Saturday, November 19, 2011

Watching Seasonal Patterns

Project: Tiger Hill Permaculture

Posted by Paul Kean about 17 hours ago

Observations at Tiger Hill during November 2011

Swifts are building their nests and Kookaburras are teaching their young to hunt.Apples and Plums have set.I hope I can beat the Possums to the harvest.Lupins,Hairy Vetch,Clover and silver wattle are in flower here at Tiger Hill.The Gourse in the area is also flowering and such a beautiful sight.Apitty it is such a problem for some farmers.Hope to be around to gather seed this season.Red Currents and Rasberries are setting and a hardy old Rhubarb is still kick'n.

Some good sunny days in between scattered showers.I like the rain,its soaking in and keeping the dams full.Need to start being mindful of the warm weather and active snakes.Plenty of places for them to hide here

Bumble Bees are everywhere but a non presence of honey bees.I'm sure they are here,just haven't seen too many.The grasses around the house are rampent with the rainfall I'm getting.Good thing though cause then I have a great source for composting.

New lambs are about two months old now and shearing season is apon us here in Buckland Tasmania.

Recycling Urine

Project: Tiger Hill Permaculture

Implementing a urine trough.

For so long I have wanted to recycle what I could but sharing homes with people made it not so easy as they didn't understand and always equated it only to house rubbish.Not to say this is bad but I have always looked at recycling on a much bigger scale and not having my own place before made it difficult as I had to conform to someone else's rules.Now I have my own place and plenty of space and the freedom to do what I want I can try to do my bit.

A few years ago when I stayed at Djanbung Gardens on my journey searching for inspiration,I was introduced to compost toilets and urine troughs.Humanure was collected in wheelie bins and when full placed stored for 3-4 months till it decomposed then emptied.So simple.I intend to do something similar here in the near future.The other collection was urine.Basicly a rubbish bin was filled with saw dust and set into a private enclosure within the gardens and gents visitied it and the urine soaked into the saw dust.As I hadn't ever used the female system I was not sure of its design.A lid was placed over the top to stop rain water getting in.When the saw dust was fully soaked it was used straight away in a compost.At times the when the lid was lifted of the bin to make a deposit,amonia gases would be strong and this was the extra source being harvested for composting.

The carbon (saw dust) and nitrogen (urine) produced amonia which would activate the compost and put heat in.This is handy if you have limited green material as nitrogen.

Fast track to the present and with the recent address at TEDx seminar in Sydney by Nick Ritar of Milkwood Permaculture, Nick Ritar’s TEDx Canberra Talk: Two things you can do Every Day to save the world ,I was reinspired to do something I always wanted to but was restricted by someone else's rules.My idea was to place a container off my back landing and instead of urinating into the flush toilet I would just walk out the back door on the edge of the garden and collect it there.Would also save going out in the rain and peeing on a tree.

I had been to a local garage sale and purchased 2 x 200L plastic drums with the lids cut off for $5.A good resource for alot of things.I also went to the local landscape supplies and got 1m3 of saw dust.Cheap enough at $20 for 1m3 as I haven't found a local mill to get it for free.Two 90deg PVC fittings and 500mm of 25mm PVC pipe and an old 2l juice bottle cut into a funnel and some buct tape and I had what I had desired.200L of amonia breathing carbon for my future composts.No glueing or drilling,just one cut with a hacksaw.You might think it would be awakward to move but I am fortuate to have a 1ton hiab on my small truck that I can lift it and tip it straight into a compost pile.I have also put a 25L bucket with lid in the bathroom as a convenience and have saved litres of water by using these collection places.At present I am on the farm by myself so I don't have the privacy issue.As more people come here I will implement another system to collect straight urine as well as a saw dust bin.

Will update later to give feedback on the compost made from this resource.See pics below for a simple set up.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Thursday, November 11, 2010


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Watershed Organization Trust

Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR)

It is believed that wars in the future will be fought over water. As and how this precious resource gets scarcer, our survival is what will matter more than all the technological and economic developments put together. Finally, it will be man and nature once again – like being back to the basics.

