Design Project: Implementation Plan Catch Up

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If any of you remember the Implementation Plan that I posted back in December 2014, I’ll make this a catch up post which will pretty much be along the lines of feedback and tweaks.

I scheduled breaks in April and July, thinking that my family would have a holiday in April, and that winter illnesses would hit us in July/August and would need the rest. It was a good thing I scheduled the April break as I sliced my left index finger with sharp kitchen scissors doing a craft activity. Yeah, ouch. Luckily I didn’t need stitches, but I needed lots of healing time.

The schedule for May and June assume that the patio cover has been installed and therefore the surrounding land is ripe for scaping. That hasn’t happened yet so tasks 14-23 have been pushed back.

So what happened?

I had a plumber install 2 water saving toilets to replace the old single flush toilets (permaculture principle #6: produce no waste)

I joined the Diggers Club (from my husband as an early Mother’s Day gift)

A box of goodies from the Diggers Club

A box of goodies from the Diggers Club

I assembled a new rabbit hutch for Nibbles the guinea pig and Miffy the bunny

Assembled rabbit hutch with some flyscreen modifications

Assembled rabbit hutch with some flyscreen modifications

I had Miffy desexed, poor little munchkin

I planted poppy seeds and lettuce

Poppy seedlings - bonus seeds from the Diggers Club

Poppy seedlings – bonus seeds from the Diggers Club

Lettuce seedlings

Lettuce seedlings

I sheet mulched a section of the side of the house

Controlling the weeds and improving the look of the side of the house with sheet mulching

Controlling the weeds and improving the look of the side of the house with sheet mulching

I planted a couple of salvia plants in the front yard

Salvia to fill in gaps in the front garden

Salvia to fill in gaps in the front garden

AND got the wheels in motion for the patio cover! After lots of back and forth with the Operations Manager at For Life Patios to clarify details, I signed off on the Patio Building Plan in July. Very exciting! And then I worried about the state of our exposed aggregate concrete being rough, losing stones, and unsealed, and that in all likelihood, whatever we decided that we needed to do would need to be done before the patio could go in. Cutting a long story short, I found a company, Policrete, that does concrete grinding and sealing, and that looked like our best option for beautiful, comfortable, long-lasting flooring. The guys at Policrete were able to do the work in July and relieved my mind before For Life Patios needed the check measurements for the patio cover. Then patio materials started arriving near the end of August, and organising the construction has been my major activity since then.

What I learnt from that

I probably need to space out tasks involving trades in terms of the time it takes to find suitable contacts, organise quotes, finalise the scope, and schedule the work. Often the work is also weather-dependent, which means anything could happen in Melbourne.

Reflecting on the schedule and my point above, this implementation plan will probably be a 2 year plan.

I’m really glad I have resisted the temptation to start sheet mulching or edging new garden beds near the patio. Anything I did would have been trampled, covered in concrete dust, and otherwise ruined. Hardscaping is messy work.

I’ve enjoyed watching Nibbles and Miffy in the playpen outside on suitable weather days.

Miffy the dwarf lop bunny and Nibbles the guinea pig enjoying some time outdoors

Miffy the dwarf lop bunny and Nibbles the guinea pig enjoying some time outdoors

Sadly, Nibbles passed away earlier this month after being part of our family for nearly 6 years. She was very comfortable in her outdoor visits and went straight to grazing the grass and depositing her fertiliser. She’s buried next to her sister Boo in our backyard. I’m holding off using the new hutch until Miffy has a buddy bunny she’s happy to live with.

Seed raising soil is helpful for sprouting, but doesn’t contain enough nutrients for continued growth. This means another potting stage to nurture the growth until it’s hardy enough to plant.

What about the plan?

You can see why I’ve said this is feedback and tweaks to the plan. It’s happening slowly, but surely, as they say.

What about you?  What have you found impacts on your project timelines?  Do you find re-potting seeds is a task that goes on the back-burner or do you have a process to save you time?

Design Project: February and March Implementation

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I’m going to combine the update for February and March since February was a short month. For those months, the implementation plan scheduled:

  1. Patio cover installation
  2. Buy mat for kid’s play area under patio
  3. Choose pavers for under the clothesline
  4. Install pavers for the clothesline area
  5. Buy and install new clothesline
  6. Water tank quotes

So what happened?

