Friday, December 31, 2010

Happiness in this New Year

Shouts and Fireworks could be heard all across the city - Happy New Year!

We saw it in with a scorching 40 degree day and the veggies have withstood it beautifully.

The plums seemed to turn colour before my eyes and have been the best of the harvest so far.

This year's Christmas feast included some climbing beans which I had lead up wires in front of the yoga studio. The tomatoes were still too green for the garden salad, but are on their way along with zucchini and beats. It has, up until now been too cold for the chilli to take off - but after New Year's Eve declared that it is finally Summer they are sure to take off.

The most important project this Summer is clearing the drip line of the Almond Tree. It has once again come down with a Bacteria Infection and I need to clean to soil of diseased husks and plan to spray a Bordeaux solution next winter. It was such a healthy crop after all the rain - the blossom had promised and delivered - better luck next year! They do have a tendency to keep on ticking along.

Happy New Year, Happy Digging, Happy Discovering.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Dangerous business

"It's a dangerous business, going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don't keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to."
J.R.R. Tolkien

... And an even more intrepid soul who steps forth into her garden. One curious look and an afternoon is swallowed up, leaving her bitten and sodden in satisfaction... and forgetting why she went out there in the first place, loosing cups of tea and broken thoughts in the cuttings.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Making seedling pots from Milk Cartons

Instruction for making pots for seedlings out of Milk Cartons - see photos below...

The first step is easy and obvious - cut the bottom off and voila - your first pot is made - simply puncture a few holes for drainagel

Next to make the best use of the top half cut off the spout

Slit the sides about half an inch down on each corner

Now fold the flaps out to create a crease line

One flap at a time work around the carton in a circle lowering and fixing the sides into the middle, fixing the last flap underneath the first.

Experiment with how far down you need to make the slits in order to get a perfect little drainage hole in the middle!

And start asking your friends to save their milk cartons!

A great Christmas gift - or as the students at the yoga centre are going to receive them as "pots of potential" - as the basil this year has been very slow to germinate.

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Monday, November 15, 2010

Tis the Season to be Mulching

A recent search for mulch lead me to a free service - 5 cubic metres delivered to the door!!! The request was 5th priority - which meant when the mulching company has a surplus of mulch you can have it delivered. The front garden is now complete. I shovelling the old mulch onto the surrounding garden beds (it is a good idea to add dolomite / blood and bone to keep the soil sweet after combining it with old mulch). I replaced the weed mat and although not in the front - in the back I am planning to place newspaper down in addition to weed mat. Have a bucket of water handy to dunk the news paper to avoid it flying off as you lay it is a great help.

It looks and smells great - and it hasn't stopped raining all weekend so it is now firmly set in place. Cheers to Chen for supervising the operation.

Now for the back.....

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Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Ahimsa and Permaculture

In an interview with Scott London Bill Mollison explains the history and motivation for Permaculture. One pertinent remark he made was :

'It’s curious that we never apply what we know to how we actually live'.

Why does a plumber spend his life making beautiful bathrooms for his customers and is unable to come home and fix his own? I believe fundamentally this boils down to self worth. Particularly now, where we live in such isolated environments, the notion of doing something for the community at large is quite removed, or is perhaps restricted to working hours. This gives us the opportunity to practice a reversal of sorts - treat your neighbour as you would yourself - now I believe it is time to treat yourself as you treat your neighbour (that is if you have mastered the first act of true respect and love for your neighbour).

It is more than just laziness that keeps us from living out our wisdom. Every instruction manual and every tip is now available on the Web - it doesn't mean for certain that you will google it and apply it to your life. What does determine action - is your state of mind and it stems from your love of self - not in a conceited manner - but through a deep acceptance, which is the first practice in yoga of Ahimsa or non-harm.

Scott London's Interview with Bill Mollison

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A long way from Grand Designs

Thank you Kevin McCloud for de-mystifying the Indian Slums and putting faces and stories to the snapshots which we would usually cringe at. May there be hope.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ride to Work Day Oct 13

What better way to celebrate a new bike - but get into some community Spirit for the annual Ride to Work Day.

If you look very carefully at the back of the line you can spot me with my new Knight on the Road- waiting for its own tattoo by the police! It was a rather soggy but great way to get into work - followed by a free breakfast with soggy but fresh faced friends.

Permaculture and Spirit

Recently I came across the DVD "Reconnecting to Nature though Spiritual Permaculture". It documents a conference in Hawaii whose guest speaker was Dr Leonid Sharashkin, translator of Anastasia which I had read a couple of years ago. The DVD has been playing on my mind after watching it.

It asks us to re-introduce consciousness into design and suggests that design is nothing more than an expression of the conscious state we are in at any given moment. Gardening for food is advocated as much more than a practical solution - it is a Spiritual practice of healing both our selves and our environment.