In fact, if you were to undertake a tour of the drought-prone regions of India, you would realise for yourself how water and its availability becomes the prime concern of people staying in a ‘dry’ area. Women and children walk for miles in the blistering sun to be able to get just a pot of drinking water. Men dig deep into the hard ground to be able to locate a brackish water resource. Taking a bath or washing clothes is considered a luxury that no one in such regions can afford. Parched throats yearn for a drop of water. And the arrival of a water tanker can even lead to ugly fights.

Farming, a traditional occupation in most villages of India, can become an unreal notion in the face of such water shortages. People therefore begin to migrate to cities in search of livelihoods. Some villages turn to nothing more than landscapes of ruins. Some turn into the final abode of the sick and the elderly who wait for the merciful hand of death.

These then are the realities that led Fr. Hermann Bacher, a Jesuit priest, and Crispino Lobo to establish the Watershed Organisation Trust (WOTR) in 1993. Fr. Bacher had committed himself to change the lives of the rural people handicapped by the shortfall of opportunities and resources in their villages. Crispino Lobo gave up bright career prospects and instead decided to work for the impoverished. Under them, WOTR organised and capacitated villagers to regenerate their watersheds so as to trap whatever little rain that fell in their area and use it for farming and personal use.

With its head office at Ahmednagar, WOTR has, over the years, turned barren landscapes into forests. And this magic has happened not just because of the technical guidance and funding that it has provided to several villages across Maharashtra but for the fact that it works with a holistic picture in mind. WOTR gets villagers committed to watershed development. It convinces them about the need for collective participation and voluntary labour. WOTR gets the women population involved too in the process of decision-making and governance.

And there’s more. With its objective of reducing poverty in villages, WOTR looks at the bigger picture that involves providing educational inputs for children, entrepreneurship opportunities for women, preservation of the environment and creating such a self-sustaining ambience in every village that none of the villagers would want to go to the overloaded cities to eke out their living.

Since 1993, WOTR has also added two more organisations viz. Sampada Trust and Sanjeevani Institute of Empowerment and Development (SIED) to focus on specific activities such as entreprenuership, micro-credit and implementation. In present times, WOTR has moved on from just watershed development to including the effects of climate change and what needs to be done about this big issue. It has ventured into rural renewable energy and community based rural tourism.

From Maharashtra, WOTR has also spread its reach and work to villages in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan. In statistical terms, WOTR has so far implemented 198 watershed projects in Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan covering an area of 142,000 ha (6/09).

WOTR grew of a fortuitous confluence of factors that arose in India and Germany in the early 1980’s. There was also a growing realisation that despite huge amounts spent on poverty alleviation programs, the absolute and relative number of people living in poverty remained stubbornly constant. Both sides realised that despite their best efforts, something critical was missing and had to be addressed if a difference was to be made.

In 1987 the German government launched a special study in India - the Indo German Pilot Program (IGPP) - to assess the effectiveness of official assistance in fighting poverty. Both governmental and non-governmental development agencies involved in policy-making, funding, implementation and research on the German and Indian sides participated. Findings highlighted that aid was most effective when it reached the poor directly, but it had a spread effect when the government ably supported it. Following the German Parliament’s resolution to support by way of grant aid any program that addressed poverty reduction, environmental regeneration, self-help and women’s empowerment, Fr Hermann Bacher, who was involved in the entire IGPP study, conceived of a large scale community-driven program for poverty reduction, centered on regenerating the environmental space of villagers along watershed lines in Maharashtra known as the Indo-German Watershed Development Programme (IGWDP).

Given Fr Bacher’s credibility and experience, he was successful in convincing both the Indian and German governments to accept, approve and fund the project. The first official agreement was signed in 1989 and the Indo-German Watershed Development Programme (IGWDP) was launched in late 1992.

