Hello from South Africa

Discussion in 'Introduce Yourself Here' started by Ursula, Apr 20, 2016.

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My first challenge is to get fertile soil onto a 37 500 sqm sand dune. Anyone?

  1. Implement keyline design with log filled swales to get trees in asap

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  2. Take on small parts by covering with organic matter and legumes and get trees in asap

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  1. Ursula

    Ursula New Member

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    My climate is temperate, semi-arid and unlike most Capetonians, I live around 4 km from the beach. This means topsoil is non-existent and all I have to work with is white beach sand. This means that Capetown is also known to have an indigenous biomass (called Fynbos) with some 3000 species not growing anywhere else in the world. It is definitely an interesting scenario to grow veg and fruit in. I direct a Permaculture based Non-profit organisation here and thus work closely with my community to assist in creating a more sustainable lifestyle for all. I live in an Urban environment and so we start by helping our community set up their home food gardens successfully. Workshops, Guest speaker evenings and our FB page, among other, serves to provide the info needed to achieve this. We also assist small businesses to become greener and save money, but this in turn has lead to the establishing of Community food gardens. Our Local South African Police Station, got the first make-over to get fresh produce into the holding cells kitchen. The staff themselves also benefit and so does another Street Child organisation that shares the Police premises. Our next project however is on a 37 500 sqm Public open field and as I mentioned, it is ALL beach sand with patches of grass! This sand dune however aims to be a Community hub filled with holistic healing, fitness and nutritional wellbeing, cycle lane, labyrinth, allotments and a food forest for good measure.I am looking forward to sharing this all with you and hope to make it as successful as it could be, to improve not just our socio-, but also business-economy and most of all make it possible to live sustainably in an Urban environment...
     
  2. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Ursula and welcome,
    You're very busy doing good work! Transforming a sand dune is a formidable challenge.
    As water will essentially run right through sand, I'm not sure if keyline or swales will help much. It seems to me that what you'll need is to hold moisture in the soil which will best be done with organic material, compost, and if possible some clay.
    Are there any landscaping businesses or lawn mowers nearby who would be willing to dump their clippings at your site? We do something similar here and compost/mulch with the large amounts of biomass they provide. We get free biomatter and they avoid dumping fees! Can you have chickens on site? Combining chickens with composting is extremely effective: https://permaculturenews.org/2013/12/06/grow-chickens-without-buying-grain-feeding-compost/
     
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  3. Ursula

    Ursula New Member

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    Thank you for your reply :) I agree, if I only attempted doing a straightforward swale, it would have little effect. I was however thinking about filling the swales with logs, branches and other organic matter, to absorb and retain the water coming down the slope. The berm would then also be covered in branches and garden debris and be planted with trees (this all happening towards the top end of the slope), to see if I can also bring up the water table, which I know currently is around 6m down. (borehole depth). I am also thinking about using gabions maybe to put in check dams down the slope to slow the water down in winter to capture and store it... If nothing else it will avoid further erosion on the slope. What are you thoughts on this?
    Chickens in the beginning stages will be a tough one to incorporate, as they will simply get stolen without the necessary security in place first. We are also not allowed to fence the property in, so they would need to be kept in an secure enclosure and only be let out when needed to process the organic matter in another portable enclosure. Probably not an impossible task, but will be tricky to keep them safe. We are in an Urban suburb (dogs, cats and human neighbours )
     
    Last edited: Apr 21, 2016
  4. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Well, I can now take the rest of the day off ... I've learned something new and extremely interesting! Fynbos!!

    "Of the world's six floral kingdoms, this is the smallest and richest per unit of area. The Holarctic kingdom, in contrast, incorporates the whole of the Northern Hemisphere north of the tropics. The diversity of fynbos plants is extremely high, with over 9000 species of plants occurring in the area, around 6200 of which are endemic, i.e. growing nowhere else in the world. South Africa's Western Cape has a level of botanic diversity that exceeds that of the richest tropical rainforest in South America, including the Amazon." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fynbos)

    [​IMG]
    The Cape Floral Kingdom (Capensis) is one of only
    6 floristic kingdoms in the world. It is also the
    smallest and richest per unit of area.​

    Taking this in along with your climate profile, I think your "hugelkultur" idea might be an excellent experiment. I don't know what types of wood you have available, but softer, "punkier" wood types might soak up water the easiest during your winter rainfalls. And with your climate averages showing nearly 100mm precipitation per month during winter, gabions would be a great way to slow water and maybe even help direct it to your hugel-swales.

