stronger. So I would aim this at the fruit trees. But the roots are actually
harder to fertilization and they’re in position. But when we got more fertility, we wanted to do something
with the prosopis. We wanted to still use the prosopis. So we dug these pits underneath here. It goes down two meters below ground. There’s another one over there. And there’s another one over here. There’s three. And we cut the trees up and
we put them in the hole. And under my feet is probably
the best soil on the site. And all of a sudden, this area,
which was really infertile, increased in tree growth,
increased in fertility. So a lot of people don’t realize that a forest grows on a fallen forest. What falls onto the ground
is what grows the forest. And the soil is alive. And it eats the green and it eats the wood. So to feed the fruit trees, you need to bring the soil alive. With natural methods, you
don’t feed the plants, you feed the soil. And it’s the life in the soil that feeds the plants and the fruit trees. When you eat food, your
body doesn’t eat the food. The little organisms in your gut eat the food and they feed you. So in the soil, the bacteria
eat the green material and the fungi eat the wood. So you can say that the soil is an animal that’s all mouth. And the fungi are the teeth that eat the wood that grow the forest. And if you don’t understand
that or you’re not used to it, it’s really difficult to
understand what we’re doing. So this problem we had with spiky mulch, the spikes on the mulch of the prosopis, the problem we had, turned into one of the best solutions we have ever come up with . Turned into one of the best answers, one of the best solutions
we’ve ever come up with. So this is all organic
matter under my feet. We put some manure with it. We aimed water into it
and all this decomposition is like rainforest soil underneath. We had trouble growing citrus
because it needs acid soil. We’ve had trouble growing lemons
and portugal and mandarin, all the citrus, but now they’re growing with this interaction. So in really poor desert soils,
citrus are a good indicator. Because the desert’s naturally alkaline and the citrus like a little bit of acid. So once you’ve got your citrus producing, you’re doing something right. Okay, follow me. We’re going to do a little
circle here and see the reed bed. So this is probably one
of the most important water saving systems for house. These plants clean the water
from the showers and sinks. Did I switch her on? So we can water about 15 fruit trees. That water looks quite clean. If you look here, you can
see the water coming out. It’s handled 60 people on site using the showers for two weeks. It’s a bit dirty at that end . If one by one you just
come and look at the water, there’s a lot of clean
water we can use here. All the water we normally
waste, can go to gardens and growing food. And some villages in the
mountains are now doing this. And they’re growing
olives when other people can’t grow olives in bad
years and things like that because they’ve got extra
water from gray water. Where I live in Australia,
it’s illegal not to do this. -Legal, legal.
-Legal? You have to do this. And when you talk to Islamic scholars, because it’s just natural plants, they say that it’s not digest. The water is not digest. Okay, we’ll leave it running. You can have a look. Come on up. We’re going to look at toilets. Well, we’re not going to look at them. We’re going to talk about them. These are our showers and toilets. The reason they’re up here is that we didn’t want to use
a pump to get the water to the reed bed and then run it downhill. So it’s up here because
we want water to go down. We didn’t want to use
any extra electricity because our electricity is solar. There’s no bees in here . But this is a beehive. And it has a really unusual system. I can take these out. I can take these out. I can put that in. So let me set this up properly. It would look like that. I can put this in. Take that out. And I can twist this like that. Without any bees. Without touching any bees. Honey comes straight out of there. So I could have a jar sitting here So when I do that, I change the internal frame. So, what happens is these combs separate. And the honey just flows straight out. So this is a new system. It being made of glass,
like somebody said, does the specific honey from the bees or the quality of the bees? I have this question because I saw that. I was wondering. It’s silica. Silica. This is silica and
there’s bits of plastic, but it seems to make them very happy. So there are windows
you can see in as well. So you can see the bees and you can open like this and you can see the bees working. The bottom underneath is a normal hive. That’s a normal hive where the brood is, where the babies are. The queen and the babies
are in the bottom. Here, you have a normal hive. But also, if you can see what I’m doing, I’m taking a tray out of the bottom. You just put a bit of olive oil in here. And it’s a trap for any
of the beetles or mites or ants that might damage the bees. So, its all set up with a level on the side and a level on the back. So you adjust the legs so
everything works perfectly. So imagine that you just want some honey. You don’t want to take all the bees and get apart and get stung. You just out, you turn a key,
and honey comes straight out. This was a sponsorship
to show people in Jordan. This was a donation. This was invented in the village that we live in in Australia. This is an invention from my village. Now, we’re going to go
to the bottom kitchen. We have another thing coming
called a subpot worm farm. It should be here this week. We’re going to have to
just look in the corner. So look in there and then look around the back of the door in there. There’s the inverter. The blue thing is the inverter. So this is the last section. I’m just going to explain
the electricity or try to. Just for you, we have copper, indium, gallium, selenium
panels on the roof. On that high roof are the solar panels. And shell shoa. You know shell shoa? And in here, we have batteries. But these are nickel iron batteries. Nikline? Nickel iron. They’ll last up to 100 years. They will last 100 years. And in behind the door,
you can’t see it really, you’ve got to go in and look back, there is a dutch inverter. It’s a company called Viktron. So it takes the electricity and brings it up to main’s power. It makes the electricity clean and smooth so it doesn’t damage any appliances. But if you plug the mains in, if you click the mains, it
becomes a battery charger. If you put the main electricity on. It’s a switch. If you put the main’s electricity on, the same machine charges the batteries. So if you have a cloudy day,
which is not common in Jordan, Or if you have a . A big party. You might need the extra power. Especially if the party is at night. But this, if you start a generator and put it into the system, it immediately goes from being
an inverter to a charger. It switches automatically. In other words, if you put
power in from somewhere else, it becomes a charger. And it’s on your app. I have an app on the phone. -Application.
-Application. So I can watch the project’s electricity from Australia or anywhere in the world. In fact, I could switch
the electricity off on my phone from anywhere in the world. Or I could switch the
main’s power on the app on my phone anywhere in the world. So it doesn’t matter if you’re not home. You can watch if you’ve
got an electricity problem. You know if the children are
at home having a big party. And you switch the
electricity off on them . The building is a standard concrete form with the concrete pillars. Because people trust that. But the walls, are straw bale. Downstairs on the west side, on the side. And the south side. On this side and on the
north side, they’re mudbrick. And downstairs, all the
internal walls are mudbrick. Upstairs, it’s all straw bale. Why did we do that? Because the mudbrick, on the east side and the north side hold the cold. They’ve got thermal mass
so they store the cold. And the internal walls
are shady too downstairs and they hold the cold. They work like a kind of
air conditioner in summer. The western walls have
got very few windows and it insulates against
the afternoon hot sun. The western wall is all straw
bale and very few windows. Because the windows let the heat in and the afternoon sun is the worst sun. That’s hard to do here because people want to look at Palestine. And the south side,
which is the sunny side is also all straw bale because it insulates really
well against the sun. This time a year there’s more
sun, but it’s not so hot. The sun’s lower but it’s cooler. But also this is the time of year we cut all the support trees to
let the sun through a bit. In the hot summer, this
sites much shadier. Because all those trees have grown big, long, leafy branches. There’s another garden on the roof. There’s a wicking bed
garden on the roof too. And we’re just going to redo
that to something really fancy. We’re going to make it
very fancy on the roof. With nice grills and nice tiles and make it like another
extension of the cafe. Like this garden, you’ll
be able to sit upstairs and have a coffee, semi
shade, look at Palestine, look at the Dead Sea,
be surrounded by food. That’s this year’s project. Thank you very much. Thank you.