When the IGWDP began, there were barely any capable NGOs who could take up the programme. In 1993, it was decided by a group of prominent NGO leaders to set up a new organisation to cater to the capacity building needs of the IGWDP and to create a movement for participatory watershed development in India. And that’s what led to the birth of WOTR on December 20, 1993.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

1955 Keyline Movie

For those interested in building soil fertility,the Keyline Plan is the best practise out there.

Keyline Farming 1955 from RegenAG on Vimeo.

The following links can be sourced for consultation and training in Keyline methods.

The development of living soil can be done most economically in a landscape, that is specifically designed to achieve these results. The Keyline Scale of Permanence provides a priority guide to planning the various factors considered in the design of the landscape. In this scale the utilisation of the water resources of the landscape is designed after considering the climate and topography (land shape). Then the location of roads, trees, buildings and fences may be logically planned in this order.

The Keyline design is unique to each property so the plan is always custom made to the property. Thus Keyline reveals the potential and develops the uniqueness of the property. The design process often reveals unsuspected potential and dispels illusions. Experience is necessary to reveal the full potential of any property. Design is done both in the office and in the field. The initial office work speeds the assessment and uses the information derived from detailed contour maps of the area. On the basis of the initial assessment, key points within the apparent design potential of the property are selected. The vertical relationship of the features of the landscape can then be established. Preliminary plans and designs can be formulated. The practical design work starts from the key points and revealed relationships. During the initial on site survey of a property, contour or grade lines are pegged, as required, from the key points previously selected. Dam sites may be chosen, pegged, volume estimates made and the best irrigation areas delineated. This work is best done on site and usually the first stage or starting project of the plan is laid out on the land.

The hallmarks on the properties of successful Keyline farmers are lakes with water birds, contour and ridge line roads and contoured and strip forests, dark fertile soil, luxuriant healthy green crops and feed. Well-designed landscapes can be beautiful and highly productive. Keyline techniques increase profits by increasing soil fertility, improving farm water utilisation, reducing production costs and increasing productivity.

One of the primary objectives of Keyline planning is to enhance the swift development of deep biologically fertile (living) soil in a designed landscape systematically planned for permanence. Keyline methods rapidly develop the biological fertility and structural stability of the soil and reduce water loss from the land. Keyline is the natural way to defeat the menace of soil erosion and salinity, simply as an incidental to total landscape betterment.

The Keyline Plan is to prepare the land to quickly absorb, and hold by way of increased field capacity, increasing amounts of rainfall, and to store surplus run off water, where ever practical, in large, on farm storages each equipped with a 'Lockpipe System'. The Lockpipe System is a large pipeline positioned under the dam wall, which when opened, releases the water rapidly for use by gravity powered irrigation. Keyline irrigation is quick, not labour intensive and functions to enhance the development of deep, living, fertile soil.

Keyline uses cultivation, irrigation and stock management techniques to greatly speed up the natural process of living soil formation. Conversion of subsoil into top soil may, under natural conditions, occur at 10 to 15 tonnes per hectare each year. On Keyline farms, during the conversion process, this figure may increase beyond 10 to 15 hundred tonnes per hectare each year. The numbers may be surprising but annually deepening the topsoil by 10 to 15 cm (ie 4 to 6 inches) achieves this result. It is a practical short term goal to deepen the living top soil to 30 and 45 cm (twelve to eighteen inches).

Changing the subsoil conditions to better suit aerobic soil organisms enables the conversion of sub-soil into topsoil. These organisms need warmth, space for air and moisture plus a plentiful supply of high protein food.

Loosening the soil and applying dung is a long standing method to improve agricultural production (see Luke 13:8). Various tools can loosen the soil and provide additional space for plant root expansion, air and moisture in the soil. Plant roots and organisms easily grow and multiply into this space. To loosen the soil on a farm, use equipment that does not invert the soil. Improving the living conditions for soil organisms also requires a food source for them. An exceptional high protein food source is the root systems of pasture legumes, but this food supply is not available during plant growth. For rapid soil development some of the roots must die! Use stock to quickly eat down most of the above ground parts of the plant. Mowing is a poor substitute because it lacks the return of manure to the soil. The presence of animal manure can also greatly increase the growth rate and size of earth worms.

