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July 22, 2017

Fair HarvestMay Permaculture Design Certificate 2017

May Permaculture Design Certificate 2017 The may Permaculture Design Certificate tends to creeps up on us so quickly after the January course but it always has a completely different energy. May is cool and often wet, we can have out door fires and we always have a smaller group. The best word I suppose is intimate, it feels like both […]

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July 19, 2017

Fair HarvestFood for the road

Food for the Road   Going on a road trip is pretty exciting, but the idea of eating junk food or even super market food while the garden is full of all that lovingly grown produce is almost enough to make me change my mind and stay at home. The challenge then was how to get as much of the […]

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July 18, 2017

Fair HarvestSwap Shuffle Share Five Years On.

Swap Shuffle Share Five Years On Our last Swap Shuffle Share was on a wet and rainy day in July. We had just returned home from holidays and hadn’t put any time into promoting the Swap. I hadn’t sent out a newsletter, got enthusiastic on social media and hadn’t got into one of those bubbly moods, chatting to everyone I […]

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July 07, 2017

Freo PermiesMeeting minutes 28 June 2017

Freo Permies meeting minutes 28 June 2017 Attendees: Annemieke, MayRing, Matt, George, Susie and Will, Ruth and Alf Alf meet us at the market stall and come along to the meeting. Alf explained his history in Permaculture…he is quite skilled!  Alf is from Victoria and has not experience West Aussie soil!!!! So welcome Alf and...

June 22, 2017

Freo PermiesMeeting Minutes 31 May 2017

Freo Permies meeting minutes 31 May 2017 Attendees: Fiona, Jodie, Craig, Dan, Jackie, Annemieke, MayRing, George, Sarah, Simon, Susie and Will, Ruth Simon from Moore’s on Moore’s café attended. Simon explained that he is looking into growing produce in his backyard for the family and café. Ideas and suggestions were given. Great to hear local...

May 24, 2017

Petit ParadisThe New Petit Paradis


The time has come to freshen things up a little. After using Blogger to capture my garden notes and experiences I have decided to shift gears. If you've read the last couple of posts on this current site you will know that change is afoot.

The latest incarnation of Petit Paradis can be found here. As you will see there has been a bit happening over the last little while and we welcome you to join us on the new blog where we will continue to post on what is happening with our garden and the journey of setting up the new garden and our renovations. Plus some of the experiences leading up to this transition.

So, come on, lets go there together. Leave your bags there, we'll travel lite. This is easy, hold on and JUST CLICK HERE!


May 17, 2017

Petit ParadisWoolworths, Consumers and a bit of a Rant


Bare with me. Mr Petit Paradis is ticked off and I'm not happy.

WARNING! This post is littered with links so that you can fill out the big picture in your own time and get a sense of where I'm coming from.

I had a pretty good childhood. I was fortunate to have lived in a wealthy country (Australia), in a great part of the world (Perth, Western Australia). I enjoyed a wide-ranging plethora of activities. Particularly outdoor activities, though I wasn't your average aussie minor, I also enjoyed regular bushwalking and birdwatching. In my teens I lived on my mountain bike and my mate and I would traverse rather lengthy distances along the coast. Much of this area was sand dunes and scrubland heath. Today, from the view on Google Maps it is roof tops and bitumen. Such is change.

So much has changed in the world since I grew up too.

Home computers were just coming out. Commodore 64

Video was making it into the mainstream, albeit Beta then VHS.

There were 'mobile' phones the size of a house brick but this was fine when you look back at the size of the television sets in comparison to today.

My point, though probably poorly made, is that change has been rampant. So I look at some of the stuff my own children have and I'm partly filled with awe (there are some fantastic wooden toys on the market and the new Lego stuff is both amazing and unsettling to me). But I'm also saddened.

Some of the stuff is so cheap and nasty and so seemingly futile that it fries my mind to think of how much energy has gone into something made in China - and what it's going to be doing in landfill after the week it has been used and destroyed. This is a generous time frame by the way, some toys last only a day as I'm sure other parents can testify to.

It’s probably just me. Alone here with my thoughts on the subject. But, the recent offering of superheroes tokens for kids from Woolworths supermarket disturbs me. Immensely.

I was really taken by the offer of free fruit for the kids. Nice work Mr Woolworths and Jamie Oliver. There was something tangible and real, and kind of half nourishing about the thing.

But this tokens thing irks me. What is the message? “Here sweet child, take these tokens as a reward of your parents consumption levels.”

I look at a lot of stuff these days and think, “If they dug this up in some post-landfill era in the distant future (which, lets face it –they might, after-all it’s made of plastic), would they really care?”

I may remain a little bit isolated by my opinion on this subject and I’m not even offering up any solutions or alternatives in a nice, friendly pro-active way. Which leads me to speculate on what might happen if Woolworths didn’t even offer the nicely packaged tokens in the first place. The silence may continue forever, would anyone really care aside from Woolies executives?

For me it makes the lyrics from Peter Garrett's song It Still Matters To Me, rather more poignant.

We all take an escalator to that Woolies in the sky
To reprise Dante’s inferno no longer in disguise

Haunting. Sometimes it is as though we are already in a living hell. But that's getting a bit deep.
Here is what we don't see in our consumer society - and I suspect we don't think about it either.
  • The pollution created to manufacture and distribute these plastic tokens.
  • And what of the manufacturing of the individual packaging? How much more environmentally un-friendly do they want to be?
  • What is the intrinsic, real worth of such tokens? I'm sure there are other more worthwhile things that parents and grandparents can give their adoring young-folk.
  • Is it not encouraging a collecting and consuming culture in our kids? Like they need it!
For me the kick in the teeth is the utterly and completely pretentious 'worth' placed on each token. Woolworths gives out ONE token for every $20 spent in the store. You can look at this in two ways. Twenty bucks for a token might seem rather expensive when you come to think of it.

I don't know about you, but to me, one of those tokens should cost way more than $20 when you stop to take into account the real cost of bringing it to your local store and the cost to the environment, both now and into the future.


* 17th May 2017 - Even plastic in the shape of farm animals would be better than a token, surely?

May 15, 2017

Petit ParadisGetting the House in Order - A departure from Chaos

We are riding on a wave that has been carrying us for some years now. I am ready to get off it. In large part it has been in dealing with my in-laws multi-generation accumulation of physical, material possessions. To say the least it has had a huge impact on me.

I will call this Stuff. Not just any Stuff, but old Stuff, cheap Stuff, important Stuff, sentimental Stuff and what has probably become one of my favourites to deal with, stuffed Stuff.

Stuffed Stuff is easy. You chuck it or recycle it. Or in extreme cases dispose of it in the responsible manner required as in dealing with chemicals, poisons or medication.

Old Stuff and Cheap Stuff are happy companions. We dealt with some of these through garage sales, private sales, collectors sales and trailor loads of charity shop visits or their collection points.

Scattered throughout all the Stuff we would find Important Stuff. Paperwork, photos and official documents. I will also include in this hand written letters describing defining moments in the families history and other such items. This we have documented and stored appropriately in acid free paper or filed for easy reference.

Sentimental Stuff is challenging. Especially when it is linked to emotions that are probably best dissolved and moved on from. But it is hard for some people to do this and I know it has been extremely difficult for my mother-in-law. Some of this Stuff defines her. Some of it gives her reason and justification for being how she is. Some of it has claimed and consumed so much of her time that even in a state of Stuffed Stuff it is still somehow deemed worthy of holding onto.

I may not hold any professional qualifications but after years of dealing with this issue firsthand I will stand by a very resolute opinion that much of my in-laws ill-health and mental well-being is directly as a result of hoarding so much Stuff. Two houses worth of it. There was no escape from it except the odd stay with friends, family or in a hotel room.

The underlying chaos of having too much stuff.

Much of it was dealt with by myself. Mostly for the reason that I was the only able-bodied male in the family to be able to shift all this Stuff around and there came an inevitable point some years ago - which my in-laws did not heed my warning about - that my wife and I would soon be expecting our first child and neither of us would have the time or the inclination to deal with sorting out Stuff.

What has this got to do with Permaculture?

