Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Back to school!

Palya folks!  How is it going?

Sorry for the lapse in posting, it has been such a whirlwind month, it has been a little hard to know where to start!

Since we last posted our plans we have had lots of support from our friends, and we have been hard at work trying to expand our knowledge before heading out and buying a farm.  This has entailed talking to lots of people, an appearance on community radio, reading lots of books, plus a stint volunteering on a small-scale farm to get some experience.

The main thing we have learned is that we are almost unique.  Most people buy a place, with all its problems and issues, and then try to figure out how to fix it.  We are trying to find out what we should be looking for, and what pitfalls to avoid, before we buy, as opposed to after.  This is not to say we will be able to avoid the problems, but we are trying to go in with our eyes as open to these as possible.
Eyes open, something like this.
So in this learning process we have learned a little something about permaculture.  When my sister went off to Costa Rica to start her “Permaculture Design Course”, I must confess I thought permaculture was some hippy-dippy word for what is essentially organic farming, with some grey-water recycling and straw bale house building thrown in for the smelly dreadlock crowd.  I have to apologise to her and the dreadlocked, because after doing our homework we have realised that permaculture covers a whole lot more, and doesn’t just apply to the tree-hugger set.  It is a system set up around a good yield/diversity/energy equation, among (many) other things.  For me its essence is lazy farming, building a holistic system to produce the best output for a given input of energy.

Now some perma-heads will disagree with my analysis, but I have only just started this journey, and that is my beginner’s interpretation.
Norman here was born the day before we left our volunteer farm.
So to give other budding treechangers/perma-beginners/suburban escapists a feel for the path that our learning is taking, so far we have read:
- Permaculture 1 by Bill Mollison & David Holmgren – good intro to the concepts, though 30 years old;
- Permaculture 2 by Bill Mollison – good expansion of some concepts, particularly structures;
- The Chook Book (1st edition) by Jackie French – good no-nonsense book, 2nd edition looks expanded and even more useful with photos and more illustrations;
- Natural Cattle Care by Pat Coleby – brilliant book, good ideas, and a great help with our first experience dealing with cattle while we were volunteering;
- Going Bush by Edward Mundie – a little disappointing, a couple of vital lessons and some useful tips but too dated to have just been written in 1994, ignores efficient systems;
- The Permaculture Handbook by Peter Bane – just started reading this, American based so not sure how useful it will prove in Tassie, but the principles are there.

I have the Permaculture Design Manual by David Holmgren to read, and Cor is halfway through Backyard Self-sufficiency by Jackie French, whose informal writing style is a joy to read.

At the moment we are at my sister’s place before starting a 3-day course this weekend at Milkwood Permaculture up near Sydney.  The course is called “You Can Farm” by Joel Salatin and should give us an opportunity to ask some practical questions of someone who is working daily with the principles that interest us.  Joel has appeared on shows like 'Food Inc' and in the bestselling book, Omnivore’s Dilemma.

Then we are heading to Tasmania on 25th February, to do some more volunteering on farms via the WWoOF system as we begin to look for a place to buy.  A word of warning on WWoOFing - it appears to have become less about the "willing" workers on "organic farms" and more of a way for backpackers to see Australia on the cheap.  Not that there is anything wrong with this, but be prepared to find yourself in hostel-style-accommodation renovating the owner's house if you don't do your homework.

We will be crossing on the ferry with our new dual cab Ranger “Chuck” and a friend we met diving in Micronesia for a bit of road trip fun in Tassie before starting to work.  Not looking forward to the crossing – apparently it can be a bit bouncy!

If you are interested in hearing more about our motivations and what we want to achieve, check out the podcast of our radio interview here: http://podcast.3cr.org.au/pod/3CRCast-2013-01-29-61152.mp3.  We aim to do a regular bit with Jonathan on this program to keep folks updated on our progress.  Our goal with this will be to show people that if even a couple of putzes like us can make a go of a big change in their lives, then they can too!

Thanks going out to Jonathan and Jane, Barbara, Fleur, Anna and Dave, and of course my sister Elisa and her family for putting up with us whenever we are in northern Victoria.

Stay tuned!