The best time for eating down pasture is when the selected plants are preparing to flower and set seed. At this stage of growth, the root systems are at or near maximum size. The larger root systems provide a better supply of accumulated energy for the plant to recover from being eaten and more roots to decay and provide feed for the soil organisms. The plants' energy and nutrient reserves were for seed production. Eating down was a shock but the plants recover to try again. Following the eating down, and especially in conditions of warm, moist loosened soil, re-growth will be fast and replacement roots develop as the plant re-grows. Stock must be moved on, to another area, to prevent them from eating the early regrowth. During this regrowth phase inspect the soil with a spade. The new roots look white compared to the darker, brownish, old and dying roots. The soil organisms eat the dead roots and produce humus. This is a process of recycling the raw organic matter of the dead plant roots and the dung. Repeating this cycle of growth and decay builds the soil's biological fertility.

The best time to loosen the soil is when the optimum combination of heat and moisture is immanent. Repeat the process annually for three years in combination with the other management techniques. When irrigation water is applied quickly to loosened soil it can speed up the building of living soil.

Soil loosening requires suitable agricultural equipment and P. A. Yeomans was the first to manufacture a chisel plow tough enough for Australian conditions. In the 1970 a new breakthrough came with the development of the Bunyip Slipper Imp with Shakaerator, a vibrating narrow tyned sub-soil loosening plow. This plow won the prestigious Prince Phillip Prize for Australian Design in 1974. Many patented new developments have been added to the plow by P. A. Yeomans' second son Allan J. Yeomans, who now produces the plow at his Yeomans Plow Company on the Gold Coast of Queensland. These plows deeply and efficiently loosen the ground. They need less power to loosen more soil and produce less surface disturbance than the old chisel plows they have replaced.

Physically loosening the soil will leave some sort of pattern etched into the surface and this pattern will influence surface water movements. The direction that water will flow is always down the maximum slope and this is at right angles to the contours. However run-off water will tend to flow along any furrows left by cultivation that produces anything from 100 to 500 or more furrows per hectare depending on row spacing. The furrows influence the way surface and sub-surface water will drift across the landscape. The surface disturbance may be comparatively slight but it will still alter the direction of flowing water. Then ripping is made deep and into the subsoil it will sculpt a corrugated pattern of furrows into the undisturbed subsoil. Water trapped in the furrows can slowly move along them.

Contour cultivation is an attempt to create a pattern of furrows that are all parallel to the contour. The logic is that contour furrows trap the water and allow it to soak into the soil and this usually increases rainfall absorption. However, at a farm scale, true contour cultivation, on land with visible shape, is not possible. The reason being is simply that adjacent contour lines are not parallel to each other across the surface of the land. Contour lines are parallel vertically but the horizontal spacing varies according to the slope of the land. Any pair of contour lines will be further apart where the land is flatter than where the land is steeper. The result of this changing horizontal spacing of the contours causes cultivation, done parallel with one contour line, to become off the contour cultivation the further away it progresses from the initial contour guide line. What starts out as contour cultivation quickly develops into an 'off the contour' cultivation pattern. Run off water will flow down the furrows towards wherever they lead.

As a result of the Keyline land shape discoveries, the development of the furrow pattern is now predictable. One realisation was that working parallel on the top side of a contour will result in a pattern that moves water from the steeper slopes to the flatter areas. Working parallel on the lower side of a contour guide line will produce a pattern that moves the water toward the steeper areas from the flatter areas. Why is this? With cultivation done parallel on the top side of a near contour guide line, each pass across the area will have the equipment more quickly gaining height up the slope wherever the land is steeper than where the slope is more gradual. In a similar way cultivation done parallel on the lower side of a contour or near contour guide line, will lose height quicker in the steeper areas than on the flatter areas. Run off water will tend to flow along these furrows.

