Behind the Scenes of the Greening the Desert Project

Behind the Scenes of the Greening the Desert Project


Hi Geoff here. And it’s my final day in Jordan. I’m all cleaned up. I’m ready to catch a plane to Australia. I just want to show you a little bit of the project and how it’s still developing, not the normal walk around
and see all the nice bits. Let me show you all the
work that’s being done and all the new things that are changing and how it’s always evolving. If we’d only had all the money
to do everything all at once, it would have been finished, but then, it wouldn’t have
been the journey it’s been. So we’re redoing and evolving and changing and scrapping the old system
and then developing new systems because we’ve had to justify our success. Let me share it with you. It’s really interesting. So you may have noticed I’m
in a different position. That’s because I’m up
on the mezzanine roof, above the main roof, which
is having a retrofit. I’ll get to that in a minute, but something that I don’t often show you is here’s our solar system,
all up over the roof. Thanks to 24 Hour Solar in Australia and the fantastic work of
Mike Haydon and his team, supporting us with so much
of our renewable energy work, volunteering to come over here
and help us get it all set up actually on LiveWire app so
we can watch it from overseas. While I’m here, I’d just point out we’ve got a beautiful, little portico roof going over our stairs because we’re now going
to change our roof garden to be something super-special. Excuse the mess, but there’s always mess I don’t show you. It’s one of our great sponsors here: Muslim Aid Australia and
Holistic Sustainable Design, Australia’s trusted charity. Thank you, thank you, thank you. You have done the most incredible work, helping us and believing in us so that we can do what we do
to give so many people hope. There’s all kinds of background noise. Someone’s selling chickens
from a truck over there. That’s what that noise is. Come and get your chickens. Come and get your chickens. Okay and here’s our neighbors next door. Hayel’s place is absolutely booming. It’s going off. It’s got so much production. And then, of course, just
across the road there, I’ll walk towards it without falling off this four-story high roof, is the mezzanine roof over the top of our three-story kitchen garden. Quite a drop off that edge just there. I’ll get past it quick. There’s Abla’s place, raging
away after the chop and drop. It’s going really well. And then, of course,
you’ve got the same old Greening the Desert system
down here doing its thing. But I’m not going to give
you a conventional view. I’m going to give you an unusual view. So just check this out. We’ve dismantled the
wicking bed roof garden. We’ve taken it all apart. We’ve actually trashed all
the blocks off the top, and we’re going to build it so it’s super nice and super trendy, just like the one downstairs. And we’re actually tiling the roof. I’ll switch off now, climb down, and start again down there
to show you what’s happening. Just look at this. What a mess. We’ve taken out our soil. We’ve taken out our gravel
from our wicking beds. We’ve dismantled our gardens, and we’ve got some guys up here working with us to tile all this. So we’re kind of taking
it apart, tiling it, and moving over the
materials, tiling everything so we’ve got a really
nice finish upstairs here. Hi. It’s a real mess now, but it’s going to be absolutely gorgeous, absolutely gorgeous come
the next year’s course. 2020’s going to be a special event. Just a quick glimpse all the top here. Next to our organic cafe, where we have a little, quiet
alcove that people can sit, we’ve put in a little
portico roof as well. That’s got a gorgeous,
little bit of kitschy design. It’s nice. It’s lovely. Okay, still being built, though. All this is new. Let’s have a look. As we go down the stairs, here’s one of our young local lads, carrying up pretty heavy
packet of tiles for the guys. And here’s another one. I’ve known these lads since
they were little kids, little babies actually. How we going? Salaam. Salaam. [Geoff] Okay, pretty
heavy for a young lad. You’ve got to believe how much we do reassembling and readjusting everything because we had to actually
build our reputation. We had to prove we were worth funding. So we just did it on nothing. As they finish up the top, they’re going to come
