My Permaculture life

Discussion in 'Members' Systems' started by lukemurphy, Nov 7, 2013.

  1. lukemurphy

    lukemurphy Junior Member

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    Hi all,

    I thought I'd start a thread to share my experiences/thoughts/dreams/successes/failures related to permaculture, hoping that others may be interested or able to learn from my mistakes, and also in the hope that I can harness some of the HUGE amount of accumulated knowledge of the members of this forum.

    I am 24 years old and live with my parents and brother in Bulli, NSW. Its a great place to live, lovely warm temperate/subtropical coastal climate, beaches and forest not too far from my place. I did a PDC with Milkwood in Sydney in early 2012 without knowing anything before that, and have been hooked ever since. I work as a tennis coach at the local courts, and devote most of the rest of my time to some form or other of permaculture (though I sometimes still feel like I'm getting nowhere!)

    'My permaculture life' which these posts will focus on now involves:
    - my place: 3 chooks, a honeybee hive, native bee hive, and young food forest
    - marina's place: a lady up the road from me who, when I was talking to her and lamenting the fact that at the local food co-op the closest place we get produce from is 35km away, 'gave' me her backyard to try to grow produce for the co-op.
    - thirroul community garden: a 1-year old garden with about 10-15 consistent members. It has annual vege beds, a few fruit trees and a hell of a lot of potential.
    - corrimal community garden: a 4-ish year old garden that has really got some momentum going with some committed new members. It has some annual beds and a few fruit trees and berry bushes.
    - flame tree food co-op: a 3 year old co-op that is growing by the day. I'm very lucky that its walking distance from my house.

    I spend at least a few hours a week on each of these pursuits, and feel like I am slowly learning, but still have such a long way to go - though thats a great thing about permaculture and living systems - it doesn't matter how much you've seen, theres always something more to see and learn, and more people to learn from.

    I'll aim to cover all of these aspects in detail, with my experiences, questions and of course photos about each as I go.

    Hope you enjoy!
     
  2. lukemurphy

    lukemurphy Junior Member

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    Staying local?

    When I first got into permaculture I had this assumption in the back of my head that I would one day buy a property somewhere and 'live the life' (whatever that meant). But as I have gotten involved in various projects in my home area and gotten to know some of the great people that live close by, I can't imagine living anywhere else.

    I realise, however, that I am blessed to have been born into such an area that has abundant natural beauty, and a growing amount of interest in sustainability. Some community gardens and the local food co-op already existed before I got into permaculture, and I am always meeting people who have been growing food for a long time. Making positive change is a lot easier when you have like-minded people around you. I don't think I would have the confidence or follow-through to make such things happen on my own.

    I read a nice quote the other day :"you don't have to move out of your neighbourhood to live in a better one".

    It would be nice to hear your thoughts on staying local or going somewhere and 'starting afresh'.
     
  3. 9anda1f

    9anda1f Administrator Staff Member

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    Hi Luke,
    Sounds like you're into a sweet deal! Why move on with all that going for you ... plus you "can't imagine living anywhere else". There is plenty of urban and sub-urban Permaculture going on "out there" and you're already well on your way to serving as a local example of what can be done. By continuing on the path you're already on, you'll continue to increase your visibility within the community and hopefully some of your growing knowledge will rub-off!
    Surely, down the road, your wanderlust and desire to "start afresh" may come to the fore ... let it happen on it's own timeline. In the meanwhile, enjoy the place you're in now, learn all you can, spread it around ... you'll become a Permaculture icon within your community!
    Bill
     
  4. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Good on you for giving it a go. I wish more people would hear the message that you don't have to move to do permaculture and improve the world. All you gain by moving is to take your mistakes with you to a fresh location….
     
  5. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    always interested in hearing about real-life experiences and efforts. inspiration. :)
     
  6. ecodharmamark

    ecodharmamark Junior Member

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    G'day Luke, well done on staying put! In many ways - socially, ecologically, culturally, economically, etc. - it is often 'easier' to relocate one's self/group to that 'perfect piece of permaculture paradise', rather than stay in one's current place of abode and 'fight the good fight'. Like you, I have chosen to stay and work in a community that never ceases to throw at me all manner of curve balls. Nevertheless, working in the centre of a region that shows great resistance to change just means that one has to temper one's enthusiasm a little, and perhaps take smaller steps (Principle 9: Use Small and Slow Solutions). By-and-by, one will be the change that one is looking for, and in your case, it seems that you are well on your way! Again, well done, and keep up the good work. Regards, Mark.
     
  7. princesse_nomade

    princesse_nomade Junior Member

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    Your projects sound great! Keep us posted, add pictures whenever you can, I feel I can learn a lot from your experience!
     
  8. lukemurphy

    lukemurphy Junior Member

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    Ok, so now (thanks to Gandalf) I know how to upload photos, its time to post a few.

    I thought I'd start with a few from Marina's garden, as its where a fair bit of my time has been spent of late, and is a project I'm really excited about. Here is a sketch of the layout of the place that I envisage:

    View attachment 1905

    Key - brown = path
    red = existing tree
    green= growing space/beds
    purple = chicken run
    black = fence
    blue = water

    The design is not as detailed as it should be, but I feel that I need to do things and see how they work. Also I'm just too impatient to do everything on paper first :)

    As the hope here is to eventually produce food for the co-op, there are a lot of annual beds, but I also wanted to include a forest garden section and some perennial veg as well for beauty, resilience and ecological function. The existing trees on the western side - I'm not sure what all of them are, but they provide good shade for the future chook run, a good windbreak from westerly winds which are strong here, and a few of them are flowering with bees all over them at the moment - so I'll definitely be leaving them. It would be nice to get rid of the palm in the middle of the eastern side, but I've been told by the owner that this isn't gonna happen. Anyway it provides some shade for the worm farm (bathtub) and is a nice tree.

