Eco's Lodge

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by eco4560, Sep 8, 2010.

  1. purplepear

    purplepear Junior Member

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    Occupation:
    Farm manager/ educator
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    Hunter Valley New South Wales
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    Climate:
    warm temperate - some frost - changing every year
    Thanks for sharing Eco - I feel a little ashamed that I have not contributed for some time but I love reading how things are up there.
     
  2. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    I'd love to go check his place out one day. I'll have to work that one out.

    Thanks for the updates.
     
  3. annette

    annette Junior Member

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    Sounds like a great PDC Echo.
     
  4. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Week 7

    It's still been raining through the week so Tom's gardens are still wet and the swales still have water in them.

    We covered Soil this week. We talked about minerals and trace element balances, and mineralising the soil by mineralising your animal feed. I'm going to borrow Pat Coleby's book from Tom next week to learn more about how to do this as it seems like a really sensible approach. We talked about soil biota (wee beasties as MA would call them), and different types of compost including worm farms.

    We turned our compost pile again at lunch break - I think that's turn number 6 (of 9) so it's getting close to the end. A small snake was hiding in the warmth of the pile. (It was sent flying into the food forest with a fork....) The temperature has dropped a bit - it was just under 50 deg C. There really is no loss of volume (didn't quite believe that was going to work but it does!) and it is harder to recognise what is what in the pile now.

    After lunch we walked through the chook runs and talked about deep litter systems and how to design things so the nutrients run down hill to a place that is easy to access when you want to remove them to compost. And we looked at the concreted area where the cows and the geese spend their nights and how the manure (goose poo is not at all like what I expected!) can be washed to a low point and collected. There are plans for a methane digester at a later point in the low corner of the yard.

    We also looked at how the composting toilets are set up, what an empty bin looks like (with liquid drain at the bottom and air vent at the top) and how to keep them well ventilated so they don't smell and took a look at some that was a few months old in a compost pile. We looked at various styles and ages of compost piles, and the worm farm. And dug some holes in different areas to look at what is happening to the soil.

    We finished off the day with the Soils DVD. I really liked the bit where Geoff spreads the chook food around the new fruit trees in the food forest to encourage the birds to spend more time close to the trees dropping manure. Everything is designed with conscious thought.

    Next week - Earthworks! Hopefully it'll have dried out a bit by then.
     
  5. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Week 8 - Earthworking

    The rain has stayed away! There's a very definite shift in the seasons noticeable today. The sun is coming into the teaching area at a different angle, so are the breezes and there are different bird songs in the area.

    In the morning we ran through some of the issues of earth moving - like cut and fill and how it alters angles and water movement and how to use that to your advantage, or at least plan for the consequences of your decisions. We looked at the importance of adequate planning before calling in the excavator and how to avoid some of the common mistakes. We've covered much of the ground work for this when discussing site, soils and water - and today it felt like the concepts were starting to gel into a usable form.

    We turned our compost for the final time today - we think it is turn number 8 (but we did lose count along the way!) - but no one is going to be around for the next 2 weeks because of the Easter break - so we've decided to call it finished. The temp in the pile was 45 deg C today. It has lost a little volume since we first made it, but only about 10% I would guess. There are still a few chunky bits of manure, but mostly it is fine dark black and sweet smelling crumbles.

    After lunch we grabbed some 'toys' and went and surveyed a possible spot for a new swale - where the water from the bathroom by the bus empties into a banana circle. There's a gentle slope across a grassed area and another banana circle at the end and Tom was hoping that he could connect the two with a swale - which of course will only work if they are on the same contour line. We all had a go at guessing it by eye (the landscaper in the group proved to be out by only a few cms!), and then by using an Abney level. Then we grabbed the trusty A frame and measured and marked it out with pegs. And to finish off we double checked that with a dumpy level - we were only about 10 mm off with the A frame. And yes - the two banana circles are on the same contour line. (I was rather pleased we didn't get handed shovels to dig out the swale!)

    Then we hopped in the car and headed up the back hills of Kin Kin to visit a property, where the owner has asked Tom to do a design. This is our group design project, which we have to work on as a group over the rest of the course. It's 60 acres and has been in use for many years already, so there's lots of established infrastructure to have to work around. I just felt completely overwhelmed by the scale of it! I can cope with getting my head around an urban back yard, but this is truly outside of my comfort zone. I had a headache after the first 15 mins.

    After a few deep breaths, my brain stopped hyperventilating and I thought back to our design session to - zones and sectors - slope and elevation - water, access, structures etc. When you break it down into smaller bits it becomes more manageable. We've taken notes, made diagrams, taken photos, talked to the owners, thrown balls for the dogs and walked up the very steep hill (well - halfway anyway!). Each of us has homework to bring back to the group.

    We have next weekend off for Easter. I'm really going to miss being in Kin Kin on a Sunday! It is very peaceful sitting under the shed roof with my new friends and the dogs (who have stopped farting)...
     
