Wednesday, March 12, 2008

A brief description of my work

This is a brief description of the work I have done in the last few years.I en devour to expand on all areas in this blog but it may be a bit mixed.

In 2005 I ventured of overseas during a study break from the Permaforest Trust ,where I was studying Cert4 in APT Permaculture Design.I have always loved traveling and saw this time as valuable to get out there and practice what I had learnt.
I contacted a few agencies and ended up getting a posting in Aceh,Indonesia 12 months after the Tsunami,Boxing Day 2004.I spent 2 months in a place called Lamsujiin about 50km south of Banda Aceh as a volunteer assisting the Permaculture teacher Steve Cran.Greenhand Field School, Aceh Index

The Greenhand field school was being developed to train local displaced persons in Permaculture Design.As this was my first overseas gig,culture shock hit me as I had not done any real preparation on understanding this culture.
After Aceh I headed overland and sea thru northern Sumartra to Malaysia and then Thailand.While in Thailand I contacted a guy I met in Australia ,Darren Doherty,permaculture biz ,who had been working in Vietnam on a project to see if I could visit,seeing how I was so close.After some arranging I was on my way thru Thailand,Cambodia and into Vietnam.I met with Daz and ended up staying on the project for 3 months taking care of the earthworks being done on site, as I have experience in this field.
We extended a dam 4 meters deeper and used the material to buttrace another dam wall and build some road ways.We also constructed some culverts using cement and poly pipes,a ferro cement fertigation structure,2 coconut circles,installed irrigation to caccao plantation,installed poly pipe underground from a creek to a header tank.
I generally managed the contractors and oversaw the progress until Darren's return every month.
By this time I had learnt what to expect from different cultures and settled into doing what I think was good work.
I headed back to Australia and started my own business in earthworks consultancy and worked on another one of Darren's projects called Dalpura Farm.A 140 acre silva pastoral,agro forestry project in Victoria.
I did many things there including keyline ploughing,gardening,building wetlands with a bulldozer,planting forestry,managing forestry ect.
In search if knowledge I headed off again to New Zealand to do a PDC at Taranaki Environment Center.I ended up teaching the earthworks chapter as the teacher organized did not make it.I was very nervous but it was a good challenge.I was going to stay for the course for two weeks but ended up staying in NZ for three months.After Taranaki I went ot Rainbow Valley Farm as a volunteer helping with the maintenance of the property and managing the international

This was a fantastic experience learning from two truely inspirational people.
Anyway,now I am back to do more out there in the world and looking for opportunities everywhere to do good.

Building a ferro cement structure,Vietnam.2006

Dr Tuan, from the Forestry Science Institute of Vietnam, asked me to design a structure over the fertigation system (a basic ventury setup) downhill from the 40,000 liter water tank so stuff could be stored and locked without the worry of theft.The locals are pretty light fingered around the farm.While doing some earthworks here,the dozer broke down with a broken fan belt and over heated.I couldn't really move it without further damaging the motor so I had to leave it where it was.The next morning I went to the machine and both batteries and the alternator were missing.Some local people had been there during the night and pinched them.

