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Permaculture resilience

This section is where we will discuss the use of Permaculture in preparing for a sustainable approach for long term food security and biodiversity. I consider permaculture to be the answer to humanities need to feed the planet and save the soil which is rapidly being depleted through modern farming technics which unfortunately take but never really give back.

As I am still learning permaculture I do not consider myself a teacher, but a sharer of knowledge in this space with my experience. The reason I state this is that I am in a particular part of the country with a highly diverse landscape, weather influences and can leverage fall in my land to capture and store water without the need for large Dams.

My Experience – I bought this rural property in 2011/2012 after a year or more of hunting around for a location that would suite what I had in mind. About the same time I was starting to pay attention to the likes of Geoff Lawton, Sepp Holzer and other permaculture writers.

Property description – 45acres of largely regrowth native forest with a small 2br chalet style house that is 100% off grid, was the description that caught my eye.

  • Elevation of 1000m (3285ft) above sea level
  • 70m fall over the land owned
  • Stable Geology – Paleozoic/Ordovician/Adaminaby Abercrombie Formation – Brown, grey to cream, thin to very thick bedded, fine to coarse grained mica quartz +feldspar sandstone, interbedded with laminated siltstone and mudstone: sandstone beds typically have normal grading and prominent ripple cross lamination.
  • Excellent average rainfall in excess of 850mm (33.46457 inches) with lowest recorded in 2002 being 425mm (16.73228 inches) and the highest in 2010 being 1340mm (52.75591 inches)
  • No history of large bushfires – including in soil tests
  • 1hr from Canberra, Australia’s Capital City
  • Cool to mild climate with less extreme weather than the flatter areas surrounding
    • Summer daytime Highs never exceed 36c (96f)
    • Summer nighttime highs never exceed 24c (75.2f)
    • Summer nighttime lows can reach as far down as 5c (41f)
    • Winter daytime lows can get down too -1c (30.2f)
    • Winter nighttime lows can get down too -8c (17.6f)
  • Snow does fall a few times every winter with up to 60cm (23inches) recorded in the 1990’s average fall is about 5cm (2 inches).
  • On the western edge of the Great Dividing Range
  • Hidden from view from the road
  • Enormous amounts of firewood and timber for building/fencing
  • North/South aspect to property – rectangular
  • Tributary to near permanent creek
  • Untouched old growth forest along creek line
  • Diverse dry to wet sclerophyll forest mix from the headland too the creek
    • Mountain Gum – Eucalyptus dalrympleana
    • Candlebark – Eucalyptus Rubida
    • Black Box – Eucalyptus largiflorens
    • Broad Leaved Peppermint – Eucalyptus Dives
    • Brittle gum – Eucalyptus mannifera
    • Messmate Stringybark – Eucalyptus obliqua
    • Narrow Leaved Peppermint – Eucalyptus nicholii
    • Manna Gum – Eucalyptus viminalis
    • Silver Wattle – Acacia Dealbata
    • Blackwood Wattle – Acacia Melanoxylon
    • Early Winter Wattle – Acacia decurrens
    • Bitter Pea – Daviesia mimosoides
    • ******MORE TO COME****
  • Land based Wildlife includes
    • Kangaroos
    • Wallabies
    • Wombats
    • Native Rats
    • Water Rats down at the creek
    • Ring tailed Possums
    • Brush tailed Possums
    • Pygmy Possums
    • Eastern Tiger Quoll
    • Feral Pigs
    • Feral Deer
    • Foxes
    • Feral Cats
  • Birdlife on the property
    • King Parrots
    • Crimson Rosellas
    • Magpies
    • Wattle birds
    • Blue Wrens
    • Forest Kingfishers
    • Kookaburras
    • Chuffs
    • Currawang
    • Spotted Pardalotte
    • Spotted Quail Thrush
    • Grey Thrush
    • Sulfur Crested Cockatoo
    • Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoo
    • Wedge tailed Eagle
    • Peregrine Falcon
    • Brown kestrel
    • Swifts
    • Silvereye
    • Noisy Miners
    • Wonga Pidgeon
    • Brown Forest Pidgeon
    • Lyre Birds
    • Galahs

With all that diversity it would be a shame to chop it all down and replace it with Monoculture planting of cereal crops or graze the land.

My plan is to build a strong link from the Forest to the food growing areas, in fact making a natural transition that provides the following valuable items which are key components of permaculture.

  • Protection
  • Compost
  • Shade
  • Humidity
  • Soil retention through roots
  • Water retention through preventing full sun all day

Design

Each implementation of Permaculture should encompass a design, or at least have a design in mind for each area you transition. This is my preferred way to work is a small plot at a time and learn off each plot for the next. This way you do not make massive mistakes, vs small mistakes.

Where did I start and why?

Swales –  Are ditches dug following the contour lines of the land. The purpose of a swale is to prevent erosion and to keep water on your land as long as possible. Effectively a shallow water trap on the landscape which does not add to your water license (Murray Darling Basin only). The material is dug out and placed on the downhill side, and the base of the swale ditch is dead level for it’s entire length. Water will collect in the swale, permeating into the ground and providing deep watering for the planting mound that’s created.

Trees are then planted into the mound of the swale and this allows for the trees to have a combination of aerated and wet roots with varying levels of bacterial engagement due to this mix. The trees as they get older will drop leaf and bark, you can also plant shorter nitrogen fixing trees or shrubs next to your primary tree which allows you to Chop and Drop branches into your swale.

Excavation – If you are keen to learn and do this all yourself you can hire a 1.7 tonne excavator for about $400 a day 2019/20 prices. If you are not a keen eye for levels you should attempt to mark out your dig location and ensure you keep the base of the swale as flat as possible.

Hired 1.7 Tonne Kubota Excavator, Billie was having a smell.
Initial cut of the microswales
Individual Micro Swale for 1 tree
Marking out helps when excavating by eye

Once you have excavated there are many options available to you when choosing how to treat your swale. as my swales are effectively all small pocket swales I filled them with forest litter mulch after the nasty drought and fire season of 2019/2020 passed by. Water must flow slowly, filling the next swale, you do not want rushing water. I am on a relatively steep slope and was building a food forest next to my house here.

12 months after cutting the swales and I filled the holes with forest litter mulch to build a feed mechanism for the fruit trees in the swales
Moving mulch by hand is tough work, but I had fenced the area to protect from Kangaroos and Wallabies

Soil and Soil amendments

Understanding your soil is key to your permaculture plan. I would consider initially understanding your geology first as that will provide you a very comprehensive overview of your underlying soils. I suggest you investigate your state or local council for geology reports which have been done across the country.

As shown below, even over a small area Geology can vary massively. within 5km of my property there are a mix of volcanic deposits with sedimentary along with minor and major faults.

Key amendments

Carbon – Nearly every rural block of land here in Australia has aged soil that is extremely low in carbon. Carbon is the key for permaculture as it is highly porous, holds moisture, bacteria and is the backbone of all living things on earth.

Nitrogen –

Phosphorus –

Potassium –

Calcium –

Magnesium –

Sulfur –

Iron –

Manganese –

Zinc –

Copper –

Molybdenum –

Boron –

Silicon –

Nickel –

Selenium –

Cobalt –

Bacteria and Fungi

Exciting changes in agriculture

Australia has many properties that are enacting parts of permaculture with great success. The following are exciting projects that are making huge changes to the landscape.