My name is Waldo, my wife's name is Tilani and our cat's name is Moon.
We feel like we've been permies since birth but we're only in our teething stage now, three going on four. Our amazing permaculture experiences started in the Kalahari Desert which got us to Guatemala in Central America, that lead to a few Caribbean islands and finally back to the Kalahari Desert. We felt that we needed to apply our knowledge and accepted a job as farmer & chef on an organic farm with an organic vineyard, free range layers and grass fed beef. It was a great learning experience, the curve was steep and the squeeze was worth the juice. All of this preamble brings us to the topic at hand
Our not-yet but in the pipeline Permaculture Nursery - lifegrow.
Lifegrow will be the focus of this thread and the first endeavor of our Empire (wouldn't mind anyone suggesting a different name).
Elaboration on the Empire and the functions of the Nursery to follow in other posts.
The Nursery is located in South-Africa on a south facing mountain foothill with the 40ha farm spread across an elevation of 330m - 450m. It's a Warm Temperate climate and there is water EVERYWHERE! We have 3 dams that where known and we've recently found three more, one filled and the other two are empty.
The available infrastructure is enough to make any permie giddy. 1 x 2000 square meter (half an acre) - 5m tall shadehouse. 1 x Greenhouse with a capacity for 405 seed flats (200 hole) which comes down to 81 000 little plants nestled together, and if they get cold there is always the under-bed heating and if that gets too much we can cool them off with the fully automatic misting system (gravity & active catchment driven) which is in both structures. Planters, trays, tools, compost, wood chipper and wood are all readily available on site. With plans to drastically expand the existing worm farm and introduce chickens to the system we should be self-sufficient on the material side of things.
No one has tended to the nursery for about 2 years so it is a little overrun with weeds/half grown trees. The remnants of the old tenants amount to a few hundred indigenous trees, all of them are root bound in confining plastic bags with a few sending tap roots Through the bag then Through the artificial plastic mulch.
This leaves us with sufficient growing space, mature trees and shrubs to propagate from, water to grow them with, soil to grow them in and pots to sell them in.
We are kittens who have fallen squarely in the butter bath.
Our later posts will elaborate on how we aim on making this an intentional, global and local nursery which will provide essential permaculture services to the surrounding community as well as actively promoting self-sufficiency on all fronts
Thank you for your time and we look forward to a long and happy relationship with the permieverse.
As mentioned before we have twelve concrete slabs, 6 of which are housing all of our winter experiments.
Since winter is upon us I have started insulating the enclosure. All that remains is to attach the poly to the eastern and western walls.
Now to the question and partial answers - if I find it necessary to heat the enclosure a wee bit, how should I go about it?
1. I can fill the gaps (in drawing) underneath the beds with any form of insulation/biomass (hay, woodchips, live-sheep etc) which should retain more heat and cause a warmer surface to grow on
2. I can either create raised beds on top of the concrete with gravel-stones underneath to aid in drainage & add more mass.
3. I can paint everything black.
4. The classic 200l/50 gallon drums by the southern wall.
5. This will be implemented - horizontal racks between the beams on the southern wall (remember I'm in the Southern hemisphere so that North facing wall is my warm wall) to support numerous planters which adds growing space & adds a huge amount of mass.
6. I can build a RMH which you can see in my masterpiece of a drawing.
7. Massive compost pile (we're literally making hundreds of tons) with black pipe snake here, there and everywhere.
So what do you crazy cats think?
Tell me what you would do, or which combination of the above 7 you would implement first or anything related.
Warm temperate climate, lowest I've recorded outside so far has been 10 degrees Celsius.
we've been to your site a few times. LOVE your recipes. You're welcome to pop by anytime.
We're still in the early stages. 50% planning/planting & 50% cleaning/maintenance work.
We have a great community in the area and a few senior-ish permies too.
As a side note, Instagram is by far the farmer/gardener's friendliest marketer. No hassle, no pressure, your photos, your rules.