This is particularly pertinent as the garden for "Permaculture in Suburbia" is within the setting of a Yoga School. This weekend I was working on the Spiral Meditation Garden. I have planted the two new grafted apples from Toora Heritage Pear Farm Grafting Day - given that there has been soo much rain I was drawn to planting and transplanting in the moments when the sun did come out.

The Spiral seems to have a life of its own and I have enjoyed the experience of stepping back and allowing it to take form around me. I was looking today at the Roses which we had transplanted last winter into this site which has now become the Spiral. The move of the roses was made out of necessity - there was not enough rain and we wanted to dedicate the front garden beds to food production as they receive the most water. The roses were given strict instruction - you've just got to make good of what you got - they were not watered particularly much but have thrived and now make a gorgeous setting for the meditation spiral walk. What I enjoyed as I looked at them today was the sense of having not planned - but ended up with exactly what I would have wanted!


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Blessed Birthday

When wisdom comes my way I recognise it as a deep blessing. It come from time which I have yet (and hopefully still) to experience.

The gardens that I have tended have brought me this - through two particular women who I would like to thank for their Birthday Blessings.

The first is Peg - who (at 90) sculpted the most delicate, beautiful marzipan fruit to cover a fruit cake - "It is a Cornecopia" for my 30th birthday. I dropped in about a week or more ago - and she had started the process!! I remember looking at the cake and wondering "oohhh I wonder who/what that is for, it seems to early for Christmas cakes!" Thank you Peggy for the most outstanding cake.

A lot of the gardening wisdom I have learnt has come by listening to and observing friends and clients (hmmm hard to make that distinction at times) with the patience and passion to share what they know. From Betty - who like Peg inspires me with her passion and determination for life - I received a card - and I want to share the words inside. A fuscia hangs down with a Hummingbird flying towards its stamen:

Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration.
Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday.
The hummingbird's delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life's sweetest creation.

You never know where your interests will guide you and who they will present across your path. And although the flowers that we have tended together wither season by season I have you deep in my heart.

A deeply happy Birthday. 

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Words from the Dirty Finger Nailed Activist

A great emphasis in Permaculture (apart from the veggie patch and passive energy housing design) is on social change, awareness and education. Recently I asked a friend what she thought about a Permaculture Property Tour she had taken over the weekend. Her answer surprised and delighted me: "I loved it, but I thought it was sad that we had to travel 2 hours and pay to see an example of what used to be in my backyard".
When did this type of living become a novelty? Growing your own? Community sharing and Family focused? And why do we need a system such as Permaculture to re-establish what was once common practice (at least for some), or do we at all?

My friend grew up in the 50's. Her father was the gardener and would take her on tours of his plot when she would come home to visit, asking her to count with him the number of current crops (some improved by the applications of DDT!!!).

I on the other hand grew up in the 80s. We had a lemon tree which we would enjoy but that was the extent of home grown. The garden was purely ornamental. Today two galvanised raised veg bed sit in the middle Mum and Dad's lawn. Dad has converted the brick BBQ to a 3 bed no-dig garden in addition building a 2x2 meter enclosed space which was once lawn for more produce.This was not something that came naturally to my folks. It took a lot of reading on my mum's part and also visits to "Mr Budgie" our Italian nieghbour around the corner. My grandparents, having grown up in the depression were extremely hard workers, but not vegetable gardeners. They were however, the most phenomenal  recyclers I have ever encountered. Everything, to this day, is considered before being discarded (or given away). I remember when at a certain age it suddenly occured to me that the crystal salt and pepper shakers were not crystal at all - they were vinegar bottles which had been skewered in the tops. This was not only a matter of affordabililty, my Nana simply can't stand throwing anything out!!

Sitting in my garden on the weekend with a much younger friend - we were brain storming which veggies to plant, she then pointed out a nettle and said to me (she is 8) "Sarah you really should pull that thistle out on the path - but you could make a good tea out of it or use it for ummmmm compost" WOW where did you learn that ?- "At school, we have a Stephanie Alexander Garden!!!!!".

No doubt, we are stylising what once was common, backyard practice. But figure-heads here in Melbourne such as Stephanie Alexander and David Holmgren are helping to formalise the groundswell of people who want to act rather than sit back in dismay. The formalisation of change through government is not only too slow, but also unreliable with the chop-change government sturcture (it was interseting to even hear the BHP CEO Marius Kloppers suggest that government is decades behind the eight ball in regard to climate change):
Channel 10 News
The Australian

Ultimately (and particularly after the dethroning or Kevin Rudd) it is clear that business runs our government. The upside is that the consumers (you and me) ultimately dictate business.

