Thursday, July 22, 2010

Goal date achieved!

Creek nearly doubles in width with rainfall
I achieved my goal by my goal date of 12 July 2010! I'm now part time in the King Valley and somewhat started on my three projects. Well, I'm at least very focused on them all, seeing as I'm part time.

I celebrated on the day with a bottle of local, King Valley champagne with my parents on Monday 12 July. Then on the following weekend I bought, ironed and hung curtains throughout the farm house I'll be living in (if I can find a housemate). I bought some heavily discounted curtains that have a special backing to help insulate the house. They block out the sun in summer, and keep in the warmth in winter. Some curtain sets were only $50 which makes me wonder why I haven't bought some for my very cold Brunswick house that only has ineffective venetian blinds and no heating in my bedroom.

The other activity top on my list is organising insulation for the roof. I have had a quote from a local insulator who can spray in wool. For around Wangaratta, R4 is recommended (the higher the number, the better the insulation effect). Around Melbourne, somewhere over R3 is the recommended minimum.

Passive solar heating is also important. The bedrooms and kitchen are on the north side: the sunny side for those who live in the southern hemisphere. When I walked into the front bedroom, which had the winter sun streaming in, it was warmer than the living room on the south which had the fire going. I actually double checked to see if the electric heater had accidentally been left on. No, it was passive solar heating. The amazing sun.

Of course, you wouldn't want this in summer. You can avoid overheating in summer by having a verandah or, to involve permaculture design, a deciduous vine over a pergola which will give you shade in summer and allow the sun in during winter (plus yield fruit). Just be careful on how far the verandah juts out: you just need it far enough to cut out the summer sun which sits higher in the sky. But not jutting out so far that the winter sun, which sits lower in the sky, is cut out too. If the sun doesn't hit the window, it won't warm the house. There is actually a mathematical formula for this and it isn't too tricky.

What it comes down to is being comfortable. And it doesn't need to be costly, it should save you money and effort (e.g. having to chop wood). A good guide for building is Your Home Technical Manual.

I haven't done anything on the plot yet, just tidied up the area around the house to start a vegetable patch there. It has access to water, so I'll begin there as I get the plot organised. The Black Range Creek is flowing well: quite swollen and has knocked a few trees downstream in its haste.

Silt deposit from flooded creek

Monday, July 5, 2010

Fruit Tree Workshop

An apple tree potted up and pruned in a vase shape. I hope to make mine this good next weekend

I went to a fantastic fruit tree workshop at CERES on Saturday. And I get to go back again next Saturday to finish it off!

Justin Caverely is our very knowledgeable teacher. If you get a chance to do one of his courses: go for it! The first course I did with him was back in 2007, the Organic Vegetable Gardening. and it really started me to spin off at ever increasing speeds on a new pathway in life: towards my permaculture future. In the vegie growing course, Justin mentioned this concept of permaculture. It all seemed to make sense. Here was a system that used common sense that provided for us with minimal effort, plus it protected the natural ecosystem, all through designing the system carefully.

After the course, I started doing my own research on permaculture. Found out there was a local permaculture network, Permaculture Melbourne. One of their members was running an Introduction to Permaculture weekend. My curiosity continued to grow. I read more, I gardened more, I joined The Digger's Club and spent hours pouring over their seed catalogue. It wasn't particularly wise of me to buy so many seeds, as I soon after took leave without pay for a year to volunteer in Guatemala. Volunteer where, I wasn't sure. But I packed my recently acquired Earth User's Guide to Permaculture by Rosemary Morrow as I wanted to finish reading it and thought it may be useful if I volunteered in sustainable agriculture.

The forces of the world pointed me in one direction: volunteering at a permaculture institute in Guatemala, Instituto Mesoamericano de Permacultura for most of 2009. I didn't even realise how far an Australian design system had travelled! This of course made me want to do my Permaculture Design Certificate as soon as I got back to Australia in November 2009.

Here I am now, one week off from going part time so I can put my energy into starting a permaculture plot and sell my produce directly to householders through a Community Supported Agriculture scheme of weekly box of vegies, fruit and nuts.

I'm just a little excited!

So my tip: go do a course on organic gardening or permaculture at wherever is closest to you. Lucky if that be at CERES and you'll be taught by Justin. You never know where it may lead...

This blog entry was supposed to be about fruit trees, but I got carried away. Details on what I learnt will be after next class. Tip: prune hard and set up the design of your tree. You'll be rewarded.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Count down to part time

Native revegetation of eucalyptus and wattles, top corner

One week before I go part time at my current full time job. This means I will have lots of time available to concentrate on my three projects.

Bring on my permaculture future!

I'll be balancing a couple of days of work in Melbourne and working on my Three Part Plot in the King Valley for the remainder of the week.

The spooky thing is at the beginning of 2010, I picked a date to aim for as a goal. 12 July 2010. A somewhat random date and I picked this as it is the date my term deposit matures. Then I had to work out what my goal was. I decided on:
  • be part time in the King Valley
  • have started my three projects (permaculture plot, preserves business and importing naturally dyed, hand woven textiles from Guatemala)
And guess what? My first week of going part time in my current job is Monday 12 July 2010. So I guess by picking a goal, always having it in the back of my mind, the physical, social and spiritual world made it come true. I'm not sure what "started" my three projects actually meant, but I guess you could say I'm following the permaculture principle "observe and interact" at this point by observing others and gaining knowledge first.

My plot in June winter, up to the ridge

My plot is a triangle. My motto was: keep your mind on the triangle prize.