Although rainfall tends to distribute moisture evenly onto adjacent ridge and valley shapes, the water does not stay evenly distributed. Natural drainage removes the water from the ridges to the valleys very efficiently. As a consequence of this, ridges tend to be drier than valleys. Any compaction of the soil worsens the problem. The soil in the valleys does not necessarily benefit from this moisture. An imbalance of water and air can cause aerobic soil organisms to die out and be replaced by anaerobic organisms. The soil will then become sour. Tussocks and water weeds in valleys are indicative of this problem. It is important that this result is not treated as a problem of excess moisture to be drained away but as a symptom of water probably being squandered from the upper slopes. Solve the problem at the source.

Most people don't have any difficulty appreciating the undesirable imbalance between the moisture of valleys and ridges. Keyline pattern cultivation is a simple way to solve the problem. It is a farm cultivating pattern that keeps the water on ridges longer and spreads water whenever it reached the valleys.

Keyline pattern cultivated land looks like contour cultivated land, but it is more than it appears. The Keyline cultivation method produces an amplified contour pattern. The cultivated furrows loop higher through the valleys and sweep lower across adjacent ridges. This pattern of cultivation increases the moisture absorbed on the ridges and reduces the concentration of water in the valleys. The late P. A. Yeomans made highly significant conceptual breakthroughs to enabled him to discover how to theoretically achieve this incredible water spreading pattern. He was practical enough to turn it into a practical reality of international significance.

The corrugated furrows of Keyline cultivation form a pattern which direct run off water and sub-surface flows toward the ridges from higher points in adjacent valleys. When water eventually reaches and starts to flow in Keyline pattern cultivated valleys, it takes the form of a stream that is uncommonly wide and shallow. This wide shallow stream is far less destructive than that which normally forms. One Western Australian wheat grower claims Keyline pattern cultivation produces a 30% to 50% increase in yield compared to the conventional round and round the paddock cultivation method. The steeper country produced the greater increase. Astonished government officers confirmed the results.

The usual round and round the paddock cultivation method produces an undesirable pattern of furrows. These furrows concentrate surface flows into the bottoms of valley shapes and onto the diagonals leading to the lower corners of the paddocks (fields), often causing soil wash and erosion.

In Keyline lingo, a 'main ridge' starts at the junction of two creeks. The centre of this ridge is the water divide line between the two adjacent creeks. This main ridge will eventually branch as it creates the water catchment area of each creek. The catchment area of any creek always follows a main ridge.

Small valleys intrude into and drain the sides of the main ridge. These are 'primary valleys'. The relatively larger section of the main ridge that remains on either side of the each primary valley is a small ridge in its own right and is called a 'Primary ridge'. When several primary valleys join, without forming a creek, they form a 'secondary valley'. The ridge between secondary valleys is a 'secondary ridge'.

'Primary ridges' are relatively larger than 'primary valleys' and main ridges dominate the landscape.

High points along ridges are 'hills'. A 'saddle' occurs at the low point between hills, along any ridge line.

Ridges have a pattern to their contours and valleys also have a pattern to their contours. By understanding the pattern we can then learn how to produce a Keyline water distributing pattern of cultivation on ridges and valleys. Keyline pattern cultivation is one of the keys to the regeneration of the landscape.

The centre line of a ridge is the water divide line. It is usually flatter than the land sloping away to each side of the ridge. The typical spacing of contour lines across a ridge is wide at the centre (water divide line) and closer together off to the sides. To produce the Keyline pattern of cultivation, where the land has a ridge shape pattern to its contours, plow parallel on the upper side of any contour, or near contour guide line.

Valleys are somewhat like upside down ridges in that the centre line slope is flatter than the sides. The drainage line down the centre line of valleys is flatter than the land rising up on the sides of the valleys. The spacing of any contour lines marked on the land, or on a map, will be wide down the centre of the valley and closer together up the sides. This is a typical valley pattern and where the land has a valley shape pattern to its contours the procedure to adopt is to cultivate parallel and on the lower side of any contour, or near contour guide line.

