Permaculture . . . can we fix it yes we can

“Starting a garden without a design will end in tears as surely as starting a renovation project without a plan. The design should answer questions about sun and shade, wildlife, proximity and access, water, organic matter and nutrient cycling, local seasons, crops, and weather. The answers will be different in every situation but the principles are the same.” Linda Woodrow

By the end of my year of studying Certificate IV Permaculture study via Tafe NSW Digital online I will have created a permaculture design, thus the final get-to-know-you assignment question…

Q. Describe the property you are planning on doing your permaculture design. Are you doing doing a rural or an urban design?

Our 1930’s house

I’m planning on doing an urban permaculture design; applying it to our 822 sqm residential block in the hinterland village of Taylors Arm located in the Nambucca Valley on the Mid North/Coffs Coast of NSW.

We have water storage but we need rain

Our three-bedroom house was constructed in the 1930’s of asbestos fibro, corrugated iron roof, with wide verandahs oriented north-east, 1980’s HardiPlank weatherboard addition, and recent garage and two carports.

Bee and butterfly friendly Velvet Groundsel and some potted plants

The yard is planted with several existing gardens and a variety of trees and shrubs: a mixture of inherited planting; our own, low maintenance bird-bee-butterfly habitat intended to survive our absence and passively cool the house; the remainder is mowed grass.

Out the back

The property has a north east aspect and the block slopes gently down to the north west.

Bureau of Meteorology Climate Zone: Subtropical, distinctly dry winter.

Australia Building Codes Board Climate Zone: 2, warm humid summer, mild winter.

Köppen Climate Classification: Cfa – humid subtropical.

The native soil profile of the block comprises a significant C horizon predominantly ridge gravel, B horizon of clay, with a thin A horizon and a bare O horizon

Our water supply comes via the sky and all roof areas into 4 rainwater tanks holding approximately 36000 litres/8000 gallons, although in a water emergency we have infrastructure to pump from the adjacent river via a neighbour’s line.

Caged vegetable garden

Our water use is conservative and we reuse as much water as we practically can: toilet, bathroom sink and shower waste water is directed into a septic tank; an occasionally-used bathtub runs into the front garden, washing machine water is hooked up to a hose and sprinkler in the front yard; kitchen sink water is diverted into two 20 litre containers used daily to hand water the vegetable and herb garden.

Hand watering

When we returned after our 2016 travels to live here permanently, we built a 28 sqm vegetable garden cage in the backyard -because dog, possums, bandicoots, birds- with inground planting areas and raised beds which were filled with media we created by combining soil from the neighbouring vacant field, straw, newspaper, Dinofert Organic Fertiliser and composted organic material.

Common area

In 2017 we began sharing a flock of chickens with our neighbour. Their coop is in the back corner of her yard, which we access via a common area at the rear of the properties where we have also built a compost pile, maintain an intentionally biodiverse weedy-scrubby bird-bee-butterfly belt as well as mowed grass area which gives us access to the nearby churchyard where I collect straw for the chicken coop after its grass has been slashed.

Gathering straw

Recently we constructed from recycled materials a compact glass house/potting shed so I have a place to start seedlings, propagate and grow year-round.

Glasshouse-potting shed

“Permaculture is that art of the possible.”
~Graham Bell, ‘The Permaculture Garden”

Your thoughts? Comments welcome.


20 thoughts on “Permaculture . . . can we fix it yes we can

  1. One of my most enjoyable experiences of seeing permaculture as a working, living system was visiting David Holmgren’s Melliodora property near Hepburn Springs in Victoria. Everything was integrated, and created from the poor, blackberry-infested dirt up. You have a much more promising place to start your adventure from! One of my favourite growing ‘tools’ was a galvanised dustbin filled with sheep poo, chook poo, comfrey, worm castings and tea, nettles and other goodies, and allow to cook and brew in the sun before being dipped into regularly and massively diluted to feed the vegies and fruit trees.

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    1. I would love to visit Melliodora! But I do have a couple of permaculture property visits closer to home planned up on the north coast, to see it, a little larger in scale, in action.
      Also planned is compost tea, years ago I mentally bookmarked that you have a wonderful recipe!

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        1. I hadn’t heard of them but I will look into visiting. We have family-friends nearby at Glenreagh. P.S. I’ve saved the link but removed it from your comment as it was opening as a live Issue mag and throwing out the thread. Thanks so much for the heads up that they’re nearby.

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        2. I used this bit of info in an assignment yesterday, as a local permaculture reference. Very useful thank you. Synchronicity Farm looks great, but my google search results seem to indicate Eden Farms is no longer, at least by that name.

