Archive for ‘May, 2015’

The Winter Garden

Technically it’s not winter yet, but it is. Our landscapes tell us so. Our garden looks kinda messy at this time of the year. Things half in and out of the ground, looking scrappy, half asleep. I say things like gotta tidy up around here, Anton reminds me that it’s actually pretty good and I’m grateful for his perspective. Agrarian landscapes are never going to be stable and perfect. They’re full of change, cycles, flux, requiring constant work and engagement.

Here’s a little snapshot of our little, steep agrarian landscape….


While the babe sleeps in the middle of path, neighbouring paths are weeded, crops pulled out and young crops checked on. Those empty looking beds on the right are actually full of garlic, which is just popping its head up now.


It’s going great guns, except where the black birds have scratched it up. Black birds are not our favourite thing, they’ll destroy young crops if not protected. Usually they leave the garlic alone and head for the tasty greens, not this year though. Nothing is safe.


Despite the birds, the rainbow chard is standing tall, strong, crisp and firm.


The chooks, well the chooks look really bad. They’re molting.


Our young orchard is resembling a living skeleton, revealing its bones and showing the strange shapes which we’re training them into to in order to fit into a small space.


The raspberry canes are all pruned and tucked away, waiting to wow us next season.


Some abandoned tomato plants are slowly ripening and will soon feature in our salads. A happy reminder of the warm days behind us.


The tamarillo tree is coming on nicely. For some reason the birds like to eat all their leaves off, but not the fruit – so we’re ok with that, kind of.


And the myrtus berries – oh how I love thee, are having a second flush, a last hurrah before the long cold sets in.

IMG_3463The cabbage patch doesn’t actually have any cabbages in it, or much broccoli as they were blown out of the ground by some recent strong winds (I know, crazy). But we have some beautiful brassicas, take this cauliflower as proof.


The greens are in full flight, so vigorous, so juicy. This is their time to shine.

IMG_3454  IMG_3446

Having grown up in Queensland, I have a deep appreciation for the cool temperate climate which slows the garden right down over winter. Unlike the sub tropics/tropics which CRANK all year round, we are gifted with a more restful season where we get to pause and reflect, catch up and entertain the idea of a holiday… To the tropics which is blessed with warmer oceans, more bare feet action and not a woolen jumper in sight :-).

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Seedlings: Permaculture for Families

This week’s blog has been contributed by Lauren and Oberon Carter – two Hobart legends!

Towards the end of Winter last year, after each completing PDCs (mostly taught by the lovely Hannah from Good Life Permaculture!), we found ourselves to be a pair of passionate, optimistic permaculturalists, looking for ways to get our hands dirty, and not just in our own backyards. Our children saw us gardening and talking and planning and wanted in on it. They wanted to know what we knew and develop some real-world skills of their own. A seed was planted and so we set about finding an inclusive way to pass on permaculture thinking to them.



Over a number of weeks, we picnicked, bush walked, gardened and talked and began with the permaculture ethics, using some fun activities to back up our discussion. Later we moved onto the principles, as outlined by David Holmgren for starters. The kids took to it like ducks to water. We discovered that much of it seemed quite intuitive to them and we followed their lead much of the time, working in partnership where needed. Just a simple walk through the bush could spark an observation and a further exploration. We extended our discussions to Minecraft, one of their preferred play mediums, encouraging them to take charge of their own designs and apply permaculture thinking to a world of their own.

Before long, we heard words and phrases like “fair share” and “obtain a yield” entering our children’s vocabulary. Their confidence and understanding of our own permaculture design begin to make sense to them and we secretly high-fived ourselves, thinking that a new generation of awesome earth stewards was on the rise… But of course, we needed to get more families thinking, talking and living permaculture first. So we decided to share our experience with others and the Spiral Garden Seedlings e-course was born.


Just over six months down the track, putting our combined experience as home educators, an ecologist, a designer, permaculture designer and teacher, writers, gardeners, parents and custodians of the earth to work, we’ve had the pleasure of sharing the Seedlings program with sixty families. We’ve been so excited to inspire some connection and nurturing experiences for others. To help pass on some important life skills and welcome a whole new generation of earth custodians to the fray.

Among our Seedlings groups have been city dwellers who had never really gardened, farmers, keen gardeners, permaculture designers and teachers, home educators and kindergarten teachers. What they’ve all shared is a desire to understand and share permaculture thinking with their families in a way that’s nature based, fun and immersive. We’ve shared many online chats, learning together and sharing our observations, difficulties and triumphs. Our children have played together, and our community has grown. It’s been wonderful to see families apply permaculture thinking to all areas of their lives and see just how broad its application can be.


We’re excited to be working with more families over winter – a perfect time for planning, learning and thinking. We’ll be getting outside and having fun – yes, even in chilly old Tassie! We’ll be making new friends and welcoming past Seedlings, ready to jump aboard and join us for the journey all over again. We’ll be joining in again with our family too – we seem to find something new; a new way of looking at things every time, and that’s really exciting!


Aren’t we lucky to have Lauren and Oberon in our world?! You can see more and sign up to the rather marvelous course here. We like him so much that we’ve snaffled Oberon to teach our our upcoming Permaculture Design Course!

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Permaculture Design Course: Full Scholarship on Offer!

Hi there! In the spirit of fair share, we’re offering one full scholarship to our upcoming part-time Permaculture Design Course (PDC) this Oct/Nov in Hobart. We’d like to provide this opportunity to someone who otherwise wouldn’t be able to make this course and are looking to use this newly acquired skills meaningfully, in a way which will make deep changes to their own life and/or community.

