Parr's Permaculture Design

Parr's Permaculture Design

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Melliodora Garden Tour - November 2011

David Holmgren's home, Melliodora (named after a species of Eucalyptus tree) is based in Hepburn Springs near to Daylesford. 
One of the co-originators of Permaculture and author of many books, David has a 2.5 acre property which produces around 1.5 tonnes of fruit and veg each year for personal use (consumption, gifts & exchange). Early on in the talk he mentioned that there is obviously much labour required to set up the garden in the first instance but then when your garden becomes so efficient at producing and you need to harvest it all... that takes even more labour than the initial setup.  Something to take into consideration when you buy acreage for production! 

Passive solar design house in the background, well tended veggie beds at the back door. 

A few of the notes I took away with me from the tour:
All the wood on his property is untreated. Treated pine can leech chemicals into the soil, and ultimately be taken up by the plants you are growing (and eating!), so best stick to untreated wood. 
How long does it take to grow wood? We need to make sure we use the wood for at least as long as it takes to grow it, that way we ensure that we're making best use of the resource.

After a few different trials, this a-frame style trellis is the best version in one instance for tomatoes, and another for climbing beans. To treat tomatoes as a vine seems to be the way forward.
The planks are the walkways for maintenance and harvesting, compacting as little soil as possible. 

Bamboo does grow in Victoria, only certain varieties which are of the thinner diameter. Here's an awesome trellis design made from bamboo harvested on-site. 

Hand tools vs power tools.  Maintaining tools is an important job (a stitch in time saves nine). Hand tools are easily maintained with little effort, whereas power tools more often than not rely on continued assistance from the manufacturer to keep them working well.  To stick to hand tools as much as possible gives greater resilience to peak oil, the knock on effects of our dependance on oil is something worth keeping in mind.

Cold frame: a very simple use of old glass and pot plants to give a simulated greenhouse effect for seedlings. 

Perennial guild (collection of plants that will live harmoniously together): Potatoes, horseradish, asparagus & scarlet runner beans.

Fig trees are not ideal next to veggie garden, however artichoke thrives under/near a fig tree, as they grow in winter when the fig is dormant, and visa versa. 

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Southbridge, Canterbury, NZ - November 2010

Packing things in closely means I can gain the most from my time, with just 3 months to learn what I can before going to Tasmania (in 4 weeks), I feel like I’m definitely winning!  I’ve sampled so much!  After Hepburn Springs, I flew to New Zealand.  I have a soft spot for this beautiful & diverse country... friendly people, proud history, and snow capped mountains.  That’s NZ in a nutshell.
I’ve come over to teach juggling workshops at Circulation Festival, run by good friends of mine, Dan and Logan. Set at a scout camp deep in the Dunedin hills, needless to say it’s beautiful country but not much to do with Permaculture. However, I always plan my trips with time either side to catch up with friends, so bypassing Christchurch I stayed with a juggling friend Adrian, who lives in Southbridge, about 30 mins south of the city. Just a mention of a goat-shed building and chooks was enough to get me there for a look.
Within a half an acre (2,000m^2 = a fifth of a hectare) Adrian and partner Andi, along with their children (Emily [6], Tara [1]) have around 20 chooks, 3 dogs, 1 rabbit, 3 cats, and 4 kittens stashed in the cupboard. Down the road, they are managing several goats (2 kids, 1 feral & 3 does) with another family who are holding the goats on their 25 acre property.
With Adrian’s handyman skills and Andi’s relentless passion in the kitchen, the two of them make a very productive and healthy household. Adrian takes ideas from many different schools of thought to make up the systems he has in place, chook domes from permaculture, garden beds from landscape design...
Below are the permie-relevant photos I took during my visit... I had to be quite strict not to include a photo of a litter of kittens (& pups!) so I could keep to the subject appropriate to this blog.  The full set are available on my Facebook page.

