Permaculture community grows

We’ve only just released into the wild a bunch of extremely talented permaculture graduates, all super keen and skilled to restore our landscapes and community. There is a staggering and growing number of folks who want to be real actors of change in their corner of the World. They want to collect water, reduce waste, grow food and create or foster habitats for the local biodiversity, altogether strengthening the ties that make a community resilient and harmoniously happy. They know that beyond a “want” it is a “need”.

These folks come from all walks of life… There are the accountants, newsreaders, IT experts, doctors, lawyers, activists, mums and dads, school teachers and even policemen!  Not many of them are tree-hugging hippies!

What they all have in common is the factual realisation that our society cannot continue as it has been, business as usual, in a future of certain climate instability.

They understand what it takes to be a conscious human being, capable of healing the food systems that we rely on by consuming ethical and local, by saying no to biodiversity-destroying monocultures like palm oil, by genuinely reducing the waste we produce especially single-use plastics… They understand much more than what I can write in this short article.

I am humbled at having guided them into their permaculture journey and as I ‘rest’ until the next course, I will continue tending the farm and the family, raising food ethically, weaving more ties with you, my community, (find me at the next Dooralong Produce Swap, 10 December, together with the Carols by Candlelight) and to be grateful for this life I’ve been given.

 

2017PDCJillibyGraduates2017 Graduates
Photo by PermaRoadTrip

Magnesium and Calcium: keystone elements for plant health

Soil testing

Soil testing

Australian soils are notoriously deficient in calcium and magnesium. A simple soil test carried out by a soil testing lab will confirm if your soils are indeed inadequately balanced. I personally think it is worth the expense (somewhere between $50-$200 per test) if you’re serious about gardening ornamentals or edible plants, or growing healthy pasture.

You need to know what your soils are made of. Deficiencies in soils lead to stressed plant that will attract pests and diseases. These in turn will cause you lots of grief.

Calcium and magnesium are amongst the most needed nutrients for plants to uptake other nutrients. It has to do with their cation exchange capacities (their positive electrical charge) which, in short, binds to other nutrients.

Role of calcium in plants

  • Participates in metabolic processes of other nutrients uptake.
  • Promotes proper plant cell elongation.
  • Strengthen cell wall structure – calcium is an essential part of plant cell wall. It forms calcium pectate compounds which give stability to cell walls and bind cells together.
  • Participates in enzymatic and hormonal processes.
  • Helps in protecting the plant against heat stress – calcium improves stomata function and participates in induction of heat shock proteins.
  • Helps in protecting the plant against diseases – numerous fungi and bacteria secret enzymes which impair plant cell wall. Stronger Cell walls, induced by calcium, can avoid the invasion.
  • Affects fruit quality.
  • Has a role in the regulation of the stomata.

Role of magnesium in plants

Magnesium is an indispensable mineral for plant growth, for it plays a major role in the production of chlorophyll, on which photosynthesis depends. Without a ready source of magnesium the plant cannot grow.

  • Chlorophyll formation
    • Light-absorbing green pigment
    • Capture’s the energy of sunlight and turns it into chemical energy
    • Allows synthesis of organic compounds that are useful for plant growth and functioning (carbohydrates, lipids, proteins)
  • Synthesis of amino acids and cell proteins
  • Uptake and migration of phosphorus in plants
  • Vitamin A and C concentrations
  • Resistance to unfavourable factors (drought, cryptogamic disease)

So, it is good practice to sprinkle a handful of dolomite lime per square meter of soil prior to planting a new crop. Dolomite lime brings calcium as well as magnesium. Garden lime (cheaper) only brings calcium. Both types of lime help raise the pH. Soil pH are, in general, best around 6.5-7. Our veggie patch soils at the farm started at pH 4 (rather acidic) and now four years of soil improvement later, we’re at 6.5.

Another practice that I would recommend is to dilute Epsom salt (Magnesium sulphate) in a spray bottle (1/4 teaspoon for two cups of water) and apply as a foliar spray in the late afternoon, when the sun is no longer shining on plants, once a fortnight. This will give your plants an extra magnesium boost that helps with chlorophyll production. Strong chlorophyll metabolism lead to strong plants that pump a lot of energy and can grow big, healthy and resilient.

Finally, I also spray once a fortnight seaweed solution. I mix that solution with Epsom salts and spray once – that saves time. Plants get a real kick out of that and soils too.

