Feeding 9 billion

16 01 2017

I have just been tipped off to this fantastic Joel Salatin video…… I think it’s ironic that Eclipe, a fan of Polyface Farm, is in complete disagreement with Joel who is totally anti hi-tech farming. In fact, like me, Joel believes in walking away from the Matrix (exemplified in this video by McDonald’s), and he lets both barrels go at the establishment…..

Enjoy.





One down, five to go……

28 12 2016

It’s raining. Which is good, because it’s watering the first of our six market gardens, and bad, because the house site was just starting to dry out nicely….. and now it isn’t. Bah humbug…….

Having slashed and rotary hoed the first patch of garden, the task of starting garden beds and planting them was next. The rotary hoe quickly found a 50kg rock, aka an immovable object, which I dutifully dug up with a mattock and crowbar…. good thing it didn’t weigh any more, I was only just able to lift it into the wheelbarrow for disposal.

img_0339I marked out the paths and beds with building string, then hoed out the paths which were subsequently raked downhill onto the beds, creating terraces. The paths will also act as mini swales during the heavier winter rains, and the soil is so good, it may just hold onto the water too..

Five bags of sheep poo were then applied and hoed into the soil for good measure, you can’t have too much organic matter!img_0340

Glenda planted kale and pumpkins on the first (lowest) bed, and once the whole patch was done, we planted snow peas, sweet corn, cucumbers, and broccoli seeds. There’s a bed left over for beans, and we might do that tomorrow.

On the weekend, we even sold our first batch of zucchinis from the poly tunnel, such as it was, but it’s a start, like everything else around here! We should have a bumper crop of tomatoes soon; they’re later than I would have expected, but everyone around Geeveston (and the Huon) is complaining that the whole growing season is late this year, which surprises me as we had such a wet winter….. or maybe it’s the cause?

indian-game

Indian Game Chickens

I also bought some Indian Game chicks I’m going to try to breed as a source of meat. They are pretty big birds too, and should be great scratchers in the gardens when needed with those stout legs….! Quite beautiful poultry actually.

The power station passed its first milestone of sorts, now that we have extracted a whole 100 kWh of electricity from the batteries.

It’s all going very well, powering up the dam pump more frequently now we have things to

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Our first 100kWh….

water, even boiling water in kettles for the purpose of killing weeds and grass….

The next big thing we need to do for this particular project is move a big pile of soil (covered in weeds!) sideways to fill the remaining windrow furrows left over from the apple orchard days. Hopefully, that will also help in slowing the flow of water down to the house site, those furrows act like gullies in heavy rain… once that’s done, the fencing will be finished around the six garden patches, and one by one they will be turned into gardens just like the one we’ve just finished. It’s a big job, lots of hard work, but very rewarding.





Building soil on the Fanny Farm

18 12 2016

With the new chicken pen finished, and at least half the new market garden finished – the other half is awaiting the moving of a huge pile of soil 30 to 40 metres away to fill in more furrows between existing windrows – the time had come to prepare the first area for production. Everything takes time, not least this project…….

The green manure I planted there soon after the house site excavations were finished was starting to go to seed, and looked promisingly ready for ploughing in… so I slashed it with my trusty Honda brushcutter. This machine is part of the ‘use fossil fuels while you still trimmerheadcan’ strategy…. after literally burning through two plastic auto string feeding heads for it, I replaced them with an alloy fixed string device that is proving way superior. With wet grass now a metre high, and uneven ground left over from the orchard heydays, mowing is very difficult, and this machine has been priceless, working long hours on 98 octane fuel. Because it’s four stroke, it starts first time every time too!

gardengreenmanureOnce slashed, the rotary hoe I bought last year was started again, and the grass clippings and green manure was laboriously ploughed into the soil. The plan is to eventually not disturb the soil ever again, but after years of cattle roaming all over it, me driving utes over that section of grass, and lately the excavator, the ground needed to be de-compacted…

I then added lime for Calcium (most Australian soils are Calcium deficient) and a starting point for rectifying the soil pH. No doubt further pH testing will be required later until I’ve got that right……gardencompost

A tonne of compost bought locally was then unloaded off the back of the ute by my better half, and the whole lot was rotary hoed again to get it all thoroughly mixed in.

