Hundreds of native tree seedlings, check. Copious quantities of newspaper, check. Bathtub in frame ready to turn into community worm-farm, check. Multiple uteloads of horse-bedding pea-straw, check. Tools, lunch for 50 hungry helpers, fruit trees, vines, potting mix, manures and a ride-on ripper, check. This can only mean one thing: we must be having a Permablitz .
The recent long weekend saw the considerable energy and enthusiasim of over 50 folks explode apon Alexandria Park Community Garden in Sydney. We run our Sydney courses in the same precinct and we've watched this community garden's crew move forward with a bunch of big jobs and features in their garden over the last year. It seemed to us what they needed was a big influx of temporary energy to get over some of the hurdles they faced in establishing and defining their garden so that it could be of maximum benefit to the community, and bring in new members. …
Please join us this coming Monday for an all-out, fabulous explosion which will create biodiversity, edibility and community along the edge of a football field in Alexandria, Sydney. It’s a Permablitz! 10am-3pm on Monday 14th June: everyone’s welcome. Bring your friends, your granny and your gloves. And it’s free! A combined effort by Sydney Permablitz, Alexandria Park Community Garden and Milkwood Permaculture
Quirindi School Garden Permaculture Design by Milkwod Permaculture – larger image here
Here's a design we did a while back for Quirindi Public School Community Garden. Quirindi Public School is the centre of a diverse farming community in a small town in Central West NSW. Their climate is temperate and not dissimilar to Milkwood – heavy frosts in Winter, quite hot in Summer, and rainfall once predictable and now erratic. Quirindi, like much for the Central West, has also been in and out of drought for the past 7 years.
Late last year Quirindi Public School invited Nick along to do a consultancy and design a permaculture community garden and outdoor classroom. Nick took along Milkwood Permaculture interns Stephen Couling and Ko Oishii, this is what they collectively came up with – a design incorporating current and future use, active learning areas, butterfly garden, vegetable beds, rainwater harvesting, community composting and multiple opportunities for a growing community involvement.
We look forward to seeing Quirindi Public School's garden grow, blossom and fruit with many good things.
Milkwood is hosting a screening of new documentary FRESH at 7pm on Friday, May 28th, at Alexandria Park Community Center in Sydney. The screening is free and everyone's welcome. Directions to the venue are here.
Come along and enjoy free organic popcorn as you watch (or perhaps re-watch) one of the best documentaries around on food as we know it and what we can do to reclaim good, clean fair food in the western world today. Following the film will be an open forum on possible strategies for local food systems in the Sydney basin and beyond.
FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing their food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of their agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of all our food and our planet.
Among several main characters, FRESH features urban farmer and activist, Will Allen, the recipient of MacArthur’s 2008 Genius Award; sustainable farmer and entrepreneur, Joel Salatin, made famous by Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma; and supermarket owner, David Ball, challenging the Wal-Mart dominated economy.
This will be the first of a series of film nights we're running at Alexandria Park this winter – it's kindof an off-shoot of the Urban Permaculture Design Certificate we're running at the same venue each weekend. We've got access to some amazing documentaries that offer insights and solution-based approaches to some of our biggest questions and problems in the world today. All screenings are completely free and kids are welcome. We hope to see you there.
A wicking bed is an excellent technique for growing things in environments where water is scarce, and has two main parts. The bottom half is a contained reservoir filled with gravel and water and the top half is filled with soil, mulch and plants. By periodic flooding of the deeper half of the bed, mature plant roots get a big drink. And because it's contained, that water gets a chance to 'wick' upwards into the soil, hydrating the soil of the bed and the smaller roots within. Pretty simple, really, but amazingly effective, very water efficient and ripe for endless variation.
Below is a photo essay outlining the process of creating a wicking bed using everyday tools and materials, which took 5 people about 4 leisurely hours to make. It features the efforts of Milkwood Permaculture's awesome Permaculture Design Certificate students in Alice Springs earlier this year, led by Nick Ritar who also designed this particular wicking bed system..
As part of our skilling-up phase, back in the days before we moved to Milkwood, both Nick and i spent time at various Permaculture farms and properties all over the joint. We learnt to milk beautiful, melting-eyed jersey cows, hack away at spiny amaranth with machetes, shift un-cooperative cell-grazed sheep, make good compost and propagate seedlings.
Designing Permaculture into inner-city environments is, in some ways, taking things to the heart of the matter. Our cities are so often synonymous with waste; wasted water, wasted food, wasted energy. But it doesn't have to be this way – abundance and productivity is entirely possible within city environments – as always, it comes back to good design, and the energy to see things through.
So this Winter we'll be running an Urban Permaculture Design Course which will be quite a treat: a part-time Urban PDC with a 12-day, one day per week format, in the centre of Sydney starting May 29th 2010.
In addition to our standard curriculum, this PDC will provide in-depth focus on Permaculture for cities and urban communities. Organic food production, water harvesting, nutrient cycling, energy, local food systems, patterning and other aspects of Permaculture design will all focus on the urban context.
