Posts tagged ‘permaculture tasmania’

Real Skills For Growing Food

TWO DAYS OF HANDS-ON LEARNING, EQUIPPING YOU WITH THE SKILLS TO GROW FOOD IN YOUR OWN HOME.

We’re partnering with Fat Pig Farm to bring you two days of hands-on Real Skills for Growing Food. Join us to learn the foundations in growing your own food at home – skills that you’ll have for the rest of your life.

YOU’LL GET TO LEARN ALL ABOUT…

  • Soil: If you want to grow good food, you’re going to need to know about soil – this is the key to nutritious food production. We’ll introduce you to the soil food web and explore a range of soil preparation methods for different contexts.
  • Compost: Learn about a range of compost techniques and help build a big compost pile.
  • Propagation: Empower yourself to grow food from scratch – we’ll look at everything from making your own seed raising mix, planting seeds, and growing plants from cuttings.
  • Vegetable growing: We’ll introduce you to growing both annual and perennial vegetables so you can create diverse, edible gardens.

WHO SHOULD COME TO THIS WORKSHOP?

We’ve designed this workshop as an introduction for folks wanting to get started in growing their own food and for people looking for some extra guidance in refining their growing skills. If you’re looking for an advanced food growing workshop, this one isn’t for you – but stay tuned as we have big plans for a rather fantastic workshop on this.

STUDENTS RECEIVE

  • Full catering by Fat Pig Farm – it’s going to be delicious,
  • An invitation to an optional dinner on the Saturday night (additional cost applies),
  • Some solid time in Fat Pig Farm’s market garden where you’ll see strategies you can apply to your small or large garden,
  • A copy of The Practical Australian Gardener by Peter Cundall,
  • Seasonal vegetable seedlings to get you growing,
  • Extensive course notes on everything we cover over the weekend, and
  • Skills and knowledge useful for the rest of your life!

“The attention to detail was great – this makes everything run smoothly and comfortably. And the gifts were amazing! Not only did I have a wonderful weekend, I came away with so much stuff! Thank you”.

CATERING

Fat Pig Farm will spoil you with food to fill your belly, warm your hearts and inspire you to grow your own. Think hearty soups filled with fresh veggies from the garden, Fat Pig ham on bread straight from their wood fired oven, plus cakes and scones inspired by summer’s preserves.

SATURDAY NIGHT FARM FEAST

With Gourmet Farmer, Matthew Evans & Sadie Chrestman

All students plus their friends and family are invited to join us, Gourmet Farmer, Matthew Evans and Sadie Chrestman for a yarn and a cider over slow roasted farm grown goodness. Matthew and Sadie will fire up their wood fired oven and roast garden veggies and farm-grown meat. This is what we call a super special treat – not to be missed!

Please note, dinner is an optional extra to the daily workshops and costs an additional $80 per person. This is a wonderful chance to bring your family and friends along to soak up the hands-on learning vibes and enjoy the weekend with you.

*And yes, we can easily cater for people with different dietary needs.

Fat Pig Farm is nestled in Glaziers Bay, 10 minutes from Cygnet and is home to Sadie Chrestman and Gourmet Farmer, Matthew Evans. As a working farm, they run a market garden, mixed fruit and nut orchards, chickens, bees, some milking cows and raise pigs. They also have a delightful restaurant, open for weekly lunches and occasional cooking workshops.

HOW DO I GET THERE?

You’ll be provided with clear directions on how to get there prior to the course.

YOUR TEACHERS

Anton Vikstrom has well over a decade of hands-on experience in working with urban agriculture. His work includes establishing his homestead in South Hobart (which is shaping up to be an example of urban permaculture at its finest) and designing people’s properties. He is deeply committed to regenerating landscapes, building community, having a good life and supporting others to do the same.

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James DaCosta is head farmer at the Hobart City Farm. Originally from NW Tasmania, he was reared on the rich red soils of that region where he grew large and strong like a Kennebec (potato). He is a gardener, bee keeper, and permaculture designer. A natural teacher, James has a knack for inspiring and equipping people with the skills they need to get growing!

 

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Nadia Danti has been the head market gardener at Fat Pig Farm. She brings years of market gardening experience and has travelled the world working with some of the best growers out there to learn the skills she needed. Nadia is passionate about soil health and understanding the ecosystem under our feet, as well as supporting people to connect to their local food system and empowering them to grow some of their own food in whatever sized space they have!

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Firstly, thank you for a thoroughly enjoyable and educational course. As experienced growers, we were impressed that you covered so many areas so that inexperienced and experienced growers could walk away with something of value. It was a really positive feeling to walk away with a book, seedlings, trays, seeds, cuttings etc – was most generous and will be a great ongoing reminder of where we started (dead or not ;-)). Thank you so much everyone. You are great bunch!