Primary valleys result from the intrusion of valley shapes into the sides of main ridges. The land above or perhaps we should say beyond, the limit of intrusion of the valley shape, is still main ridge and has a ridge pattern to its contours. This area may have a basin shape and the contours be concave but the contour pattern is that of a ridge. The normal valley pattern, namely having a flatter centre line than sides has never been formed in this area so the cultivation of this area, at the top of a valley, should be the same as for other ridge shaped land. Namely parallel upwards from a contour guide line. Cultivate the lower portions of a valley parallel downwards.

The Keyline of a primary valley is the highest contour cultivation guide line that will produce a water distributing pattern on the valley below it. The Keyline is also the contour line across the valley with the most exaggerated curve up into the valley. Cultivation parallel with it, will thus produce the desired off contour cultivation both above and below it as all other lines have less curvature. Cultivation done parallel on both sides of the Keyline, both up and down produces the desired water spreading pattern automatically.

A Keyline used as a cultivation guide is a valley feature. A Keyline does not extend out on to the adjacent primary ridges. It stops on either side of the valley where the contour line, selected as the Keyline, changes direction (the horizontal inflection point) from the concave curve of the valley to the convex curve of the ridge. A Keyline can not exist on a ridge shape.

(A confusing concept called a "common Keyline" was included in the 1954 book 'The Keyline Plan'. It referred to a method of subdivision of land where the Keylines of adjacent valleys happened to occur on a similar level. When this occurs channels, roads, trees and fencing could be linked across the landscape. The connecting line was called a common Keyline. This is common in the mutual sense not in the usual sense. Some have mistakenly considered that Keylines therefore can exist on ridges and could be used as a cultivation guide line for the land on the ridges below this line. The "common Keyline" idea was never written into subsequent publications but the publishers of the beige coloured edition called 'Water for Every Farm Using the Keyline Plan' carried a reprint of the original chapter and diagrams and unfortunately reintroduced this term.)

In choosing the location of a Keyline, the Keypoint is chosen first. From here one can peg the Keyline out in both directions from the selected Keypoint.

The cultivation done parallel to and above the Keyline, results in each pass with the equipment gaining height faster in the centre of the valley. This causes the development of a pattern that will drift any run off water out towards the more gradual slopes of the adjacent the ridges and away from the steep centre of the valley and the slopes above it.

The cultivation done parallel to and below the Keyline, results in each pass with the equipment losing height faster on the steeper sides of the valley. This causes the development of a pattern that will spread any run off water out from the flatter centre of the valley towards the steeper side slopes and the adjacent ridges.

The unique thing about a keyline from a cultivation point of view is:

1. The Keyline is it the lowest contour line that crosses the valley that can be used for parallel upwards cultivation of the head (upper reaches) of the valley area; and

2. The Keyline is also the highest practical contour that can be used as a guide for the valley cultivation below.

In both cases the cultivation pattern that will develop will tend to drift run off water away from the valley and out towards the ridges beside it.

Most of the landscape is ridge pattern. This being the case nearly all cultivation should be done parallel with and above any contour guide lines. This procedure will develop the Keyline pattern automatically in all areas except the lower portions of valleys where the cultivation should be done parallel to and on the lower side of any contour guide line.

Keyline Pattern Irrigation
Keyline Pattern Cultivation has made practical the low cost watering of undulating country and hillsides by the 'Keyline Pattern Irrigation' system.

Previously the only method of fully controlled flood irrigation of undulating country was by the use of terraces, such as are used to create rice paddies.

Keyline pattern irrigation uses irrigation flags to block the irrigation stream flowing along an excavated channel. The water overflows the lower lip of the channel onto the land below. Keyline pattern cultivation will keep this water on the ridges and prevent it being lost into the valleys. Keyline pattern cultivation transforms 'wild flood irrigation' into fully controlled Keyline pattern irrigation and enables the use of astonishingly large streams of water for rapid irrigation.

Keyline irrigation techniques are also applicable to flatter lands. In flatter country the storage ratios of farm dams are usually better, which means that more water can be stored in proportion to the earthworks in the dam walls.

