A few months ago

I can’t remember the exact dates & when I get all major jobs done I will start keeping track of when we have rain, it was a few months ago. It poured & poured with rain.

The south-west side of the property in the horses paddock again a reasonably sloped area, I could not deal with laying in bed at night listening to the rain thinking about how much top soil was being washed down into the gully & out onto the council laneway. I waited for the rain to ease, it doesn’t have to be dry day to get work done, with A frame (I had to make a new one out of some long garden stakes) & spade not a flat nosed shovel, a curved spade & proceeded to dig out more swale & berms. Yes I have done them in the horses paddock they are not a trip hazard as the edges are all soft & the berms are very visible. As it was something new in the paddock as with some horses, the berms were the most terrifying things in their paddock for a few days. Starting from the top corner the swales collect runoff from the roadside as drainage is a bit of a joke around here so I use it to my benefit. Never complain always resolve. The top berm fills then slowly the water ebbs out & down to the next swale. the berms now have a native white shrubby plant that seems to come up quite prolific around the place shame the horses don’t eat it, it does hold the berm together until I decide what fodder I will plant there.

Taking approximately 4 full days I had sliced & diced the paddock into a perfect berm & swale  crescendo. The areas I chose to follow were pretty much clay no top soil at all so it sliced beautifully, as I got closer to the base of the gully the clay was about a foot deep & underneath was this amazing dark rich soil, it was like striking gold. Now if I had the machinery I would have dug up as much clay as possible then as much soil as possible & mixed it all together to create the most amazing land ever. Alas I don’t have machinery, I know that I can plant there & the root system of whatever I plant will have an abundance of growing room & nutrient.

The funny thing in all this is my curious neighbours in my street, everyone is really polite love our neighbourhood it is awesome (nearly everyone) when you drive up our street our land is in full view of everyone who passes, all the neighbours would slow down for a sticky beak. I give them a wave, funny though only one has asked what I am up to, no one had offered to help , not that I expect that by any means, if I saw someone digging trenches in my neighbourhood id be introducing myself a like-minded spirit or a mass murderer lets find out shall we. Taking me about 4 or 5 days I had dug a series of swale, with enough space to get a car & trailer through weaving your way in & out. Have to allow for access so paddocks can be easily cleaned.

There are another 2 swale above the 2 in the second photo as you can see the soil under the clay is great, they now have beautiful grass shoots coming up in the swale & the berm has, you can see the plant top in the lower right hand corner, yeh well there the ones growing all along the berms now. The greenery outside the fenceline is not native grasses Is mainly weed one that gives horses an illness called big head a horrible nasty pussy swelling between the eyes & up on their forehead. If you’re wondering why I haven’t let the horses eat that down, at the moment that’s why & I just try keep it from seeding. That’s all part of my to do list  a whole other story.

In the first photo it is taken facing up the hill to the left of the 2 berms in the first photo, are you confused. So go to the gully of the first photo turn around & look up at the berms now turn to your left, there you go, you got it now? Never mind I’m enough to confuse anyone. the ground through the second photo has a lot of tree roots throughout & there was quite a lot of debris, I have used that debri to create the berms, it is still the same principle as the swale still slows water flow & holds moisture & as it all breaks down creates beautiful rich soil, I will go along & dig swale eventually to continue to hold the soil but for now this is working great & the fire boys love it as it actually creates a series of fire breaks for them so if we get a fire through on the ground it will be easier to contain, warning. Do not, I repeat do not build those gardens where you bury a whole lot of timber under soil & stuff as in a fire these can burn for days even after firies have put them out, they start spot fires all over again, not a good idea especially if you live in a high fire danger area like us.

Given that the photos are of land that is right next to each it is incredibly diverse that’s why permaculture works don’t try change what you cant work with it & alter what you can to make it work.

I hope with today’s post I have inspired encouraged shown you that you can do anything you don’t need machinery or even a helping hand. You can do this, a bit of patience, prayer & perseverance, knowing it will all come together & people will start asking how & why is your land so much more efficient than mine?  Come along let me show you keep reading keep doing or if you have done this id love to see your story.

THE PROOF WILL BE IN THE PRODUCE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Mum & the A frame

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Hours of holding the A frame while I raked. My amazing Mum, Is so funny sometimes. We would get our ups & downs mixed up & depending on the slope, Mums balance, the amount of pressure warping the A frame as Mum tried to keep her balance on the A frame & the padlock at times could get quite a swing up, it was hilarious.