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ACCOMMODATION

For folks travelling from afar – there are a wealth of local options for you to choose from, CLICK HERE to see a huge range of options put together by our friends at the Cygnet Folk Festival.

CANCELLATION POLICY

There is no refund available for this course. If you’re unable to make it we encourage you to pass your place onto friends or family – alternatively you’re welcome to put it towards one of our future courses.

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Permaculture Teacher Training

Join us for six days of intensive training that will provide you with a game-changing toolkit to use in the classroom and life in general.  Whether you’re already a teacher, or thinking of becoming one, this course is designed to turn teaching into a transformative and fun exchange. Classrooms will never be the same again.

You’ll walk away from this course being able to communicate clearly and confidently with a group of people.  Plus you’ll join a learning community of teachers full of inspiration, mutual support and on-going learning.

Course requirement

We require all students to have completed a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) (anywhere in the world) before the course starting date. Please contact us if you have any questions regarding this.

This course is for PDC holders in any of the following fields…

If you’re looking to do any type of sustainability or permaculture education/communication, this is the course you’ve been waiting for. This includes teachers and students of architecture, landscape design, school/community gardeners, local government community development officers, ecology and other disciplines including geography, regenerative agriculture and agroforestry as well as permaculture design.

You will learn how to…

  • Design a short, or long course
  • Develop clear course outcomes and ethics
  • Adopt appropriate body behaviour and use nonviolent communication
  • Design effective learning resources
  • Use teaching aids effectively
  • Work with a broad range of people from different cultures and backgrounds
  • Draw on strategies that promote thinking and integrate practical experience
  • Deliver clear explanations and concepts
  • Explain the structure and function of the Permaculture Design Course
  • Give effective and engaging lectures with powerpoint
  • Debrief and give appraisal of your own, and other teaching techniques

Your teachers

Hannah Moloney is a full time permaculture designer  and educator who works with land holders to design landscapes that beautiful, abundant and resilient. When not designing, she’s running community projects, gardening and being a guest presenter on Gardening Australia (in the first half of 2019).

In recent years Hannah has had the pleasure of working alongside some of the most celebrated permaculturalists in the world including David HolmgrenRosemary Morrow and Dave Jacke. In 2015 she was awarded the Tasmanian ‘Young Landcare Leader Award’ for her work with Good Life Permaculture and co-founding Hobart City Farm and in 2018 she took part in the Tasmanian Leaders Program. You can read more about Hannah here.

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Brenna Quinlan is a permaculture educator and illustrator. She regularly teaches PDCs with Melliodora (with David Holmgren) and Milkwood and is a regular guest teacher on Retrosuburbia Train the Trainers course and in the past, a series of Rucache permaculture courses in Argentina and Brazil. In 2018 Brenna co-taught the Permaculture Teacher Training course and a CERES Train the Trainers course with Rosemary Morrow, and is currently working with permaculture band Formidable Vegetable Sound System and Resource Smart Schools Victoria in bringing permaculture education to schools. As an illustrator, Brenna’s work can be seen in David Holmgren’s 2018 book Retrosuburbia, as well as the Milkwood Book, Farming Democracy, and Delvin Solkinson’s permaculture educational resources.

Students receive

  • Catering – delicious and nutritious vegetarian food for the duration of the course.
  • A copy of Earth User’s Guide to Teaching Permaculture: An invaluable friend to the experienced and novice teacher alike.
  • Class notes and resources.
  • A whole new network of teachers and doers for you to draw on, and be part of!

Venue & class schedule

This course is being held at the Sustainable Learning Centre, a 10 minute drive from Hobart city. Please note, there is no onsite accommodation.

This course runs from 8:30 – 5pm each day.

Cancellation policy

If you need to withdraw from this course we ask that you give us 2 weeks notice, we’ll provide a refund minus the deposit fee. Alternatively you’re welcome to pass your place onto a friend or family member or put the full fee towards one of our future courses.

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Cold Frame Gardening

Recently, we built a much anticipated, beautiful bit of infrastructure for our garden – a cold frame.

This is a welcome addition to any cool temperate garden, where we’re all constantly working on creating warm microclimates to extend our season to get tomatoes earlier and longer, reliable eggplants and abundant basil.

Cold frames can be really compact and small, so are also a great option for people who don’t have a large enough space for a hot house or polytunnel. We still have plans for a hot house one day (specifically for oranges and bulk ginger), but in the meantime we have this 7m x 1m cold frame for annual vegetables and herbs.

What did we build it from & where did we locate it?

We built it from green (fresh) hardwood timber from a lovely bloke’s bush block in Franklin (southern Tasmania) and polycarbonate sheeting.

We located it up against a north facing rock wall (south facing for folks in the northern hemisphere) so it soaks up the hot sun and acts as thermal mass, retaining the heat for longer to benefit the crops growing  in front of it.

