Bredbo Valley View farm - providing quality education in Permaculture and sustainable living practices.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Yesterday was the first of our Holistic Farm Management Course Support Group Meetings, held out at Gunning. We visited John Weatherstone’s place near Gunning. I’ve been there before, but each visit is more educational. Johns work planting trees and building soil is both an example and inspiration. This time I was able to have a good look at his Palonia Tree plantation, which is something that the Cook introduced us to a while back, and pick up a few white walnuts for planting this weekend.

Anybody interested in looking at Johns work can look here.
We had lunch following the visit and sat around talking about the various issues we were facing in regards to Holistic Management and looking towards the future.
On Wednesday I was lucky enough to get a seat at a lecture on Food Security at ANU. The lecture was titled - Real food security - and what’s wrong with current development. It was focused on how our foreign aid dollars for food security should spent on supporting small farmers not the commercialisation of farms in third world countries. The details are spelt out here –

Basic food security is an important step towards good governance and socio-economic development. Globally, food security is said to exist for some 4.7 billion persons with another two billion being food insecure. If global population stabilizes at 9 billion around 2050, food demand will probably rise to an equivalent of 12 billion of today’s persons due to such factors as affluence-induced food preferences and food wastage in urban supply chains. Unless food security is realistically defined as basic food for survival, it is not achievable without major changes in our worldviews.
By examining three philosophical perspectives - food as a commodity; food as a product of nature to be balanced with other products; and food as a human right, this paper explores the disconnect between the current worldview of ‘donors’ who allocate solutions to food insecurity to aid agencies, and the small third-world farmers who produce the food from farms of less than two hectares.

Professor Lindsay Falvey, a Fellow of the Academy of Technological Science and of Clare Hall University of Cambridge, was foundation Dean of Land and Food and Chair of Agriculture at the University of Melbourne. He has written 12 books, the most recent being, Small Farmers Secure Food: Survival Food Security, the World’s Kitchen & the Critical Role of Small Farmers.

I was late getting home from Gunning last night and on the way home I was listening to the ABC Radio National. I think the program was big ideas and about what a panel thought Australia would be like in the year 2030. One of panellist’s spoke about how we now live in an economy, no longer do we live in a society or a community. This is a really sad statement – but when you look at what fills the news and the papers – it’s a true statement.

One thing that permaculture teaches you is that community is the key to survival, from community you get security, growth, education and social stimulus. The sooner we don’t have an economy the better off we’ll all be, the sooner we take responsibility for ourselves and stop relying on government the happier we’ll be.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Oh, you mean a Scythe

I was off travelling over the weekend to the April Scythe workshop in the Totnes Valley northwest of Mudgee. I have been to the workshop on one previous occasion and enjoyed myself and I thought it would be nice to go back and see what had change and how the event had grown.

I travelled up on the Friday, I really enjoy the change in scenery from home. I arrived just in time to help set things up and get dinner – a beautiful Pumpkin soup, which if I remember correctly was what we had the last time I was there. Friday night was spent meeting new people and sharing our stories around the camp fire.
Differently to last time I was there, they had traders, only a couple but selling interesting wares. One guy was selling old tools, axes, adzes and hatchets. I would have loved to have bought some home but I’m saving for cows at the moment and I really needed a peening hammer anyway.
Activities started Saturday morning, and as traditionally happens a short yoga class before breakfast. I’m no yogi enthusiast so I stood back and willed the others on with positive thoughts – like ‘I’m positive I could never do that with my dickie knee’ or ‘I would positively look fat doing that’. Any way once that and breakfast were over it was into Scything, on really nice grass. I was asked to look after some beginners and in 10mins they were off happily scything their hearts away in the long grass. After things warmed up we had a demonstration on peening or sharpening the scythes. This was interesting in itself as I’ve never seen a field peening anvil used before; I also got to see one of the new anvil tables in action.

After lunch it was into Bio fertilizer making. I’m really interested in this and seeing we have so many issues with mineral deficiencies in our soil I was intent on learning more about using natural processes to get them back into the soil, or made available in the soil whichever the case may be.

Later in the afternoon I was able to try something I’d wanted to do for years, ever since the Cook and I did our ‘Cooks tour of American Civil War Battlefields’ (that’s a long story in itself) where we stopped and spent an afternoon watching Amish people mow hay with a team of mules near Intercourse in Pennsylvania. Anyway, one of the Mudgee locals, Danny , bought up his Clydesdale and hitched it to a plough. They guys from Scythes Australia want to start a market garden and needed a piece of land ploughed and Danny was giving everybody a go – so I was in.
It’s way harder than it looks, but way more fun as well, I think I had a grin on my face for hours after would. We had the opportunity to both handle the plough and drive the horse, I couldn’t wait to get home and tell the cook all about it.

Next on the agenda was Bio Char making, which I’d seen shows about and read about on the internet. The guys doing it made a small and simple error and allowed too much air into the burn compartment and buy morning there was nothing left but ash. There’s always next time.
I was lucky enough to be on a table of very interesting people for the dinner on Saturday night. We had a Biodynamic farmer from the Atherton Tablelands, the owner of Milkwood Permaculture, a Mine Worker, an Anarchist, a beginning farmer and myself. The conversation switch from topics like biodynamics and preparations to soil biology, home building and growing communities. I really enjoyed the evening and went off to bed with my head full of questions, ideas and plans.

Sunday morning I woke about 4:30am with the roosters crowing, this was drowned out by the snoring. I’ve never heard snoring like it before, it was worse than the pigs and Shadow. I couldn’t get back to sleep so I stoked the fire, made a cup of tea and enjoyed the stillness. After some more talking I was off back to Bredbo, picked teh Cook up some more Plymouth rock Chics and arrived home about 8pm – still trying to digest the information that had filled my head over the weekend.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Our changing landscape

The recent summer rains have left parts of the farm in disrepair. We have issues with fencing being destroyed, new erosion gullies forming and the possibility of losing our large dam in the gully up the back (now christened Carabineers Creek).

As we don’t have stock in that part of the property the loss of the dam won’t really affect us, but it will affect the wildlife that live in it and on its banks. Every year families of water birds use the dam and backed up gully for breeding, this year we had our first waders, as well as the Grebes, Coots, shags and ibis. What we would really love to do is to turn the dam and the area between the dam and the river back into a wetland habitat. Something that was common on the Monaro 200 years ago but sadly missing today – so if anybody knows of any grants going that we would be able to apply for let me know.

So, with all this hydrological damage about I spent a few days out at Milkwood near Mudgee doing a Watershed Rehabilitation Workshop. This was run by a guy called Craig Sponholtz from the US and was based on solutions outlined in the book “Let the Water do the Work” by Bill Zeedyk and Van Clothier. You can find a review of the book here -

The course was three days of mostly theory and a day of practical. Most importantly to my mind was the course covered in detail the effects that putting any structure into a stream will have, and the importance of putting the right structure in the right place. We covered stream and gully profiles, types and anatomy as well as formation and development.

The last day involved repairing an eroded gully using the techniques we had learnt. Which is another way of saying ‘hauling rocks’.

Overall I would recommend anybody who has a stream, gully, creek or run on their property to do this course. It's a pity the NSF doesn't have a course like this.