Sunday, September 9, 2007

Permablitz #29 at the Permaculture Forest

Well yesterday and today we had a huge weekend, hosting Permablitz #29, having heaps of fun with about 20 wonderful visitors, and getting a heap done. As well as having workshops on hot composting (thanks Cam!), sourdough breadmaking (thanks Dan!), grafting (thanks Adam!) and even Chinese medicine acupressue points (thanks Kim!), we made enormous progress both on the zone 1/2 orchard and veggie area south of the house and the maincrop terrace north of the tennis court (which harvests water for the terrace) - see the pictures below to see what we achieved. On Saturday afternoon we had a tour and demonstrated some features of the mainframe water design, including bringing the South-Eastern spring sideways, taking the dam sideways along a swale, and converting all the swales into diversion drains by turning a pipe. Thanks so much to everyone that came along.

Our lovely dairy farmer neighbours helped us out with two huge trailer loads of cow poo.

Cam explains the approach to sheet mulching the orchard, as part of a plan to turn it into an edible forest garden.

Digging in the paths for the forest garden.

Going for it in the orchard on Saturday.

The sheet mulch (blood and bone, then newspaper, then cardboard, then cow poo, then woodchip mulch) down.

Marking out the maincrop bed on the terrace.

Putting in the paths in the (90 square metre) maincrop terrace, which we've designed to fit the chook tractor.

Digging them paths and planting them spuds.

Mulching spuds.

More spud mulching. What we don't eat or give away out of the 90 square metres of spuds we'll leave to build the soil.

The new maincrop bed at the end of the blitz.

On Saturday evening we took the group on a tour of the whole site, explaining the core features of the design as we went along.

Cam leads a compost workshop on Sunday morning.

Here's the team - we got a lot done but had heaps of fun too, with amazing food from Di and a bonfire and even a firebath on Saturday evening.

One more time...

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Permaculture Forest Training Camp in December

We're running a one-week practical permaculture skills on-the-ground training camp this December. The venue is the Permaculture Forest, a beautiful 15-acre property near Leongatha in South Gippsland, Victoria, Australia.

We've timed the course to follow on from the next Permaculture Design Course at Rick and Naomi Coleman's Southern Cross Permaculture Institute which finishes December 15th. Our course will then run from 9am Monday December 17th to midday Saturday December 22 (We're also planning to run a second training camp January 21st-26th 2008 to follow on from Bill Mollison and Geoff Lawton's next Melbourne course but more on that to come).

This means that students of the acclaimed Southern Cross course keen to hit the ground can do so (we're only 20 minutes drive from Rick and Naomi's place) and that others who have done a PDC in the past can come along to get re-inspired and skilled up.

The Permaculture Forest is the perfect property for the training camp, with a range of permaculture systems well into implementation, including goose ponds, swales, extensive windbreak plantings, large-scale nut, fruit and support tree plantings, irrigation systems, main and grain no-dig cropping terraces, strip/cell grazing systems, soil improvement strategies, chicken tractor gardens, deep-litter straw yard chicken systems, wetlands, revegetation, greywater reedbed and compost toilets.

Students will learn about all aspects of broad-acre permaculture design, implementation and maintenance. We'll also be eating largely from the property (including veggies, carbs, eggs and possibly some meat) and will spend time in the zone-one vegetable gardens which includes compost and worm farm systems.

The cost will be $500 ($450 low income) for the week including everything - food (but we'll all take turns helping prepare it), accommodation, day and evening sessions. Though we'll be spending most of our days outside, we will seamlessly integrate theory and practice so that you're learning on every level. Both theory and practice sessions will also be catered to the interests of individuals and the group.

Teachers and facilitators will include Cam Wilson, Dan Palmer, Jessie Price, Carey Priest and Adam Grub. Along with long, productive days outside (you will sleep well!) we'll have evening sessions, workshops and guest speakers on a variety topics, including professional design consultancy, permablitzes, sustainable kitchen skills, and the soil food web approach.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Belated report from the cutting edge of Permaculture Forest action

Well we're well overdue for an update here, with water flowing everywhere and over 100 fruit and nut trees in the ground! Here's a few pictures from last week to get the ball rolling:

Here's the silt trap and goose pond shortly after the tap was attached to the pipe coming through the goose pond wall - it's filling up fast!

Here's the above mentioned tap. Don't ask for the story about how we got it on...

The flow leaving the top flow this time of year - really responds to a bit of rain uphill, what!

And here are a few of the bottom swale-dam system:

Here's our first plughole - a system where we pull a plug to convert an infiltration swale into a diversion drain, letting us either moisten or dry out the soil below at will.