Goats Milk
A short drive down the road from their home are the goats.  We milk one of them and get just under 4 litres of milk from her.  Females are called Does, males are Bucks, and there’s one other: Feral.  A feral goat is the offspring of unregulated/unkept goats that usually have poor characteristics, such as low milk yield, low weight, or unfavourable temperament. It is possible to breed a feral back to a purebred, if you know what one of its breeds is, and then only allow it to reproduce with that breed for several generations. After one breeding, the first offspring becomes a 1/2-breed, the next a 1/4, then 1/8, 1/16, 1/32. Once the offspring become 1/32, it has been bred back enough to be classed as a ‘purebred’.

This is a home-made milking table. As long as the goat has food, it’s happy to be milked. We left a bit of milk for the kid does to take afterwards (the goat is kept away from her kids until the milk is taken, so that maximum yield can be taken). The milk is screened to take out any skin or hair, and served raw at the table.  I had it for breakfast today and it was delicious, it didn’t taste any different to cows milk.

Cheese making.
Andi has learned everything from books over the last few years, and is still learning. This was only her second attempt at making fetta, and has already seen a big improvement on last time. You do need to add a couple of ingredients (rennet and a culture), but the process is really quite straight forward.  Once heated to the right temperature, and ingredients added as per the recipe, the milk starts to separate, curds on top, whey below.

A big part of the process is getting the whey out of the curds. Cutting the curds into squares when they are ready helps tease the whey out further. After 20 minutes of whey leeching, the curds are spooned into a cheesecloth and let to drip as more whey finds its way out.  After a few hours of hanging, the cheese is ready.  It tasted quite light as soon as it came out of the cheesecloth, the next day however, it had started to develop some flavour. As it develops further each day its worth tasting it regularly to find the point when it is at its best. And then eating it!

Chook tractor:
Chook tractor domes, an idea borrowed from Permaculture, a fantastic way to keep chooks and have them serve your garden in many useful ways. They are nutrient providers to the earth, organic pest controllers, providers of meat, eggs and friendly company too. You can see the pseudo-mandala design here, each bed the size of the dome so that the chooks can be rotated and the beds planted season by season, each time the beds get a good serve of nutrient and the veggies do nothing but thrive!

Monday, November 8, 2010


1. Observe and Interact

Learning skills from other people is an easy one to link the principle to. Passing on knowledge is as beneficial to the learner as it is to the teacher, and is common within the world of circus.  In addition to this, the world wide web is allowing the observation and interaction between people globally now, with Australian circus folk learning directly from Finland, England or Russia. 

Photo: Bill La.

2. Catch and store energy

The term ‘energy’ can be related to many different areas within our world, it can relate to the energy derived from the sun, physical force, electricity and so on. Another aspect of energy, in this image, is energy transferred as information. Our brains are capable of catching and storing energy from other people, experiences, or even making up new energy through experimentation. In this picture, Petey is teaching Poi to a group of people through a workshop at the Melbourne Juggling Convention. This is a very efficient way to broadcast energy, sending it once for multiple captures. 
Photo: Bill La

3. Obtain a yield

I think acrobalance is probably as far away as you can get from pulling carrots out of the ground! These fruitful young performers, from Slipstream Circus in Tasmania, performed this finale trick in the Creative Edge Show at the Melbourne Juggling Convention. It’s one of the yields obtainable through hard work and determination, firstly learning it (one kind of circus yield), performing it (a second yield), and later teaching it (a third yield). Photo: John Fisher 4. Apply self-regulation & accept feedback
When working out a new trick or putting together a performance, video is one of the most effective tools around. As soon as you’ve filmed a test run you can play it straight back to yourself to see how it looks and make the necessary changes instantly. Once you’ve got it looking the way you want it, you can then email it to a friend, or post it to a website like youtube. The exposure of youtube is such that your work can be viewed by people all around the world, and feedback comes from these people, bringing the tool of self regulation and feedback from micro to macro scale. Photo: John Fisher.

