Archive for ‘July, 2015’

Land Regeneration In Action

10 years ago, my (Hannah’s) dad, Justin Moloney, moved onto 40 acres of degraded land which consisted mostly of serious patches of lantana, tree pear, empty paddocks and some clusters of hardy gums – we were a bit underwhelmed with it all. Tucked away just outside Toowoomba in S.E Queensland, this area has an annual rainfall of 839mm (more than Hobart), but has hot summers with high evaporation so it isn’t known for it’s lush green paddocks. Nearby, some of our countries finest agricultural soils reside (Lockyer Valley), but not in dad’s patch.

As we’ve visited over the years, he’s put us to work, digging holes (so many holes) and planting trees. I still associate his home with the feeling of being uncomfortably hot, sweaty and buggered. For a long time it seemed like the baby trees just didn’t move, but then they did and now his land is alive. These days when we visit, we take lazy walks around his place, looking *up* at the trees he’s planted and cared for over the years. He’s proof that it is possible to regenerate clapped out, degraded land and bring it back to being a vibrant ecosystem. Here are some before and current photos to give us all some hope.

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Dad’s long and curvy driveway is now flanked by green trees, shrubs and assorted native grasses.

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IMG_3801Barbwire grass, a local native returning in force

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Standing in one of the once empty paddocks looking back at his house, before (above) and now.

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For a long time his landscape was dotted with hundreds of plastic tree guards (above), the same view today can be seen, and enjoyed below.

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Apparently some visitors have lamented the fact that the trees now block out the distant hills (above) so there’s not so much view.  We’re both ok with that and think the new view (below) is much more satisfying.

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As trees are now coming into their own, they’re having babies left, right and centre. The next generations are coming on all by themselves – yesssss.

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And the birds, so many birds. If I was a better photographer I would have been able to capture some on film. But I’m a remarkably average one… So here’s one of their nests instead, tucked away in a darn prickly acacia shrub – perfect for habitat.

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And my favourite transformation has been the dam, which was sometimes full but most of the time not in the early years. Today it is steadily full despite the region not having recent rains. Dad has rehydrated his landscape, one of the better things any person can do with their life. His ridge lines are full of trees again, his slopes stable and his dam is now referred to as ‘the lake’ with a million and one water birds and wildlife loving this space.

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Lantana has been (and continues to be) a big part of dad’s work. He loves it for its soil building qualities and the fact that it’s awesome habitat for little birds (birds are one of his favourite things). But, left alone,  it’ll pretty much swallow up the whole world (slight exaggeration, I know). We need diversity for a healthy ecosystem and so he’s slowly but surely removing and replacing large lantana mountains. To do so, he uses a combination of chainsaw and some strategic use of round up – doing the ‘cut and paste’ method.

IMG_3808A lantana stump

He’ll then leave the whole bush on the ground and let it slowly breakdown into the soil – returning to the earth. I know it’s not ‘pure’ to use round up, but I do see the rational in its strategic use when working with large parcels of land with no animals or other people to help.

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And then there’s his house garden. When he arrived – it looked like this (excuse the crappy photo of a photo)….

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These days it’s a mixture of colour, natives, flowers and art…

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The front fence of his house garden is hedged with silver salt bush which is flourishing on the inside of the fence line and religiously grazed by local wallabies on the outside.

His once trashed farm land is now on its way to being a stable, healthy ecosystem, full of life and love. Way to go dad.

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Milkwood’s Roof Top Garden

This past fortnight I’ve been the lead teacher on Milkwood’s Permaculture Design Course in big city Sydney in a big concrete building with a beautiful, heartwarming, sanctuary’esk roof top garden.

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Generally speaking, roof top gardens have it pretty hard, it’s a tough environment to succeed in. Being *UP* they can be pretty battered by the elements – hot sun, harsh winds, wild storms etc etc. This little garden is young, but shows the signs of being able to stand up to whatever the elements can dish out. Have a little look…

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A mini aquaponics system features in the garden complete with gold fish and azolla (the floating red/green plant below). All the edges of the beds and pond are recycled timber from their old farm’s shearing shed, it’s pretty nice that a bit of their farm lives on in this urban garden.

You can also see some mushroom logs hiding in the left of the above photo, another food source you can literally squeeze into any corner of your garden.

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Azolla’s a great plant for ‘drinking’ excess nutrients in any pond/dam and can be added to your compost pile, worm farm or fed to your chickens and ducks. It will grow rapidly so if left alone can clog up your pond, so it’s important that you harvest it as needed to prevent this happening.

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Even on a roof top nutrients can be cycled – this simple, small worm farm shows us how.

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Slimline rain tanks hug the walls, as do a collection of hanging vertical gardens.

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Promising beds of annual veggies are in and around fruit and willow trees and herbs – ensuring you can get quick and regular harvests all the time.

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And some succulents, including ‘pigface’ – a great bush tucker addition to any garden.

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Mini edible forest gardens feature in the portable wicking beds. They can be wheeled around to catch the sun or shade ensuring that regardless of the season they get the warmth or coolness they need, clever design that.
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Young willow branches, soon to be a willow ‘glade’ with a herbaceous understory to evenutally provide a shady area for people to sit and enjoy.

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And some rambling mints have made home in between the cracks… Cause where there is a niche, a plant will fill it.

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While small, this little garden is far from insignificant. It’s these types of initiatives that help push people over the edge (in a good way) to realising they too can integrate food gardens into their own homes and lives, no matter where they live.

You can see a collection of blogs about this garden here.

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