Professor Stuart Hill's study advocates that change is in the hands of the individual:

Although we have still only scratched the surface in applying these (renewable energy) two potentially valuable approaches, their limitations are such that without more fundamental changes in values and the design of systems, they can only delay the eventual reaching of critical thresholds relating to ecological collapse and associated cultural breakdown, including increased violence, war and personal degeneration. I believe, based partly on my familiarity with the history of soil degradation and associated cultural collapse (e.g., Hyams 1952), that such outcomes are inevitable if we continue to mainly focus on status quo maintaining, and problem-solving responses. However, if we take proactive, imaginative, fundamental redesign and transformative approaches to change, and are willing to learn from nature, and 'otherness' in general (Bhabha 1994; McClintock 1995), then numerous hopeful opportunities may be recognized and emerge (see also Nina-Marie Lister, Ch.2).

The emphasis in Permaculture on social change, awareness and education is perhaps what we drive two hours to witness and are willing to pay to be educated about. For now I am happy diggin around in my garden and letting my thoughts drift about how what I am doing with my hands affects the air that I am breathing and more.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Inner Melbourne - Family of Four Vegie Garden Design

An example of interplanting a veggie garden in a landscaped Suburban Garden: Notes to a Client

For Background Reading on Permaculture Principles: The Essence of Permaculture

Zone 1: Quick Pick / Kitchen Cupboard

Pots - Lettuce / Coloured Pots of Geranium
Herbs (Rosemary/ Thyme/Parsley)
Seedling Nursery

Zone 2: Annual Veg Crops (quick pick varieties)
Broad Beans
Snow Peas
Climbing Beans

Zone 3: Slow Growing Annual root veg /perennial  fruit / Veg

Tomatoes (Zone 2 or 3)
Corn (plant several in close proximity for cross pollination)



Zone 4

Compost Bin - Back Slightly Sunnier Spot
Infront of Fig (where bin was) - is now a space for drying cuttings (before adding to compost)
Remember 1:1 Ratio Wet:Dry
Wet = veg/fruit scraps
Dry = Clippings - no bigger than tips of branches + dry leaves / dry grass clippings / dry hedge trimmings (place clippings beside the bin for a couple of weeks (or days in Summer) to dry before adding to the compost - unless autumn leaves - they can go straight in.
No root balls (too woody) and no big branches
Newspaper (scrunched up) is an alternative when no clippings/leaves are available
Dry has been the missing ingredient (it is like a sandwhich where the dry layer provides aeration for the breakdown of the wet)


Air in the soil (like in the compost was the missing ingredient)
The way to create aerated soil is to layer compost - with mulch and manure (3-6 alternate layers) ending with a mulch of either whole (not crushed) sheep manure/lucerne or sugar cane mulch. I have dug in the compost to begin with as it was not well broken down (but well enough - you will find some egg shells about which take the longest - but are a good source of calcium). On top of this was placed crushed sheep manure, organic pellet form (slow release) fertiliser, blood and bone, sugar cane mulch followed by whole sheep manure (again slow release).
You can not plant seeds in this 'no dig' style soil structure yet.
If you want to plant straight from seed then make a small whole and fill it with seed raising mix (or grainier soil from deeper below once the layers have broken down), otherwise plant seedlings straight through the layers.

An initial planting of legumes would be great for the new areas (Zone 3 - where the tomatoes are planned) you allow them to get almost to full season (just seeding/flowering) or just before and then cut them (with a dutch hoe for example) and dig them into the soil. This can also be done at the end of the season - before planting the next crop.
Never plant tomatoes in the same spot two seasons in a row (a bacteria infection tends to occur)... try crop rotating root veg with leafy veg the following season and continue to alternative in this way each year.

Strong smelling herbs - garlic chives/peppermint varieties are great around veggie crops and also your roses to stop disease and pests.

Comfrey/Yarrow around the fig would be ideal - the tap root of the comfrey brings valuable nutrients up to the surface and both can be added to the compost to aid break - down. Stinging nettle - if you can stand it is also great for this.

Nasturtium / Peppermint Pelargonium are non-inavisve ground cover ( and great weed control) as are strawberries.

Hedging can be achieved with edibles such as blue berries (mulch well and water often) if you want an alternative to the box hedge.

I would consider planting another passionfruit vine to support the one already in - and buy an organic beef liver from the butcher and dig it in - just below the root ball. Passionfruit need plenty of nutrients and this is an old and tested method (again only if it sits OK with you!)

I would think about cutting the lawn (1/2 meter circumference) around the Wisteria and Olive to allow watering and feeding of the soil above the root zone. You could also consider planting some edibles around the drip line such as Artichokes. Artichokes would also look very uniform (and are Perennial) for the front under the weeping ornamental where the pumpkins are planned.

In the shady corners
Clivia/Clematis/hellebores would all work as well.

I hope this Summer provides a crop BONANZA!