Everything. I will start with two major points.

How can you live any form of a sustainable life if you can't sustain yourself? That is your physical, psychological and spiritual well-being.

The second point is that in all my dealings with this Stuff I have seen so much time and money and opportunities wasted that I shudder to think of what possibilities might have existed for my in-laws and for us had none of us had to deal with this sort of Stuff in the first place. The extra time there would have been. The extra money to see to health issues and to enjoy holidays or to even renovate the family holiday home. Instead, the insidious disease of hoarding possessions held its firm grip over them.

I will chronicle some of my experience with this issue to share what I have learnt and to act as a warning. Not just to those that can benefit from this sharing, but also for my family to look back on so as not to repeat any of it. This is the story of how we got our house in order ...

Petit ParadisWhy Free Range Guinea Pigs? Part II

This is the second part of the Why Free Range Guinea Pigs? post.

Foraging for Food

We found the guinea pigs are also intuitive enough to only eat what they know is ok for them. They will try many things and will consume only what they enjoy or need. Their favourite foods from what we have observed are:

  • milk thistle
  • parsley
  • tomatoes
  • any kind of grass - bamboo leaves, sugar-cane leaves, grasses self-sown in the garden from 'weed' seed.
  • cape gooseberry - young leaves, bark, berries both ripe and un-ripe.
 They have been seen eating -
  • blackberry leaves
  • broad bean leaves
  • carrots and tops,
  • small weeds
  • un-ripe tomatoes within reach!,
  • exotic grasses like mondo grass and the like
  • celery leaves and some stalk
  • citrus leaves - lime and lemon (usually leaves removed by myself that have leaf curl or disease)
  • dragon fruit (not the fruit but the fleshy pitaya plant itself!)
  • succulents
  • fresh and dried nectarine and apricot leaves
  • fresh and dried corn leaves, corn on the cob raw and cooked

    Keeping the Savages Out

    So there doesn't really seem to be much that they won't eat. At times I have had to barricade the GP's out of particular areas of the garden. This didn't occur as much of a problem initially because Maiki and Jazz kept to a very regular path of investigation and movement. It wasn't until one particular winter when they were really craving a higher food input that I looked out to the garden from our kitchen window to see a strange bobbing of some of my broad bean plants. Immediately I had my suspicions and to my amazement there was Maiki and Jazz gorging on broad bean leaves in the further territories of the garden.

    Despite my disagreement and their quick retreat they soon returned to their new found source of sustenance and when they had become bored with what leaves they could choose from they soon became very good at clear felling my broad beans to get access to the lovely new leaves higher up! After a few weeks I had this crop of grazed broad beans built into a raised garden bed and left a few strays on the outside of  'the wall' to the mercy of Maiki and Jazz. Over time they grazed on them and even worked as a team to hold bean stalks down with their weight while the other ate their share of the bounty from the newly accessible top leaves of the stalks.



    Extremes of Temperature

    I am of the opinion now that GP's are pretty switched on creatures. They are quite capable of managing their own affairs when given the resources and do so with very natural instinct.

    In cases of extreme heat the answer is actually simple for us as we are usually including melons in our own diet by that time of the year so all our melon scraps are taken to the garden for the GP's to feast on and keep their hydration up. Carrots were also thrown to them occasionally and were happily dragged off into a secluded spot to be gnawed away. Basically any fruit scraps from our kitchen are taken to the garden for either the GP's or the chooks. Usually by summer they also have cape gooseberry bushes that they like to keep cool under and feed on any berries within reach (they even began to climb part of the bush to raise up on their hind legs and reach higher berries) as well as tidy up any that fall to the ground. Gradually they acquired a taste for the leaves also and stripped much of the lower bush of leaves which also kept it rather tidy as well and stopped a build up of rotting berries while giving the bush a good source of manure.

    In times of extreme cooler temperatures, which for us in Albany is the lower Celsius single digits and rarely 0 or minus degrees, the GP's wander under the house and find a cosy place to sleep. This has been on anything from scraps of carpet left for them to utilise to black plastic scrunched up so they can explore all the creases and folds and make a cosy spot. As long as they are given choices they will use what they require. Most of our GP's are short haired with Maiki being the exception. She had a medium coat with longer hair at the back end. I prefer the short-haired GP's as they are easily managed and keep themselves groomed and from observations they can move quickly and I feel moderate their temperature better during the warmer weather. During colder nights they are quite capable of cuddling up for warmth together.



    Advantages for keeping guinea pigs free-range in a back-yard.

    • Improved health and fitness. See this more recent update.
    • Ability for them to forage and obtain their own food when required
    • A wider range of foods can become available to them
    • Ultimately nails and teeth will be kept maintained naturally
    • Reduces inputs such as feed and limits it to supplementation with pelleted food
    • Given their ability to obtain food at the rate required they do not require a water source unless in extreme heat - see above for example of melons.

    May 14, 2017

    Petit ParadisWhy Free-Range Guinea Pigs? Part I


    This is Jazz. One of our original Petit Paradis guinea pigs, sunning herself happily in our garden. People are often surprised and curious that we have guinea pigs running free in our edible garden so I thought I should do a post about it. I've kept guinea pigs free in the yard for over 5 years now and it now strikes me as odd to keep them in cages.

    I originally began to keep free-range guinea pigs over ten years ago when I had a small group that I kept in a large chicken cage. Central to the garden was a wooden slat shade house and I had some GP's get out and set up house in there. I soon realised that this was an ideal home for them because they could shelter in the shade house and come out through the slats to feed on the slopes of buffalo lawn that I had growing, as well as other bits and pieces close to the shade house.

    Stray dogs, cats and hawks were frequent 'visitors' to the garden and at the slightest presence of these the GP's would run quickly to the shelter of the shade house and through the slats to the inside. A couple of things happened almost straight away. I realised that they would be able to forage their own food this way and that I could still supplement with scraps I bought home from working at a cafe. Their health also improved considerably or should I say their level of fitness, and then their health. The level of care required dropped quickly as there was plenty of feed from the lawn and garden and only the odd sweeping out of the shade house to collect droppings for the garden. 




    The rest of the guinea pigs were released. A notable observation was the fact that the GP's seldom ventured any further than a few metres radius of the shade house - with one exception being a younger one that took to fancying the neighbours lawn better than my own and would venture through the wire fence and feed there, much to the delight and amusement of the neighbours.

    I have noticed this with our current GP's also. We originally received two females and housed them in a hutch on our deck. It wasn't long before they too were released into the garden, but with different intentions as I will mention later. I gave them the same necessities as the previous family I had kept. They had a 'base' that they could run to and shelter in, quite central to the garden and other little spots were set up around the garden such as half concrete slabs leaning against pots or propped up with bricks. Many of these were camouflaged within the garden themselves making a convenient escape from stray cats and hawks passing over-head.

    We were not altogether aware of the impact that this would have on our new pair of female guinea pigs. Both Maiki and Jazz looked like they were much older females when we received them from their previous owners. After a short while it was clear that they had a bad case of mange. We tried various treatments and got it under control. It was then that we released them into the garden. And they changed. They started to look younger and more youthful. Their over-grown claws which we had to trim regularly began to take care of themselves with all the work of running and moving about on limestone rubble and earth. They ate a wider variety of foods and their coats started to shine and look younger and finer. They began moving quicker and faster and were more alert and appeared to be more appreciative when we caught them to give them the odd combing and cuddle.

    Initially it was a small challenge to keep green feed readily available in the quantity that they were consuming. It didn't take too long and I now have a small forest of sugar cane as a stand-by. In the meantime they set to work which is the intention I had for them from the beginning. As the garden grew and I had 'green waste' to deal with this became a staple for the GP's. We still supplemented with pellets and the odd amount of straw and have since cut this down to pellets only. The rest of their diet they get from the garden and our kitchen scraps. The majority of it being sourced by themselves directly from the garden. In the picture above you can see a gathering of females feeding on grape vine cuttings. When I prune areas of the garden I generally lay the cuttings out on the ground for the GP's to feast on. Any left overs are either composted or added to the chook pen.

