Monday, January 20, 2014

Guest post

I wrote a guest post at Farmer's Liz, Eight acres, because it was about a subject close to my heart. Permaculture endeavours to translate the natural environment into our culture, so that we don't live separate to the natural systems which sustain us.

Pumpkin, grown and picked above this wall

The very fact we can breathe, is thanks to the natural systems which have been quietly working in the background. Permaculture and its principles, tries to interpret that system into our every day being. Whether we live on acreage, or whether we live urban, permaculture has a design solution for any location.

I apologise for getting this post up so late. Feel free to comment should you wish to discus our permaculture experience - or indeed, your own. I would very much like to hear about it.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Now is the time to...

Life has been pretty intense for our family of late. Full of mundane and important stuff, equally, but we needed a day together to remind us that family means contentment too. So we left our acreage and went to town to visit the park.

Thank you tree

There are many parks in Toowoomba, it is the garden city after all. We like to visit the parks in town for all the wonderful walking paths, shaded by mature trees. Sarah took her scooter, Peter got the pram and mum and dad walked side by side, admiring the many wonderful plants.

We sat on a rug, under the shade of the tree above - and plenty of cuddles were to be shared.

Kids love the park

There was food and cool drinks for rumbling tummies. We ate at the picnic table and had time to spy shoes....

Doc Martin framed by concrete

It's was interesting being down on the ground, seeing from Peter's point of view. He had fun crawling on the rug, and then decided shoes were intriguing (especially dad's) because they had tags on the back.

What's this?

We even got to spy some of the resident wildlife, which thought people meant food. We made sure he didn't develop a diet for people food though, and he soon went to the trees to find an easier meal. A very polite fellow as far as Magpies go.

Hello friend

Peter thought mum was a tree he could climb for a moment, if only to see that clicking device, she kept pointing at everything. I wanted to remember our day though, just being a family, doing what we do.


Then we went back home and spent a few hours in the small pool, watched a DVD (Think Global, act Rural) and made some fried rice for dinner - because it's so quick to make!

Sometimes the most powerful moments in your life, are the ones you make time for. They will be your memories into adulthood and then, when old age appears, they will be what you look back on as important. Life is not always easy, but then there are times it can be amazing too. We need to connect more with the people, animals and "being" around us, so that we are conscious of what's important.

When we forget, we wonder what we're doing here. There are plenty of reminders around us though. The trees which have lived longer than we have...the animals which live in the trees...the curious look of a developing child, pondering the next thing to be explored...a cool breeze...a stranger you greet with hello, because you happen to be passing...and what's for dinner?

These are our days of you remember yours?

Wednesday, January 15, 2014


I am thrilled to see my rogue tomatoes, which sprung up in a pot on the verandah, are finally ripening.

Not bad considering they share limited space with a mature Happy Plant. It won't be long until I get to taste them. I actually don't like tomatoes, unless they are home grown.

There was hardly any effort put into this on my part. I only staked it once they started to lean and block the walkway. A bit of water, potting mix and afternoon sun (the only time the verandah lets it in) and we'll have five ripe tomotoes to remind us, why we do what we do.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Where else but...?

Welcome to a new year! I was going to write about the things I wanted to accomplish in 2014, but decided to post what I was doing instead. And where else would I be, but the garden of course? It has endured some scorching heat recently (up to 44 degrees celcius). While I was a little worried about the garden, it was also an opportunity to test how our gardening strategies were going.

Newly mulched box hedge

Before I get to that however, I resurrected our box-hedge from the infestation of weeds around the septic tank recently. I like weeds and I try to live with them, but not when they're stunting the growth of other plants. This particular garden bed gets very little attention, so it has to cope on its own for the most part. Surprisingly, it's quite abundant (even in extremes) due to a few strategies, which are completely natural. If you notice the miniature fence in the image above, its to stop kangaroos crushing the growing plants.

Fresh roo-poo

Kangaroos leave little bundles of nutrients in their droppings, wherever they go. When we plant a new garden bed, we try to leave a little space for a kangaroo track. This particular garden bed is near a large tree - quite a magnet for kangaroos. By placing small barriers on the plants we don't want them to crush, but leave a more open space for them to meander, we get regular fertility compliments of the kangaroos. And fertility means, better soils which do much better in climate extremes.

So our first strategy has been to invite native animals into our garden, to be part of the nutrient cycle. Nature already put them into the landscape - we just had to accept their value and work our plans into that existing process.

Acacia tree (left) Small Frangipani (right)

If there is anything lacking on acreage, it's generally TREES. This large tree is the one I was referring to earlier. The septic tank is on the right. We were fortunate this acacia (left) sprung up on its own, and quickly grew into a wonderful canopy tree. It's wonderful, because canopy trees are nature's air-conditioners and escape from the heat. This tree has sheltered quite a few plants underneath it too.

Evolving landscape

I'm not sure if my garden will ever be "lush", but its beautiful watching it develop through the seasonal cycles. This cycad (front and centre) has been covered in weeds when it was a wee nipper too! It even got covered in the leaves and flowers shed from the acacia tree. When the cycad was young, it could've been overrun by so many natural elements, but instead it created a network of resilience for it to grow through.

If you notice in the picture, there's some old felled tree logs too. We don't believe in burning to rid ourselves of dead wood, because it only deprives the soil microbes, insects and lizards a place to take up residence. We deliberately placed those logs there, to stop soil erosion and capture moisture. Any insects which die under the log, will fertilise the cycad lower down.

So our second gardening strategy, has been to really use the life and death of plants to capture natural elements, in order to grow healthy soil. There's quite a lot involved in how you can use a plant while it's alive, and once it is dead. But the main thing is not to devalue what you have. Use it in the landscape instead - that is why nature put it there to begin with. The minute you find yourself asking, "how can I get rid of this", change your thought process can I "use" this instead?

Tree debris

Talk about using what you have, I truly get to appreciate the amount of debris that falls from our canopy tree, when I have to sweep off the top of the septic tank. And it all goes back onto the garden too.

What did I do with the weeds I pulled? I placed them in a heap, near where they were pulled. The reason the weeds are growing there, is nature's attempt to correct the minerals in the soils. By pulling the weeds and placing them nearby, I'm not breaking the natural cycle. Those minerals the weeds specialise in harvesting, are returning to the soil. If I cart those weeds away, I only have to bring something else in, to correct the imbalance. Who needs that extra burden, when you're gardening on acreage?

Close-up view of acacia

Everything must return to the soil eventually. Even our wonderful canopy tree that has served this area immensely, is decaying. We have found a seedling which has sprung up nearby (only a few metres away) and it will replace this monolith of fertility one day. We will use it's gnarly trunk in the very garden bed it has brought to fruition. No doubt, we will build another track for the kangaroos to meander around, and plant more plants in the residue of its decay.

When you're gardening on acreage, your best friend is a tree. Or should I say...trees! And don't forget the animals need a place to live too.

We are in the process of having to take a few trees out - we're pushing our human boundaries further into the landscape. But we have learned to balance the equation by inclusion. We use the elements which are already here, and cater for them to continue.

Have you stumbled across some natural gardening tips that work for your particular area?