This post is a continuation of the previous post found here.
Starting with some form of design creates a firmer commitment to actually implementing your project. And action is what is going to get the ball rolling.
What about plants, animals and structures?
We had a small shed, we had some compost bins and some exotic plants already existing in the garden which we relocated to better positions. We wanted to get chooks, but we started with compost bins and burying our kitchen scraps directly into the soil until we ran out of room. So the chooks we had pegged to go at the back of the shed. We didn’t bite off more than we could chew initially. But that came.
What about aspect?
Our backyard faced just off due north which meant the edibles were placed there. Most of our windows were exposed to the north to allow the warmth in. We seldom used extra cooling or heating and usually only just to take the edge off winter chills. In summer extremes we opened the front and back windows to flush hot air out.
Just down the road from us our like-minded neighbours lived on the opposite side of the road. So their front yard captures most of the sunlight hours and as a result their growing area for edibles is in their front yard. Our front yard was mostly shaded and consisted of natives. It was heavily mulched with wood chips and I never watered it. Even in summer. The only visit it got was to go to the mail box. It was left to its own devices and the birds, insects and reptiles loved it.
How do these things connect to each other?
The products of one element fulfil the needs of another element. We position elements or components so that they have the maximum benefit to the system. Each element serves at least two or more functions. Every important function (water collection, fire protection) is served in two or more ways. Elements are placed according to their intensity of use (zones), control of external energies (sectors) and efficient energy flow (gravity, wind and heat). Doing a page up like this is a wonderful left and right brain activity.
Soil: We all share a common challenge here in the Great Southern. It’s our soil, or rather, our sand. Our place like many others was built on a sand dune. This can be overcome and you can create living, dynamic soil in a rather short time. In a small area like an urban backyard, potentially a couple of inches of soil per year. In fact you have a greater chance of doing this on a smaller scale than broad scale agriculture ever will. It’s a size thing and it takes a different approach.
Kitchen scraps, newspaper print, shredded paper and cardboard have always managed do the job for me. The worms are the real heroes here and they love it and if you can keep it moist long enough for the worms to settle in, they will make it into an incredible friable soil along with their allies bacteria. You’ve no doubt heard not to feed meat, dairy, onion and citrus peels to your worms. In my experience, it’s probably a good idea for a worm farm where the little darlings don’t have much room to move.
Sheep and chicken manure is good for attracting the worms though I never used it in large quantities. The absolute very best, water retaining, dynamic areas of soil in our garden were always the areas where I had used mulch from tree clippings and cuttings. The real twiggy, woody mulch. It works so well that in our next garden I am planning to use mulch on a broader scale.
Observe and Experiment – A comparison of lawn vs diversity
INPUTS VS OUTPUTS
We started with lawn and natives. We finished with a more diverse and varied living space. As energy is expressed in a harmonic form it takes on the ability to support more life. Birds moved into our garden, rather than moving through it. During summer and autumn we have monarch caterpillars munching their way through milkweed that was planted to support them.
Permaculture builds diversity. Diversity leads to stability which then leads to increased fertility and which by design, leads to potential productivity.
Diversity for diversities sake is a collection! It doesn’t mean that there are meaningful interactions occurring. There needs to be inter-active diversity. Each element must interact with other elements. There is a process to this of observing and analysing a systems interactions for feed back in order to better place elements.
You can design ‘convenience’ into your system to facilitate the events you want. My boys were curious and hungry. So the berry patch down the garden area where they arrived at first was done in order to fulfill their needs and provide shelter for the soil as well – and to try and get them to stop picking tomatoes or beans that I was keeping for seeds.
My three year old told his Pa rather as a matter of fact, what proper food is. Folks we do need proper food and it starts in your backyard. Why strive for sustainable living if you can’t sustain your own body?! When you grow something to eat yourself, something grows inside you. There is an understanding, a richness, a whole different appreciation of food and what it takes to get it.
If you have limitations then look at alternatives. We have several available to us in the Great Southern. We have awesome farmers markets and community gardens. Please, support these champions of sustainable living. They are the way of the future, what was old is new again.
None of this is rocket science, but it takes a bit of real thought and the willingness to not get stopped by obstacles. It helps to be a problem solver. May your way be a sustainable, permaculture way.