    Since my initial family of GP's I have tried to keep only females. Late last year we brought in a new couple and one soon proved to be a male. As it turned out we lost him during a particularly hot day this summer - he was the only guinea pig in a hutch as we were keeping him segregated from the females. During hot days such as we experience in summer we have noticed that the GP's take shelter either under our house or in areas of the garden where they can find a shady, cool spot. Our little male did not have this luxury. Previous times in summer it would be a trip home by my wife to make sure the GP's had an ice block and plenty of water in their hutch. Another advantage of having free-range guinea pigs. They will find places during summer and winter that are adequate shelters. They are smart animals I think and perfectly capable of managing themselves.




      May 13, 2017

      Petit ParadisThe Rabbit Tractor Update

      There was quite a bit of satisfaction to the day. It's dark now and there is a dog barking in the distance. There is a swelling of frog chorus coming up from the valley amidst the relative quiet otherwise. It’s been a productive day, though I only ever seem to scrape the surface of what I would like to achieve. However, the sun was out today and it got quite warm around lunch time. As has been the pattern for most of autumn which has been really nice.

      I tended to garden duties with the aid of my 5 year old who has the task of feeding the quails, rabbits and guinea pigs.

      Given the great weather I decided to continue with the rabbit tractor construction. It is becoming more of a priority as the young kits are growing so fast and although I moved them last week they don't appear to be far off needing a bigger space again.

      So far I have managed to build it with materials that were readily available. The base is a mattress ensemble frame of pine. that was going to get thrown out. The slats are just wide enough to make a great bottom and allow some support to the structure whilst allowing grass to grow through. I have reinforced this with strong wire to prevent the rabbits from digging through and burrowing out.


      The trusty old Black & Decker power drill has seen a few decades of home DIY.


      Reticulation pipe added in for wire support.


      Bamboo stakes secured with wire to add some framework for the wire covering.

      I cut out some large holes in each corner and in the middle of the sides to put in some old reticulation pipe that I had from the dismantled aquaponics system from a few year back. I’d had to pack the system up for moving. I like aquaponics very much and I plan to employ a slightly different, more natural slant to the concept in the new garden.

      I had a little bit of small person help for a while before it got a bit ‘boring’ and the Lego beckoned. Our boys are very comfortable in the garden, but they do get up to mischief and need to be watched, so it's always nice to be able to keep them entertained and close by.

      Hammering in some nails.



      Petit ParadisNotes From Ground Level

      An incredible diversity of 'weeds' covers the disturbed sand.

      Here is a journal entry from 2012.


      Today is Friday the 13th of April 2012.

      One of the most significant changes over the last few months has been my natural leaning towards 'raw foods and wild edibles'. In retrospect it is something that has been coming for some time and for a multitude of reasons. It seems that now it is appropriate to give it a go. It is early days yet, but I feel like it is the most natural thing.

      How it has affected things is interesting and I do hope to record them as I notice them because otherwise they will pass quickly and become second nature and I won't properly recall the transition that was made.

      As I was watering the garden this afternoon I noticed to my delight all the weeds popping up with the autumn showers and the ample sun we have been having. I say with delight because I have been using many of them for green smoothies and in salads. Nasturtiums have been coming out everywhere after I left them to roam over summer and drop their seeds. Many of the new seedlings have been attractive to the cabbage moths and have the green caterpillars on them which I usually lift from the garden whole and throw in to the chook pen. The fresh, new autumn nasturtium leaves I have also been using in salads.

      I don't use any chemical sprays in the garden so I know that the weeds and plants that come up are fair game. Now it is a race between me and the guinea pigs as to who gets to them first. I've had my eyes on a lovely little dandelion seedling forming under the choko and noticed instantly the other morning that something had eaten half of the leaves off it. The little pigs had beaten me to it. It seems absurd in our society to be gleefully watching a weed evolve so you can eat it, let alone being in competition with a couple of free range guinea pigs over it. With that said, can you even consider the paradigm shift that would have to occur for your average person to make that leap?

      This new dietary shift will have it's implications on the garden for sure. For a start weeds will be allowed and encouraged to grow where they appear. If the situation is good they may be encouraged by picking leaves only, otherwise the whole plant will come out.


      It makes for an interesting retrospection for me. My current practice has been to sieve garden soil from the chook pen to replenish the containers used to grow salad greens. I usually sow my vegetable seeds straight in and before they come up there is a diverse range of 'weed' seedlings growing. These get thinned out and either used for our salad with dinner or given to any number of animals for feed from guinea pigs to quail to rabbits or fish.

      We have been harvesting abundant quantities of purslane from the other block. Following the initial earthworks, thistles and purslane popped up all over the sand which we harvested in late summer and chopped up for salads.


      Petit ParadisThe New Transition to Paradise


      The image above was taken just after moving into our house. I always knew the grass was going to go, and in time it did. Rather quickly in fact.  With the increased bio-diversity I noticed that birds didn't just move through our garden, they moved into our garden.


      This is the garden around 2013/14. A magical playground for our two small boys who didn't miss the grass one bit. It was sometimes frustrating having unripe fruit picked, but it was a unique learning experience each and every time they ventured into the backyard.




      This image above was from an early post titled Grass is for Parks. It is one of my favourite pictures of our garden taken in summer 2012 when our first son was only weeks young. It was a humid summer and the garden was just an oasis. Water chestnuts, bananas, squash, beans tomatoes, corn, berries, sweet potatoes.... fresh eggs....

      This is the kind of little paradise I am hoping to transfer to the block in the image below. It is much larger in comparison, but still a modest size to manage the elements I wish to include, so as to provide for a growing family and continue my efforts at natural seed saving practices.



      The underlying process that we initially used to set up the first garden will be adopted to set up  the next garden. The scale will be different, but there are more of us in the house now (increased food scraps) and we also have the addition of extra assistance in the form of chooks, rabbits, guinea pigs and quail. We only had guinea pigs early on when we set up the first garden. The chickens came much later. We will have the advantage of having them right from the start to get things going. My goal is to build soil rapidly and to document the process in more detail. As you may be able to see the basic structure is coastal sand.

      May 12, 2017

      Petit ParadisRed October - A Community Minded, Free-Range Chicken


      The little red hen pictured in the banner photo was only with us for a week or so. She eventually took off over the fence before I could clip her wing. She took shelter a couple of houses up in a building site over the winter. We crept in one afternoon to find a pile of chicken shit on a stack of bricks and figured she'd been roosting there during the night.

      We came back that evening with a torch and a towel and quietly crept down the back of the house to find her there perched on the top of the bricks somewhat bemused by our presence on such a cool night. I gave her a good eye-full of torch light before turning it off, hoping that it would give her some temporary blindness. I moved up next to her and prepared the towel for capture. With samurai sense she took off blindly into the night and over the neighbour's fence. We approached our neighbour's house in hot pursuit.

      Our neighbour's at the time were a newly immigrated English couple who were quite well accustomed to our regularly adventurous pets. We tracked down the little red hen and she took off into a tree  at the edge of our garden. With the neighbour's permission I scaled the fence and found the hen in the top of the tree. I prepared for capture. Like a bat out of hell she took off again into the dark night and flew about 20 metres into the next street over a house roof, navigated around a street light in a sweeping curve and carried on another 10 or so metres to a group of trees situated in the next block.

      This, to me, was all at once:

      1. Impressive: for such a small hen to have flown that distance at night and with some accuracy.
      2. Annoying: for now we had to widen our search and risk disrupting other neighbouring folk.
      3. Perplexing: that such a new hen could not have settled in our lovely yard like all the other chooks we've bought in.
      We immediately aborted the mission and went inside. Thanking the neighbours for their assistance.

      Some time passed and we could both hear our hen and had sightings of her in our street a couple of houses down. We have been identified as the people responsible for releasing this savvy, worldly-wise hen onto the neighbourhood where she now struts her stuff and supplies eggs to a lady down the road whenever she is able to locate the current nesting area.

      Clearly, Red October, as she came to be known has out-witted both cats and dogs, kids and cars, and has been adopted as a feral pet by numerous neighbours who sometimes courteously share with us some of the antics of this hen that could not be tamed, nor hunted down.



