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GaryD

The Evolution of a Permaculture Micro-Farm

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Hi,

 

In the coming weeks and months, I'm going to transition our home on Macleay Island to a Permaculture micro-farm.

 

I'm currently studying a Permaculture Design Certificate course (online) with Geoff Lawton…..a prominent Australian Permaculture teacher.

 

Successful completion of the program requires that participants submit a design for assessment.  Having completed the course, I'm then deemed to be qualified to work as a consultant…..and to teach Permaculture.

 

I'll use what I know currently…..and what I learn on the PDC course…..to design my own backyard farm.

 

I'll also be incorporating Microponics (the integration of fish, plants and micro-livestock) into the design.  Microponics is Permaculture in miniature…..intensive backyard food production - with an appropriate technology twist.

 

Gary

Edited by Gary Donaldson (see edit history)

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Hi,

 

In the coming days, an arborist will remove two trees in the backyard.  One is a mango and I'll keep the wood from that for fuel and craft wood.  The other is a swamp mahogany (an acacia) and we'll mulch that.  Once the trees are gone, a mini-excavator will move some of the dirt around the backyard - to adjust levels and to create swales for water harvesting.

 

That will be followed by some tree planting…….I've bought nine Moringa trees (and enough seeds to plant up to 100 more).  I have about twenty comfrey plants ready for transplanting and we've just received the seeds for a diverse range of vegetables and fodder plants.

 

We have worms and BSF larvae happening already…..and I have a 65 litre container of foul-smelling comfrey tea brewing.

 

As soon as I manage to complete the new chicken house, we'll be bringing 6 layers and I've also discovered a source of jumbo Japanese quail…..so they'll be purchased as soon as we have built their new quarters, too.

 

Gary

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Hi,

 

Here's a photo of the backyard from my studio deck.  The large mango tree….and the thin swamp mahogany on the left hand side of the photo….are coming down.

 

Once the yard is clear, we'll be digging a couple of swales on contour - and filling the trenches with the tree mulch.  Swales are a common Permaculture water harvesting strategy.

 

I bought myself a new toy……a Redback EL614 laser level…..to help set out the whole project.

 

Gary

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Hi Yahoo,

 

I don't know where I'm going to plant the moringa, yet.  I've seen it in the form of quite tall trees…..and also very short scrubby bushes…..so how you harvest/use it obviously has a bearing on its form…..and subsequently on its location in our backyard.

 

Gary

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Hi Gary

 

Lifeinthailand posted two earlier videos  (One in may 2014 showing an asian long horned beetle another in November showing his infected tree.}  I hope we don't have this species in Australia they can certaily destroy trees fast. I believe this species has migrated to the US and is becoming a big problem over there.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6KvR-nQnJ5Y

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=liA-85Nxb2I

 

Cheers

 

Joey

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Hi,

 

We've got some terra-forming happening today.  

 

The first photo shows the blank canvas.  The mango tree is coming down - along with a swamp mahogany (an acacia) just out of the photo on the left hand side.

 

Jason the arborist can be seen about 6 metres up the tree.

 

Gary

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Several hours later…..

 

The trees are down….most of the wood is stacked…..and we're waiting on the mini-excavator and skid steer loader to trample the foliage and move the mango trunk to somewhere convenient for it to be slabbed.  The arborist has a chainsaw mill and he's offered to slab the trunk in return for half the wood.  That works for me.

 

 

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The heavy lifters have arrived…...

 

The mango stump was well and truly attached to the planet….but it eventually yielded…..and the earthworks began.

 

We created a flat section along the high side of the block……and dug a trench alongside of that - into which we'll place composting tree mulch.

 

 

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At days' end…..

 

The trenches behind the swales have been dug and filled with tree mulch.  I've left them proud because the mulch will break down as it becomes soil.  In the meantime, the trench will capture any rain that runs onto our block.  If the trenches fill, the water will be channelled over a sill into the swale below and eventually into a pond at the lowest point on the block.

 

The pond will serve several purposes…..it will support aquatic plants and whatever fish will live in it (for mosquito control)….and it will function as a catchment.  It will also make soil as leaves and other debris find their way into it.  We'll clean it out once a year and put the soil back up on the swale berms.

 

Ohhh…my back aches.

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The arborist (a tree lopper that actually knows something about trees) didn't want to chip the mango wood because it's very alkaline and it gives his gear hell…..so I've kept it for woodcraft and firewood.

 

To compensate us for the fact that he didn't want to chip it, he's given us 10m3 of mixed species tree mulch.  I'm stoked with that part of the deal. because the swale trenches have consumed 2/3 of my original stash of tree mulch.  I'll also end up with some nice mango slabs and limb wood….and a ute (pickup for our US friends) load of stick wood for my proposed rocket stove.

 

We will also get some nicely figured black wattle (an acacia) out of a stump that we had removed today.  All in all, a great harvest.

 

Joey…..the mango stump is but a distant memory.  You can't even see where it was now.

