How to make Compost: Pt.1

Compost is so good, and so essential to the establishment of any system. Balcony garden, a big kitchen garden, or just the pot-plants. Surprisingly, despite being such a benchmark of any system that involved growing stuff, it can be quite daunting to make… even tho everything you need is already there, around you, begging to be transformed, with a bit of knowledge and elbow-grease, into kick-arse super-duper soil with added flavours…

Baby birds in the Loquat tree


baby wattlebird


The Loquat tree next door at Kirwin is a mighty beast – and it is much beloved by many of the birds hereabouts. Its got dense green foilage year round, doesn't give a toss about frost, becomes a humming tree in winter as the bees go crazy with all of its blooms, and then has masses of fruit before Christmas. If only I could strike it from cuttings… but apparently it grows well from seed – yay. It is definitely a power tree and i want as many as i can possibly have all over Milkwood.

While poking about in my nursery, which sits underneath this great specimen, today I discovered a new little friend on the ground. He'd fallen out of his nest which is way, way up at the very top of the tree (a sort of messy openwork arrangement of sticks), and from the look of his anxious mother, he is a red Wattlebird. Given that Cobba, the kelpie sheepdog, is also housed under the Loquat, i thought I'd make the little cheeper a temporary nest to prevent him from becoming Cobba's supper.


loquat tree


So now he is happily housed in a shoebox on a branch, and his mum comes and feeds him regularly, along with his sibling who is still way up in the tree, wobbling precariously on a branch. I take it both babies are out of the nest and stretching their new legs, although both can't actually fly yet, it seems, and the little cheeper got a bit ahead of himself and ended up on the ground. I don't think they're far from flapping about though – maybe a couple of weeks?


wille wagtail nest


On the other side of the same tree, the willie wagtails (just about my favourite bird) are setting up home in the cutest little nest. Lots of calling and fussing, but not much actual sitting on the nest as yet. I check it every day for signs of family action. Fingers crossed. All this makes for a quite communal feeling in my nursery, in which the fig cuttings are actually GROWING! I feel like a right professional.

Solar Power! (albeit on a small scale)


Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a light! And it is bright! And it lets us read at night. Hooray!

Just for the record, we got all the bits for our little solar setup from The Solar Shop (ordered online), with minimum fuss and bother.

For the energy-techies out there, you’ll be pleased to know that our solar panel is of the amorphous type… lowest possible embodied energy panel on the market. And I think the whole setup cost us around the $350 AU mark… not bad for 15 years worth of light, no? How exciting to be able to read AND cook in the one space simultaneously….

How to: grow Figs from cuttings


As I think I’ve mentioned, this part of Australia is, although it doesn’t look it at first glance, a labyrinth of abandoned settler’s orchards. Every farm around here seems to have at least two of these gnarly fruit-thickets over in a back paddock somewheres. These old orchards are the only sign left of previous shacks and farmhouses which dotted the landscape here over a hundred years ago, during the gold-rush years.

The Power of Community: DVD Review

dvd coverYou would have to be living under a large, large rock to not have heard about the concept of Peak Oil. It's scary stuff – much debated by many, scoffed by some, acknowledged as a player on the field by all. Something's going on with the oil. Who can access it depends on who is friends with who this week, and it is something that all the major car companies are trying to prepare for (a sure sign that someone high up in their respective corporate structures is mighty tetchy about it). Down here at the 'little ol' me' level, the implications of this sort of change is… unsettling, to say the least.

I must admit I went through a little bit of a stage last year where I was feeling quite overwhelmed by the implications of energy descent, as it is sometimes called. We flapped about, trying to figure out what, if anything, we could do. Should we be trying to live in the city or the country? Was living in a densely populated suburb a potential asset or a disadvantage in the event of a sharp change, or even a slow change, in energy descent?

This documentary was one of the first examples I saw last year of how an urban population with a relatively high standard of living dealt with a sharp drop-off in energy (in this case oil) supply… and it was inspiring stuff. Enter the republic of Cuba, during the Special Period (that's the official term) in 1991…


How To: identify that un-named plant

some sort of burrI am often coming across plants and trees that I don’t know the names of. Which isn’t very unusual, i know, but once you start wanting to figure out how your surrounding environment works, being able to identify what plant is growing where leads to why that plant is growing there, which quickly leads to the beginnings of an integrated understanding of one’s surroundings. Hopefully.

Back from the Brink by Peter Andrews

'back from the brink' book coverOut in the rural areas of NSW (and probably in other states of Australia as well) this book has been causing a minor furore. Country town bookstores were selling out of all their copies in a day, everyone was talking about it, everyone wanted to read it, everyone was ordering in a copy for their father/wife/husband/themselves because the word on the street was that it contained mighty important information about how to drought-proof your land.

Upcoming: ITP courses are go!

urban community garden, vancouverJust a note that we  are rip-roaring ready to go on our 'Introduction to Permaculture' courses, which will be held in Sydney, Mudgee and Kiama before Christmas 2007.

We're both really looking forward to cutting our teeth on teaching sustainable system design and getting  whoever wants to learn worded up on the basics of Permaculture as it applies to the Australian environment.

The course also includes two days of great food and the inevitable sharing of information, making of connections, and the beginning of many conversations – all the good things in life, really…


How To: make a Feral Fruit Map

peachySelf seeded fruit trees in culverts, old orchards on abandoned sites, food trees hanging over the fence into the back laneway. It’s all what is known as ‘feral fruit’ and it’s one of the best, if unheralded, community resources an area has, whether you be in an inner-city suburb or out in the middle of nowhere.

A feral fruit map is a way of mapping the resources in your area, so that come late summer and autumn, many a happy weekend can be spent finding, picking and eating/processing the bounty of your local area. Free, local food. So good….