down our staircase here and tile it beautifully. Let me take you to the second floor where we have the accommodation. A fly screen. And in we go. I really want to show you this because I’m very proud of what everyone’s been able to achieve. This is our six-bedroom accommodation, and it’s mudbrick, straw-bale, and it’s just done beautifully. It’s done with Jordan style
and first world comfort and can be rented Airbnb for people to get a
permaculture experience. So double bed and two singles in this one, three singles in this one, three single beds here. There is these lovely sort of views that go out over the project
and surrounding area. I really like coming in through this one. Two singles. Here’s a double, right? It’s actually the only room
that’s got an air conditioner. The others are naturally air conditioned. This one’s done for people
who have that requirement. And here’s something interesting. On the window ledge, we’ve
got a pigeon already nested. It’s got two eggs. So we know the pigeons
want to roost in here. We’re going to set them up so they can roost
actually in the building. One more bedroom here. It’s a lovely one, this one. Two singles. And it looks out over the garden. It’s got a great view out towards
the gardenscape out there, which is really nice. At the moment, there’s
a bit of building mess. We’ve got a water cooler in here as well, here to provide a little bit of comfort for people while they’re learning. They can sit and relax in here. So you either want to pay
a bit more to take a course and take this type of accommodation, or you can camp on the roof, or you can camp out in the food forest, or you can rent this Airbnb
to dip your toe in the water and see what it’s like to
live a permaculture life on solar power, reed bed graywater, food gardens, food
forest, chicken compost, and still have an organic meal in our organic cafe at the front. And there we go. We got another staircase landing down to our back corner, a back veranda, that looks out over our
beautiful wicking bed garden. Now, the wicking beds
are nicely dressed up, and that’s what they’re
going to be like upstairs. They’re going to be beautiful
with a vine over the top. It’s mid-winter here so all the shades off because it’s actually quite
chilly in the mornings. But, here, we have our new classroom. There’s a bit of building
maintenance to be done around the straw-bale mudbrick. We had so many people
that came to our course. We had 60 people. We had to take down the corridor wall to extend the size of our classroom, and it’s made it great actually. It’s made more light and
more air come through, and we’ve dressed up these pillars that were in the middle
of a mudbrick wall. We had to take the mudbrick wall down and recycle the mudbricks. So we have a much larger
classroom, which is great. We’ve also been doing a lot of sewing. So we’ve set up a sewing
workshop for the ladies, and they are producing some amazing stuff. So we’ve got a nicely organized,
little sewing workshop area and we’ve got all our little
products that we’re making. We’re making wax candles. We’re making all kinds of soaps. We’re making natural preserves, all our own honey, our own olive oil. Starting small. The ladies are making pickles. We’ve got our own logo,
our D logo on them. These our own olives, our own pickles, our own spices, our own preserves. Ah, this is just awesome. The ladies have been so good
at taking off with this stuff. As soon as you shown a little
bit of entrepreneurial… That’s all our sewing stuff, different bags that they’re making, beautiful things, beautiful embroidery. They’re traditional embroidering
experts, the Palestinians. Most of the people here are Palestinian. The carpenters have made
little trays that we can sell. They’re all out of recycled timber. They’re nice, little serving
trays, quite beautiful actually considering they’re just young
lads learning how to do this, like the young lads carrying the tiles. And it’s all quite appropriate. So this is all part of
a beautiful evolution that’s happened from people helping us, to liberate people and give them hope around permaculture as
a sustainable system. And it’s all been anchored with a classroom, teaching permaculture. It all started from some type
of basic, basic classroom. And now, we’ve got this
gorgeous, gorgeous situation. We’re working with schools. We’re training people to
do all kinds of things. Let me show you one thing while I’m here. Uh-oh. I’m going to climb over this crazy pile. So while I’m here, let me show you, nearly fell over, but the Steadicam won’t show you. Look at this. This is our new four-baths reed bed. It’s a recycled bath reed bed, coming from a big grease
