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!


Cate Ferguson said...

I'm loving your posts Deb. We live in Stanley (NE Vic) and are attempting a similar transition. Strawbale owner building, 2 acres which is slowly being transformed into Permi heaven, home education... it's amazing. Keep up the enthusiasm and know you are not alone!

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