Things to know about building with hardwood timber for garden beds

  • Eventually it will rot – but not for around 10 years (approximately).
  • If you can access it and afford it, Cypress macrocarpa timber is the most durable timber to use in the landscape. We couldn’t afford it, so are using a mixture of Eucalyptus trees.
  • To extend the timber’s lifespan, you can line the sleepers with non-toxic plastic to prevent direct contact between the timber and soil. While not shown in these photos (sorry) this is what we’ve done.
  • We’ve built the frame so the timber sleepers can be removed and replaced as needed.
  • The actual frame has separate timber pickets on each upright to stabilise the whole frame (seen in photo above right). Eventually we’ll replace these with steel star pickets – again to extend the life of the frame.
  • You could just not use timber and use bricks/stone for the edging and steel for the frame with concrete footings – all maximum durability! We’re just using what we have available to us.

Once the whole frame is built, we aerated the soil with a broadfork – just use a standard garden fork if that’s all you have.

After this aerating process, we put down a layer of cardboard to slow weeds coming back (they *will* come) and then a good layer of top soil around 200mm deep to match the height of the sleepers and a sprinkle of compost on top.

And then we plant!

Normally people in Tasmania plant their tomatoes after “show day”, October 25th. Traditionally this is when you can safely say there’ll be no more frost – although occasionally there’ll be a “freak” frost. This year we planted a small batch of tomatoes on September 21st. One whole month early – we have big smiles on our face in anticipation of eating tomatoes sooner rather than later. We have another batch of tomatoes we’ll plant after show day in different open air garden beds.

In another few weeks, we’ll plant basil seedlings all around these tomatoes to make use of all the available space.

Importantly, the lids can open at different heights to let small or large amounts of air in. This is important as on hot, sunny days you need to ensure that air flow is maintained, otherwise there’s the risk of fostering fungal diseases.

As we get really strong winds at our house we put a lock on each lid. One year our whole broccoli crop was literally blown out of the ground – so we take our wind-proofing pretty seriously around here. You can see our lock of choice to the right.

Eating with the seasons is a wonderful way to eat. That first tomato of the season tastes really *amazing* after 6 months of no fresh tomatoes. But this little bit of infrastructure reduces that waiting time – some might call it cheating, we just call it clever :-).

Edit (March 2019) – If you would like to see how our cold frame went for its first season, read our other blog here. 

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A Permaculture Holiday

A couple of months back I took myself on a little holiday to central Victoria. I left my family goats and garden and went and hung out with someone else’s goats, family and garden and it was good. Where to? To Melliodora – home of David Holmgren and Sue Dennet *and* the mob from Milkwood, Nick, Kirsten and Ash.  You’ll also find permaculture illustrator, Brenna Quinlan living there in a tiny house. So yes, an unusually wonderful place to visit for a tired permaculturalist.

I spent my time planting some of their crops, harvesting crops, eating crops, patting goats, reading books (luxury), drinking tea, drinking cider and admiring a range of gardens. The wonderful thing about  admiring other’s gardens it that you don’t see any of the jobs that need to be done, just the beauty that’s been created.

Here’s some of my admiring I unearthed from my phone today – forgotten amongst hundreds of work photos from client’s properties. What a beautiful reminder of a brief, but beautiful holiday. I’m putting it here to remind you all to take a break and go admire gardens (in the company of amazing humans – or not) as needed.

The red soil garden 

Ash and I had a lot of quality time in the fig tree – one for the basket, three for me. 

David and Sue’s home flanked with their zone one veggie garden.

While in the region, I dropped by Artist As Family’s home to officially meet them in the flesh (we’ve been social media friends for a while) and drink tea.

Meg, Patrick and Woody live here and are a little bit extraordinary in how thoroughly they live their ethics. Their urban block is on the edge of town and pumping with food and community, but they’re not aiming for self sufficiceny – rather, community sufficiency.  So instead of trying to produce all their practical and emotional needs themselves, they’re working on fostering a regional community that lives lightly on this planet and tightly in each other’s connections. I love them.

  

And no – I didn’t take any photos of people (except Ash)  I was too relaxed to think about that. Of course now I wish I’d lined everyone up for at least one shot as it’s so rare you get to spend time with the people you admire most. Instead I have their gardens immortalised in film – which is the next best thing.

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How To Landscape A Steep Slope

In mid 2016 we bought the neighbouring patch of weedy/bush land we’d been drooling over for 4 years; and at the beginning of 2017, we started shaping it to include a driveway and more garden/animal space. We’d been drooling over this steep landscape as up until early 2017 the only way into our property was by walking up a very steep, 100m rocky staircase from the road. We had always wanted to buy the neighbouring land to improve access – it just took 4 years to get it done.

When we started earthworks, the view from our house overlooking the new land looked like this.

