Petit Paradis in Collage

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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.

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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.

The Salvation of Less

In life there are objects. And there is space.

I am currently rediscovering a fascination and attraction to the space between objects.

Periodically, as time permits, we return to a space of creating space.

The selling continues as we reduce the items surrounding us. Gradually we whittle down the list of possessions and still there seems to be more coming out of the woodwork! As though the very vacuum of space is pulling in more items to fill it. Phenomenal.

Each week more stuff leaves the house. It boggles my mind. “When will it come to an end?”

We have met some really lovely people as they drop in to pick up items. Some are on a similar journey to us, renovating older homes and looking for unique pieces. We certainly have some unique pieces, but not everything is going to have a place in the house. We are also sensitive to the fact that much of the stuff we do have – and cherish – is possibly going to be handed down. I have to keep thinking whether this is something that is going to burden our children or will they pass them over.

With this in mind, the Muse of Serendipity has introduced me to the concept of döstädning. Rapidly doing the rounds on-line as Swedish Death Cleaning.

It is apparently something of a tradition in Sweden that implores you to stop asking yourself if something sparks joy, and start considering how your clutter will affect your loved ones after you pass on. Evidently it is something usually started when you reach your 50’s.

Death cleaning isn’t the story of death and its slow, ungainly inevitability. But rather the story of life, your life, the good memories and the bad. The good ones you keep. The bad you expunge.

— Margareta Magnusson

Swedish Death Cleaning would have saved me a lot of time and money and grief.

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Generation Waste

 

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We are not our stuff.

We are more than our possessions.

Our memories are within us, not our things.

Our stuff weighs on us emotionally and mentally.

Old photographs can be scanned.

You can take pictures of items you want to remember.

Items sentimental to us can be useful to others.

Letting go is freeing.

From: The Minimalists

 

In an alternate reality I imagine Generation X to be rebranded as Gen-W.

The Wasteful Generation.

Subsequently the following generations have adopted the same wasteful lifestyle. This is not a ‘dump’ on GenX but rather an observation. Typically demographers give a range of mid 1960’s to the early 1980’s for those of this generation cohort.

As it happens, we were probably the first generation to grow up fully surrounded by plastics, rubbers, synthetics, processed foods, MTV, media frenzy, abominable drug cartels and drug cultures, a kaleidoscope of synthesised chemicals and an ever-increasing galaxy of convenience consumer items which also introduced a King Wave of Waste and environmental destruction to fuel the skyrocketing demands of a new Consumer Army.

And it IS a consumer army.

It’s an observation that the forefront to this was the massive surge in population by our parents – predominantly the Baby Boomers. By necessity of demand, things changed and rising technologies had their impact too.

Environmentally it was thwarted with failure. Amazon Rainforest destruction – The Lungs of the Earth – Remember? Consumer fuelled reliance on all things petroleum, the chemical assault on our daily lives via the supermarket both in what we put on and in ourselves and surround ourselves with. And the ensuing explosion of cancer, allergies, illnesses and new diseases that began to present themselves like no other previous generations had witnessed. In a world more akin to Mad Max we might have gone by the title – The Glyphosate Generation. More on this later.

Economically it was a mega-success for the many companies, marketers, shareholders, distributors, businesses and entrepreneurs associated with it.   The rise and rise of franchised companies and businesses, the many diversified distractions available to the consuming public – Fast Food Chains, Computer Software companies, Toys and Gadgets, Digital Games, Television shows, MTV, fashion trends, Lifestyle-based businesses. Investment opportunities for residential and commercial property… a dizzying blend of services and STUFF.

Others were not so distracted from the buzz and blur surrounding everyday life. Bill Mollison was watching the transition and could obviously see its trajectory towards a future world thwart with problems. Such a wave of consumerism surely could not sustain its growth?

It has also been an observation of mine that under the pressures of such a consumer society, some have also been aware of the wasteful nature of modern society. Under the guidance and inspiration of those such as Bill Mollison (and many others…) Baby Boomers and Gen-Xer’s have also taken to changing their ways in a hope that it rubs off on future generations. This is the paradox with GenX. We have also grown up with a suite of solutions and problem solving abilities. Should we choose to use them.

That’s what I like about permaculture. Focus on the solutions. Look at where you want to be going. The road ahead may be bumpy, but we’re driving on alternative energy and optimism. Come on folks, lets not be a part of the problem. Let’s get cracking.

It’ll be fun too.

Come…

 

 

 

 

 

Soil Creation

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This soil started as sand. Just sand. We started here.

Soil Creation

Whenever earth is moved it is wise to plant and / or seed as soon as possible. In other words, where earth disturbance is planned it is important to also have organised what species and methods (strategies) will be used to stabilise the area.

