Thursday, March 12, 2020

A high fantasy themed nature retreat.

The Garden has had a high fantasy theme for a while really.

The Hobbit Hole
The Elf House
The Enchanted Woods
The Faerie Field
The Goblin Field

As the garden is now in quite reasonable state and longer term pans need to be considered. The basic low maintenance comfy home part is well on the way. So what is long term? Herb wholesales? Workshops? Affordable housing, tiny homes, a caravan park? Artists retreat and cabins? Each will have planning and regulatory requirements in time.

A high fantasy themed nature retreat, seems a good vision for it.

Charged garden tours on specific days.
include epic quests and workshops.
needs toilets and other facilities

selling herbs. retail. esp direct to local naturopaths and herbalists.

building up for the cabins for arts retreat.

rent out quarry as a venue

Once have a few go for caravan park type licence. and affordable housing. tiny house parking or stay in cabins.

Friday, January 17, 2020

Water design for version 2

In ways the new version of the gardens design is not as good as V1. V1 of my gardens was basically all designed about the winter water catchment and its in-soil flows over the year. But now the Zone 0, house and so Zone 1, main gardens of Version 2 is up on the hill with far worse natural water capture into the gardens. So it is a lot drier. V1 I barely had to water, and the new medicial garden area that V1 has evolved into, still barely needs water. Now this year hot season I have specific tanks for the zone 1 and 2 garden areas and am watering from there by hand and as I do it I'm thinking about how to automate it. Mini swales and trenches, pavers as hard surface captures, mini hugelculture piles. plus actual automation with gravity fed hoses and pumps and computers if I need it. But I enjoy the little microearthworks. Hopefully I'll get some photos to add to this blog later. Water flows down hill everything flows (ha) from that. So my main gardens are up on a hill now. Water flows from the farms on the mild uphill slope to the north, down across the ridge, past my house area, down the hill to either the quarry formed transient wetlands or down to one of the flood plains and to the creek.

So I need to capture and slow it on the way. I have minimal larger scale earthworks so its is mostly micro scale. ie earthworks per garden, per terrace or even per plant.

Hugelkultur and berms.

This is building up downhill of the plant. Rocks or old branches or building up the soil. I just build more and more over time. I am not particularly doing a hugelkulture where it is focused on compost for the soil but over time in effect it's the same thing. I'm mainly considering just directing the water, where I want it, ie the root system of the plant uphill. It's a tiny dam.
This improves with time and focus and materials but anything starts it. it marks the area, it starts to capture wind blown junk or soil.

Hard paving

Water will flow past a little rock or a stick. It won't flow past a concrete paver. still might flow under. But with manufactured products, pavers, tiles, concrete you have water impermeable material that can placed where you like. They often even have built in channels.
Roof tiles, pavers, concrete edging, big rocks. These give you lots of control of the flow.
plus they're thermal mass.

Water infiltration swales.

What's more more permaculture than swales. Compost? Everyone loves swales, but they don't need to be big. They just run perpendicular to the slope to slow water and make it enter the soil instead of running over the top.


Stick it all together and do a big bit of slope and you get terraces.
My main real terraced bits are the orchard since that is on a slope.
But all the gardens have some level of it.

Ollas, ponds and other water storage

Ollas are ceramics pots buried to slowly let the water out. These help a lot when you hand water.

Hoses and gravity feed

Right now I just have IBCs up the top of my block that gravity feed down through an attachment to normal garden hoses that I hand water the zone 1 beds.


Pumps are cool things. Pressure control. but I have to say one of the hardest peices of technology to deal with. Priming and shears and kinks in hoses and rats eating cables.


Well if you have pumps and power you may as well add a processor and some brains. You've done the hard bit.
So I could add sensors for water in the soil. temperature.
I'm most likely first just to drive it off how much water and power is spare. Checking batteries, solar pickup and levels of water supply ponds.
Dripping at best time of day so infiltrates, probably just before dawn.
So lots of neat stuff. but really none strikes as super urgent.
The main thing that would be useful is so don't need to be around on hot days.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Fire and permaculture design

The friggin humongous bush-fires continue in NSW right now.
Some things I see in some permaculture forums are pretty ikky. Some are great.
and permaculture does have a lot to say about fire and landscape design.

The project we did in 2011 at Djungbung was about improving fire resistance of a small town.
Holmgren has written many papers on fire resistance.

But I saw someone say 'if you are worried about fire you don't understand permaculture'
if you aren't worried about fire you aren't living in Australia.

V1.0 of my garden was pretty well designed for fire.

Fire kicked its ass. Ash from corner to corner.