As our land is very steep, we knew straight away that we wanted to terrace it, inline with what we had already done in our existing garden. So the whole site was cleared, with the green waste taken to the local tip site where the Hobart Council composts it in large hot piles and sells it back to the community.

While we would have LOVED more flat ground, we couldn’t afford to build retaining walls everywhere. Instead, we designed large earth banks with an angle of approximately 30 degrees. Like our current garden, we planned on using these as edible forest gardens and the flat terraces for annuals crops and animals.

After the machine had shaped these terraces, we used hardwood timber from a local sawmill sight to help define and stabilise the edges…

…And a hell-of-a-lot of heat treated pallets to stabilise the earth banks. This techniques has been a real game changer for us in steep slope gardening, as the pallets provide lots of ledges to plant into, making it easier for plants to get established. It’s also easier to irrigate and passively harvest rain, as water is slowed down (a little bit), instead of quickly rushing down each bank.

Around this time, Anton’s day (Gote) sailed his boat down from NSW, parked in the local bay and would come up every day to build a rock wall, dig holes and just be his marvellous, eccentric Swedish self. All the rock came from onsite and was simply rearranged to build our one and only retaining wall :-).

Gote on the far right reclining on his rock wall. 

We then very quickly broadcast a mix of green manure seeds directly on the banks in late Autumn to get things growing. This included red clover, mustard, lupins and rye grass.

Early winter with green manure crops thriving

A couple of times throughout Winter, we’d slash the green manures down – delaying them going to flower/seed so we could get more root growth and more benefits for the soil.

In early Spring, we let the banks go to flower for which the bees thanked us (they loooooved it in there) and covered the future annual beds in non-toxic, UV stablised black plastic to break down the green manure crops without having to dig *at all*.

The black plastic was left on there for around 6 weeks in which time all the green growth died back and the soil biology ate it up.

Today (Oct 31 2017), the view from our window onto our new patch of land looks like the photo below…..

There are thousands of annual veggie plants on the flat terrace you can see and another above this (out of shot).

We have two toggenburg goats, Gerty and Jilly Love Face who moved in just over 2 weeks ago. Gerty provides 1.5L – 2L of milk every morning and Jilly Love Face (who’s 3 weeks old) provides enormous entertainment.

The chook house has been moved to be with the goat run and we’ve planted 20 hazelnuts and 10 mixed trees into the earth banks. Currently the earth banks still have remnants of Winter’s green manure crops. We’ve started cutting and dropping them in place as mulch and will be planting floral and edible shrubs, plus perennial herbaceous layers into the bank over the next year to form an edible forest garden.

Baby hazelnut trees popping up amongst the green manures. 

In between each nut and fruit tree, we transplanted tagasaste (tree lucerne) seedlings that self-seed in the local bush/weedy land behind our property. These nitrogen-fixing small trees are quick growers and will provide benefits to the soil and fodder for our chooks and goats. Eventually they’ll be chopped down once the nut and fruit trees mature and need more space.

Baby tagasaste seedling

And the goats are truly glorious. You can see them below on one of their daily walks and amongst the many daily cuddles we have. Obviously there’s still a long way to go with our property, and more time required before we see mature trees, but today (or this morning at least) I’m just pausing and reflecting on the past 10 months and *really* enjoying the change of view from our window.

 

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The Home Composting Project

Over the past year we’ve been working with the City of Hobart to deliver The Home Composting Project. This was a multi-layered, creative education campaign that supported people to compost their food waste at home instead of sending it to landfill where it releases harmful methane gases into the atmosphere.

There were three layers to this project:

  • The first was focused on “passive education” that happened through installing large-scale public artwork in the city educating people how to compost.
  • The second layer was all about “active education” which took place through hosting two free home-composting workshops in Hobart.
  • The third layer was advising the City of Hobart in updating their website to include information on how to compost food waste at home.

But why?

Current figures indicate that up to 47% of Hobart kerbside bins are pure food waste[1] – this is both a big environmental and economic problem and a big opportunity. Environmentally, the main problem is that once food waste is buried in the ground it becomes anaerobic, eventually releasing harmful methane gases into the atmosphere.

“Methane is a potent greenhouse gas 28 to 36 times more effective than CO2 at trapping heat in the atmosphere over a 100-year period.”

Hello climate change and a plethora of social, environmental and economic challenges. We think it’s best to avoid this at all costs, hence turning the problem (food waste) into the solution (healthy compost to return to the soil).

To do this we worked with a group of households to (a) teach them how to compost, and (b) record how much they composted over one month to determine its effectiveness in keeping food waste out of landfill. They each received identical “compost kits” that made accurate data collection possible.

The outcomes for this brief, but effective project Include:

While the outcomes you can see above might appear modest, the power of this model is that it’s easy and affordable TO SCALE UP to be a highly effective approach to help keep food waste out of landfill.

