Late afternoon sunflowers that grow a little weary in the heat.
Coriander goes to seed, and the lettuce? Oh it bolted long ago. Along with the rhubarb who gave up the ghost, and the rainbow chard that’s now a tower of delightfully coloured seed. And pumpkins? Unlike last year where we were swimming in them, this year not even one.
Not the cherry tomatoes though, those tomatoes are still running strong. Although leave them too long and they will sundry right there on the stems in which they grew.
This is our summer.
Hot, windy and dry. So dry.
This season has been a funny one. So many of the plants just seem confused. Rain has been infrequent and barely enough these last six months. Garden space is now reduced to the smallest of small areas just to keep hopes going. There is still hope though, of course there will be a time for things to bounce back and regain their former glorious green. Time for the lilli pilli to regain its shiny leaves and time for far more bread to be baked when the kitchen is just a smidge cooler. The blue banded bees will keep coming, and that in itself is just gentle reminder to keep things simple.
Run with the season, do what we can, and instead spend time feeding that crucial soil in which the garden will grow from. There’s always something to do.
I come from a long line of dedicated book lovers. My parents encouraged reading as a kid, my grandparents avid consumers of the written word, and in turn my own kids. Even though they are still at a fairly young age (thankfully) they love to eat books for breakfast too.
Whether it’s for knowledge, creativity, escapism, or a quite wind down before bed. However you consume the written word, I’d say it has value.
When people say, ahh but the era of printed books it’s over right, it’s all digital now isn’t it? I can’t agree. I won’t agree. Not in my world anyway. While I’m certainly aware of the print world having changed in recent times, there is something about holding a book in your hands that is in no way comparable to reading a back lit screen.
I am however mindful though of how my books come and go, and what stays on my permanent bookshelf. I utilise my library, borrow from friends and family, sometimes read digitally and also buy second hand. The way I consume books is similar to the way the rest of our life is lived, without crazy excess and I hope fairly thoughtfully.
For others out there still fans of words and pictures on paper, I thought I’d do a quick run down of some of the things that have passed my way lately.
100 Nasty Women of History– Hannah Jewell had me at just reading the back cover. Her writing is intelligent, informed, and importantly current, while weaving in an amazing line up of brilliant women through history.
The Last Thread– Author Michael Sala, is probably my 2017 wordsmith crush. I heard him speak earlier in the year at our city’s writer’s festival and life hasn’t quite been the same since. The Restorers is his other book and I’m still fairly animated from reading that one. The way he builds tension throughout the pages from the very beginning, has you holding your breath, while all you can feel is your own blood pulsing through your finger tips as you turn each page over.
Bystander– Originally published in 1994, this book is pretty much everything you could ever want to know about street photography.
Made to Last- By Vanessa Murray, this book is an beautiful collection of hand made goodness from around the world. This book is really quite incredible. It’s as much as a beautiful collection of inspiring pictures as it is a how to book. Everything in there seems vaguely more achievable when it’s broken down into pictures and instructions. Many makers are in there, such as a milliner, globe maker, metal caster, and furniture maker to name just a few. I’m also lucky enough to have been included within the pages of this beautiful book with a how to on making Firecider.
Slow by Brooke McAlary recently released a book and the publishers kindly sent a copy through to me to have a read. If you are coming at slow living as a complete change of perspective on life than I would say this book is for you. I struggled a bit identifying with it as I had simply never been in that position. For me slow living has been ingrained in some shape or form from the beginning, so didn’t feel I needed a how-to book simplifying things further in a list format. I’m an advocate of simple living, (clearly, otherwise I wouldn’t have written this blog for so long) however this one wasn’t for me. No problem though, I simply passed it on to someone else who I thought might enjoy it, which is what the majority of books should do anyway unless you are going to dip back into it.
Practical Pages- That’s what these ones are. Pip Magazine– an Australian permaculture magazine and next years calendar, followed by Organic Gardener, diary and calendar again. I still write things down on a day to day basis. I have zero interest in writing things in my phone, it would mean yet another screen to look at. I don’t want to do that to find out whether it’s library day for the kids, or a soccer match isn’t on that day. I forget things, I know that. So I write things down and frequently check to see what I’ve forgotten. If I had to do that every time with a screen, pffft. In a nutshell, no.
Give me the lovely pages. Plus they have helpful things in there like recipes and when to plant your seasonal vegetables, (because occasionally, I forget.)
How about you?
Digital or paper pages- what are you reading?
Do you write on a calendar or keep things on a screen?
When you neglect your garden for a month over an incredibly dry period, the outcome is fairly predictable. Even so, it can still be a bit of a surprise at just how bad on a big scale it can all look.
With weeds running rampant, potted trees standing defiantly dead, and every leafy green edible gone to seed in an attempt at preserving itself for a later date. We did the most logical thing we could, and set to work.