      May 10, 2017

      Freo PermiesJakki’s Making Manageable Blitz May

      The second freo permies blitz for 2017 will be a bit further south than our usual area, in kwinana. Come along(even if you havent participated in a blitz before) and get involved, learn and meet likeminded people to share chats and food with too. Projects will include expanding chook areas to eliminate grass, making wicking...

      Petit Paradis9 Aussie Gardening & Landscaping Blogs to Inspire You

      This website page was discovered recently and much to my surprise and amusement Petit Paradis scrapes in at No. 9. I'm very honored to be in the company of the other blogs listed, they inspire me too. There are some great landscaping pics. Thank you Armstone.

      While the posts on this gardening blog have been a little sparse of late, this blog is still an awesome source of information on permaculture. Based in WA, this anonymous blogger provides informative posts about how to set up a permaculture garden in suburbia. Petit Paradis has information on growing permaculture produce as well as gorgeous Western Australian blooms.

      Armstone's Website links of 9 Aussie Gardening & Landscaping Blogs to Inspire You.


      I did a post a couple of years back of other backyard gardening blogs that I thought were worthy of checking out. Sadly some of these are either retired, have sporadic postings or have completely disappeared altogether. I can relate to this. Having had kids and being involved in various community ventures, plus working and being a Dad - it is not surprising that sitting at a computer falls at the bottom end of life's priorities.


      Petit ParadisGuinea Pigs Update


      Shortly after this photo was taken of our beloved Weet-Weets I decided to turn them Free-Range again. Most everything was growing in pots or containers and was away from those little nashing teeth. So I set up several little Safe Houses for them and let them go in the chook pen. This did not last very long. Soon they were out and about in the garden. Exploring and following us around as we tended to the garden. Missy Miss is particularly friendly and we had to nurse her at one point due to a rather nasty wound on her rump.

      She came to say hello as I was tending to the garden the other afternoon and I picked her up. To my amazement the wound could not be found. Not even the hard callous on the skin where the wound was. Again my wife and I could only speculate that, as before, with previous guinea pigs, they find it advantageous to roam the garden as they get much more exercise and can eat when and what they like in the quantities they need. It makes for happier Weet-Weets we think.

      May 09, 2017

      Petit ParadisBook Of Kin



      The slope of rampant grass and stacked wood is soon to become our new Petit Paradis (or Kin's Domain).

      About 4 years ago my wife and I were introduced to The Ringing Cedars of Russia series of books. We read the ones that appealed the most, at the time. I don’t recall the names, but I bought two books from the series for my wife to read while she was in hospital with our second child.

      Part of what captivated Mrs Petit Paradis with this book series are the concepts of a Kin's Domain and a Book of Kin. Both are notions I have mused over previously, but in the series these concepts are written about through the context of a typically young, Russian couple who consciously set about creating a space of love for themselves and future generations. This space becomes the Kin’s Domain. They use their skills of observation and intuition to plant out trees and organise vegetable gardens, site and build a house and basically set things up to be happy, healthy and to their best ability, self-sustaining within a community setting.

      I resonate with this idea. After all, it is basically what we are doing with our current house. The impact of such a thing is really starting to sink in though, as I refelct on what is occurring with our new build and the planning for the new garden. The house we are having renovated has been in my wifes family for a long time and we are the ones giving it an overhaul and bringing in a new and positive energy to it.

      The garden is going to be started from the bottom up, so I am excited to teach my family the real process of building soil. I plan to document this process on this blog.

      So, enter The Book Of Kin.

      In the Ringing Cedars series they discuss a Book of Kin as being a journal that the family uses to record their experiences in building and growing their Kin’s Domain. My wife and I have used a garden journal to record the birth dates of pets, planting times of vegetables and extreme weather events and such things. Part of this is documented in this blog and I plan to continue this recording with renewed vigor. As I posted recently - this blog Petit Paradis, is virtually a Book of Kin for my own family, who will also be able to look back over the building process and the setting up of the garden. They will of course be helping alongside, but as our kids grow they will be able to look over posts like a family photo album and use it as a reference for future planning in the garden.

      So, with these concepts in mind, this is the context for which the posts that follow exists.

      May 08, 2017

      Petit ParadisThe New Petit Paradis - "A line in the sand."

      As posted earlier, to make posting to this blog easier I have limited the post labels to a dozen. These are the permaculture principles and to this point I have not added them to previous posts. The reason for this is to create a kind of demarcation point between the 'old blog' and the new. A leap from the original Petit Paradis blog that I started back in 2010 to a simpler assembly of notes and experiences, thoughts and opinions.

      Future posts will have labels, older posts will not. If you wish to find articles on a specific topic then simply type keywords into the search area at the side of the page.

      I will add these labels as soon as I post appropriate content relating to each label. This will create some incentive for me to mix things up a little in the very near future!

      So, for the purpose of this exercise and to bring my wife up to speed with things, what are the Permaculture Design Principles?


      These principles are to be applied to an overall permaculture design and I intend to share the many and varied ways that we apply them to our lifestyle in future posts.

      In the meantime if you wish to see some of the earlier posts from 2010 you can take the trip to them from HERE. It's like time travel - hold on tight ...

        Petit ParadisA Permit of Absence

        I'd like to say that I've had a somewhat notable absence from this 'blog' - but in reality, I'm probably the only one to have noticed this. After all, up to this point it has been largely a personal journal of garden experiences and record keeping. This I can see changing. So in preparation for this I have decided to simplify the process and to limit the labels to 12. As it happens, David Holmgren's permaculture principles fits nicely into this whole of life living so I am confident that a dozen categories will suffice.

        I am feeling a necessity to go a little deeper and capture my thoughts and reasoning's behind much of what I am applying to my lifestyle. This swirls in and out of the garden-scape, though the garden is pivotal to our way of life so I will be focusing even further on this in the near future. Another reason to pick-up the pace of recording what we do. But there are other areas of life I wish to detail which although they may not pertain directly to 'garden' - are a part of the Big Picture Design of Life. They are the strategies and tools used to create our Little Paradise.

        I also have an underlying impetus in that I am realizing that this blogging is also a very convenient way to capture in reasonable detail and accuracy a way of life that our young boys are a part of. I see a day when they can look back over these posts as a journal and read as adults some the events and projects that they contributed to in their childhood. Some of the decisions that were made, and why, that may have changed the course we ended up taking as a family. Much like a Book Of Kin, only digital.

        The lack of priority in doing posts for the blog has now started its ascending swing of the pendulum again. The permit of absence has closed. There is a new paradise awaiting, but this time I welcome others to be inspired by the journey also.

        The back garden in early autumn/fall.

        Petit ParadisJanuary's Jungle


        The sweet peas are in full swing now. A couple of bunches have been picked over the last few weeks to bring inside and to give to friends and family. They have a beautiful perfume and vivid colour.

        The photo below was taken in early December. Within a matter of weeks the garden is now a jungle of pumpkin vines and zucchini bushes. Beans and peas and cucumbers.


        Petit ParadisDelayed Gratification


        The beloved little Kale plant pictured above has done us well over the two years its been in the garden. It is the last of its kind and I am hoping that eventually it will produce seeds to carry on the good will.

        Just prior to Christmas it was heavily, HEAVILY, invested with Cabbage Moth caterpillars. This is when the photo was taken. I was taking off about a dozen caterpillars morning and night for a couple of days and feeding them to our Japanese Quail. Quality nutrition.

        This year I have not sprayed for the usual caterpillar onslaught as I have not made the time and have not felt a compelling need as our boys have happily been plucking caterpillars also and feeding them to the animals. And what a year not to spray. I have never seen so many cabbage moths in our garden. In the early days of January you could look out to the garden on a sunny morning and the air was full of a couple of dozen of fluttering white wings.

        I also have in the back of my mind a ticking curiosity to see just what might happen if I don't spray. What is nature going to do? In this case, what might happen was already happening. By the time I had noticed the dozens of caterpillars clinging to the kale I also noticed the presence of tiny wasps. They were already working on the job themselves.

