by Good Life Permaculture
Diagram of a traditional swale system
Hobart is Australia’s second driest capital city (Adelaide’s first) so catching and storing water is often on my mind. Annually we get approximately 615mm, most of which arrives in the cooler months in and around Winter. During Summer our soils will dry out so ferociously that some soil types (including ours) will form cracks big enough to stick your hand a good foot down into them. When we first bought our place in mid Summer 2012 we walked across the lawn-scape and had to be careful not the slip into the cracks and twist our ankles — seriously, they were that big.
So as soon as we could we shaped the land to catch, slow and sink water into the soil in every possible way. First up, we had an excavator come through to terrace the back half of the block. All the terraces are angled slightly back on themselves to guide the water into the slope rather than letting it slide off. On top of this we designed the key artery pathways to be swale pathways (the blue lines shown below). These are placed on the inside of the terrace where they catch all the excess water that the terraces guide back into the slope.
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Trailer only – watch full video here!
Last year on Permaculture News there was an excellent article on Advanced Cell Grazing by Nick Burtner who documents the circular cattle lane-way on Geoff Lawton’s 66 acre Zaytuna Farm.
Geoff devised a system of easy to install temporary electric-fenced cattle lane-ways that lead to over 38 grazing cells on his farm — small plots of grazing land where cattle could be kept well fed for a day or two before being moved on to the next cell on a rotational basis. It was important to keep the cattle moving regularly and leave 6 to 8 inches of grass behind so that this land had a constant opportunity to renew itself and improve its fertility.
Cattle moved in this way allow the cells to be rested and only visited by the cattle on a rotational basis once every 30-50 days. Grass grown and rested in this system is able to reach its full height with the side benefit of increasing plant diversity that enables the system to flourish and multiply with increased biodiversity.
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Bamboo drip irrigation
For more than 200 years tribal farmers of the north-eastern part of India, in the state of Megalaya, have been using an indigenous technique of bamboo drip irrigation to irrigate their plantation crops. These farmers of the Jaintia and Khasi hill areas have developed this system of tapping springs and stream water to grow betal leaves, black pepper and arecanut (3).
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Biological Carpeting is a method introduced to us by Rodger Savory of Savory Grassland Management. Rodger is the son of Holistic Management founder Allan Savory and managed the African Centre for Holistic Management’s research station at Dimbangombe, Zimbabwe for six years.
At our home and training site, Rosella Waters on the Atherton Tablelands in northern Queensland, Australia, we soon realized that we lived on pretty marginal land and what would be described by Allan Savory as a ‘brittle environment’. It is essential for us to produce as much grass as possible through our growth season and cycle that carbon through a ruminant animal such as a cow to manage the landscape in line with our holistic context.
On the 6th November 2013, the day after we completed our most recent earthworks, this ‘office paddock’ (below) was left pretty bare and dusty — which is enemy #1 in this high wet-season rainfall environment. Our earthworks included the rock wall that hugs the contour of the landscape in the pictures below. The ‘swale’ that extends 50m along the edge takes overflow from a newly built pond.
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I recently completed postgraduate research on urban food production. The research area was limited to within a 70km radius of Melbourne CBD. The data collection period ran from July 2012 to July 2013. This was deliberately designed to capture inter-seasonal yield. In all, 15 households took part in the research and each participant contributed 12 weeks’ worth of data.
The collective plot size was 1,096 square metres, with a total yield of 388.73 kg worth of fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey and meat. A total of 1,015 eggs were also recorded. The study found that backyard food production was capable of producing a great diversity of edibles from common kitchen garden herbs to less commonly cultivated fruits and vegetables, as well as less commercially available varieties like amaranth, apple cucumber, acorn squash, butter squash, babaco, cape gooseberry, edible canna, elderflower, gem squash, loganberry, nettle, oca, orache, purslane, rat-tailed radish, viola flower, warrigal green, white mulberry and yacon. In total, 101 different types of nuts, fruits and vegetables were generated during the study period.
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They are finally here — the dates of the 2014 PDCs hosted by FoodWaterShelter in Tanzania. We look forward to welcoming English and Kiswahili speakers alike to our 2014 courses. And for the first time we’ll be offering a PDC outside Arusha (Tanzania) with a Kiswahili PDC in Morogoro (Tanzania) in September.