At a weekend gathering, all of the farmers were showing off their new toys - cellphones. Except one. When asked why he doesn't have one he replied "I leave mine in the car, as it is for my convenience and not the convenience of others."
Many a time have I told people to hold on for 15 minutes when they ask me to help them here and there.
Your time is important, your concentration more so.
Specifically when it comes to tasks of a physical nature. When asked to "just help quickly" it is easier to lift your hands from the keyboard and your butt from your seat than it is to lay down the (insert your choice of excavation tool, mine is a sturdy hoe), remove the gloves & scrape off whatever is on and under your boots.
WE'RE SO FRIKKIN EXCITED WE MIGHT JUST GROW COMFREY OUT OF OUR EARS.
I see potential to add a lot of thermal mass under those benches. This could be in the form of barrels which are placed there only during the heating season or rock could be stacked in there. This would be a more permanent situation. It would provide a place for vermin to hide, but you might also get beneficial creatures. I know there are certain snakes that you would rather not have in the green house with you.
Since your winters are rather mild, I would consider not burning fuel to keep it warm, but instead use large flat plate solar collectors. Hopefully there is somewhere lower than the greenhouses where this can be done, so that the warm air can flow in unpowered. Old hay elevators, the type used to lift rectangular bales, can make an excellent base for a flat plate collector. Two of them joined together, could provide a large surface area, but still be mobile. During the hot season, this mobile source of hot air could be used for drying crops.
With huge amounts of compost, I wonder if you would be able to place some of it in very large piles within a greenhouse. Pipes filled with water could circulate the heat so that you don't have to deal with the moisture provided by such large piles.
Do you provide your own security? I know several people from South Africa and Zimbabwe who lost everything when their farms were overrun by thugs.
Biomass is the key. Keeping out snakes and other vermin is also a priority. We have an abundance of Kooigoed, Everlasting, Imphepho (Helichrysum petiolare) http://www.plantzafrica.com/planthij/helichryspet.htm and other Helichrysum species which we can use as biomass. The other option is our almost unending supply of Black Wattle (Acacia Mearnsii), which we can stack in there. A great solution except for critters & possibly unwelcome fungi.
The Khoikhoi used the leaves and flowers as bedding; campers still do the same today. Burning a mixture of Helichrysum and Artemisia afra leaves, makes a pleasant insect repellent. It is very effective at keeping flies and mosquitoes away.
I was wondering about not adding biomass and rather closing up all of the gaps with the mountains of landscaper's fabric we have. In my mind this creates small little ovens of warm air that is constantly pushed up against the beds during the day and should retain more heat in the concrete when the temperature starts descending. Does anyone know if this will work? As the beds are N-S orientated the paths can also be covered with the landscaper's fabric to warm up faster during the day.
The compost + plastic pipe idea would seem to be a great additive if we get a cold snap. Would mounting the pipe underneath the concrete be needed or can it just lie on the brick 1m below the beds?
In our situation the beds would have to be outside - lack of space. Designing it into a greenhouse is not a bad consideration.
I included the drawing for you to see if the flat plate solar collectors would work in our situation.
Dale, the farm is situated in a rather safe area & province. Our 40ha falls under marginal ground in this area, so if things do go south we might be the last to feel it. Our government always say land claims are around the corner but this time it might be true as legislation is in the pipe-line, as I understand it, any race except Caucasians will be allowed to claim any land they please without the original "willing seller, willing buyer" clause.
As of yet I haven't seen many of these claimed lands being productive. There are numerous reasons for this but the main one for me is Education. The new owners have close to zero knowledge of sustainable practices.
So if anyone is willing to take the gamble on South-Africa you will find many farms (there was a fully fledged tea & dairy farm up for auction a while ago) for relatively cheap.
The only thugs we have here are the Baboons. Our solution for them will be part 6ft electric fence part FFF (Furious Food Fence) which will be made up out of Num-Num shrub (Carissa macrocarpa). Fruiting Rubus vines which turn into shrubs if you allow them. Kei apple (Dovyalis caffra) & possibly Molasses grass. Feel free to add to the fence.