Permaculture in Action

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Our backyard garden was created twenty odd years ago, long before I knew anything about gardening or permaculture. I planted too many trees, and although some of them were fruit trees, they just adversely effected the garden. It was a lovely design with paths bordered by bricks and key hole beds. A great looking zone 1.

But it's redesign was long overdue. It was on the southern side of the garden and surrounded by trees. The sun just couldn't get a look in during winter and in summer the tress sucked the water out of the soil leaving the poor vegies dry. I just couldn't keep the water up to them.

So today the backyard food forest began. First we needed to get rid of some large unproductive shrubs and dig up all the bricks. They'll be used elsewhere on the farm.Our intern diligently removed the bricks and stacked them. It took us most of the day to chop down the shrubs and dig out the roots.

I was truly amazed at the quality of the soil. When I planted 20 years ago the backyard was very heavy clay but now it's a lovely friable soil. I'm sure the fruit tress we have in mind will love the rich soil. This area was also waterlogged during heavy rain but it now has very good drainage. The rest of the farm is very wet and we are sloshing around in our gum boots but here it's not too bad.

I unearthed some Elders so I've potted them up to plant around the various food forests we have on the farm.

Now  that we've got the area opened up we can do a little design for the area. Our intern will be included in helping us with the design as part of her scheduled learning.We have some stone fruit on order and to support them we'll plant some nitrogen fixers. There will be some herbs for understory, some groundcovers including nasturtiums and pepinos and once established we'll look to add some climbers.

We'll let the chickens in to clean up a little. They'll be housed in the chicken run at the bottom of the garden and will have access to the forest at times during the year.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Back to Back Wool Challenge

Post cards from the Back to Back Wool Challenge of 2017 at Tocal Homestead


The Back to Back wool Challenge has been on my to do list for years but something always comes up and I miss it. But this year I put a big red cross on the date and I finally got there. I wasn't disappointed.
Basically, for those of you don't know what the challenge is all about, a sheep is shorn, the fleece is spun and the yarn knitted into a jumper right in front of you and against the clock. This jumper that the shearer is wearing is the end product and took the ladies just a little of 6 hours to complete. The pace is frantic! As you can see, at one point, moments before the end, there is one lady still knitting while two others a sewing up.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

What a lovely day here on the farm with 18 adults and 30 little ones visiting. I feel like the pied piper as I wander around with a line of children behind me. And every now and then I feel a little hand holding mine as we move on from one animal to the next. Feeding, patting and holding various members of our farm menagerie. I call these our mums and bubs tours but of course we get dads and grandparents as well as mums bringing their littlies out to see the farm animals. I try to keep it real. I don't want it to become a petting zoo. I really want the children to see farm animals being treated with respect and being allowed to express their natural behaviours.

Monday, June 5, 2017

World Biodynamic Farming Day.

 The idea was borne out of World Eurythmy Day last year with the idea that a powerful event could be established if BD farmers around the world were to do a sequential spray of Horn Manure (BD 500) followed by Horn Silica (BD 501) at the same time (local time)
Much consultation settled on the date suggested by Brian Keats of Whitsun in commemoration of the weekend the Agriculture Lectures were delivered by Rudolf Steiner. These lectures lead to the development of Biodynamic Agriculture as we know it today.

The event at Purple Pear Farm started around two in the afternoon with a piece of Eurythmy - inviting a spiritual element to the practical activities for the event.

This was followed by several methods of stirring the Horn Manure preparation 9BD 500) - in buckets and coppers and flow forms with a great mixture of conversation and reverence for the action in progress.

Kate takes her turn.

Veronika brought her copper.

Flow Forms mix Horn Manure Prep.
 After an hour of stirring - by creating a vortex then smashing that to build another in the opposite direction - we divided up the preparation and split up to apply it to all parts of the property.

Greg applies the BD500.

Sarah shows her style.

Harry tries the low key approach.
The new compost heap gets a dose.

When the job was complete we retired to a shared meal around the camp fire with music by Rob and Tash as well as more great conversations and merriment.

Waiting for dinner!

Camp Fire after the evening meal.
 We found ourselves retiring quite early after the rigorous exertions of the day and the expectation of an early rise to apply the Horn Silica Preparation (BD 501).

John and Rob stir BD501 in the early morn.

Harry takes it to first light.

John Mark and Harry prepare to spray.
 After an hour of stirring and with the first flush of morning light, we set out to spray the 501 over the areas covered the day before.

Harry fires the Horn Silica into the atmosphere.

Friday, June 2, 2017

A mixed bag today.
For me I found some time to work on another Quill from Taproot Magazine.

We picked up 40 rescued ex factory farm hens. They made them selves right at home scratching and having a dust bath, and two eggs laid in minutes of leaving their boxes and cages.
Quite sad to see the state they're in and their cut beaks, but I'm sure they'll be happy here.

It was compost making day. we use tomato stakes to make our heap, adding more as the heap gets higher and taking them away to make a new heap as the heap breaks down and shrinks.
We make an indentation at the bottom to hold excess water as we make the heap.

Paddock slashings, water and manure, and greens are added in layers as the heap increases in height.

The heap continues to rise and will be capped with biscuits of hay tomorrow after the Bio Dynamic compost preparations are added at our International Biodynamics day happenings here on the Farm.

And of course feeding the people who visit the farm is a high priority. Never quite sure who will be here so a large pot of soup and home made bread is perfect for filling up interns and those on work experience and volunteers as well as family. Seven today for lunch and two who were happy with just a cuppa.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

On Thursdays I drop some CSA boxes off in Newcastle, then spend the morning with my daughter Meg and her son Arlo. Mostly we walk  over to her local Community Garden and do some work there. Meg grows as much food as she can in her small suburban garden but has decided to supplement it with food from the community garden.

This garden already had some fruit trees but they were in need of a little attention so we decided to slowly but surely turn the area into a food forest. Each Thursday we do a little bit more, starting first with a cuppa!!

There is quite a lot of organic matter dropped off by a gardening service which is piled up and smelly. We began to move it about to make compost heaps and then started using it as part of sheet mulching.
First we lay down a good many sheets of wet newspaper and cover it with the semi decomposed organic matter. As Bill Mollison used to say "turning bad news into good news." After a few weeks we are able to start to plant into this to build up a guild ( an harmonious interaction of elements) around each of the fruit trees.

And of course Arlo is our biggest helper. 
Ready to go grandma !

I can't find the bug anywhere

We had some extra help at the garden today along with our Intern

Here's how we are joining each of the trees up and then we will widen the beds until there is only a small central path between them.