Tag Archives: production

Plants, animals and cultivated ecology in The Sustainable Backyard

After spending two months researching a particular subject, it’s difficult  to summarize all that is worth mention, or even the highlights, in one blog post.  To ease the challenge I have featured other voices, and will continue to post several more interviews of other key stakeholders, on the Sustainable Backyard.  However this post is meant as part two of Finding the Sustainable Backyard, Hamilton Gardens, the reward to virtual visitors in the form of a 60-photo slide show featuring the cultivated ecology within the Sustainable Backyard.

One major focus of my work with the Hamilton Permaculture Trust was redevelopment of their website, and as part of that work I created a virtual tour of the Sustainable Backyard.  Rather than duplicate that effort, I encourage readers to visit the main Sustainable Backyard page, and link directly to the virtual tour with a clickable map, which shows the garden design.  I have chosen different images for this slide show, and readers who view both should get a pretty good idea of what the Sustainable looks and feels like, and maybe even get a sense of the sounds and smells.

As you view the slide show, I ask the reader to consider the following questions:

What unique challenges does a permaculture garden located within a public garden face?       and…

How does the Sustainable Backyard address (or not address) these challenges?

I would love to hear your responses, so when you’re done watching the show, please take a moment and write a comment.  Also, if you’d like a caption or more information on a particular image, let me know!

If you’d like to stop to read the interpretive panels, roll your mouse over the show to reveal controls. The show is 4 minutes, and I’d recommend opening your favorite radio station on Pandora or Live 365 while you watch.

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Learn more about the history and development of the Sustainable Backyard and other initiatives of the Hamilton Permaculture Trust by visiting the  Hamilton Permaculture Trust website.

The Sustainable Backyard shows family they don’t need to move to the country

While in Hamilton, I’ve had the privilege of speaking with individuals who have been inspired by the Sustainable Backyard at Hamilton Gardens. Kim Duggan was the first person I spoke with, and her story appears here.

Espaliered Apple Tree in Sustainable Backyard

“We’ve lived in Hamilton for 6 years. We used to go to the Sustainable Backyard and ooh and ah over it. The more we looked at it, the more we realized there wasn’t anything particularly technical about it. We realized that we could do it ourselves. Then we started a family and thought we needed to move out to the country for more space. We wanted to grow food and plant an orchard.

But we kept visiting the Sustainable Backyard, and it showed us we didn’t need to move. Our whole garden space was 800 sq metres, but we realized we could still plant an orchard. We took the Sustainable Backyard’s idea of mixing fruit trees and veggies and flowers and did it at home.

The other thing we really liked was the paths. We did chip paths like the Sustainable Backyard which was really good, because we didn’t want to do more expensive paths with cobble or concrete. We also realized the garden needs to be right in your face if it’s going to be properly maintained. I always liked the flow of the Sustainable Backyard so we did something similar with our own path, so people could use the whole space and look after it all properly. We finally got to a size we quite like. It supplies our veggies for 6 months a year to our family of 4. My next step would be adding the bees.

One thing I really like about the Sustainable Backyard is there are stages to the garden. As a beginner you can see things that will work. And every time you go back there’s something more. Eventually I began thinking, “Actually espaliering fruit trees wouldn’t be that hard, and raising chickens wouldn’t be that hard.”

Wwoofing at Rhianna Ridge

While visiting Melbourne, we had the fortune of wwoofing with Marianne and Cameron, who live an hour south in Beaconsfield.  They haven’t studied permaculture, but sure do seem to be practicing it.  Marianne and Cameron raise goats for meat, milk and breeding stock, grow nearly all their own produce, raise chickens, grow their plants from seed, harvest their animals’ fertility to improve the soil, and have developed efficient systems for virtually everything they do.  All while creating a modicum of waste and repurposing/recycling what they can on site.  They practice organic principles, (don’t use synthetic chemicals), have a thriving worm farm right outside their door that get whatever food scraps are beneath the goats and chickens, have solar panels to heat water and did I mention they are terrific chefs?