And here's the tennis court batter with a variety of native grasses, grevillias, oranges and olives planted out.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

What's all been happening

Just figured out the main and grain crop terrace below the tennis court is 189 square metres of growing space. At 9 potatoes per square metre that's over 1500 potatoes planted! Scary! We have a rectangular chicken tractor (bottomless movable chook pen) coming that measures 1.8 metres across so will organise the paths on the terrace to let us use the tractor back and forward to remove weed and fertilise the ground before we plant it out. Bring on the mighty power of chicken.

We had our first frost on June 14th - the ground was white and crisp.

Also, after a little rain, a new spring started bubbling up out of the ground a ways up the hill in the north-eastern corner. May be scope for little annual pond we reckon.

I picked up another 550 plants on the landcare order (only 950 left to go!) and a bunch of different allocasuarinas (media x 50, paludosa x 40, littoralis x 10). The plants as part of the order were: 50 Acacia dealbata, 50 Acacia melynoxylon, 50 Acacia verticulata, 100 Lemondra longifolia, 50 Poa, 100 Ghania, 50 tea tree, 50 Dionella and 50 Native Elderberry.

Ian also gave me three Acacia Boormanii or Snowy River Wattle. Gave one to Rick and put one in the top main swale and one in the top orchard swale.

Dafe Griffiths from Geometree came all the way down from the Castlemaine area to look over the property and advice on our tree planting strategy on Thursday June 21, Wonderful guy and great value with many years of tree system planning and planting experience.

On Monday June 25 we deep ripped, thanks to Di who pushed it through in the nick of time (with the rain, three days later would have been too late). A downright lovely local contractor named Jacko came by with a yeomans plough. For the technically minded, we went about 25 cm deep with five tines using a 120 horsepower John Deer tractor and a Yeoman's plough with coulters but no rollers. We stayed pretty close to contour but in some places went slightly off contour from valleys to ridges ah la Yeoman's keyline design system. In some places even after about 50mm of rain over the last month or so the soil was bone dry even 10cm down but generally the moisture was reasonably good.

Tuesday June 26 I planted an Acacia cognata or river wattle next to our three main ponds (goose pond, Cam's pond and the pond feeding the dam). The last week or so we've also filled in a few gaps in the Casuarina-based windbreak plantings on the Southern and Western boundary in the house corner. I also got a bunch more native legume shrubs for the mounds (pultanea and something else) and one or two of about 5 different kinds of wattles to chuck in the top mound and see how they go. A lovely bloke named Trev also swung by with two huge bales of rye straw. He noticed the tagasaste and was really interested, saying he grew it for cow and sheep fodder and thought it was fantastic.

Jacko going to it.

What a plough. About $10,000 worth apparently.

Here's a close up of water collecting in one of the rips two days after they went in.

Here's a section of the middle main swale this morning after maybe 7 hours of steady medium rain.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Planting up a storm

On Saturday Di and I planted more natives down in the North-Eastern corner and where the creek comes in from the east. I planted lomandra longifolia and ghania sieberiana along the fence line and Di planted teatree (Melaluca squarrosa and Melaluca ericifolia) along the creek. Di put a few tiny honey locust seedlings in the west end of big swales one and two. I also transplanted nasturtiums into the swale mounds on big swales 1 and 2. In the last light of the day, Di and I planted out a Bunya pine in the South-Eastern corner. We planted it ceremoniously into some rich humus we took from the heart of the big old near-dead blackwood we felled a few months ago. From the end of the life of one great tree to the beginning of the life of another.

On Sunday I finished planting out the three main swales in nasturtium and planted out sunroot tubers every metre or so along the base of the bottom swale and also into the batter of the level area we extended out in front of the shed along with a bit of the similar area on the dam wall. Sunroots inhibit the growth of other plants but will be about 1.5 metres and down hill from productive trees and do a good job of shading the mounds in summer as well as providing more chop and drop style mulch. I also placed a stake with a knife-cut at the height of the closest-to-the-house tagasaste on the top paddock swale. It's growing fast and now we can measure how fast.

I also planted a single kowhai, a NZ legume tree in the middle of the top swale. We got the seed from Steve La Valley's botanical ark and just the one has germinated. I hope it does alright. I dotted a few albizias that Stacey gave us around the piped crossings on the bottom two swales and a variety of subtropical legumes here and there along the top swale. I put a passionfruit in the small broadbean bed to the west of the tennis court and mulched the bed with rice husks. There are bare patches here and there, especially on the sun-facing side, in the covercrops. Next time they predict a decent stretch of wet I'll scatter more. Bit by bit we'll cover them up so come Spring they rise up like one long green snake.

Nettles and chickweed are colonising soil where it was disturbed by the last lot of cows. Pretty and edible!

Here's the flow the South Eastern spring is currently contributing to the top main swale. It's a small flow but is very persistant and will increase dramatically as the soil is recharged with Winter rain.

