Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The First Meeting

Tonight was the first meeting of Permaculture Inner North and it was a blast.
Eighteen people came. Yes, EIGHTEEN! I think people of inner north Melbourne must have been sitting around just waiting for someone to convene a permaculture meeting. So we did and they came. Most with very short notice. A few didn't even know anyone else in the room: they just saw a flyer at a shop or read the small notice in the local newspaper.
I think the group has a higher than normal number of people who have completed a Permaculture Design Certificate. Though some didn't know about permaculture, at all, they just want to learn more about growing food. And this is all good.
So it's decided: Permaculture Inner North will be meeting the fourth Wednesday of every month, for the time being at Preston Library. That would make the next meeting 6:30pm 28 April. There was also talk of what happens when we get too big. How many community groups have to ponder that issue at their first meeting? Lucky us. But we're naturally designed so we can be split into our local government areas. All sorted before we become as abundant in members as permaculture is abundant in yields.
Next month we'll bring our produce to swap in the first part of the meeting and then one member is going to give us some tips on starting a permaculture garden.
I can't wait!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One more sleep ...

Only one more sleep until the first official meeting of Permaculture Melbourne Inner North. I'm excited and have done most things to get ready:
  • emailed workmates and friends
  • emailed Permablitz members
  • popped a notice up on the Permaculture Research Institute's forum
  • letter-dropped my street and a few other houses on my way to work (with a little personal note to those who were growing fruit or vegetables)
  • stuck up a flyer at a couple of local Brunswick East shops (Organic Wholefoods and Each Peach cafe which I happily stumbled upon and serves organic, Fair Trade coffee: tick, tick)
  • posted the flyer on my white, picket fence
So imagine my excitement when I saw that three little tear-off slips had been taken from the flyer! Ooh, goody! Plus others have emailed me saying they or their friends would be interested.

So now all I need to do is look up Metlink, my friend, and ask them how I get to Preston Library, 266 Gower St, Preston by 6:30pm tomorrow night (Wednesday 31 March).

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Permaculture Melbourne Inner North

Do you enjoy growing your own food? Interested in organic gardening? I'm helping to start up a local permaculture group for those that live in the Darebin, Moreland or Yarra areas of Melbourne.
If you are interested in sharing your gardening tips with your neighbours or other ideas for sustainability, join us at the first meeting of Permaculture Melbourne Inner North
First meeting: 6:30pm Wednesday 31 March 2010
Where: Preston Library, 266 Gower St, Preston

Permaculture: designing for sustainability
  • Care for the Earth
  • Care for the people
  • Fair share
Feel free to pass on to any of your friends, family, school or neighbours that might be interested.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bird Bath

On the weekend I went to my lovely friend's wedding in Apollo Bay. It really is a lovely place and the spot the couple chose for the beach wedding, at Skenes Creek, was beautiful.
We had a small amount of time between the wedding and the reception, so I figured it was a perfect opportunity to go to the Apollo Bay market that I spied on the way to the wedding.
I was halfway around the market when some pottery caught my eye: flagons, bird baths, platters and dishes.
I was captivated by the bird bath: a beautiful terracotta stand made on the wheel by a craftsman from nearby Birregurra, with a basin glazed a stunning blue. What a perfect contrast of colours. The craftsman was selling it himself.
The woman I was travelling with assured me she could drop me at my house. That closed the deal for me. I'm now the proud owner of a local, handmade bird bath. So I walked away, in my pretty dress for the wedding lugging a bird bath and then strapped it gently into the back seat of the car.
I had been wanting a piece of art for my garden, and I was drawn to the bird bath both for its artistic value and usefulness for the birds in my street.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Grains and Grasses workshop

Another Sunday, another Grains and Grasses workshop.

Well, why not spend Sunday at Barwon Downs learning how to grow and use grains and grasses such as wheat, oats and barley? Or the more unusual ones of maize, amaranth and quinoa?
Our teacher, Nick Romanowski, was a wealth of knowledge. For instance, I learnt that grains go rancid once they are ground or processed in any way. So there are two options:
a) eat very refined grains like white flour which have had all acids and oils stripped out, leaving only starch so a tad boring and not overly useful for the body, or
b) grind your own from whole grains
Now Nick has put his hand grinder into retirement as he found spending 20 minutes grinding enough flour to make one loaf of bread a bit too much effort. But his electric grinder worked a treat, so I'm considering getting one. We got to sample the wares by grinding, cooking and eating a chapati. Not too hard at all.
I tried out my tortilla making skills to form my chapati. It looked like a pretty mangled rectangle. My Guatemalan host family would not have been impressed.
Growing a little patch of wheat on my permaculture plot wouldn't be hard to do at all. It is also a very useful grain, as I love the comfort food of pasta and bread. I'd also like to try growing the Central American grain, amaranth. A good protein source, and is the Central American super grain equivalent of the South American quinoa. I can use amaranth for its leaves and seeds and put the two recipe books from Mexico and Guatemala I photocopied from the IMAP library to good use. Plus the seed heads look spectacular.

Different varieties of amaranth

Small plots require small equipment

Rice drying out

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Yeomans Plow and Digger's Seeds

I came home the other day to find a catalogue in the mail: a catalogue for Yeomans Plows. I had to laugh at myself. How many inner city chics are receiving mail on plows being towed by tractors?
PA Yeomans, way back in 1954, began espousing the virtues of keyline design to hydrate the dry landscape of Australia and create soil. Yes, create soil by converting subsoil into topsoil. Quicker than creating topsoil from above. One of his famous writings was the 1964 book, "Water For Every Farm".
PA Yeomans designed a plow and a keyline design to help hydrate the land: you rip the soil (it looks like a nice clean cut, not turning the earth) parallel to one contour on the landscape. This contour will be on the keyline, where the slope in the valley goes from a steeper slope to a more gradual, longer slope. This point of change in the valley is the keypoint. The rip lines will help aeration and the rain will soak into the earth rather than running off. The water will eventually end up at the bottom of the valley, in the creek. It just will have taken a slower, more productive course to get there.
These are the things I, along with 75 other farmers, learnt when I went to the Keyline Design Course with Darren J Doherty back in January 2010. Darren had a great rapport with both the broadacre farmers, small acreage farmers and permaculturalists (and the various combinations of these). He presented permaculture principles and keyline design in scenarios the farmers could relate to.

The course was organised by Milkwood Permaculture.
Now I'm on the Yeomans Plow Co mailing list and my breakfast reading is The Red Book of plows, shank attachments and crumble rollers.

Well, it is now my breakfast reading, as I have finished devouring The Digger's Club seed catalogue, cover to cover. The Digger's Club have a great range of heirloom and organic fruit, vegetable and flower seeds.