4. Apply self-regulation & accept feedback
When working out a new trick or putting together a performance, video is one of the most effective tools around. As soon as you’ve filmed a test run you can play it straight back to yourself to see how it looks and make the necessary changes instantly. Once you’ve got it looking the way you want it, you can then email it to a friend, or post it to a website like youtube. The exposure of youtube is such that your work can be viewed by people all around the world, and feedback comes from these people, bringing the tool of self regulation and feedback from micro to macro scale. 

5. Use and value renewable resources & services

At first, this image was meant to demonstrate that this event, the Melbourne Juggling Convention (MJC), is a renewable service that should be used and valued... but then I realised that using chalk for signage is also a renewable resource! So there are two facets of the same principle in the one picture. 

The convention is renewable because it’s run by people, and people energy is renewable. Chalk is renewable because it is biodegradable, non-polluting, temporary, and is derived from natural materials. It’s one of the best ways to make a temporary sign and not pollute the environment. 
Photo: Christian Parr

6. Produce no waste

Three guesses what this is a picture of... if you get it, you’ve probably had a go with them at some point. These are Devil Sticks, (or Flower Sticks), an ancient art form dating back to medieval times (when used with skill they looked like magic, which people thought was work of the Devil). 
The reason for them representing Principle 6 is that they are made from recycled materials. Simple in construction, they comprise of 3 pieces of recycled wood or bamboo wrapped with old bicycle inner tubes, which can be sourced from any bike shop for free. It’s clear that making equipment this way creates no waste, in fact is turns a waste into a resource, which is permaculture at its finest! 

7. Design from patterns to details

The image above (believe it or not) is a 4-person juggling pattern where the jugglers are passing objects to one another. Able to record patterns for any number of people with any number of objects, ‘Causal Diagrams’ like these are used frequently in the juggling world. The pattern pictured is called ‘Cyclone’, where two pairs of people walk in an oval shape, each pair moving in opposing direction to the other, while juggling/passing 12 objects.

The diagram on the left accompanies the causal diagram, showing the direction of movement and one moment when passes happen between people. There are 8 passes per cycle of the pattern. Can you see where this pass (Anne-Ben) happens within the causal diagram above (there’s two of them)?  
You can clearly see design from patterns through to details with juggling in this example. Patterns here involve ovals, while other patterns use stars, arrow-heads, triangles and even zig-zags. Pictures sourced from ‘The Highgate Collection’ by Aidan Burns. 

8. Integrate rather than segregate

You could juggle on your own but finding a bunch of people to juggle with makes it that much more fun. This photo is of a monster passing line at the Melbourne Juggling Convention, where everyone is connected together by the zig-zag shaped line of passing partners. The convention strives for maximum integration, and full accessibility so that the community can grow and evolve. Photo: Bill La

9. Use small & slow solutions

‘Pure Juggling’ is the name of a small business owned by Wayne Green in Eltham, Victoria (pictured wearing the hat). He designs and lovingly creates juggling balls by hand for jugglers in Melbourne. If you buy three or more balls he’ll even sew you a bag to keep them in. He is a wonderful character loved by the community and is a perfect example of how supporting small and slow solutions is advantageous over other bigger, faster, quick-fix options you might find in the city or over the internet.  
Photo: Lily Lucent

10. Use & value diversity

A juggling tradition at conventions around the world, ‘The Big Toss Up’ is the final last gasp of energy expelled by those in attendance. It’s a great way to bring everyone together at the end to say “Yey, we did it and had a great time! Now, where did my clubs go???” 
In the picture, you can clearly see a diversity of props, and of people. The Melbourne Juggling Convention continually strives to be accessible and open for all to enjoy, for this ultimately allows more diversity to come and play!

11. Use edges & value the marginal

Clowns? What have clowns got to with Permaculture...? You’d be surprised! 
There’s a new branch of ‘Clowns without Borders’ being created in Australasia. Briar, pictured in her costume, and her fellow ‘Clownies’ are setting up the non-for-profit organisation which aims to improve the condition of life for children and communities living in crisis through laughter and humour. 
Their highly valuable work is based on the boundary between circus and marginal communities, positively affecting those who are in need of support. 