These activities were based on having the patio cover installed and otherwise prioritised, so they have all slipped from their schedule.  Instead, this is what I did.

The soil around the avocado tree received some attention with sheet mulching, all the while hoping that it wasn’t too late for the tree and it would show signs of life again.

Avocado tree with rubbish

Avocado tree with rubbish

Avocado tree with cleared area

Avocado tree with cleared area

Avocado tree and ground condition

Avocado tree and ground condition

Home made compost

Home made compost

Alive compost

Alive compost

Avocado tree with some compost

Avocado tree with some compost

Avocado tree with cardboard

Avocado tree with cardboard

Sheet mulching helpers

Sheet mulching helpers

Avocado tree with soil building layers

Avocado tree with soil building layers

The herbs grew in the kitchen window

Marigold seedling

Marigold seedling

Thyme is growing

Thyme is growing

Slow growing chives

Slow growing chives

The pumpkin plants flourished

The pumpkin reaches up

The pumpkin reaches up

Pumpkin leaves angled to the sun

Pumpkin leaves angled to the sun

The pumpkin spreads

The pumpkin spreads

Green fuzzy pumpkin leaves

Green fuzzy pumpkin leaves

I drew an avocado tree guild to begin our first food forest.  I have noted the layers of the avocado guild (tree, shrub, herbacious, ground covers, rhizosphere) on the right, and available resources, and needs on the bottom right.

Avocado tree guild drawing

Avocado tree guild drawing

I set up some pots for Miss Z to grow sugar snap peas and flowers for a butterfly garden to educate her on growing plants, give her some responsibility, and allow her to forage her own food when the time comes.  This follows permaculture principle #1 observe and interact.

Pots with seed raising soil and compost

Pots with seed raising soil and compost

Sugar snap peas for the big pot

Sugar snap peas for the big pot

Butterfly garden mix for 2 pots

Butterfly garden mix for 2 pots

Pea straw mulch on top

Pea straw mulch on top

I set up a new area for growing sweet peas along the pergola, which will add beauty, attract insects, reduce weeds, and improve the soil for when we’re ready to start growing a passionfruit vine.

New trellis and soil for sweet pea seeds

New trellis and soil for sweet pea seeds

Sweet pea trellis section

Sweet pea trellis section

I had a quote to replace our 2 full flush toilets with water-saving dual flush toilets.  This was bumped up the priority list as we were toilet training our little one, and it was complicating matters to turn on the water at the wall to be able to flush the toilet (long story).  This helped us to use permaculture principle #6 produce no waste (or less waste, in this case).

I had 3 quotes for a patio cover – at last!  My husband used the http://www.homeimprovementpages.com.au/ to outline our job, and then we shortlisted our top 3 for quotes.  I wasn’t impressed with one company, was imagining the sky with another company, and grounded with a vision with the last company.

What I learnt from that

I love growing seeds! It’s fascinating to watch for changes every day and see how they evolve. Having seeds on the kitchen window sill is great as not only do they grow well there, but it’s very easy to check on them and give them water if they need it. The pumpkins have been an unexpected joy. I’ve never grown pumpkins before and I was amazed at how quickly they grew and I loved to admire their fuzzy leaves and beautiful yellow flowers. I noticed that they attracted bees and ladybirds, which was a bonus.

Having a drawn plan of a guild makes the implementation much more straightforward and quicker. The implementation highlighted to me that we don’t produce enough compost to meet our needs, and bags of compost from Bunnings are almost siphoned into our clay soil. It strikes me that it would be more efficient to have a truck deliver a few cubic metres of compost and then shovel it into a wheelbarrow and tip it where we need it, but that would probably require a working bee.  The other point is that our home made compost springs up gifts from the seeds that are in it, and I’d be inclined to only use that in our food growing areas because of that.

I took advice from Sarhn from Greener Me to teach Miss Z to grow her own plants and have found sugar snap peas are very easy to grow.  Miss Z enjoyed sprinkling seeds in the pots.

What about the plan?

The hardscaping has been delayed but is still on the agenda.  Lots more to come!

I’ll give course news in my next post – are you excited?