trap at the other end. On our western wall, which hopefully now will be shaded with vines, so we’ve got this extra moisture here. So these four baths have been
recycled into wicking beds to clean up the graywater
out of the organic cafe. And that then will also
water the vine crop that’s going to shade this wall. It goes to a gravel footpath and then down the gravel footpath into our new banana circle, one of two banana circles
that have been put onsite. So down here, we’ve got a banana circle. Looks a bit messy right now, but I’m predicting it’s going to be a gorgeous system when it gets going. Another section that’s being dismantled, and that’s our worm farms. Three of the baths have gone out the back to make the graywater
reed bed with the baths, and there’s only one left, needs emptying. It’s full of juice in the bucket. But this is all getting taken down because we’ve got a new system. And this is going to be a nice,
little, quiet sitting area. We’re going to build some seats here because we really have
to be people-centric. We had 60 people here for a course. We have 25 for a one-month internship. The place was almost on
overload, was wonderful. Everybody loved it. But we need more seating
areas, need more people space. We need more quiet space. And just while I’m going
past, look at that leucaena. Our leucaena’s on the bulk. It’s all taken off after we pilot it. We piloted just about
three, four weeks ago, and look it go. Here’s our little seating
courtyard from our organic cafe, again, funded by Muslim Aid Australia and Holistic Sustainable Design. What a fantastic crew. Here we go. Our portico’s just getting finished off. So we’ve had to move the furniture out. They’re going to timberline
the inside ceiling and get it all insulated. It’ll be a wonderful area. Always has been a wonderful area. But also, during the internship,
we made a solar dryer. Look at this. What a beautiful thing. Pretty easy to dry things in this climate, but this does it more efficiently. And the students actually made this with my wonderful co-teacher, Istvan from Hungary, works in Ireland and comes from Hungary. He was a Hungarian-Irish permaculturalist and a fantastic operator. I’d recommend him anytime as a teacher and a project manager, very practical. And he was working with
young Sam Parker-Davies, assisted me for six weeks, and they did a splendid job. But this is all changing. We’ve got new electricity
going in for lights. We’ve got power points out
here for Internet going in, and this is going to
be a very useful area. Already is but we’re improving things. And here’s another evolution. Here’s Hayel, our farm manager, who does tireless job,
always keeping things going. So here are Subpods. So we have two Subpods,
wonderfully donated and funded by Subpod in Australia. These are subterranean worm farms. So the most-efficient way to convert your food waste into
fertilizer directly on-spot, no extra energy needed,
no extra transport. It all just works straight on the spot. You can’t doing it more
efficiently than this. The nutrient goes out
into the garden directly and fertilizes the soil
without any extra work. Now, they also work as seats. So you can sit on this, but we’re going to set them up in the middle of our wicking bed garden. So we’re going to put
it in the large garden, in the middle of our wicking bed garden, and then, first time
ever as far as we know, we’re going to set them
up on top of the gravel that’s in a wicking bed system. So they’re going to be Subpod wicking bed
desert vegetable gardens. So we’re going to actually set them up so that they’re sitting on top the gravel. Let me show you the gravel in
the wicking bed will finish. Then we’ll have the
shade cloth on top of it. And then the Subpod will sit
on top of the shade cloth, directly on top of the gravel. Soil then comes up to here. This is the aeration system. And then you’ll get the water in from underneath with the wicking bed, and you’ll get the
nutrient from the worm farm directly into the garden. You just have a little bit
protruding out the top, which, like I say, you can
use as a seat or a rest if you’re leaning over the garden. And the great thing about these is: They look fine, they look good, they don’t get flies,
and they don’t smell. When we’re overloaded here with our system that’s just over there I was