One full scholarship to our part-time

As it’s a part-time course, we’re imagining that this ‘someone’ will be Tasmanian, but it doesn’t have to be. The course is run at the Sustainable Learning Centre over following five weekends:

  • Oct 2, 3, 4, 5
  • Oct 17-18
  • Oct 24-25
  • Nov 7-8
  • Nov 13, 14,15


Valued at $1600, this lucky someone will get to dive deeply into the world of permaculture, be amongst fellow students who are always amazing and learn from some of Tasmanian’s best. You can see all the course information on our website here. 


To apply for this opportunity simply tell us (in around 250 words) why you’re the person we need to support. Email it through to us at with the subject line “scholarship” by September 1st.

Please share this around so it gets to the people who need it most. Thanks!

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How to Make A Basemap

Knowing how to make basemaps of properties to scale quickly is a game changer as a designer. At our recent Advanced Permaculture Design course with Dan Palmer, we learned some of these great tricks we’re about to show you, plus from Tim Davies – one of the experienced students – thanks guys!

First up you need a map.  We use The List in Tasmania search for the property you want. If you’re not in Tassie, ask around and find your equivalent.  You can tell a lot from the photographs and topographical information.  EG slope, water features, vegetation, buildings, shadows etc.  The image below shows our place, with property boundaries and contours.


Once you have found your property, select the Topographic map and print it as a .pdf file.  Make sure that the orientation is best for your basemap and that the box titled “Show Graticule” is ticked.  The graticule shows the scale on the pdf.


Repeat this process for the “State Aerial” photo.

Save both of these with their names in a folder for the property.  We cant seem to export the Google maps image from The List, but you could do all this strait from Google maps or your equivalent.

We use Inkscape, a free graphic design software program which can be downloaded from here.  This program works on all computer platforms, is free and fairly easy to use.  In a couple of hours you can learn the basics to do all of the following processes.  It now takes us around 30 minutes start to finish, perhaps we can get it down to 10 minutes with more practice!

We have created a series of “basemap templates” with different paper sizes (A4, A3, A2 etc) and orientation (landscape and portrait).  You don’t necessarily need a template but we find it helps if you are doing this process repeatedly.  The image below shows the Inkscape page and in the center our template.


We have already created a number of “Layers”.  Think of a layer as a piece of tracing paper, that can be removed and edited easily.  We place each part of the design/basemap on its own layer.  This helps later to edit the plan and present all the appropriate information.  You can “lock” a layer by clicking the padlock.  You can make it visible/invisible by clicking the eye.  The layer that you are currently editing is “greyed out”.


Import the Topographic map to the correct layer.


Change the opacity to 50%.


Using the measuring device, set the measurements to “cm”.


Zoom into the picture, to where the scale is.  In our image the “graticules” represent 10m and they are on the far left of the picture.  Measure the distance between graticule 24 and 23, this comes to 2.74cm.  (sorry about the bodgy photo).


So take the known distance from the map (in this case 10m) and divide it by the measured distance in Inkscape (2.74cm).

Known distance on Image / Measured distance in program = scaling factor
eg 10m (on scale of printed map) / 2.74 (cm as measured in Inkscape)
= 3.64
x 100
= 364% Scaling factor


In this case it transformed the pdf to the scale of 1:100.

Use the “Transform” tool to scale the image “proportionally” by 364%.


Once it has been scaled, use the measuring device to make sure it is correct.  The measurement should read 10.

Does the image fit the page?  In this case the property boundary is too large for our page size at 1:100


I have two options a) change the scale or b) change the page size.

If you decide to change the scale of the drawing you adjust the size of the image again.  I use the following cheat sheet to help:

•    1:1000 to 1:500 = 200%
•    1:500 to 1:250 = 200%
•    1:250 to 1:200 = 125%
•    1:200 to 1:100 = 200%
•    1:100 to 1:50 = 200%
•    1:500: 1:1000 = 50%
•    1:250  to 1:500 = 50%
•    1:100 to 1:200 = 50%
•    1:50 to 1:100 = 50%
I am going to change the scale of the drawing to 1:200, therefore I will transform the topographic map by 50%.

ink 8

If you decide to change the paper size, the following helps (noting you will change the paper size, not the image):
Going Up – 141% per “A” paper size
Going Up 2 x paper sizes = 200%
Going Down – 71% per “A” paper size
Going Down 2 x paper sizes = 50%

As you can see below, the scaling is now correct.  The property boundaries fit within the page template.


Do the same thing for the Aerial photograph.  Make sure to go through the whole process because it may have scaled differently when it was printed as a pdf.  When it is scaled try lining up the aerial and topographic to make sure they overlap.  Its hard to see here, but our property boundaries match up in the Topographic and Aerial photo -woop, this is a milestone.  At this point i “lock” them so they don’t move.


Once you have the topographic and aerial photos matching in size and scaled to your page, start plotting on other features.  For example create a layer called boundaries and plot on the property boundaries.  Use the “Bezier drawing tool and the “edit paths” tools ” to draw.


You can adjust the type and thickness of lines.  You may need to turn layers on and off to pick up details.  Eg the arial photo is better for the house.  The topographic better for the boundaries and contours.


Do the same for other features eg water, roads, fences, vegetation, contours.


When you have drawn all this information on the page, turn off the visibility of the aerial and topographic maps – now you have a clean, scaled basemap.


Go get em tiger!