In suitable flat country, the unique 'Keyline Contour Irrigation Channel' has enabled:

Flood­Flo Irrigation
Flood­Flo Irrigation may be the fastest, fully controlled, one man, gravity powered, irrigation system in the world. Raised banks of the channel keep the bulk of the water above the height of the natural surface. The water is released through special irrigation gates which enable irrigation flow rates of around 10 megalitres (8 acre feet) of water per hour to irrigate at the rate of 20 hectares (50 acres) per hour when applying about 55 mm (2¼ inches) of water. Inundation times during irrigation are preferably kept to less than half an hour. Traditional methods of slow flood irrigation used in most large scale irrigation schemes drown aerobic soil organisms, cause crop deterioration and promote salinity.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Mobile Chicken House Construction

Several years ago I was living and working at Dalpura Farm in Moriac,Victoria a 100 or so acre silvapastoral project.The client George Howson was interested in implementing an aquaponics system so we all went for a day and a half trip to Melbourne to attend a seminar on the subject.

Leading up to this I had started gathering chickens and roosters from the local area from people giving them away for one reason or another to start using as workers on the farm.At that time I had sourced 21 birds,a third being roosters.The plan was to eventually separate them into tractoring groups to reduce the competition and fighting of the roosters.Long term they would go into a set of 4 cell grazing areas and rotate with crop systems.Even longer term the roosters would be our meat source and hens kept for egg production.

I have always been an avid poultry enthusiast and had raised a good flock in past years in Humpty Doo,NT.I always loved to just sit and watch new chicks making their way and learning from their parents.The breed I had were 'Old English Game Fowl' and the hen (Ruby) and rooster (Rudy) were a fantastic pair for parenting and protection of their young.

We had always been present on the farm during the day and the chooks would free range after being let out of their house in the mornings.Everything was great and eggs were coming daily and the animals seemed happy.Unbeknown there was a menace lerking.

On the day we left for the seminar our next door neighbour Carley was asked to close the door on the chooks in the evenings around 6pm on her way past the property.We set off and didn't give the farm another thought.Everything was in good hands.

On returning to the farm from Melbourne I found the entire housing envelop covered in chicken feathers.Carley was on hand and explained that when she came to close the chicken house door the previous evening there was one rooster running around scared and the rest had been attacked by a fox(s).She was clearly upset as she felt responsible for the event but she was not to blame.I was devastated as the flock I was rearing was now gone.A huge feedback loop.The fox had obviously been casing the joint and the first opportunity of no action on the farm and he took his chance.

So with this I had to redesign the system to still do the same function as before but to include fox proofing into it.For one,the old cattle race being used would need to be made secure as this is where the 4 cell grazing pens were.More importantly the chicken house needed to be located a bit more user friendly to this to reduce the amount of time it took us as workers to put the chickens to work.I considered a chicken tractor within the cell grazing pens but this would have meant a lot of moving so I went back to the drawing board.

Ralph our next door neighbour is a collector of all things from the rubbish dump and I found an old trailer with a very rusted floor in amongst his collection and asked if I could have it.Ralph being a great bloke brought it over to our workshop.I hadn't a clue what I was going to do with it yet.

One day on the drive home fro the store I noticed an old water tank rusting away on another property and went and asked the owner if I could salvage it.She was ever so pleased to have it taken away as it was no longer serving its purpose keeping fire wood dry.It had been turned on its side with the roof cut out and fire wood stacked inside.The entire bottom side was rusting out but I could use it for something.When I got it back to the farm I unloaded it from the trailer and for the moment just set it atop the old trailer Ralph has dropped off in front of the workshop till I figured out where I would put it long term.

Its funny how some things just click.The next day I walked past the workshop and a creative light came on in my head as I noticed the tank and the trailer sitting their.The rusted part of the tank was about the same size as the dimensions as the floor space of the trailer.What if I set the tank on the trailer and put a door on it,would this keep the chickens safe and be mobile?I went about putting my idea into action.No design or sketches,just a vision in my mind.