Cost projections show that by investing in an educational program that’s free for the public to access, you could potentially divert hundreds (and eventually thousands) of tonnes of food waste from landfill per year and save tens (and eventually hundreds) of thousands of dollars by reducing processing fees.

A second layer to the project

Involved collaborating with local artist, Rachel Tribout, to create three large compost billboards that were displayed in central Hobart for 3 months. They were educational, beautiful and big – with the largest one measuring 7.8m x 2.3m.

A very happy me with the smallest of the 3 billboards

The third & final layer to this project

Was focused on working with the City of Hobart to update their website to include some educational information, supporting people to compost at home. This involved making easy-to-download flyers from the billboards and making them permanently available to the public as you can see below.

The City of Hobart are now exploring the feasibility of having a kerbside collection service specifically for food waste to further decrease the percentage of it ending up in landfill.   However as outlined in their Waste Management Strategy, this wouldn’t mean support for home composting disappears – rather it would be one of a range of approaches. We’re fans of not putting all your eggs in one basket so support this approach to turning this current pollution into a soil-loving solution.

  • Did you know: The City of Hobart have a unique and quality composting facility where they currently compost green waste that the public give them. Once composted this is then sold back to the community and while not certified organic (the inputs are too variable), it’s currently the best quality compost we’re aware of commercially available.
  • Thanks to the City of Hobart for funding this project – we loved it.

Some references & resources

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Our Permaculture Design

This is part two of a blog documenting the development of our property design – you can read part one here, it’s where we show you our original design/s for our place and some of the big changes along the way.

This blog is showing you our “final” design, I use inverted commas as it’s bound to change as we continue to implement it. Our friend and colleague, Dan Palmer calls this process of constant, responsive change Living Design. I believe any good designer/implementer does Living Design intuitively. It’s the act of choosing to NOT follow what the design on the paper says when you’re presented with new information/observations as you’re implementing it. This means the outcome is more true to you, the land and current reality on all levels. Simple stuff really, but surprising how often it doesn’t happen. So that’s why I used inverted commas, cause it’s gonna change – nothing too major at this point though as it mostly implemented. But change it will.

Righto…. Some of the foundations for developing our design included getting a vision statement down on paper…

A vision statement is a broad, present tense paragraph that aims to capture what you’re aiming to achieve with your property. It’s written in present tense so it feels more real – this helps clarify where you’re heading. If it doesn’t sound, or feel right in your gut/heart with every member of your household, you need to change it until it does. Ours goes like this…

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Our home is bloody beautiful. There’s colour, creativity and food all over the place and while it may not be perfectly neat, it oozes life and love. Every now and then we open it up to the world to share our experience and to inspire others to “get into it.”

 

It’s nice and broad on purpose, there are no design solutions or specifications in there – you’re just trying to capture the *vibe* of the place.

A good design will also map the sectors for your context.

Sectors

Sectors are the external energies that impact the site, meaning that when designing you need to address each one to ensure your design is the best it can be. Some universal sectors are sun (where is it shining from?) and usually wind (where’s it blowing from) and access (how do you get in/out of your property?).

At our place, we have all these plus things like 360 degree pressure from wildlife (wallabies, rabbits and possums). Our design response is to fence the whole block.

Another one is the *very* strong south and westerly winds we get. Our design response is to plant a thick forest garden in that whole corner to soften the heavy blows and put all the annual food production on the east side of the house where it’s more protected.

Another one is our neighbour’s bush block on the east side of the property – this has the potential to be a fire hazard as there’s a large amount of dead wood and dense understory. Our design response is to (a) meet these neighbours (their house is actually a few hundred meters away from our place as they have a big block so we never see them) and (b) see if they’re open to us managing at least some of the bush for fire wood and possibly as grazing for the future milking goats we’d like to have (fingers crossed).

With all this information in mind, we spent some solid time reading the landscape and balancing what we found out about the soil, water, access, vegetation and more with our own dreams, desires and capabilities. Somewhere within that we found what was possible for the land and us.

And so the design below unfolded from the landscape…

To give you just a little sense of the steep slope we live on, you can see a profile of one section of the block below. The pattern we adopted to work with this land is terracing so we can make it really functional – specifically for water management, access and food production.

You’ll notice from one of our previous drafts (below) that we had originally designed a lot more flat space with deeper terraces. However when we showed it to Colin Fehre (our very fantastic excavator driver) he kindly explained to us that we’d have to remove a whoooole lot of earth offsite and build a whoooole lot of retaining walls to make it happen. Ethically and financially we weren’t into this, so as you can see above we opted for earth berms with productive edible forest gardens stabilising them and smaller flat terraces for our annuals.

Long-term this is actually completely great as our landscape will be 70%-80% perennial food plants including nuts, fruit and veggies. Eventually this will give us a high, nutritious yield and require much less work than the annual veggies. So we’re happy.