The chickens were then allowed in to start scratching around and adding their bit to the soil. I need lots more chickens before this system starts working properly, but like I said, everything takes time…… we have one clucky chook sitting on a dozen eggs at the moment, so there are more on the way, and I am trying to source some meat chicks, because they are very good at tractoring soil.

The main pipe between the pump and the cube atop the power station was then cut, a T piece inserted, and a a one inch riser installed for access to water from our wonderful dam…..

gardenwaterCharlotte and Fanny might be back soon, and they will be able to see the progress since they left. Nothing will be planted there for a while, as it will take some time for all that new soil biomass to settle in. We’re getting there though……. and I will have another couple of French wwoofers here in February for some more action.

gardenchickens





Rezoning the Fanny Farm…..

24 11 2016

When we first arrived here, there was a lot of infrastructure. Most of it was certainly useful, not least the dam of course, but much of what was here did not make much sense, permaculture-wise. I surmise that most of that was down to the fact there never was a zone zero to start with, ie, the kitchen! In fact with no house at all, and a shed never designed to be lived in and in completely the wrong place, it was left to me to rezone everything to make it work.

20161111_100602When the neighbours’ house, which I think might have been the original farmhouse, was excised from our property forty years ago, strange things were done….. to start with, said farmhouse is totally surrounded by our land. One of their sheds is the boundary line…… something that would never happen today. Then someone built a chook house, leaning against said shed. Being on the southern side of this tin shed, it never had access to sunlight, and let’s face it, chickens like sunlight as much as people do!

A new French wwoofer called Charlotte turned up recently, and we got stuck into dismantling this useless chook pen, for relocation at the market garden under construction, the idea being to integrate the birds into the garden system to clear them once harvested, and fertilise the resulting bare dirt in readiness for the next crop. This will be done in rotation, hence all those gates (four of which I brought from Queensland as a cage to raise the load level in the ute!) Permaculture 101……

Then Fanny (yes, Fanny, from the Fanny Farm!) also arrived and between the three of us, 20161116_143139we’ve done a lot of work (actually, they work much harder than me….) putting recycled posts from Matt’s farm all over the joint, and some from the chicken run that was attached to the lean to affair we dismantled.  Waste nothing…! Then we removed low hanging and overgrown ‘pig wire’ from the fencing near the road that was of no use whatsoever. That was recycled to prepare for the new chicken netting that will be hung off it soon.

20161124_120120Today, the roof and front wall for the house arrived. I decided to order the lot in one go, just to have the iron for the new chook house’s roof. In any case, I’ve decided to spend all our money up front before the banks go under. Not taking any chances! My two young French wwoofers and the delivery guy and I unloaded the ton and a half of corrugated iron off the truck. After lunch, we put up the tin, and screwed it down. Another job ticked off the list.

Having useful wwoofers is just amazing, and they are such great company, allowing me to practice my really rusty French back to life. They also keep on insisting to do the cooking, and why should I refuse, especially when the results are really nice to eat?20161124_151355

As you can tell, I’m having a really terrible time. All the plants we put in the polytunnel are doing extremely well, especially when compared to the tomatoes I killed last year in the frost at the back of the shed. It’s all coming together, our planning application has even gone into Council…  I just need the house site to dry off completely so we can start putting profiles in for the digging of the foundations.

20161124_152824





The Trouble with Permaculture

4 10 2016

With the recent passing of Bill Mollison, much has been published on the interweb about Permaculture; While Glenda was here for nine days, I didn’t spend much time at this laptop, preferring to help her set her own stamp on the Fanny Farm and using her very able gardening skills to get stuck into some planting…. and fixing the goose tractor in readiness for the acquisition of more birds, but there will be time for that some place else on this site.

