Petit Paradis in Collage


The Eighth instalment of our annual bit of artwork tracking the Two Little Fellas.

This year, on a whim, our youngest Little Fella takes the stage given that he’s played smaller roles in previous pictures and I loved how he embraced his nature playground in the garden – quite literally.

Over the years friends and family have wanted to know a bit of the story behind the artwork so this is a little about this years . . .

In the New Year we will move to Tillellan, the long-term project that is finally nearing completion. The landscaping and backyard will be a project within its own right. In anticipation of the move this years art features some of the elements of the original petit paradis abode.  A kind of thank you and goodbye for our first family home.

This place has seen several families of guinea pigs and chickens pass through it. It was pivotal in my adventures in seed saving and building up varieties, quantities and experience in locally adapted edible species. As a result, much of the growing space was for seed production and really only supplemented our kitchen from time to time with food. Moving to Tillellan we plan to accommodate both requirements.

There was a whole lot I could have put into this picture, but some of the highlights are the Pitaya flowers that made a showy display the last couple of autumns. Our eldest Little Fella is feeding Pinky, Brownie and Missy Miss – some of our current guinea pigs. Our original g-pigs Maiki & Jazz can be found in the picture as well along with various pet chooks that have been on the adventure also.

One of the favourite things about the house that I will miss is seeing the flocks of ibis and pelicans flying past the house on their way out to feed or returning home in the afternoon. Quite regularly we’ve had a half dozen or more pelicans glide low and slow over the houses and past our living area window in the early morning. It is a magical site, especially when they are low enough to hear their wing beats, and I missed it when we rented briefly so I know I will when we move.


There are various flowers and the quail, some of our container gardens and goldfish and koi. Fruit trees and crops that we’ve had. The garden itself was different with every passing year as it adapted to the needs and requirements of the family and whatever we were doing in preparation for the eventual move. Whether it was sorting out salvaged resources or propagating varieties of plants.

It will be a little sad I imagine to part ways, but we’ve also out-grown it rapidly and its very much a natural transition for us. It would have been just right with the Two Little Fellas, but with the addition of Gran and her various requirements we’ve definitely overstayed.

Damage Control

petitparadis recycleWith an available morning to tend to the Tillellan garden I drove over to the house and was there by 5am to do some maintenance. The early rise was to beat the heat and the first job was to fix the hose which had a couple of pin hole leaks in it due to the extra high pressure of the water. The garden then needed a decent watering.

One of the main jobs was to do a bit of ‘dumpster diving’ and clear out all the cardboard from the skip bin. This I have done whenever I get the chance and have amassed a small stockpile of cardboard in the backyard for keeping sand down. With the eventual arrival of Mrs PP and The Little Fellas we also rescued a large wooden pallet with a decent sheet of MDF which will be perfect for projects.

With the skip bin now only 3/4’s full there was room to put some of the real rubbish from the backyard and a large piece of rusty tin which I uncovered when planting out the Wormwood hedge. Over the last couple of months in particular there has been a lot of cardboard in the skip bin due to the high number of items being fitted out in the house. Light shades, plumbing fixtures, water filter, glass panels and such things. If I have the time, I pull it out to retain this cardboard as it will be consumed by the garden easily. Plus we are not paying for something to be taken away that is quite useful. It doesn’t make sense to me.

Already some of our paths are lined with cardboard to make it easy to walk across the sand and to encourage the soil life underneath into activity. Even in the heat of the early southern hemisphere summer the dirt is cooler and retains more moisture, allowing worms and other soil life to come to the sub-surface and do their good work.

Fat Hen Chenopodium sp. is rampant and prolific in the garden at the moment and I have pruned most of it down to add as a mulch to the gardens and paths. It’s not a pretty garden at the moment, at least not close up, but highly practical in order to build soil and get us through the hot summer ahead without losing too much water and sand with the wind.

This damage control will allow us to make the most of our water supply and maintain some vegetables through the summer whilst also providing bountiful feed for the rabbits, guinea pigs, quail and chickens when they are re-located.

There is still a decent bit of earthworks to be done with the backyard, but this will occur at a later date once we have taken the time to observe more closely what changes occur on the block with sunlight, winds and how the grey water system operates. And definitely much easier once we are residing in the house, to keep an eye on things.

In anticipation of the next phase of earthworks the tagasaste seedlings have been repotted into individual pots and I am nurturing a mass planting of tamarillo seeds which have emerged from the soil recently. These are from seeds collected from outstanding fruit from one of our trees. I have also taken cuttings to propagate and these appear to be going ok, but are yet to develop new leaves.

Despite the wilder nature of the garden as it is now, it has supplied us with a decent haul of potatoes and some chard for us and the neighbours. In clearing the chard I have discovered several squash and melons forming. Happy with that.

The other main job was to move the potted roses, daisy bush and apricot tree from the front yard and give them a spot up the back where hopefully they can recover, get a little more water, and not be in the way. The apricot was grown from seed from a fruit given to Mrs PP and myself when we were dating. We’ve had some wonderful fruit from it in previous years but the last couple of years its had it rough. We’re going to have to nurse it back a bit and we’re both looking forward to actually planting it in the ground at some point next year.


