“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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Permaculture is that art of the possible.”
~Graham Bell, ‘The Permaculture Garden”
What do you think? Thoughts and suggestions welcome.
Even studying online, students get to answer the usual get-to-know-you classroom questions.
Q. What you want to achieve by doing this course?
Initially, from this course I want to achieve: greater familiarity and understanding about permaculture; how to observe; some proficiency in permaculture design; how to promote and apply permaculture ethics and principles personally, locally and globally.
One of the first of Bill Mollison’s key insights I read was:
“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action…”
Which speaks to a bothersome personal consideration… pragmatic motivation behind our move from city working life to a simple, creative rural village lifestyle: health. Aged in our mid 50’s and mid 60’s respectively both myself and G.O. husband have orthopaedic issues which limit the type & duration of physical activities we comfortably manage. We do what we want to do but we need to work smarter not harder.
Practically, from this course I would like achieve an improvement to our property’s water strategy, accomplish more productive use of the property, and ultimately realise a permaculture design across the entire property.
Since 2011 I’ve been utilising various social media platforms; a member of online, blogging, Instagram and Facebook communities, sharing thoughts, dreams, ideas, information, inspiration and our journey. The manifesto of my personal blog @daleleelife101 is Live Simple Home Made Grown Local Creative Better.
A long-time supporter of local and farmers markets, after considerable deliberation whether to participate in a selling capacity while despairing of hyper-consumerism, I’ve recently decided to take @daleleelife101 into the real world in the form of a much needed stallholder at our local village markets, primarily to support the community but also as a tangible means to walk my talk… I would like to achieve from this course a productive permaculture garden that contributes useful and inspirational garden produce and seeds excess to our household needs.
Personally, from this course I would like to expand my scope, to become a permaculture advocate.
Foremost, by studying and adopting permaculture practices I aim to follow Mahatma Gandhi’s advice: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
“If you give up on trying to change larger structures and just go off on what some would say is a personal indulgence or being a survivalist, it can be seen as incredibly negative or pessimistic. But the other way to think of it is this: through manifesting the way we live and acting as if it’s normal, you’re defending yourself against depression and dysfunction, but you’re also providing a model that others can copy. And that is absolutely about bringing large-scale change…” is reassuring testimony from David Holmgren.
What have you achieved, or do you hope to achieve through permaculture?
Before I committed to my year of online Certificate IV Permaculture study via Tafe NSW Digital, permaculture and I had a getting-to-know-you period thanks to a wide selection of freely shared online resources.
Formidable Vegetable (check out their music clips on YouTube)
Wiki Who’s Who
Other resources in no particular order…
“Sitting at our back doorsteps, all we need to live a good life lies about us. Sun, wind, people, buildings, stones, sea, birds and plants surround us. Cooperation with all these things brings harmony, opposition to them brings disaster and chaos.” ― Bill Mollison,
Disclaimer: daleleelife101.blog is a personal blog. Where I share resources and links I’m doing so subjectively, rather than as endorsement, and I receive no cash or kind benefits from doing so. Any material contained in this blog has been prepared without taking into account the reader’s objectives, situation or needs but with the best of intentions to entertain. Before acting on any material in this blog I recommend the reader consider whether it is appropriate for the reader’s particular circumstances. I do not accept liability for any errors, omissions or inclusions in the contents. If this blog contains reference to anything at all, I recommend the reader take into account their own thoughts, feelings & all possible outcomes before making any decisions or taking any actions, deliberate or unintentional, as a result of reading this blog.
What are some great permaculture resources you’ve found?
What is permaculture, you ask, as I did and found out it wasn’t what I thought it was, but more.
Permaculture is a word originally coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the mid 1970’s to describe an “integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man.” ~ holmgren.com.au
However, befittingly, permaculture and therefore the definition of what it is, is ever evolving.
A fortnight ago I began my year of online Certificate IV Permaculture study via Tafe NSW Digital. Studying online, I discovered, involves a lot of writing. Fortunately, I like writing, and it’s one of the things I missed having time to do over the past couple of years while I commuted to and attended face-to-face horticulture classes at Tafe NSW. During that time I shared snippets of my horticulture studies experience pictorially via daily Instagram posts.
This year of study, I think, might lend itself to some blog posts… if you would like to follow my permaculture journey.
The first get-to-know-you assignment question…
Q. What attracts you to permaculture? You can also mention how you found out about permaculture and what permaculture experience you have had if you like.
A. After living and working fulltime in Sydney for the decade it took us -husband and me- to be financially prepared, living as sustainably as you can in a rented one bedroom apartment in a concrete neighbourhood immediately adjacent to a train line in the inner-west outskirts of the inner-city 2.5 kms from the CBD… keeping the faith by diligently supporting farmers markets and practising living lightly, connecting with and being informed and inspired by many like-minded people, travelling back and forth -1000 km roundtrip- on public holiday long weekends and summer vacations to our small residential property in a rural village on the Mid North/Coffs Coast… three and a half years ago we tree-changed to live there fulltime with the intention of being as self-reliant as possible.
