The Robotorisation of Jo!

My friend Jo has been Robotorised! When I spoke to her the other day, she proudly told me that she had been so inspired by the photos and stories of Robert’s stone work and garden transformation that she decided to buy herself a stone cutter.  You may remember me mentioning that Jo and her husband live in the lower Blue Mountains and although an hour away from our place, the area shares similar landscape qualities to the Hornsby Plateau dominated by dry sclerophyl forests and sandstone gullies and gorges.

Looking down on the stone terraces

Like many of the homes in the areas around Sydney, the sandstone sitting beneath Jo’s place was excavated to make way for building foundations. Thanks to Uncle Robot and the wonders of the internet, Jo and Bernie now have plans to utilise the discarded sandstone blocks that have lain idle under the house.  She was very excited about the prospect of finally being able to put this valuable resource to good use and I was just as excited to hear that someone has been inspired by one of the ideas presented in my blog. I’ll definitely be encouraging Jo to share some of her photos with us and trust me, she’s a very good photographer.

Spotted Pardalotte, Glenbrook NSW, photo taken by Jo Barrett

Here’s one of her many high quality photos taken from her backyard. She has a knack of capturing the essence of the Australian bush with it’s magical array of wildflowers and colourful bird life.

At the end of our first week of holidays, we now have three garden beds fully completed. It doesn’t sound like much but working on such a steep site has it’s challenges, not forgetting the time and work involved in cutting and shaping the stone for the garden bed walls. After doing a bit of research and talking with gardening friends, I’ve decided the best approach for us is to plant out each bed as it’s completed. This will enable us to stagger our plantings and get accustomed to the additional work involved in maintaining our Permaculture garden. As we have to bring soil in for each bed, we’re opting for a range of bagged materials made from recycled garden waste. It’s definitely the more expensive option but is much easier to handle and carry all the way down to the back yard.

Marigolds and aylssum to confuse the insects, broccoli and snow peas to eat at their best, rocket and lettuce are good all year round, and carrots and strawberries to munch from the ground.

The boys also completed 3 concrete pads for our water tanks. It took sixty four 20kg bags of pre-mix concrete which Uncle Robot and Chris hand mixed and poured. It took a full days work to complete but saved us over $500 on pump fees.

Chris wetting down the new tank slab, an important part of curing the concrete.

So as you can see there’s some give and take with the expenses. I guess when you’re working on any project, you have to weigh up the pros and cons of each stage and do what works best for you and your site. The Permaculture way is to reuse whatever you can from the site and import as little as possible but urban backyards can be very limiting especially during the set-up stages and there’s often a need to bring in some materials initially. But once the system is operating and you have your compost set up, water tanks in place and seed saving underway, the need to bring stuff into the site is greatly reduced over time.

For the last few months I’ve been attempting to grow my own seedlings as I find the cost of, well everything really, but in this case nursery raised seedlings, outrageous, especially if you’re wanting to plant out a whole bed. You can be looking at $60-$80 plus and I recon it’s enough to turn some people off gardening for life. While raising your own seedlings or directly planting seeds into the soil doesn’t have the same instant gratification, it is much more economical and for our Permaculture garden, we eventually aim to grow everything from seedlings raised by us in our purpose built nursery. It’s also a good way to slow down and take the time to observe and learn. I’ll be honest, I’ve had some successes and some failures with my seedlings and my 2011 Year 10 science project is so far proving that the majority of old seeds definitely loose their viability over time. Earlier this year I purchased a large range of organic vegie seeds from Green Harvest in Qld most of which I’ve planted have propagated. I also hope to set up a seed swapping site down the track. I like the idea of variety in our diet but can see how challenging it will be to keep up an adequate supply of seedlings and vegies to be truly self reliant. No doubt it will take some time to get good at this but day by day I’m increasing my knowledge base and am pleased to advice that I’m enjoying every minute of it.

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