Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Look, I know we've heard it a million times today but......Man, it's HOT! Got out early this morning to wet down the garden. See above- this is my very technical Greywater recycling system. It takes about 50 litres of water to do the garden, and our tanks off the shed ran out weeks ago. When the kids have a bath, the garden rejoices- there's 50 litres right there! Now before you tell me not to put greywater on the food garden- I only use the warm up water from the shower ie. that precious clean, drinkable water that dissappears down the drain while I wait for the shower to get hot- on the food crops. Greywater comes in different qualities too, warm up water of course is as pure as our water treatment plants make it, bath and shower water have only small quantities of soap compared to water volume so this is not too bad, water quality wise. Laundry water comes next providing you have used a low sodium and phosporous detergent. No-no water is anything from the toilet or kitchen sink. We don't use toilet water for obvious reasons, (although in many old cultures Humanure was routinely used....but us modern people seem to be a bit icky about it.) Kitchen water has grease and fats and detergents and just isn't good for soil.

Syphoning water from buckets to the watering can and then carrying this all over the garden is pretty labour and time intensive but I'm getting pretty strong! Also, some of that time is spent sitting at the outdoor table waiting for the watering can to fill while I listen to the birds and feel the cooler morning air on my skin while watching the chooks peck about my feet. It's pretty satisfying using my water twice too.
Another activity done at the table is potting up the seedlings. These babies still have a long way to go, but it's exciting to think that in months to come we will have silverbeet, radishes, basil, beetroot, celery, beans and other scrumptious goodies popping up in the garden.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chooks- mark2

Meet Jennifer2 and.....
Clarissa2. Larger more robust chookys than my previous poor unfortunates.
This is Chooky Pentridge though they seem happy enough to be in there. Not quite my dream of free ranging happy hens but better than the alternative. They've popped out 3 eggs so far and are unbelievably friendly. The kids and I regularly sit inside the compound with them and while they were pecking at my toes today I noticed they have quite long pointy tongues.
We've made more seedballs, this is an experimental batch made with birdseed so if they work, the chooks will enjoy the produce. I have already thrown some vegie seedballs in the garden but they're still sitting there quietly, hasn't been enough rain to make them burst into life. I did read they can lie dormant for quite some time, which is the whole point of the exercise I suppose. Seedballs are supposed to be a good way to sow seed in drought conditions because they will just sit until the conditions are right. I hope they work, I've ordered some covercrop seed, enough to sow over a quarter acre. We'll throw those on the site of the old dam at the block.
We made a classic error when we bought our land, we purchased it in Spring when it looked lush and fertile, over the past couple of months despite a good fall of rain, the ground has hardened into a claypan, the dam is down and the grass has turned golden and dry. I am still filled with hope, we're in a cool climate- once the Summer is over I think we'll be better off rainwise than other parts of our state.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


There's a danger when well meaning city folk such as myself move to the country. A danger that we will inadvertently kill poor innocent creatures through our ignorance. I kept the two fat ladies in their coop for a week like I was told, before letting them out yesterday during the day. They gleefully chased bugs and made nests under the tomato plants, at least they had one day to experience the pure essence of Chookiness..... I let them out this morning, I came out to water the garden a little later only to find two small, still bodies outside the door to their coop. I suspect a dog. They were too little to free range. I am mortified and absolutely filled with remorse.......

Monday, January 5, 2009

New arrivals at the zoo.

Happy New Year! My New Year's resolution is the same this year as every other year- Do not eat so much chocolate, cakes and bickies. I also resolve to finish my Permaculture Design Course before the house is built, which means loads of time but my track record for finishing any kind of course is dismal at best.
We have some new arrivals at Bruce st. Mr Krabbs came from our dam, he enjoys interior decorating and stays up most nights re-arranging his lodgings, he has impressive nippers and his favourite food is carrot.
Phil did a magnificent job making me a chook tractor and here it is with it's new inhabitants- Clarissa and Jennifer. They aren't quite the Two Fat Ladies just yet, they're only 8 weeks old- I have high hopes for them however. I had imagined they would be great little workers, converting food scraps to fertilizer and popping out glorious free range eggs, (not till Easter though, they're just babies at the moment.) But they've turned their beaks up at kitchen scraps and just hang around the wire waiting for me to deposit slaters. I can see there is a danger they shall become cosseted divas and I will work for them instead of the other way round. One thing is for sure, they'll never have to worry about ending up in the oven, they'll enjoy retirement one day. By the way, they will free range eventually, they're locked up at the moment until they settle in and I can gauge how Boxhead will take to them.
I enrolled in a Permaculture Design Course online last week. The usual course in a 72 hour live in type arrangement which would have been impossible for me to do at this stage. I'm hoping by the end of it, I will have a scaled plan on paper for planting and landscaping for our property on Ashbourne rd. Here's a link to the wikipedia entry for Permaculture. My vision is for groves of fruit trees along the front of the land and about an acre of food producing garden surrounding the house, a native tree and wildflower garden over the effluent disposal area. At the back of the property will be the alpaca paddock.
Because there are no services to our block we will live off rainwater (Ha! whatever that is.....haven't seen much of it before) we also have to treat effluent onsite, ie- sewerage. We're planning on a worm composting toilet, they look just like normal loos except everything goes to an enormous writhing tank of worms that process the waste and the resultant converted water goes to a dedicated irrigation area. My poor mother will never be able to go to the loo at our place imagining all that going on beneath her! Phil is not happy that we have to put aside 420 square metres for this purpose, you can't drive on it or run stock there, but I think there could be an absolutely superb display of native vegetation.
Phil is also not pleased about the tender green gorse bushes popping up almost everywhere. We have an informal agreement that I have 5 years to grow cover crops to choke out the weeds and improve the soil before he moves in with the chemical treatments. This farming business is bringing out our differences alright! He's the modern man, science is his weapon, I'm the airy fairy permaculture, natural farming, conservation minded one. I give him credit for indulging me though, it's just weeds seem to bring out his killer instinct!
Through my permaculture research, I came across the theories of a man called Masanobu Fukuoka. He believed that conventional farming takes from the soil causing it to become lifeless and compacted which then requires more intervention and fertilization. I think even the most contemporary farmer these days knows this now. Lots of Australian farmers are taking up practices such as no or low- tillage and using cover crops to improve the soil. The benefits are the soil retains much more moisture when cover crops are slashed and left as mulch cover, not tilling the soil keeps the organisms and worms in place, and both practices keep the land from eroding.
Fukuoka San also sowed crops with seedballs that he made with clay, compost and lots of seed, they were rolled into balls and cast on top of the ground. Because the seeds were encased in clay, they were protected from birds and insects, the clay when wet from rain retained water and the seeds were able to sprout without being sown in the ground. There have been many projects around the world where schools and individual groups have made these balls with native seeds and revegetated urban and rural areas. You have to be careful when using these balls, it's best to use native plants, the seedballs can erupt with vigorous growth, there is a danger that if a plant that is unsuitable for an area were sown, it could take over the surrounding bush.
My idea is to slash the grass and weeds that are growing at our place and then re seed with cover crops ( I'll use pasture seed as this has been grown on our property before.) Hopefully there will be more pasture and less weed by next Spring. I made a few test seedballs the other day, Hana and Kobe are keen to get their hands in some gluggy clay to help me make the hundreds of seedballs we will need. I'll keep you posted!