After taking a holiday break when we travelled around Australia in 2016, I began studying fulltime in 2017 while looking for a new direction; following a dream to live simply, creatively, have a garden, and study horticulture but unsure where the direction would lead me.
I completed Certificate II Horticulture in June 2019, Certificate III Production Horticulture in 2018 and Certificate III Horticulture in 2017 at Tafe NSW, Coffs Harbour Education Campus.
A long-time follower of online media: websites; e-newsletters; social media; any sort of information and communication, I had gleaned a perception of commodified – buy this book, pay to attend that course- permaculture… somewhat misconstrued as it turns out.
The actuality of permaculture as a philosophy and available every-person liveable culture became apparent after not too much research when a deeper interest was piqued upon serendipitous discovery of its offering as a Tafe NSW online course; the list of course units hinting there was more to permaculture than I had believed… beginning with design.
What I discovered was both broader and more nuanced than I had understood before my further reading revealed permaculture’s concertina-like scope confers it traction in every context of day-to-day life, and the personal revelation that permaculture is holistic and inclusive of what I had considered were my assorted interests – environmental sustainability & stewardship, resource and land conservation, regenerative horticulture & agriculture, organics, biodynamics, gardening, living sustainably, local community- but offers much more: not a counterculture but an egalitarian toolkit.
“One of the most important things about permaculture is that it is founded on a series of principles that can be applied to any circumstance—agriculture, urban design, or the art of living. The core of the principles is the working relationships and connections between all things.”
― Juliana Birnbaum Fox, Sustainable Revolution: Permaculture in Ecovillages, Urban Farms, and Communities Worldwide
What attracts you to permaculture?
I’m preparing to launch @daleleelife101 -and myself- as a stallholder into the world of local markets. A long-term patron of local markets… and not so local… we visited our fair share of markets when we travelled around Australia in 2016… for years I have bored the G.O. witless with my to-ing and fro-ing on the possibility of realising my dream of having my own stall. On the one hand there is -I believe- too much gratuitous consumer stuff being thrust at us these days. On the other hand, I derive great satisfaction from creating simple inexpensive household and personal products. Finally it came down to monkey see monkey do: I hope to inspire others with my manifesto… #LiveSimpleHomeMadeGrownLocalCreativeBetter.
As soon as we tree-changed from city to country three and a half years ago I began working on our mission statement to… “follow our dream of living simply and creatively” by making as many food, household and personal items as my time and talents allow… simple seasonal condiments and preserves, flavoured salts, dried herbs, tea, cleaning products, deodorant, fragrance… some of which as well as plants and seeds will translate to a market stall, and hopefully -time and talent allowing- I’ll be inspired to try my hand at some new creative projects.
After realising another dream -studying Horticulture at Tafe NSW which involved me driving 160 km roundtrip to and from Coffs Harbour twice a week for two and a half years during semester time- I’ve turned my focus to home, studying Certificate IV Permaculture via Tafe NSW Digital… a commitment of additional course hours but no commute, hopefully scope for further creativity.
A multitude of ideas and options crisscross my mind but I keep returning to the intention… keep it real. Other than investing in a small selection of beautiful and reusable amber glass bottles all other bottles and jars are recycled as well as reusable, keeping plastic as much as possible to a minimum.
After I complete a Food Safety Supervision training course in early August, my plan is to begin with the next local Taylors Arm markets, held our lovely old village hall. I’ve persuaded -I hope- a couple of neighbours -a baker and a maker- and maybe the G.O. to have a go as well. Part of the motivation that finally prompted me to act is my wish for a successful & regular village market. More stallholders are needed… be the change you want to see in your community.
“Don’t underestimate the power of your vision to change the world. Whether that world is your office, your community, an industry or a global movement, you need to have a core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally change the paradigm or way of thinking about problems.” Leroy Hood
“Village life gently swirled around them, with the perpetual ebb and flow of people, scurrying in every direction. The village was a living, organic entity, with blood flowing through its veins, and with a definite pulse and heartbeat. It had its own distinct personality and its own dark caustic humour, and was constantly processing and regurgitating information through its winding, meandering streets.”
While my daleleelife101.blog has been somnolent I have been gently expunging from my self any disquiet lingering from a bout of self-imposed obligation that in order to be part of the blog-world I must write something… anything… on a regular basis. Although possibly blog-worthy thoughts -and some words- came, they never fell into place at the quite the right time.
