Just letting you know some of the progress which really lead up to the Sustainable House Day event.
There is an ~5m x 75m strip along the back of this property, which was just grass and weeds and was hard to mow, because of the cones and roots from the pine trees. The soil is also acidic from the pine needles and the pine trees suck up moisture and nutrients. It is on the western boundary.
The development coming to our back boundary is called Yarrabilba. They said there will be a 10m buffer zone, in which they will promote native trees and cut down the pine trees. Of course, there always seem to be pros and cons for everything. I mentioned the cons of the pines, but the pros I can think of are: shade from hot summer western sun and the white and native black cockatoos eat from the pine trees.
The developers says they will build a 1.8m high fence along the boundary, which is great because with our ~1.2m high fence 5m in, that whole strip ~5m wide and ~75m long, could be a daytime free range chook run. I just have to fix up the two ends.
With this in mind, I decided to make a food forest there and planted fruit and nut trees with wire around them. This initially protected them from the kangaroos, but now that the development has started full blown, they are no more. Once the trees are established, the chooks can clean up the fallen fruit.
This is basically what it looked like before:
except you might see some mulched natives in the middle. I saved about 20 leptospermum saplings, common name is Jelly Bush, from the development land, before the big trucks came in to remove vegetation and top soil. Honey from this tree makes up about 30% of Manuka from NZ. They are in flower now (Spring) and NZ has a relative of this plant.
At the far end I have planted a Bunya Pine. I have five others planted on the lower end of the property, also in a low traffic area. This tree is related to the Monkey Puzzle in South America and has huge cones, larger than coconuts, that fall after about 15-20 years. Each cone has ~100 large, date size, pine nuts.
To condition the soil, I put down used lime from my bee hives, ash from our fire places and rock minerals. Then mulched it. Here is what it looks like:
As you can see I have only done half, because the father-in-law living in the shed, said he did not want any mulch ‘anywhere near’ his shed because it attracts termites. I have mulch right up to the slab of my shed (see note on mulch below), as it attracts termites (away from the wood in my shed) and raises me up above the wet soil in rainy times. I already had termites in my shed before the mulch.
I have planted pigeon pea, which is a nitrogen fixer, with each fruit and nut tree and put a 25lt recycled black plastic container to drip irrigate in dry times:
As a member of the local native plant group, I got free seed for native plants. They are native peas and acacia, which fix nitrogen and a native ground cover. They are starting to shoot along with the grass seed which the chooks didn’t eat from the compost used to make the seed raising mix.
I bought 30 Acacia Fimbriata, Brisbane Wattle from Sydney Wildflower Nursery and have planted 20 of them in this zone about 2m on either side of the fruit and nut trees along with wattles that I found popping up around the property.
The mulch I got very cheaply from a local tree lopper, as it is mixed with Cocos Palm, which is hard to cut up and produces ununiform pieces, which people don’t like. So they find it hard to sell it. I also heard it repels termites.
When the seedlings get larger I’ll plant them out. So this food forest will be a mixture of exotic fruit and nut trees and natives.
These are the food trees planted so far:
fruit: Acerola Cherry (used to make vitamin C tablets), Chocolate Pudding, tropical peach, Wampi (grape like native), Japoticaba, Tamarind, Avocado, Brazilian guava
nut: native peanut, saba (Malabar chestnut – said to be the highest producing nut tree), Bunya Pine
In another zone along the southern boundary, I’ve planted: mango, pomelo (said to be the largest citrus), jackfruit (said to be the highest producing fruit tree), pecan and macadamia.
Other food trees I have are: mulberry (at least four black ones and one white shahtoot – long thin and sooo sweet!), cherry guava, moringa, olive, grumichama, Brazilian cherry, dragon fruit, lemon, bay leaf, kefir lime, china flat peach, curry leaf, sweet leaf, neem, aibika (Qld Greens), pawpaw.
Greens and vegetables: Malabar spinach, NZ spinach (Warrigal Greens), Okinawa spinach, Surinam spinach, common spinach, silverbeet, sweet potato, pumpkins and various herbs, e.g. parsley, lemon grass, tulsi rama, various basils, aloe vera, rosemary, lavender, mint…
I mostly have only one of each tree, except for the Mulberries and Avocado, which I have planted two of, which are different types that support each other.
All these have been planted within the last two years.
that’s it for now
update on biogas (methane) plant for summer cooking: even though the system does not have any leaks now, the odour of the liquid in the tank seems to be infused into the gas and is seeping through the air mattress used as the gas storage tank. Therefore, I would recommend to keep it undercover but outdoors, or in a shed that is not a living space. I think I will have to move mine and may put it in an area on the north side of my shed, where bees are kept at the moment. I’m in the process of moving the bees.