Photo: Dizika 

12. Creatively use & respond to change

Not more clowns???  Yes, it’s true, clowns are able to help us with this principle too. Creatively using improvisation and responding to changes in plot at any given moment, especially when dealing with audience participation, is where much of the humour is generated for a good clown act. 

Reuben, the clown pictured, has an audience member on a mime motorbike. He used comic timing and improvisation to turn this bizarre situation into a hilarious act full of surprises.  Photo: John Fisher.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Violet Town - David Arnold's Pc Fruit Farm - Rural VIC

Wowsers, I’m exhausted! 

Seven and a half days straight here at David Arnold’s fruit farm 'Murrnong' in Violet Town, VIC. Two hours slightly East of North out of Melbourne, David has been here around thirteen years setting up a future community, mostly on his own, with the help of wwoofers like myself. He normally plans to have weekends a bit more downtempo than weekdays but right now summer is coming and he has had less wwoofers than usual, so things are a little behind schedule. Today (day 8) is the first day my body physically started to feel tired, in need of rest and a good massage! Good job my next host runs an ecoshiatsu retreat centre! 

The most prominent issue out here in rural Victoria is fire danger. As soon as you leave the city, just an hour out in places, fire risk goes up significantly and rural VIC has immense concerns for the possibility of natural destruction on an enormous scale, especially since Black Saturday, 2008. Apparently with eucalyptus trees, the heat causes the oil to seep out of the trees as a flammable vapor.  The fire burns this vapor before it burns the trees, and is the reason why fires are able to travel 60km in 15 minutes. Very scary stuff. 
So much of the work I have been helping him with has been in preparation for the dry summer ahead.

Through much experience and self-guided learning, David has built an extensive knowledge base and is very giving of his information. Always happen to answer a question or share some insight, he is an experienced host and very good at connecting his willing worker on his organic (permaculture) farm with a job that suits them well, taking into consideration level of experience and/or area/s of interest. Of course, you have to want to learn or you won’t... he asks that only people with an interest to learn about Pc get in contact. He’s not sure if this is why he’s getting less wwoofers this year in comparison to last, but I for one have been very grateful for the exchange. My prerogative since I arrived has been to learn, learn more, experience some, learn even more, and have some fun wherever possible, in that order. I have not been disappointed.

I could write a million words about what has been happening here, but I want to be more succinct than that. I think photos are the way to do it, so below are a bunch of brief stories, anecdotes and lessons with accompanying photos. I hope it gives some insight into how much I have been learning while I have been here. With my trusty point-and-shoot camera always in my pocket just in case I saw something I needed to remember, I managed to document a fair bit of my stay here.
If you are interested to see more about David's setup, check out his youtube channel:

The up-turned raft - built by a wwoofer, he put a roof on it which was unnecessary, and meant that when i was windy, the raft capsized, and took with it the water pump. Fire safety compromised, we needed to rescue it!

Fruit tree pollination. Bees make honey and pollinate plants to produce fruit. A recommended book is 'The Botany of Desire' by Michael Pollan. He gives insight into a different way of looking at nature, and how plants have successfully manipulated humans, rather than the other way around.  In fact I recommend ANY of his books! 

The chook shed - daily routine is to be left in until midday so they lay most of their eggs, then they are let out into the property. 9 chickens plus one rooster have access to roam the whole property - 20 acres (8 hectares). Often following us around bas we are likely to be working the earth where  grubs are to be found. Before dark they are fed the scraps from the kitchen, watered and locked in for the night. We were getting about 6 eggs each day. The yolks yellower than anything I've seen before.

Wormwood - strategically placed so that when the chickens are let out (the hatch is around the corner from this healthy wormwood bush) the chickens rub up against it. The oil transferred onto the chooks repels insects... so simple and so effective!

