When our livestock are moved into the next paddock, or the trough needs a clean, the contents, up to 450 litres of water, are dumped into the pasture. While we’ve tended to hold a ‘survival-of-the-fittest’ mentality for our tree planting, we couldn’t help but feel that this water could be better directed on nearby seedlings. So, a little while ago, we whipped up our first attempt at a stock trough water diverter that would do just this. Continue reading
Inspired by permaculture’s commitment to observation, over the last couple of years, we’ve become enthusiastic/compulsive gatherers of data about our farm. Everything we can think of to measure, we’ve tried to measure. Now, as we scale up our interventions, we can begin to track our impact and refine our management accordingly. As part of this, we’ve started a seasonal water quality testing program to monitor changes in the quality of our catchment as we revegetate the catchment and manage grazing more intensively.
We’ve assembled our own water testing kit, all stored conveniently in a secondhand mayo bucket from the local chip shop. Using this, there are a few characteristics we’ll test seasonally:
- salinity and temperature (both tested using an EC (Electrical Conductivity) Meter from your friendly local hydroponics vendor),
- pH (tested using pool pH strips from the hardware shop),
- turbidity is a measure of the amount of solids suspended in the water (measured with a DIY Secchi disk or turbidity tube),
- macroinvertebrate populations, the presence and composition of which is also an indicator of pollution levels (gathered with buckets and nets, and sorted with teaspoons into ice-cube trays).
2014 was a year where the dry season came early and stayed late. It seemed as if the rain barely had a chance to soften the ground and throw up some soursobs before our clay soils began to crack again and the pasture browned off. Despite this, after two years observing the rhythms of this patch of ground, I feel like we’re becoming more resilient and optimistic: where previously we despaired at every lost seedling, now we celebrate every survivor.
In the spirit of permaculture, this year also marks a transition from our observational period towards beginning to implement infrastructure for a sustainable farming enterprise. With fencing and water infrastructure for livestock, our appreciation of the need for water only deepens, and despite its challenges, we’ve learnt to stop worrying and love winter.
I’ve recently been working with Village Greens, a dream-team of young growers and permaculturalists, developing their logo and crowd-funding video. They’re establishing a sustainable, human-scale market garden in Aldinga, on the southern rim of Adelaide, and the northern expanse of the Fleurieu Peninsula. One of the ring leaders, Nat Wiseman, is a great friend of our farm, and has hauled junk or scythed thistles on more than one occasion!
The Village Greens team have negotiated access to an acre of land in the Aldinga Arts EcoVillage, and with their wealth of experience and enthusiasm are poised to transform it into a thriving market garden. Their crowd-funding campaign has kicked off and they’re currently seeking support to meet one-off infrastructure costs so they can get growing. Check out how you can support them here. Continue reading
A year or so ago, we celebrated the first phase of fencing on the farm: defining our ‘wilderness zones’ by carving out seven-ish hectares of erosion gully, remnant vegetation and waterlogging for regeneration. We commented at the time at how much a few posts and wire redefines a sense of space. Now we’ve almost completed all of the major fencing for the property. What began as essentially one vast, 20-odd hectare paddock, has now been reshaped into 8 smaller paddocks, together with 3 revegetation zones/habitat corridors. Continue reading
While the name Trees, Bees and Cheese might suggest otherwise, one thing we’re short on is trees. So with the arrival of sheep, and now lambs, we’ve tried to get in before summer with a sheep shade-shelter. With our soon-to-be-complete subdivision of the property into smaller paddocks, we thought we’d build a moveable shelter that would allow us to rotate it from paddock to paddock with the flock, rather than building seven or eight smaller structures. Continue reading
Fences are amazing things. They totally reshape the way you think about a landscape by cutting it into smaller, yet still expansive, rooms. They alter the movement patterns of humans and other animals and we’ve very quickly discovered the bits where, far from any gate, we’re regularly having to launch ourselves between strands of high-tensile barbed wire. With a bit of research, we came up with a couple of simple designs for stiles allowing easy pedestrian access at high-traffic points. Continue reading
After a year and a half, we’ve finally got to developing a visual identity for the farm. While our working name for the farm, “Trees, Bees and Cheese”, is more conceptual than place-based, we wanted the logo to reflect some of the distinctiveness of the farm’s landscape.
Yep, there is wind and rain, but there’s also the symphonic light that rolls across the hills and the late afternoon haze that reduces the sequence of valleys into golden layers of theatre scenery. There are the rolling, low clouds that we ache for in late summer and autumn, then look forward to farewelling by late winter. These tumbling clouds also reference the nearby sea. The lone tree and falling rain suggest how the landscape has been reshaped over the last 180ish years through clearing and subsequent erosion, but also remind us of the resources available in restoration when we harvest rainwater and gather seed. Perhaps in the future we might be able to add some more trees to the logo to reflect the changing reality of the property!
We also have a black-and-white option, particularly good for stencilling farmy things. We’d love to hear what you reckon, and if you have any ideas for tweaks or adjustments!
Our passion for growing trees has in many ways outstripped our capacity to grow them, and so our growing space has become overrun with foam containers balancing precariously on the edges of hard rubbish chairs, bricks and scraps of wood. Some months ago, we claimed some old school tables from a local school’s throw-out pile, and thought they might be good for more growing space. Predictably, the manufactured timber tops very quickly fattened in the moisture, buckled and then started getting slimy.