Farewell Bill Mollison, goslings galore, growing bananas in SA, compact PDC (Nov), figs for Christmas, a great vintage and bumper macca crops...
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Food Forest

Food Forest News: October 2016

Welcome to the Food Forest E-newsletter: it's about self reliance, new design tricks and good things that are happening in our community. If you received this newsletter you may well be subscribed… but if not, subscribe via our website.

Workshops in October 2016

Plus our Permaculture Design Certificate - Nov 2016 & April/May 2017

Farewell Bill Mollison - the angry genius

Permaculture co-originator Bill Mollison, died in Hobart, on 24 September, aged 88. He was a warrior from a young age and was not ashamed to say that, when young, he solved most of his problems with his fists.

However the self control that he exercised in deciding not to protest or fight the Establishment in its blind race to oblivion, was miraculous. Instead he created a new logic called permaculture.

He and David Holmgren put the permaculture concept into the public domain through the publication of the little book 'Permaculture One' in 1978 and Bill got a stack of ABC interviews as result. The interest that came for this amazing blueprint for human occupation of the Planet was not from universities and governments, it was from clever young people who had already glimpsed the unsustainability of Western culture. So Bill left the safety of his university job and taught them the design system… a way we can live here comfortably for thousands of years.

He travelled the world with charisma and cheeky humour, charming people, gathering their jewels of sustainable design and building a global network. With the brilliant illustrator Andrew Jeeves, he punched out the book 'Permaculture Two', founded the Permaculture Institute as a business vehicle and to accredit students, and started a formal Permaculture Design Certificate course. It spread across the globe like a bushfire and has been completed by perhaps a million people from African villages to the top universities in the world.

Bill was awarded the alternative Nobel Prize, Sweden's 'Right Livelihood Award' in 1981 and also won a Banksia Award and an Australia Award as his work was recognised.

He gathered together his accumulated knowledge in the substantial 'Permaculture - a Designers Manual' in '88. 

Like David Attenborough, he needed to harness the media to get the word out, and Aunty (ABC) was there to help with TV exposure, producing 'In grave danger of falling food' which took Aussie audiences by storm in '89 and 'Global Gardener’. a series which was shown worldwide in ’91.

Bill was simultaneously experimenting on land in Northern NSW to prove the techniques laid out in the Manual and continued to teach and network like a maniac. Still pumping out design material, Bill wrote 'Ferment and Human Nutrition' in '93 and his fat autobiography 'Travels in Dreams' in '96. Ill health started to slow him down in the new century, but he remained a formidable force in focussing the incredibly diverse permaculture movement which had been taken-up in every climate, every continent and by people of every religion.

Bill's wish for permaculture to be recognised as a higher education discipline was realised in 2015 when Australia's largest regional uni, Central Queensland University, launched the World's first accredited higher ed program in Permaculture. It also recognised Bill's work with the award of an Honorary Doctorate.
Having studied under Bill and welcomed him to our property, his words upon departure still ring in my ears. 'You need to incorporate living mulch Graham'. We have, and we will miss Bill's wicked humour, spectacular overstatement, ridiculous energy and insights that no other human has imagined into a design system.

Above left: with Dryland Ag Researcher Chris Penfold
Above right: with Dr Vic Squires, Dean of Natural Resources, Roseworthy

Above: with Annemarie and Suzie Brookman and Martin Banham at The Food Forest circa 1990

Goslings Galore!

Here are some of the scores of little fluff-balls that have arrived in the last few days. And boy! have they got some grass to eat. And they will... Geese are the fastest growing of all the poultry, eating about half as much herbage as a sheep per day.

We will have young geese for sale in the new year, so if you are thinking of starting or broadening the genetic base of your flock let us know in advance. Many of the geese will be sold as breeders and some will probably end up at the excellent and adventurous restaurant, Chianti on Hutt St next year.

Gawler River Flood - So far so good!

The Food Forest has welcomed the big flow down the Gawler River in the period of Sept,-Oct as a cleansing opportunity for the landscape.

When the river started to flow in late June, the water was carrying masses of accumulated salt from the landscape out to sea. Containing over 4000 parts per million salt, the water would kill all but the toughest plants. Recent falls of rain have pushed rainwater into aquifers and creeks, improving the quality of bore water and diluting creek and river water to only 170 parts per million salt on 15 September... beautiful, sweet water our horticultural crops love!

While the reservoirs in the Adelaide Hills are filling, the bulk of the Gawler River's flow comes from the North Para catchment... the Barossa Valley, and brings lots of salt. If and when the South Para River (which meets the North Para to form the Gawler River in the town of Gawler) is allowed some flow from the South Para reservoir, it contributes water with far less salt.

The current high flow, measured in billions of litres per day, is pushing water into the Buckland Park Lake, the single most important breeding habitat for a range of waterfowl within the Adelaide region. The river is now spread for kilometres across the plain and caused significant damage to property and crops, and closed the A1 highway, so many of us have an ambiguous relationship with the river, the key artery of the Northern Adelaide Plain. 

Hear an Graham's take on the floods in an interview with ABC Radio's Ian Hentschke
In terms of damage at The Food Forest during the recent flood, (which was the largest since 2005) significant bank scouring occurred but no significant infrastructure was damaged.

