Summary + Statistics
Location: Daylesford, Central Victoria Regional Town (pop. 4000)
Soil: Disturbed (by gold digging and development) sedimentary clay loam;
Build: Steel framed prefabricated home, 2008 (main house) + timber frames on stumps (other buildings).
2017 Property Value: AU$458,000
Household: Family of 4: 2 adults and 2 children (5 & 15yo), plus 3 adult SWAPS (volunteer helpers)
Animals: 1 dog, 9 chickens, 3 ducks, 10,000 (approx.) earth and tiger worms, 40,000 (approx.) bees
Floor space: 120m² (main house) + 20m² (other buildings)
Roof area: 150m² + 50m²
Water tank storage: 36,000lt
Tank water use: Est. average of 180lt per day
Mains water use: 600lt per day in summer months only (mainly garden)
Greywater: Water from the shower/bath is directed to garden swales
Power: 1.0kW Grid-tied solar. Annual Power exported:?kWh
Annual Power imported: ?kWh
Av. Power produced: 2.96kWh p/d
Av. Power used: ?kWh p/d
Hot Water System: Wood fire
Annual Wood used: 9m³ (collected in bike trailers and wheelbarrows from neighbouring forest and local tip)
Food production: 60% vegetables, fruit, eggs, ducks, acorns and occasional rooster; 10% foraged wild foods; 10% community gardened and gifted foods; 10% gleaned; 10% locally farmed, eg: inoculating edible wild mushrooms in forest area, and in garden; establishing the naturalisation of various root vegetables in the perennial garden, food forest and intensive annual crop production over entire site.
Waking hours at home: 85% home-based education and production.
We have another full-time SWAP too, Jeremy Yau, who did an informal apprenticeship with Patrick to build his own small garden dwelling: the Yause. It houses a futon mattress and a chest of drawers, and features a deck out the front with two citrus plants on either side.
Between the Yause and the Cumquat is a squat composting toilet for the SWAPs. The final small building on our block has had many incarnations. First it was a raised garden bed, then a double-storey cubby house, a composting toilet, a hot house, a pet cemetery (where we buried a neighbour’s cat that had been hit by a car), and now it is the Cookhouse: a four person wood fired sauna Patrick built out of local macrocarpa and insulated with sheep’s wool from the tip. Every Friday night in the cooler months we fire it up and invite over family and friends. Everybody brings a dish to share and a towel if they wish to have a sweat.
To ensure our permaculture communitarianism expands past the quarter-acre compound of Tree Elbow we organise various community projects and events.
The same goes for the extensive forest land to the south of our home. Over the years we have foraged 15 edible species of mushrooms there, blackberries, wild apples, hawthorn berries, rosehips, native cherry, elderflowers, countless edible weeds, and snared rabbits and gleaned fallen wood. We make sure we don’t over harvest this renewable resource so as not to interrupt the processes of decomposition required to keep the soil alive and giving. However, under-harvesting also causes a serious threat to the forest. Every several years the fuel load builds up to what the CFA, and other land authorities, deem unsafe for the town, and they set the forest on fire. Each time this occurs, the ringtails (who have built their dreys in the hawthorns to protect them from powerful owls and foxes) and many other critters who have long made their home there are burnt out, the forest humus is once again destroyed and the soil put into a greater state of drying. By harvesting the excess fuel, pruning out deadwood, chopping and dropping woody material into small, quickly decomposing parts and stomping down the dry, fire-prone blackberry canes (keeping this soil-stabilising plant as a groundcover so other species can push up through and eventually shade it out), we give to the forest. Our activity helps to create an ecology that has plenty of humus-building material and thus water conserving properties for biodiversity to flourish while reducing the fire risk. This work is transformative as we go outside the typical limitations of anthropocentric modern life into a deeper realm of creaturely know how, plant wisdom and mycology, to be, in effect, in service of the forest that in turn keeps us warm and bears us fruit.
While this particular gift- giving and receiving economy of sacred proportions is specific to ours and our neighbours’ environment, these kinds of more-than-human relationships can occur in any homeplace.
The dominant economic system can only be composted by critically observing where its harm derives – cars, supermarkets, indulgence tourism etc. Turning our backs on an irresponsible economy, one household at a time, means making some big decisions. This takes courage, will and a whole load of hard work. While the way we live is just one response to the predicament of the times, culture change can only occur if households and communities begin to map out their own place-specific plans to disentangle themselves from the drudgery, barging, guilt, stimulants, tricks, glitz, infotainment and mass destruction of cultural capitalism.
In whatever form this occurs, an abiding, tangible relationship with one’s local land (be this a farm, forest, suburb or industrial wasteland) and the continued or repatriated flowering of it must be at the heart. In other words our central ideology must shift from total extraction to songful regeneration. This, at least, is what we have learned over a decade of deliberate transition. It’s the details that matter, and the flowering earth of your loved homeplace will show you the way.
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