36 Replies to “Geoff Leads a Teaching Tour of the Greening the Desert Site”

  1. I hope Zaytuna Farm is ok! If you ever get back to Australia this year please let us know how things went.
    Also try reaching out to the YouTube channel "Self Sufficient Me" for a collab. He has a good community of gardeners and it would be a great way to spread the ideas of permaculture

  2. Geoff, lots of people have you, yours and the farm in our prayers during this most tragic time in Australia. As time goes on many of us will be checking in to hear from you. God bless you and the people of Australia.

  3. Feed microorganisms in your gut and the soil we call it probiotics like yogurt help you breakdown difficult protein that may not otherwise be digested.

  4. Geoff, I have been watching your inspiring videos on both the Jordan project and Zaytuna Farm in Australia. Like so many commenting here, I am hoping that the farm makes it through these terrible fires in Australia. I believe that Zaytuna will show everyone that permaculture agriculture is the way to move forward in combating climate change because of its investment in water retention infrastructure that hydrates the landscape and provides extra water during droughts. I am anxiously waiting to hear how Zaytuna survived this latest drought. All my best to you, your family, and to the people of Australia.

  5. 56 minute video of the Jordan project? Yes please! I laughed as soon as I recognized the flow hive. Thanks to Geoff, Nadia and the team for the updates and like everyone else here waiting with baited breath for a Zaytuna update. The suspense is agonizing.

  6. That was absolutely amazing!!! And the camera man did a fantastic job. i could see everything so well! I inderstand the chop and drop so much better now, and also the chicken compost system. I had seen the pollards in videos before but this really made sense and i look forward to the day when swales stretch all the way to Iraq and Jordan. The solar power system really intrigues me. I grew upon a farm that had a natural way of treating black and grey water waste by flowing it through a cattail filled slough/pond so reeds make total sense to me.

  7. What a great in depth tour Geoff. There is no wonder people are flocking to the institute. You have done a splendid job on the cafe' it looks very smart. I hope all is well back home and the system is holding up well. All the best

  8. Деревья растут очень редко на землю не должно попадать солнца

  9. Been hearing about the "Flow Hive" curious how that worked. Now I know..
    This + the other climate zone projects have been incredible learning resources for applying sustainable, regenerative living methods to feeding our earth & ourselves. Wish governments could be more responsible oops, nm…
    Thanks So Much, Best Wishes for 2020

  10. Inspirational Geoff, thanks so much. Great to see so many young people there hanging on your every word – albeit translated. Hope they got the translations correct 😉

  11. If we had a world full of people with this knowledge and drive, the world would be healed from all our damage in no time. I’m going to use this method on a small scale anyway, seems to have amazing results.

  12. I liked the speed do to having a translator. Each comment had time to soak in, like passive water in a swale. Lol.

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