Here is a great website to help with knowing what to plant when
Veggie Guide - Gardening Australia

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

David Holmgren on the Endurance of Suburbia

Being a Blog about Permaculture in Suburbia it is reassuring to hear that Suburbia is an agricultural structure in itself and that you can start where you are - and not wait to purchase your hobby farm...

Recently looking into the zoning legislation of buying and building on land in Victoria - it shocked me to find out that if you want to build on zoned "rural land" (farming zone) you have to purchase 100 acres or more. This was established to prevent hobby farming from sub-dividing Victorian rural landscape and consequently threatening agricultural productivity.

Yet 100 acres is far beyond the requirement for food productivity for one family. A rather frustrating position ... and another reason to find solutions in Suburbia.

For more discussion on this

Zoning in Victoria

An Independent Analysis of the new residential zones for Victoria

And some other helpful links (which are relevant to Vic, Australia only)
Real Estate Institute of Vic

Municipal Association of Vic

Custom Home Building

and for some inspiration and practical solutions:

Buleen art & Garden

Eric Toensmeier: Overview of his Perennial Garden

A clear and concise explanation of Perennial Polyculture approach to food forresting....

Monday, October 4, 2010

Before and After

Well its time for the after shots (Scroll to the original post "Walking the Land" for the before shot)

The warmer weather has gotten the back Permaculture plan into action!
Walking the backyard last week - I was absolutely thrilled to realised that all the elements I had envisioned - have come into manifestation. These include

1) 4 veggie Beds
2) A Spiral Garden
3) A miniature orchard
4) An aquatic garden in the form of a dug in bath tub

I have also created a 5th veggie bed along the fence which is being used for carrots and raising seeds such as beetroot at the moment. I have planted in my 4 varieties of tomatoes (a little earlier than recommended - but still it has been so darn hot that I haven't regretted it). I used plastic bottles - top and tailed to provide a mini hot house and to stop the black bird and brown birds from stratching the seedlings out during their dig for worms. I have also planted a chilli from seed my cousin gave me. In fact everything this year has been from seed so far - which is something I have never been organised enough to do!

I have been thrilled by the pile of weeds which I covered over with black plastic sheeting - it became gorgeous soil over winter. I have dug a large trench and filled it with the Winter/Spring weeds - of which there was a bounty after the rains. I also found some garbage bags which Mimi has used to heat up weeds from under the Pear - these were prime compost - at it was about 1 year old and still very moist. In the back corner (of the Yoga room end) I have put weed mat down and allocated this area for chopped wood.

The two grafted apples I have decided to plant in the spiral garden and these will accompany a new purchase - Pink Lady which is nearby the 4 veggie beds. I am trying improving the soil of the veggie beds with potatoes and legumes. I have also planted legumes beside the bath tub where I have created a small bed - which in my whimsy I imagine housing a family of frogs! It may never eventuate - but a home for them I will still make.

The very back is my next challenge - under the olive and down the side - the last frontier.

Audits on Life

You’ve done it again Patrick Jones:
Art and The Environment – a frank audit

In this months copy of Trouble Jones asks "Are we really accountable for our own pollution, or just for the guilt associated with it?". Jones' examines this question in relation to Lucas Ihlein's environmental audit of In the Balance: Art for a Changing World (Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney) environmental audit

This really came home to me - when The Arts Centre hosted the Russian Ballet who performed Swan Lake on Ice. Everything - travelled the globe for this tour and the ice cooling refridgerators were going 24/7 to keep the temporary ice rink in place. It was a sell out - a success, but the cost to the environment was the last thing on the presenters agenda.

An audit of my day would look frighteningly similar to the young lady profiled in the article; several work-places and daily on the go food consumption. Finding the solution to living in a city is not a matter of quick fixes - but constant inquiry. I don't believe in displacing people out of their environment in order to save it. Jones suggests; "It means...highlighting our methods and proccesses, our ability to speculate and to question" - without a critical mind, because simply my tendency is to rebel further, but with genuine interest in practical solutions.

Go to Organisational Change for some great links which explore these topics and more.

Also published this week - one Victorian man's decision to be buried in an up-right, eco-friendly grave Herald Sun October 5 which to me, is a long awaited demonstration of our power of choice - particularly at this criitcal point.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Peak Oil Garden

An abundance of pots has got me thinkin about how to use space as wisely as possilbe - the idea of raised beds appeals - and there is an abundance of scrap wood down the side of the house - perhaps its time to get the Angle Saw out again?

Mel Bartholomew - Introducing Square Foot Gardening

Perfect concept for my 4 new plots

Monday, September 27, 2010

Ashwood Permaculture Project

A visit on the weekend to the Ashwood Permaculture Project Garden highlighted once again the many variations of what a Permaculture garden is.

With an emphasis on education and community - this property has evolved from an empty block to a food bowl and outdoor class room for the high school and local volunteers.