    Thinking WAY outside the box now, do you think some types of palm might grow in your dune as part of a food forest? This is an exciting project and I'm looking forward to hearing about your progress.

    Lowland fynbos:
    [​IMG]
     
  5. Ursula

    Ursula New Member

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    YAY!! Must admit Fynbos is definitely something extraordinary and I get excited about it too; when one sees how adapt they are to this environment and even more exciting when one learns that most of them are edible and medicinal too ! We have sourfigs, num nums, kei apples, wild spinach, wild leeks, wild garlic, pepper trees and even a wild african olive to name a few of my favourites .. the diversity is immense and they will naturally thus find their way into our food forested sand dunes ;) Palm trees DO grow here and our gardens have them abundantly on display, so do date trees, so a solid YES to your question.

    I am glad that you agree with the hugel-swale idea, and with the edible and medicinal fynbos growing in as part of the succession, that it would be a possibly successful experiment. It is rather special to have an opportunity to work in such a diverse and unique environment. YAY! how exciting to get to know someone else that gets excited about fynbos hihihihihihihi.... We have a lady called Loubie Rush whose mum foraged the forest for food and medicinals and taught her all she knew. Loubie now grows fynbos foraging Food gardens and then shows one how to put together a homemade meal from it too - Loubie will help us implement the right fynbos in our food forested area. Naturally we are excited to get started ! I recently discovered that another uniquely indigenous bush the Rooibos is a nitrogen fixer! now this is valuable info where I sit :) cause Rooibos is also an amazing antioxidant and served as a tea in our cafe's... I grew up with it and love its sweet flavoured red tea leaves. so much to still learn...
     
  6. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    I like to introduce species compatible with our climate ... sadly the Fynbos is not similar to here. Rooibos is one I might have tried (if the environment was right), except I found this:
    "The rooibos plant is endemic to a small part of the western coast of the Western Cape province of South Africa. It grows in a symbiotic relationship with local micro-organisms and past attempts to grow it outside this area, in places as far afield as the United States, Australia and China, have all failed."
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rooibos
    Fynbos is unique indeed!
     
  7. Ursula

    Ursula New Member

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    Sure is :) We have received the most amazing news on yesterday concerning the STUDY STREET FOOD FOREST project; after a 2 hour meeting with the Dept of Social Development, they arranged to meet with the City (custodians of the plot we want to grow on), and they have agreed to a interim lease while we wait for our proposal to continue through the approval process, which could take 3 years ! This is amazing, because with the interim lease, they are allowing us to start works on a smaller part of the land!! So PHASE 1 will begin sooner than anticipated :) yay!!... You can imagine, we are SUPER excited, cause the time has come to put in some check dams, swales and plant some trees... So these are the designs slowly being put together.... I need to present these to the Custodians for them to approve and draw up the interim lease on .... There is a slope the runs west to east (From Jansens towards Study st). Gabion elevation.png
     

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  8. Ursula

    Ursula New Member

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    We've also decided to put in a structure (The Gabion library Cafe)- it will be a place to store our tools, but also for community to start interacting with the space, as it starts shaping over the next year. The Gabion library Cafe is a simple raw food cafe and freecycle/swap library. The space will be used also for yoga and small functions. These all to raise funds to become more sustainable, while working towards PHASE 2.
    The cafe is to be built into an existing sand hill, with gabion-front and sandbags we thought. Do you have another suggestion? we liked the idea of having a domed roof (Earthship style), so to grow succulents and indigenous to thrive on top of it.
    GABION LIBRARY CAFE.png
     
  9. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Great drawings Ursula! May I ask what software was used to produce them?
    Regarding your placement of wood/logs in the hugel-swale, are you going to cover the logs (maybe with more wood chips) to help prevent evaporation?
    I think sandbag construction is perfect for your cafe as you have on-site the key ingredient ... no need to import materials!
     
