Unfortunately, the only way to excavate our back yard is by hand. There’s no chance of getting a bobcat in as the sides of the house are narrow and steep and pretty much everything, including the water tanks, tools and soils etc will have to be carried in.
Keeping in with sustainable practices, our foundation work will be done by reusing on-site rock. Although it varies, the sandstone in our area has a mostly high quartz content, so its very strong and durable. It has very good interlocking properties so is perfect for making walls and garden beds and has natural water retention and drainage qualities. It can be sawn, chipped or split if you know what you’re doing and it’s always handy when you have a stone mason in the family.
Uncle Robot (aka Robert or Bob) is our human rock machine. He’s an experienced stone mason and landscaper and has already done beautiful work on our property. The rock is free and is resistent to termite activity so it will be our main source of material for terracing, garden beds, paths and steps and walls to support the ‘chook nook’.
It will be slow work, but that’s okay because we’re not in a hurry. We want to get things right this time and turn a very ordinary backyard into an extraordinary food garden. Most importantly, we want to enjoy the learning experience and share it with our family and friends and demonstrate to others along the way what can be achieved with a bit of imagination, hard work and patience.
Luke our son is the family tradesman so his building skills will be put to good use for a diverse range of jobs. His girlfriend Roz is our keenest young member and has already started her own vegie garden in Wollongong where she’s currently studying. She’s ready and eager to help out on weekends. She’s also very interested in permaculture and urban sustainability and is a natural earth mother.
Our close friends Tanya and Andy (and Hannah) are more like family and are small space eco garden specialists. They’re about 6 years ahead of us and will bring valuable knowledge and experience to the development of our permaculture garden. They live their lives making environmentally sound decisions and are already great role models in being able to live within a small ecological footprint.
Luke’s friend Rak, is our plumber and will install our new tanks in mid June. We already have 2 tanks which provide 5000L of water but once the job is complete our total water harvesting capacity will be 10,000L which doesn’t sound like much but is remarkable considering the layout of our block. We’ve chosen coloured metal tanks for the front of the house, galvenised steel for below the decks and one plastic tank for a difficult to fit space. As none of our gutters have down pipes, there’s a fair bit of work in the set up and our plan is to capture water from every roof level inlcuding the carport which will require fitting a new gutter. Later on we hope to have Rak retrofit tank water for flushing toilets and the washing machine.
Chris and Kath both work in the conservation field and have an emotional as well as intellectual attachment to the natural environment.
Chris will be the grunt (his words not mine). He’ll be assisting Uncle Robot, Luke and Rak with the heavy jobs and will work on his own special projects such as the nursery, the ‘chook nook’, garden beds, soil conditioning and irrigation set-up. He’s also a very keen and experienced gardener and will embrace and apply the Permaculture design theories we learn in our course. He’s keen to learn about espallier and how we can best utilise vertical spaces and will be a fabulous mentor to the younger crew.
Me, Kath will be the motivation officer and principal research scientist. I’ll also be the cook, first aide officer and shopper.
Daughter Madz and her boyfriend Poodle (yes, Poodle – short for Jeremy) will also help out if they ever get out of the surf!