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        3. You’re right: I dug a bit further, and they went into liquidation. Sad. There’s a book about who they were and what they were trying to do. It’s called Choosing Eden by Adrienne Langman. I think their main focus was avoiding some of the implications of Peak Oil by living more sustainably.

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  2. It’s lovely to see more of your landscape and house in these photos. Having a question like this is great, forcing you to document what is, in order to imagine what could be. Maybe ďescribe more fully your yards in terms of front, back, shaded, full sun, windy and infrastructure, such as tge sheds or walls that might enable planting that requires wind and harsh sun protection or support for climbers.
    I was interested reading about the common areas. Are there many about the town that might be useful for community composting? (Not relevant to your question here). Also, do you have a local landcare group? Looking forward to the next installment. Greetings from a tropical garden, Bali.

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    1. A dry landscape at the moment, however some rain predicted next week, fingers crossed. Thank you… very useful suggestions, which I can incorporate into this weeks assignment when I interview my client, who -officially- is the G.O.
      The common area behind the residence is now common by loose arrangement. Historically it was a lane for rear access collection of dunny cans. Now belongs to the pub which doesn’t use it. Common composting – no, although the cow manure comes from our neighbour’s dad’s cows. Landcare -yes, and Rivercare, several groups around.
      All your tropical Bali garden offerings are welcome 🌞

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  3. I loved getting a tour of the garden too. You have done so much in the time you have been there. I love the idea of sharing space and chickens with the neighbours. A neighbour, who lives in a flat, shares her kitchen scraps with us. She leaves them by the front door, and when I return her container I pop in silverbeet leaves or other things that are growing. Maybe you could have a bucket for veggie scraps by the letter box?
    I agree with Francesca that more detail about shade, prevailing wind, troublesome spots would add to the assignment, and help you document your plot.

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    1. It was well time I reciprocated… I love getting a virtual tour of your garden. It’s wonderful that you and your neighbour have a scrap/produce swap arrangement. I think many people here do their own compost thing… we swap many things but not scraps… yet. Yes, I’ve made a note to add troublesome spots to this assignment… after living here for a while we tend to take it is what it is for granted.

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  4. Can’t comment on the permaculture aspect but loved the tour. This is the first time I’ve seen what the house actually looks like and it’s lovely. I wonder if you could do a map of the property showing what is and where it is etc? Also a question about pumping water from the river. Is that just for when you run out of water or is it for fighting bushfires?

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    1. Thank you. A map of the property will be part of the design process. At the moment the option of pumping from the river is reserved for if we had a very long period of no rain. Siunds counterintuitive, as the river would be also low. But the water woild be good enough for showerimg, washing, flushing toilets. We always keep the biggest tank in reserve for drinking water, and worst comes to worst house fire. But river water could be used for fighting fires. The threat of bushfire here right in the village is less, but there is always risk of surrounding of a large uncontained bushfire spreading, and grass fires, already in the past couple of weeks there have been a few nearby, the land and weather conditons so dry.

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      1. That makes sense. I’ve been pumping some of my underground tank water out onto the garden to make some space for fresh water before summer. The tank water does get a bit acidic so I’m pumping it away from plantings so it can soak in without doing major damage, except perhaps to the weeds. 🙂
        I’ve heard that it’s very dry. Is that because you’re subtropical – i.e. get rain in summer rather than winter?

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        1. I think it’s dry mostly everywhere. Usually we get some winter rains in the form of East Coast Lows, as well as summer when it’s usually in the form of storms but the last couple not so much of either.

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        2. Yeah, been reading/hearing about the ‘green drought’ and I can sort of understand it. We’ve been getting rain, but stick a spade in the ground and the moisture stops after the two couple of inches. Underneath it’s bone dry. :/

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  5. I do not know much about permaculture, possibly because it is not practiced much in this region of the US. West coast agricultural areas seem to dabble in it more than anywhere in our country, though you will find a lone Midwesterner or two that are attracting a lot of attention at attempting this lifestyle, and I believe they are gaining followers and a crowd of interested folks. I am fascinated by the information in this post, and your photographs really help me understand how it could be for us too… with a lot of work and planning. In our late 50’s, it seems overwhelming sometimes, to change a way of life. Little by little Forrest and I have been making changes that feel good, and we’re very mindful of decisions regarding the environment and the effects on wildlife. We can always take it a step further, with each step we take. I know I will be learning much here… I am hungry and ready to study!

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    1. Thank you. I’m really enjoying learning too, researching and writing about things I’m interested in makes it so much easier to put in the hours. And if others are interested that makes it even better, I enjoy sharing the info and resources, which wonderfully is an inherent part of the shift of permaculture… personal, local, global.

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