A close up of one of our drafts from 2016

Permaculture zones

There are 6 zones in permaculture design (0-5), zone 0 being the main hub (i.e. the house or work place) and zone 5 being the “wild/natural” space (furtherest away from zone 0). We have three zones at our home from 0 – 2.

The only thing you really need to know about zones is that they are a tool you can use to place the things you need most often nearest to zone 0 (the hub of your property). This guarantees ultimate efficiency in how you lay out your property. That’s it. If you’d like to know more about zones, have a read of this.  

So that’s where we’re up to. We still have a long way to go with implementing everything we plan to, but the bones are firmly in place and are hearts are firmly set on making it all happen. So stay with us over the coming years and all shall be revealed!

If you’re interested, you can read more facts and figures about our place over at David Holmgren’s Retrosuburbia and get a sense of what our place looks like in recent times below.

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Our Permaculture Design Course: A Student’s Insight!

Every permaculture design course (PDC) we run we always offer at least one full scholarship to make sure we support people who need it most to access this training. On our last PDC Permaculture Tasmania also sponsored someone to come along – how fantastic! Meet Shane and read about his experience below.

Shane working hard on his group design project and fellow student, Ryan working in the community garden we hold this course in. 

“I recently completed a PDC with Good Life Permaculture at Okines Community Garden/Centre at Dodges Ferry just out of Hobart. It was a great educational and totally engaging experience which brought together excellent teachers in their fields, and a group hungry to absorb all that was given to them. The course brought together people from a range of countries and diverse backgrounds who left with many new friends and a direction to move in. The venue too was a great choice, showcasing how the local community can be brought together with great initiatives which seek to be inclusive of all.

I had previously completed a PDC with Bill Mollison and Janet Millington back in 2002 and then a family came along and a mortgage and I sort of lost my way a bit. I had always kept in touch with what was going on, and I have used this course as a chance to get back on the horse and gain some new inspiration and direction.

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I believe this course also helped me with my own confidence, being able to say what one thought without being judged on personal values was a great feeling in itself.

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I had always thought I’d had a pretty sound knowledge of permaculture systems, this course however with its fabulous teaching staff helped to flesh it out even more for me and hammered home the point that permaculture “is not just about gardening”. That being said it was awesome to go check out and learn from some great permie ‘gardeners’ on the field trip. The importance of applying the ethics and principles as much as possible without being a ‘permacultist’ was also duly noted, no-one is perfect but it’s worth giving it a good crack. Something really important I had forgotten was to start from zone 0/1 and work outwards, it would have made my life a whole lot easier!

Now I’m back in “real life’ and looking for a change. I’m helping out at a new community garden we’re are about to start in St Helens (NE Tas), the fence is up and we’re getting into a bit of planning using the knowledge I gained from the course.  We will be taking on a work for the dole program there and aiming to provide education, training and health driven outcomes for members of the community, and pass on the permie bug! Hopefully I can encourage more members of my local community to think more deeply about the impacts we all can have and make them positive ones!

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Finally, I fully encourage anyone who is wondering about their place in the world to look into permaculture, be inspired, take a course and pass on the knowledge you gain. If your teachers are half as good as these guys you’ll still find it a positive life changing experience.

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Thank you very much Permaculture Tasmania, and extra big thanks to Hannah Moloney, Anton Vikstrom, Nick Ritar, Jonathon Cooper, Oberon Carter and Millie Rooney. Not forgetting the kitchen crew Lou, Maddie and Kathy and of course Mr Resourceful, that’s you Blake!”

Thank you Shane! Thanks for coming, for investing your time and energy into working out the nuts and bolts for how you can make your own positive impact in your own and your community’s world. Onwards and upwards!

Interested in doing your own permaculture design course?

Join us this Jan 19 – Feb 2 in southern Tasmania for a life changing and affirming learning experience!

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Example Of A Permaculture Student’s Design

We were really impressed by the quality of the work from all the students at our recent permaculture design course. Here’s an example of just one of the group designs completed by some clever, deep thinking folks.

Before we start working with the landscape, the first thing we teach our students is “people analysis”. By getting to know the people living on the land – their needs, desires and capacity you can ensure that any design you create will be a design for *them* and not something you impose onto them. This is possibly the most important thing we try to gently ram into our student’s heads and hearts. We can list too many stories we’ve heard of design jobs gone wrong as a result of people not listening to the client.

Years ago I got to work with Dave Jacke who taught us how to make a goal statement – a present tense statement that summarises what the vision for the design is. This is the outcome of people analysis and functions as a reference point for designing and implementing. This particular design group’s goal statement can be seen below… Notice how you get a strong feeling of what this property is like? That’s what we’re aiming for, rather then specific design solutions.