V1.0 was far from fully implemented. Permy design takes time. You don't get multi story tall windblocking, ember resistant trees sheltering your living areas in a few years of growth.

Actually the center of my main living area was untouched. Remember the cardboard box? Still I'm sure I would have died if I stood next to the box.

Yet my design did recover fairly well. Steel, stone often can do exactly the same job. Many plants reshoot from the roots.

I think any design in Australia, especially in a rural area, pretty much has to assume it will be affected by fire sooner or later. possibly multiple times. Not as if I feel the power poles are any safer.
So you can't design on in 20 years these trees will make me resistant. but perhaps these trees will regrow to act as a windblock within 2 years. So my minimum fire cycle time is about 3 years.

Much as permaculture is about perennials. I'm thinking a lot more about annuals and their role.
And grasses. I've been a bit of a permy snob about grass, its just a thing you get rid of.
Still far from settled my thinking on grass and how to use, but the ideas are certainly evolving.
Grass stores carbon in the soil better than Dicotes. It usually expects to be eaten, or burnt.

So V2 of the garden just having gone through a burst of hots days has handled it really well. Ground is well covered. mostly by leaves, but mulch too. grasses and animals working well. wind blocks ok. water ok, but definitely can be better. Thinking more about pumps and control systems. Better leaky weirs and things I'll increasingly implement but at my scale the artificial systems, pipes and pumps and drippers and timers are probably more efficient and reliable.

I mean, fire would still kill all that. but design for increasing dryness and more fire is related if not the same.

V2 when fully implemented will be way fire tougher than V1.
Much wider shelter belts. better understanding of windflows. More water. Much, much thicker walls.
But it still takes time. In maybe 2 years I'd consider stay and defend. but right now its certainly still a scary summer.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Cow poop makes grass. Grass stores carbon.

With the Cobden Spring festival, I've been thinking about dairy farming and sustainablity.
Farmers are nearly all very true conservationists and care about the land. But they get yelled at by green types too much.
Yet as a Green-type I thinking dairy farming in Australia is, or at the least can easily be, a good thing for the environment. From carbon capture to bio-diversity and wildlife corridors.

Cow poop makes grass.
Grass stores carbon.
Standard practice, grass fed rotational grazing means more grass is created.
Holistic grazing is grazing practice specifically around improving soil quality. Maximising grass growth of perennial grasses. Often it ends up increasing the lands animal carrying capacity and acts as a carbon sink, storing more carbon in the increased grass growth fed from cow poop, easily more than offsetting that caused by cow farts.

Feedlots are an environmental abomination. They create pollution, disease and waste.
This is what most cows are terrible for the environment stats come from.
They are the sorts of places I would cheer vegans and XR protesting at. Luckily they are quite rare in Victoria.

And nearly all farms nowdays are big into native windbreaks on paddock borders. Which make fantastic wildlife corridors.

Overall I say to Australias farmers.
Keep up the good work and keep improving. Worth going to modern regenerative practices for PR, running costs, premium value, long term farm land value and the planet.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Permaculture is not zero effort gardening

I've been thinking about the different ways people garden.
To break it up broadly.
Vegetable gardening. In plots of usually a single annual crop per
plot. multiple plots for food variety.

Ornamental gardening. Mixed perennials for visual effect.

Farming. Mass monoculture for ease of harvest and production.

Now permaculture leaps in...
and it has aspects of all of those.

Permaculture gardening:
Mixed plantings of perennials and annuals. Mixed for food variety and companion planting effects. Optimised for small scale continual subsistence labour with minimal inputs.

If closest to anything it is classic ornamental gardening.
But most people come to it from an annual vegetable gardening background.

This can have consequences in initial planting and preparation and especially in continual maintenance.
At the start of a cycle in spring. An annual gardener tends to clear the bed completely, weeds or previous planting. Maybe mulch it to suppress weeds and improve the soil. Then planting into a clear area with seeds or mass seedling.

A mixed garden will have plants already existing to maintain. They may be younger perennial plants that need mulching around, pruning, clearing competition away.
They may be established plants that need maintenance, especially pruning. Which often means getting a resource. Such as cutting back perennial basil so it doesn't overrun the garden, also means you are harvesting a bulk amount of basil that can now be processed by drying or making pesto etc
Some pruning may be needed for the health of the plant or to direct competition but the output use for it is just bio mass. Mulch or hugelkultur structure.