Gawler River bank erosion repair tested

In the flood of 2010 over 1500 tonnes of the south bank of the river disappeared as a result of a log-jam in the river. In a collaborative project between the Adelaide & Mt Lofty Ranges Natural Resources Management Board, Gawler Council and the Food Forest, a repair was put in place. It came through the recent flood with flying colours and the 'zoned' revegetation, with dryland species high on the bank and ephemeral wetland species at the bottom, performing as planned. 

The whole project can be seen just after half way through this video.

Floodable forest design

Low lying ground often has the very best soil and water availability on your whole property, so there is real logic to growing trees there.

Fences often get swept away by floodwaters and trees smashed by passing logs so we did away with fences and planted tree species that like a good drink and coppice, ie they shoot again if sawn down or smashed. Pictured are River Oak (Casuarina cunninghamiana) and Broughton Willow (Acacia saligna). Another species we use is River Cooba (Acacia stenophylla). We lift-pruned the trees to give them clean trunks which would tend not to catch debris and gave good clearance between trees

Producing premium, furniture-grade timber, your hard-to-manage, low land suddenly becomes a valuable and biodiverse part of your property!

Growing bananas in SA

Why not? There are a number of varieties that grow well and produce sweet fruit. The most hardy cultivar we have found is Lady Finger and the secrets to big crops are simple.... masses of compost and lots of good water (they are happy with Adelaide mains water 550ppm salt, but love rain water).

For those wanting to max-out on bananas, there's a growing technique called 'banana circles' which establishes a group of banana plants around a composting pit into which stormwater or grey water is directed and organic waste is thrown, creating a very moist, nutritious environment for the hungry bananas. See a subtropical example here.

Compact Permaculture Course attracts students from afar

The Food Forest's upcoming PDC (Nov 7-11 & 14-18) is attracting a significantly different cohort of participants from our usual Autumn attendees. A big infusion from interstate and overseas, promises an even more diverse and jet-charged course than usual, and poses the challenge of getting sufficient background information, before arrival. 

To assist, The Food Forest is inviting people who are going to attend the PDC to attend its 'Introduction to Permaculture' one-day workshop on October 9 for free, giving participants a time to assemble everything they need for the 10 day course. We'll also be providing participants from distant places like India, Indonesia and Western Australia with a 'to-do' list

More expert tutors will be on hand to coach and a strong teaching team will be led by David Holmgren, and include agroforestry research expert Ian Nuberg. Only four places remain.

Figs for Christmas!

Many fig varieties are capable of producing two crops a year; the Breba crop at Christmas and the Hijaz crop in February, and it is game-on this season, particularly for varieties like Early Abundance, Forest Green and Archipal.

We will be trying to successfully send tiny fig wasps, which are vital for the pollination of some varieties, to a wasp-less orchard in NSW later in the season to get help their Spanish Dessert figs to 'set' properly. 

The Food Forest propagates virtually all the fig varieties that the CSIRO brought into Australia during the 1970s. Fig lovers are able to purchase trees from us at the Wayville Farmers Market.

Correct -  2015 was a good vintage!

Faced with what looked like a catastrophic grape supply situation in '15 due to a big frost in the Mid North and the death of a key organic grapegrower from whom The Food Forest had been getting grapes for many years, we were lucky enough to obtain some magnificent grapes from Two Dragons vineyard at Finniss on the Fleurieu Peninsula.

Australians are flocking to the Spanish variety Tempranillo for its berry-like fruit, herbaceousness, an earthy character, minerality and forceful tannins. Translated as 'the little early one' Tempranillo (Tinta roriz in Portugal) is the most planted grape in Spain and accompanies its cuisine (and ours) magnificently. On the other hand, Finniss River Shiraz has turned out to be our most popular wine ever (under 16% alcohol). For big-wine lovers we'll be releasing some Ladybird Shiraz soon (over 16%).

Our wines are ultra low preservative, vegan-friendly and available at Farmers Markets every second weekend. Next market dates are Oct 15 (Gawler) and Oct 16 (Adelaide Showground).

Bumper Macca crop on the way

Macadamia trees across Southern Australia have responded to the good rains by flowering their hearts out, so we can expect big yields of these incredibly healthy nuts.

The trees are incredibly adaptable, accepting temperatures from minus 7 to 40 plus and a range of soil types. They like reasonable quality water (under 900ppm salt). They don't like wet feet or high Phosphorus fertilisers. When you are faced with the coming glut, contact us for the world's best domestic scale macca-cracker, an unbreakable gem of a machine made in Australia 

Semi Arid farmers meet in flood

Palestinian permaculture farmer Murad Al Khuffash visited the Food Forest under weird circumstances recently, having travelled half way around the World to see sustainable farming in a semi-arid environment in SA.

What he encountered was a sodden farm with portly animals wandering around in belly-high oats and clover. However when he saw the Gawler river in flood he quickly made the comparison with Palestine's rather skeletal landscape and super-responsive 'wadis', that can turn from dry creek beds into raging torrents in minutes. He shared his successes in building terraces and swales and using mulch to slow runoff and enhance infiltration of water in dry climates.

He is a keynote speaker at the Australasian Permaculture Conference in Perth.
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