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The second key step in the design process is to do the “site analysis and assessment” (SAA) process. Simply put, this is where you document what is already on the property (not what you want to design) and the sectors (external energies, i.e. sun, wind, traffic etc) impacting the property.

There is of course a deeper level to this stage as landscapes are already their own “whole”. As designers our job is to read landscapes and differentiate the existing parts and work within those. That’s a really important detail that isn’t always articulated well in permaculture text.

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This is also the stage where you’ll naturally start having design ideas like – “oh this sunny section might be the perfect place for a veggie patch”. However as this is such an early stage of the design process we don’t want to get attached to these ideas, as we haven’t gathered all the information yet. So on our SAA summary we make dot points with key titles next to them describing what’s on the landscape (i.e. sunny patch) and arrows beneath them outlining the possible options that could go there (i.e. possible veggie patch). In the work below one example is a small shack (that’s the “dot”), the arrows (design possibilities) beneath this are:

  • possible sleep out
  • water catchment
  • compost loo onsite

The idea is that you don’t get too stuck/attached with one idea at such an early stage of the design process. So you can just take note of them in an orderly manner and get back to them later on when you’ve gathered *all* the information you need to make an informed decision.

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The next step is to crete a concept design. This is a broad design with minimal detail, showing what goes where in a basic “bubble diagram” as seen below.

At this stage you’re still not fixed on a certain approach to the design, rather you’re testing this concept with the people living onsite. Sometimes you’ll make little tweaks other times you might start again, although that’s rare.

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At the same time as doing the concept design, a permaculture zones map is also developing.

Zones are a method of organising your property efficiently according to the phrase “oftenest nearest”. This means you place the things you need most often (herbs, worm farm, kitchen garden) closest to your zone 0 which is the heart of your property (house or workplace). And place the things you need least often (i.e. native plants for small birds, dam, wood lot etc) furtherest away from zone 0 – in your zone 3, 4 or 5. Not all zones need to be included in one property so you wont see all of them all in the example below. You can read more about permaculture zones here. 

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After any tweaks have been made, you’re finally ready to do a final design showing detail around plants, structures, access, water and more. Funnily enough, this is the quickest and easiest stage of designing as you’ve already done extensive ground work leading up to this point.

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This particular landscape the students were design for was really sandy, so they came up with some nifty approaches to building soil for food crops like this hugelkultur style pit for fruit trees and made ace sketches to show how it could work…

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It was such a pleasure to teach/learn with this bunch of hardworking legends. It never ceases to amaze us what transformations can happen over the period of this course!

Interested in learning about permaculture design?

Join us on our upcoming Introduction to Permaculture this May or our part-time Permaculture Design Course this June and July in Hobart.

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Compost Powered Shower System!

We recently made our first compost powered shower system for our two week permaculture design course held at Okines Community House and Garden.  This is a method originally developed by French man, Jean Pain and has since been replicated and adapted all over the world. While we live in a fairly moderate/cool temperate climate, others with heavy snow also do this to heat water over freezing winters like Ben Falk in Vermont (skip to 2:20 in this video). So you can drop any thoughts you night have that this will only work in a warm climate. Hot compost is hot compost regardless of the climate.

This method is traditionally based on using mostly woodchips and water, we used aged woodchips and aged chook poo (layered fairly evenly) plus water as this is what we had available to us.

  • Before we go any further, we must say a special thanks to our friends over at Very Edible Gardens (VEG) for showing this particular version and answering approximately 100 of our questions.

A brief introduction to hot compost

Hot compost is where you arrange layers of carbon and nitrogen materials like a lasagne with water in between. It needs to be at least one cubic metre for it to heat up, with the desired heat being around 60-65 degrees. This is hot enough to kill off bad pathogens, any hotter and the good biology can suffer. For this particular system we’re wanted it to get as hot as possible as heating water is our focus, not compost for the garden. However saying that, this compost will eventually be used in the local community garden where it was built which will still be beneficial to the soil once it’s had a rest. You can read about how to make hot compost for your garden here. 

First step

Just like making any other hot compost system, layer your carbon and nitrogen materials – weIMG_7385did a couple of layers to establish the footprint of the pile (around 3m in diametre) and set up the internal pipe system. This consisted of four star pickets as the framework and 25mm of poly pipe tied onto it. Dan and Carey from VEG recommended using 100m of 50mm rural poly pipe, but we decided to use 25mm pipe as we could then use it easily on our property once the pile is dismantled. If we had our time again we would use the 50mm – more on that later. 

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We filled in the polypipe’s centre with layers of woodchips, chook poo and water – basically a mini hot compost system to make sure it would heat up evenly like the rest of the pile. Note the mini bob-cat machine. We hired it for the day as we didn’t have 20 people on hand to shovel the 20m2 of organic materials – it made the job possible and made us laugh. Imagine three people over 6 foot taking it in turns to drive –  like giant clowns in a tiny box car…

Water is key to any hot compost working – we alternated between the sprinkler approach (having it running on top of the internal pile) to having two people stationed there with hoses, watering in each layer thoroughly. You really don’t want any dry patches in your pile as this will preventing it from heating up evenly.