Design Project: January Implementation

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As I was saying in my last post, after working on my design project for some time, I’ve been eager to make these plans happen and test my solutions.

For January, the implementation plan scheduled:

  1. Set up herb planters
  2. Establish guild for avocado tree
  3. Install fairy lights on garden arch
  4. Patio cover quotes

So what happened?

I put together a Herb Planter Guide to plan herb functions and care, and do a rough positioning guide to eventually have my version of a herb spiral in a Stack-a-pot near the kitchen. I planted marigold, thyme and chives seeds in little pots for the herb planter and watched them grow in the kitchen window.

Chives seeds planted

Chives seeds planted

Marigold and thyme seeds

Marigold and thyme seeds

I spent a lot of time watering tomato plants.

Big red tomato plants

Big red tomato plants

I took Miss Z on a trip to Kinglake Raspberries to pick berries from the source.

Raspberry picking

Raspberry picking

We had a family trip to Rain, Hayne and Shine farm

Happy as a pig in the mud

Happy as a pig in the mud

I had a gift from putting down compost around the garden arch – pumpkin plants grew!

Pumpkin plants grew from the compost

Pumpkin plants grew from the compost

Pumpkin plants grew on both sides of the garden arch

Pumpkin plants grew on both sides of the garden arch

Patio cover builders are busy/unavailable in January.

What I learnt from that

Plant more seeds than you want as plants as they don’t all germinate. Also, seeds can take a while to germinate, and then to grow to a transplantable size. Plant seeds regularly and maybe figure out where to put them later if you grow more of them than expected.  I’m such a planner, I almost can’t believe I just said that.

Tomato plants seemed to do better with a watering every other day, but with some shade from the afternoon sun. Ours had no shade from the afternoon sun, so I kept watering them as they looked like they suffered on a few occasions.

Yeah, the tomato plants copped a bit too much sun

Yeah, the tomato plants copped a bit too much sun

Holidays are awesome and take them when you can.

Don’t plan work with tradespeople in January unless you already know they are working then.

What about the plan?

Overall, work was in progress but I wasn’t able to update the status to done, unfortunately.  Still according to the Permaculture Principles, I shouldn’t be too hard on myself.  Principle #12 is creatively use and respond to change, and my family benefitted from holidays and trips instead of having patio cover quotes.

Design Project: A Hand-Drawn Design

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I left my last post after having submitted my design project at the end of December…  And it’s now March…  You can probably guess that I needed to make some changes.

New Submission Method

After frantically putting together the documentation and blogging it to share the links with my supervisor, I had to complete an additional new online form for their efforts to ensure consistency across the students.

Feedback on my Submission

Once I had completed this form, I had feedback within a day that my design needed an overhaul and that it was too rough. I was asked for more detail, and to make it look clean and pretty. My supervisor recommended that I hand-draw the design instead. I was concerned about how much detail I would be expected to include for a few reasons.

  1. How much would fit in the actual drawing at that scale.
  2. If I’m including more detail (eg. more plants), then shouldn’t these be reflected in the budget and implementation plan? IE. Doesn’t that mean those documents would need to be updated too?
  3. Surely students who were designing bigger properties such as farms would not need to design to tree guild level or cover plants in nurseries, so it didn’t make sense to me that I would need to draw those in for my design.

So, to try to address this feedback, I used my mostly computer-based design as a guide for the hand-drawn version to attempt accuracy, and decided on making it A3 sized to be able to get some detail into the drawing. I chose not to worry about updating the budget and implementation plan if need be and just focus on the feedback at hand. For those new to the blog, here is my design before:

Ta da!

Ta da!

I used SketchUp to create the base map and then drew in my design over the top.

My Hand-drawn Design

And here is my hand-drawn design after:

My hand-drawn design

My hand-drawn design

Here I have attempted to make trees and shrubs look more like plants and paid more attention to colours.

More Feedback

No comments about the budget and implementation plan, but I had feedback in another direction. The next email I had from my supervisor said,

“Please draw around and label each zone clearly. Also please provide sectors on top of the map as well.”

I interpreted this to mean that my design was now acceptable and that I needed to use my design to re-do the zones and sectors map, rather than using a base map. I really didn’t want to ruin my hand-drawn design by drawing over it so my solution was to attach more paper to the edges of the design to be able to fit the sectors around the edges, and just marked the zones more heavily.