Because it is a vision for a community - the design is fluid. A series of mandalas have been established and the choock are rotated around this living mandala. A series of swales has been established, as it is quite a sloped block, in the form of dug in bath tubs.

I found the hot house the most impressive aspect. With a very well organised array of seedlings - herbs and edibles - which we chose from to plant out one of the circles on the block.

It was completely different to the two rural permaculture properties I have seen and showed me again how the principles can be taken on and interpreted by an individual to suit their vision.

Monday, September 20, 2010

The Nature of 'Native'

The use of non-native, alongside native plants for a Permaculture design for working with the elements of water and fire: The Blogger's Opinion

The use of fire (other than that started by lightening) developed not naturally, but was recognized by Indigenous Australians to assist in both hunting and promoting species that were essential to their diets (for example tubars)(1). This had significant ecological consequences that we are living with today and that have made back burning an integral element to responsible environmental management.

For the sake of this discussion I am examining an urban fringe property for modern day human inhabitants.

Permaculture is a system for human inhabited regions, urban, semi-urban and rural. The connection between Human/Nature is key to understanding why ‘exoitcs’ are selected and integrated into the design.

Permaculture was established in Tasmania in the shadow of the 1970’s bushfires and provided, a then radical, means to plant for both your needs (of food, fodder, timber, shelter) and for your protection (against fire, wind, flood). On a personal note – I know that the apple orchid which divided the national forest from a friend’s property in the Tarra Bulga National Forrest saved not only his life but the home that he had built and was determined to protect on Black Saturday. The radiation thrown off by the Blue Gums, which both line the street and ridge directly opposite his property, fried the Apple Orchid (which stoically has re-sprouted in places) and gave just that moments grace to continue spot fire management.

Exotics – is an interesting word. As a ‘white fella’ I am an ‘exotic’ to this land. Widen the scope… as only recent inhabitant of the planet ‘indigenous’ Australians could be considered exotic to the Australian Landscape. Their introduction of fire to the environment altered which species were suppressed and which were promoted for them to thrive and survive.

Within the context of the Victorian Forrest, the Blue Gum is a relatively young addition to the system – which has flourished in bush fire conditions, out numbering the more historic native Pines and Myrtles. Where do we draw the line between what belongs (regardless of its intrinsic value) and what is ‘exotic’, foreign and therefore displaced?

Nomenclature terms (native/non-native, exotic/natural) used for the naming of things and categorization are useful in creating clarity and understanding, and offer a chance to define a subject for the sake of argument. (I more than anyone love to stroll the Bot Gardens and see how creatively and beautifully they have divided and categorized the plant collection). However this classification of belonging vs displaced is entirely redundant, and in fact detrimental to forming deeper connection, understanding and discovering (now) critical advantages for everyday use of plant species.

Now more than ever – with population off the scale and our primary energy source (cheap oil) rapidly diminishing – we have to be savy if we want future generations to have half a chance at survival. This means avoiding “throwing the baby out with bath water”. Imagine a world where the plastics manufactured from cheap oil were valued as a precious resource. Compared with the gluttony we now are faced with. If we had acted with the foresight of treasuring oil rather than exploiting it, we would not be now facing the Peak Oil crisis which comes just 2 generation after the discovery of this incredible resource.

Back to the context of this discussion; along waterways and creeks Holmgren advocates for the acceleration, rather than reversal of the natural succession already in motion ‘towards a close canopy of deciduous trees that will reduce long term hazard, improve access and amenity and improve water quality … ”:

Past practice of promoting indigenous revegetation on private and public land in urban and urban fringe areas should be modified to prioritise low fire hazard and actively fire retardant species both native and non-native.(2)

This approach takes into account the events of history (colonization) and works to include the consequent changes to the environment within a managed system.

At long last the mainstream is catching on: “Aid is only temporary; lasting solutions are more likely to be found in community based projects that tap into existing economic models and to produce improvement” (Seeds of Hope: A Journey with Hugh Jackman, The Age Green Guide 16/09/10).

Much too late (in my opinion) - we are realising that we have to work with what we've got – and what we've got right now is a long-held inhabited and altered environment that was later colonized and dramatically changed once again. The linear time frame alone does not rationalize what plants are most appropriate for current day planning within an inhabited setting. The argument that this was here first therefore it must be the ‘natural’ state of things works against, rather than with what is right now in this very reality.

While at Bunnings today I read the label “I’m Aussie, be proud to plant me” – I thought yeah I am proud – but what does being “aussie” mean these days – it means much much more than “native”. And I think any Australian, Indigenous or Non-indigenous would agree we can learn and achieve more by working together and integrating the wisdom available - regardless of its category, label or status, much the same way that planting native next to non-native can offer a safer, healthier and smarter (not to mention more bio-diverse) eco-system. So long as it is done with discernment.