See the poster (right) for further details of our three courses, that include:
- Kiswahili PDC; 5th to 16th of May 2014, Arusha Tanzania.
- English PDC; 26th May to 6th June 2014, Arusha Tanzania.
- Kiswahili PDC; 8th to 19th September, Morogoro Tanzania.
Application forms and further details for each course are available at our website at www.foodwatershelter.org.au/pdc.aspx
Please distribute this information to your networks, and don’t hesitate to contact pdc (at) foodwatershelter.org.au for further information or to express your interest.
Looking forward to having many of you join us.
by Leanne Ejack (Alberta, Canada), PDC student, Jan/Feb 2014 at PRI Maungaraeeda, Sunshine Coast, Qld., Australia
I was bred, born and raised in the Western Canadian prairies, surrounded by massive cattle feedlots and kilometre-long stretches of monoculture grain crops. I always enjoyed the farming lifestyle, but I knew as a young teenager that the farming practices that I was surrounded by were inflicting long-term harm to the soil and environment. Spending a year after university working for a large agricultural company opened my eyes even further to how these large companies have spent years manipulating farmers into complete dependency upon their chemical inputs. Farmers are caught in a toxic and corrupt spiral of powerlessness. I was driven to start educating myself about a more sustainable way of food production that also placed the power back in the hands of farmers. I had heard about permaculture and, after researching it further, I knew I needed to become more immersed in it.
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Patent granted on watermelons.
20 February 2014 Munich.
The company, H.M. Clause, which belongs to the French co-operative group, Limagrain was granted a European Patent on watermelons (EP 1816908). The patented watermelon plant is supposedly even more multibranching and smaller fruits than usual, but this cannot be an invented trait since it is part of naturally occurring biodiversity. The patent covers the seeds, the plants and the fruits.
The plants were created by crossing and selection, which are the usual standard methods used in plant breeding, and regarded as essentially biological processes which are excluded from patenting under the European Patent Convention. Last year the European Patent Office (EPO) announced — after wide public criticism — that it would stop granting such patents until cases involving broccoli and tomato were decided and legal precedents established. In this case, the EPO tried to prevent the patent from being granted, but failed due to a procedural error.
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by Dale Bunger
Just a quick update to show how I have been making swales with a small Kubota and front end loader.
First I start by laying out the path of the swale with my trusty A-frame level. I built this A-frame so the legs would be 5′ apart and I stick in a flag every time I move it across the ground. This allows me to easily measure the length of the swale by simply counting the flags.
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You may have previously read about the work of FoodWaterShelter in Tanzania, East Africa, where they use permaculture solutions to provide the food, water and energy needs of the vulnerable women and children at the Kesho Leo children’s village. And you may have heard about the successful English and Kiswahili PDCs that they have hosted with almost 90 graduates. Well now read a story from one of the world’s first Kiswahili PDC graduates who began small to improve livelihoods. Mary Mbugua is based at the Jamii Learning Centre in Nairobi, Kenya, and is working to improve food sovereignty of local famers in schools in her community.
When I came back to my country Kenya after the April 2013 PDC in Arusha, Tanzania, I was fully energized and looking forward to initiating a process that would make good use of my newly acquired skills in permaculture.
My organization being a new one, I thought the first beneficiaries of this learning would be my family, who were also eagerly anticipating hearing what I learnt in Tanzania. Everybody was very enthusiastic and ready to support me to achieve my dream of growing safe foods for the family and beyond. Permaculture has various principles and I applied one of them within one and half months of returning home: starting small. Bearing in mind the distance and size of our land back at our rural home I decided to figure out how I could start with a kitchen garden in an urban area set-up.
During the first week after the training I approached my eldest sister whom I knew too well where she used to buy vegetables and the price at which she used to get them. I managed to demonstrate to her how she could put up a kitchen garden at her homestead and how she would save time and energy going to the market all the time, as well as money. I showed her how to prepare manure from readily available products which were previously household waste — peelings of carrots, potatoes, vegetable leaves and ash.
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