Gathering shovels, hoses and unfailing enthusiasm, it was all bundled together with as many hardworking hours as I could manage to squeeze out of the day, to try to get this city garden back up to the functioning level it should be.
Several weeks later, while it’s still a work in progress, as I look around now, there are slow changes taking shape. No longer a backyard palette of baked brown, there are now green tinges that might just continue. With newly sprouted seedlings, tomatoes emerging from all corners, and two new editions that I’m tickled pink to be looking after.
From the dry overgrown mess that it had been, is growing something that often comes in many forms, and amongst the dedicated gardeners out there it’s also an old favourite… hope.
It’s 5.30am and there is a grey stillness to the morning. Although light the sun won’t properly rise for another 15 minutes or so. The quiet hour, the garden hour. It’s summer holiday period round these parts and a different rhythm that doesn’t get found often. Mornings have been spent in two ways of late. Either by the waters edge or here, in the garden.
After a year now of creating beds, building soil profiles, planting, transplanting, weeding, growing, harvesting and eating. This small city garden has just now gone through 4 seasons.
We’ve tracked shadows during the colder months, picked 10’s of kilos of tomatoes during the warm, and frowned over countless unseen critters and their impact on our growings.
This is something that has been a long time in the making. Where small potted plants gave way for a variety of raised garden beds. There are still lessons to be learnt, corners to build up, and plants to try out, but it’s a start, and a wonderful one at that. A tiny corner to take refuge from the noise of the day, a place to grow vegetables and ideas. A pocket of edible greens in an otherwise landscape of lawns.
It’s not perfect, and there are still a multitude of lumps to work through, but it’s got sun, soil, water, and enthusiasm. With that goes a multitude of possibilities.
Watching how the backyard garden has grown overnight takes on a mindfulness that isn’t often present for the rest of the day. Tracking bees on their pollen paths, and seeing how the calendula has unfurled overnight. Solitude is fleeting, even at 6am. I’ll grab it in handfuls wherever I can, it’s really important to me. I need it.
Passionfruit kombucha experiments. I thought it was delicious, and two out of three kids thought it was good one. The other one?…I might have to keep working on that palate of his. Keeping them healthy is a huge priority to me.
(And when not so healthy) there’s Master Tonic or Fire Cider, it’s damn good stuff and this time of year it’s almost a necessity. With half the city echoing with their coughs of the stricken down, my kids adding to the list of the afflicted, it was all a little ill timed that I ran out of my batch of the stuff. (I did a how-to over on Milkwood last year if you are keen to make your own.) Lucky for me, and thanks to a lovely instagram connection some of Hilbilby’s good stuff landed on my doorstep just at the right time. Health isn’t something that I take for granted, ever, and with the smallest coming down with an associated ear infection. I’m pretty damn thankful that I have access to really great medical advice and care when I need it.
This week I finally got to meet the lovely Fran. Fran is 100 kinds of awesome. Some of this I know from her instagram account that I’ve been following for awhile, some of this I know from her blog and some of this I know from the hour we spent together after she drove 5 hours to my place to deliver a table and not eat lunch (too busy talking you see.) I feel super lucky to have people like that jump into my life.
While this week has also had its fair share of arguments, tears, crossed wires, and crappy news (real life always exists behind the sunshine filled walls of a blog.) I’m still thankful for them. I could wish that they had never happened, (but they did) or they are happening and wishing away won’t change anything.
What I can do is, learn from them, grow from them, possibly define my own ideas and thoughts a little better because of them. At the very least I can hug my kids a bit tighter at the end of the day and I can say to dear friends, hey thanks for spending time with me today, that was bloody awesome and I loved every minute of it.
The connections, the tiny moments, the community ties, the freshly cut bread, the hugs, the long conversations…
Today is International Permaculture Day and I thought I would have a little look at the basis of what permaculture actually is, and what it means, in an every day living kind of way?
Whether you live in a tiny busy city apartment or 1000 hectare farm out the back of….well, somewhere well out the back. Permaculture is something that can be easily infused into every day living.
In nutshell, it’s a way of living that designs and builds a system that incorporates 3 ethics- Earth Care, People Care and Fair Share.
Connected productive living within ourselves, our families and our communities…without the destructive environmental cost. Sounds pretty good right?
Break the word down and you’ve got PERMANENT AGRICULTURE, that doesn’t mean you have a permanent collection of farm hands and cattle roaming over your fields. That means you’ve got a system in play that means you’re accountable for your own living, (well as much as possible anyway. )
Still with me? Right so what does this all mean to me and for our family of five living in a regular every day kinda urban city setting?
First up, let’s look at the 12 principles that permaculture is based on. I’ve found some will be used more than others depending on our context at the time and on the day. Basically this is daily living stuff though.
