Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Some slow progress

After submitting my first uni assignment this week, I am going to sneak some time to blog and update on our progress, however slow, since last time. Its funny, for the last couple of weeks I have been using housework as an excuse to procrastinate, and now, after handing my assignment in, find myself procrastinating from doing housework.....

First definite foggy autumn morning this morning although the fog didn't last very long. The leaves on some of the trees are starting to turn and I really should be getting my butt out into the veggie garden to prepare and plant the winter crops. Yet here I sit with a cuppa instead of doing.

In my last blog, I mentioned I had completed my PDC and am now venturing down the path of retrofitting our blog with permaculture principles, or at least trying to anyway.

In our PDC, when we were looking at designing our block on course, I found it helpful to outline what our aim for our block was and what we wanted to achieve. So this is what we came up with:

"To be as self-reliant as possible in fruit, veggies, herbs, wheat, honey, energy, materials and water"

With a focus on:
 - water and using water on site
 - increasing soil biology, and thus soil fertility
 - ensuring food availability for bees
 - cooling of house in summer
 - increase solar production and decrease energy use
 - alternative cooking sources
 - productive fruit and nut trees, veggies, herbs and vines
 - learn more skills

Now that I am retyping this, it does seem a little lofty for a two acre block, but if you don't aim high, you never know what you could achieve. Our 1m sq of wheat trial, although successful, would take an enormous amount of time to produce and we are unsure of whether we will do this again. But we have planned possible sites for it anyway.

So? Where to start? Well, permaculture can start right at your back doorstep and that is basically what we have done. The following pics are a snapshot of what food we are growing right outside our backdoor.

This was a new project - the salad green garden. I know. Its current state looks a little sad. We pulled out the lavenders and have planted with lettuce, carrots, shallots amongst other things. Most of the lettuce has now gone to seed but was very convenient for a salad for dinner.
This is our herb garden on the other side of the steps straight outside our backdoor. I have been attempting to plant many different species of herbs in here and the latest edition is the horseradish (far right next to side of pizza oven).
On the other side of our pizza oven is the strawberries and roses. I am going to plant some borage amongst them in the spring as well. I have also planted yet another passionfruit (I am not giving up!), so hopefully it will be kept warm in winter up against the retaining wall and the frost won't settle as much here due to the rocks and pool being close by. Also, if it does get hit by the frost (which happens when we get a severe one), the leaves should have time to defrost before the sunlight hits them. Fingers crossed....yet again.
A little further back down the other way from the salad greens is the lemon and lime. I have planted with some nasturtiums and I also have some companion herbs growing in the greenhouse to plant amongst the trees. They seem happy since their move.
We have also been planting quite a few trees around the place. Here is a pic of the ones we have planted down the front. Although these are ornamental and not fruit trees, I have planted them for a few reasons - privacy to block the main road, bee fodder in spring, leaf mulch and beautiful colours in autumn, shade and temperature control in summer, and hopefully improving the soil and breaking up the clay a little as their roots grow. We have planted a mix of manchurian pear, chinese elm, prunus nigra and liquid amber behind the existing crab apples.
Up the back of the block we have planted a couple of liquid amber. These have been used due to their fire resistent qualities (they are in between the house and the most likely direction of a possible bushfire), shade on the house from the hot afternoon summer sun, mulch for the garden and autumn colour.
And look what sprung up in our garden! An oak tree! So we have relocated up to the back of the block as well. Along with the liquid ambers and lipstick maple, it will hopefully make a fire resistent strip of trees across the back of the block.
I have also repotted some fruit trees that have sprung up in our veggie garden - I think they are a couple of peaches and an apple. If they survive, I hope to plant them out in the refitted orchard in spring (oh and that is water iris in the bucket which is destined for the bee pond which we have yet to complete).
Here are some Tagasaste that I have grown from seed. I have only had about a 50% strike rate, which is OK as the ones that have come up are more than enough to plant out in the refitted orchard in spring. Tagasaste are nitrogen fixers, are evergreen and are hopefully going to be useful in dispersing late spring frosts from around the fruit trees, excellent bee fodder in spring, and if my dream of ever owning some sheep becomes a reality, the tree can be 'chop and dropped' fodder for the animals.
This is an elderberry bush which is growing outside my garage. The berries and flowers are both useful in the kitchen. I have started growing some violets underneath which eventually will be a living mulch.
In terms of improving the soil, we have been mulching with lucerne hay to improve the quality of the soil. We have already used one bale and are still attempting to find the time to use this bale. Maybe now the weather is starting to get a bit cooler we will be able to get out and do it.
I have also managed to get some comfrey plants. Although they are currently here in a wine barrel, I will be moving them to another bed where we moved the compost from. The vine is a loofah vine (the one on the other side has much bigger loofahs). Comfrey leaves are very good in the garden and can be added to the compost or a liquid fertiliser can be made from them.
We moved the compost bin after analysis of nutrient flows in our block and realised where it was positioned at the back of the veggie garden, was downhill, and all nutrient leach was going into the neighbours! Also, the conifers our neighbours have planted, can inhibit the decomposition process of the compost so it was best just to move it. Although hubby wasn't too impressed!
In addition to planting, we have also been harvesting and preserving. We have had some lovely apples, plums and apricots this year off our trees. Although I haven't preserved as much as I would have liked, I have made strawberry jam, plum jam, caramelised onion and beetroot relish, pickled beetroot, zucchini pickles, tomato sauce and tomato passata, basil pesto as well as freezing a lot of garlic, zucchini, beans, corn, and raspberries. Its good when you can tempt the kids with homegrown stuff!
After going through all those pictures, we have actually been achieving a lot more than I thought! Hopefully next blog I will be able to update on the retrofit of our orchard.
(If you are interested in permaculture, a good website to check out is the


  1. Hi

    Great blog! We'd love you to have a look at www.catablog.com.au as we would like you to register this blog with us.


    Janyne Moore

  2. Wow - what a huge amount of progress it looks like you've made! Lots of thinking as well as doing. See you around the UHC.