Notepad Observations of Soil at the Edge of an emerging Forest Garden

The Milkwood Food Forest (or Forest Garden) Design which was recently prepared for Milkwood Permaculture Farm by Dan Harris Pascale identifies patchwork areas for forest planning and succession but importantly for preparatory soil observation.

One of my on-farm tasks over the next month is to ensure preparation of access paths and soil in time to support the learning outcomes attached to the Food Forest Design Workshop to be run at Milkwood from Sept 2-4 2010 and facilitated by Forest Ecologist Dan and Milkwood’s Nick Ritar.

This afternoon I cut open 14m of access track into the Food Forest and in doing so got up close and personal with the soil across 3 different patches.

The on-contour path I started work on the Map in brown is adjacent to Patch 3 (the downhill side) and with Patch 1,2 and 4 above it (the uphill side).

I cut firstly in Patch 1 alongside the roadway which is area of established acacias and other young but functional support species and fruit trees. The area also has great protection from the western sun and cold westerly winds provided by magnificent Yellow Box eucalyptus trees.

I then cut through to Patch 2 and then just at dusk through to the middle of Patch 4.

From Patch 1 to Patch 4 the density of tree plantings becomes significantly less with the ground more exposed.

Here are my notes taken in observation of the soil as I cut through these differing areas:

” comment on the soil at the level of the lowest access path –

I am cutting the track open (the FF access path) and mounding the swale out of the material.

  • In Patch 1 the soil is of good quality. it has a red crumb and is moist. It has 5-6 earthworms per m at the established forest end
  • In Patch 2 the soil is still a red crumb but not as moist. It has 3-4 earthworms per m
  • In Patch 4 the soil is compacted and dry. It has 1-2 earthworms.

there are a few rocks of a range of sizes in the ground – hand size to soccer ball.

placing rocks around the beds for thermal mass micro-spots

(Milkwood Food Forest Design courtesy of Dan Harris Pascale)


Organic Market Gardening – Using Small Slow Solutions that Digging Pigs Dig

There is rarely a dull moment at Milkwood Permaculture Farm. One of the many projects under management is the development of the on-farm Organic Market Garden (OMG). Milkwood has experienced a great increase in the level of on-farm logistics and planning needs (inputs) over the last while in terms of food required to host many hungry people. The OMG project and specifically the food produced as an output is aimed at servicing, at least, a good percentage of that need.

In terms of projects, the OMG is an exciting collaboration between Milkwood and Allsun Garden Farm. The project is innovative because it will involve a 12 month traineeship for one lucky candidate who for this year is Stephen Couling as well as series of 3-day workshops to be taught on farm at Milkwood. The collaboration and project aims to get the knowledge and skills needed for viable Market Gardening up and out there.

So the OMG is well underway and is using a nice set of small and slow solutions to meet the challenge.  The 500m2 area of the OMG is now enclosed on the River Flat with an appropriate fencing built with meticulous care by the Milkwood Winter crew. The Design and seed-seedling work is well underway at Allsun and as of this week so too is the soil preparation.  At dusk on Monday 8 Aug 2010 arrived the very noisy, spirited and very hungry ploughs in the shape of 2 rent-a-pig sows courtesy of Ormiston Free Range Pork. Milly (the Black Berkshire) and Sossy (the Large White) are a small and slow force to be reckoned with. Much more interesting and ‘organically zen’ than a noisy fuel-guzzling machine for sure.

This pair of floppy-eared, long-tongued, bucket-mouthed girls have been given the thankful task of tilling and fertilising the OMG site in exchange for a daily supply of sweet fresh rain water and a goodly portion of lovingly cooked whole corn, grain mash, whey and bread. This all in the luxury of a 5-star rawbale shelter. The girls are here for one month and they are well and happily underway.

One of my on-farm tasks is to ensure Sossy and Milly get the deal they signed up to – a daily feed and water. Now I have not had much to do with Pigs but as with anyone charged with the responsibility of food provision there comes with that task a great deal of excitement from the customer. In terms of Milly and Sossy they get super excited when they see me with pale in hand and hose in toe.

Now Sossy the Large White comes apparently from a challenging upbringing and has a few questionable social skills. To me she is sort of like the attention-challenged kid at the soccer BBQ that always has to get the most food and that always has to eat it the quickest so as to get back for more before anyone else.  Compared to her mellow pen mate. Milly, the Berkshire, Sossy has confirmed for me the meaning of the saying ‘to eat like a pig’.

So this over-excited feeding frenzy caused me my first challenge of keeping on-task of preparing the OMG soilscape in the period of one month. The pigs were not spreading their tillage effort evenly. My first few days were spent dishing out their mash in a selection of spots around the pen. But sossy would just bolt around from spot to spot eating like a pig within minutes while Milly would just stay at one spot. No tillage, no tramping.

So yesterday I tried a new trick. I sprayed the whole area with the cooked corn before spreading the mash. Milly and Sossy tramped and snouted for every single piece of that corn (literally every piece) and 3 hrs later were still at it. Their tillage action has overnight been more impressive just from this simple small solution.

So its good to see Milly and Sossy, the transient Milkwood pigs-for-hire, earning their keep and slowly but surely well on the way to preparing the OMG soilscape for food production.

you just gotta love the small and slow solution and you just gotta dig the pig.

(all images courtesy of Milkwood Permaculture)

welcome to permaculture strategy

permaculture strategy is a Design and Learning service operated by Trev Bamford from Tasmania.

through the creative application of permaculture principles combined with relevant practical experience and technical knowledge of Trev Bamford, permaculture strategy strives to help people and organisations develop a sustainable and integrated permaculture strategy

permaculture strategy:

  • is a People Care initiative
  • identifies organisational strategies for actioning and teaching permaculture.
  • supports the integration of e-learning systems with participatory-based workshop environments for knowledge empowerment.
  • enables better zone 00 sensibility into the permaculture design and learning process