I cut the rusty floor out of the trailer and it revealed that the rest of the body was in not too bad shape.Not good enough for highway use but good enough for the farm.I then cut the rust out of the tank and with some 2m garden stakes to prop the tank from collapse.

There was about 60mm surplus length on the tank and when it sat atop the trailer that 60mm was panel beated to sit inside the trailer body.

The site gets a lot of weather from the west so the back of the trailer would be placed against the weather.Some ventilation will be needed in the tank so a couple of flaps were cut into the metal and bent out.It is amazing what you can do with a 6 inch angle grinder.

Some old roofing iron was sourced from an old hay barn due for demolition on site and again the 6 inch grinder came in handy.The roofing iron was exactly the same width as the trailer as well so it was a no brainer when fitting it.Everything was secured by metal roofing screws as they have the tip that screws into steel and made all connections even stronger.

Next came the door way.As I have seen with so many chicken houses,it is always a struggle to get in or out as access points are always too small for most people.They seem to be designed for kids as the kids always want to collect the eggs.After a while the novelty wears off for the kids and the adults end up doing it.Thus the door is too small.I always over design what I do to make easy for anyone who follows after me.So I took some 50mm poly pipe to use as the door jam but it is hard to keep straight.I remedied this by taking two 2m garden stakes (1 inch X 1 inch) and sliding them into the poly pipe.It took some hammering but thy went.This made the door jam very straight and strong.The poly was cut in a way that the ends were a tag so they could be secured to the trailer and the top of the tank.Chicken wire was cut and secured to all openings and an old screen door was sourced from Ralph and screwed to the door frame.

Some perches were added using some off-cuts of silver oak from a recent coppicing harvest.They were sourced for the size that a chicken can get their claw around easily as well as to fit into the 50mm poly.The poly is cut to fit over the branch with a tag left on the end that is folded back and screwed to the tank.Very strong and secure.All up there can be 30 chickens housed in this structure and the perches have been placed so they assist the birds to get elevation.

Some 25 liter containers were placed on the floor for nesting boxes and straw place inside.

I was so happy with this construction and it only took me a day to build entirely by myself.It is to date my most creative construction.It was handy to have all the tools available in the workshop as well.One handy tip though.”When in doubt,tech screw it”.Tech screws are an amazing invention.Even better than sticky tape.When recalling the cost of this construction it was less than $50 for materials as the tank and trailer were free.I think we had to put a tube in one of the tyre,small amount of chicken wire (left overs from wiring the cattle race),screws,4m poly pipe and a cutting disc and a days labour.

So the chicken house went into the cell grazing system which will eventually become a walled garden of fruit trees and vegetables.

Parts of the old cattle race will be disassembled to allow access to each pen as a pathway and the chicken house will move on to develop other cropping areas.These last pics are at present state 3 years on.

Looks like happy chooks and healthy veg and fruit.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Intro to Permaculture Course in India

Hi to all,

below is an invite to those wanting training in Permaculture in India being facilitated by a colleague, Rico Zook.Please check the attachment to this post for the course flyer.Contact can be made directly to Ameli and her details are below.



Hello fellow Earth lovers,

I am happy to invite you to a hands on residential permaculture workshop in Mysore October 2-4 and on to Punarvasu (near Udupi) October 5-9th. Those of you not familiar with permaculture philosophy it is a sustainable design system for zero waste organic living.

During the three day course in Mysore you will learn all the basics of permaculture philosophy and get hands on experience with regenerating tropical soil, roof top garden beds, grey water re-use systems, vermi compost box and other fun urban greening projects.

I hope you can join us. After the Mysore workshop the facilitators will continue on to an organic farm, Punarvasu where they have been implementing permaculture design for the last three years. They will be checking their progress and implementing some of the larger permaculture concepts like water management, inter cropping of farm lands, etc.

Interested attendees should register themselves before September 15th. Flyer is attached, please pass the word around to your eco minded friends!

Hope you will join us!