 

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Hi,

 

We completed the earthworks in the back section of our backyard, today.   All that remains now, is to create sills on the far ends of the swales…...so that any water that attempts to run down the pathway along the back fence line is diverted into the nearest swale and, eventually, into the pond.

 

The area now features two water-harvesting swales and a catchment pond…….and lots of level space between the swales for chicken tractors to make their way around.

 

My next move for the 4m x 4m (13' x 13') pond…...about 600mm (2') deep in the middle…..is to buy a liner.  We've already got our first aquatic plants ready (brought them from Bundamba when we moved about 15 months ago).

 

Our final act…..not shown in the photos…..was to spread a 150mm (6") layer of tree mulch over the exposed sections of soil between the swales.

 

We'll be growing fodder and food trees and shrubs in this area.  At this stage, the list of prospective plants of fodder plants includes moringa, Russian comfrey, pigeon peas, grain amaranth…just to name a few.   I think we'll locate our chicken composter at the top of the section so that the nutrients that it generates will cascade down through the space.

 

The space will become increasingly productive as the tree mulch begins to break down - and enriches the soil.

 

Gary

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Hi Gary

 

If you have businesses that supply liners for farm dams in your area you may be able to buy suitable sized off cuts from them at a reduced rate. Thats how I buy my liners, I never buy liners from bunnings or pond supply companies.

 

Cheers

 

Joey

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HI Joey,

 

The supplier that I'd identified sell a 4m x 4m liner (1.0mm thick) for $249.00.  They sell very big liners, too…..but they seem to be awake to the idea of selling small pieces at a substantial margin.  I might have to shop around for a bigger outfit.

 

Gary

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Hi Gary

 

As I dont want my supply to dry up I won't quote my source in Melbourne but they focus on Hot house plastics and farm dam liners not so much garden ponds.  I usuall buy offcut pond liners in sizes 2 or 3 metre x 4 meter pieces. for about $20.00, I not sure of the thickness, however I have used these in my gravel growbed, wicking beds and DWC troughs without problems.

As I need some more for my next project I will be paying them a visit soon. Will let you know how I got on.

 

Cheers

 

Joey

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Our final act…..not shown in the photos…..was to spread a 150mm (6") layer of tree mulch over the exposed sections of soil between the swales.

I have found that layers dont work to well for me, it seems to be better to have a low ridge of mulch that tapers down in profile to a thin strip of bare soil. Ground covers, legumes etc will establish in the barer strip or edge zone and speed up the whole nutrient cycling process as they invade the thicker mulched zones.

 

P.S. I forgot to ask, Does the redback laser receiver have an off button for the constant "getting warmer" beeping that some of them do?

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Hello Yahoo,

 

I have found that layers dont work to well for me, it seems to be better to have a low ridge of mulch that tapers down in profile to a thin strip of bare soil. Ground covers, legumes etc will establish in the barer strip or edge zone and speed up the whole nutrient cycling process as they invade the thicker mulched zones.

 

P.S. I forgot to ask, Does the redback laser receiver have an off button for the constant "getting warmer" beeping that some of them do?

 

I've spread the layer of tree mulch just to cover the ground really and to expose it to the sun with a view to speeding up its breakdown….and to stop the ground from going hard beneath it.  When it comes time to plant out our seeds/seedlings, I'll pull the mulch back so that I can plant directly into the solid and I'll keep the mulch away from them until they are established.  

 

A couple of weeks ago we had more rain here than you could poke a stick at…...and it would have really kicked the decomposition of the mulch off.  Since we did the earthworks, there's been nothing at all.

 

The Redback EL614 Laser Level has three sound settings - the lowest of which is silent (if that make sense).  I just took it out of its case and tested it.  It didn't occur to me to ask the question when I bought it…..but I can see where the constant beeping could drive one to distraction.

 

Gary

Edited by Gary Donaldson (see edit history)

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Hi Gary

Nice progress, thanks for sharing the project as it evolves.

Have you made a overall plan/drawing, for the hole area/yard.?

 

 

With all this talk of woodchips, I thaught I'd post this alternative use of it,

 

“EVALUATION OF TIMBERFISH’S PROPRIETARY SYSTEM FOR PRODUCING FISH USING WOOD CHIPS AT THE CONSERVATION FUNDâ€

http://timberfishtech.com/sites/timberfishtech.com/files/pdf/FWI%20Timberfish%20Final%20Report%20-%207%2026%202011.pdf

 

Cheers

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Hi again

  I think there are many prospective uses for tree mulch (wood chips) in a micro-farming situation.

 

Yeah it sure is, you should team up with some others on the island like DaveO, or other gardening enthusiasts, and have your own, woodchopper between you,

I love mine, use it to coop wood, for the smokeoven , mulch, compost mix etc. great tool.

 

Here is a nice/handy handbook : Permaculture Research Handbook version 1.5 July 2014  http://www.permaculture.org.uk/sites/default/files/page/document/smallhandsmall.pdf

from here https://www.permaculture.org.uk/research/3-research-handbook-and-training

I wish I was better at structural planing in all my projects :phew:  to many loose ends at times :redface:

 

cheers

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