For further context and hands-on inspiration, we're also including a wide range of amazing site visits including urban backyard and balcony Permaculture systems and some of Sydney's funkiest examples of truly sustainable city homes, plus a bunch of workshops including a full-scale inner-city Permablitz.
Milkwood Permaculture's Nick Ritar will hold the fort, alongside sessions by guest teachers Cam Wilson of Permablitz, Penny Pyett of Permaculture Sydney North, Russ Grayson of Australian Community Gardens Network and Michele Margolis of Transition Marrickville; this PDC might just redefine how you co-exist with your city.
Run over 12 weekends, students can choose to take either the Saturday or the Sunday class. And if anyone needs to swap days for a week, that's no problem.
In keeping with the permaculture ethic of 'fair share', we're also offering substantial discounts to members of permaculture groups, community gardens and other community groups in the Sydney basin. See our Sydney Winter PDC course page for details.
Just a wee heads-up that a most encouraging initiative is being launched in Sydney this coming Saturday 6th Feb. Namely CarriageWorks' Kitchen Garden Project. Another nudge in the direction of local food security. Huzzah!
If you're a Sydneysider you're probably already familiar with CarriageWorks' Saturday farmer's market, which has a darn fine range of yummy regional produce and is fast becoming the biggest farmers market in Sydney. With this Kitchen Garden Project, CarriageWorks are pushing the notion of 'creative sustainability' through a series of events and workshops which I hope will result in more kitchen gardens outside (or inside) more local kitchens.
The launch on Saturday includes talks and stalls from 1pm after the farmers' market and will generally be good fun and a chance to talk about important things like how to grow stuff where you live and the finer points of how to make Kale tasty (there is a way!).
The whole Milkwood family will be there with our bicycle-powered seed ball machine, a bunch of great books on Permaculture and urban farming, Permaculture course information, and many little brown paper bags containing stealth salad seed balls, for you to take away and try a bit of guerilla gardening on your home turf.
Come by and say hello!
A brief but shameless plug for our brand new website over at www.MilkwoodPermaculture.com.au. Over this winter we've been very busy selecting and organising a bunch of great teachers and courses to fill our calendar for Spring 2009 through to Autumn 2010. There's Introductory and also Urban Permaculture courses, Compost Tea workshops, Keyline Design Courses, the full-blown Permaculture Design Certificate course and who knows what else still yet to come.
Oh *and* our courses are FarmReady accredited, so if you're an Australian farmer, land manager or in the family of either, you can do our courses completely free through the FarmReady subsidy scheme. And you even get a refund on travel, accom and childcare. Wow. If I didn't already live here, I'd come here just to attend something. So go on over, have a look at the site and tell us what you think? I think we've even ironed out most of the spelling mistakes now…
Our Permaculture Design Certificate students planting trees on the main swale
'Twas an autumn of harvesting apples, and to a degree, reaping what we had sowed… we may not have brought a crop in at Milkwood, so to speak, but we sure did our Autumn toil.
To summarise the last period of time, Milkwood was awash in farmers, tractors, students, caravans and Keyline Plows. There was much planting of trees and eating of stews, and many, many pots of tea were drunk… a wood-fired shower materialized, a bigger (quite deluxe, really) Milkwood HQ caravan arrived. Landscapes were charted, courses were convened, hillsides were surveyed and many cakes baked…
The cause of all this kerfuffle was, in part, a bunch of courses we ran out of the family woolshed. I'll spare you the details (though they were all really fabulous, exciting and excellent) but suffice to say that they all went very well.
First up was a 3-day Keyline Design Course which was attended by 35 farmers and earthmoving operators from as far north as Maroochydore and as far south as Adelaide… Darren Doherty had them all enthralled regarding the potential of Keyline Design (I think – they looked pretty engrossed), which is a set of design parameters and techniques to hold water in the soil without large-scale, expensive earthworks, by working with the contours of the land. Photos.
Secondly, there was the Permaculture Design Certificate Course – a two-week, live-in, boots-and-all course attended by 15 brave souls from across the land of Oz and also from far flung places such as Vietnam, Japan and the US of A. Darren Doherty taught this one too (with Nick Ritar and Tom Bell contributing sessions) and goodness gracious but he was fine… two weeks of Permaculture Design Theory (supplemented with tree planting, surveying, compost making and propagation), followed by a substantial design exercise. This group took it all in their stride and came out the end of those two weeks far wiser than they went in… and slightly more sunburnt, too. Photos.
Lastly was a 3-Day course called Designing Water into Landscape. This was one we held off-site – Goulburn, in fact… 3 days with both Darren and Geoff Lawton, the affectionately dubbed 'earth surgeons'… and that was something else again.. whew-ee. Great stuff. Photos.
But all seasons have their end (just as well – we were quite tired out by the end of all that). We're settling down for winter here – nearly finished the first half of the Kitchen Garden (stay tuned), propagating, propagating, propagating (just like last year), and wondering if one can plant too many turnips… I hope to be gathering 60% of our food from Milkwood by the end of Winter… hmmm… if only I could graft a green thumb onto my novice digits…