My New Zones and Sectors Map

My hand-drawn design with zones and sectors

My hand-drawn design with zones and sectors

Sorry that the image is darker for this one. Essentially you can see the arcs for summer sun, winter sun, warm wind, noise/pollution, and cold wind. The zones were hard to delineate as really the property only has zone 0 and zone 1.

Are We There Yet?

Sort of. They really keep you on tenterhooks with the assessment.

“Congratulations, we have conditionally accepted your design project, as it appears to satisfy all the requirements laid out.”

Apparently they do a final review of the design project after you pass the exam, meaning that they can still ask for changes. I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions on that. Personally, after going to so much effort with the design project, it was very hard for me not to get excited about moving to the implementation stage rather than moving to the exam preparation stage for the course. I’ve been enjoying greater confidence with my efforts in the garden after soaking up the permaculture wisdom from the course and my reading, and I see that change as the point of the course. To have a sense of hope for the future and a toolkit to bring that to life (and maybe listen to Bring Me To Life by Evanescence with permaculture in mind).

Design Project: Applying Permaculture Principles and a Design

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Now I am up to sharing the documentation for A for Applying Permaculture Principles from the CEAP process for my design project. This consists of the design map, and a spreadsheet of the principles and patterns applied in the design.

Design and comments

Ta da!

Ta da!

Feedback on the design - success!

Feedback on the design – success!

Features of this design

This design is more child-focused, with a designated mulched section with stepping stone pavers with children’s garden and sandpit in the shade of the grevillea tree. I have noted a kid’s play area (intended as a rubber mat for safer playing than on the concrete) in the patio area which will allow for under cover play once the patio cover is built.

Having a mulched area will have many benefits, such as:

  • reduce the area for lawn mowing,
  • improve the look,
  • reduce the impact of sand wandering from the sandpit and help little feet brush off sand before coming in the house
  • help prevent the elm tree root suckers from popping up
  • improve the soil

The food production area next to it shows a location for the dwarf peach tree to be planted, and a blueberry shrub to accompany our existing shrub, and also to be planted in the ground behind the low bluestone wall. Planting them will help them to retain moisture and keep their roots cool.

The grevillea shrub along the fence can be moved to the children’s garden, and this creates space for a trellis and a couple of raspberry canes.

I have suggested a dwarf mulberry tree as they are established quickly and don’t need another tree for pollination. If not, then another fruit tree but check size and whether two trees are needed for pollination. The intention is for the trees to have guilds of perennial plants to support their needs for nitrogen, insects, and mulch, and many of those can easily be edible or medicinal. A water tank will fit next to the shed and provide drip irrigation for the trees.

I have put in an extra raised garden bed for more annuals behind the low bluestone wall (design principle #3: obtain a yield) while the trees are getting established.

On the other side of the house, the pergola can support a passionfruit vine and eventually a grapevine once the passionfruit dies back. An herb planter can sit on top of the easement outlet next to this, and after the daphne is removed, a potted lemon tree and potted rosemary will fit there in easy access to the kitchen and the tap.

Next to this is a ground mounted fold out washing line, ideally with a shade cover. This will take advantage of wind there to dry clothes (rather than using a small indoor clothes horse and dryer) and provide a wind break for the plants without causing issues with the easement piping.

A new garden bed in front of BBQ on the patio will provide a handy sunny spot for natives, including the woolly bush to be moved there as it hasn’t thrived in its current location. This will help to improve the rocky clay soil and have some wind protection from being in front of the BBQ.

This design doesn’t show an outdoor hutch for day time grass grazing and spreading manure by our little inhabitants, but that would be beneficial.

How does permaculture apply to this design?

This table outlines the 12 principles and my comments about how they relate to my design.

Applying Principles to the Design

Future possibilities

Consider an extra compost bin or two to accommodate extra plant material and allow one in use while the other is full.

To be reviewed after the patio cover is in place and we can observe how it casts shade and guides wind.

In conclusion

So, the design is the theory, and next I will share with you the budget, implementation plan, and maintenance notes to show how this can all happen!

