Archive for ‘April, 2015’

Reflections on our latest PDC with Rosemary Morrow

We’re just had a mammoth two weeks with Rosemary (Rowe) Morrow teaching our latest Permaculture Design Course. Crikey, she’s a pocket rocket, a true power house packed full of integrity and more experience and insight that you can shake a stick at! Here’s a little glimpse into what went down…

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Rowe, eating yet another apple (it’s apple season right now and we’re happily drowning in them), whilst facilitating group work.

11096696_939524819415097_5710765878958701113_nMorning time looked something like this each day – a gathering to get our body and minds moving and ready for full days.

IMG_3016Tanya, working the site analysis pose

Like all of our PDCs, we focus on how to design (as opposed to how to build gardens etc). We dive deeply into the permaculture design framework and how to read landscapes effectively and accurately. Here’s Tanya, doing her thing, analysing a site for her group design project, which went on to develop like this….

IMG_3053A sector analysis – part of the main design project for the course.

This…

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Mapping out all the microclimates and space limitations

And finally, this.

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One of the group’s final product, a well thought out design based on a real life client brief

While we focus 98% of our time on design theory, we do make time to get our hands dirty implementing some strategies – in this case a no-dig keyhole garden (and compost pile out of site).

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Plus we had a day of fieldtrips, where we took students on a jam-packed tour to see permaculture in action on a range of scales.

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Fat Carrot Farm (in Kettering) showing students their chicken tractor – Joel Salatin style, and their exquisite market garden below.

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Mike from Plumplot explains their dome kiln which they make their biochar in – so clever, so beautiful.

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Cara and Fin delighted us with their space efficiency and numerous worm farms in a tiny urban garden.

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And Blake showed off his strawbale house he built himself, complete with solar energy, compost loo and grey water system.

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This course was full of ‘moments’, special ones, where we got to witness students have light bulb learnings and people from crazy diverse backgrounds connecting deeply with one another. We feel so honoured to be part of it all in our own small way – we know how lucky we are.

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One of those moments I was just talking about.  Here’s Rowe delivering her grand niece, Avalon ( a student on the course) her PDC certificate at the end of the course. How amazing is that!

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Everyone. Thanks guys, you were and are a unique bunch of people FULL of goodness. We look forward to working alongside you as permacultualists well into the future to help make this world of ours nothing short of awesome.

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The team. Anton, baby Frida, me (Hannah), Rowe Morrow (with a special plaque acknowledging her work in permaculture), Nick Towle and Blake Harder.

Thanks to Nick and Rowe for doing the vast bulk of teaching and for doing it beautifully and to Blake for being the raddest course coordinator ever. Having this crew on board allowed us to hang in the background, do a light smattering of teaching, be new parents plus keep the home fires burning, i.e. do lots of work on a range of other projects.

We’re really LOVING working with an ever expanding group of people on our courses and projects. It’s both great for us not trying to do everything ourselves and wonderful to learn from one another and build friendships and networks which we suspect will span our lifetime. Sometimes, amongst the slight chaos of pulling things together and our often messy kitchen we feel like we’re nailing it. Lately this feeling is inspired by collaborating with the fine folk you can see above (plus others). It’s so good to remember we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves and that by working together it’s only going to make big and good things more possible.

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Goodbye Chlorine. Hello Natural Swimming Pool!

This blog has been contributed by Hobart local, Jenny Calder. Enjoy!

In May last year myself and two friends bought a home in South Hobart with a glorious mountain view and plenty of sunshine (co-ownership – a novel way of housing ourselves – don’t rule it out). It also had a 10m long swimming pool, used over the last 30 years by the previous owners to operate a learn to swim business.

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Not being fans of chlorine, or large amounts of maintenance, I started researching natural swimming pool options. It turns out that the conversion of pools to natural ponds is an idea gaining in popularity as the the children of the baby-boomers move out of home. It is being promoted by several NSW councils, and has even been featured on Gardening Australia. So, after hosting an unconventional pool party on the winter solstice, we turned off the chlorine. It wasn’t long before it evaporated away and the water turned a glorious shade of green.