showing you we’re dismantling, it does get a bit yucky. Of course, this is almost free. You can recycle a bath. You can do it cheaper. Of course you can, of course you can. There’s loads of ways you can do all of this stuff with recycled material. Here’s our worms. Look at them. Look at them go. There’re just tons of them in there. There’s recycled material
we’ve got on the top. It’s got nice hessian
like the Subpods have got. They work fine. The worms are not prejudiced about being in a secondhand bath. It’s all fine. We collect the juice, which
also collects a few flies. This is kind of smelly. It doesn’t look very aesthetic. It could look better, but all that juice will go directly into the root zone of the vegetable garden. Back to our Subpod. So this is tidy. This is all recycled plastic. It’s done efficiently as possible. It comes flat-pat. All you alterative recyclers, go ahead. Do it all recycled. We don’t care, doesn’t matter. You don’t have to have a Subpod. You can do it anywhere, but lots of people in the
world need to make a move, need to make a change,
need healthier food, and they’re just not used to that. So something a little
bit more user-friendly, a little bit more aesthetic,
a little bit more functional can make all the difference
of changing people’s hope. Okay, here’s another one, another change. We’ve always had a storeroom, but look at this. We have a real storeroom. We have a storerooms that
actually works, amazing. Just trying to find the light. Don’t think it’s got a light, oh well. Look, we’ve got tools hanging up. You don’t know how much
of achievement this is . We’ve got things in order. This is our carpentry project, where we taught the
local people carpentry. We’ve got solar lights coming in. Look at this, the solar
light kit been donated. We’ve actually got a
compressor that works, so we can teach the boys how to make recycled timber projects. This is a little holding tray made out of recycled timber from brick pallets. We’ve got all our storeroom stored up. We’ve got our recycled
jars to make ferment. We’ve even got a high-pressure cleaner. Oh my goodness. This is so different to what I’ve had to work through for 10, 11 years. It’s wonderful. It’s wonderful to see. It’s just something else. Hard to achieve on a lot of
projects for very good reasons. And it’s right here where all
the action starts to happen. Now, you’ve got to love this. From this streetscape Abla’s garden in the background. You turn around and this is
the entrance to our project. This is the entrance to the organic cafe. And I’m going to walk you straight in through the front door,
past the gardens here, which are all developing beautifully. And from the scene that
I’ve just shown you through to something like this where you’re more or less first world. How is this? People want that little bit
of first world interaction while they’re experiencing third world, gives them a level of comfort, but look at all our products. We actually have organic coffee. We buy from an importer here who has a good coffee shop
in the capital, in Amman. But here, we have our olives
and our pickles and our chilies and our different spices we’ve created. Pickles, olive oil, different
coffees you can buy. We have all our soaps that
we’ve made, organic cosmetics, little packages of recycled cardboard and nicely labeled all the way through. Here’s some of the embroidery
the ladies have done, little purses, little packets. Here’s some actual lip
balm made here, coal. There’s different cosmetics
that the ladies make. All natural, all 100% organic. Here we go. Here’s some more here. On recycled timber products
is one of the trays. Here’s our own organic tea
we’ve made with our own label. I mean, imagine what it’s like to take a course in a place that has such a setup
and such interaction. Now, something I have noticed over here that we haven’t put in
yet, we didn’t get time, we have here our pigeon pots. These are actually made
for pigeons to roost in. They’ve all got one hole at the back. They’re all perfect size
for a pigeon to roost in. And we’ve got quite a few, and we’re actually going to sink them into the straw-bale wall. So we’re going to actually
sink them into the building, and they’re going to
be nesting in the pot, sunk inside the straw-bale wall. It’s going to be a great thing. Of course, the site’s
just evolving and evolving with food forest. Everything that’s been chop and drop down. Where there were tents, there
are now surplus compost piles because we’re just about