The Design Project series

Making a Start

Creating an Example

Design Project Site Observations and Maps

Design Project Developing my Process and a Promise to VEG

Design Project Client Interview

Design Project Tools for Analysis

Design Project Key Functions and a Design (nearly!)

Design Project: Tools for Analysis

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Here is the final documentation in the C for Collect Site Information phase of the design project. I put together a PASTE analysis for the property, which was a useful exercise in identifying all the plants and having a sense of the ecology in context.

PASTE Analysis

As you’ll see, PASTE stands for Plants, Animals, Structures, Tools and Events.

I found Nicole Vosper’s example on her blog very useful for creating my own PASTE analysis.

I was thrilled to be able to put names to some of the plants at the property that there already there before we moved in, as their labels were either not kept or disappeared and most of them have thrived on neglect. I did have one surprise from researching the fragrant daphne shrub on Wikipedia:

“All parts of the plant are poisonous to humans and a range of domestic animals[4] and some people experience dermatitis from contact with the sap”.

The daphne is the green shrub in the background behind the lemon verbena

The daphne is the green shrub in the background behind the lemon verbena

Does this fit into the child-friendly aim of the permaculture design? I’d have to say no. I shared that revelation with my husband and we’ve decided that this daphne will have to go. I already battle eczema on my right hand and it sounds like that plant is a known agent with skin conditions.

What about climate risks?

As a side note, I was feeling after all this that the process was missing things and that a risk assessment would be valuable. I started putting together a spreadsheet based on weather extreme types eg. Heat/cold, hailstorms, lightning, wind, earthquakes, drought and flooding. With this, I was able to consider whether that was likely at the property, and what the impact would be. From that, it shows whether any action would be needed to mitigate those risks, which then could be either designed for with that in mind, and items budgeted.  I didn’t complete the spreadsheet as it was taking time I wanted to spend on the next stage of the project, but it was helpful to brainstorm on this issues.

The main take aways from that for me are:

  • the benefits of wind breaks to provide shelter from wind and reduce evaporation, which is critical in a drought-prone climate, and
  • to consider shelter such as hoops for the raised garden beds to protect them from our 40 degrees Celsius+ heat waves and hailstorms.

We’ve seen the impact of wind, heat, drought and hail over the years, and it is a shame to nurture growth and then have our climate show no mercy and wipe out what we’re trying to do.  We’ve had instances of wind gusts blowing off laserlite from our carport roof, and the poor avocado tree has had its leaves blown off. Our extreme heat has killed a few potted plants and burnt the daphne and camelias.  And we’ve been lucky that our tomato plants survived hail, but we wouldn’t be able to rely on that every time.  We had big hailstones on Christmas Day 2012 that put dents in the car bonnet, roller shutters and an air conditioning unit, and it’s not hard to imagine what that would do to plants in a raised garden bed.  Since we are aware of these things, I need to design around it or otherwise mitigate the risk.

It also occurred to me that a quick risk assessment of these climate factors would be useful to include in the client interview rather than as a separate step later.

So next I will be able to share the next phase of the project, which is E for Evaluate Information.

The Design Project series

Making a Start

Creating an Example

Design Project Site Observations and Maps

Design Project Developing my Process and a Promise to VEG

Design Project Client Interview

Design Project: Client Interview

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Do grevillea flowers look a bit like a mind map?

Do grevillea flowers look a bit like a mind map?

Next in the design project documentation to share is the client interview.  This is part of the C for Collect Site Information section of the process that I covered in my previous post.

Client_Interview mind map

For this, I wanted to cover key areas of discussion with my husband, as we are the owners of the property under design consideration. I set up key areas of discussion in a mind map back in September 2014 and captured his main thoughts and then added in mine to produce our overall requirements and ensure we both heard each other. Our daughter is too young to express her dreams and desires but I have observed that she is tactile and likes to move around to play with different things, so I have kept that in mind.

I used Mind Meister to create the mind map and found this very straightforward and I was able to turn the file into a pdf to email my husband for his reference and reflection, in case he had any other comments.

Next I will cover the tools for analysis…

The Design Project series

Making a Start

Creating an Example

Design Project Site Observations and Maps

Design Project Developing my Process and a Promise to VEG