Last but not least, organic matter. Add generous amounts of it, regularly, to feed the soil biota (aka soil life such as bacteria, fungi, arthropods, etc.).

Happy soils – happy plants – healthy gardener.

Come and talk to us gardeners at the Dooralong Produce Swap, 3rd Sunday of the Month, Dooralong Oval, 3pm!

Or sign up to our permaculture course to learn EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW about soils! How to analyze them, restore them, feed them, nurture them…

2017 Part-Time PDC (web)

2017 Part-Time PDC

Walking the path to most resilience

It’s the time of the year when I get super excited  as I start planning for the logistics of our annual permaculture course.

Every year, people like you make the commitment to study how we can restore and regenerate our landscapes (both physical and social) and make our livelihoods more resilient in the face of climate -and social- uncertainties.

“Growing your own food, generating your own power, living simply but well, and being a role model that helps bind the community into a supportive entity… These are not utopian ideals. It’s all feasible. It’s been done many places. It can be done in your neighbourood too.”

2017 Part-Time PDC (web)

Permaculture is rooted in agricultural landscape & social repair.  However now, its principles are applied in many interconnected fields.

  • Food production
  • Family gardens and community gardens
  • Education
  • Water harvesting
  • Soil reconstruction
  • Reforestation
  • Energy production
  • Organisational structures
  • Finance & investment
  • Social structures

“I dream of a Permaculture Retirement Village system… imagine, old Permies, retiring gracefully, alongside new/young Permies who are learning from Elders, doing the work, working for food and education, happily ever after… Any takers to design such system? I’d love to lead you in that process…”

We’re enrolling now.

Come and join our part-time course.
It is packed with practical workshops, site visits and theory too. More info here
or here

Eventbrite - Part-Time Permaculture Design Course

Proud to be a peasant

We opened our farm gate in May for International Permaculture Day and we did it again in June, this time as part of the inaugural Central Coast Harvest Festival. From 9am to noon, our farm gate opened for visitors to tour our gardens and have a feel for what permaculture gardening, farming and living look like. It was full house every time! Whoah, little did I expect that to happen. I am overjoyed.

So guess what… we’re doing it again in July! Check out  details on our event page.

We’ve been here for over four years, restoring this landscape, nurturing our soils, planting seeds, sometimes failing, and always soldiering on, of embedding ourselves into our local community, of sharing and creating together, and of growing as a family in a context where healthy wholefood is a luxury and homesteading is something of the past.

There’s now productive veggie patches and herb gardens, food forest and orchards, community market garden, restored pastured, pastured animal systems, managed forest, protected creek and waterholes… all that over a wild rainforest backdrop.

A kind soul asked me recently how I called myself… “Are you a hippie Lexxie?” he said.

It’s true. It must be hard to understand why a young thing (hum! not so much anymore!) would prefer Red Backs over high heels and a hoe over an iPad… Why on Earth would someone trade an easy office job for one on a farm, growing food for the family, creating habitats for native birds, and be brought to tears at the sight of a blue banded bee?

“I am a peasant, a neo peasant” I replied.  I care for my family. I care for my land. I care for my community. With thrifty means and tools. With honesty and integrity. With the knowledge that at the end of the day, all that unites us is food. That’s our common ground.

And yes, I have dirt forever embedded under my finger nails. So what?

Come and see me at the Dooralong Produce Swap (3rd Sunday of the month with Music in the Park, 2-4pm – swap starts at 3.30pm), or visit us on the farm!

 

Feature Photo credit: Chris Best Vision Home Design and Photography


Want a life like this? Come and learn Permaculture with us!

Course starts 9 August. Check out our events page.

https://valleysendfarm.net/courses/permaculture-design-course/

Autumn Bounty

Our gardens are pumping with the cooler temperatures and this much-needed rain. We’ve only lost a few crops to the sudden season change, mostly zucchinis and we’re now planting salad greens, celery, leek, cabbages, garlic and many more Winter goodies. I love Autumn!

Basil has been coming out of our ears this summer and it is still showing signs of growth. We’ve bottled well over a year’s supply of pesto. I don’t use pine nuts in my pesto (which mostly comes from China), but instead I use Australian grown organic sunflower seeds or (even better) Australian pesticide-free almonds which I toast lightly and blend with salt, pepper, a bit of garlic and of course, basil and olive oil. Bottle in clean jars and sterilize for one hour. Tadaa!