    The southern half of the yard is on a reasonable slope, so the beds there will be terraced. (some of this had been done by a previous owner, and I have done a few more so far). Talking to the neighbours, the previous owner was a keen gardener and so the soil is a nice black loam, at least on the southern side where she gardened. For most of this I am just adding compost/worm castings to the soil then planting, I think I will have to make no-dig beds on the heavy clay of the northern area.

    The northern section is at the bottom of a hill and can apparently get a little boggy - but not too bad according to the owner. I'm planning on slashing all the vegetation here (mainly non-woody weeds), then burying all of that organic matter under about a foot of woodchips. I also plan to dig out a small pond to hold the water when it rains, and act as a wetland/habitat for frogs/birds etc. There are already frogs and plenty of birds around, which is great, as the area around the northern part is wild land that no one uses and is full of weeds.

    Because of all the weeds surrounding the property (mainly morning glory and lantana), I plan to put in a chicken 'moat' around most of the perimeter, and hopefully the chooks can keep the weeds at bay. The chicken run will be planted out with chook forage plants - sorrel, plantain, arrowroot, pinto pea, tagasaste, etc.

    The forest garden hasn't really been designed yet. I wanted to include some trees in the design for resilience and relatively low-input production, and placed on the western side these can also act as a windbreak. I will also include some nitrogen fixing trees and shrubs (pigeon pea, tagasaste) that can be cut back for mulch/compost. Hopefully once this becomes established I'll be able to rotate the chooks through here as well.

    The annual beds will follow a rotation involving annual veg and green manures, with a chook tractor periodically put on them. The beds in the shadier spots (under the palm) will have shade-tolerant herbs and veg - mint, nettles, aloe vera, pinto pea. Some will also include mulch crops eg. sugarcane, arrowroot.

    The neighbours on the eastern side have a patch of weeds next to the beds on the south-eastern corner. I asked if they minded if I cleared this and planted some flowers, and they said go for it, so that space will be used to attract a beneficial insect population.

    Heres some of the work thats been done so far. I've mainly cleared the southern area almost down to the mulberry, and have added compost and mulch to these beds and planted seeds.

    Before:

    View attachment 1906

    Progress!:

    View attachment 1907

    The great thing about all the weeds is that you have material to make a huge compost pile!:

    View attachment 1908

    Anyway thats enough for now. Feel free to leave feedback
     

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  9. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    Are the mulberry trees in the top and middle of the design yet to go in, or already there? They are going to create shade for everything south of them which may be a problem. If you haven't planted them yet, put them in the food forest. If they are already there consider keeping them well pruned - you can't really harvest anything more than an arms reach above your head so you may as well keep it to that. At least they are going to drop leaves (mulch) and allow winter sun into the garden.

    How are you getting water in to water the beds?
     
  10. lukemurphy

    lukemurphy Junior Member

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    Hi Eco, the mulberries are already there. The one on the northern end is not so big yet so I will keep it pruned. The one in the middle is a bit bigger, I will have to give it a haircut (is winter the best time to do this?)

    As for water, I am currently just using mains - the neighbours have a tap just near the southern beds. The owners are renovating the house, and part of that is installing a few tanks. When this happens I'll have gravity fed water from the top of the hill (the house is to the south (and uphill) of the design shown. I will also be putting a tank to catch the runoff from the chicken coop when that goes in, which will be more gravity fed water.

    At corrimal community garden tomorrow there is a bloke coming in to rig up a drip irrigation system, so hopefully I'll be able to learn enough from him to set up drip irrigation here too.

    At the moment though I'm doing absolutely nothing to get water in there - we've had a heap of rain in the last week!
     
  11. eco4560

    eco4560 New Member

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    When they are bare is often easiest to see what you are doing. Not when it is fruiting as it breaks your heart to loose the fruit. There are experts who say you should only prune on the full moon when Jupiter is in the second quadrant etc but I just do it when I remember….

    Lucky you with the rain - though I'm finally getting some tonight. Try and squeeze as big a tank as you can next to the chooks at the top of the slope so you can use gravity. And I can strongly recommend watering nipples as a way to minimise the water you need to keep your chooks happy.
     
  12. Rick Larson

    Rick Larson Junior Member

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    I like your sketch!

    Where's the house?
     
  13. lukemurphy

    lukemurphy Junior Member

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    Eco - cheers, I'll wait till winter. (and read up on the moon cycles). I use those watering nipples at home with my chooks - they're great aren't they! I also use a feeder with a covered tray that they have to step on to open it - it was funny trying to teach them how to use it, and it saves a hell of a lot of feed. Though I think the cockatoos have figured it out now as well, still saves from rats/mice and smaller birds though.

    Rick - thanks! The house is to the south (uphill) of this sketch about 30m. The owners want to keep that bit as their backyard for a pool, lawn, bbq, etc.
     
  14. princesse_nomade

    princesse_nomade Junior Member

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    I love your design! It's great to get to see and appreciate other people's work. It's inspiring! Keep us posted!
     

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