Having published Samuel Alexander’s epitaph for Bill Mollison by merely copying and pasting the Conversation article, I didn’t bother following the links therein; luckily, Greg Bell did, and posted a couple in a comment he left here, many thanks Greg…. as he says in his comment, “Those two “here” links to critiques of permaculture are the two most important things I’ve read all year (and they, in turn, link to even more)……

The first link is to Resilience.org and bears the same title as this entry. Fascinating reading indeed, as are the comments below it.





A revolution disguised as organic gardening: in memory of Bill Mollison

29 09 2016

Samuel Alexander, University of Melbourne

It is with great sadness that I acknowledge the passing of Bill Mollison on Saturday, September 24 (1928-2016). He was one of the true pioneers of the modern environmental movement, not just in Australia but globally.

Best known as co-originator of the “permaculture” concept with David Holmgren, and recipient of the Right Livelihood Award in 1981, Mollison helped develop a holistic body of environmental theory and practice which is widely recognised as one of Australia’s finest and most original contributions to the global sustainability challenge.

A brief history of permaculture

Mollison grew up in Stanley, Tasmania. After leaving school at 15 he moved through a range of occupations before joining the CSIRO in the Wildlife Survey Section in 1954, where he developed his research experience and understanding of ecological systems.

He was later appointed to the University of Tasmania, which is where, in 1974, he met the brilliant and radical young research student, David Holmgren

The collaboration between Mollison and Holmgren resulted in the permaculture concept, culminating in the publication of their seminal work, Permaculture One in 1978, which sparked the global movement.

What is permaculture?

Permaculture defies simple definition and understanding. The term began as a fusion of “permanent” and “agriculture”. Even back in the 1970s, Mollison and Holmgren could see how destructive industrial agriculture was to natural habitats and topsoils, and how dependent it was on finite fossil fuels.permacultureone

It was clear that these systems were unsustainable, a position ratified by scientific reports today which expose the alarming effects industrial agriculture has on biodiversity and climate stability. The two pioneering ecologists began to wonder what a “permanent agriculture” would look like. Thus permaculture was born.

In the broadest terms, permaculture is a design system that seeks to work with the laws of nature rather than against them. It aims to efficiently meet human needs without degrading the ecosystems we all rely on to flourish.

Put otherwise, permaculture is an attempt to design human systems and practices in ways that mimic the cycles of nature to eliminate waste, increase resilience and allow for the just and harmonious co-existence of human beings with other species.

A wide range of design principles were developed to help put these broad ideas and values into practice. This practical application and experimentation is what really defines permaculture. Before all else, participants in the movement get their hands in the soil and seek to walk the talk.

There is now a vast array of excellent books detailing the practice of permaculture, as well as outstanding websites such as the Permaculture Research Institute for those wanting to learn, share, explore and connect.

Although permaculture was initially focused on sustainable methods of organic food production, the concept soon evolved to embrace the broader design challenges of sustainable living – not just “permanent agriculture”, but “permanent culture”.

Today we face profound environmental and social challenges: ecological overshoot, climate instability, looming resource scarcity, and inequitable concentrations of wealth. In such a world the permaculture ethics of “care of people, care of planet, and fair share” imply radical changes to the way we live with each other and on the planet.

As well as transitioning away from fossil-fuel-dependent agriculture toward local organic production, permaculture implies the embrace of renewable energy systems, “simple living” lifestyles of modest consumption, as well as retrofitting the suburbs for sustainability and energy efficiency.

From a grassroots or community perspective, the transition towns and ecovillage movements acknowledge their profound debts to permaculture.

From a macroeconomic perspective, permaculture implies a degrowth transition to a steady-state economy that operates within the sustainable limits of the planet. Permaculture even has implications for what alternative forms of global development might look like.

So, in answer to the complex question “what is permaculture?”, perhaps the most concise response is to say with others that “permaculture is a revolution disguised as organic gardening”.

Bill Mollison’s legacy: a challenge to us all

Despite developing into a thriving global movement, permaculture still has not received the full attention it deserves. As the world continues to degrade ecosystems through the poor design of social and economic systems, it has never been clearer that permaculture is a way of life whose time has come.

