Many friends of Very Edible Gardens know that something called holistic management decision making floats our boat just as much as permaculture design.

Dan even wrote a series of articles about how we use holistic management decision making as VEG’s operating system.

Here we don’t want to focus on holistic management (which you can read about in the articles) so much as one of the best holistic management educators we are aware of – a fellow who goes by the name of Brian Wehlburg.

Alongside Helen Lewis, Brian co-directs Inside Out Management and was recommended to us and as a result a couple of us VEGetables have attended some of his workshops. Sometimes you happen across a teacher of such quality that you want to let others know. Especially when they are just quietly doing their thing without a great deal of fuss or promotion.

Brian is one of these. Sure, his expertise is on a topic that itself is valuable to anyone interested in permaculture, decision making, or land management. But his teaching style is about as good as we’ve seen. Brian goes the full hack in terms of preparation, props, interactive games and exercises, and is a master of leading you to reach the key insights for yourselves rather than just telling you about them.

We picked up a lot from Brian that we now use in our permaculture design courses and other places, and we continue to be inspired by his commitment to excellence in workshop facilitation. He sets a high bar and one that we’ll continue to strive for in our own educational offerings.

So, thumbs up Brian Wehlburg. Thanks for existing, and let it be known that VEG thinks you’re all right.

For any Victorians interested in a bit of holistic management action with Brian, check out his website and contact him (02 6587 4353 / 0408 704 431) for details or a chat about an 8-day, spread-out workshop starting in Seymour in September (yup – quite soon). Note this workshop covers not only holistic management decision making, but a holistic management approach to understanding ecosystems and livestock & business management. Here's the course dates and content:


Session 1



1/2 September


History of Holistic Management                     

Paradigms and how we think

Ecosystem function – how nature functions holistically

Tools for making positive change to the environment

Holistic Diagnosis of environmental problems

Root cause

Biodiversity loss

The change process

Personal profiling

Conventional decision making





Session 2


14/15 October


Review ecosystem and tools

Holistic Context formation and goal setting

Time management

Testing questions

Testing decisions using a testing matrix

Testing decisions – personal examples

Improving communication

Generic non-growing grazing planning

Feed budgets and plant monitoring

Paddock walk and practical feed budgeting

Biological monitoring theory

Paddock walk - set up a bio-monitoring site





Session 3


11/12 November

Review and photos

Introduction to Holistic Financial planning

Generic small business financial plan example

Review Individual non-growing grazing plan

Generic growing season grazing planning

Individual grazing planning for growing season

Bruce Ward’s computer aid for grazing planning

Review individual bio monitoring results





Session 4


15/16 December

Review and photos

Financial planning actual individual plans

Review grazing plans and growth monitoring

Holistic Land planning process group exercise

Management groups, continued learning, learning contracts

Review, assessment, evaluation






Thanks so much to Hannah and Anton from Good Life Permaculture for hosting Dan's Advanced Permaculture Design course in Tasmania over the weekend and also for this lovely write up and photos - here's to taking professional-quality permaculture design to the next level by working together and sharing our respective approaches - yay! Oh yes, and we're running another in late May 2015 just out of Melbourne if you're interested in more of the same - see details here.


Yesterday we visited the Third Place Cafe in Wollert (north of Epping) for a hands-on demonstration and introduction of garden bed building, soil and plant selection, and, planting! Thankfully the weather has toned down a little, and whilst it rained and blew, a handful of locals turned up for what became a fun and collaborative few hours together. Put on by Third Place & Stockland, coordinated by Sophie of The Launch Box (who turned out to be pretty handy on the power tools), and part of cafe owner Samir's broader vision for edible kitchen gardens and ultimately a larger community garden, it was a pleasure to be involved. 

Dan Palmer (see Part One here)

Oak trees are a brilliant example of a perennial staple crop.  They produce acorns, and acorns are a serious contender for supplying bulk calories to humans in a sustainable way (whether directly or via animals). Indeed, for thousands of years in our past that is exactly what they did.  Balanoculture is a special word referring to any culture that eats acorns as a staple food.

In his fabulous Oak: The Frame of Civilisation, William Bryant Logan not only reports in detail on how ubiquitous acorn-eating cutures were, but notes that “evidently, balanocultures were among the most stable and affluent cultures the human world has ever known” (p. 55).

He further reports on David Bainbridge’s (the person who coined the term balanoculture) conclusion that “local oak uplands could routinely support villages of one thousand people, and these people could harvest enough acorns in three weeks to last two or three years” (p. 55). Not to mention another researcher who concluded in one case that “it took ten times less labour to harvest acorns than it did to harvest wheat and barley” (p. 55).

Wow! Now that sounds like a bit of all right!  Naturally in reading this stuff, and thinking thoughts about it all, I got fired up to eat some acorns.

Luckily for me I live in Castlemaine, a small town about 1.5 hours by car or train from Melbourne with a wonderful botanical gardens.  The Castlemaine Botanical Gardens aree dripping in oak trees, and once every year or two the oak trees are dripping in acorns.

So about eight months ago my family and I collected some, about a barrow load in total.  We started by crushing them and feeding them to the chooks.  But more recently we have started feeding them to ourselves.  Here’s how we went about it.


Step One: Shell ‘em

We dropped them into a large mortar and knocked them around with the pestle a bit to loosen up the shells.  We then pulled the shells off by hand, enlisting visiting friends to help.  In the next few years we will be looking at a mechanical shelling solution as this stage takes ages.


Manda, Nikka, Will & Ciela shelling 'em

Step Two: Grind ‘em into grits

We then popped the clean acorn meats into a blender with some water and blended them up into little bits and pieces.  About the size of the wheat grains as they would later replace as input for our grain mill.



Step Three: Leach ‘em

We then put them in some jars under water and changed the water every few days or whenever we got around to it.  Slowly the water turned from a very dark brown to a light tan see-through colour. It took about three weeks but would probably be a week or less if you changed it daily.


Step Four: Dry ‘em

We then spread them out on an oven tray and dried them out on a low heat overnight.  Forgot to take a picture afterwards sorry but they turned to a dark brown colour during this stage.


Step Five: Mill ‘em

We then chucked them into our grain mill to create acorn flour.

Step Six: Cook 'em

We then mixed them 50/50 with freshly milled wheat grain (we are gradually overcoming our addiction to annuals, not all at once) and used this blend to make a normal sourdough bread loaf.


Step Seven: Eat 'em

Out of the oven we shared our first loaf of acorn/wheat bread with our first ever permaculture design course participants.  It was by all accounts a rich, earthy and most delicious flavour.  The experience was heightened, of course, by the fact we were, tasting part of the future of the human food supply.  How could it not be delicious?

 Dan explaining the significance of what he was about to feed a VEG PDC group in May 2013


It sure looked good!


And very well received!


Finally, here's a youtube of Dan enjoying a slice: