grass or grain

The area where I live is rather infamous for growing a contraband herb commonly known as ‘grass’. Personally, I think the human race should working on waking up rather than medicating it’s pain. But I’m playing with the possibilities of regular grass here.

When I first started working with this plot of earth, the ground was like rock, with no worms or signs of soil life at all. Most of the region had been seeded with a particularly tough variety of pasture known as setaria grass, for beef production. It is a hardy, vigorous clumping perenial that grows a foot a week in summer, reaching a height (that falls over) of up to 2 metres if not grazed by permanent livestock. Although, thankfully, it slows growing in winter, keeping it in check without constant grazing or weekly slashing in summer is impossible. Heavy cattle grazing & yearly burning off contributed to the compacted lifeless soil condition & so not an option for me. AND I don’t have a tractor. For lack of a solution, mostly it has been allowed to simply grow for many years & inadvertently added compost & protected the soil from erosion. The result, especially after the last few wet years has been a vast improvement in soil life & condition.

However, the wet won’t last forever & long grass is a fire hazard in dry years & setaria is not the best quality grass for grazing ruminants; horses suffer calcium deficiencies & so too, most likely do other species. Grass is food for animals but a more varied diet is preferable. My plan is to intercrop with other grass & herb types by slashing in autumn when growth slows & seeding with lawn varieties & clover for nitrogen-fixing in open areas & roadways/access tracks as fire breaks. Once new pasture is established in a few months, the introduction of goats should help with maintenance over summer. I have chosen goats for their usefulness in browsing brush & weeds & have found their barn/straw droppings a bonus in the vegetable beds; their small size does much less soil compaction damage & they conveniently eat more grass in summer & more brush in winter (lantana & woody weeds abound here).lantana eating goatlings

So far, I have reclaimed perhaps an acre or two by hand digging fully grown clumps of setaria grass, laying on contour & creating garden beds with the decomposing grass, a back breaking job of many years. In fact, anywhere the grass isn’t over your head & looks like garden is the result of this work. Now I have a new method that looks unsightly for a time but far more effective- covering with old carpet or black builders plastic, leaving for months until the grass dies & directly planting into the resulting layer of mulch. Instant garden!black plastic

This piece of black plastic has been progressively rolled downhill & now the newly cleared area has been planted to linseed, a crop I tried a patch of last winter with great success. The great advantage of this method is not digging. I’ve found that as soon as one turns the earth or it is laid bare, a new nightmare begins, weed seeds that have laid dormant invariably sprout, creating more work in the cropping area.

My latest grass experiment is to try inter-cropping grain into the permanent pasture, taking advantage of the dormant winter growth of setaria to interplant wheat & oats (a winter crop in Australia).  Without tilling or disturbing the soil I have been spreading seed between the clumping grass (although the clumps are massive, they are almost a foot apart). After the harvest in spring, the permanent grass will re-grow to be grazed by the goats who will also manure & fertilize the area for the next season’s winter grain. That’s the cunning plan!

Here’s the progress so far: first, cut the grass! Easier said than done- this stuff is like rope & has been un-cut for years, resulting in tangled masses that only the toughest brush-cutter, time & gritted teeth can conquer. Fortunately, I have the machine, although it took 5 tanks of petrol to clear the first 10m2! before rakingThe pic at right is after the first cut before raking the mulch for the vege gardens. Did I say raking? Yeah right- no rake can get through it. Human tractor picks up with bare hands.

Next, after clearing bulk of mulch, leave to re-sprout one week & cut again.big clumps This picture will give you an idea of the monster grass I’m dealing with here. Next to the boot is ONE clump before the second cut. Grass is cut in the forth lunar quarter on the waning moon; hopefully it’ll stop growing. Hopefully (now late April).

Now for the fun part. There is is still a good layer of mulch on the ground between the clumps. I don’t want to expose the soil or dig but take advantage of the very wet soil & use the mulch to cover,but the seeds do need soil contact. Human tractor gets low & dirty. Hands & knees, hand fork in one hand, rake surface mulch towards self, sprinkle seed, rake next section over first, one foot by one foot, across contour. 12m2of wheat sown in first lunar quarter (sow leafy greens).         IMAG0040 Left: soil bared for seeds before raking mulch over to clear next section.

Ok, so this is madness, you may think. Why would I bother? This isn’t even a grain-growing area. Sub-tropical, mountainous ex-rainforest. Tell that to the traditional Asian populations of the world. AND I don’t have a tractor! AND I don’t want to turn the soil, slowly returning to fertility after years of slashing, burning & over-grazing. Why even grow grain? Because I eat it! Because I’m not trying to make money & grow large areas. Because I have inadvertantly realized a tractor would have compacted this super saturated soil (one has time to think & observe when on hands & knees tending the earth). Will wheat even grow here? Well it did last year! I tried a small patch (5m) of biodynamic wheat from a farm some 100km from here- the nearest I could find. It grew fine & fortunately we had a very dry spring when it was heading (a usual pattern). I saved the seed & have re-planted the small amount in the crop circle for extra care to save again. I plan to save (not eat) my seed for generations to breed a wheat variety acclimatised to my zone. Taking the time & trouble to do all this by hand is worth it to save seed, the most important thing any gardener can do in this age of multi-national take-overs of our sovereign right to food! after first cut

At left is the slashed area one week later, before sowing to wheat.sprouts 1 1/2 weeks After sowing, I cut grass to cover seeds.At right are the newly emerged seedlings another week later. Aren’t they beautiful? At the same time, I am applying the same process to an area adjacent to the ‘crop’ that I hope to keep low over summer as an access road/ fire break parallel to the creek line (which is being planted to native rainforest). The edges slope & I am created mini-terraces planted to sub-tropical tubers (ginger, galangal, cassava & jerusalem artichokes) as a living fence/windbreak. new lawn seed

To the left is the new wheat crop, to the right, new pasture grass seedlings emerge, with root crop beds at the far right. Towards the rear is the next slashed & grass seeded zone one month later.at 4 weeks

 

 

The picture at right is the one month old wheat crop (late May). As the ground is still moist, I have not yet watered the new crop at all, including at planting. Meanwhile, I have prepared the next zone for oats to the left of the area in this photo & planted another section of wheat  3 x 10m between as a test for best sowing times for future reference. (1st & 2nd lunar quarter in May)  Below right

left wheat right oatsmay 25/201Above the grain growing area is the ‘crop circle’, now with an outer ring of wattle branches & up-rooted lantana. Late sunflowers, Oats & chickpeas have already been sown into this area & will soon also be planted with stone fruit, as this whole flat zone is liable to get frost at times. The crop circle (above right) is now being planted with a succession of winter vegetables, one segment per month. Note the ‘special’ wheat (from last years home-grown seed) to the top left of the photo. The milk carton cloches front left I now regard as indespensible to protect the new seedlings from wind, sun & insect exposure until their roots have established. So that’s the autumn planting, on to goat fencing preparations!

 

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ecobuilding

“People need the home they live in to take care of them” Michael Reynolds (the ’garbage warrior’, creator of Earth ships). Of course, this is what shelters are for, are they not? And yet, for so many in the modern world, houses are only a financial commodity, often in excess to their actual living needs, inefficient, poorly designed & made from all manner of energy intensive & toxic materials. 

Below left: back to basics, Steph rendering with cob (subsoil & hemp hurd) onto bamboo screen. Below right: finished with Rockcote’s clay plaster & Rockcote’s finecoat clay plaster (white layer at bottom left of picture).

making cob

clay render

 No place like home: The most basic function of a house is shelter from the elements, a means of keeping dry from the rain, shaded from the sun & protection from wind and fluctuations of temperature. The local environment (climate & specific site conditions) should largely determine materials, layout design & building style. The placement of a building within the landscape is important too, minimising extreme exposure although allowing for natural ventilation & lighting. Surrounding vegetation can be used to modify local conditions. In my own experience, starting with an unbearably hot, bare paddock, after 3-4 years of planting trees, the house temperature became more moderate & now, after nearly 20 years of growth, the house remains cool in summer & barely a breeze blows through when distant trees are lashed by gale-force thunderstorms. Building (& planting) over a long period of time has allowed us to observe the change of sun angle over the seasons. Although shaded from the hot western sun in summer by deciduous trees, in winter the low morning sun stretches across 6m of veranda to warm the kitchen. Hence the garden is an extension of the home, acting as a buffer zone to the wider world.

Put a hat on: Durable roofing materials are perhaps the most convenient of modern building developments, although the pay-off is that they are also energy & resource intensive (iron sheeting, concrete, glazed fired ceramic tiles). Given that roofing is the most important function of a house, this investment is perhaps necessary & one should endeavour to ensure that whatever materials are used require minimal maintenance & have long life. Rooves made from component parts like tiles & corrugated iron can have damaged parts replaced. Extending the roof line with eaves or the ubiquitous Australian veranda also protects external walls from sun & rain damage, as well as aiding temperature control internally (stays cooler in summer). In my experience with building a ‘Queenslander” style home in sub-tropic northern NSW over a 10 year period, each additional veranda added created several degrees reduction in temperature in summer.

Not only does a roof keep water out, it is also an impervious  layer that can be used to catch rain water (for drinking, washing or irrigation- depending on the air/water quality). Pathways, roads & kerbside gutters are likewise existing water channels that should be used for catchment in the dry as well as drainage when excessively wet. Efficient design is obtaining multiple functions from each element.     

solar tubelights

Energy efficiency: Use no more than you need!    Left: Solar light tubes installed in the Rainbow Cafe. While designing & building a house from scratch is not possible for most people, there are many modifications that can be used to minimize energy use. As well as low wattage lights, skylights & reflective surfaces take advantage of natural light, reducing lighting costs. Most  appliances now have comparative energy ratings- & yes, turning appliances off at the wall when not in use DOES make a difference.  Heating costs can be reduced with insulation, covering windows with heavy drapes & using door stoppers to prevent drafts & of course, an extra layer of clothing uses far less energy than the heater!  (Artificial heating & cooling may well interfere with our body’s natural seasonal adjustment & temperature regulation, leading to an increase in colds & flu. Do yourself a favour & toughen up!) In summer, make use of natural airflow (of pre-cooled air from shade trees & verandas) by opening windows & doors. Wear a wet scarf or shawl for personal evaporative air conditioning on those scorching days- you won’t believe how well it works!

byron green building centre I worked for Deb at Painted Earth Eco-friendly Paints & Finishes in Byron Bay for 2 years & can vouch for her utmost integrity & dedication to finding environmentally responsible solutions for our homes. Now she & new business partner Dave have expanded their services to include all aspects of green building- the most all inclusive business of its kind in Australia! 

hemp building another first for the region. Clara has done the research to make zero THC hemp an (approved) viable alternative building material

http://www.poohsolutions.com/ our local compost toilet & waste water expert

natural homes gallery Inspirational pics from around the globe

waste

There is no such thing as waste, only unused resources.

From every corner of the globe to the remotest island, our excess is piling up. Before the last century, only the most enduring artefacts of human habitation are preserved. Now, it seems we have an insatiable appetite for plastic – and it’s inedible! We poison our waterways & atmosphere & pillage our soils & forests.

Changing our ways is now urgent and we must all endeavour to repair the damage we’ve done, each of us starting with where we are right now – in our own homes & communities – zone one.

It may be that those living (or aspiring to live) in modern western societies aren’t fully cognizant of the effects of their throw-away society because they have the luxury of garbage collection & centralized sewerage. The 25L rubbish bin has become a 50L wheelie bin which some households manage to fill every week. If this weren’t conveniently removed weekly they would soon find their house & garden wouldn’t be large enough to hold their unwanted refuse after only 1 year! Remember, the Earth is round, it all comes back to us! If we can’t reuse, recycle, decompose or render it harmless, we shouldn’t create it in the first place!

Below: zone one’s ‘outhouse’ displaying non-toxic cleaners, compost additives & waste water inoculants.            Tips for reducing waste:               outhouse

¨ Buy quality not disposable

¨ Repair or Re-use

¨ Use no more than you need

¨ Use biodegradable or recyclable &

¨ products made from renewable materials

¨ Treat waste on-site (water treatment, composting, etc)

AND demand less packaging! Purchase wisely & buy local, buy fresh, buy in bulk

Return to Earth : Any biological material (food scraps, vegetation, paper, manure etc) is valuable biomass- not rubbish. Such material should be composted & used to build soil, not mixed with plastic & other non-bio degradable waste to rot in landfill. Home compost bins can be purchased or made from recycled materials. Worm farms & kitchen top bokashi bins can be used for small dwellings or apartments or get involved with your neighbours to create a communal compost area & lobby your local council to collect separate green waste & recyclable materials (bottles, cans, paper, metal etc.) Most importantly, avoid using products that do not naturally decompose or cannot be recycled.

Water treatment : Don’t put down the sink what you can’t drink! Avoid toxic & non biodegradable products, soaps, cleaners, shampoos etc – if it makes fish sick, it’s probably not good for our health either. We recommend liquid castile soaps for personal use, phosphate free cleaners & washing detergents, natural cleaners like vinegar, bi-carb & lemon juice, tea tree, eucalyptus & lavender oils for disinfectant, and our personal all-round favourite miracle product, EM-1© (Professor Higa’s Effective Micro-organisms) for biological breakdown of putrescent material & odour control. Activated EM© heart pondscan be used to wash surfaces, clean drain pipes, reduce grease & sludge build-up and is actually beneficial to natural waterways and soil.             Collect your own water (rainwater tanks), clean the water you use (filter with charcoal, inoculate with EM© & oxygenate with flow forms or fountains) & re-use it on your garden. Water is precious, treat it with love & respect. Left: oxygenating ponds in series

Don’t burn, biochar!: Burning creates smoke (atmospheric carbon) & wastes valuable biomass that is better returned to the soil. Biochar (pyrolysis without oxygen) retains carbon and when added to the soil, aids in retaining water and nutrients , increasing fertility over time – fortifying with fertilizer such as seaweed or manure is recommended.IMAG1067 

Right: Smokeless Champion T-LUD cook-stove (makes charcoal while you cook with small fuel-twigs, nutshells, etc)

More info & Links to treatment processes: 

Composting tips                                                                          waste

EM© & Bokashi                                                                           garbage gardening

Water Health                                                                               weeds

Biochar                                                                                       nimbin recycling

Recycling

food

Nothing is more basic than food

Let food be thy medicine. The human body has co-evolved in conjunction with the naturally available food in the surrounding environment- roots, greens, fruits, seeds & nuts. The use of animal products (eggs, meat & dairy) was generally secondary to plant based foods, as evidenced by many hunter/gather societies, probably gaining in importance when plant growing conditions were stressed (such as drought or winter snow). At any rate, food was usually eaten in the freshest possible state, mostly raw & according to location & seasonal availability. Even with the advent of agriculture & animal husbandry, food & herbs were frequently supplemented from wild sources.

For optimum health, we recommend eating a wide variety of fresh, living seasonal food – vegetables, herbs, nuts, seeds & fruit. As far as proportion is concerned, consider how much of each type of food might have been available in the wild- a large number of wild grains for instance, would possibly have been less abundant at times than roots & greens, fresh meat or eggs might not have been so easy to catch daily. Three regular meals a day would have been unlikely for early humans ; most probably, we would have eaten as we found it, sometimes in abundance, sometimes fasting. It is also likely we would have gorged on single foods when they were prolific- fulfilling every ‘food group’ in every meal is a modern construct to make up for the fact that we don’t graze on a rich variety of wild foods.

Today, with increased sanitation & access to modern healthcare, many have forgotten that “we are what we eat” & fail to examine the nature & content of products presented as food. Healthful foods are fresh, derived from naturally occurring living species, grown in good soils for maximum vitamin & mineral content & harvested & treated in such a way so as not to destroy their positive qualities. Any time food is heated (egg pasteurized) or artificially manipulated (eg. irradiated) it is chemically changed to a form that our bodies may be unable to recognise or digest. Too many contemporary time-stressed people are living on a diet consisting of denuded, processed, pre-cooked foods, edible only because of a vast array of artificial flavourings to render them palatable. Strangely, malnutrition is a major contributor to obesity- the excess of nutritionally empty foods starve the cells of the body, making it permanently hungry!

Even ‘fresh’ food from the supermarket has been shown to be up to six months old or more before reaching your shopping basket, picked before maturity, transported from around the other side of the planet, kept in cold storage & artificially ripened by gas. ‘Sterilising’ food by irradiation is now being considered as mandatory treatment for internationally transported food.                           (see Codex Aliamentarus).

The economics of corporate supermarkets are such that small farms are no longer viable, instead, food is grown in vast monocultures, necessitating the use of large machinery, an arsenal of petrochemical fertilisers, chemical insecticides & herbicides to control weeds- all of which destroy soil biology & ultimately turn naturally fertile land into wasteland. Meanwhile, we face global population explosions, the breakdown of rural farming communities & the displacement of traditional cultures (those who understand the land) & ever increasing urban sprawl. Interestingly, as humans have colonized every corner of the globe, we have preferred to settle in the most fertile areas & close to water sources but as populations increase, those best agricultural areas become predominantly residential, meaning we require ever increasing areas to feed us.

Why don’t we grow food where we are? It’s not necessary to move to the country to grow at least some of your own food (weather & wildlife create challenges of their own). Where I live in subtropical Northern NSW we have everything from scorching sun to mouldy wet seasons, freak hail storms to black frosts (kills everything) & without secure fencing, brush turkeys, wallabies, bandicoots, bush rats , bats & birds get the lion’s share of the crop. A suburban backyard can be just as productive; even if each tiny terrace garden in the city had one fruit tree, imagine, a street would equal an orchard. Unfortunately though, modern gardens tend to be purely ornamental; lawns are the biggest cultivated crop in America (probably Australia too) using more fuel & man hours to maintain than any food crop- & these grasses are not grown for grain! Suburban streets are lined with grassy verges than could be cultivated for more useful things, Council spraying & toxic run-off from the street not so good to eat, but perhaps green manures for mulch, flowers for the bees or public fruit trees would make these areas more productive. If you have no garden spaces at all, get together with your neighbours to create a community garden (there may be one in your area) or become a garden guerrilla (Permablitz) & occupy public spaces. Perhaps your local school or sporting club has space for food garden beds or fruit trees- get involved, collective gardening helps strengthen communities & is so much more rewarding than TV. The therapeutic benefits of touching the earth, getting out in the fresh air, being physically active, creating something useful & caring for living things, sharing with others & eating your own food is the ultimate panacea for a modern stressed lifestyle.

zone one stocks a range of locally made products: fresh farm eggs & honey, jams & preserves from locally grown produce, dried herbs & spices, teas & coffee, olives & cheese, plus beautiful hade-made string bags & baskets for your goodies. We are proud to host Nimbin’s own Community Grain mill & local biodynamic rice, wheat & spelt to grind into fresh flour.

We have all you need to get you started growing your own food garden, from quality vegetable seedlings from Farmer’s Choice Organics to root crops, herbs & fruit trees as well as bulk soil food (composts, vermicast, kelp, manures, biochar), beneficial micro-organisms & organic mulch. We also have a range of bamboo plants & bamboo construction kits & local rainforest trees for land care remediation.

We recommend growing to suit your particular climate & conditions & eating crops in season. Remember, if you choose to grow from seed, use non-hybrid & heritage varieties- and SAVE your SEED! Grow as many different varieties of food crops as you have room for (hedging your bets!) And remember, “Nature fills every niche” so be creative & pack the space.

water

have plenty to say about water, a work in progress. Meanwhile, here’s a few pics
micro biological filter system in shop- wash water from handbasin above is filtered thru vertical pipe filled with charcoal, then thru horizontal pipe with gravel & reeds & into fish pond. Of course, only liquid castille soap & non-toxic bio-active cleaners are used
        

                             Nimbin's free-ranging outlaw street chooks take a drink in zone one's birdbath        
               Nimbin’s outlaw street chooks take a drink in zone one’s birdbath

sustainable living

Why sustainable living? To sustain means to endure. It’s no secret that the systems that support modern human lifestyles are generally not sustainable, relying on the overuse of limited resources without sufficient consideration to their renewal. In a sustainable system, such as a natural ecosystem, each element within that system supports other elements, so that the system as a whole, whilst constantly changing, also replenishes itself in perpetuity.

The challenge for modern humans is to design OUR support systems to emulate these principles to ensure that we protect the future viability of those elements that are essential for our collective survival, such as clean water & air, healthy soils and natural genetic diversity.

Why the need for change? Although it is desirable that every one & every being be unique, when any element becomes disproportionate or out of balance, the integrity of the whole is threatened and it would seem human activities have created just such a situation today. Survival is part of our natural programming  (perhaps because our individual survival is primary programming, the individual ego has developed). However, when separate egos (& the collective anthropocentric ego) take precedence, greed & disregard for other elements may result, threatening the harmony (& ultimate survival) of the whole.  There is much to do to repair the imbalances we have create. It may be however, that our individual differences are necessary & each has a part to play, each according to their interests, talents & inclinations. What is needed is for us to understand the interconnectedness of all things on earth, combine our individual talents & work together to create a harmonious whole. Diversity within Unity Consciousness.

Elements of Integrated Sustainable Living Systems
Self-Reliance- resources & materials obtained locally from naturally occurring, non-polluting & renewable resources. Management & processing by locals. (relative independence from outside sources)
Self-sustaining- all elements retained/returned to system (recycled or used to support/feed other elements/ aspects of system
Preservation & improvement of the quality of fundamental resources
Maximize diversity within the system to ensure overall viability remains strong in face of changing circumstances.
These ideas & more detailed aspects of design are explored on this site & in Permaculture books & courses. (See more Tips for sustainable choices. )

The future is no more than the consequences of today. With the wisdom of the past and the technology of tomorrow, each one of us has the opportunity of being the innovative architects of our future, and the effects of our choices create not only our personal wellbeing, but that of our children and all other life forms with which we share this precious planet. (See conscious creating)
The concept of ‘sustainability’ means different things to different people, & with most of us enculturated to a modern western lifestyle, solar hot water, more efficient light bulbs & so on are the sort of things many people think of as ‘sustainable’. The fundamentals of life, (food, water, basic shelter & the wider enviroment) are rarely given much consideration, when the reality is that everything on this round planet is connected & ALL our activites impact on everything else! The focus of zone one & this site is on the basics, those things that we must get right if we are to create an enduring abundant future. Even access to electricity & transport is unimportant if we fail to secure clean water, nutritious food & a healthy natural enviroment.

star dome workshop

Nimbin’s S.E.V.E.N. Sibley Street Sustainable Living Hub still has a way to go (raising funds to finalize purchase of the site) and permanent plans & building projects will really only be able to be developed after this. Meanwhile, the site remains as it is, an empty block with an old dilapidated house fenced off for public safety. Not much to look at for such an exiting project!

So we put in a proposal to create some temporary installations to help generate some interest (and hopefully inspire more donations!). Nothing too permanent or too costly but something funky to inspire & obviously congruent with the theme of sustainability. As everybody is fascinated with domes we decided to hold a workshop to build the simplest version we know, which uses only 4 pieces of bamboo (split into sections of 5). This design is based on a 2V geodesic dome, developed by Professor Daisuke Takekawa of the University of Kitakyusha, but unlike geodesic domes requires minimal measuring, cutting & joining. His design uses continuous pieces of split bamboo (easy to bend) instead of complicated triangles & joiners. And so, on the 7th October 2012, 16 enthusiastic local participants came together to learn the process & now, a new Star(dome) is born on the streets of Nimbin. stardome workshop 009

This is the finished dome at the end of the day, mounted on short bamboo posts in-filled with straw bales donated by the Blue Knob Farmer’s Market (left over from the bale house we made for the Nimbin A&I Show.

We used 15 splits (+ 2 for the base)  6.5m long to create a dome 4m in diameter, prepared the splits by sanding (bamboo splinters are nasty) & treating with Cooee Timbertreat, a non-toxic, BFA certified, lanolin based exterior timber treatment from Painted Earth.

The aim of this installation is to promote sustainable living & we consider growing your own food in urban spaces an important part of future food security, good health & reducing food miles & that every space offers the potential for planting. So next we will make raised gardens with the bales, first watering in seaweed solution (to reduce mould & release nutrients for the plants), then parting the ‘bricks’, filling with compost and finally planting with edible climbers (beans, tomatoes & yams).  Straw bale gardens are instant landscaping & no-dig!

The structure itself demonstrates the sustainable principles of using renewable resources (bamboo & straw), design efficiency & conservative use of material (maximum space: minimum material) as well as multiple functionality (both shade/shelter & growing support). These domes can also be used as greenhouses, chook tractors with chicken wire cover or light weight temporary shelters (shadecloth or tarp covers). We plan to make fitted waterproof covers next.

Sustainable Alley

For the second year the Nimbin A & I show invited the local Blue Knob Farmer’s Market to participate & rather than moving all the stallholders from the Saturday market, we decided to expand our displays to demonstrate different aspects of sustainable practices to create the ‘Sustainable Alley’sustainable alley   

The Farmer’s Market itself was represented by a composite stall hosted by the tireless Maree who runs the ‘Back-yarders table’ at the market (where folks who may only have a small amount of excess produce can present their goodies). She displayed a range of fresh foods  from all the regular stallholders so visitors could purchase all the best local produce. (See belowblue knob farmer's market)

Even better, we created the first ‘Paddock to Plate’ cafe using ingredients sourced entirely from the Farmer’s Market. Naturally, it was well appreciated by the punters so by Sunday, word had spread & we had to start cooking breakfast early- it’s not every day folks get to sample preservative free local bacon & free range eggs (the rest of the menu pretty special too)!

Below: Cafe team hard at work

paddock to plate cafeIMG_1938                                         

At right: the naked? (breakfast) chef

Sustainable Alley hosted displays from the local Beekeepers group, Djangbung Gardens Permaculture College, our market butchers, Hemp Building, Rainbow Power Company, Nimbin Environment Centre, Nimbin Icecream as well as quails, sprouts, Sue’s preserves, worm farming, wood carving & edible weeds! The speaker’s tent was one of the highlights of the show (we suspect some came just to soak up the wealth of knowledge presented & seemed to stay there all day!)

LETS ATMLeft: promoting local community exchange systems, Kim & Peter transacting with LETS at the ATM (alternative trading market)new earth stall

 Right: Charmaster Dolph & Gilly at the ‘New Earth’ stall with biochar demos, Pooh Solutions composting toilets Effective Micro-organisms for waste treatement & soil remediation & Farmer’s Choice Organic Seedlings.

To demonstrate some hands-on sustainable practice, zone one created a straw-bale house at the centre of ‘Sustainable Alley’ with a bamboo reciprocal roof (many thanks to Jenny!). A wishing well (fund-raising for the S.E.V.E.N SIBLEY project) with vertical milk bottle garden, a pipe rail garden, flowform display, baby chook stardome & Jenny’s gorgeous kids for petting (baby goats that is) made the display a much visited attraction.

straw bale house & wishing well

straw bale house & wishing well

flow forms

bale house with flowforms

2-legged kids with 4 legged kids

2-legged kids with 4 legged kids

bamboo reciprocal roof

bamboo reciprocal roof

where are we now?

We closed our demonstration space at 66 Cullen St, Nimbin some months ago. Once the site at 7 Sibley site had been confirmed as purchased, we decided to take a break, catch up on the home front (our own zone one!) & be fresh for future involvement with the community owned Sustainable Living Hub at Sibley Street. Although the community has raised some funds towards the purchase, we still have a way to go before it is paid in full & until then, not much development can progress, but the Nimbin community has done it before! (We collectively bought the old high school site- now our community centre, housing a childcare centre, aged care service, Aboriginal cultural centre, Nim FM our local radio station, the youth club, dance studio, Aquarius Foundation & more!) We invite the world to help us raise funds, for more info about the project …http://www.sevenonsibley.com/……….

Meanwhile, back at the farm, extra time at home has seen the garden expand. Some extra help from Chris’s team of weed eating goats has made huge dents in the lantana infested landscape.Much easier to clear after they’ve made holes in it!terracing the slopes Now I’m moving up the mountain!

Personally, I’m a fan of adventitious weeds. Native regrowth is of course preferred, but the reality is that after 100 years of land-clearing, burning off & overstocking of cattle, this property, like so many others, had no topsoil when I came here 20 years ago & any rainforest species I planted in the early days didn’t survive & the fruit trees are only now starting to come good. Evolution takes time. Being in one once place for long enough has allowed me to observe the succession of species. I decided early on to leave the steep slopes to themselves, while concentrating on eradicating the setaria grass (great for grazing but grows 2m high without) & building up garden areas close to the house. Meanwhile, the slopes (once bare & eroded) changed over time to grow first blady grass (tough as it comes & sharp!), then bracken, then crofton weed, then lantana & finally the pioneer trees Marangas & wattle. Now shaded, the lantana is thinner (although scrambling up the trees) & with more mature stabilizing growth I can now clear the lantana & plant native rainforest trees. The photo above right is a very steep area beginning to be cleared. Some marangas have been felled & left on contour with lantana sticks to create terraces (biomass) & then planted with taro, ginger & galangal (edible tubers suited to this climate). These plants on contour should prevent erosion, allowing leaf matter to build up & contribute to topsoil buildup over time.

Similarly, I have observed all manner of common garden weeds appear, only to be replaced with others as the soil chemistry has changed. I have always pulled weeds & left them where they lie (biomass, biomass) & collected flowering or seeding weeds in a bucket filled with water to rot & used subsequent brew as fertilizer. Soil homeopathics!

All the rain of the last year has motivated me to trench & terrace even more (Shane calls me the human tractor) The new ‘crop circle’ below left looks more like a water wheel in heavy rain, like some strange machine, the trenches channel water from one part to another (I dug most of it in heavy rain!) trenches crop circl garden

This area was planted to all sorts of things I hadn’t tried much before- flax (linseed), oats, wheat, garlic as well as the other winter stuff broccoli, garlic, onions, beetroot, broad beans & kale. Elsewhere I had lettuce, spinach, potatoes, snowpeas, shallots, chinese greens, cabbage & cauliflower. With strawberries & bananas & the last of the pumpkins I haven’t bought fresh food for months! Everyone complained about the endless rain but now it’s stopped, it’s too dry & getting hotter so most of the garden gets a rest & I retract back to a small area of well-fed raised gardens for greens where I can keep up the water in summer. The self seeding cherry tomatoes take over & until chilli pickin’ starts up, I’ll have my hands full keeping the grass down.IMAG1272

At right, the basket gardens ready for summer planting. The pond has styrofoam boxes planted with water chestnuts- just sprouting nicely now. Hopefully, they’ll reproduce enough to grow a much bigger crop next year to float on the dam. I usually grow mint & vietnamese mint in the pond too & use the water for emergency watering or even grow lettuce in floating boxes so they don’t wilt when it gets too hot.