With our initial earthworks at Tillellan there was a LOT of disruption to the block, both in cutting out sand, changing the slope and placing large amounts of fill and timber on temporary areas. So with summer encroaching it was enough to let the land lie and water it to keep sand and dust down. This hopefully prevented much of it blowing to neighbours houses and losing some of the fine soil that we could do with.

By watering the area, the grass also came back quickly. Especially since it had been disturbed by the machinery and runners had been spread around. With the onset of autumn weather where we had decent, regular showers amidst fine – hot days, the grass and other plant species came back thick and fast. We were harvesting bunches of purslane that had established itself and cutting it up for early autumn salads.

The curious thing is, I don’t recall purslane growing on the block prior to this disturbance. Nasturtiums were present and thankfully came up and started spreading themselves around. I like nasturtiums for their rampant growth and good cover, plus they are easy to pull up once I am ready to clear an area or introduce other plants.

The next major stage of earthworks involved the levelling of the lower garden area for the vegetable beds and cropping beds and also the burial of the lumber that will be used to feed fungal species for future tree groupings. This area was not levelled enough so there will be soil to move eventually, but in the meantime the process of breaking down the buried timber and building top soil with our vege beds is underway.

Over the last few years I have put aside little quantities of extra seed such as pumpkin seeds from kitchen scraps and parsley seeds from the abundance offered in the garden. Such seeds have been placed in jars alongside nasturtiums and linseed and buckwheat and the seeds that have been thinned out from seed saving disciplines (roguing and saving the best). Some of these seeds we have broadcast out over the newly established vegetable beds and we may even get a crop of pumpkins, tomatoes, melons and green manure out of the effort.

Other plants such as sweet potato were propagated into slips. These were planted out in the warmer weather on sand banks with a little horse and cow manure under them to help them along.

Soil Creation – Building Soil

In A Permaculture Designer’s Manual it is stated that the techniques to build soil are rather simple. The implications and strategies that can be used for each of these stages are many and add particular depth to the process of building soil. These stages are used to create soil anywhere.

1) Raise or lower beds by shaping the earth to facilitate watering or drainage depending on requirements of the site. This may also involve carefully levelling the surface of beds.

2) Soil amendments can be added along with the bulk of soil conditioning which consists of incorporating humus or composted material into the earth, or in our case, the sand. Additions of clay and nutrients are also used to create a balanced soil.

3) Reduce water loss by methods of mulching. This also has varying impacts on soil erosion and the effects of the sun (it can either cool the soil or be used to warm the soil). Dark soil absorbs heat better in spring!

The overall rehabilitation of soil and the introduction of pioneer green crops (ie cowpea) should precede other plant species and their establishment.

Other notes on soil creation:

The way I look at soil creation is that I am a steward of the plot of earth I am farming with. In this context the soil is something that should improve over the passage of time as it matures and soil web diversity increases. It should be better when it is handed over, than when I received it. So to me, the earth I farm is also looked at in its entirety as an heirloom in and of itself.

Strategies

  • Timber from cleared trees before earthworks started had sat for nearly two years ready to be buried under sand.
  • Compost piles will be used to make up initial, quick compost that will be used to set up grow beds for vegetables and to inoculate the swales.
  • A wide diversity of base materials (largely ‘waste’ from other sites) has been collected to add bulk to vegetable beds and growing areas.
  • Small additions of bio-char are planned to occur over time.
  • Containers of waste materials have been managed at our previous property to become worm farms. These will be transferred to the new site and ‘released’ into areas to inoculate the sand base with soil life along with materials for their feeding and thriving. Our initial vege beds are effectively, long worm farms.
  • Heavy mulching will occur in particular areas, for example the food forest area where grass will need to be restrained.
  • High, initial planting of nitrogen fixing species such as legumes and acacias, tagasaste and honey locust. This I plan to do extensively, so that as plants grow they can be thinned out at certain times, probably as a chop and drop addition to the soil. This is why I have not hesitated to use ‘pest’ species as they will be sacrificed.
  • Use of seaweed as a soil additive where possible.
  • Spreading of rock minerals over established garden areas to feed the soil.
  • Use of bamboo when and where possible as a local source of silica. I have planned to have a border of bamboo along the top boundary to provide growing stakes, animal feed and mulch.
  • General use of comfrey both as a plant to improve soil and through using the leaves applied directly to soil and indirectly via comfrey tea. This has already been planted our in various areas and will be used to propagate into multitudes of plants for utilising when the swales get created.
  • Liberal use of acacias as stated above both planted as seedlings and directly sown as soaked seed.
  • Use of earth mining species such as comfrey, radish and Lucerne.
  • Corrugated cardboard and newspaper where required to add bulk to soil and living and breeding habitat for compost worms.
  • Look at the addition of various gels to create humus in the soil.
  • Addition of old leaves from various spots.
  • Addition of bone meal in vegetable growing areas to feed soil life.
  • Addition of sugars to feed soil life such as molasses and fresh sugar cane mulch.
  • Hugh quantities of green matter and twigs from garden tidy up jobs at other properties around the place.