  6. annette

    annette Junior Member

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    The course sounds fantastic echo. Although my intensive was great, I sometimes think that doing it over a longer period gives you a chance just to sit back and mull over what you have learnt before the next session. Can only be good.

    Nothing worse than a farting dog...............
     
  7. Tulipwood

    Tulipwood Junior Member

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    Oh Eco that's terrible!! We can't have your permie brain relaxing on a Sunday! I know exactly where you can come and give it (and perhaps other parts of your body) some exercise this weekend. I'll look forward to seeing you and hearing lots and lots about your new learnings.
     
  8. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    I'll be there by morning tea time. Save me an organic Fair Trade choccy egg.
    I hope you have found compost ingredients for me, or I'll start composting any old stuff that is lying around. (Phone books, underwear, husbands...)
    I'll see if I can convince your man that swales are what he needs.
     
  9. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    Oh dear , looks like a lot of reading i've got to catch up on. How are you going eco. Probably good by all that up above. you survived all the wet weather i see. I bet you are glad you live on the side of a hill now.
     
  10. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Struggling on! If only someone was paying me to stay home and garden I'd be set. Slowly I'm getting it into shape again around juggling multiple different jobs to keep the bank happy.
     
  11. sun burn

    sun burn Junior Member

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    Well i hope you can find something sooner rather than later.
     
  12. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Week 9

    This week we covered 2 chapters - Humid Tropics, and Humid cool to cold climates. We looked at house design, garden design, earthworks (like terracing), and composting toilets. We touched on animal tractors again.

    In the afternoon Tom left the 3 of us to bounce around ideas for our design project, but gave us permission to mess around with the brief a bit - so we added two fit husbands who want to work really hard into the picture to open up some of the opportunities further. The reality is an older woman with a bad back, and her daughter who works away 4 days away week.

    I had requested early in the course that if Tom had chooks to kill, that he teach me how to do it. So - he came and took us away from our design efforts as there were 2 roosters that were destined for the kitchen. I killed one (well ALMOST) and he dispatched the other. When I say almost, he was bleeding vigorously but kept blinking and breathing for ages! I think I only got one artery, so Tom got to the other one and the breathing stopped. It was less traumatic for all concerned (me and the rosters) than I had anticipated.

    They were then dunked in hot water and we plucked them. Tom demonstrated how to remove the inside bits on the first bird and I did it on the second one.

    So I'm pretty chuffed that I can now prepare a chook for the pot. You don't get a certificate for that!
     
  13. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Well done Eco, I reckon learning to 'dress' a bird is an important survival skill. Every now and then we get a thread in here that asks about the essential post-oil survival skills and tools or something like that. To me the ability to kill and prepare animals should definitely be on the list.

    I still don't like doing it, but I am definitely getting more efficient and neater. A pair of 'kitchen shears' has been a great addition to my tool kit.
     
  14. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    So long as there are chooks to hand I'm survival ready. Pigs, guinea pigs, turkeys, cows, goats and frogs? Not yet!
     
  15. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Week 10 - Arid climates

    We looked at housing (quite like the idea of digging myself a cave!) and design principles for the garden - avoid evaporation (so any ponds / dams are deep with a smaller surface area and are covered), mulch like there's no tomorrow, don't till, no chemical use as there's no soil biota to break it down. I learnt that termites are the earthworm equivalent in arid zones. And to capture ever single drop of rain that falls, using gabions and swales as well as tanks and cisterns.

    We watched the Global Gardener DVD (Bill Mollison looking at swales in the US desert and teaching in Africa).

    We spent some time on our design in the afternoon, serenaded by the marimba band which was rehearsing for a performance next week. Before the last sun disappeared we took a look up at the dam and the planting work that's been happening up on the top swale.

    Next weekend is very exciting - no class, because there's a group of Permaculture Noosa people (include us PDC'ers) getting on a bus and going to Zaytuna for a farm tour. Tom is the tour guide and bus driver. I wonder how many times we can sing 'The Wheels on the Bus" before he loses his temper (I don't think he ever does though....). There's a verse that goes - 'the permies on the bus go chop and drop....'
     
  16. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    I'm so excited!

    Only 2 sleeps to go before I'm heading off to Zaytuna! Will try and take lots of pictures for you all.

    The last time I was on a big bus with a group of people all going to the same place for such a long trip was my high school excursion to Canberra. That was a LONG time ago. Bob Hawke was PM.....
     
  17. S.O.P

    S.O.P Moderator

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    Very jealous. And please do take lots of photos, even a video of an established forest would be nice.

    I may be blind, or not looking in the right places, but I've missed a lot of before, during and after photos of established food forests. Where it worked, what worked and why it worked. There needs to be more articles of this ilk.
     
  18. Grahame

    Grahame Senior Member

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    Eco, on a pilgrimage to the permacultural Mecca.
     
  19. mischief

    mischief Senior Member

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    Cool mountain
    Yay,have a great time!!
    I'm so jealous.
     
  20. Tulipwood

    Tulipwood Junior Member

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    What's happened to her? She should be back and have posted by now. The suspense is killing me.
     

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