Our local restaurant Osteria A Mano made a superb traditional pesto with our basil and I get quite a hit when I see our farm produce listed on their menu! It won’t be long until our biodynamic market garden is able to supply a steady flow of goodies, to restaurants and the community.

Last but not least, The Dooralong Produce Swap is rocking! Last month we traded cucumbers, eggplants, capsicums, chillies, spring onions, seasonal herbs, kale, kefir lime, Kombucha, cake, plants and seeds. See you next month!

I love this Valley!

Oh and check out what’s coming up:

 

Letting go – accepting feedback

“Apply self regulation and accept feedback” is one of twelve permaculture principles that comes knocking at my door very often, if not every day.

It is a best friend.
It always tells the truth, sometimes brutal, unadulterated or sugar coated.
It does it with care in mind though.
It challenges me to constantly look, feel, hear, touch and smell the patterns around me and put aside the ego.
It teaches or reminds me to be vulnerable.
It slaps me in the face, sometimes.

To apply self-regulation you need to read the patterns around you, and within you.You need to be honest with yourself. You need to be reasonable. You need to be in control. You need to step back, and remove yourself from the subject that needs self-regulation. You get a better view that way. You need to not see things from a I want point of view.

To accept feedback is akin (to me) to consciously offer my face to be slapped. It is a hard process. I know that it is coming.  I know how it will feel. I brace against it. Then SLAP. (ouch).

Only then can letting go happen.

pushing details into a pattern

One boysenberryI wanted to grow berries, all sorts of berries. Strawberries, boysenberries, raspberries, loganberries, mulberries… Wanted.

Isn’t is funny (in a sad kind of way) that I never had berries in my permaculture design of this place? I had it all figured out at the time that we didn’t have the right growing conditions for it, and I also knew that I wouldn’t like to prune and train canes onto a structure, pull suckers, etc…

But… I wanted. So I will have.

And as I drooled over plant catalogues (it’s called plant porn) and salivated at the idea of homemade raspberry jams and blackberries smoothies, I went ahead and acquired all sorts of berry plants which I duly planted into the ground…. therefore working against the climatic conditions, the soil conditions, and my own dislike to prune or train berries!

This is pushing the details onto the pattern.

Permaculture design is about patterning first, then finding the details that fit the pattern. It is about observing the native patterns of one’s landscape and using biological resources appropriate for that pattern for the purpose of building shelter, growing food, producing energy, etc.

Why on earth did I go ahead  knowing that?
Well, I am only a mere mortal, with ego, wants, and dreams. I love challenges. I am stupid.

hear the feedback from our land

Caged strawberryBut today, I am giving up. Decision was made this morning after I (at last) accepted to hear the feedback from our land that we can’t grow berries here.

  1. We get blasted by sun radiations in our little valley, especially at the time when berries are growing and should give flowers and fruits. I ended up stretching a thick UV shelter above them which came at a co$t as I didn’t find a second hand one at the time.
  2. Our sandy loam soils, despite being heavily mulched and fertile, drain super easily. Irrigation is compulsory to obtain berries that are plump. We don’t irrigate. So cane berries are thin and feeble, flowers are sparse and the occasional fruit is irrelevant to making jams!
  3. Suckers pop in everywhere or canes left un-pruned manage to layer on contact with the ground (great technique for propagating them!).
  4. Wildlife comes in hordes and lash out onto the berries, not even ripe, leaving only a few to us. I celebrated this year when we had three each to eat!!!
  5. Netting cane berries is a nightmare.
  6. Building a permanent infrastructure around the berries is ludicrous – it would cost less in energy (money, materials, time, etc) to buy certified organic berries in plastic punnets (hic!) every day when they’re in season.
  7. The bellbirds, the bower birds, the cat birds, the king parrots and the fruit dove all love berries.
  8. The bush rats love berries.
  9. The ants love berries.
  10. I love berries! But I love my sanity more.

So I am giving up. I will pull all my cane berries and give them away to those with better growing conditions. Maybe that way, I’ll get to eat some.

 

Find me there:

  • Dooralong Produce Swap (note the new date: 3rd Sunday of the Month – Dooralong Oval – 3.30pm)
  • Permaculture Central Coast monthly talks (3rd Tuesday of the Month – Tuggerah Hall – 7pm)
  • Or contact me directly on Facebook or email