As people are newly introduced to perennial plants, they can have trouble with their 'weed' aspects. Mint has a terrible reputation as weed. It spreads, lives in conditions other plants can't cope with. Which really just means it's hardy. A good aspect for our plants. But we do need to control it. But that is observing and interacting a little bit as required. Most mints and family, perennial basil, lemonbalm etc can usually be kept in control by harvesting. Harvest the plant as hard as is needed to keep the plant in control. Maybe not a thing for a Zone 3 or 4 where it may escape and become a weed but perfect for Zone 1.

With planning these competitive plants  suppress the weeds you don't want. Your weeds that fill gaps are now edible. So you need to weed as a task less and less.

Annual planting almost becomes as simple as, is this different to last few years? and is there room and a reasonable environment for this year.
As the garden is established a seed bank of mixed, successful self seeded plants will populate the garden.

The effort for a permaculture garden is different to a classic vege garden. It is more continual and observation based and less in set seasonal cycles of weed, plant, weed, harvest, clear.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

So now what?

Ok we had the fire.
That was a tad devastating.
Still haven't finished the clean up, a very, very long way from things being even close to 'normal'.

So now what? What is the plan? What's happening?

Well the main old garden area and bedroom and office container which everything was centered around is utterly destroyed.
So the main focus is now moved on top of the hill where there are still two unmodified containers to work from and the remains of burnt out 40'.

But down in the main quarry area and the old 'kitchen garden' and area around the old insulated container is where the main garden previously were. Some of those plants will recover.
So it is difficult to work there as don't want to disturb plant root systems that may come back in spring.
The ones that are recovering at all, the pioneers such as tough salvia and other herbs need protection and soil and shelter to have a chance.
plus while a lot was burnt the soil and previous landscaping and shelter is there. Don't want to waste that.
So down the hill is certainly being maintained in a more 'watch and see' way, rabbit fencing, a bit of mulching and micro landscaping, terracing etc

Up on the hill, which has the best view has new main (permy zone 1) gardens there in shelter of the big U of containers. Donated plants, autumn cuttings, fruit trees, herbs but also a lot of flowers. As they're what I have. That's fine. Ground  covers, fast growing root systems, shelter plants, insect attracting etc and they look pretty. Always a good thing.
Hopefully will look good in spring
And in later years can become increasingly food producing.

I planted lots of succulents and things in big broad shelter rings around the Big U, since I'm pretty paranoid about fire now and the pigface proved that the succulent fire break can work. So lots more now and lots more to come. Agave, agapanthus, pigface, mirror bush and just all succulents I can find, full plants or cuttings. Anything that should smother embers. A lot of rocks being collected to use as rock mulch in the rock shelter belts too. Including old cracked pots and crockery, plates etc from the fire.

Nursery, as in place for baby plants, will be in the shelter of the Big U, hopefully getting more sheltered over time, hopefully will be able to recollect enough glass again for the greenhouse north wall. Initially will keep all extra plants and cuttings and propagation in half IBCs. The plan with the IBCs was to make them wicking beds. Maybe a wicking like reservoir but pots in stands rather than rock/sand with soil on top.

Also thinking about how fast to get the bulk herbs propagating again.
Rosemary, oregano, holy basil, thymes maybe.
Straw bale and just anti rabbit fence.
Same as before, pumps from creek if needs extra but should be good moisture. do as raised beds in the hedged areas perhaps.

Thinking same thing for Australian natives. Especially acacia.
Strawbale raised beds.
Do as long lines so can back the ute down?
As need to grow to say 4 years to harvest.

Concern with fire. Most would resprout. but also higher fuel mass?

Tree plot. road gap, herb plot, gap. repeat?

Thinking of main berry run in same place, top of ridge near Big U. with full pallet wind fence, companion flower bed, runs of berries. Keep in a square, be aware will go wild and mix raspberry breeds. Trim corridors in it for plants in pots (IBC?).
Can run PYO berries and nursery browse in same place. Pre-pay $5 to be allowed to browse and PYO berries to munch.

The main main slope I am terracing. But not really sure what to put in there. Berries?
Garlic? artichokes? need something to stabilise slope. so some bigish trees.
Maybe trees for landscape and slope holding but annual for main use?

main market garden. Back where it was?
Concern with pollution in the soil. but probably only on far west side. just sheoak and other natives there.
That area certainly permy zone 3 now. rarer interzction.
Rubarb, globe artichokes, sunchokes, potatoes, garlic. tomatoes?
crop rotation. herbs.

Thursday, March 29, 2018


An enormous wildfire ripped through our region. Destroying homes and farms and nature belts, killing thousands of animals.
And completely wiping out The Gardens. ;(
I don't know what else to say for now.
It will take time but, I will rebuild, better than ever.

Check out how tough pigface is!