Posts filed under 'Permaculture'

Family Bonding Day

Today was a huge family bonding day, although we didn’t all spend it together.

Megan and Grace went up to Sydney with the Peterborough school for the Rotary Club of Turramurra and Pathfinders Jumbo Flight. Qantas donated the use of a jumbo jet, pilots and cabin crew donated their time, and Rotarian volunteers provided ground support in the terminal to allow a plane full of disabled kids and their carers to enjoy a 90-minute flight/party over Sydney.

Meanwhile, Darren took Sarah and Hannah to the Ss Peter and Paul Catholic Primary School fete.

As if that wasn’t enough, Darren and the girls then went up to Glengarry Cottage at Kembla Grange for their gala day.

Sarah still wasn’t done when we got home (Hannah had fallen asleep by this stage), so we then had to make a scarecrow.

On a personal note, there’s something strangely satisfying about making a scarecrow from your mother-in-law’s clothes!

November 8th, 2008

Sustainable Illawarra Super Challenge

We have signed up for the Sustainable Illawarra Super Challenge, and Monday night was the official launch of the programme.

The idea is for 120 households across the Illawarra to spend the next 12 months moving towards a more sustainable lifestyle. Sustainable Illawarra provides participants with information, workshops, guidance and resources (as well as some nice discounts and freebies from local businesses!) to help them achieve the goals they’ve set for themselves. In return, Sustainable Illawarra will learn what the issues are for local families, and they’ll also get some stories and case studies they can use in getting the message out to the wider community.

To keep track of what our family is doing and how far we’ve come, we’ve set up a new blog: Feel free to have a read, leave some comments, and send us suggestions!

November 6th, 2008

Wicking Beds

NOTE: I have moved this post to my other blog,, as it fits in better with that blog’s theme of suburban sustainability. For futher updates check out Wicking Beds – Water Efficient Gardening.

A wicking garden bed uses a waterproof container or layer below the soil surface to form an underground reservoir of water. There is enough soil above the reservoir so that the plants don’t get “wet feet”. Plant roots then draw up this sub-surface water via capillary action.

Because they are watered from below, wicking beds lose very little water to evaporation. They are reportedly extremely water-efficient, and so are very well suited to low-rainfall areas (isn’t that most of Australia?!). You can also leave them for a week or two without any watering, and your plants will be fine.

This page aims to collect links to information on wicking beds:

Wicking boxes are an adaptation of the wicking bed design to container gardening. Here are some links:

3 comments September 8th, 2008

Growing Mushrooms From Mushroom Compost

In July I took my trailer up to the mushroom farm to get a load of mushroom compost. It was $2.60/bag, and I got 16 bags for $40. I was really just thinking of using it on the garden as a mulch layer at that stage.

When I got home, though, I realised there were actually a lot of mushrooms on top of the bags. I picked them off and put them in the fridge. I wasn’t really ready to use the bags just yet, so I thought I’d put them under the house and see if any more mushrooms might sprout.

And sprout they did!

I kept a tally of how much mushrooms I got from the bags. All weights are after trimming stems for use:

  • 25-07-2008: picked approx 750g of mushrooms off the top of the compost bags after picking them up in the trailer
  • 28-07-2008: picked 150 g (total 900 g)
  • 30-07-2008: picked 235 g (total 1.135 kg)
  • 31-07-2008: picked 348 g (total 1.483 kg)
  • 02-08-2008: picked 482 g (total 1.965 kg)
  • 03-08-2008: picked 649 g (total 2.614 kg)
  • 04-08-2008: picked 1703 g (total 4.317 kg)
  • 05-08-2008: picked 699 g (total 5.016 kg)
  • 06-08-2008: picked 841 g (total 5.857 kg)
  • 07-08-2008: picked 442 g (total 6.299 kg)
  • 08-08-2008: picked 177 g (total 6.476 kg)
  • 09-08-2008: picked 660 g (total 7.136 kg)
  • 10-08-2008: picked 326 g (total 7.462 kg)
  • 14-08-2008: picked 348 g (total 7.810 kg)
  • 16-08-2008: picked 407 g (total 8.217 kg)
  • 17-08-2008: picked 369 g (total 8.586 kg)
  • 20-08-2008: picked 510 g (total 9.096 kg)
  • 21-08-2008: picked 540 g (total 9.636 kg)
  • 23-08-2008: picked 415 g (total 10.051 kg)
  • 24-08-2008: picked 275 g (total 10.326 kg)
  • 30-08-2008: picked 206 g (total 10.532 kg)

The mushroom compost bags are now starting to be overrun by some kind of fluffy white fungus. It’s killing the mushrooms, so I think that’s pretty much the end of the harvest. Time to get the bags out from under the house and into the compost heap.

So, 10.5 kg of mushrooms plus 16 bags of compost for the garden. Not bad for $40!

2 comments September 6th, 2008

The Chicken Ark

An updated version of this post is available over on my suburban green living blog, Green Change: Chicken Ark Plans

When thinking about a coop for our chickens to live in, we wanted something practical, non-permanent, and space-efficient. Looking around the net, the ‘chicken ark’ or ‘chicken tractor’ concept seemed the best for our needs.