over-supplied with compost. And it’s coming out looking
pretty good actually. I got to show you the composting. Yeah, nice-looking compost. Look at that. Beautiful stuff. Oh, we got an escaped chicken out here! Tell the boys! He’s been in here doing a bit
of mulch scratching, look. Naughty chicken. Okay, we’ve put in
secondary, little footpaths all the way through the food
forest, which is lovely. It was great to see that going. But here, we have the Flow Hive. It’s not populated yet, but we’re ready to
produce Flow Hive honey, which is just wonderful. It’s going to be great to show people how easy it is to produce honey without anywhere near the
same amount of expertise. You still need some expertise, and there’s plenty of expertise here. We have beehives, but you’re going to make the comparison between the standard
beehive and the Flow Hive. And I think I know who’s
going to win in popularity because the lack of equipment you need to work the Flow Hive. Between our composting chicken system, our chicken tractor on steroids, through to our rabbit system just above. Going to show you there’s
a few eggs to collect. When we come out here, just above, there’s a storeroom for manures. There’s an area where humanure, after it’s processed in the
compost toilet, is stored. There’s the bulk manure stored here. And now we have a really nice tool room for the farm-type tools. They’re separate from the
woodworking and mechanical tools. So we’re definitely getting
more organized, which is great. One of the big changes in the food forest, apart from the secondary footpaths, is that the last crew of
interns here for a month, they really got stuck into making sure all the water systems were adjusted. And an area we never got to really finish, up here at the very top of the property, has been finished. So they did work very hard
putting in this swale system that goes right along the back wall, and we planted it to hearty species like false olive just to get vegetation. So almost every single section of water catch potential is now done. I’m sort of running out
of things to talk about, new things being evolved. It’s always changing. I’m sure I’ve missed some, but I’ve tried to include a different kind of subject material for this video. Course, I can’t get away from showing you a bit of the living system. It’s beautiful, Albizia
lebbeck in full seed, one of our long-term legumes. We don’t get a lot of weed problems. So little bit of paved footpath, and these are just loose, paved footpath. There’s a secondary
footpath, has been added. I didn’t think I’d ever do that, but the guys got into it, and I thought it was okay. At this time of year,
being a bit chillier, we’ve actually got a
little bit of weed growth coming in these secondary,
paved footpaths. They’re just spare bits of sandstone that have been left over. It’s unusual to be here
when there’s actually a little bit of weed growth, but it’s the coolness of the time of year when there’s just about no evaporation and there’s starting to be
a little bit of rainfall. I love this section of the
property here against the wall. It’s a little bit more shaded. It’s a little bit more gentle. And now, with these
secondary, little footpaths, they’re a little bit more open. It’s sort of more user-friendly. So the secondary footpaths and where we put the logs on the edge and the branches that we’ve cut. So it’s kind of Sintropic-esque
in its additions of wood. We’ve always done that, but, now, we can see them a lot better as they go on the side of the footpaths. Well, there you go. Greening the Desert for
one more year for me. We already had a booking for next year. Before the end of 2019,
we’ve got a booking for 2020. First one come in today. It’s great to be able
to do this with people and help them understand. Here’s one of my mates. Come on in. -Hey.
-Hey. -Salaam.
-Salaam. This is Mohammed Zaytun. [Mohammed] How is it? -Come sit down.
-Thank you. Talk to the people. He doesn’t know he’s on film. -He just walked in.
-Hey, everyone. So Mohammed’s volunteering here. He’s a local. We got more and more people wanting to become permaculture trained as professionals, as consultants because we know there’s
so much work coming. So it’s great to have local people getting involved more
and more all the time. And it’s lovely to be here
when it’s just a bit cooler and a little bit more user-friendly, a little bit more gentle. Anyway, I’m sitting in
a coat in the desert. So there you go. One more year at Greening the Desert.