        Whilst munching into the kale the caterpillars produce blends of volatile chemicals. These chemicals attract parasitic wasps. The wasps lay eggs in the caterpillars and the eggs hatch inside the caterpillars and devour their hosts from the inside. When they finally mature, the parasitic wasps emerge, killing the caterpillars in the process. It is this rather insidious method that is employed by the wasps that helps to control numbers of the butterfly and reduce further egg-laying and development of more hungry caterpillars on our kale and in the garden in general.

        The most astounding observation however was just how rapidly the kale bounced back from this apparent trauma. Within a week its crown was flush with new, bright green growth whilst further down its branches the last dormant remains of dying caterpillars released unto the garden a new generation of wasps to do the work I have not managed.

        And here is the catch.

        By spraying our gardens we might eliminate the caterpillars in their early stages of development - but what then are these parasitic wasps going to feed on? We've eliminated a potential food supply for them.

        We were able to feed our quail and chickens, plus several generations of these tiny, tiny wasp that leverage the work of reducing caterpillars. Our kale has bounced back and with any luck after the experience will finally decide to share some seed!

        Petit ParadisGoing Deeper



        For a time - a whole lot of time in fact, I have been wanting to verbalize and record some of the journeys that my mind has been on over the last year or more. I think I am ready to do this. But it has been occurring to me to do so within the context of my blog - which sometimes has seemed odd to me because I've not always seen the connection between my thoughts - and my blog on our garden and permaculture journey.

        I can see the connection now.

        So I am back.

        And I have some opinions.

        And thoughts.

        And I've made some connections.

        And,


        I'm ready to share.


        Stand by...

        Petit ParadisTillellan Update


        The pile of woodchips has been sitting for nearly two years and getting richer and darker. The worms really got into it around autumn and have broken quite a bit of the leaf matter down into a dark, damp soil.

        The grass has also encroached over the pile to take advantage of the smorgasbord of nutrients and moisture that is available. I have mined some of this mulch to add to our garden at Petit Paradis for the summer garden. I am somewhat confident that it will assist in holding water in the container gardens - how successfully I am not sure. Even an average summer in Albany with the January easterlies can suck moisture from the garden regardless of summer rains.

        While I was bagging some of this magnificent soil I was contemplating the future garden at the Tillellan site. Renovation works started about two weeks ago. Excavation works for the back retaining wall will start soon hopefully, as there are the lumber remnants of the trees that stood on the back of the block to bury into swales. The excavator operator does not yet know of the pivotal part he will play in the future garden. But the builder has been briefed on what is to come.

        As far as a design for the garden is concerned I have moved away from the initial design I had envisioned for several years. I will need to meet the families food needs whilst also allowing for the increasing amount of room required for the increasing numbers of animals. Plus allow for the possibility of a future residence at the very back of the block, which was part of the initial plan and was to come first. In the first instance, we are now focussing on the renovation first so that we can move in, and then the possible second residence.

        Petit ParadisSo, what's been going on?


        Life has remained very busy since the previous post (in January!) but I have some time to make a bit of an update in anticipation of our project getting underway very shortly with the start of the house renovation.

        Last summer came and went without too much attention to the garden so for this summer I am gearing up for the eventual move to the new house and the setting up of the garden there.

        More recently we have been sorting through boxes and boxes of my MIL's lifetime of accumulation of stuff. Not such an easy feat with young family and work. Gradually the clutter is clearing and there is a rather large pile of 'material' that is ready for burying. Quite literally it will be buried as part of the new garden. There has been so much paperwork to sort through and deal with that anything that will benefit the soil in its decomposing I have put aside to bury rather than fill out our bins.

        A part of the garden as it was at the end of winter.

        I managed to get some time in our garden here (PP) the other week and found a few casualties from the last couple of months. A few neglected plants that have survived (just) and some that are thriving. I planted out seeds after sorting through the collection and prioritising  those that are going to need planting out this season to keep viable seeds.

        Our two female rabbits will hopefully have young soon after having visited a friend's place recently. Part of my time in the garden was spent getting the animal hutches set up for summer so they can be fed and checked easily.

        Once again, to make the most of our small space I am planning lots of vertical gardening this spring and summer to allow for food production and seed saving. Much of this is still to be set up, but I hope that this years garden will match previous years where the garden is bursting with plant and animal life.

        Our boys are finding the garden space very entertaining at the moment and now that there is deck space to play they are also making the most of it. We had the rabbits on the deck for a while to nurture them and observe them. Now that they are back in the garden we have our 'outdoor room' back.

        Petit ParadisThe G-Pigs


        The G-pigs are doing well at the moment and making their way through the grape vine that is gradually being trimmed back. The leaves have started to dry out already. Some months ahead of their normal pattern. No fruit on them at all this year after a heavy fruiting season last year. Amazing.

        Petit ParadisJanuary Pumpkins & Celebrations

        Our January garden was looking lush until a more recent few days of heat followed by a couple of days of rains. Really out of character for January, but not altogether surprising either.

        I've just harvested pumpkins, with a few more to go. These have been great as they have largely taken care of themselves and have not needed much time or effort. As in previous years, some of the best performers were self-sown from the compost and no doubt with local Farmer's Market origions.



        Fruit salad platter for summer.

        This part of the garden is looking quite different now. It is now drying out and the bananas are taking off!

        Petit ParadisPitaya Flowering Again


        Our Dragon Fruit is budding again as it did about this time last year. I have been watching and waiting and despite my regular observations it was my wife who spotted the actual buds and brought them to my attention. A couple of days at work can make a difference.

        So this year we will be around to nurture it through and hopefully have some pitaya fruit to show for it at the end. We were not around much when it started to fill its fruit last year and they were eventually shed from the plant under stress.

        It is such an amazing process to watch as it unfolds and each day they are a little different. Last year the plant had about five flowers. This year it looks like there are nine. That is what I've counted thus far.


        Petit ParadisSummer 2015

        A view from the window after summer rain.

        This year I was faced with the dilemma of having little time and still wanting to reap a reasonable harvest from the garden. Seed saving took a rest and I instead went through and planted out older seeds and packet seeds that had been accumulating. The best plants in the garden this year are actually the ones that came up through their own accord.

        They boys have also claimed a portion of the garden with their climbing structure and play area, though I have made the most of pieces of space with container gardens.

        This years crops are mainly pumpkins, beans, tomatoes, zucchinis, spinach and kale.

        We have also added to the mix some new chicks, hatched by our clucky chooks and a Japanese Quail male and three hens - finally. This has been a long time coming and we are getting at least two eggs a day currently.

        Petit ParadisFirst Cicada for Spring

        Last Friday I heard the first cicada for the season. I always like to record the moment as it does seem to change from year to year.

        With a number of warm days and evening rains the garden has taken off in the last few weeks. The plants that were transplanted from pots have put on new growth and have not looked back.

        Petit ParadisSeasonal Observations

        Following a current Introduction to Permaculture course, I was reminded of the Noongar seasons. This has led me to continue to record seasonal observations within the garden. These are what I have noticed recently as we move back into our house & garden after nearly six months absence.

        • One of the first things I noticed was the New Holland Honeyeaters were collecting food unusually low to the ground in the nasturtiums and I suspect this is for two main reasons. The first is that there is an abundance of caterpillars, many of which are feeding on the nasturtiums [which is another use for growing them, as the nasturtiums lure caterpillars away from cropping plants]. The second is that this bounty of grubs is also coinciding with the honeyeaters raising their brood of young.
        • This is the time of the year when I first dated my wife and I remember it in conjunction with two other seasonal events. The magpies start collecting nesting material and carol throughout the night in lovely serenades. The other being that the freesias begin to bloom.
        • There is also a marked increase in the ‘woolly bear’ caterpillars and other similar haired caterpillars which from my observations seem to prefer feeding on the more obscure plants in the garden like borage, assorted weeds like sows thistles…
        • Some self-sown tomatoes that endured through winter are now fruiting.
        • Down by Eyre Park I’ve noticed the yearly excursions of the Wood Ducks up to higher vantage points such as the neighbouring house roof tops. They are starting to pair up and looking for nesting hollows high in the trees. I always wish them luck as there seems to be fewer and fewer suitable nesting hollows available.
        • The first Shield Bugs were seen yesterday.
        • Slightly further afield during a trip to Dumbleyung I noticed Shellduck had a clutch of young. Days young by the look of them. Wood Ducks were seen near nesting logs and a Grey Butcherbird was seen building a nest.