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Step 3

Put wire around the edge of your compost as seen below. This helps you build a pile with as much volume as possible – maximising the space you have and ensuring there’s plenty of mass to heat up. Only once you reach the top of the wire will the pile start to taper off into a pointing tip.

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Blake the legend watering in the pile from the top!

The shower stalls

We built the shower block from timber pallets salvaged from building sites and shower bases from the local steep shop, for privacy we covered them in sheets. The stalls were located as close to the compost pile as possible so the hot water leaving the pile didn’t have far to travel – meaning it wasn’t going to cool down before it got to the actual shower head. In the photo below left, you can also see we insulated the hot water pipes leading up to the shower head. 

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The greywater system

We needed to design and build a temporary greywater system to filter the water coming through the IMG_7464shower before it hit the neighbouring wetland. We made a simple, safe and effective bathtub system to do this job. We lined two baths with old doona covers, filled them with coarse woodchips and ran pipes from the showers to them, using gravity to move the water where it needed to go. The woodchips act as a filtering sponge, as water moved through them any grease and soaps were caught meaning the water leaving the system was filtered and safe to enter the beautiful wetlands which lead straight to ocean a few hundred metres away.
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So…. Did it work?

The short answer is yes, we successful showered 30 people over two weeks, averaging around 10-15 each day (spread over the morning and evenings). As expected, people only had short showers up to 5 minutes at the most – which is more then enough. The recharge wait between showers was somewhere between 5 – 15 minutes depending on how many people wanted to have showers.

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Thermometre showing 60 degrees and Anton the babe enjoying his first hot compost shower. 

What would we do differently next time?

Quite a few things…

  • Use bigger pipe (as we were told to do). We used 25mm instead of 50mm pipe as we could easily use that in our irrigation system afterwards. What we didn’t think through properly is that this drastically decreases the volume of water being heated up at any one time in the pile.
  • Cover the pile with the tarpaulin (or any insulating layer, i.e. strawbales) the day we built the compost and not one week later. To be fair, there were *crazy* winds on the day we built the pile so it wasn’t going to work. But a week later, the pile had definitely heated up to 40-50 degrees but the showers were only luke warm at best. So we added the tarpaulin to it and the next morning – boom! The heat was up in the 60s and showers were hot. Our friend Nick from Milkwood tried to reassure us that it would have heated up anyway with a bit more time, as it’s just such a big compost pile. While he’s probably right, the tarp seemed to help bring it home *quickly* which we really needed for the course.
  • Get a longer thermometer stick – the thermometer you can see above only had a stick 45cm long. As the pile was 3m in diametre that meant we couldn’t gauge the centre of the pile’s temperature without digging a little hole in the side and compromising its heat retention capacity. So we just left it to measure the outer edges of the pile – which was still reading around 60 degrees after three weeks.
  • Make the shower stalls a but more weather proof. While it’s summer and mostly warm and lovely in Tassie, we still get days where the wind blows and you reach for your jumper. If we had more time and resources it would have been preferable to make the shower stalls a bit more solid with a roof and solid door. This design would be perfect for the warmer parts of the world!
  • It wasn’t as affordable to build as we had hoped. In the end we had to pay for all organic inputs, hire someone for two days to help build it, buy random bits and pieces and hire the machine – coming in at just under $1500. In theory we were going to source woodchips for free from the Council, organise a community working bee to shovel everything and just pay for some nitrogen (chook poo). Next time, we might think a bit harder about how to bring this price done to make it more viable. Of course, if you live on a farm with lots of resources it’s likely you could do it for under $500.
  • Talk to the school across the road 6 months ago…. We built this pile because we were told there were no showers within easy walking distance. The day before the course, when we were a bit worried about whether the pile would heat up enough (and we eventually added the tarpaulin) I went, stuff it – even though we’ve been told there’s no showers in the school I’ll just go check. Turns out there was a whole shower block 150m from us and they handed me the key in two minutes and happily let us use it as a back up for the two week course. To say we felt a but silly is a gigantic understatement – swear words were mentioned. On the major up side, we got to build a compost powered shower, how cool is that!!! I’ve wanted to do it for years and overall, learning new skills trumps feelings of silly-ness (eventually).

Would we do it again?

For shizzle! Despite the long list of “stuff ups” above, I’m so pumped for this method of heating water. For years it’s been on my list of awesome things I want to do – adding to my skill set and now it’s firmly lodged in my head, heart and hands. I look forward to making our next compost shower – it’s going to be a walk in the park after all the things we learned from this time round!

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