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  • Writer's pictureHuttons Valley Permaculture

In the beginning...

I moved to this 5 acre property in Kardella in May 2018 with my 2 dogs and 3 chickens. My two sons chose to stay in Melbourne where their lives were certainly established and they didn't have an urgent need for change like their mum.

I started on what was a fairly clean slate in terms of plantings. A few well maintained ornamental gardens but no edibles in sight unless you count the wild weedy ones of course!

My zone 1 kitchen garden was the first area to establish. Who doesn't need their fresh herbs for the kitchen right?

My vegetable garden has grown bigger with each summer season. Winter 2020 was a very busy time for me making lots of hot compost, collecting cardboard, wood chips and mulch to establish a larger no dig garden. Well, not exactly no dig. The front garden area had had chickens moving over it in a chicken tractor system, scratching up the lawn and digging up plenty of it, all the while leaving behind their rich fertiliser.

While this garden is mostly annuals at this stage, I will be moving towards a largely perennial system but my eating habits will have to change. Slow and small solutions - add one new perennial - learn how to cook, preserve and enjoy - then move on to the next. Well that's how I'll be going about it anyway!

On the day I moved in I was surprised to find eleven young steers in my paddock. When they saw me they all lined up along the house block fence line and commence bellowing. They wanted to be fed! I couldn't help them and neither could my pasture its seems which they had well and truly overgrazed. It took a couple of weeks but my neighbour, who had often had his animals here, finally moved them on. For the first year I left the grass to grow, slashing it before it went to seed and leaving the clippings in place to start adding an organic layer back to the soil. It was during this time I had my dam and swales put in. I'm still to establish habitat in and around my dam, and the swale food forest is very much in its infancy but they can only improve from here!

Once the grass had started to recover I used electric fencing to rotationally graze some sheep and alpacas to help with soil improvement. The zone three pasture area still needs shelter plantings along the perimeter, an olive grove and extra ponds but I've got plenty of time to work on all of that!

I'm only two and a half years in at this point and with only me, and an occasional helper, I'm yet to get to zone 4 which includes the woodlot. There are actually a lot of trees already which do provide firewood however they are all eucalypts. I would like to increase the diversity and include a few fire resistant trees to reduce the risk of fire that could come from this sector.

My wilderness area is at the bottom of the property and includes a creek flowing through. Wombats, wallabies, koalas and a huge variety of birds move through this area and call it home. While its not exactly pristine, with lots of blackberries and weedy species, it is an area which will be left on its own.

I was motivated to move here and establish a permaculture property to improve my health, show my kids what real food can taste like but also because I felt I could improve at least one little piece of the planet. While at times it feels overwhelming thinking about the issues we all face, I mostly feel optimistic for the future. Permaculture is a design system based on a set of three ethics and guided by twelve principles. Earth care, people care and fair share, or return of surplus to the system. It guides us to live more in tune with nature and allows us to enjoy the abundance that that provides. Caring promotes caring, and sharing promotes sharing, all increasing a sense of community and belonging.

I'm hoping to share some of my life building this property and increasing connections within my local community to hopefully inspire others to do the same. I don't have all the answers but certainly have lots of aha moments when pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

Please join me as I continue down the path of permaculture discovery.

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