I’m back at the active Permaculture demonstration site, Zaytuna Farm, my home and home to the Permaculture Research Institute—a sixty-six acre (27 hectares) property in Northern NSW, Australia.
Its early morning here, the crew—a dedicated and enthusiastic group of volunteers—has emptied the toolshed and we’re heading down to the main crop gardens, the dogs are darting amongst and ahead of us. We’ve got buckets for harvesting and hand tools for flipping compost.
The first deed is to let the chickens out and tempt them to the compost piles with foods scraps and a little feed. We introduce a small number of pellets to boost our egg production when we need it for the participants of our PDC and Permaculture In Action course. At other times, our chickens will eat kitchen scraps and the bug population of our rolling compost piles, plus surplus harvest from the main crop that doesn’t make the kitchen grade. This is rare, but consists of blown and otherwise damaged/decomposed vegetables.
There are several piles of compost there in different stages of decomposition, and part of the morning duties will be to turn a pile, putting the inside on the outside and the outside in the middle.
The field is full. Rows of corn are growing between cowpeas, which help to cover the footpaths and control rampancy. Pulled weeds are atop the last of the winter potatoes. Sweet potato vines are so dominant they control their own weeds. Alley crops of leucaena have comfrey underneath. The rows of vegetables—cucumbers, eggplant, beets, corn—are bordered with chop-and-drop cowpeas. Tomatoes are growing into cages, an easier option than staking them.
Normally this time of year is dry, but there have been incredible rains recently. Still, it’s too hot for potatoes, which are nearing the end of their harvest, and the carrots—germinating beneath a shade cloth—are getting only one row before being relocated to the kitchen garden, where weeds aren’t as competitive. Fresh beds have been broad-forked rather than turned, and they are waiting for planting.
Grape vines, about twelve months old, are climbing up the fence, even though the climate isn’t well suited for them. Jam is on the horizon. Melons are planted around mulch and compost pits, allowing lots of plants in compacted space and preventing them from overrunning crop rows.
And, it’s all going and growing, in the early morning main crop.
Zaytuna Farm is under continuous development and with ever-changing and evolving on ground research in practice, work is consistently in progress to develop more efficient and productive systems.
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Geoff is a world-renowned permaculture consultant, designer and teacher. He has established permaculture demonstration sites that function as education centres in all the world’s major climates — information on the success of these systems is networked through the Permaculture Research Institute and the www.permaculturenews.org website.
Permaculture (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Permaculture) integrates land, resources, people and the environment through mutually beneficial synergies – imitating the no waste, closed loop systems seen in diverse natural systems. Permaculture applies holistic solutions that are applicable in rural and urban contexts and at any scale. It is a multidisciplinary toolbox including agriculture, water harvesting and hydrology, energy, natural building, forestry, waste management, animal systems, aquaculture, appropriate technology, economics and community development.
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