For us living in the Southern Hemisphere the approach of Spring is clearly evident. From the geese that have suddenly gone into gang-rape mode to the morning sun which arrives just a minute or two earlier every day. My Permaculture experiments have proceeded unabated, mostly concentrated at my little cottage on a wine farm in Paarl. Travelling back last weekend to the now-deserted Knysna house (the Child Bride being in the UK until November and Brat Deluxe in hist first year at University in Cape Town) I was pleasanty surprised to find that the absence of humans had certainly been good for the garden.
This Winter has certainly been one of the wettest in recent years and my very deeply mulched beds and compost heaps had benefited by the regular downpours turning the plentiful organic material into dark rich compost.
Meanwhile at my new home in Paarl, the chickens that are now part of my daily life, have revolutionised the way I look at gardening. Aquaponics first opened my eyes to sustainable living but adding three simple egg-laying hens to the mix has suddenly made the process so much easier. Their constant digging and rooting for insects in the mulched beds have aerated and turned over the soil. Their droppings and littler from their coop has fertilised the soil in way that would have cost a load of money using dangerous and unsustaniable chemical fertlisers.
This Winter I experimented with green manure. This is basically planting a crop in Winter that just covers the soil and is then trimmed down to soil level as Spring arrives. Nitrogen fixing plants are used and after the plant is cut, the roots rot under the ground providing important elements to the soil and also opening deep channels deep into the soil. The leaves also provide a handy snack for the chooks.
On the Aquaponic front I brought a couple of Tilapia and all my Comet Goldfish broodstock to the Paarl Cottage and come Spring I’ll put together a small AP system just to keep my hand in.
As soon as I start my Spring plantings I will have to confine the chickens to a smaller area around their coop as they can cause real damage to new seedlings. I built a simple fence out of bamboo and will work on a gate this week. They are going to have to start getting used to a smaller range area but it’s that or a ruined garden. This is what the fence looks like. I will probably plant gooseberries and tomatoes up against it.
I leave you with this quote from Henry David Thoreau whose book, Walden I have kept on my bedside table for years;
“The surface of the earth is soft and impressible by the feet of men; and so with the paths which the mind travels. How worn and dusty, then, must be the highways of the world, how deep the ruts of tradition and conformity!”