1 Saleh, A., (
2 Holmgren, D., ‘Flywire House; A case study in design against bushfire’.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why the Willow?

A recent discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of planting Willows within a Permaculture Design has got me contemplating the wider scope of integrative debate and land management in Australia.

Natural Sequence Farming, as established by Peter Andrews, while common sense and clearly successful was met with suspicion and pursection in much the same way that the Willow was declared a noxious weed in Australia.

It is easy to accept an argument of "good/bad", "native/non-native". It makes it clear what you are "supposed" to do. But it also removes an entire scope of possibilities, potentials and restorative values. Unfortunately our entire social structure and way of being is based around these constructs. "Tell me what to do - and I will do it". We have discouraged group-consciousness to be a diverse system of creative action, because for many this notion looks simply like 'chaos'. What happens when you can step beyond the fear and into the realm of 'organised chaos', or what I like to call the 'messy business of an interesting life'. Permaculture is what happens.

Permaculture, much like yoga advocates for an integrative approach to the system of healing and wholeness. There is no right or wrong, but there is responsible discernment - which much to the dismay of our modern society takes time and effort. Just as the term "yoga" has become appropriated and is now associated with lean mean stretching machines, the phrases "green" and "sustainable" and "ecological" have become catch phrases which fail to acknowledge the deeper wisdoms which once resonated with the ecological movement.

It seems that the true healing and deep action continues to occurs around the periphery of main-stream thought. And it is within this space that ideas are generated which have the potential for creating tangible improvement.

Revegetating and Reducing Fire Risk in Spring Creek Gully

Monday, September 13, 2010


Just before the serious week of rain I took these shots of the blossoms. The garden was entirely a BUZZ with bees. What a sound to weed to!!!

David Holmgren in Daylesford

Melliodora Tour - September

The tour lead by David Holmgren of his property in Daylesford demonstrated to me that Permaculture is a system of care, attention and connection to the place and the people that inhabit it. Unlike other approaches that I have witnessed where the 'low maintenance' and 'minimum care' approach to a self-sustaining system has been made, David Holmgren demonstrated that the relationship with the property is one born out of a passion and immaculate attention to detail - while at the same time down to earth and practical in every sense.

Emphasis was placed on the importance of soil condition, and David offered various approaches for re-balancing soil structure for optimal mineral balance. At the end of the day - if the soil contains the correct balance of elements for the plant - produce such as pumpkin should keep through to mid Summer. I find this particularly interesting given the finding that are being made into the cause of Alzheimer's being that of mineral inbalance, whereby the brain is becoming "rusty" from toxins.

David spoke about allowing a design to develop organically. I have experience this myself where - the garden will slowly reveal to me what will work and what will not work. It is not a matter of logic or careful planning (although these or course are recommended) so much as observation over time, trial and error. Again it returns to creating a relationship - spending time with the space and its "quirks".

Having cultivated some artichokes recently I was thrilled to see that David has used this plant as the under-story for fruit trees. As the artichoke is active in Winter - and is busy working away while the fruit tree above is dormant and free of leaves to allow plenty of sunlight through.

The importance of tree selection for fodder (mostly for the goats who put on a real show) and also to support sun catchment was discussed. No pines or gum trees were planted on the property - but were restricted to the very outer border and are likely to be cut for fire wood. With the exception of the Bunya Bunya pine which is harvested (well it drops huge pine cones) for the pine nuts. Deciduous trees, while not native were selected as "settlement friendly". Trees recommended included oak, willow, blackwood and black walnut. Perriwinkles along the boundaries were chosen as they are shade tolerant, soil improvers and most important fire retardants. These were planted along the river bank along with the cricket bat willow which had been cut and sent off to make ... cricket bats!

The willow, which has been persecuted as a non-native, is used to create a sound rootmat along the river edge and similar to the Mellaluka in the Northern Territory is used for re-building hydrology (catching sediment and improving soil structure).
Closer to home (Zone 2-3) always the preference is towards food and fodder trees. Walnut and Hazelnuts were inter-planted with oak and tall, well-pruned Casuarina. David discussed that you shouldn't over do bio-mass and it was clear that between the goats and his constant pruning that every tree on the property was contributing, rather than detracting from the system. Also once they reached maturity and if they were taking too much sunlight, space or water they would be cut for their wood. Walnut trees for example pull a lot of nutrients from the system and can grow as fast as gum trees if the mineral balance of the soil is right. The dam at the bottom of the property acted as a sun catcher for the main orchid, reflecting the late afternoon rays up the slope all towards the home. Even the slope was considered in the design - as to where the choockies would dig in order to bring, for example, the oak leafs down of the slope and pile up for creating humus.

It was a lovely design - not overwhelming, but intrincsic with its detail. Most importantly it worked.