To get some idea of the number of variations on the basic chicken tractor, check out this chicken tractor gallery.

There are heaps of resources for building chicken arks:

There are commercial options, too:

Of course, none of these were exactly what we wanted :-). There were lots of good ideas, though, and we got a good sense of the features we wanted in our own ark. After a few nights spent researching and sketching, measuring and planning, we came up with our final design.

To be continued…

3 comments August 3rd, 2008

The Good Podcast

It might sound daggy, but lately I’ve been watching the old BBC series The Good Life (a friend at work lent me the DVDs). Megan thinks I’m getting old.

You’ve got to admit, though, that there’s something about Barbara Good (Felicity Kendal). It never sat right with me that that Tom guy wound up with her!

Watch a few clips at the BBC site to refresh your memory, and then listen to Emma over at The Alternative Kitchen Garden podcast. Is that awesome or what?! Same subject, same voice, same accent, same vocal mannerisms – I could listen to her all day. And there are seventy-odd back issues for me to work through! I wish I lived further from work so I had a longer commute.

July 31st, 2008

Video: How To Make Compost (Milkwood)

Another great video series from Milkwood, this one explaining how to make compost without too much effort.

Don’t these videos have great music? I also really like the way they use the “Benny Hill effect” of speeding up the video, so you get a good idea of what they’re doing without needing to sit around and watch someone turn a whole pile of compost. Nice opening and closing credits too.

The web pages for each of these videos are worth visiting, as they have a lot of useful info:

How To Make Compost Part I

How To Make Compost Part II

How To Make Compost Part III

The Videos


Making Compost – Part I

  • analyse your compost components using the Milkwood Compost Calculator to make sure you have the C:N ratio right
  • if you get the C:N ratio wrong, your pile will either fester and go rank (too much nitrogen) or take too long to break down (too much carbon)
  • need at least a cubic metre of stuff for the compost pile to work properly
  • water the site of your pile before starting
  • layer your ingredients like a lasagne to make sure things are nicely mixed
  • water each layer as you go: the bacteria and fungi need water to do their thing
  • cover with a tarp – stops it drying out, getting too wet, blowing away, etc

Making Compost – Part II

  • turning the compost pile
  • squeeze a handful of your compost – you should get one drop out of it – water it if it’s too dry
  • peel the outside of the compost pile to make the beginnings of the new pile, then dump the inside of the old pile onto the outside of the new pile
  • mental note – next time, shred paper rather than leaving it whole!
  • white powdery stuff is anaerobic bacteria, which is not really desirable – just keep turning and watering and it’ll sort itself out
  • the pile should reach about 60 degrees Celcius around the 4th day, then cool down a bit more with each turning until it’s just warm by the time the compost is ready
  • urine is a good compost activator if your pile is slow to heat up!

Making Compost – Part III

  • this compost method is called the Berkley Method – it’s fast and easy
  • ended up with nice dark compost – a little more sticks and lumpy bits than she’d like, but still pretty good
  • wow, in January Kirsten was planning to starting a new compost pile every week!

March 8th, 2008

Video: Soil Food Web – And Nature’s Soil


  • Manzano Mountains, Central New Mexico, USA
  • Michael Martin Melendrez, founder of Soil Secrets
  • Michael is also well known for his coining the phrase and writing the first paper ever on the Soil Food Web titled ‘Soil Ecology and the Soil Food Web’ in 1974
  • sugar maples, drop leaves to provide a protective mulch
  • we are told we need to change our soils from their natural alkaline state to a more acidic pH
  • but the organic matter dropped by the maples hasn’t changed the pH of the soil where they grow
  • the organic matter is turned into humus
  • topsoil under the maples is very thin, with only a thin layer of humus
  • so we don’t need to make a huge change to soils in order for them to support our plantings
  • these forests provide an example of how we can use permaculture to alter a landscape without a huge amount of effort – we don’t need to completely change the soil in order to be successful

More videos about soil can be seen at the Soil Secrets web site.

March 5th, 2008

Video: Fallen Fruit

Here’s an interesting video about picking public fruit.

  • Fallen Fruit is a group that maps local fruit trees and encourages sharing through group plantings and “forages”
  • take people on walking forages to collect public fruit growing in the neighbourhood
  • fruit growing on public property or hanging over fences onto public property is “public fruit” and can be legally picked
  • streets with accessible fruit are “generous”
  • fruit picker (e.g. from Home Depot) is required – all fruit at human-level gets picked before you get there

March 3rd, 2008

Video: Edible Estates

Watch the video at KCET, Edible Estates.


  • why are people growing lawn?
  • Fritz Haeg converts homeowners’ front lawns into working vegetable gardens
  • Descanso Gardens invited Fritz to build a demo garden to show people what he does
  • one third of the garden is planted as plain lawn
  • two-thirds is planted as an edible vegetable garden to show people how good it can look
  • lawn requires a lot of water, and takes a lot of time and energy to maintain

February 29th, 2008

Previous Posts


April 2021
« Sep