However, remaining an interested blog follower, reader and commenter; perceiving winds of change I wonder might I have been an early adopter in a drift -at least among some of us who have personal rather than commercial blogs- away from obligatory posting and commenting to a kinder life-centred approach. And so, feeling absolved and a lot more relaxed, a few words – enough- have come just in time to write a footnote for 2018.
Similar in many ways to 2017, 2018 has been a productive year. Literally, because I followed my first year of Horticulture study at Tafe with a more hands-on focus year of Production Horticulture study. Don’t ask me why… the best answer I could supply is my brain enjoys absorbing the subject matter and my body appreciates applying it in outdoor environs despite sometimes being a bit worse for wear afterwards; an antidote to many years of clerkish work-life indoors.
Beyond our residential home garden situation I’m unlikely to apply my horticultural knowhow, such as it is -conversational rather than expert- although given the opportunity I’d continue that field of study when the next level course -currently under development- becomes available at Coffs Harbour Tafe where I was studying.
During 2018 an itch of creativity bade me explore beyond my customary endeavours. In November I completed a six-week MOOC, NHI101x: Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101 via the University of Newcastle and edX. The same creative urge led me to take up the opportunity to study Photography and Photo Imaging with Leo Meier at my local Macksville Tafe campus in 2019… somewhat befitting as I spent much of the horticulture course time taking and Instagramming photographs.
2018 has been significant for us. This year is our third since treechanging from city working life to a differently natured but equally busy life in a country village. If there was going to be a tipping point, this year was going to be it.
Life isn’t always easy or perfect. Some of our physical considerations we thought would improve when we gave up paid work in the city, persist… turns out age catches up with us too. Accommodating the G.O.’s tinnitus, osteoarthritis and lingering occupational injuries is an ongoing health & lifestyle challenge for us both; my MiL now aged 85 lives independently with our support; and my Dad’s health is not great but, as they say, we are all “above the dirt”.
Practically -and fortunately- we allowed for wildcards and learning curves in the many years of planning and preparation towards the type of lifestyle we aimed for, realistically matched our aspirations to our finances, and factored in contingencies.
We revel that we backed ourselves, are doing it even if it’s not exactly what we imagined [what ever is?], living the simple life we dreamed of, worked towards, and arrived at. We derive a great deal of satisfaction from shedding our old life and beginning anew we are proceeding successfully, getting better at living well with what we have, do and make of it. We’re still here, loving our life more than ever.
“…in repairing the object you really ended up loving it more, because you now knew its eagerness to be reassembled, and in running a fingertip over its surface you alone could feel its many cracks – a bond stronger than mere possession.” Nicholson Baker, Room Temperature
I’m a devotee of the Japanese term wabi-sabi which according to the Collins Dictionary means “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay” and has come into common usage, it certainly resonates with us.
Production Horticulture: From
irritation irrigation repairs to riding around a blueberry farm in golf carts, to biodynamics, to 150 kilogram garlic harvest and everything in between with a great team.
Dabbling in design: Photo shoot, corflute signs, business cards, website, Facebook and Instagram profiles for TA Timber.
What works for us? Our mantra… live simple home made grown local creative better. Clockwise from top left: Flowers and leaves prevail amongst vegetables in our home garden. Trying it… turmeric tincture might be a wonder cure for osteoarthritis. Diesel is the master of life-life balance. As are the chooks. It all comes together on a plate.
“Get rid of all that is unnecessary. Wabi-sabi means treading lightly on the planet and knowing how to appreciate whatever is encountered, no matter how trifling, whenever it is encountered. […] In other words, wabi-sabi tells us to stop our preoccupation with success–wealth, status, power, and luxury–and enjoy the unencumbered life. Obviously, leading the simple wabi-sabi life requires some effort and will and also some tough decisions. Wabi-sabi acknowledges that just as it is important to know when to make choices, it is also important to know when not to make choices: to let things be. Even at the most austere level of material existence, we still live in a world of things. Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things.” Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers
For glimpses of our everyday life you can follow me on Instagram @ daleleelife101 and on Facebook @ daleleelife101.blog.
“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
― T.S. Eliot
Wishing you love and light for 2019.
An ordinary life… but a good life. Albeit -after 2 and a half years- still sans the routine and spare time I anticipated went hand-in-hand with tree-seachange lifestyle.
Our ordinary encompasses variously the housekeeping of life: mundane – the G.O. continues to wrangle osteoarthritis; necessary – assisting my MiL to live independently; and inevitable – ongoing concern around my Dad’s ill-health.
Too much time away from the blogosphere brings with it overthinking and inevitable crisis of confidence… is this ordinary life too simple to translate into a blog post, of little interest to those who already do what I do & know what I am only just learning, of no interest to others who never will, too irregular in its missives to appeal?
And yet my fingers yearn to tap a keyboard and my mind constructs narratives, some of which find themselves accompanying my ad hoc day-to-day offerings via the convenience of Instagram.