Nevertheless, permaculture is not a panacea that can answer all challenges. Permaculture is not without its critics (see, for example, here and here). But I would argue that the lens of permaculture can certainly illuminate the path to a more sustainable and flourishing way of life, such that we ignore its insights at our own peril.

Thank you, Bill Mollison, for the inspiration and insight – and the challenge you have left us with to design a civilisation that regenerates rather than degrades our one and only planet. May humanity learn the lessons of permaculture sooner rather than later.

Only then, I suspect, will “Uncle Bill” rest in peace.

The Conversation

Samuel Alexander, Research fellow, Melbourne Sustainable Society Institute, University of Melbourne

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.





RIP Bill Mollison……

26 09 2016

You won’t see mention of Bill Mollison’s passing away in the media today – just the usual boring stuff about a couple of good looking Hollywood actors getting divorced or TV programs about baking cakes or who will make the next footy grand final….. In case you are wondering who he was, Bill was a one time Tasmanian shark fisherman and hunter who co-founded the permaculture movement which can be neatly encapsulated as the notion of people living in abundance within nature’s systems.

mollison

Here is his acceptance speech when he won the 1981 “Right Livelihood Award” also known as the “Alternative Nobel Prize”………….:

“I grew up in a small village in Tasmania. I was born in 1928, but my village might have existed in the 11th century. We didn’t have any cars; everything that we needed we made. We made our own boots, our own metal works, we caught fish, grew food, made bread. I didn’t know anybody who lived there who had one job, or anything that you could define as a job. Everybody had several jobs.

As a child I lived in a sort of a dream and I didn’t really awake until I was about 28. I spent most of my working life in the bush or on the sea. I fished, I hunted for my living. It wasn’t until the 1950s that large parts of the system in which I lived were disappearing. First, fish stocks became extinct. Then I noticed the seaweed around the shorelines had gone. Large patches of forest began to die. I hadn’t realised until those things were gone that I’d become very fond of them, that I was in love with my country. This is about the last place I want to be; I would like to be sitting in the bush watching wallabies. However, if I don’t stand here there will be no bush and no wallabies to watch. The Japanese have come to take away most of our forest. They are using it for newsprint. I notice that you are putting it in your waste‑paper basket. That’s what has happened to the life systems I grew up in.

It’s always a mark of danger to me when large biological systems start to collapse, when we lose whole stocks of fish, as we’ve lost whole stocks of herring, and many stocks of sardines, when we lose huge areas of the sea bottom which were productive in scallops and oysters. When we enquire why this happens, it comes back to one thing: the use of energy sources not derived from the biological system.

Dr. Sternglass, who was a pupil of Einstein’s, has followed the drift of radioactive dust from Three Mile Island. The newspapers say: ‘Nobody died at Three Mile Island’. Dr. Sternglass says that 30,000 children are now dead, died under the cloud drifts of hypothyroidosis, and many thousands are yet to die. Across this country, Russia, Germany, Japan, Canada and the United States, drifts an air system, carrying not only radioactives, but highly corrosive acids: sulphuric acids from the burning of coal, and nitric acids from motor vehicle exhausts.

The snow which we measured in Vermont a few months back had pH values of 1.9 to 2.5, which is much more acid than vinegar, more acid than any biological system can stand. We cannot find in the northern part of the United States or in Germany waters of pH higher than 4. Fish can’t breed in those waters, frogs can’t live there, and salamanders are extinct. Forests started to die in 1920, soon after the coal era started. Chestnuts have disappeared on the American continent by 80%, the Beech trees have disappeared. The Oaks are beginning to die throughout America, the pines are dying in Germany (they’re losing 80,000 hectares this year) and many of them are now dying in Japan. The Eucalyptus are dying in Australia at 14% per annum. It won’t be very long before you won’t have any forests to throw away in your garbage cans. It’s obvious to simple people like myself who go out on foot to find out what’s happening that the Northern hemisphere will not be occupied by man for very many more years while he uses coal, petrol and radioactives. I wonder what happened to make us abandon the sort of life that I grew up in, in which we could sustain our lives indefinitely and in which no great systems died. I don’t believe that we lead a better life, that we are any happier than I was and the children in that town still are.