Anyway,as some tanks had been constructed here by Darren and the workers I thought I would try a building from ferro cement also.I drew a quick design for the contractor based on something similar in Australia we use for a nursery,minus the cement.
The structure was to sit next to an access way to the ridge dam.I designed one side of the building with a retaining wall to retain the material for the access track.As the majority of the traffic on this track was motorcycles,and the track was quite wide,the retaining wall should hold well.The steel wire would go on the outside of the blocks used for extra strength.So the steel wire was straightened (as it comes rolled up in 200kg parcels) and the foundation laid after I went in with the Komatsu 'baby' excavator (baby meaning small) to dig and level the footings.
Local rock blocks were used and cost about 10c each.The manual labour involved in this task is amazing.Boulders are sourced from however far away then people start chiseling away with hammers and spikes to break them down.No hydraulic rock breakers used here,just good old fashioned jail yard toil.As the boulders split or fracture they are then broken smaller to about 200/300mm X 100mm X 100mm.Then they are loaded by hand onto a farm tractor trailer and brought to site and again unloaded by hand,usually where the tractor parked,not necessarily where exactly needed and then possibly moved by hand again to their final resting place.
The local contractor had also built some culverts for me also from the same rock.Usually one load of rocks is about 500 pieces.Any more than that the tractor gets out of controll on the road.
Above is Mr Sun who worked for the contractor.He was a really bright young bloke and a great worker.I was supprised one day when I saw him all dressed up riding a motorcycle outside the farm when I had also only just saw him working on the structure.I found out later that he is a twin.His brother totally opposite to he.Liked wearing fancy clothing,didn't like work and a real casanova.Really great guys though.
So the steel wire was joined together in a 200mm grid fashion and then snake wire was layed inside and out to be the support for the mortor when it gets applied.Some supports were fitted temperarily inside the structure to stop the roof from collapsing under the weight of the mortor.Mind,the complete wall thickness was only 25mm,but when set is as strong as.The mortor is applied to the outside and allowed to set and then repeated on the inside.The mortor has a good rough bonding surface on the inside from the outer layer being forced through the snake wire.

Then we had a finished product.It was really cool inside and a good place to have a rest at lunch.Dr Tuan was really happy with the finish as was Darren.It was also possible to mould some gutters onto the side to collect water from the roof and store in a small tank for hand washing.A door was put on and then ready for use

The finished structure was able to hold my 90kg weight and some more.All it needed was a coat of white wash and some plants to shade it.A great job done by all.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Ringo teaching at Rainbow Valley Farm

Teaching some local Steiner School students how to plant vegetable seedlings.We discussed how some plants need a bit of shade when they are young so we chose a shady position for the seedlings for the hottest part of the day.We also talked about the importance of using mulch to keep moisture in the soil and to keep the soil cool.In warm climates you could use grasses or leaves.In cooler climates gravels could be used to warm the soil.

Here we planted the seedlings in a slightly shaded position,under a palm,to protect them from the harsh summer sun.We then 'companioned' the plants.This means putting different families of plants together to help with pest control,adding nitrogen,and supporting needs.Here we used tomato,basil and lettuce.The basil assists the tomato in fending off pests,adds lovely color and the lettuce acts as a lower storey ground cover,keeping the soil shaded.This will be a three tier system.The first tier is the lettuce,then the basil as the second tier (a bit of trimming required when in pots) and then the tomato,staked and tied to grow as high as you can reach comfortably.
The kids really had fun and loved getting their hands dirty.Every one got to plant their own seedling and they mixed up the colors of the plants to make it look nice.We mulched and watered in the plants and went off to make recycled toys with Joe.This is one of the toys Joe taught the kids to make.It is constructed from banana leaves.Pieces are cut from banana leaves that were trimmed off the tree and are normally used for mulch.One fatter piece and one thinner piece are joined together with pieces of willow twig to form an outrigger,the type of boat used by island nations.Another piece of willow is pushed up into a leaf and stood upright into the fatter piece of the outrigger.This becomes the sail.There you go a free toy.When the children are finished playing with it,it becomes compost,thus continuing the recycling process.The finished, working toy in the creek running thru Rainbow Valley Farm.
Building a potting table for the nursery.I used a local timber that was sourced from the farm by Joe and milled locally.The timber does not rot quickly.

Organizing for Mt Fuji

I currently await word from my new found friend 'Cecilia McCauley' on my visa application to Japan to fulfill a role at 'Mt Fuji Eco Park' demonstrating Permaculture and developing students English skills.What a great way to learn about urban Permaculture.
Mt Fuji Eco Park has been set up using Permaculture principles,Care for the earth,Care for people and distribute surpluses.It is in its 8th year and this year sees the education side of the project kicking off into another phase of the ever evolving design set out by the land owner Mr Imei.
Join me here as I prepare to set of on what I hope to be a most excellent adventure traversing the globe in the search for inspiration and knowledge.