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.