        Petit ParadisPetit Paradis - A New Beginning




        This past twelve months has not been a particularly easy one. Actually, one of the toughest ever. As a result there have been many changes. Not the least have been the passing of my father-in-law and moving house, TWICE.

        We moved away from our Petit Paradis somewhere around the end of February with a view to selling. As Dad's condition deteriorated our time was taken up with not just caring for him, but also Mum, as Dad was Mum's carer. There simply was no time to finish the house up to a stage where I was happy to put it on the market. Mid-year Dad passed away and Mum moved in with us at the rental we were leasing. This helped to consolidate things a little better as we weren't running meals to Mum and constantly having to check her welfare. Financially it wasn't any easier however. Inevitably, it worked out much better for us to move back to our own home with Mum and make a new start.

        There is a whole background story involved which I wont' go into but involves the Bank. This complicated things quite a lot and as it turned out could have saved us all the hassle of moving in the first place. However, we are now back on track and for that I am grateful.

        Plus, I have learnt some things which will be of no use to me or anyone else unless I start to apply the new knowledge. When I first started this blog it was as a personal record and journal. A convenient place to store my information and photos that detailed the journey I was on. For this reason there are what I consider large gaps in the story where time was constrained too much and I was not chronicling what was happening. As you look further and further back at posts you will see where we started from. I will also be writing about this soon so that you can see the evolution, the de-construction and the re-birth.

        With our return to the house I am looking at the place with new eyes, new concepts and a new future. So this I will be recording in order to share more publicly. I hope you find it useful.





        Petit ParadisPermaculture Paradise Part II


        This post is a continuation of the previous post found here.

        Starting with some form of design creates a firmer commitment to actually implementing your project. And action is what is going to get the ball rolling.

        Where is everything and what are our inputs and outputs?

        The basics of our situation were that the house was on a slope with the back facing north. So we had high, dry points and potentially lower, damper areas. There was an existing shed and rainwater tank. We could have utilised more tanks but given it was always going to be temporary we utilised the slope to get greywater to the garden which was piped down and then put in buckets and watering can. There are two limitations to your use of water. The laws of water physics and your imagination.

        What about plants, animals and structures?

        We had a small shed, we had some compost bins and some exotic plants already existing in the garden which we relocated to better positions. We wanted to get chooks, but we started with compost bins and burying our kitchen scraps directly into the soil until we ran out of room. So the chooks we had pegged to go at the back of the shed. We didn’t bite off more than we could chew initially. But that came.

        Incidentally we didn’t have a green waste bin. There just wasn’t one that came with the house and we never needed one. Everything went back into the system. It was either buried, composted or in the case of the eucalypts – mulched.

        What about aspect?

        Our backyard faced just off due north which meant the edibles were placed there. Most of our windows were exposed to the north to allow the warmth in. We seldom used extra cooling or heating and usually only just to take the edge off winter chills. In summer extremes we opened the front and back windows to flush hot air out.

        Just down the road from us our like-minded neighbours lived on the opposite side of the road. So their front yard captures most of the sunlight hours and as a result their growing area for edibles is in their front yard. Our front yard was mostly shaded and consisted of natives. It was heavily mulched with wood chips and I never watered it. Even in summer. The only visit it got was to go to the mail box. It was left to its own devices and the birds, insects and reptiles loved it.

        How do these things connect to each other?

        The products of one element fulfil the needs of another element. We position elements or components so that they have the maximum benefit to the system. Each element serves at least two or more functions. Every important function (water collection, fire protection) is served in two or more ways. Elements are placed according to their intensity of use (zones), control of external energies (sectors) and efficient energy flow (gravity, wind and heat). Doing a page up like this is a wonderful left and right brain activity.



        Where do we place elements in order to conserve energy? We place elements according to how much energy is required to attend or utilise them. 
        Look also for ways you can store and extend energy storage in a system. Water tanks, solar power, preserving your garden produce, capturing heat from the sun inside to warm the house. If you saved your own seeds you could grow food using tanked water from your roof which you can then preserve using very little energy, or store it in your fridge powered by the sun. Can you start to see how utilising a bit of thinking the permaculture way, can save you money in the long run – and be better for your health? Its common sense thinking that puts money back in your pocket It’s a down, down scenario for you.
        Waste: 

        Soil: We all share a common challenge here in the Great Southern. It’s our soil, or rather, our sand. Our place like many others was built on a sand dune. This can be overcome and you can create living, dynamic soil in a rather short time. In a small area like an urban backyard, potentially a couple of inches of soil per year. In fact you have a greater chance of doing this on a smaller scale than broad scale agriculture ever will. It’s a size thing and it takes a different approach.


        Kitchen scraps, newspaper print, shredded paper and cardboard have always managed do the job for me. The worms are the real heroes here and they love it and if you can keep it moist long enough for the worms to settle in, they will make it into an incredible friable soil along with their allies bacteria. You’ve no doubt heard not to feed meat, dairy, onion and citrus peels to your worms. In my experience, it’s probably a good idea for a worm farm where the little darlings don’t have much room to move.

        Sheep and chicken manure is good for attracting the worms though I never used it in large quantities. The absolute very best, water retaining, dynamic areas of soil in our garden were always the areas where I had used mulch from tree clippings and cuttings. The real twiggy, woody mulch. It works so well that in our next garden I am planning to use mulch on a broader scale.

        I’m not sure if you picked up on a commonality here. Much of what we use in our garden you could refer to as waste, and yet it is all put through the system and comes out as food, and returns as waste and comes out as food. A pretty rough description, but close to the truth.


        Observe and Experiment – A comparison of lawn vs diversity

        INPUTS VS OUTPUTS

        We started with lawn and natives. We finished with a more diverse and varied living space. As energy is expressed in a harmonic form it takes on the ability to support more life. Birds moved into our garden, rather than moving through it. During summer and autumn we have monarch caterpillars munching their way through milkweed that was planted to support them.

        Permaculture builds diversity. Diversity leads to stability which then leads to increased fertility and which by design leads to potential productivity.

        Diversity for diversities sake is a collection! It doesn’t mean that there are meaningful interactions occurring. There needs to be inter-active diversity. Each element must interact with other elements. There is a process to this of observing and analysing a systems interactions for feed back in order to better place elements.

        You can design ‘convenience’ into your system to facilitate the events you want. My boys were curious and hungry. So the berry patch down the garden area where they arrived at first was done in order to fulfill their needs and provide shelter for the soil as well – and to try and get them to stop picking tomatoes or beans that I was keeping for seeds.

        If you get the energy right, then you have harmony in your design. If you don’t get the energy right, you have pockets of chaos and disorder and it will require you to look at the connections and redirect things, otherwise nature is going to do it for you, which may or may not be to your desire. I had aquaponics along a side of the house with fish tanks underneath the house, but I wasn’t able to get the balance right before my time was shifted to raising our babies instead. But rather than sit in a state of entropy I utilised the grow beds for worm farms and growing salad. I highly recommend aquaponics and I am planning to have it as an integral part of our next garden. But it needn’t be too complex. Our fish pond was a two tiered pond with koi in the bottom pond and water loving salad greens in the top. Simple, healthy and abundant.


        My three year old told his Pa rather as a matter of fact, what proper food is. Folks we do need proper food and it starts in your backyard. Why strive for sustainable living if you can’t sustain your own body?! When you grow something to eat yourself, something grows inside you. There is an understanding, a richness, a whole different appreciation of food and what it takes to get it.

        If you have limitations then look at alternatives. We have several available to us in the Great Southern. We have awesome farmers markets and community gardens. Please, support these champions of sustainable living. They are the way of the future, whats old is new again.

        None of this is rocket science, but it takes a bit of real thought and the willingness to not get stopped by obstacles. It helps to be a problem solver. May your way be a sustainable, permaculture way.