The design of Murrnong is such that when David sells off subdivisions of his land, the houses built will already have an established orchard around them. When they are inhabited, the existing infrastructure (pictured) becomes the 'Future Farm Centre', a communal building including a workshop, food processing area, and so on.

The 'closed carbon cycle' - grow trees, grow too many, thin them, chop for wood. The trees left standing have room to grow into the space left. Burn the wood, release carbon, the carbon is sequestered by the existing trees and stored back into the tree. Closed loop carbon cycle. 

Grapefruit in the orchard. This is the first of four passes made to maintain the orchard. First we clear the grass around the trunk and irrigation (the red stick) so it can be seen when mowing. Second is the mowing run, removing the grass from under the canopy. Third we pruned the 'suckers' and fourth we shovelled mulch to cover the root zone. They were happy trees by the time we'd finished with them! 
Preserves - oh the preserves. This is the first time I'd seen true abundance of food in a home. So many pickles, and fruit processed for times when they are less available due to the seasons. We ate olives, peaches, plums, pears... david makes yoghurt daily, there was no shortage of food and little need to go to the shops. There's a running joke that it's 'David's Town' - everything you need is there, so you never need to leave! 

David (2nd from RHS) running an Introduction to Permaculture Course in Shepparton, my first experience of the 'other side'. After being a student for the past couple of years, I am starting to see myself as a teacher of Pc. I'm a way off yet, taking heed of David's advice that you need to be prepared for questions and have an ability to answer them, in order to be an effective teacher.

Cleaning up the wood from the raft with the angle grinder. Another new skill for my tool belt! To make the farm fire safe, another raft needs to be built but we ran out of time, so while the timber is ready for reconstructing, the pump is currently sitting on the ground of the dam wall, which is not as safe as floating on the water, away from the fire's reach. 

The orchard after the fourth pass - how happy do those trees look?  The chook's getting stuck in too! 

Brilliant design: community house in Violet Town. Funding came for a retrofit which was designed and implemented by David. One of the many improvements is in this courtyard - instead of shade cloth grapes have been planted (and other herbs). Eventually, the vines will grow up the chains in each corner and cover the pergola with fruit, and provide shade for the area in summer. Being deciduous, their leaves will drop in winter and allow the sun through to warm the space in winter.

Important upgrade of the water system, changing arterial above-ground pipes from plastic to steel in case of fire. 
Was fun throwing tools up to him, my juggling skills came in very handy! 

Humanure from the composting toilet. Such an amazing resource - add some sawdust to your deposit each time to balance out the carbon-nitrogen mix, and let the worms do the rest. This pile, removed from the loo when full, was stored by the house and did not smell. It was teeming with worms, and was safe to touch by hand - amazing nature doing what it does best - no chemicals required. 

View of the orchard from the water tower, facing South. Foundations of the first dwelling are in place, amongst the fruit trees - can you imagine living there?  Bliss! 

That grass really needs cutting though! The tractor will be in to do it soon.

Future Farm Centre - mud brick, solar hot water, water tank, grapes on the pergola, kitchen garden, photovoltaics, North facing for solar gain, concrete slab absorbs heat from the sun and gives off heat during the night...

And that's me having a great time operating the mower on the very first day that seems such a long time ago now.  I was full of energy and thirsty for knowledge, I gave a heap of energy and in return gained a whole lot of knowledge. Right from the start I was being shown tasks I needed to do but also why I'm doing them, what the system is for, and it all made perfect sense. I hope I can be good host myself too. 
I had no idea what was in store for the next 7 days after this photo, and what an amazing, full, inspiring time I have had. Words actually can't do it justice... I whole heartedly recommend going woofing yourself and experiencing it - who knows where it might lead you!?  
For me, since leaving, I feel like I have had a glimpse into the future, of my life in Tasmania, a simpler but more abundant life with Permaculture all around. It's absolutely possible, I am starting to grasp the concept of having my own land, perhaps an acre, having wwoofers, and abundance all around me and my community. I feel different in my body too, I feel more centered, better grounded, more in tune with nature, and less need for things like driving, town water and supermarkets.  

