Surplus citrus bounty gleaned by volunteers
In “Right Livelihood – How Can We All $upport One Another?”, author Carolyn Payne-Gemmell brought up some limitations of a traditional “veggie swap” that excluded the ability to purchase products with currency. And while I understand that one of the main ideas behind swaps is to build community, like Carolyn, I actually believe that swaps can severely limit community-building and right livelihood, even if unintentionally so. So the question becomes, is there a better way?
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Corrupt, irrational, destructive, counter-productive: this scarcely begins to describe our farming policy.
Soil erosion in a maize field.
Just as mad cow disease exposed us to horrors – feeding cattle on the carcasses of infected cattle – previously hidden in plain sight, so the recent floods have lifted the lid on the equally irrational treatment of the land. Just as BSE exposed dangerous levels of collusion between government and industry, so the floods have begun to expose similar cases of complicity and corruption. But we’ve heard so far just a fraction of the story.
I hope in this article to lift the lid a little further. The issues I’ve begun to investigate here – the corrupt practices and the irrationality of current policies – should unite both left and right in a demand for change. They should be as offensive to those who seek to curb public spending as they are to those who seek to defend it.
In July 2013, the British government imposed a £26,000 cap on the total benefits a household can receive. In the same month it was pursuing a different policy in urgent discussions in Brussels: fighting tooth and nail to prevent the imposition of a proposed cap precisely ten times that size (€300,000, or £260,000). The European Commission wanted this to be as much money as a single farmer could receive in subsidies(1). The British government was having none of it.
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by Good Life Permaculture
Diagram of a traditional swale system
Hobart is Australia’s second driest capital city (Adelaide’s first) so catching and storing water is often on my mind. Annually we get approximately 615mm, most of which arrives in the cooler months in and around Winter. During Summer our soils will dry out so ferociously that some soil types (including ours) will form cracks big enough to stick your hand a good foot down into them. When we first bought our place in mid Summer 2012 we walked across the lawn-scape and had to be careful not the slip into the cracks and twist our ankles — seriously, they were that big.
So as soon as we could we shaped the land to catch, slow and sink water into the soil in every possible way. First up, we had an excavator come through to terrace the back half of the block. All the terraces are angled slightly back on themselves to guide the water into the slope rather than letting it slide off. On top of this we designed the key artery pathways to be swale pathways (the blue lines shown below). These are placed on the inside of the terrace where they catch all the excess water that the terraces guide back into the slope.
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Trailer only – watch full video here!
Last year on Permaculture News there was an excellent article on Advanced Cell Grazing by Nick Burtner who documents the circular cattle lane-way on Geoff Lawton’s 66 acre Zaytuna Farm.
Geoff devised a system of easy to install temporary electric-fenced cattle lane-ways that lead to over 38 grazing cells on his farm — small plots of grazing land where cattle could be kept well fed for a day or two before being moved on to the next cell on a rotational basis. It was important to keep the cattle moving regularly and leave 6 to 8 inches of grass behind so that this land had a constant opportunity to renew itself and improve its fertility.
Cattle moved in this way allow the cells to be rested and only visited by the cattle on a rotational basis once every 30-50 days. Grass grown and rested in this system is able to reach its full height with the side benefit of increasing plant diversity that enables the system to flourish and multiply with increased biodiversity.
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Bamboo drip irrigation
For more than 200 years tribal farmers of the north-eastern part of India, in the state of Megalaya, have been using an indigenous technique of bamboo drip irrigation to irrigate their plantation crops. These farmers of the Jaintia and Khasi hill areas have developed this system of tapping springs and stream water to grow betal leaves, black pepper and arecanut (3).
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Biological Carpeting is a method introduced to us by Rodger Savory of Savory Grassland Management. Rodger is the son of Holistic Management founder Allan Savory and managed the African Centre for Holistic Management’s research station at Dimbangombe, Zimbabwe for six years.
At our home and training site, Rosella Waters on the Atherton Tablelands in northern Queensland, Australia, we soon realized that we lived on pretty marginal land and what would be described by Allan Savory as a ‘brittle environment’. It is essential for us to produce as much grass as possible through our growth season and cycle that carbon through a ruminant animal such as a cow to manage the landscape in line with our holistic context.
On the 6th November 2013, the day after we completed our most recent earthworks, this ‘office paddock’ (below) was left pretty bare and dusty — which is enemy #1 in this high wet-season rainfall environment. Our earthworks included the rock wall that hugs the contour of the landscape in the pictures below. The ‘swale’ that extends 50m along the edge takes overflow from a newly built pond.
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I recently completed postgraduate research on urban food production. The research area was limited to within a 70km radius of Melbourne CBD. The data collection period ran from July 2012 to July 2013. This was deliberately designed to capture inter-seasonal yield. In all, 15 households took part in the research and each participant contributed 12 weeks’ worth of data.
The collective plot size was 1,096 square metres, with a total yield of 388.73 kg worth of fruits, vegetables, nuts, honey and meat. A total of 1,015 eggs were also recorded. The study found that backyard food production was capable of producing a great diversity of edibles from common kitchen garden herbs to less commonly cultivated fruits and vegetables, as well as less commercially available varieties like amaranth, apple cucumber, acorn squash, butter squash, babaco, cape gooseberry, edible canna, elderflower, gem squash, loganberry, nettle, oca, orache, purslane, rat-tailed radish, viola flower, warrigal green, white mulberry and yacon. In total, 101 different types of nuts, fruits and vegetables were generated during the study period.
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