Permaculture

The two of them (Bill and Geoff) have more knowledge than all 80 of us combined!

Over the past week, I have been undertaking my Permaculture Design Certificate and have been privileged enough to be taught by the man himself, Bill Mollison! Bill has recently had a stroke and so his lectures have been limited to one session per day, however to hear him speak and to listen his amazing years of knowledge through each story has been fascinating. Most of the lectures have been given by Geoff Lawton, another inspirational person, who was originally taught by Bill also. As a team, Bill and Geoff make a dynamic duo and it truly is a privilege to hear them speak with such passion and wisdom.

While doing the course, my brain has been going into overdrive and it has been reassuring that our farm, which we have informally based on Permaculture principles and modelled on Joel Salatin’s Polyface farms, is on the right track! As time progresses, we will be adding various earthworks to the farm to capture more water to drought proof the property, but also to ensure it stays hydrated, even through long periods of dry. Permaculture earthworks can be described as a sponge, which absorbs a momentous amount of water and releases it slowly through the landscape. Fun times ahead and maybe even a workshop or two!

Broadbeans are going gangbusters!

The downside of the course has been that I have had to be away from the family and the farm for the past week and also the coming week… It is my holiday time now and I was planning on pushing the market garden ahead and continue with the greenhouse… I can’t even get my seedlings started… maybe I could start them here where I am staying for the week and bring them home with me… In any case, the broad beans are now big enough to fend for themselves and looking extremely healthy! The garlic is slowly being taken over by weeds so need to weed and mulch (at least the cockatoos are leaving them alone!) and the lettuce has survived the cockatoo attacks with the netting, but the shade has slowed its growth.

Our new house sheep!

On a final note, I would like to introduce our newest member to the family “Gammy”, a lamb we have been raising because Bowback, it’s mum, kicked her off. She will be our house sheep, taking care of the backyard (saving me from having to mow the weeds/grass) and will also eat the weeds in the market garden area and fertilise at the same time!

Ahhh the joys of farming! I wouldn’t give it up for quids!

No-Dig Potatoes Coming Through!

Both TL and AL have found their favourite seat!

It has been about 8 weeks since I started the no-dig style potato beds and they have started to pop up. I have given them another layer of manure, compost and straw and will now leave them to develop into hopefully, a very large crop of potatoes! This weekend, I put in another two beds, this time a little taller than the previous beds, in the hope that they will 1) settle as the rain hits them and 2) I don’t have to top them up in the coming weeks. These beds are the same length, approx 7mX1m but are about 600mm high. They should settle to about 450-500 high in about a week or so.

2 new beds today. That is a total of 8 beds. By my maths, that makes about 150-160 lineal meters of potatoes!

Potatoes popping through the top of the second helping of manure, compost and straw.

Tomorrow I start a Permaculture Design Certificate course with the man himself, Bill Mollison! This is a very exciting time for me, as although we have designed our farm using permaculture principles, it will be great to see how it can be improved. But on a more significant note, the course then allows me to design and implement so many things at work as well as teach the coming generations of students the importance of a well thought out design and plan for the future! The projects that are happening at the school are absolutely amazing and as momentum builds, more and more people are understanding and embracing the potential of experiential learning as well as starting to change the culture of the school to one that is sustainable!

Life and death on the farm

A beautiful day to be outside working in the market garden. It is always an awesome and inspiring thing being outside, listening to the sounds of nature, the cows mooing, roosters crowing, wind lightly blowing etc… I did however get a little frustrated with all the corellas and cockatoos and galahs. They have caused so much damage to the lettuce seedlings I have put in garlic and broad bean plants. I am up to my 4th batch of lettuce seedlings and today I covered the entire lettuce area with bird netting. A painful job, but I don;t think I could handle seeing the lettuce being ripped up again. The garlic they have left alone since putting up some plastic strips on fishing wire and the broad beans, well, they have taken a hammering, but there are enough there for us and them, so so be it.

The potatoes started popping through the no dig beds and so I put on more manure and straw and re-buried them. Hopefully I didn’t get too enthusiastic, as they are well re-buried. They still should pop through, and continue to develop. Only another 6 beds to go and if I have the energy, another 6 beds!

After a great day of work, I decided to take a break and go down to the dam to catch the elusive trout. The sheep were down in the bottom paddock so I swung around to check on our newest arrivals. We had a ram lamb about three weeks ago and he is going strong, and huge! We also had twins about 5 days ago and unfortunately, I found one under a tree not moving. My only guess is that it did not suckle well enough… no signs of any kind of attack (Bill and Ted have been awesome protecting them all)… unfortunately we did not pick this up soon enough and the little thing died.

So many lessons to be learnt in the joys of new life, but also in the sadness of death.

Everyone is sick, but still smiling… well kinda

So the entire household is sick, started with Kobe-Li, then Ava-Li, then Tano-Li, then Hayley and now me… We all share the love in this family, Hayley hasn’t been able to talk for the last week and a half and the kids all have developed a secondary cough. They are getting better, but it is slow and steady at the moment.

With everyone being a bit yuck, it was great to see the weather turn it on for the weekend. It has been an awesome couple of days, with the sun out and a little – tiny – bit of warmth in the air. I had the Saturday morning rituals, cleaning and baking and then an amazing lunch with Ava-Li outside in the sunshine. Everyone came out and we made up for our winter’s dose of vitamin D in one afternoon! It was great to see the sun again after a gloomy, wet, windy and cold winter. While Ava-Li and Hayley were having a nap, the boys and I went out and checked on the apple orchard. 3 out of the 40 were too far gone to recover – rabbits got to the bark before I could get tree guards on – so out, 2 of them came. I grafted another apple – a mystery one from the Principal of the school I work at, it is meant to be the biggest growing apple tree ever, but not sure the name. Both the boys had a great time walking around checking the trees, learning a heck of a lot about apples, grafting and sap flow!

Today was spent preparing the market garden for the coming season. The weeds had taken over and as much as I would have preferred to hand weed, the job was much too big to do in our current state… so out came Lemon with the rotary hoe attachment and I turned all the weeds into the beds. I will be broad forking these beds when my energy levels are back up, to break-up the soil below the beds and help to bond the two levels together. The beds will get a good dose of animal manure, which along with the weeds and straw mulch, will add a huge amount of minerals and organic matter for the worms to munch on. Speaking of worms, they are everywhere! Hopefully the soil turning does not disturb them too much!

For the past 5 weeks I have been adding one 5mx1m no-dig potato bed to the market garden in preparation for an enormous potato harvest this year. They are growing well (I had a little peak) and by the end of the season, the no-dig manures and mulch would have decomposed right down to a rich, fertile compost/soil to plant the next crop. The first harvest of potatoes should be ready by the end of October, very early November, with a regular supply maturing through the summer and into the autumn. Below are photos of the market garden and the no-dig style potato beds, plenty of straw left over from when the cows were munching (full of earthworms!), potatoes on top, dry straw next and then a good layer of composted horse manure from next door. Once they pop through, more straw and another layer of cow, chicken, sheep and alpaca manure! A great mix!

This is a view of the market garden area with the no-dig potato beds in the foreground.

Decomposed hay and cow manure along with tons of earthworms act as a bed for the seed potatoes to sleep on 🙂

Next layer of well aged straw.

And the next layer for now is the final layer. Well aged horse manure. I will sprinkle rock dust on this layer tomorrow night as well as ash from the fire for a potassium injection.

So at the end of the day, I’m stuffed, the family is feeling slightly better, and yes, still smiling 🙂

Tano-Li flying a kite today in the blustery wind just before lunch.