Friday, 31 March 2017

A Peek Into Permaculture: Principles

Throughout the day yesterday, the wind swirled and howled outside and torrential rain, from the lingering "remnants" of a tropical cyclone that crossed the coastline much further north, drummed heavily and loudly on the roof. Our region had a month's rain in just one day!

Pouring, drenching rain falling from the heavens.

During this unusual rain event, as I watched gutters and drains overflowing with precious water, I have been thinking about what happens to all the "liquid gold"  that falls on our property.

Water lost as it flows downhill into gutters and drains.
(Our house is at the top of this little street.)

In the Introductory Permaculture Course I recently attended, taught by the enthusiastic and inspiring Morag Gamble, who writes over at Our Permaculture Life, we were introduced to David Holmgren's twelve design principles. One of those principles encourages you to think about how to catch, harness and store energy; energy that is embodied in things such as sunlight, wind, seeds, food and water.

Water gushing from one of our neighbourhood's storm water drains.

A lot of rain fell in our area, over our land, yesterday. Looking out my misty windows to the street, venturing out to the soggy backyard and beyond under umbrella cover, there was much that I observed. While some of that rainwater poured off our roof and into our tanks, there was much that pooled in the circular "impression" where our old trampoline used to be, that trickled along the edge of the veggie patch like a little mini waterfall,  that flowed in under the house where it will no doubt be very muddy for a while, and that was lost as it gushed downhill into our street's gutters and drains. 

Yesterday's rain turned a dry brook into a swift stream.

The challenge as I understand it, remembering that I am just beginning to develop my understanding of Permaculture, is to find ways to capture more of the different energies that fall upon or move across/through your land. For example, when the sun is shining, we have solar panels to capture the sun's energy though the cost of batteries prevents us (at the moment) from storing that to use at night or in times of heavy cloud. We have a worm farm and compost bins that capture the energy stored in our food scraps and convert it into a form we can use in the garden. Our large sash windows, glass sliding doors and french doors help to harness the breezes we get here and bring them inside. In terms of the precious water that rain brings, we have one large tank under our house and another much smaller one under our back verandah. Water that doesn't fall on our roof and into our tanks, flows downhill as our land slopes sharply at the front and gently at the back. Some of that water soaks into our soil but a lot is lost in run-off. So I need to think about how to:

          *  slow that water down to give it more time to soak into our soil;
          *  use areas where the water naturally pools on our block of land;
          *  direct water into drier areas;
          *  direct water away to stop it flowing under our house.

One of the many large mushrooms popping up in moist soil.

I like the way in which the different Permaculture principles provide a framework for me to think about things and they way they throw up questions about how to build sustainability practically into our life here. I think they are applicable as much to my little suburban home as they are to the largest property. I think I'll sit with each one for a while, ponder them, learn more  and then see to what decisions they lead.


p.s. If you experienced the wild weather over the past few days, here in Queensland or Northern NSW, I hope that you are safe and dry this morning. My best wishes and thoughts to all those whom Cyclone Debbie impacted this week.  Xxx


  1. Meg when I was in Townsville when Cyclone Larry hit and saw all the water rushing into drains during the aftermath I was wishing there was a way to send that water down south as we were in drought at the time :-) I hope you find ways to slow the water down,

    1. Yes, we had all that rain yesterday but out west it was still pretty dry. It never seems to spread out evenly or fairly. I have a few ideas for slowing the water down, thinking about how to make our grass/lawn area more permeable; how to make even more compost to keep on building up garden beds so the rain can soak in deeply etc. I am thinking of making a circular, no-dig garden bed for the Autumn and Winter over the circular impression left by our old trampoline. It's too hot a spot in Summer but in the cooler months I think I could grow food there. How did you go with the rain out your way? Meg

  2. Meg we had a few inches of rain. I saw Costa on TV this afternoon as he is at the Toowoomba Show and he said there was a foot of water flowing through the showgrounds yesterday. I didn't go out yesterday but ther would have been the usual flooding near the CBD I imagine but we missed out on the forecast wind and deluge. I know some people near the Gold Coast and in Murwiillumbah who are flooded in at present.

  3. I strongly agree with your last sentiment - no matter the size of the land, design is important and oh-so applicable. Those managing suburban blocks, have an amazing opportunity, because it's so much more doable, the smaller the scale. So you can have a lot of stacking, and it's still manageable.

    Like you, I like to wander out into the rain (umbrella in hand) to check how the water is moving. I like to see how things are being moved through the landscape, to help me design my own systems. Your area is very beautiful, and I'm glad the storm wasn't unmanageable.

    1. The ground is very, very soggy underfoot today out there, and there's a bean sprout right in the middle of the lawn! I've spent the morning rejuvenating my veggie patch, I put in a layer of leopard tree leaves (legumous....who knew!) that I collected from the park along our bike track this morning and also added in lots of compost. I need to grow more chop/drop material and I have to figure out how to make much more compost. I built two simple compost towers today just using cylinders of chicken wire. I saw some like this in at city farm last weekend. Meg:)

    2. If you have any local cafes, ask if you can have a bucket of coffee grounds. They normally use their ice cream containers to store them in. You'll probably find, once you get to know them, you can have more than one bucket! They always have so much that goes into the bin. But it's a good compost material, and for placing around your trees. Because it attracts the worms, and grows fungi, which spreads good bacteria around the tree roots.

    3. We learnt about coffee grounds at the Introduction to Permaculture course last weekend and I plan to go down to the little fish&chip shop/cafe to ask for some. As it just goes in the bin, I hope they'll let me bring it home here to use in the garden. We have worms too so I can add it into the worm farm:) I went to the little city farm nursery today and got a very large Canna Lily in a pot for $5. I have divided it up and got 7 plants and have put them in the ground. Cheap and hopefully will grow lots of chop/drop material for me:) Meg

  4. If there had been a bridge over that brook in the photo it would have been a good spot for playing pooh sticks. I still love splashing around in the rain, I always have done. I used to go for long walks in rainy weather. But I was younger then with less responsibilities and more free time.

    I like to walk about the property after heavy rain to see where the small particles of debris have gathered as they have been left behind by the waters movement.

    1. Hi, Sherri. There is a little bridge further on and water was rushing over the top of it! I love rainy weather walks. We always venture down to see what's happening with this brook, whether there's been enough rain to get it flowing (It's been dry over most of the Summer) and how swiftly it's moving. We like to race leaf boats if there's enough water moving. Meg:)