Getting organised has been an ongoing process at Milkwood – from planning our planting cycles for our kitchen garden to trying to figure out how to build that cottage of ours (getting there!). To keep track of everything that’s going on we use a combo of online organisational gizmos, whiteboards, luck, guesswork and of course, my ol’ faithful, hardcopy diary. And if i had to pare everything back to one organizational tool, it would be my diary – it doesn’t need plugging in and even better i can tuck it under my arm, throw it in a wheelbarrow or use as a flower press for strange unidentified clover-like plants, if needed.
Fissured foodstuffs – image by Tom Fox
One of the few things that makes me sometimes long for the city is to be part of the kerbside revolution that’s happening here, there and everywhere. Every time i walk past an inner-city grass verge that’s sprouting tomatoes or a roundabout which has seen a bit of guerrilla gardening action I breathe a little sigh of relief, because I feel like I can smell the beginnings of that sweetest of ferments in the air: it’s the beginnings of food security in the hands of people, not supermarkets.
In the last several years, community gardening has taken on new significance throughout the western world. It seems nearly every city now has some sort of kerbside vegetable gardening initiative, victory garden schemes, community gardens, you name it. And hooray to that – we need any and all of these initiatives. We need them because we all need to get more deeply involved in our own food security. We also all need them to get more deeply involved in our community if we’re going to build true resilience in our world over the next number of decades, and gardening is a great way to start. Bring on the edible landscapes…
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…
Water woz ere. A clearly hydrated landscape thanks to good hydrological design at Strathcona Community Garden, Vancouver Canada
We’re all becoming acutely aware of the value of water. And so we should, as water’s role in our lives and in the planets’ cycles cannot really be understated. When designing and planning a Permaculture system, it’s top of the list – the order goes: Water, Access, Structure. Design and sort out your water catchments and systems before you design anything else. Give them priority. Water is not an optional extra. Without water, you’re stuffed.
Our first Geodesic Chook Dome with Jesha the Blue Heeler inspecting the chooks’ progress. The blue twine tying each side of the door to the dome has now been updated to a chain attached to either side, which clasps in the middle. The door hinges along the bottom for extra security from foxes etc.
Maybe you’re already familiar with that classic Permaculture tool known as the Chicken Tractor / Chook Dome system. No? Awright – in a nutshell: In this context, a Chicken Tractor is any structure that can be moved from place to place in a garden with a bunch of chickens housed in it. The chickens living in the tractor do what chickens are so good at: scratching up the soil and turning it over, making short work of any greenstuff to be found, and spreading their manure the length and breadth of the space available to them (not to mention producing eggs and more chickens).
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond – Vol I & II by Brad Landcaster
Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond is a much awarded series of titles out of the USA by Brad Landcaster. Brad’s a Permie who has worked extensively in grassroots greywater re-use and has also worked on many community projects in both developing and developed nations in the realms of rainwater harvesting systems.
Volume I focuses on designing and implementing rainwater harvesting systems for domestic, rural and community use, with a wide range of examples form various countries. Drylands processes are emphasized, but there’s plenty of other examples and the techniques hold true for any biosphere. It’s a great overview of the basics of rainwater harvesting for a range of environments, and full of tips and tricks for designing a complete system, or for the 1% rule of small, slow solutions
Plan for our Rocket-Powered hot water system for the Basecamp shower + bath block
Spending all your day gathering sticks for a hot shower is just no fun. No fun at all. Mind you, anything that results in a hot shower (or even better, a hot bath) has to be considered a priority at Milkwood. So when Nick finished converting the old ‘Sunbeam Sheep Shower’ structure (basically a new-fangled sheepdip) to a shower block with a little wood-fired, home-made firebox thingamy to heat the water for the shower and the bath, that’s what we did. Lots of stick-gathering.
Rocket Mass Heaters – Superefficient wood stoves YOU can build (and snuggle up to) Ianto Evans & Leslie Jackson
This is a great little book, and one that we used as inspiration (and practical advice) when building our Rocket-Powered Shower at Basecamp. It’s practical, straight-forward, and explains the premise and how-to of the concept clearly… and what a funky concept it is! We look forward to many future Rocket Stove projects… the possibilities are just about endless. This title is a darn good read for anyone interested in efficient, ethical and responsible heating, cooking or drying techniques.