Here's a pipe's-eye perspective of the water sheeting out along the swale.

Here are the two smaller house orchard swales and to the right the diversion drain bringing road runoff sideways into the main system. We've already started planting out bare-rooted fruit trees into these mounds - so far a plumcot, a nashi, a nectarine and an apricot.

Bill and Di planting natives down on the Eastern boundary last week.

Carey cleaning out the tank above the house. Over a foot of gunk with a good-sized little tree growing in there too!

Thursday, June 7, 2007

More trees planted

Today whilst Carey cleaned out and filled up the long-unused 18,000 litre tank above the house (For the record: main tank = 42,000 litres and the tank below the shed = 24,000 litres), Bill, Di and Dan planted natives down inside the Eastern boundary on both sides of the creek. We planted two kinds of melaleucas, blackwoods, silver wattles, prickly moses, varnish wattle, native currant, and grasses lomandra longifolia and ghania siberium (or something like that ) around a skeleton of casuarina cunninghamiana and casuarina stricta. The big trees at 3 metre spacings with the understory mixed in underneath. An amazing amount of worms in the soil presently. The slight rain we've had must have brought them up from the depths. Also an amazing amount of variability in soil types even from hole to hole. Concrete-like grey clay to the softest richest red clay loams.

The top swale is looking good. The tagasastes are really shooting up and we now have, from mound base upward, comfrey, daffodils, two kinds of myoporum, nasturtiums, and of course the cover crop of oats and about nine different legumes. Who knows, but maybe all this will be enough to hold the grasses off until the trees are up. We shall see.


Tuesday, June 5, 2007

What up

Here's a few words penned last Saturday: Last few days have been pretty relaxed actually. On Tuesday night we visited our friends Rick and Naomi Coleman of Southern Cross Permaculture Institute for dinner. Later on Fern Okerby from Apollo Bay visited to see what we've been up to and on Wednesday we showed her around and stewed some apples. She also possibly identified our existing large late-season apple for us: Stewart Seedling. On Thursday we went to a talk by Sally Fallon, author of Nourishing Traditions, and that was interesting. She reckons we should eat more butter, bone broths, ferments, organ meats and stuff like that. If we do, apparently our children will be more likely to have full round faces and a straight set of healthy teeth. It's been raining and the cover crops are all doing great and the swales are accumulating long puddles of water up to about 10 metres long. Rick tells us we're due for more rain so I look forward to that magical moment when the swales and dam fill and overflow. On Friday I sowed more cover crops (lucerne, red clover and white clover) on the backyard swales, the area below the diversion drain that has the drain spoil spread over it by the bobcat and the new swale coming off the goose pond. Oh yeah, our mate Adam has started a sort of companion blog - check it out at

Oh, by the way, Fern the apple whiz recommended Freyburgh as a mid-season good eating apple from NZ and Devonshire Quarrenden from England 1678 as a good eating apple and sweet green coppin as a good cider apple.

And here's a catch up for today: Yesterday Cam, Carey and I cruised down from Melbourne in the pano (panel van). We picked up a 200-litre barrel for brewing compost tea from Carey's place, a pile of daffodil bulbs and Cam's clear pipe for finding levels from Kim's house, and three bare-rooted fruit trees (plumcot, nectarine (Firebrite) and nashi (Shinsui)) and a bunch of ground covers (prostrate rosemary, myoporum, sea daisy). Hannah from the last Southern Cross PDC and Bill and Di are down too so there's lots of energy here this week. Today Cam and I dug in the diversion drain / spillway on the bottom of the two swales in the north eastern corner while Hannah planted tagasaste into the mounds. We (mainly Bill, Di, Hannah and Cam) sowed a cover crop (red, white & subclover, lucerne, barrel medic, oats) into the top swale in that corner and planted about 80 casuarinas continuing the same windbreak pattern down the eastern boundary. I picked up a ute-load of firewood whilst the paddocks were dry enough to do so. Carey's been masterminding the house water situation and cleaning out the tank above the cubby house, God bless him. Bill and Di planted the three new fruit trees and that was cool. Planting the first food-producing trees into swale mounds.

Okay, over and out,

Cam raking around the goose pond.

The cover crops creeping up to seize the swales.

The first fruit tree goes into the mound of one of the orchard swales!

Glying the little dam below the spring dam with fresh cowshit from next door.

We laid it down then covered it with cardboard to get it fermenting. The idea comes from Mollison's designer's manual.

Can and Dan preserving apples with Rick's cool corer-peeler gismo.

A swale with some rather long puddles during recent rain. Bodes well for levelness, what.

We have a swan and its babies living in our dam!

Collecting the cow poo for glying from the dairy farmer next door. He reckons we can have an unlimited supply if we want it!