Highlight of the property would have to the Pear Tree. I would never have identified it as a Pear - it was huge. Planted some time during the gold rush and nearby the remains of an old homestead. The ley lines of the property meet at a conjuction just infront of the tree and is said to be a wonderful place for healing! Well the entire property resonated with a healing vibration. But this point was certainly a lovely place to stand and take it all in!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Make Rooting Hormone From Willow

Make Rooting Hormone From Willow

With the rains that have arrived this winter - its been a great season for transplanting and propogating. Recently at the Toora Grafting day there was discussion about the various uses of hormone powders vs honey. The issue was - if you were grafting a tree for organic or bio-dynamic purposes the hormone powder would disqualify the tree. Honey is an anti-bacterial agent but does not act as a hormone. Here is an alternative... or course the issue with this one is how to treat the graft. Perhaps dipping it after it has been cut - before tapeing the graft would work. Yet to find myself a Willow - but if you have one handy give the recipe a try this Spring !!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Toora Heritage Pear Farm - Grafting Day

Toora Heritage Pear Farm

Toora Heritage Pear Farm is a living museum of heritage pear species which are being cared for and propagated by the Friends of the Toora Heritage Pear Farm. This weekend - the Friends hosted a grafting workshop in order to continue the developement and bio-diversity of both heritage pears and apples in the region. Neil inspired the group with a pep talk - taking us through the reasons and techniques for grafting and we were able to choose from about 100 species of heritage pears or apples. Taking root stock suitable to our soil conditions and also the size of the finished plant we desired we were then able to choose out species with the desired characteristics. The choices and combinations was truly overwhelming. First of all - if you are grafting more than one species - they must have the same growth rate, secondly they must also flower at the same time to ensure pollination. Finally after much deliberations I chose the Snow Apple and the Tom Pippin. Later Neil told me this was an "old timers favorite pair". Well I completely fluked that one - after 2 hours of mucking about trying to find a way through the information that was available. A word of warning - go to such workshop with some knowledge of heritage pears or apples!!!

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Thats What I'm Talkin' 'bout

So often I am seeing people talkin the talk - and not even crawlin the walk. I know, my self included, that the idea of being a responsible visitor on the earth is a very appealing one. But how often does this translate to transformative action? Watching a Green Peace add on TV recently which advocated bullying in the work place as a means to overcome car pollution really highlighted the hypocricy of a movement that places "peace" as their catch cry. With the Federal Election Campaign in full swing at the moment there are so many ideas and good intentions thrown around and no tangible change. Recently at my place of employment which is a very large high profile government public building, a communications committee has been established to help us to be better communicators. The first result of this meeting was a poster which highlighted all the areas which were needed in order for better communication to take place. What is more pressing in the workplace and more generally is the simple act of looking one person in the face at a time and giving them your attention. Respecting and exchanging information. Basically its back to the manners that your mother and grandmother past down to you at the kitchen table and it comes back to self respect. How does this relate to a permaculture blog? Well the place of domesticity is the vital hub - before Zone 1 there has to be a center which is the home. And before there is a home there must be a heath. There must be a person tending to the heath and that person must come from the heart in order for the flow to come from an essential place of healing and positive transformation. So yes - weed, plant, harvest and learn but remember why your doing this rather than going to the supermarket - dear lord you know it is cheaper these days but the grace of change which happens to me and the little space that I have some control over is the true blessing.

A worthwhile read on this topic:

Radical Home Makers

and closer to home:

Domestic Blitz The Age

Patrick Jones' In Trouble

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I went to Ceres last Sunday to get some plants and seeds and also to check out thier permaculture design course. Some ideas that I got there included using all of our bricks to build a chimney style pot! I just loved the way it created a little landscape in the raised garden bed. Also the propagating area - the shade cloth could be done simply over any area. They have also constructed a series of green houses (well white houses actually) I saw a similar example of this structure at the Southern Cross Inst. of Permaculture with simply created with steel star pickets with plastic piping placed over the picket and stretch over (creating a rainbow) to the other picket. This makes it very easy to assemble - and dissemble and recyle the material! I think some thing of this kind will be put in the back garden beside the shed.

I have planted some artichoke seeds bought at the Ceres nursery. These are heading into the back yoga studio plot. Plans for the back include splitting the rhubarb and also I have added a Cardomon plant where the fuscia came out due to the heat - it is a real hot spot so lets see. The cardomon plant - as well as its seeds - has great leaves for wrapping fish or scallops for cooking!! It gets to three metres which is a little higher than I was hopeing but surely I can prune the top off if it gets too big. Right now it is in front of the yoga room - in between the windows.