Departure from Chaos

Dear Reader,

If you are a practitioner of the gentle and subtle art of ‘reading between the lines’ you may be interested to know – that perhaps you were right – this blog has become a collision. A mish mash of permaculture practices and personal, daily insights and reflections. At least for now. No apologies, please carry on . . . you may learn from this.

Writing is therapy for me. Permaculture is not just gardening remember. And how wonderfully therapeutic it has been to capture just a small part of what our lives are like. It is the tip of the ice-berg. I am after all, a rather private person. Hence the reluctance to post pictures of myself and family. It may come at some point.

Or not.

Now, the rain came today. A reprieve from hand watering the garden for a while. We were all up early, not that unusual, but Mr DIG (our Distinguished International Guest) was departing for home after his stay with us. Leaving the mild mid-twenties (68-70 F) for the possibility of – 10 (14 F). The lulling, bird song laden breezes of November mornings for darkened Northern Hemisphere mornings and scraping ice off the car windscreen. The silky feel of beach sand between the toes for iced concrete paths and central heating.

I suspect for him it was a departure from chaos. Actually, I KNOW it would have been a departure from chaos. But if he felt any of the moments of peace and serenity that I got a glimpse of during our ventures out, then I suspect he had a good stay. We made the best of our current circumstances. But it was still chaos.

petitparadis rosella

Mr DIG’s visit for me was also a re-awakening to the wonders of the natural world that surround us here in the Great Southern and South West corner of the state and Nation. I was filled with moments of quiet, deep reaching gratitude for the beauty around us. These moments have been few and far between the last couple of years as life has pulled me away with distractions and lack of sleep. Piling more complex distractions on top of distractions. Burying creativity and hobbies and ‘consciousness’ underneath the daily pulse of life. Further down. Away. To avoid the disappointment that comes with having to make sacrifices. Alas, it is not sustainable.

And so as one busy, frantic week begins to merge seamlessly with another we also find ourselves entering December and staring down the barrel of the countdown til Christmas and all the obligations and events that it can bring.

But that is almost an aside to the quickly approaching day that we find ourselves suddenly granted with the opportunity to move into The New Tillellan. And then the fun really begins.

Still, we must enjoy the journey, for after nearly fifteen months, that time will be upon us in a heart beat. And somewhere there, out there, is the hope that life will find a comfortable pace for a while. That the complex distractions will fall away in exchange for simple, up-lifting distractions and more of life’s treasured moments will naturally pass by with a brilliance and lucidness, instead of fighting through fatigue for recognition.

It is time for some sleep. And then the bird song . . .

Retrofitting the Suburbs *


petitparadis retrofitting the suburbs

Self-reliance. . .

It has always been an economic foundation of every society in history, it’s just that in the super-charged affluence of the past couple of decades we’ve managed to suck it dry and shift everything up, into the monetary economy. And when you get economic contraction it’s just natural that people start doing things again at home and on an exchange basis. We call this the re-localisation process. This re-localisation movement will shift power and respect to older and rural people with self-reliance skills. People who can work physically. People who are applying permaculture principles. Whether they are doing that consciously or unconsciously.

– David Holmgren

This economic contraction that David Holmgren has been talking and writing about for some time now is kick-starting the household and local community economies. That is, it’s operating outside the monetary, formal economy. Folks are working their jobs and also doing a bit on the side as a means to both get by financially, diversify their income streams, support larger families (kids, elders . . .) and do something that they enjoy.


Further Reading:

Lunchbox/Soapbox: David Holmgren on Retrofitting the Suburbs for Sustainability

The Story of Change

The New Future


* retrofit

  1. Add (a component or accessory) to something that did not have it when manufactured.
    “motorists who retrofit catalysts to older cars”
    Provide (something) with a component or accessory not fitted during manufacture.
    “buses have been retrofitted with easy-access features”
noun: retrofit; plural noun: retrofits
  1. an act of retrofitting a component or accessory.
    “uninsulated and oddly designed dream houses that are badly in need of a retrofit”

Rabbit Welfare

petitparadis kit outing

Today the rabbit kits are thirteen days of age. Their eyes had now opened and they are moving about.

One of the kits was making its first outing into the hutch from the nest. Prodding Blackberry for a bit of milk, though Blackberry was not willing to allow such a treat without the other two kits partaking as well. Good mother! She has done better this time around and has taught us that intervention is possible and that kits can be handled if done sensibly.

Part of our success appears to be the very early handling of the kits by Mrs PP and getting our scent on the kits so that Blackberry had some sort of reference and familiarity. When Mrs PP attends the hutch to check the kits she allows Blackberry to greet her and smell her hand first, then she can handle the kits easily without Blackberry fretting. 

It was a good thing that we managed to do this because one of the kits was not getting fed adequately. Possibly due to its size, though it certainly wasn’t the runt, which sadly did not survive. To save losing any more kits we would regularly move this smaller kit to the ‘top of the pile’ in their nest so that it was closer to Blackberry when she came to feed them. This approach has apparently worked due to a healthy three remaining kits and would not have been possible without the early intervention and ‘marking’ of our scent on the kits as soon as practicable. There may be something further to this approach, but that is our explanation.

Some of our recent dealings with the rabbits have gone against the information that we have found on-line. We can inform ourselves to some extent but there is also still much to be learned from real life observation and thinking things through.