Monday, April 30, 2007

Today was an Excellent Day

Today Di and I got busy preparing stuff for the earthworks which is now happening next Monday. We seriously pruned the oaks above the house so the excavator can dig the diversion drain and access road. We organised heaps, including a certified cable locator who will visit to tell us where the telstra cables are so we don't cut them to shreds by mistake. We went and bought 180 trees - casuarina cunninghamiana x 50, casuarina stricta x 50, blackwood (acacia melanoxylon), several varieties of native legume shrubs, silver wattle (acacia dealbata) and a few other things. Ian Starky of Koorooman nursery just up the road is wonderfully knowledgeable and happy to share. On his advice we're thinking of, for the boundary plantings, sheet mulching with cardboard and then with gravel. We also spent some time thinking design thoughts about the area south of the house, really focusing for the first time on how important that area will be as the initial entry and gathering point for future tours and other visitors. We went into Leongatha and harvested some cardboard and bought some more stakes, nails, dowel for the chicken house entry, an 85 mm openal pocket knife for Di, some drill bits, a washing machine and a stereo. Slowly we're getting organised! Soon we'll even have a camera here so we can post photos and we're borrowing a movie camera to get footage of the earthworks.

Even though we're just getting started, it's nice to be eating from the property. The little quince bore two big quinces yesterday and cooked up they were absolutely divine. We also harvested and ate a fig from the fig Di planted too close to the deck. From the garden we've been eating silver beet, parsley, eggplant, tomato and zucchini. Also been eating rhubarb, apples, and lemons all from on site!

Earthworks delayed

As per the warning of old Bill the farmer, the earthworker we had booked has been delaying his arrival after saying he was quite sure he could be here with a machine on Tuesday. So we called another earthworker named Alan from Gipplsand Excavations and he kindly came out on short notice to take a look yesterday. He was a really nice guy very straight up about when he could have a machine here, and for the same price as the other guy ($110 per hour) could get us a 12-ton excavator with a tilt bucket that will let us dig the swales from the side. So we've switched over to him and moved the earthworks to begin Monday May 7th. Meanwhile Warren the farmer from up the road (Bill's son) has put 150 calves on the block to chew down the grass giving us a better view of the profile of the land for the earthworks. It's amazing the effect 150 calves can have in a few days...

On the fruit front, the existing large apple tree east of the house is bearing heavily - very late in the season. And the experimental cucumber type things we planted below the tennis court are bearing prolifically with no watering our attenion through the end of the dryest summer in a 100 years or whatever it is...

Just walked around the property. The calves ate one of the three surviving casuarinas near the spring. The pipe feeding into the dam was for the first time visible with a flow of 370 ml (the size of the tea cup I was holding!) every 10 seconds (3,200 litres per day or 11 million litres per year) and the central valley flow through culvert was 370 ml every second (32,000 litres per day or 1 million litres per year). Not bad for the end of summer!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Plan

Okay, so we'll get up what's been happening over the last 6 months or so up when we get a moment. But presently we have a 12-ton excavator and then a grader arriving to start work in six days and are pretty focused on that. In a nutshell, we are planning to put in 650 meters of swale, several ponds, an access road, diversion drains, terraces and a few other bits and pieces. Then we'll have the swale mounds hydromulched with a slurry including purslane, rye corn, oat, fenugreek, vetch, medic, clover and much else. The we'll plant a tagasaste every 4 meters along the swales and start planting out the boundaries with casuarina and others. Then we can fence and get our goose system chook system and even our zone one veggie system started. So we are about to radically alter this landscape with some serious reconstructive earth surgey aimed at fast tracking what has for many years been cattle pasture into a permaculture forest that happens to be called the permaculture forest.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Permaculture Forest Blog Launched!

The permaculture forest began with a woman named Di and a rural block of land in South Gippsland, Victoria, Australia. Di purchased the land out of her deep concerns about peak oil and climate change. She wanted to use permaculture to achieve a lifeboat or safe haven where 20 or more people, including her two teenage daughters, could supply the majority of their needs on site. She also wanted to establish a first-rate working example of a permaculture system and ultimately a diverse, abundant and low-maintenance 15-acre forest of food.

From a permaculture perspective the site itself was and remains delicious. Fifteen acres of ex-cattle pasture two thirds of which with a north to north-easterly aspect, a good portion of free-draining mineral-rich volcanic red soi on the higher land and grey clay on the lower, a gentle slope, a great diversity of microclimates and distinct areas, and most importantly water. The property includes two perennial spring-fed streams and an actual spring located at one of the highest points. There is a 2.5 meg dam, and a good deal of uphill catchment as well as scope for channeling in water from Hydes road by which you access the house (this water is currently barreling down the drive straight into the shed). There is an existing house and a copse of mature oak trees south-west of the house, protecting it from the prevailing wind. I don't think we mentioned the tennis court yet, but more on that later.

With help from a team of several designers including herself, Di has not only obtained a permaculture design for the property, but is about to begin its implementation. A bit like Ran Prieur’s land blog (, this blog has been set up as a resource for others with similar aspirations. Read about what we’ve done and learn from our mistakes! We started with a .5 metre contour map with existing features indicated and we've then developed a water design which will go in shortly (will upload these when we get a chance). Think of the above photo as a before photo. For it is all about to change.