47 thoughts on “Behind the Scenes of the Greening the Desert Project”

  1. Beautiful work Geoff, much appreciated
    You're an inspiration as you began from nothing to a well established permaculture project, can't thank you enough for your education on permaculture.. I used to believe that the middle east is inhospitable for farming the natural ways
    I'll visit your project when I get to Jordan in the future
    Much love from Oman 🇴🇲

  2. simply brilliant! PDC alumni from 2013, our little home urban garden is such peace and happiness every day for us, thank you

  3. Thank you thank you thank you. I needed some positivity right now. I am so glad there is the pop up of the plant names, that helps so much. Good luck in Australia and my goal is to run my own farm in the next year. Big Dreams.

  4. Always wonderful to see the progress. Not to put a damper on things, however I've read some negative reviews of the Flowhive, and I side with them. Not a long-term solution.

  5. Yeah, New reed beds! Geoff, I love how you geeked out over the tool room. You we're so excited. Sad to see you leave Jordan, the Greening the Desert project is my favorite and it is beautiful! Hats off to all of the workers and congratulations.

  6. That's just a great video Geoff, I like the tours you make there and specially Mohammad Zaytoun, he's just a great person and brother,, I really enjoyed being with him during the whole 6 weeks for PDC and and Internship, thank you Guys for that nice video

  7. The area is so much greener now. Your neighbors are really taking on permaculture techniques. And the site is so beautiful. Always improving on itself.

  8. I'm feeling extremely disillusioned. With the climate lynchmobbing hijacking the sustainability low energy futures and footprint debate. This is giving me hope how its possible everywhere.

    But are people willing to "inconvenience" themselves to work to that ? In terms of this tribalism questioning their belief systems is out of the question.

    There is solutions in permaculture as an entire system. Not "solar power".

  9. Geoff, you're my best inspiration in creating small permaculture demonstration site. Your videos giving me hope I need during my journey. I even started to create my own videos to show the solutions to a broader audience.
    Keep up the good job! You are sowing such a powerful seeds of permaculture teachers all around the world! 🌏

  10. A hungarian permaculturalist mentioned?? I'm so glad, I'm a Hungarian landscape architect student I will defenitely try to get in touch with him!

  11. Loved this video, thank you. So much to see and it's encouraging to experience the seasonal changes and the evolving work.

  12. Awesome video. Here is a video of Geoff talking about his 20 years of living Off-grid.
    https://youtu.be/sCe3abswS5I

  13. Please the flow hives are not good for the bees, there are studies show that the bees suffer a lot in these hives, please just consider looking into that. Otherwise, I salute you for this amazing work you've done in Jordan.👍

  14. Great video Goeff! Hopeful your practices become more common in our country going forward (Australia!)

  15. I'm so glad you're helping the Palestinians! Wish this could happen in the West bank, but we all know bibi wouldn't let that happen. Gotta keep the Palestinians down.

  16. 18:19 – I can really relate to having an organized workspace.

    In Dutch we have a saying: "A good start, is half the work done."
    Nothing is more draining than a disorganized workshop / storage area.

  17. Ur a legend mate. These updates are gold. Awesome that so many people are doing your PDC there. Good on em very encouraging.

  18. Those subpods are good I'm sure, but why should I not just make one out of a bucket or box I already have. Seems like an expensive plastic box to me.

  19. Thank you. Thank you for showing the evolution of the site. Thank you for showing that everything doesn't get done at once, and that building on what you start with is fine. I talk to so many people that see what we've done on our little 8 acres and wonder how we did it all. I tell them: Small steps, lots of them, over time. And things grow, change, evolve and improve. If you show the effort of things, and improve them slowly, you wind up with amazing things. Just like permaculture does things with nature, evolving a site as it improves is more than fine! Great work!

  20. too bad my friend you are not doing this in Morocco …I know you already visited Morocco before , we need you in Morocco , we have amazing micro-climates …

  21. Fantastic…gr8 to see all the support, m8! Our friends back home have been helping with Dante's Inferno… aka Oz…

  22. Brings a tear to my eye all off this, if not downright heartwarming,considering the unfortunate amount of conflict and nonsense that has been around. To think, if stuck on repeat for myself at this point, what could have been instead of all that ill used time and energy. Like that statement about the atom, cut it one way you can power a civilization, cut it another and you could end one. If not the same for metal, and whichever currencies. If all ideas seeming an extension to them.

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