We helped clear sticks and fallen winter wood to prepare for fire season, turned in 2 beds of cover crop, transplanted 1 bed of strawberries, milked the   goat (though we were incredibly slow!) and helped put up a huge net over half of the entire garden/orchard area, in spite of the rain.  Still, we got the better end of the exchange!

Please see the slide show to get a flavor for the place.

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Permaculture Sydney North

It was my birthday and my family had spent the better part of the day shopping for ingredients for my birthday dinner before I realized I had an evening meeting to attend.  With regret I was missing my own celebration, I boarded the CityRail anyway, for the monthly Permaculture Sydney North meeting.  My family cooked and ate without me, later reporting it was delicious.

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Arriving after dark, I was pleased to discover the meeting was only one block from the train station, and as soon as I approached the building, I knew I was in for a treat. With seating for about 100, people were just beginning to arrive.  Patricia Meagher was the first person I happened to speak with, and I quickly learned she is a horticultural researcher for the Royal Botanic Gardens of Sydney.

“Sydney is the site of the first Australian settlers.  Farm Cove (an inlet in the Sydney Harbor on which the Botanic Garden sits) has been a farm garden over the years through history.  It’s a very important part of our education program.  There’s also an indigenous garden that is used for school education programs.  Not permaculture per se, but they do do sustainable gardening.  Really, you can’t garden without sustainability. It’s ridiculous if you’re not sustainable.  The botanic garden’s role is to develop information then share that with the public.”

Patricia also told me that the Sydney Botanic Garden is the oldest scientific institution in Australia, and will be celebrating its 200’th birthday in 2016.

As for the organization, Permaculture Sydney North has about 500 members, with 8 teams: communications, advocacy, gardening (which tends to be the most active group), seed savers, living skills, shows/booths, and education. Everyone who is a member of Permaculture Sydney North is also a member of a smaller, more local group within their individual communities and neighborhoods.  However the energy of this large, well-organized group of impassioned permaculturalists allows for a lot of action and staves off burnout.  There are many opportunities to get involved in virtually any project, with lots of company and support.  This organization seems to lift up its members, and participation seems to be a real privilege rather than a chore.

Each meeting consists of several pre-meeting activities, including plant exchange, “junk” exchange, bookstore, seedbank exchange, and t-shirt sales (and I’m probably missing something).  President Andrea Pape welcomed attendees and introduced our guest speaker of the evening, David Loneragan, who gave a talk entitled “Leading Permaculture Food Growing and Production Techniques.”  David, growing food on acreage in the Kangaroo Valley since 2004 and doing so quite successfully, gave an honest critique of perhaps one of the biggest limitations of permaculture.

“Permaculture lacks the dimension of the intention of producing food.”  With this he quoted David Holmgren’s permaculture principle, ‘Produce a Yield,’ and continued: “A little bit here and a little bit there is simply not going to satisfy me, nor is it going to answer the question of how we will feed people.  We have to produce stuff, otherwise, we’re just fooling around.”

This criticism was of particular interest as it echoes criticism I have encountered back home, both from the Cornell University, and our county Cornell Cooperative Extension.

David is conducting an experiment of sorts to find out what it takes to grow enough to feed four families of four.  He reckons he’s doing pretty well toward his goal, though the other three families have not yet been identified.  At the moment he trades surplus with neighbors.  In front of about 100 permaculturalists, David bravely admits, “I like row cultivation for certain crops.  If you want to produce stuff, you need some row cultivation, especially for alliums, etc.  It would just take too much time mucking about if you didn’t do some things in rows.  I also believe in growing annual vegetables.”

Much of David’s talk focused on specific strategies for increasing production, such as using fishing net to exclude butterfly moths and pesky cockatoos, and nesting flexible tubing to construct more durable hoop houses.  David has received his Permaculture Design Certificate and has run several permaculture courses on his property, and is not afraid to point out that if we are going to employ permaculture as a sustainable solution, it needs to do more than make us feel good.  It needs to produce!