Using permaculture ethics & design principles to transform an old energy guzzling bungalow into a showcase of sustainable design. It's about energy cycling, building community, self-reliance,creatively using & reusing materials... all without spending heaps of money.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Let's grow some food

Principle 2: Obtain a yield

The 'wetland' area at the front of the property, now referred to as a 'basin', harvests water from rainfall allowing it to soak and store within the earth. Top soil that was put aside from earlier earthworks was mounded up to create a raised bed with the idea that water would wick up from the moist soil below, much like a wicking bed, without flooding the plants. Horse manure collected from local stables was used like mulch and spread across the raised area before planting potatoes in the bed.


Soil mounded in front yard water harvesting basin for vegetable plantings

Basin fills with water after heavy rains, mounded bed mulched with horse manure

Potatoes growing on mounded bed require very little watering and are thriving

Other food producing garden beds have been built close to the back decking, where they receive lots of attention and get plenty of sun. We planted herbs and salad greens around the Red Gum stump with mint in the centre so that it couldn't take over. It's very handy to the kitchen to ensure it gets used frequently.

First vegie garden in the backyard, near back door to ensure it gets lots of attention

Herb circle surrounding Red Gum tree stump

Horse manure collected from local stables was later semi-composted before being used on the garden. Recycled feed bags were filled with the stable mix and stacked together into a pile about one metre square. This was wrapped in black plastic and left for about a week, helping decompose the contents, killing off weed seed, fly larvae and improving the smell. This method could be improved by placing the bags onto a pallet, as the earth keeps the bottom bags cool. *Thanks to Brian Bowering for his advice and support.

Horse poo with stable wood shavings bagged up and stacked

Manure stack wrapped up in black plastic to help heat up, killing weed seed and fly larvae

Large pieces of Red Gum bark were broken up by smashing them on a star picket which was set into the ground. These smaller pieces could be more easily fed into a mulcher. The bark has been used in between my new vegie beds as a path. The bark will mulch the ground, hold excess moisture and eventually decompose adding valuable nutrients to the soil whilst deterring snails and slugs (hopefully).
The old bungalow site is to become the primary vegie growing zone, because of its solar access and its proximity to the greenhouse. Soil around the perimeter of the original building has built up over the last 60 years and created a depression where the building once was. This area collects and holds water in the soil much like the basin that I built at the front of the house. The concreted entrance of the old building remains and has become a hardening off area for seedlings.
Compost bays were built along the northern boundary fence using the foundations of the old bungalow for support. They were built using recovered corrugated iron and timber off-cuts. An old plastic tarpaulin is set up on the bays which give the flexibility to; speed up the composting process; prevent too much rain or to reduce evaporation when it's too hot.

Red Gum bark broken up into small pieces on star picket before being fed through mulcher

Heavy rains flood the area under the original bungalow, which was recently cleared of timber, this will become the primary vegie growing area

Vegie beds made on old bungalow site using treated stable mix with paths covered by mulched Red Gum bark

Compost bays built with left over building materials using foundations of original building for support 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Stack 'em up

Principle 11: Use edges and value the marginal


I've got a lot of timber left over from the deconstruction of the old house as well as other material that I had collected along my travels. It's been taking up a substantial part of the backyard and finding what I need for other building projects has been a real challenge. Time to get organised...


Unused timber from demolition of original house stacked in backyard
I'd collected a number of metal poles from a local demolition job that I wanted to use to build a rack to stack the timber in. The poles were of slightly different lengths, but all around two metres long. I wanted to keep the height and not bury them too far into the ground so I decided to dig to the level of clay and lay a couple of bricks to create a solid base, rather than a deep hole and use concrete. With a slight slope in the landscape I figured that I could use the longest poles up the back and the shorter ones up front without the need to cut any of the poles.
I purchased two metal pole clamps from a rural supply store (A$30) which was fixed to the first two poles, helping to brace them. The rest of the poles were held in place using clamps while cross-beams were fixed using long 10mm thick bolts. Drilling through the poles was a challenge, so learning how to sharpen drill bits with a bench grinder is a handy skill for such a job. Further bracing was added by fixing metal tape diagonally along the back face, while the roof was braced using corrugated iron.
Finally the rack was stacked with all like timber next to each other, making it much easier to see what I have to work with. Now the timber takes up about 3m2 along the back fence instead of half the backyard.

Foundation holes dug out to clay layer and bricks used to create a solid base

Metal poles clamped into position before fixing

Rafters, battens and bracing added

Timber rack stacked up to the brim