Where to get a copy:
The harvest: one baby boy and some scarlet runner beans
You could be forgiven for thinking that things have been somewhat quiet on the Milkwood front of late. But it is not so! 'Tis only that the combination of Permaculture courses, cottage building and baby-making (the gestation part and the aftermath, i mean) has taken up every waking moment for the last little while.
We have been given the sage but belated advice recently to "never combine owner-building and childbirth" – and I can currently attest that the two are not the sweetest of bedfellows. However, this is where we are at. So a quick update on things at Milkwood:
Ashar Fox arrived on the Ides of March to delight and terrify us with his overwhelming yet beautiful presence. Many Permaculture courses were conducted, in Sydney and in Bathurst, and much fun was had. Basecamp got a rocket-powered bath (more on that shortly), and the potatoes were harvested. They did well, but not nearly as well as the Jerusalem Artichokes. We learned that flat-leaf parsley can be your main green, and take the place of spinach in most dishes. We came across a micro-bat nestling in a Drizabone overcoat, and alternately fried and then froze at Basecamp, dreaming of an insulated, passive-solar cottage that will soon rise from the clay on Milkwood (more on that shortly too).
Basecamp gardens in full flight, drip-fed by drying nappies
Meanwhile in the world beyond Milkwood, things seem to be every which-way. The newspapers and websites we read seem full of either doom-and-gloom or paint-your-world-green-and-it-will-be-fine… not much of a choice, really – however, we did recently come across this article by Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian which, if not offering a way out of the woods, at least hit the crux of the manner on the head with a small silver hammer. Not particularly cheerful reading, but at least it made us feel somewhat clarified on certain things.
The new Grand Narrative will indeed emerge, methinks. And perhaps we could nudge it along a bit by actively building resilient communities and employing good design principles in the structures we build; be they physical, organic or invisible. And by eating more flat-leaf parseley. And then a bit more. Because the darn stuff is not only high in minerals, its also rampant, frost-proof and unstoppable. Want some? I could probably post you a posy…
Permaculture gardening in full flight – Glover St Community garden, Sydney NSW
Curiouser and curiouser. Recently I attempted to write a ‘Permaculture in a nutshell’ type affair for SuperLiving Magazine – which I assume is a publication for, um, people who like reading about superannuation. Or their lack thereof, given recent global developments. This was a slightly strange commission, as I felt it unwise to make too many jokes about other, more preferable forms of ‘natural capital’ and ‘nest eggs’ – or allude to the concept of not poo-ing in your drinking water and so forth. I also held back on how I felt that everyone should really get together and plant an orchard and a nut grove right now if they really wanted some long-term investments, rather that fiddling with their stocks. However, I managed to restrain myself and here’s what I wrote:
Basecamp gardens plan – click for enlargement. As for my illustration skills, that’s what happens when you spend your life on a laptop – you draw like a 12 year old…
Planning, making and planting the gardens around Bascamp has become one of my favourite parts of the week, and we are finally starting to feast on the results! I really cannot believe that i didn’t garden for the first 30 years of my mishappen (but oh-so very full) life… what was i thinking? This is great! And you can eat it! Yum.
“The Transition Handbook: From oil dependency to local resilience” – front cover
The reason I am brandishing this book about at the moment is *not* because it crushes the reader with an avalanche of undeniable evidence. I feel that we’ve all been beaten about the head a fair bit with how the media portrays Peak-Oil and our society’s utter and complete dependence upon this black sauce. Not to mention Global Warming. And/or a potent combination of the two. It’s enough to make you go and find a large rock to wedge yourself beneath.
The reason I am brandishing this book about at the moment *is* because it is a template for community-level solutions. It ain’t a call to run for the hills, nor is it a treatise on how to greenify your life. This book describes (and very well, I think) possible ways to set up structures for community awareness, organization and implementation of action that will make a community more resilient to massive change.
How good are these? You probably don’t know, so I’ll tell you – they’re great! Oh and though this looks like a shameless plug saying, basically, *buy stuff*, I’m afraid I have to mention it because they really are splendid. And really, how many other 2009 diaries will you find that contain the gruff but pertinent quote:
“there are two sorts of people in this world – those who poo in drinking water, and those who don’t…”
Ok, a little background… the 2009 Permaculture Diary + Calendar have been put together by Michele Margolis + David Arnold over the last 6 months or so. During this time, they invited contributions from people + groups all over to contribute projects and images for the two publications. I recently bought one of each to see how they turned out, and they are really, really good.