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Irrigation design implemented at Stewart Lodge.

Here's the design I did for Stewart Lodge, Brunswick, Melbourne:
I worked at the Lodge for 6 months (April to September 2010) as a volunteer when I got back to Melbourne from my PDC. I've no idea how I found out about them needing people but as the universe has it, it found me, and it's bee a great thing.  Not only have I learned a lot through workshops, interacted with like minded people, helped the residents get into the garden and eat more healthily, but I managed to design and implement my first irrigation design.  So great! 
Matt from CERES was employed to run workshops every alternate Saturday on all sorts of topics from seed saving to irrigation to companion planting to seasons to water management.  I attended most of them, assisting the residents in their learning, and gaining a good deal of knowledge myself. 
After the irrigation workshop where we laid pipe in one of the veggie beds, Matt asked if someone could  design the rest, which I jumped at the chance of. Then, we waited until spring to put the plan into action. The funding comes from Merri Community Health, to pay for materials and 2 part-time Permies to help out each week. The result is fantastic - it's a Pc garden that gets a LOT of love from lots of people. A good way to see what you can get for your efforts.  I'll post up photos of it soon. 
So yeah, volunteering rocks, as does a smart irrigation design =:o)

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Flourless Orange Cake recipe

I just sent an email to a friend with this recipe - and now I have a blog I can share it with the world!!! 

(Off the top of my head)
250g almonds / almond meal
250g sugar
2 ts baking power
2 large oranges.
6 eggs
Boil oranges for 2 hours, let cool.
Grind up almonds in good quality blender to make fresh almondmeal. You can do it is a bad quality blender but it's nowhere near as satisfying or economic! 
Combine almondmeal, baking powder and sugar, mix with your favourite implement in a bowl .
Cut oranges into large chunks, remove pips. 
Blend eggs and oranges into a beautiful orangy-syrupy goo.
Mix the goo with the almond-sugar mixture to make an even more yummy looking gooey goo. 
Pour mixture, after sampling with your finger, into a buttered and floured cake tin.
Bake in oven at a fairly high heat for a while (I've no idea about how hot for how long - somewhere in the mid-range for about 45-60mins - just be careful not to burn the top).
Additional options of awesomeness:
1) Melt a heap of dark chocolate and add to the yummy looking gooey goo before baking.  This makes a chocolately-yummy looking chocolate gooey goo.  Yum!!!!!!
2) Replace oranges with equivalent weight in peeled bananas, mash with a fork instead of blending.
Have fun with that! 
C xxx

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Blog goes up...

So I decided to put up a blog.  It's a place where I can log my new and exciting journey in the world of Permaculture, and it's as much for you, as it is for me.  
I'm a little pessimistic about whether people actually read blogs (I know a handful of of my friends do), so if there was no use for it myself, I wouldn't bother.  But I figure I'd more likely write a blog than a book, as I can add in photos, videos and other snippets from around the web.  It's predominantly an outlet for, and a record of, all the awesomeness that has come into my life through a wonderful, amazing and incredibly clever design system, which they say changes your eyes... changes the way you see the world.  
I have to admit that it has done exactly that to me.  
Since embarking on a 72-hr Permaculture Design Course with Robyn Francis in Nimbin (Jan 2010), is has connected me to my true heart, and made me realise that I cannot live the life I seek within the city of Melbourne, and instead to seek a new place to embark on the rest of my life... I have chosen Tasmania. 

I'd love to go deep into the story of my life right now but I am time poor. I have to pack my bags here at Digger Street Intentional Community, Cairns, to move on to the next location. 

In the meantime I am going to post up all the group emails I have sent to people near and dear to me inthe past, and in due course photos... photos of things that I can see now much more clearly than ever before. 

So welcome to my world, to my journey.  Thanks for joining me, feel free to post a comment! 

'From little things, big things grow...'