Observe and interact… planning, observing where the sun falls (this might be for heat, growth or simply light) connecting with what everything around us is doing, why and when. Also broadening those community circles and reaching out to others.
Catch and store energy…whether it’s collecting rainwater and sunshine (or my own energy!)
Obtain a yield… yields to date have been still on the novel side, regardless of where we are living. I’m working on it though, damn it…and at least I make sourdough.
Apply self regulation and accept feedback…constantly.
Use and value renewable resources and services. Once you tap into this, it’s hard to tap back out.
Produce no waste…so many things can be reused, used in different ways or simply just not obtained in the first place.
Design from patterns to details…Hooray for thinking outside the square.
Integrate rather than segregate…for some reason this absolutely delights me. Complete satisfaction when I can manage it, even in the tiniest way. Whether it’s in the garden or involving my kids in some minor task.
Use slow and small solutions…so much easier to change or maintain things. Far less confronting than dramatic changes.
Use and value diversity…I’m a big believer in this for any part of life. Growing plants, our diet, or education.
Use edges and value the marginal…another one of my favourites. Creating something from the seemingly unloved, and unused is incredibly satisfying.
Creatively use and respond to change…bend like a reed baby.
As you can see, this isn’t just out in the garden. This is life living skills, numbered beautifully from 1 to 12.
Exploring all the options and making sure everything is reasonably adaptable. What works for me now, might well, need to work differently in the future. Things are constantly changing and tweaking things are necessary dependent on what’s going on around us at the time.
Also, what’s your context? What works for me, may not work for the next person.
A tiny example which up until lately, I hadn’t considered a whole lot was the environmental impact of having a dog or a pet in general. Sure I knew the pet food industry was just as crap as our own mainstream food in many ways but until I was actually standing there in the pet food aisles, I didn’t realise just how ridiculous things really were. Sugar, salt, colourings and food miles for our beloved fur beast? You betcha.
Dog food I manoeuvred my way through and poo is now being collected in cornstarch bags (if out) and deposited into a worm tower in an untouched corner of the yard if at home. (#6 Produce no waste.)
Worm towers are also favoured within our wicking beds (with an addition of compost and food scraps rather than dog poo.)
While we are still relatively new to our current living environment, permaculture is a system of living that in some shape or form I have been happily living in different contexts from the very beginning.
Some things have changed, some things will quietly remain very similar and some, will simply grow and expand like a 10 year olds legs over summer holidays, (or something like that.) It’s exciting stuff and most of the time it feels really positive to be moving forward like this, (and when it doesn’t, there’s always a wonderful clean slate called tomorrow.)
Here’s five minutes with David Holgrem (co-originator of the permaculture concept) on how we can change the world with permaculture thinking…what a lovely man 🙂
If you’re new to permaculture and not sure where to dive in, here’s a few places to kickstart a whole new way of thinking, living and celebrating life in general.
When you are creating a garden from scratch, and prior to that, most of your gardening glory has been generally from the potted kind. Lessons are going to be learnt, and swiftly so. I thought I would share ten recent lessons, (and I’m sure as eggs, there will be ten more waiting in the wings.)
10 (City Permaculture Patch) Lessons Learnt in 3 Months
Australian summers can be bloody hot. This past one was of no exception. Soaring temperatures make it hard for little seeds and seedlings to cope. Lesson Learnt? Stunted growth and inability to simply give growing from seed a fair crack- it’s just too damn hot.
Shade cloth. Yep, you need that stuff over summer. While I was eccstatic that I had more sun loving hours to play with for growth. Lesson Learnt? During the middle of a summer day, shade cloth was a must when the garden was so unestablished. Later on down the track I’m hoping there will be other plants to offer more shade for growing the smaller delicate stuff.
Soldier Fly Larvae, all kinds of beneficial awesomeness in a small segmented critter type way. Lesson learnt? Certainly not the maggots you thought they were first up.
*Compost, dead easy to set up and maintain. While there was certainly an initial juggle of ingredients as I hadn’t played with these kinds of bins before, there are now two going strong. Lesson learnt? For me composts which at this stage are a bit heavier on the nitrogen based ingredients, lime is definitely necessary.
Critters. There will always be a battle with critters. Growing your plants from seed, nurturing those seedlings, planting with loving care, only to not pay attention to them for 24 hours and find them being turned into seedling latticing by overly confident caterpillars. That’s just bloody disappointing people. Lesson learnt? Caterpillars, they can be truly little stinkers.
Soil. Ahhh, I get it, I totally get it. Why people can get so enthusiastic, animated and obsessive about the stuff. It’s so important, so incredibly important! Ongoing lessons, on getting the balance right for optimal growing. Soil was bought in and it simply just didn’t have enough good stuff in there despite the labelling. Lesson learnt? If you have diversity in your soil, you are going to have much better growing conditions.