        Petit ParadisAlbany Permaculture Group Forming


        Following feedback from the Sustainable Living Expo we are in the stages of getting a permaculture group up and running in Albany, Western Australia. For those that attended the presentation and/or speed dating events that expressed an interest, please use either this Facebook link or contact me via the seed savers email you were given.

        Our first gathering is likely to take place in late April to flesh out some organisational stuff and get the ball rolling. The main request from those with whom the idea has been discussed with, is to do permablitz type events and hands-on design activities.

        Your feedback or suggestions can be posted on the facebook site or emailed.

        Petit ParadisPitaya Flowers @ Petit Paradis

        We had a really mild, barmy night on Tuesday night which was followed by an overcast early morning with slight drizzle. I suspected that the pitaya would have opened flowers overnight, but I was not up for the astonishing sight as I came out of the house to find these two wonderful flowers in full bloom and at eye level to me.




        You can see the flower that opened earlier the previous night. I used a paint brush to transfer pollen between the flowers and look forward to possibly seeing some fruit develop. Happy just to get them to this magnificent stage however. 

        Petit ParadisPermaculture Paradise Part I - Sustainable Living Fair & Expo Presentation

        After returning from the fantastic Expo this afternoon with the feedback received following my presentation I have decided to post the basis for my presentation. This is part one. And I had thought it might be in lieu of doing a 5 Year Update post, but I think that will be forthcoming too! 

        The Story of Petit Paradis

        I want to encourage you to grow at least some food in your own living space. Three or four generations ago we did this anyway. How soon we’ve lost touch. It takes so little room and in our society we’ve got a lot of space in comparison to other countries. And you’ll reap multiple benefits.

        When I was asked if I would do a presentation for the Expo I wanted to talk about permaculture and growing food in your own backyard. I could have chosen seed saving, its what a lot of people associate me with, but I’ve also gained a reputation for my family garden where I practice permaculture principles. Over the years we've hosted some open garden events and had a couple of Living Smart course participants come through also. Permaculture comes from the words permanent culture – and in its truest context we mean a sustainable culture. Because a sustainable culture will lead to a state of permanence and resilience.

        When my wife and I moved into our house five years ago my goal was to grow what I could from my own backyard and supplement it with produce from the local farmers market. I wanted to take more responsibility for my food. And I wanted to do it because we were about to grow as a family and I wanted my kids to know about Nature and our connections to it. I have a background in hospitality and I wanted my kids to know the real source of food. From the seed to the table.

        Our house and garden was on a 500m2 block here in Albany, in Spencer Park. I remember watching the house get built when I lived down the street from it and thinking “It' so small, who would want to live there?” Anyway, …. some years later, married and returning from Perth and looking for a new home, my wife and I were living there. So I turned it into an urban oasis. By thinking big on a small scale.

        It was a two step process. 

        1. Eradicate the lawn,  and
        2. Grow food.

        There came a collective cry of concern from friends and family.
         “Nooooooooooo. Where are your children going to play? They need a lawn to run and play and be kids!”

        To which I would reply… "In the park! Where the nice bloke from the City mows the lawn! I turned 40 last year and I mowed my first lawn about 6 months ago. I see that as an accomplishment. I’ve owned three houses and I’ve killed the lawn at virtually every one of them! Lawn has a place, but its not at my place! Why, because I don’t eat lawn, my family won’t eat the stuff and I’ve yet to meet anyone that does!

        Instead of lawn in our backyard we had koi and at one point rainbow trout, chooks, free-range guinea pigs, worm farms, fruit trees, vege gardens, herbs, berries, bananas, it evolved with every passing year to suit the needs of a growing family. We had sub tropical plants. We’ve got dragon fruit flowering right at the moment. The most time spent away from home was on average 3 days and everything would tick along nicely in that time frame without any concern. Anything beyond that was a matter of getting friends or family to keep an eye on it.,

        In its last incarnation a whole side garden became a jungle of berries for our boys to graze on at their whim and fancy. It wasn’t the be all and end all of our food consumption by any means, but it filled our lives with extra nutrition, interest, entertainment and a place to relax and unwind as we wandered through it.


        Here is the flipside to my social experiment with not having lawn. My 3 year old garden grub son will show you how to pick a tomato properly, what a tamarillo is, how to suck the sweet juice from a stick of sugar cane, where to find the chook eggs and get them to the kitchen in one piece. He became my number one snail and slug collector and fed them to the chickens and fish. And he developed patience by waiting, waiting, waiting for those delicious strawberries to finally ripen.

        But one thing bemused me about our garden.

        Unsuspecting visitors to our house would come in and look out the window and, upon being immediately confronted by our urban jungle I more often than not heard these words.
        “Wow, you’ve got a garden.”
        And I guess once they realised they’d just stated the obvious out loud, they would then usually add something like...
        “I mean, you’ve actually got a GAAAARDEN.”

        And yes, our garden stood in stark contrast to the neighbouring backyards. On google maps it’s a little green oasis in a sea of rooftops, browning lawn, concrete and paving. Over time I grew to better understand our visitors remarks. I came to realise we've totally, literally, lost THE PLOT. Our backyards are getting smaller and the indoor home entertainment area is getting bigger. We're subdividing our land. We're even building houses nowadays with virtually no backyard to begin with!

        So what can you do? How can you move towards where you want to go, starting with what you’ve already got. Well, I want you to know you don’t need a heap of room to grow your own food. And most of us have a backyard or a space we can utilise if we really put our minds to it. Well, lets take a look at some considerations and please keep in mind your own house and land as I go through some of these.

        The best starting place is a plan. Now stay with me here. Its as simple as a mud map, on a good day we’ll call it a sketch. A design which incorporates the various elements you want and will enable you to move towards your vision with a step by step plan.

        And allow me to tell you right here that permaculture does not exist in a black and white realm of design. Its sustainable, it’s green, its organic, its not fixed, it’s fluid - things change, you change, your requirements change. Things in your environment that are outside your control change. You will go far if you can understand this and embrace it right from the start.

        To be continued ...



        A Garden Salad - with some important community connections. Parmesan cheese and Macadamia nuts from the Albany Farmer's Market, and smoked garlic from a friends gardening and preserving efforts. Everything else came out of our own garden.


        Petit ParadisPitaya, Thriving on Neglect

        I have been so tied up recently, busy with moving house(s) and all manner of other stuff that I care not to mention - that on a quick inspection of the garden on the 25th of February I discovered much to my joy 8 small buds forming on the Dragonfruit. What is amazing is how quickly they are growing.


        The top photos where taken two weeks prior to the below pics. In the meantime a few have fallen off. There are about five remaining and the loss was probably due to a lack of water. Still, I talk to it nicely and it's doing really well.




        I'll post more as the story 'unfolds' and time permits. Other plants thriving on neglect in the garden are Mouse Melons, Snake Beans, Marigolds and Sweet Potato.

        Freo PermiesMeeting Minutes 26 April 2017

        Freo Permies meeting minutes 26 April 2017 Attendees: Amanda, Jodie, Craig, Dave, Jackie, Annemieke, MayRing, Matt Blitzes: Dan is holding his blitz this Saturday. Rearrangement of team leaders will be done to ensure no one is in an inappropriate position. Dave’s has a bad back and Connell will have his first opportunity as team leader....

        April 24, 2017

        Fair HarvestFestival of No Waste November 26th 2017

        Festival of No Waste  In November 2017 we will be hosting our 6th Festival, each year has had a different theme and this year the theme is “No Waste”, something that we have always been passionate about and as many of you will know “Create No Waste” is one of the 12 Permaculture Principles. It’s a it a HUGE subject that […]

        The post Festival of No Waste November 26th 2017 appeared first on Fair Harvest Permaculture.

        April 04, 2017

        Freo PermiesMarch Meeting Minutes

        The AGM did happen as replanned for March, so meeting minutes and AGM outcomes are below. Attending- Ruth, new members Brendan and Sarah, Aidan, Jodie, Matt, Amanda, Dave, Jakki, Annamika, Fiona, Megan, June, May-Ring, Dan. Blitzes- Dan’s blitz is up first this year, and will be on the 29th April, project leaders will be Craig,...

