Tag Archives: soil

Cultivating soil, food and life with a ‘Gundaroo Tiller’ broadfork

The ‘Gundaroo Tiller’ is an Australian adaptation the traditional European broadfork, and an essential tool for our small market garden. It may look like just a big clunky fork-thing, but it is actually a finely tuned instrument of permaculture soil conditioning goodness. Truly.

Famously, when Allan Yeomans‘ saw his first Gundaroo Tiller, he called it ‘A Keyline plow for gardeners’. For us, it’s an essential part of creating aerated soil structure on compacted pasture without inverting the soil…

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Breaking new ground in the market garden

This spring we’re extending the market garden, and that means more rabbit-proof fencing, and more ‘breaking ground’. In permaculture, we try not to break (both literally and figuratively) ground wherever possible, but one exception to that rule is when cultivating annual vegetables en-masse.

Before we started this market garden, I thought that maybe we could just lay compost and mulch on top of the pasture, plant veggies and it would all work out, the pasture magically changing into rich humus. It worked for my domestic-scale no-dig beds with brassicas and beans, after all? Continue reading

Urine, Peak Phosphorous and on-farm Nutrient Cycling

So it turns out that when we go to the toilet, each of us ‘produces’ nearly 80% of the nutrients we need to grow our food. That’s quite something. If you take hold of that concept, it really does make you ask questions about why the heck we manufacture chemicals (with all the detrimental side-effects of that production) to grow food…

Recently Nick did an interview with Ollie Lavender of Sustainable Solutions Radio about this very subject, following on from his TedX Canberra talk with a similar drift. Have a listen:

Or to summarize the above podcast, fortunately there’s a lot of straight-forward, completely safe and highly doable ways that you can re-cycle your family’s nutrients back though food producing systems. With very little ick factor, even. Starting with the simple act of collecting your wee. Continue reading

Soil Chromatography with Eugenio Gras

Soil Chromatography is both incredibly beautiful and incredibly useful, all at once. It’s a way of assessing your soil for humus, minerals, microbiology and more.

Best of all, you can do this soil assessment effectively at home – no need to send off tests to a faraway lab. Maybe that’s why soil chromatography hasn’t caught on in the western world yet – it’s a bit too DIY and open source for our patent-rich way of agriculture…

This technique was taught to us by Eugenio Gras as part of the biofertilizer workshop we just ran at Milkwood Farm. We asked all the students to bring with them a sample of soil from their home, so that they could take home their first soil chromatogram, a pictograph of what’s happening in their soil. The first of many, we hope! Continue reading

Why pasture cropping is such a Big Deal

pasture cropped oats growing in symbiosis with native perennial pastures at Col Seis’s farm

Grain cropping is something that, for the vast majority of us, is someone else’s problem. We just eat the results; certainly every day, and nearly with every meal. Bread, rice, corn, soy, beans and so on. Produced somewhere out there, by someone else.

So a portion of our every single meal is coming from a grain crop, somewhere way out west. We wish it were grown organically, and in a way that doesn’t destroy too much of our topsoil. But we’ll eat it regardless of the farming practices, really. It’s in our diet. It’s what we do. Continue reading

How to make Compost: Pt.3

And so here is the final product – three weeks on from the beginning, and 9 days on from the middle of the compost making process. Pretty impressive for three weeks worth of microbial action, don’t you rekon? Continue reading

How to make Compost: Pt.2

So – the compost pile is made…. fast forward to two weeks later… the compost is composting! Despite my well-intentioned but slightly incorrect assemblage (i really should have shredded all that glossy newsprint, or at least ripped it up into smaller pieces), my fast compost pile is hot-hot-hot! Maybe even a little too hot. Not to worry, I can cool it down by turning it more regularly. And we can only learn by doing, really… Continue reading

Carbon Farming Conference 07

looking north at milkwood
Milkwood in 2006… yet to become carbon sequestration central, due to overgrazing for… oh… only the last 100 years or so…

Last weekend Nick and I trooped off to the inaugural Carbon Farmers Conference (the first of its kind in Aus) which was conveniently held in Mudgee, just up the road (it’s quite a long road, though – this being the country and all).

And holy cow it was a jam-packed two days… The conference was set up to thresh out the concepts behind Carbon Farming – a term used to describe the process of sequestering carbon into good, healthy soil. This concept isn’t that hard to grasp – we’re all surrounded by a gazillion ‘carbon credit’ systems at the moment – systems and companies who are offering to ‘zero your footprint’ or ‘make your wedding carbon neutral’ or whatever… and the ethics of that industry is a long conversation in its self, which I will set aside for now (there’s plenty about it online though, if you want to get all riled up). Continue reading

Back from the Brink by Peter Andrews

'back from the brink' book coverOut in the rural areas of NSW (and probably in other states of Australia as well) this book has been causing a minor furore. Country town bookstores were selling out of all their copies in a day, everyone was talking about it, everyone wanted to read it, everyone was ordering in a copy for their father/wife/husband/themselves because the word on the street was that it contained mighty important information about how to drought-proof your land. Continue reading

Review: Soil foodweb workshop…

 Mycetozoa from Ernst Haeckel's 1904 Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms of Nature) Considering that all plant life grows out of it, and therefore the majority of our diet depends apon it directly, you have to admit that soil is pretty funky stuff.

Having been initiated breifly into the implications of soil biology, the importance of topsoil (ie stuff which is not just inert dirt) and the general lack of knowledge surrounding the environment which harbours the worlds largest organisims, I was utterly stoked when this workshop, “The Benefits of Biologically Active Soils in Drylands” came up in Wellington, abouth two hours west of Milkwood. Continue reading

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