Tag Archives: Birds

Home & Away Part Two: A Guide to Absentee Gardening

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The third golden rule of absentee gardening: MULCH!

This post is the second in a series of three. Collectively, the posts weigh the pleasures of roaming (travel) against the pleasures of homing (epitomized by the practice of gardening), offering practical tips and solutions for gardeners – who like me – enjoy long periods away from the nest. In short, this series of posts is about ‘absentee gardening.’

In this particular post I outline the crucial six-steps I followed prior to departing on a four-week holiday. It goes without saying that gardens benefit from regular attention, and so four weeks without maintenance is a lot to ask of any annual vegetable garden!

Why I was leaving… the back story
A few hours after delivering my Confirmation Presentation (a doctoral milestone!) to a mingled audience of faculty, friends, family and office of research staff at the University of the Sunshine Coast I decided it was time to celebrate. I jumped online and did the unthinkable: booked a ticket to Thailand and Vietnam for one month. I hold the endorphins released during the presentation responsible for the rashness of my decision – or maybe it was simply the fact that I was missing Richie, who had been away in Thailand for four-weeks already.

Hold on honey, I’m a-coming!’ was the subject of the email I posted to Richie that night. Continue reading

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Filed under Doctoral Research, Earth Care, Food, Permaculture, Travel

The birds

A Rufus fantail pip-pip-pips in the garden. I watch it skitter along the central rib of a palm frond, which in an act of biomimicry, is also fantail shaped. The bird doesn’t stay long in one place. It swoops between frond and treetrunk, pausing  to unfurl its flashy tail, dancing from side to side. The bird is as fleet of foot as it is of wing. Two bounces and he’s off, taking his provocative self-advertisement elsewhere.

I’ve seen the Lewin’s honeyeater already this morning. I assume it’s the same bird I saw yesterday but it might not be. There are loads of them about. The Lewin’s has a liking, I’ve noticed, for the creamy two-inch trumpet-shaped flowers hanging in clusters from the drooping green stems of the male papaya tree. The birds have a knack for reaching their beaks right up inside the flowers, probing for nectar. The plundered flowers fall to the ground where they lie concentrated in piles beneath the Lewin’s favourite perches. The pattern they make on the soil a reflection of the Lewin’s desire.

I watch out the window of my studio as another creamy trumpet flower floats to the ground. The soil it lands upon is dark, rich and wet. It’s not like Richie and I to leave soil exposed: big permaculture no-no! But it’s something we’re trialling. What we’re doing is waiting for the rows of miniature broccoli, cabbage, lettuce, kailarn and kale that we sewed directly late last month to get a wriggle on: once their heads are a few inches above the soil we’ll lay on thick mulch, tucking them in to enjoy a slow season of growth and productivity. We’d never try it in summer. Too hot.

Looking again at the soil I imagine it smells sweetly of hummus, microbes and mycelium.

Like Richie and the papaya tree, the soil isn’t native to this place. It’s a ring-in. It landed here on the end of mine and Richie’s spades, gathered in wheelbarrows from the mountain of shit towering in the back of the ute: rotted cow manure from a dairy ten clicks down the road. Good Obi Obi cow shit. Continue reading

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Filed under Books, Doctoral Research, Earth Care, Food, Life Writing, Permaculture, Travel, Writing

Designer as recliner (defining permaculture…)

IMG_5965 This week I’m working on my confirmation presentation: a 15-20 minute ‘lecture’ I will be giving in about two-weeks’ time to my USC peers, supervisors, faculty, the Office of Research and any one else who wants to come along (do you?). The presentation will be a summary of my proposed research, including methods and methodologies, relevant literature, significance and innovation and the nature and purpose of the creative artefact.


Note: ‘Confirmation’ (in terms of higher degree research (HDR) does not entail donning white or attending church. It’s a process whereby a ‘probationary’ candidate becomes a fully-fledged (‘confirmed’) candidate. After completing one’s ‘confirmation’ the researcher gets the red, orange or green light from the Office of Research in regard completing their research. Confirmation takes place one-year after commencement for full-time candidates, or two-years for part-time candidates.


I’m anxious about providing my audience – early on in the presentation – with a simple definition of permaculture. The definition of permaculture with which I provided my audience this week during a test-run was Bill Mollison’s classic definition of permaculture from Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual:

Permaculture (permanent agriculture) is the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.  Mollison, B 2012, Permaculture: A Designers’ Manual, Tagari Publications: Sisters Creek, Tasmania, p. ix.

Earlier today I was reading Eric Toensmeier’s Paradise Lot and came across this definition of permaculture, which I like:

Meeting human needs while improving ecosystem health. Ferguson in Toensmeier, E 2013, Paradise Lot, Chelsea Green Publishing: White River Junction, Vermont, p. 3.

How simple is that! Here’s another:

Permaculture is a design system for creating sustainable human environments.’ Mollison, B & Slay, R M  2011, Introduction to Permaculture, Tagari Publications, Sisters Creek, Tasmania, p. 1.

In Paradise Lot (a fun, enthusiast permaculture memoir that’s well worth a squizz) Toensmeier explains permaculture thusly:

Permaculture (short for “permanent agriculture” or “permanent culture”) is a movement that began in Australia in the 1970s. It brings together traditional indigenous land management practices, ecological design, and sustainable practices to create landscapes that are more than the sum of their parts. Permaculture is not so much about having a greenhouse, chickens, and an annual vegetable garden as it is about how those elements are tied together to create functional interconnections that work like a natural ecosystem. Low maintenance is the holy grail of permaculture – a food forest with a hammock hidden beneath fruit trees, where, as permaculture codeveloper Bill Mollison famously quipped, “the designer turns into the recliner. (Toensmeier, E 2013, Paradise Lot, Chelsea Green Publishing: White River Junction, Vermont, p. 2)

Recently, in my own life, the permaculture designers (me and Richie) turned into permaculture recliners. Here’s a picture of Richie chilling-out in a hammock during a recent camping trip to Booloumba Creek, Kenilworth. IMG_3317 Seeing Richie hanging out got me thinking how little of this we’ve done lately. Continue reading

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Filed under Books, Doctoral Research, Earth Care, Permaculture, Philosophy, Writing