Let me explain what & how we did it because I know you’re wondering why? what? A frame? raking? I don’t understand! Well our land is quite steep in areas, only 5 acres of clay, no machinery & a household to tend too. I could not get the little flags into the ground, no money for paint & there was so much raking to do it made sense to have Mum line up the A frame level & then I would rake along the front of it & we would work our way along A frame, rake, A frame, rake, A frame, rake & so on.

Then when Mum had done enough I would go back along & rake a bit more from top down, so the berm would be thicker & more distinctive & believe me it takes a lot less energy to rake down than up & raking down actually adds strength to the berm. I would then take three steps down from that berm & off we would go again giggling & carrying on at our brains going left & right & forward & back & up & down depending on how much balance Mum was getting from the A frame & whether the left side or right side of my brain was more dominant. That’s how we have done 5 acres of this & then I have gone back in some areas & actually dug out swales where i could only after heavy rain.

Remember in all of this hard work STOP appreciate the little wild flowers coming out or that you have uncovered, little birds that come to pick at whatever insects we have disturbed, the way the light changes through the trees throughout the day, the gentle breeze that cools you down just enough to give you strength to keep going. Never stop appreciating or marveling at what you have been blessed with.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A frame

I guess I should point out that whilst moving an A frame made from lengths of bamboo tied with bailing twine, with an old padlock  hanging as a string line did have an air of idiocy about it . I was quite pessimistic as to how successful I was going to be, not because I didn’t trust the process, rather I didn’t trust the process with my brain.

With A frame in hand & little white flags on wire as markers & looking at the lay of the land, according to my crude resemblance of an A frame, I thought for sure I had it wrong, with reckless abandonment I picked & mattocked & spaded & built berms, oh my goodness ! I picked & mattocked & built berms oh my! I picked & mattocked & built berms oh my! there were actually berm like structures curving their way around following the line of my little white flags  (word of warning while little white flags might look great getting them into the ground required beating them with whatever rock or broken brick I could find only to have the wire bend the ground was just to hard, so i will forget them & find another way) amazing & as I was eyeing my depth of swale & levelness for possible water flow & height of my berms, I could see that yes it was looking great, just like I had studied up on.

See it does not require loads of money or machinery, would it have been easier ? yes sure! but I think the satisfaction of  looking at all the work complete & knowing that with every part of your being muscles, emotions, thoughts you have done it all, you can do it all.

 

 

Sorry the photos aren’t too clear but you can see the green that is coming up between berms even where there are a spreading of trees (there is no need to decimate land for fodder). The second photo you can just make out the ridges of berms, I will be posting more photos as it has been a couple of years since these were taken.

Having had several (not many) deluges of rain it all still stays & the water crystal clear gently ebbs into the dam.

Treasure Mounds

You will notice the dates on this are a couple of years old this is how long I have been working the land & documenting, not to mention the previous years of undocumented turmoil but see now we are getting to all the good stuff, my 10 year plan is coming to fruition.

The kids & I took advantage of the car getting new tyres & ball joints, we went to the library to use the wi-fi (couldn’t afford wi-fi at home), so Wil did school work & Laura did study, both of their schooling done by correspondence) I hit the computer running with my little list of what is & why & how to & what happens if. Two & a half hours later we’d hit burn out I had only scratched the surface of all the info I needed but none the less knowledge was achieved.

It’s the 13th of August in the year of our Lord 2015 & as you will see from the photos we have not had any significant rain still. Mum & I decide to get out & start raking berms. I had been out the day before & started moving rubbish piles, which now instead of seen as rubbish piles they are actually more like TREASURE MOUNDS this is what I will now refer to them as. I will need as much as I can to create berm, swale like holding areas. The preceding photos will be the largest sloped area of our property over time I have dropped potentially dangerous trees in such a way that they stop as much runoff as possible. Before we started on the berms some of these piles & logs had actually been swept off into the dam the force of water cascading down the hill so strong. it brings a tear to my eye the amount of top soil now in my dam boo hoo, well suck it up sunshine & get on with the job.

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Yes it looks messy but keep tuned in wait til you see the results.

The original piles that I had to move had started to create soil & were really moist even though we hadn’t had rain for Quite some time, living proof this works.

Scratching the surface

I have using soil from the dam  & horse manure planted 2 cascading Grevillea in my first berm which sadly died, note to self save money then buy ridiculous amounts of plants & plant in wet season, to give plants enough water to attach &  save work hours on watering. (I have a tendency to forget where I have planted new plants) anyway this is a permaculture principle working with nature, isn’t it?

I have since read that soil from the dam is not conducive to healthy soil wrong ingredients apparently. Having read up on so much & of course I am really only scratching the surface & with a damaged memory ,I only remember what I have tried sometimes & sometimes I just wander around the property to remind myself.