There, perhaps, lies a possibility of sorts, laid out in snapshots which although intersowed with continuing horticultural studies evidence a focus on food. Allowed the opportunity, kitchen witchery has become an avocation… fulfilment of an urge to apply the fascination of alchemy to the everyday, augmenting our philosophy of live simple home made grown local creative better.
A philosophy which has crafted an extraordinary everyday that bears little resemblance to the retirement for which it is all too often misconstrued. It is, in fact, a full-time endeavour but wondrously rewarding.
“And while it takes courage to achieve greatness, it takes more courage to find fulfillment in being ordinary. For the joys that last have little relationship to achievement, to standing one step higher on the victory platform. What is the adventure in being ordinary? It is daring to love just for the pleasure of giving it away. It is venturing to give new life and to nurture it to maturity. It is working hard for the pure joy of being tired at the end of the day. It is caring and sharing and giving and loving…” ~ Marilyn Thomsen
I’ve arrived at the end of my year of Horticulture study greatly wiser, learning a lot… enough to understand there is so much more I do not know. However, among many useful skills I acquired the aptitude to research and find answers within the horticultural domain.
Professionally, as well as actually obtaining a qualification as a horticulturist and the starting point of a knowledge base, the most rewarding aspect was that I began to think like a horticulturist with confidence to look further, know who to ask or where to obtain more information.
Personally, I had a wonderful year. I enjoyed exercising my brain via processing new data. I met and spent time with a diverse & entertaining group of fellow students, talented teachers with impressive industry expertise, and found new community in the horticultural realm.
Some of the metamorphosis was tangible. For the first half of the year I showed up at class in versions of my everyday attire until mid-year when I knew this was a way of life to which I’d decided to commit, demonstrably in the form of purchasing a pair of steel cap work boots, now my go-to footwear paired with a black t-shirt and blue denim jeans, quite different to my city corporate legal wardrobe pre-2016.
If you’re wondering What Next? I was too. The answer became apparent as the year progressed. More of The Same. The more I learn the more I realise how much more there is to learn. It takes time to create a muscle memory bank, a knowledge reference base that is habitual & reflexive when called upon.
For 2018 I’ve enrolled for another year at Tafe studying Production Horticulture, with a balance of theory and appealing practical aspects growing crops such as garlic and ginger in the Tafe agricultural plot.
“Plant dreams, pull weeds & grow a happy life.” Anais Lee
Wishing you love and light for the festive season. Thank you for your blogging company during 2017. Day-to-day life has been pleasantly busy and not all as I’d envisaged prior to our sea-tree change in late 2015 but at the moment the balance works for me, and I’m happy with the juggling act that it is.
For glimpses of our everyday life you can see my Instagram snapshots on the right (hover cursor over the pics for the captions) or if you’re an Instagrammer you can follow me at daleleelife101.
My Horticulture Certificate 3 year in pictures…
In addition to Horticulture Certificate 3, I did a couple of complementary short courses. SafeWork NSW National WHS General Construction Induction Training (White Card) and…
It’s amazing how much you can accomplish in a year via subsidised education fees – my fee spend was $340, plus petrol money and my time.
Hello from mid-semester holidays.
My year of studying Horticulture at Tafe is hurtling along. One more term -8 weeks- until I complete Certificate 3, during which time I need to decide what to study next year… Too much of a good thing is wonderful! Despite more than a few aaarrrghhh I’m never going to meet this study-assignment deadline moments, I love being a face-to-face student, fortunate to find myself in the company of interesting & interested adult learners and talented teachers in an environment encompassing pleasant campus grounds, greenhouses and classrooms.
Day-to-day life continues to be a work in progress. The G.O. and I regularly marvel that we are still refining -but at least improving- the approach to and execution of our #lessismorelife. Although reconciled that many of my pastimes remain in limbo currently usurped by study and [often somewhat pared back] real life, as well as studying I continue to work at crafting a lifestyle which gives more attention to daleleelife101’s social media presence as well as recreational reading, writing and better than ad hoc visits across the blogging community. I have much to show & tell but coalescing it into shareable form remains an elusive art.
On the home-front we have been mostly focussed on the garden, necessarily. We’re two days into October and rain is falling for the first time since our early winter drenching courtesy of Cyclone Debbie in mid-June. When your household relies solely on rainwater tanks, almost 4 months with no rain feels like a very looooong time.
Some time ago when it became apparent record dry & hot temperatures and the forecast lack of precipitation was ongoing we implemented further water conservation measures, including harvesting kitchen sink water to keep the garden alive. In the midst of a dry winter and beginning to spring it has rewarded us with small pleasures.
“… real happiness isn’t something large and looming on the horizon ahead, but something small, numerous and already here. The smile of someone you love. A decent breakfast. The warm sunset. Your little everyday joys all lined up in a row.” ~ Buried Light, Beau Taplin