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”

Aussie Climate Zone Comparisons

aussie climate areas petitparadis

[ You may notice that Tasmania is not covered in this map. Within Tasmania there are several smaller climate regions which are covered in the link Daily Mail news article  ]

Recently I came across this map of climate comparisons across Australia with other regions of the world. I am not surprised to see Perth experiencing a similar climate to Los Angeles. Being born and bred in Perth and having travelled the US, in particular California, I was also of the opinion that the two were similar, but not just in climate, geography.

The south west of Western Australia is ancient land and some of the interior of Western Australia is reported to have remained above sea level for some 2.5 billion years. Hopefully this trend continues for some time to come!

Both Perth and Los Angeles however lie on coastal plains, hemmed in by an ocean and ranges. The Transverse Ranges in California and the Darling Scarp along the Swan Coastal Plain. When I first saw LA from the Hollywood Hills I likened it to my home town of Perth. Urbanisation sprawled out from the north to the south with a central business district. A heavy reliance on private motor vehicles and strings of roads and freeways looping and twining their way in and out. Both cities have a river flowing through their environs and share a similar climate.

What also helped with the ‘likeness’ was the variety of Australian natives around LA. I remember seeing eucalypts and bottlebrush in suburban gardens and in council reserve areas.

Albany shares a similar climate to Santa Barbara in California being a maritime location also.


Further reading:

Daily Mail news article includes the map above.

Global Warming and Australian Towns

Geography of Western Australia


Zones in a Nutshell – Permaculture Zones : Part Two

This post follows from the first one found here.

So with my reassessment of the permaculture zones whilst planning our new house and garden, here is an over-view of what you might find in each zone.

ZONE 0 — The house structure. Here permaculture principles would be applied in terms of aiming to reduce energy and water needs, harnessing natural resources such as sunlight (pv panels and water heating) and water (water tanks/greywater recycling), and generally creating a harmonious, healthy, environmentally friendly space in which to live, work and relax.

ZONE 1 — The  location for those elements in the system that require frequent attention and visits. In our design it is likely to feature salad crops, aquaponics, potted herb plants, soft fruit like strawberries possibly aquaponically grown, cold frames, propagation area, worm compost bin for kitchen waste and a compost toilet.

ZONE 2 — This area is used for siting perennial plants that require less frequent maintenance, such as occasional weed control (preferably through natural methods such as spot-mulching) or pruning, including currant bushes and orchards. In our design we plan to have some espaliered fruit trees doubling as a fence for the retaining wall and the main vegetable garden close to the back steps.

 ZONE 3 — Is the area where main crops are grown, both for domestic use and for trade purposes. After establishment, their care and maintenance is fairly minimal provided mulching is used and irrigation requirements are sorted. This area for us is the main swale with fruit trees, the sub-tropical area and water tanks. It may be used for some pasture for rabbits and guinea pigs from time to time.

ZONE 4 — Is semi-managed land. This zone is mainly used for foraging and collecting wild food as well as some timber production. An example would be coppiced hazelnuts and other trees which we plan to utilise for various uses. There is less tendency to visit this area. Perhaps every few weeks.

ZONE 5 — Is typically described as wilderness. There is no human intervention in Zone 5 apart from the observation of natural eco-systems and cycles. This is an area for preserving and observing natural systems so that we can use it as an educational tool to learn aspects of working with nature, not against it. It is a retreat for wildlife that can use it to move out to the other zones to interact.

petitparadis zones2



In the picture above you can just about see the various zones according to their use, even in the early stages of the house renovation and make-shift garden. From right to left there is the house as Zone 0 and the soon to be paved area for salad greens and aquaponics in Zone 1.

Then the summer garden beds – which have developed a bit since this photo was taken a few weeks back – are in Zone 2. Then the embankment with some trees already planted (Zone 3) and the rainwater tanks. Beyond this is a grassy slope. Zone 4. Further up the slope beyond a block of houses is the natural bushland that crowns the mountain side. This would be our Zone 5.

Has anyone applied thinking consciously about zones when designing their garden?

Zoning Out from The House – Permaculture Zones : Part One

Part One – Zero to Abundance

I find it pays to refresh the mind of concepts from time to time. Each time I take a look at zones there is a different mind-set of learning and experience that views the zones and my approach to them differently. Mostly due to a different piece of land and its uniqueness.

Permaculture Zones are a tool used to place elements within a design so that they use energy transactions more efficiently. In this way elements are placed by order of use, work required and frequency of visits. Sometimes the frequency of visits can be under-rated as a tool to placing elements. However, it makes sense particularly in a situation such as ours where we are dealing with various slopes and heights.

Are we really likely to want to go out and get salad greens from the top garden if it means going to the back of the house, climbing a stair case and walking up a sloped block? What about if its raining? Rain happens here.

Often. True story.

In its most simplified form the zones are often presented as a series of concentric rings. Realise however, that the rings would grow in size the further they move out from Zone 0. This is because the zones naturally become larger up to Zone 5 – wilderness or natural landscape and as a result require less human intervention. In the real world they will not be nice, round circles either, but rather more organic shapes depending on the size of the areas being used for each zone and the structural or geographical nature and shape.

petitparadis zones

Typically the zones are from 0 – 5 though some people add extra zones. In reality, ours is likely to only apply up to Zone 4, though if you were to look at the bigger picture we are only 150 metres from natural bushland reserve. This is evident when you observe the birdlife that visits the garden area. Splendid Fairy Wrens, White-browed Scrub Wrens and Red-eared Firetail Finches. Each of these bird species rely on native bushland for their survival, but will frequently make visits further afield to forage for food. ie, to our urban garden.

With frequency of visits in mind and making the most of our given area for high productivity I have looked at our Zone 1 to see just how much we can produce from this area. It is likely to utilise both the back paved area and deck and also the small front garden area which will get ample sunshine being north facing and not receiving much shade at all.

More on this to come.