 

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Our pool had begun to come alive! I made a trip to the Ridgeway Nursery and introduced a diverse selection of native water plants. I have planted them in pots, placed on top of various pieces of submerged plastic furniture, all from our friendly local  tip shop. The plan is to fill one third of the pond with plants, which will oxygenate the water and use nutrients that would otherwise be used by slimy algae and pond scum.

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I have also introduced azolla and duckweed. Azolla is a free-floating, nitrogen-fixing, water fern, often seen with a red tinge on farm dams. It and its companion duckweed multiply at an incredible rate, and can be scooped off and used in compost. Being high in protein it has been promoted as a supplementary food for chickens. On experimentation, they don’t seem to like it that much, but they do like picking off the bugs and occasional tadpole that come with it.

The evolving ecology of our backyard water-body has been a fascinating process to watch. Six months on, the plants are growing strong and an increasingly loud chorus of brown tree frogs have taken over the night air in the summer time – I am amazed by how much noise such little critters can make! Tadpoles, water boatmen, back swimmers, tiny snails and other weird and wriggly creatures abound, and there are very few (if any) mosquito larvae (we had a pond-dipping and water bug identification afternoon to investigate).

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Dragonflies visit regularly, spiders have spun webs between the reeds, and a pair of wood ducks have made a once-off appearance. I have also planted several pots of mint in the pool, which are providing us with plenty of delicious tea, and we have also started stacking rocks and placing succulents around the pond edges to create hiding places for frogs and skinks. In the future I hope to install a small water pump to circulate the water through an external gravel and reed bed. This will further cleanse the water, and hopefully we can still enjoy fresh, chlorine-free swims!

IMG_3466Jenny adding more plants to the natural swimming pool. She’s wearing a wetsuit as it’s pretty cold in Tassie right now.

home   The pond and young orchard in Jenny’s garden – a blossoming hub or biodiversity

There are many inspiring more swimming pool naturalisation projects to be found online, such as this one. Another inspiring project is Garden Pool, where a family of four are growing most of their own food in an aquaponics system in a converted pool. One day I’d like to look into this too, but the short term plan is bringing biodiveristy into our backyard by creating habitat for some of the amazing metamorphic wetland creatures we share the planet with!

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Meet Mrytus

Our young Myrtus Ugni plants are on fire in our garden at the moment. They are all beauty and bursts of pink sherbet.

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Originating from South America, these plants also go by the name of Chilean Guava and, more recently, Tazzi Berries – Tasmania’s attempt of claiming them as our own. Before having our own, we would make annual visits to the local retirement home where they’re in abundance as a popular landscaping plant. Most people plant them as an ornamental not realising these little berries are full of edible delight.

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These tough plants can be grown in full sun to partial shade, thrive in good soil, but are charging on in a pretty crappy area of our garden. They’re planted in full sun on the edge of a dry bank where the soil is a combo of heavy clay top soil, plus a bit of sub soil mixed in thanks to excavations. After an initial period of regular watering we don’t do anything for them anymore – they’re just getting on with it. Our kind of plant.

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We chose to plant them in this particular spot so they can also function as a living hedge, preventing people from slipping down a fairly steep bank. Left unattended, their average height is somewhere around 1.7 metres, but apparently they can get up to 3m in super prime conditions. We’ll be pruning them to around 1m high and .5m wide, keeping them nice and compact in a tight space.

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As you can see above, the path is really narrow as we’re all about maximising growing space. We made it just wide enough to wedge a small baby in…

IMG_2827  To make sure they can hang out and admire the natural beauty life has to offer.

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The one ‘downside’ (which isn’t a massive downside) is that the fruit is tiny, meaning the harvest is slow and that you tend to eat more than you actually put in the bowl. But we don’t mind. We might if were trying to farm them, but on a backyard scale they’re just fine.

IMG_2818We really enjoy using plants for multiple functions, sure they give us good food, but they’re also being a living fence and providing entertainment for small babes – what a clever plant.

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