I withdrew from society about 1970 because I had been long in opposition to the systems that I saw were killing us. I decided it was no good persisting with opposition that got you nowhere. I thought for two years. I wanted to return to society but I wanted to come back only with something very positive. I did not want to oppose anything again and waste my time. Somewhere someone had given me Mao‑Tse‑Tung’s little red book. I didn’t understand it very well, in fact it was very difficult for me to read. But, at one point when he was talking about an attack on the city of Tai Ching, his advice to his army was ‘Don’t attack Tai Ching: it’s too heavily defended. Go around it and Tai Ching will fall.’ So I’ve been going around the things that I think are killing us.

When I came back into our society I came back with a system I call Permaculture, a way in which man can live on the earth. To me we’re not any more important a form of life than any other life form. Those of you, very few, who have been alone in forests for a long time, more than five weeks, know that you totally lose identity as a human being. You can’t distinguish yourself from the trees, you can’t distinguish yourself from any other living thing there. All aboriginal people, all tribal people, have to undergo such a period on their own in the environment. Afterwards, they never again can see themselves as separate: man here and tree there. You become as though you are simply a part of life.

The only safe energy systems are those derived from biological systems. A New Guinea gardener can walk through the gates of his garden taking one unit of energy and hand out seventy. A modern farmer who drives a tractor through the gate of his farm takes a thousand units of energy in and gives one back. Who is the most sophisticated agriculturist? We are getting rid of our soil even faster than we are destroying our atmosphere. For every one of us there is a loss of ten tons of soil a year. Nature can only replace one or two tons. We will leave our children an earth in which there is no soil or drinkable water.

We ourselves have always been left out of the energy equations. I’m the only machine I know which can fuel itself: I can make the food upon which I run. Give me a few friends and I can look after myself and many others. This will do me for an alternative energy source. We’ve never been taught to have confidence in ourselves as our own salvation. All the books you can buy on gardening are books on technique. All the books on strategy are wrong because they are one-dimensional. Multi‑dimensional systems will out‑yield one‑dimensional systems hundreds of times. Polycultures will always out‑yield monocultures. The Permaculture system is a safe way of a sustained ecology; it is in itself a safe and sustainable energy system.

In the days of Carl Linnaeus we were still naming things. For a century or so after Linnaeus we were finding out how they functioned. Today we know some of the principles that make them work but just as we’ve reached this stage, they have commenced to fall apart. We estimate that of the species that we can see and count, we will lose some 35,000 in the next one and a half decades. All my life we’ve been at war against nature. I just pray that we lose that war. There are no winners in that war.

A couple of years ago I resigned from a job at the university and threw myself at an advanced age into an uncertain future. I decided to do nothing else but to try to persuade people to build good biological systems. I existed for quite a while by catching fish and pulling potatoes. Then I started to make some money by designing sustainable systems for people, for their own houses and for their villages. Since then I’ve been able to train 20 people at a time. I have trained 400 young people who are now designing systems throughout the U.S. and Australia. In the coming year I will be training people in Germany and Brazil. We’ve set up a sort of brotherhood ‑ and sisterhood, because half of us are women. I don’t believe women are any better designers than men but I think they know more about living systems.

We must make a very large movement towards a very quiet sort of revolution. We will go on training people until we have saturated all countries. What we try to do is to integrate all things that plants and animals will do with our own lives and our structures. It’s possible to design entirely biological systems in which you could live, but we have to start with a place like Stockholm, which is about as abiological as you can get. There are simple things that anybody can do to look after themselves. Every city, for example, can produce its own food.

We are faced with an absolute choice: We can build the sort of cities we are building, continue to accumulate resources and power to run around like blowflies in cars, and be killed before long. Or we can live easily on the earth. It’s possible for us to construct biological systems that work, it’s well within our capacity. For a fraction of the cost of Swedish armaments Sweden could become an entire system like this. It’s up to you, it’s entirely up to you. I hope you all go back to work tomorrow and take your wages. Good luck to you.”