Aphids. Persistent little buggers aren’t they. I’m delighted to have a wonderful amount of ladybeetles in the garden. However no amount of beneficial garden bugs could hoover through these critters. Lesson learnt? Do something about them when you first notice them…sincere apologies cucumbers.
Zinnia. Incredibly easy to grow from seed, with seemingly very little effort. They have made a great barrier to protect more delicate growings, they bring in lots of happy pollinators, and are beautifully bright and colourful. Lesson learnt? Come the slightly cooler weather and mould can set on the leaves if sown too close together.
I already knew it, but it really has become abundantly clear. You put the extra effort in, you reap the rewards down the track. Good planning is essential, along with some good old fashioned, blood, sweat and tears. (If tears aren’t needed, some some good old spirited pirate style cursing is always a good all rounder.)
Tea, tastes rather excellent while wandering around your slowly establishing garden in the sweet autumn morning light, or alternatively that glass of wine in the late evening. Lessons learnt? By the end of the glass of wine, I’m less bothered by the aphids and this wandering around your garden? Yes, a person could get used to that, oh yes indeed.
* I recently did another post all about becoming a compost geekover on the Milkwood if you are interested. Compost, it’s damn important stuff!
Having been throwing myself into all things permaculture minded for the past good few years, it was a little tricky looking over at all the identical perfectly mown lawns and not think of how I would like to quietly rip a good proportion of all that grass up.
Sure it wasn’t mine to rip up, but what an enticing dream it would be.
Instead of perfectly manicured ornamental gardens with impeccable weed free edging, there instead might be a line of fruit giving trees all the way up the street as far as the eye could see. All within easy reach of the foot path, all for people to pluck as they needed, and as often as taste buds sung out.
This line of fruit trees would also give a little shade to those that chose to walk the many uphills under a blazing summer sun. The ones that forewent the air-conditioned comfort of cars, that would drive on unseeing to all that food yet to be foraged by knowing fingers.
Or maybe there would be a canopy of beans to walk through, that might be right next to a forest of nuts and bananas, a pedestrian round about, with herbs circling in a mandala kind of fashion.
The possibilities are deliciously endless and certainly not restricted to the street side. So how does permaculture entwine with creative living?
Well in my mind they lie hand in hand, it’s an ability to think outside the square. To be able to create and be adaptable to the environment that you’ve been placed. Making do with what you have essentially, and in a sustainable fashion, thriving from within it. There are patterns, there are creations, and there are probably a multitude of pops of colour.
The more formal definition of permaculture…
What is Permaculture?
‘Consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships found in nature, while yielding an abundance of food, fibre and energy for provision of local needs. People, their buildings and the ways in which they organise themselves are central to permaculture. Thus the permaculture vision of permanent or sustainable agriculture has evolved to one of permanent or sustainable culture.’ [David Holgrem]
Finding a definition of creativity is a little harder to narrow down. There are so many branches to the word, and as there should be, the word in itself is a creative one of which meaning depends on the user alone.
Not restricting the word to the art world, I did like this line though when reading through the many variations…
‘Creativity is the ability to transcend the ordinary’
And that brings me back to those perfectly damn mown lawns again.
Whether you live in a busy city studio with a cat named Peter or an off grid farm that is the dictionary definition of diversity. What would you do with a street full of perfectly manicured, grassed gardens? Tell me… or even better, what HAVE you done? I’d lovvvve to know.
(This post is 1 of 3 in a series on creativity.)
“You can’t use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.” Maya Angelou
Buderim’s “Eat Street”– Urban Food Street, a neighbourhood initiative that started from a conversation about over priced limes 7 years ago. This initiative now covers 11 streets, with people moving into the area, because they want to be involved.
It being October and all, it seems Spring has thrown a little of it’s extra super growing power into my tiny potted garden.
At night when we sleep, everything seems to power on ahead. Green-berries become blue, nasturtiums run rampant, cumquats multiple, and volunteer tomato plants declare any unclaimed space their own.
For a tiny garden that comes from a few plastic and ceramic pots in a shaded concrete courtyard, well, I’m absolutely delighted to watch the unfurling.
What are you growing at the moment?
It being October also means, the nation wide Garage Sale Trail is coming up this weekend. An easy way to sell on a few things you don’t need anymore, get to know your neighbours, make stronger ties in your community and perhaps even schnaffle a few bargains for your self.
There’s a word floating around my head at the moment that I can not seem to shake off. So I’m not trying to, and instead I’m embracing it. I’m going to hold on to that word, feed it, water it and shower it in all the love and attention that it requires of me.
Community… it’s important stuff, really important.
Enjoy this little video that gives a tiny glimpse into the wonderful community and permaculture village, of Atamai in New Zealand.
“I’m surrounded by people who know more than I do about things I want to know about…I spend my days learning…continually”