You never know what’s going to happen from one day to the next around here. Whilst we are in full preparation for the Farm Share Allotment scheme, we have had to chase away snakes, assist a cow to birth, bury another, keep bulls at bay, calm the neighbours, scare off a goanna in the pigeon aviary, and fix machines – in drought or pouring rain.
Farm Share Allotments
Progress is now going well with the Farm Share Allotments although a little behind schedule. With the earthworks and fencing complete to exclude the cows, we ran over the field with a Yeomans Plow and then seeded the field with a green manure crop of vetch, rye and oats. Finally, on the old Massey Ferguson, under the light of the moon, we harrowed over the seed to cover it. Now we wait for rain & germination.
All in a days work on the farm! Such fun!
Our first eight Allotments will be occupied by this July for the official opening and another two opened later next year. If you would like to apply for one please complete the Application Form and post to Permaculture Sydney Institute, 1056 Upper Macdonald Rd, Upper Macdonald. NSW 2775. Applications close Wed April 30th 2014.
More detail on the process
As with any permaculture property, after many years of observation, intuition and thought and of course completing a thorough design, we enter our construction phase. This too needs lots of thought and planning.
The first step is to prepare the foundations and do the Earthworks. Best time to do this is when the ground has moisture yet not too wet. Autumn is good. The earthworks is like the skeleton or the framework of your whole system so it’s important to do it well from the ground up as everything sits upon this. This is the time when machines come on the landscape to assist in its regeneration. Sure there’s some disturbance but it’s like one step back for a hundred forward!
The aim of our earthworks was to catch, store and slow down water and nutrient, and to create access around the property. Good earthworks can make your property more sustainable into the future by reducing maintenance, drought proofing your property, and increasing fertility and water in the system. So far, we have built a dam, created swales on contour, and built roads and a path. Everything is connected to each other part, so that the road water runs off into the dam and swales and pathways. Other earthworks has involved the removal of some trees with the excavator to allow sunlight for food growing.
The love affair with machines is now over here at pumpkin farm and the dust can settle and the land begin its regeneration. It’s been very exciting phase on the farm with lots of different machines on hand. The drot moved and pushed some earth around, the grader leveled it, the bob cat moved and cleared things around the site. The thumper thumped in the fence posts efficiently and effectively; various tractors were used for towing the Yeomans plow, seeder and harrow. The machines belong to the local fifth generation farmers in this wonderful community and, whilst skeptical, they are happy to help out a new comer to the valley. This integration has been the best thing about the whole experience. They don’t have much faith in a woman from the city or in permaculture for that matter, so they watch from a distance, say little and wait to see outcomes. In the process they gently learn our ways of farming, and we theirs.
Old fashioned fence making methods and some modern technology has created a functional and enduring asset on the farm. The fences have been constructed on contour following the bottom swale of the farm. All the posts, stays and strainers were harvested from the farm site and hand made with a crow bar, axe, wedge and chain saw. The Iron Bark fencing will last longer then most of us, and it looks sensational. Apart from our permanent fencing we will also be using some portable electric fencing on the farm. The electric tape and electro mesh will be used to move the cows and chooks through the system. We opted for permanent fencing around the allotments to be absolutely certain that cows couldn’t get in and trample over the veggies.
Plowing, seeding and harrowing.
After the allotments were leveled and fenced they were ripped using the wonderful Yeomans plow. We used a seven tined plow which opened the soil like butter with minimal disturbance. We plowed into the evening under the moonlight, opening the compacted degraded paddock. Finally, the earth could breathe again and accept water, nutrient and life. This was then followed up with seeding the paddock with a mixed green manure crop to improve the soil’s life, organic matter, nutrients and water holding capacity. We mixed up oats, rye and vetch into the seeder, towed by the Massey Ferguson tractor.
Still to come…
Next come the structures, irrigation, windmill and allotment shacks. Stay tuned to next edition of Farm News to follow our journey.