AKA the PRI Ambassador Program
by Erik Klockemann and Aybike Zengin
The Channon Public School is a stone’s throw from PRI Zaytuna Farm and we were invited to come out and see what could be done with their old fish pond.
The Channon School takes its name from the village where the public school is situated. "Channon” is a local aboriginal term for the Burrawang Palm (Macrozamia communis) of which the seeds were used as a starch by the aboriginal people and would be ground and washed to remove the toxins and made into a cake or bread, cooked over coals. The Channon School has been a part of the community since 1909. The school pond was originally installed as part of the “Sun-dial Ceramic project 1970”. The sundial and fish pond were installed by the pupils, their parents and Robert “Bob” Levett, who was the school principal.
Pond, Omar and Latifa
Cracks in Pond
The pond had been neglected, was leaking and was basically an overgrown mess. There are three ponds and a bridge that make up the structures. The bridge that separated the large pond at the top and the smaller middle pond was dangerously slippery. A rainwater pipe came in from the top that was fed from a hallway drain with a large catchment area. The solar powered water pump was broken and subsequently we could barely see the six poor goldfish who were trying to breath by coming to the surface in the mucky water. Galangal plant had taken over one side of the main pond and was hosting spiders and potentially deadly snakes. Grass and other vegetation were overtaking the ponds and had nearly completely covered the sandstone rocks that made the borders of the ponds. This was an aesthetic fish pond that had fallen out of maintenance and would require some elbow grease to make pleasant again.
Aybike painting the pond
Landscaping the pond
Geoff brought our internship group out to the school as a lesson of public involvement and emphasized the importance of giving back to our local communities. By getting involved with local schools it gives us an opportunity to work with the next generation and hopefully get them excited about the importance of gardening, growing food and restoring ecological systems. In addition to working with the children we also have an opportunity for outreach to local community members that we may not normally have the chance to meet, such as teachers, parents and neighbors. This last point proved to be our most important lesson in this pond restoration.
Water filling the pond
Though The Channon is a small village, we interacted with many people who were not aware of the work the PRI is doing. So that is where the subtitle of this article was born. Working on the pond allowed us to be Permaculture Preachers / PRI Ambassadors, a lot like an outreach program — giving the PRI a face to communicate with. Doing positive work in the community under the banner of the Permaculture Research Institute shed some light on what the PRI is doing and what the institute is really all about.
Pond getting there
As an intern group we rescued the six goldfish and they have a happy new home with other goldfish in a goldfish pond located in the urban garden demonstration at the PRI. We also collectively removed the overgrowth, pressure washed the pond, the bridge and the rocks and scraped the remnants of the old sealant out of the pond.
When Aybike and I took on the completion of this project as our Intern Project we only intended to finish putting the pond back together and get it to function. The PRI office staff researched what would be the most effective and practical sealant and advised the school on what to purchase. The sealing of the pond was daunting and was finally achieved after many coats of the water tank sealant and the caulking of the huge cracks in the pond. Aybike and I had ‘fun’ playing in the mud by digging holes in the rain for hours to finally fix and replace a majority of the overflow pipe that was full of roots and completely buried in the turf. Along with the help of our new friend Alan who is the on-site maintenance man as well as one of the original students who installed the pond and therefore our key to the history of the pond itself, a T-junction on the rainwater pipe inlet was installed to allow the water to be diverted away from the pond if cleaning products are being used on the walkways or if the rainwater flow is too heavy.
Finished with solar panel
With just a day left to complete our project, mother nature filled the ponds and we proceeded to plant them with aquatic plants. In addition, we also caught local guppies and glass shrimp and added them to the ponds to eliminate the mosquito larvae population. To cap it off we did a slight bit of border landscaping to increase the overall aesthetics. The work and time frame proved to be a challenge, however as Aybike and I headed back to PRI from The Channon School for the last time together, we reflected on the fact that we were able to do a lot more for the school, the community and the PRI than what we had originally intended.