I have also found that if your working with a very hard surface instead of having the berm sit right on the edge of the swale & over flow seeps under the berm, let the berm ebb into the swale that way the moisture sits & is drawn up into the berm instead of flowing out underneath & drying up.

Over time the base does soften & beautiful soil is created I find doing this just helps save as much moisture as possible.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little white flags

I know my writing is a little back to front but I am writing this to encourage people you can do anything you desire if you put your heart soul blood sweat & tears into it, you will surprise yourself… Go for it.

So Tuesday little white flags in hand I head out the back just outside the house yard there’s an area under a stupid palm tree(whoever chose to plant palm trees in an area known for snakes bats & cockroaches should be sent up a beanstalk to live with the giants, such ridiculous is beyond me).

I don’t know if you can see in the picture just how split my trusty mattock is but believe me with every blow to the earths crust it grabs my skin. I in agony only after a little while & wondering how long before the handle was going to end up embedded in my hand, had the logical bright idea of electrical tape the fixer of all things that need fixing, you can never have enough, that also goes for bailing twine but that’s another story for later, So taped up & back to work. From the pictures you can also tell what kind of soil (not) I am dealing with.p2

In the pictures below you can see my berm not huge but my swale does fit a wheel burrow as the instructions suggested, I will accumulate some money, I will top up the berm with soil but in the meantime there is a heap of top soil around the edge of the dam I will wheel burrow up & horse poop. Can you see my trusty little flags well one is standing at least in the distance so cute!

The log in the middle picture the flaming thing weighed a ton, but under my pick mattock & a drenching with water underneath, it finally moved, it’ll be great firewood.

You cannot imagine my excitement at making a puddle. Are you ready, now for the reveal of such an amazing feat I very tentatively got the hose the whole time telling myself not to panic if it doesn’t work its only dirt (well mostly clay with a dirt like substance) it can be moved, so with the grip of a small traumatized minion on the hose, turned the tap on & the water flowed into my very first swale & it sat there, it worked, IT WORKED, IT WORKED.  Talk about academy award-winning moment, it worked.The water didn’t rush off it sat there. So with my holey joggers full of earths clay like core with the cold & dark of evening settling in I reluctantly dragged myself up into the house, as on this high I would’ve kept digging all night. Alas there was no rain all night, I should know as I was awake most of the night with delirious hopes of rain just so I could see my swale in action. Waking the next morning to find the swale was still wet, it really does work, the proof is in the swale. after having moved the log & filling that gap with a large rock it worked & over time as soil is created I will replace it if I need, I’ll let you know in the future.

I just started with a pic as we haven’t had decent rain in a couple of months now & combine that with clay ground, a pic worked wonders to initially break it all up, then using the mattock to get a bit deeper to break up what seemed to be the earths core & then shift it with the spade. Sounds monotonous I know but it does work & if you can’t afford machinery I encourage you persevere you can do it.

Swale digging directions it had been suggested to me to use a flat or square nosed spade NO the easiest spade I found was slightly pointed & I sharpened it with the grinder, after all the pick & mattock have done most of the work with getting the swale to the right depth & width, now spade & I together moved the earths core like substance to create the berm. to get the all important even surface I used a metal rake. Yes I do refer to my yard tools as us as when you are working on your own & looking for reliability why not they are there with you through all the hard yakka never giving up never complaining like a true trusted friend. This is my life, I love.

Prepare for blisters!

It’s my cousin Fraggles fault really or maybe I can just blame it on genetics, you know the whole getting back to your family roots, getting in touch with the land. For some reason you can’t explain it feeds the soul gets your blood flowing is the absolute essence of who you are, is life-giving.

Which in hindsight is quite funny cause after a days work toiling the soil ready for planting you are so exhausted you have no life left in you! The soothing comfort of a hot bath & soft bed, well I guess it makes you appreciate the little things. It could be I’m tired of spending money on fodder when I live on land, it just feels like money down the drain. Anyhoo its a swale of a time I’m having.

Listen to me I have only just begun my brain is on overdrive, I’m constantly wound up, frustrated that the mundane everyday routines, cleaning the house & washing & all that is just in the way of going out on the land & getting totally grotty, sinking a spade into the Gods good earth & all that.

Tuesday the 14th of July 2016, after  a week of working out how to make a A frame, which required looking on the internet for a how too & there was only 1 site that I could find that explained & displayed it perfectly thankyou to that young fella.

Sitting on the lounge a couple of nights later armed with wire, wire cutters & square paper cut outs. I made about 10 little white flags the explanation for this absurdity will be explained in future pictures & why I never used them again.