Farewell

Dear folks,

I’d like to acknowledge you my followers, past students and farm visitors, for giving me your support all these years. But today I have chosen to fold Terra Permaculture and move on. I will focus my energy onto my family, our health, our future.

All events have been cancelled and website will be folding soon.

Check out those brilliant permaculture courses run by John Champagne, Purple Pear Farm, Limestone Permaculture, and last but not the least, Milkwood Permaculture.

It has been a great pleasure knowing you all, in person or online.  I wish you an abundant and regenerative permaculture life. Farewell.

A lady beetle deficiency

My eggplants were doing fine until we got a lot of rain and a bit of heat and then kaboom, red spider mites infestation. These tiny little arachnids, the size of a sharp pencil dot, cluster on the underside of leaves and suck the plant juices. In response, the plant develop scar tissues (brown holes and edges), and spends all its energy trying to defend itself. If left unchecked, the plant will die.

There are a few home-remedies to tackle a light infestation.

The quick fix

In a glass jar, mix 1 cup of kitchen oil with ¼ cup of dishwashing liquid – shake well and store for future use. Mix 1 to 2 tablespoon of this mixture in a 1l spray bottle and spray over and under the leaves. This will suffocate the beasts! Repeat every two days until you’re on top of the infestation. I also add seaweed extract to that solution. That gives the plant a boost.

The good practice

Add compost (homemade the better!) or worm castings at the base of the plant (don’t let it touch the stems too much). In healthy compost reside predatory mites that make a feast of red spider mites. This solution is effective when the infestation is at its infancy. Mulch well.

Prevention

A long term and sustainable solution sit in Integrated Pest Management. Plant insectary plants in and around your veggie patch, such as yarrow, Sweet alyssum, Queen Anne’s Lace. Let your cilantro, parsley and dill go to seeds. The lady beetle adult feeds on nectar from these flowers, and their babies feed on garden pests including aphids and red spider mites.

RIP

If the plant is seriously ravaged, pull out, bag and solarise for a few days in the sun. Then compost

Ticks. Dead. On contact.

Ticks used to start coming out of winter dormancy in October/November at the farm. Now this year, I saw them crawl on us and our furry animals by the end of August!!! It must be warmer, no doubt.

I normally douse my clothes, shoes and hat in heavy duty insect repellent every time I go slay lantana in the bush and around our paddocks. Most of the time, it works, but there’s still been a few occasions where there was one latched on my neck, on my scalp, on my eyebrow, under the armpit, in between the toes, or under my watch! I get a very itchy reaction and I fear that I may get the Australian Lyme disease or worse even, red meat allergy…

I tried every method ever suggested to “safely” remove ticks…

  • the tweezers method
  • the scrape-with-a-nail method
  • the peppermint oil, tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil methods
  • the Vaseline blob method
  • the tick-removal gadget (only works on large ticks)
  • the drown-my-metho method
  • the die-by-flame method
  • the wart-off method

… all with unconvinced success, never 100% sure the tick is dead or that the head has been pulled off.

tick-tox-productI decided to try TickTox, that new spray on the market that freezes ticks on contact. I sprayed with accuracy ticks latched onto the child, the WWOOFer, the house cow, the dog, and of course myself!

Dead. On contact!

It is so easy to operate that I can now trust the child or the husband to spray ticks dead on me now (I used to fear they would mess up with the tick so much it would inject more toxin into me!).

Let me know if you want to purchase a bottle – I’ve become the Central Coast stockist.