Front Key Hole Stage 2

Planting has began.
I am realising that this is a very sunny but also a very small little patch really. Therefore rather than fill it up with annuals I am going more for a perrenial garden bed interspersed with annuals. So far the herbs are in. I have found the sunniest and also the driest patches and made these the mediterranean corner! This is the top corner. I have planted thyme here and some New Zealand spinach and Nasturtiams. I have also replanted a dear blue berry which was struggling where it was. I have placed this at the top of the path. Along the V at the top of the path I have planted lemon grass which was in need of splitting after two years or so of no harvesting! This lemon grass wall provides a wind break and also stops the pup from running across it to get to her favourite past time of patrolling the front fence (as seen in photo two the mad white flash across the fence!). The area where the compost bin is now will be planted with tomatoes this summer and root veg next winter. I want to put some asparagus in with the lettuces and some garlic (if its not too late). The bird bath is a bit of an experiment at the moment. So far the birds are loving it and scratching around in the soil which was something I wanted to encourage with not having chookies to serve this purpose. They splash about and sprinkle a little water down below. Also their gifts of poop are full of nitrogen - not to mention unwanted seeds - but eh they are great entertainment. chen was having her bone the other day and took a leap in the direction of the bird bath - the bird didn't faulter - kept on with its morning cleanse and ignored the protest of pup who quickly went straight back to her bone.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Tools in Self-sufficiency

Last weekend lead to an impromptu lesson in

#1 How to use a chain saw!!!!
#2 How to split wood!

After watching the big guns give it a go - Lisa and I had a crack at it and following some encouragement from a passing neighbor who shouted out his car window "harder harder"... we had some serious success and got the wood into some great sizes for the fire.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Back Sprial Garden

Now the front key hole garden has taken shape I have focused my energies on the back spiral garden. It took shape this weekend and I was able to navigate a lot of the roses to find a path way that would give me access and at the same time nurture what is already planted.

After finishing the initial spiral I stood at the front of the garden - under the plum tree and knew already that I would be much too tempted to walk through the middle - rather than walking the full length of the spiral in order to do a little weeding or picking.

Then AHA an image dropped in ! The chokurei symbol which I had been inducted into during Reiki 1. Is is absolutely perfect for the garden. It allows a long spiral path for meditative walk and instant access to the center - or right across to the top of spiral near the olive.

I am absolutely thrilled with using this healing symbol and maintaining a functional space.

An example of a Chokurei


What a dynamic duo.
This episode of Grand Designs reminded me - take the drama away and just make it happen!!!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Aloysia triphylla or Lemon Verbena

It is this time of year when I am ever so grateful for having dried the Lemon Verbena leaves cut during summer to make a warm tea. I always knew of this tea's high Vitamin A content - and that it was good for the skin but wasn't aware of its anti stress and spasm qualities as well!! Aha perfect, will be tucking up on the couch with a cup soon. I am very lucky to have a neighbor who I garden for that lets me take her cuttings and am hoping my weee little verbena will take off this summer - where to put it once it is out of the pot is something that needs some thought. I have just removed a fuscia from the yoga room window perhaps the verbena can tolerate this sunny spot.

Sunday, July 4, 2010


After being ravaged as seedlings the Kale has finally taken off!! As for the broccoli it bolted - but is now providing a nice bit of white to keep the cabbage butterfly away - although I think they've all gone for the winter!

Key Hole Garden

Well a weekend of no rain - meant getting the roses pruned and also finishing off preparations for the front key hole garden! I am determined to have produce in it by spring and the soil from the compost and piling cutting is looking great! After seeing the food forest at Southern Cross Permaculture Institute I got thinking about natural edging methods. Listening to Rick speak about the food source created by dead trees and hard cuttings I have decided to use ALL of the woody prunings that have piled up in the back garden as an edge. I am also going to use this method for the back keyhole garden also. So to make this work - I have edged the boundaries to make a ditch and cut the prunings into lengths to be stacked continuously around the circle and also around the edge of the 'keyhole' beside the pavers. This provides a use for a huge amount of waste - which would otherwise end up on the nature strip and will hopefully house helpful insects and healthy bacterias. I am yet to discover how well it will keep the weeds away - but if it is thickly stacked enough with plenty of small mixed in with large cuttings - hopefully it will work well. It will also work as a water catching mote when it rains! I am rather thrilled with this as I haven't seen it anywhere else - but like all good ideas - probably it has been done before ! Most of all it just looks lovely - like a big nest in the middle of my garden waiting for life!

This brings to mind on of my favorite artists - Andy Goldsworthy and his use of 'nesting' spaces:

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Southern Cross Permaculture Institute

Queens Birthday weekend was spent at the Souther Cross Permaculture Institute taking the tour with Rick. It was fairly overwhelming to stand on the land - knowing that it had been flat grazing land just 16 or so years ago and that every tree planted had been done so by Rick and Naomi. The use of water as a Sun Catcher was the most impressive element that I came away with and have since been paying more attention to the reflection of water in even small things around the garden like bird baths. Photos and video to come!