  10. Ursula

    Ursula New Member

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    Thank you but I simply use PAINT. I have over time tried using CAD, but found it so complicated, love drawing but then not having a scanner on hand makes the process from drawing onto computer a nuisance, so I tried PAINT and find that I can do what I need on it ;) Its more like a collage or scrapbook feel, but it is enough to convey my thoughts and ideas....
    An absolute yes on all the above, I was unsure about what to add, I originally thought i could just cover it with sand, but then thought compost would add some nutrients to the water being soaked up by the logs, then thought, that to add nutrients, I should then consider planting some legumes into the compost then. Laying wood chips on top will allow for more moisture to be held too though....Thank you for your feedback, Bill :)
    We were contemplating all the different methods to create the dam in sand; didn't like the idea of using anything unnatural like plastic lining, it would be too much to try and use organic matter or bentonite (would be too costly for a NPO, despite the fact that I hear one can get bentonite cheaply from the cable and telephone companies, as they discard it), I dont believe digging till I hit clay is going to be an option, as I am more likely to find rock than clay I suspect, but VERY far down. Then I remembered a video of Geoff's about using ducks to stop a leak in one of the dams and I started researching the use of manure in dam creation. I came across a Pig manure method. It would seem that it is important that you use the manure of animals that also consume meat protein. So one layers the manure first, then a green layer, then topsoil and leave it to stand for 3 weeks. This allows the anerobic bacteria to get to work and create a almost natural plastic layer; sealing the dam ready for flooding. What do you think? (we thought we would try this method out on one of our member's small garden. They are eager to have a pond and this is the perfect opportunity to experiment how effective this method would be in our sand.
     
  11. Robyn S.

    Robyn S. New Member

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    Congratulations Ursula,
    Love your ideas and love your enthusiasm. I want to show your work to some people here. We are in Amhara, Ethiopia and are only at the early stages of our project. There are many differences, but what you're doing is inspirational. Thank you!
    and we like rooibus tea too!
    Cheers, Robyn.
     
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  12. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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  13. Ursula

    Ursula New Member

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    Hi Robyn !
    Thank you, I am happy to have inspired you, if I have. I am but on my own journey through this unique terrain and have much to learn, but it is always great to be able to share information on possible solutions. I was curious about your situation in Ethiopia and came across the most amazing information.
    Hi Robyn !
    Thank you, I am happy to have inspired you, if I have. I am but on my own journey through this unique terrain and have much to learn, but it is always great to be able to share information on possible solutions. I was curious about your situation in Ethiopia and came across the most amazing information. I must admit what I have seen in the media about Ethiopia is so different to the sense I got while researching it; it seems so perfect for a permaculture adventure too, with water from the Blue nile river and surrounded by heritage mountains and nature reserves.What history and abundance! Would love to know more about your project.
     
  14. Ursula

    Ursula New Member

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  15. Ursula

    Ursula New Member

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    Thank you for the links! They made for interesting reading. Newby's thread with his usage of pigs to seal his pond, seemed the way forward. If I have success with the small garden pond, I will let everyone know. I will not have pigs to assist me, but will have a lot of pig manure, so will layer with the manure, add green matter, then cardboard/shredded paper and top soil to see what happens after it has composted for 3 weeks. It would also seem that once the water starts to fill the pond that some amount of agitation and compaction of the soil under the water line is necessary. So a daily walk in the garden pond with ones boots might work, but we would have to use a caterpillar digger to compact the larger pond, if the method works in the garden pond. Will do my best when we get to that stage to post progress:) thanks again for the links :)
     
  16. Ursula

    Ursula New Member

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    YAY!! Drawings completed and edited for everyone else here following too ;) - Phase one document for the interim Lease has been sent with the drawings as annexures and we await news from the Custodians (Council) about whether they will approve our plans and sign an interim lease with us, so we can start earthworks on the STUDY STREET FOOD FOREST ! ayay!! Will update when I have more to share.. I hope to be able to share the project features implementation and results here for anyone attempting similar projects.
     
  17. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Congratulations on completing your drawings! Looking forward to hearing that the Council approves your plans unanimously! Can't wait for work to get started so we can follow along with your progress.
     
  18. dWall

    dWall Junior Member

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  19. Robyn S.

    Robyn S. New Member

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    Hi to everyone and Ursula,
    a quick share about our project. We have 3 hectares in Amhara state on which we a planting fruit trees, mostly mango, and perennials for culinary and other uses. Permaculture is unknown here, so our aim is to demonstrate how pc design can be used to improve soils, increase variety and productivity, grow locally, and create income. We can then offer an out-grower scheme, training in simple horticultural techniques, and propagate plants for people to try. We are not qualified permaculture designers, but would like to create a venue for future education, perhaps inviting guest trainers and speakers, to offer an alternative to the corporate agro-business which dominates 'modern' thinking here.
    Next week our first workshop starts - a program for unemployed youth from town who've started a tree-planting project; they want advice about planting trees, mulching and composting. I'm pleased to say it will be run by three members of our team who've been learning themselves over the past year. And it's not been all one way; they have quite a lot of knowledge about traditional wild plants for food and medicine, which we are incorporating into our project.
    If I can work out how, I'll upload some pics. Our connection is too hit-and-miss and too slow to use video clips - which is SO annoying; so many good articles are posted on this site which we just don't get to see!
     

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