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Posts Tagged ‘permaculture design’

In April this year (2010), after a few years of careful research, we bought an 8 acre block of land just outside of Geeveston in the Huon Valley, Southern Tasmania. We’d been visiting my brother and father in Tasmania for years and the idea of living there became more and more appealing. We both wanted a rural lifestyle and a milder climate than the 40 degree celsius summer days we get in Adelaide. Tom is a water person who loves big rivers and open ocean, while I love tall forests, mountains, green hills, and growing food. Many areas of Tasmania offered all this and rural land was much more affordable than in South Australia.

The beautiful Huon River

However, it took a few years to find the right area and then a few more to find the right piece of land. Luckily, I’d attended an excellent Permaculture Design Course (PDC) with Graham and Annemarie Brookman at the Food Forest in South Australia, and this helped us define what we personally wanted…

We wanted a northerly aspect to make the most of the sun – particularly important, and sometimes hard to find, in the hilly Huon Valley where Winter days are short. Our block faces North in a sort of diamond shape.

Looking down the hill to the Northern corner

We wanted decent soil and rainfall – permaculture can of course be practised anywhere and helps people to make the most of any conditions, but if you have a choice, it certainly makes life easier to have growing- friendly conditions. We have 800ml rainfall a year and room for dams. Our soil is a clay loam, just a little on the acid side which is not a negative (easily managed and increases potential nutrient uptake of plants – not to mention great for growing berries, yum!).

We also wanted to be located within a friendly community. It wasn’t until I did the PDC that I realised how important a sense of community is to me. In fact this is the main influence on our decision to settle in the Huon Valley (apart from how stunningly beautiful it is). I’d spent time in Hobart and also Wynyard with relatives, but I’d never stayed in the Huon Valley. We had ridden a motorbike along the coast once , and passed through on the way to some camping further south at Cockle Creek so we knew the area was stunningly beautiful. When I did some internet research and noticed there was a strong permaculture community, and then friends I’d done the PDC with moved there, we decided it would be a good idea for me to spend some time Wwoofing in the area (Wwoofing = Willing Workers On Organic Farms) to investigate further.

I remember driving down from Wynyard in the North where I’d been visiting my father and stopping at the Huon river. I was a little early to meet my Wwoofing host so I got out of the car and sat down for a while, looking at the river. I had a sudden sense of rightness and belonging I really can’t describe. The place just grabbed me by the ankles and held on. When Tom arrived to spend some time, he felt the same way about the place.

My time spent Wwoofing in Franklin and getting involved with the local market, a quiz night, wooden boat restorers, and the Permaculture Association gatherings made me feel even more at home as I met friendly, encouraging, welcoming, like-minded people, and I knew then that it might be possible to make the challenging move away from family and friends in SA.

We realised that local knowledge is invaluable so we asked for, and received, excellent advice, such as which Real Esate agent is a bit dodgy, or whereabouts the fog is pea-soup thick in Winter.

This year during a winter visit, we were even lucky enough to meet the couple who used to own our property when it was an apple orchard. They planted very effective windbreaks with native gums and blackwood . The trees mark out a drive, and divide the block into one large rectangle with two separate paddocks on the Western side; the upper one long and narrow, the lower one wider.

The Northwestern side paddock

For our purposes I’d have preferred the windbreaks to be just around the outside edge of the property, with no separate paddocks, but we’re reluctant to take out the mature native trees and start a windbreak from scratch. On the Eastern side there’s a long windbreak of pines planted by whoever used to own the property on that side – not native, unfortunately, and with some Hawthorn we’ll eventually remove. We have power and water at the boundary.

The block has quite a slope – generally about 15 degrees all the way down to the Northern corner. There is an enormous old apple shed that is placed as if it should be on the neighbour’s property but our boundary actually extends out around the shed to include it on our property. It’s common in the valley to have these strange angles and little shapes of land that poke out from otherwise straight boundary lines, perhaps a legacy from the division of large acreages shared or sold between family members and neighbours. It’s a great shed, with Tasmanian oak flooring and walls & roof in reasonable condition, and we thought we might live in the shed for a while while we built a house on the property. However, its position means it gets no sun, water probably gathers beneath it often in Winter, and it’s only a stone’s throw from the neighbour’s house.

After some discussion we agreed that we’d take a rental property for a year, enabling us to live in comfort while we settle into the community and into new jobs. 

The next step is to design our block along permaculture principles and plan our house. We welcome ideas, input, and suggestions, so please leave a comment if you have any inspiration or hints for us.

Looking across the main paddock

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