        February 22, 2017

        Freo PermiesFebruary meeting minutes

        Attending-  June, Dave, Jodie, Ruth, Matt, May-Ring, Jakki, Elizabeth. Apologies from Fiona, George, Dan, Renay, and Olga. AGM- So tonight was scheduled to be our combined monthly meeting for February and AGM, however as not enough of our previous year’s committee members were able to attend, the ‘official'(or as official as a bunch of hippies/permies...

        February 01, 2017

        Freo PermiesJanuary Meeting Minutes

        It was decided that there would be a monthly meeting for January after all, so here is the minutes from the meeting last week. Attending- Megan, Annamika, Bill, Ruth, Matt, May-Ring, Tony, Fiona, Jodie, June, Dan, George, Jakki, apologies from Dave.   Blitzes- Loosely plan to start the blitz season up again around April after...

        January 31, 2017

        Fair HarvestJanuary PDC 2017

        Looking back on the January Permaculture Design Certificate 2017. Two weeks of living and learning with group of amazing individuals…..   I, like many others feel a sense of doom when I look at the various environmental, social and economic crisis happening on our beautiful planet. The overwhelming emails that pour in every day asking us to help very real and […]

        The post January PDC 2017 appeared first on Fair Harvest Permaculture.

        January 30, 2017

        Fair HarvestImages of the summer garden

        Take a stroll around the Fair Harvest garden through the eyes of a recent Permaculture Design Certificate student and beautiful photographer Sarah Rowley

        The post Images of the summer garden appeared first on Fair Harvest Permaculture.

        December 13, 2016

        Fair HarvestFestival of Fibre November 2016

        Festival of Fibre What an exquisitely beautiful day it was with a fantastic range of presenters and people participating in all sorts of activities. It felt very special to devote a day to fibre as it has played such an important part in our lives over centuries. “Permaculture is defined as consciously designed landscapes which mimic the patterns and relationships […]

        The post Festival of Fibre November 2016 appeared first on Fair Harvest Permaculture.

        December 06, 2016

        Freo PermiesNovember Meeting Minutes

        Time to summarize the monthly meeting’s minutes from the group’s convergence last week. Attending: Matt, Craig, Stephanie, Eddie, Tiuu, Jodie, May-Ring, Fiona, June & Elvis, Adi, Rob, Dan, Olga, Jakki-apologies from Sarah, George, Aidan & Renay.   Blitzes 2017- Dan, Dave, Jakki enlisted to hold blitzes in the new year. Social- Recap of Merribee camping...

        November 08, 2016

        Fair HarvestAPC 13

        October was such a big month in the Permaculture world with some of the most amazing thinkers and doers from Australia and New Zealand converging in WA for a month of festivity, sharing ideas, visiting properties, running courses and generally immersing themselves in Permaculture. Unfortunately for us it is also one of the busiest times on the farm with everything […]

        The post APC 13 appeared first on Fair Harvest Permaculture.

        November 07, 2016

        Fair HarvestLearn Permaculture Design on a real life project

        Learn Permaculture Design … a real life project! An important part of our Permaculture Design Certificate is the real life design project. For each course we choose a property that we feel will give the students the best learning opportunity for their future work as designers. As we get a range of students from rural and urban settings we like to choose a property […]

        The post Learn Permaculture Design on a real life project appeared first on Fair Harvest Permaculture.

        November 02, 2016

        Freo PermiesOctober Meeting Minutes

        Last Week the crew met for our usual monthly gathering and discussion/planning, below is the minutes noted from the meeting. Attending: Dave, Annamieka, George, Jodie, Ruth, Tarnya, Jakki, May-Ring, apologies from Don as he was unwell.   Events/social: We went down to stay at Merri Bee Organic Farm and visited Southampton homestead on the weekend...

        October 25, 2016

        Fair HarvestProgram for the Festival of Fibre Nov 27th 2016

        Festival of Fibre Program  Nov 27 2016 Fair Harvest Permaculture 426 Carters Rd Margaret River W.A.  from 10am – 4pm entry $10 kids $5 under 5’s free (ticket sales at the gate ) Thank you to everyone that has put their hands up to get involved in the Festival of Fibre , it’s shaping up to be a beautiful day. […]

        The post Program for the Festival of Fibre Nov 27th 2016 appeared first on Fair Harvest Permaculture.

        October 11, 2016

        Fair HarvestWeedy Pesto Recipe

        I’m not so much a cook as a lover of tastes I imagine them in my mouth colliding with each other, simple strong earth tastes not needing too much tampering In fact, truth is, I start tampering and I loose it. Complex recipes are not for me My staple is pesto not the cheesy stuff you can buy, the fresh […]

        The post Weedy Pesto Recipe appeared first on Fair Harvest Permaculture.

        Fair HarvestCatch and Store Energy ……….Creating an edible garden with no water access

        Living in an area that receives all of its water over the winter months and almost none over the summer means that most productive food gardens are irrigated to some extent. Taking the challenge to create a garden that has no access to water means thinking carefully about catching and storing every available bit of water that passes as well as being prepared […]

        The post Catch and Store Energy ……….Creating an edible garden with no water access appeared first on Fair Harvest Permaculture.

        October 04, 2016

        Freo PermiesSeptember Meeting Minutes

        Last week was our monthly get together to discuss all plans, events and blitzes etc. Attending-Martine, May-Ring, Fiona, Renay, Cathy, Eddie, Sarah, Don, Dave, Jakki, Annamieka, and new members that joined us Mattia, Lizette, June and Tarnya. Apologies from Jodie as she was unwell. Events- It’s that time of year again, we are at the...

        October 03, 2016

        HumusBeingsNew website and blog ..

        Humusbeings has a new website and blog.



        Blogspot has served me well and Hopefully all this will stay here. Maybe I can move it over there? I'm not sure. But, please, come and have a look at the new site. There is more about sustainability in the home as well as gardening tips and info for the dry old sands of the Swan Coastal Plain and other similar cruddy sands on the west coasts of various countries.

        September 24, 2016

        Freo PermiesPermies on the Run

        Permies on the Run It’s that time of year again, we are at the end of blitz season and last moments to light a fire for the year. We have a MAMMOTH weekend away lined up for us. This year we will be camping at Merri Bee organic farm in Nannup. Saturday Southampton We have...

        September 07, 2016

        Freo Permiesaugust meeting minutes

        So last week our group met for the usual last wednesday of the month discussion and planning. Attending-Jodie, Olga, Maggie, Jakki, Laura, Andrew, Aidan, Megan, Daniel, Fiona, May Ring, Ruth, a new member Sarah, apologies from Cathy. Events-Weekend Away to Margaret River to visit Merribee and Southampton, looking at the weekend of 29th & 30th of...

        September 05, 2016

        Freo PermiesShipwrights Cottage Permablitz – 25 September 2016

        The next Freo Permies permablitz is at Shipwrights Cottage. Come and hang out with an amazing permie crew. At this blitz we will be doing a range of tasks including – wicking beds, mini glass house using upcycled materials, cob rocket stove and a cold smoker, revamping vege beds and planting spring seeds and seedlings,...

        August 29, 2016

        August 25, 2016

        Fair HarvestA Weekend with Robin Clayfield and Robina McCurdy

          An Amazing Weekend of Social Permaculture Look who’s coming to Fair Harvest over the weekend of the 15th, 16th and 17th of Oct Robin Clayfield and Robina McCurdy have worked nationally and internationally on developing permaculture, community projects, social permaculture, seed saving, innovative teaching styles and so much more. They truly live and breath the Ethics of Permaculture and […]

        The post A Weekend with Robin Clayfield and Robina McCurdy appeared first on Fair Harvest Permaculture.

        August 22, 2016

        Freo PermiesJodie’s Blitz Saturday 27th August 2016

        https://www.facebook.com/events/167825990307499/ Come along to the next Freo Permie blitz held at Womble Inn (aka Jodie and Craig’s House). If you havent been to a blitz before come and join a group of likeminded people, completing projects, sharing stories, laughs and good food. Morning tea and lunch is provided. Projects include: Food is Free pilot verge...

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