Dry Summer aftermath

I am walking our micro market garden aisles, checking the organic/biodynamic goodies that I will place on our stall table at the upcoming inaugural Yarramalong Market, and I reflect on how challenging it is to grow food… and yet, how seemingly trivial it is when, as a consumer, we pick perfect looking veggies at the greengrocer.
Summer has been particularly hard here for us. It was initially predicted a wetter than average season so I planted my crop of pumpkin on higher grounds… they all perished as it turned out to be a drier than average Summer! The market garden went on standby with mostly green manure growing to protect the soil from the harsh sun and heat.  I had Millet, Buckwheat and Mung Bean growing together on heavily mulched garden beds. They grew with limited irrigation and kept the soil life alive. Just before they reached flowering stage, I dug them in, let them decompose and got ready for autumn planting. You should see how fluffy the soil is with this practice! Green manure adds carbon, nitrogen, and a vast array of other nutrients. The more diverse the green manure mix, the more diverse the nutrients you put back into the soil. Everything from soil bacteria to earthworms is striving with that diet.
Now that the cool season is upon us and our tanks are full, I want to expand our gardens and grow more food!!! Instead, I’ll apply self-regulation and remember the feedback that Summer gave me.
We run four Open Farm tours as part of the Harvest Festival programme – June Long Weekend. Check out our website for details: terrapermaculture.com

Easy seed raising mix

I make my own seed raising mix, mostly as I hate carting heavy bags of ready-made stuff, I love making my own, it’s cheaper, and, last but not least, I know what’s in it.

I stock up on blocks of premium grade coconut coir (also called coconut peat) ahead of the seed raising season. They are a waste product from coconut farming that is upcycled and put to good use. They’re light, stack neatly in the nursery and the plastic packaging is much thinner and smaller than those of ready-made seed raising bags. It has however a large carbon footprint due to being imported from Sri Lanka or about… I console myself knowing that I use it to grow food, cycle nutrients, improve soil structure, etc…

Look for coir bricks that come without added synthetic fertilisers or water crystals. The type I get makes up to 9 litres.

Then, in the seed raising mix go worm castings and worm wee. I know where these come from… one of our many worm farms!

Then comes vermiculite, a natural mineral which helps with moisture retention and drainage. It is a mined product, potentially from America (although I am checking that with the brand where I buy it from and will write back once I know). Again, I have the ethical dilemma regarding the use of this product because of its carbon footprint…. Sigh! It’s not easy being 100% green I tell you!

I mix three parts coconut coir (that needs to expand with diluted worm wee), one part worm castings, one part sieved homemade compost, and one part vermiculite. Voilà! Ready to use for raising even the tiniest of seeds or taking cuttings.

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Folding 2017 – boundless gratefulness

Another year draws to an end and we take account at the farm of what went well, what failed and what could have been done differently.

Our gardens have been pumping amazingly pretty and healthy crops from biodynamic-enriched soils. Now in the ground are all your Summer goodies: zucchinis, capsicum, tomatoes, chillies, eggplants, basil and also beans, sweet potatoes, artichokes, amaranth, and lots of aromatic herbs.

We’re slowly pulling the spuds out of the ground to make way for green manure that will grow throughout Summer and enrich the beds ahead of Autumn planting. It’s all looking so healthy, so vibrant with life, so resilient that I am convinced permaculture works and biodynamic helps.

I am convinced permaculture works and biodynamic helps

We’re selling to some restaurants now and we’re seriously discussing with other growers in Jilliby/Dooralong the feasibility for a regular market place where you can buy local seasonal organic goodness from us. It could be a car-boot type of gathering or a farm-gate sale… I dream of opening a community produce co-op retail store… stay tuned!

We ran another successful permaculture design course and we’re hoping to run another one starting this Winter. There’ll be more workshops too, Open Farms, Farm Tours and ReWild Kids Day Camps – I just need time to organise them!

Time. This is where I failed at keeping track of.

Rest. This is what I could have done differently, as in, getting more of it!

I am blessed, oh so blessed, and immensely grateful, to have spent some time with you this year. Sending you love Sandra, Lyb, Annette, Kathy, Kate, Nancy, Maria, Natalie, Lynn and Mike, Chris and Jessica, Natika, Rodney and the students of Class 3, all my PDC students, the children of ReWild Kids, Fen, Jimmy, Clem and Tristan, Matt, Missy and Mel, the Permafund team, the friends at the brigade and  last, but not least, my dearest folks, my beloved life’s partner and our child who fill my day with purpose.

May you all have a new year filled with simplicity, love, and good health.

 

 

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.

 

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Photo by PermaRoadTrip