Changes to Lifestyle

“… we have found that basic personal habits and behaviours are some of the most difficult and sensitive to deal with, and yet they are at the heart of the ecologically dysfunctional nature of modern society.”                        David Holmgren

This post will probably be more of a dynamic post in that I will change it and add to it as time goes on and we introduce changes into our lives. For the time being I will start with a couple of basic ones that have been relatively easy. I know there are lots of lists of things to do around the home, I’m just putting down the ones that we have incorporated into our own lives for the present moment.

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  1. Change our toilet paper : we used to buy various brands through the supermarket. We now purchase a bulk box of toilet paper which has all recyclable materials and we use the wrappers, rolls and cardboard box in our composting – once they’ve been used for craft projects or make-shift toys. We also purchase these from local businesses, so that in itself supports local business endeavours.
  2. Make our own yoghurt : we don’t regularly eat yoghurt but when we do we generally make our own extra yoghurt. This cuts down on packaging and purchasing costs and is inevitably much healthier – depending on what we eat with it.
  3. Re-use our egg cartons : this involves taking them to the local Farmers’ Market and having our supplementary weekly eggs transferred into our own cartons. This is done for health reasons (instead of a straight exchange) and means that it reduces the need for our egg suppliers to constantly be purchasing new cartons. This may not seem like a big deal but there is a lot of energy and resources that goes into the manufacture of egg cartons. When they are worn or get spoiled by broken eggs they are then put into our compost system.
  4. Turning lights off when not required : I remember this from my youth and I shudder at the concept of Earth Hour and turning off electrical power for an hour a year – I do it every moment I can throughout the whole year! Coal, solar, water, wind or some variation on 35 guinea pigs in an exercise wheel – I don’t believe the source of energy should be any excuse for wasting the stuff. No matter how cheap it is.
  5. Retain Food Scraps for Composting : we save any biological waste through our kitchen except for the occasional animal fat. We reserve clean animal fat for cooking and freeze it – mainly as a by-product from our bone broths. Everything goes in – even orange peel, onion skins, bones from our broths and such things. This is then added to our compost. When they are ready, the worms will get into the lot at their leisure and won’t be troubled by it. This one actually covers a couple of habits such as reserving some food scraps for rabbits, guinea pigs and chickens. I’ll flesh it out over time…
  6. Egg Shells : we place our eggshells onto a baking tray and once full bake it in the oven when we have the oven on, either heating it up for cooking or just after we’ve cooked a meal. This dries out the eggshells and makes them a little more brittle. These are then crushed up and used as grit for the chickens and quail and more recently for scattering over the garden beds as a soil amendment.
  7. Rainwater : we get our drinking water from a 1500 litre rainwater tank under our house. We fill buckets and bring them up to the house to put through our water filter jug. We filter our water as the tank is about ten years old now, or more and we are in town. This process will be simplified a little when we move into the new house.
  8. Recycle Paper : in whatever form we can. Envelopes, local newspapers, lists, paper wrappers. If it’s not waxy, coloured or glossy its in the box. Boxes of paper have made their way over to our new garden to form the base of our vegetable garden beds. Over the 8 years we have been in our house we would have put TONNES of paper into our backyard and compost bins. What happens to it is another story.
  9. Shorter, colder showers : I’m a fan of short showers. Get in. Get clean. Game over. I’m also a Wim Hof follower. It’s good for the mind, the body and it’s good for the environment. Less hot water means less energy used. Like standing under a Highland waterfall in Scotland. Reading the comments at Earth Clinic a few years ago raised my curiosity.
  10. Wooden Pegs : we’ve had a mix of pegs in our peg basket for years. Plastic pegs, wooden pegs and other odd ones. The wooden pegs have actually outlasted the plastic pegs because of their ability to withstand degradation from UV light. The other benefit is that when they fall apart, as they eventually do, they just get put in the compost or buried into the garden soil. Easy. There are some fancy set-ups in the marketplace for hanging clothes up to dry, but wooden pegs do the job.
  11. Clothes Horse : Following on from wooden pegs, we also use a clothes horse to simply hang washing on under our deck. It doesn’t require pegs and is handy to place indoors or out.
  12. Laundry Balls : also in the laundry – we use good quality Laundry Balls containing small ceramic balls that soften the water in the washing machine to allow the clothes fibres to open and release dirt. Does many hundreds of washes and reduces the need for laundry powders or liquids. Caution: there are some inferior quality Laundry Balls on the market which have created some unsatisfied customers. It is probably best to find some reviews on specific brands and make a decision from there.

 

Please feel free to comment with those behaviours you have found helpful or useful yourself. Actions speak louder than words…