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September 5, 2008

organic farming in difficult places

Posted by dogpossum on September 5, 2008 10:26 PM in the category greenies

Read this fascinating blog about organic farming in Kiberia - remaking garbage dumps into gardens (follow the links to the 'Kiberia slum' especially).

Then read this awesome article about keyhole gardens or make a freakin' neat bag garden with this little chick from Uganda:

Or you can make you own keyhole garden (via Send a Cow).

I'm getting into this action at the moment as we have a decent garden which I'm planning to build up with some herbs, some natives and possibly some veggies (though, realistically, herbs + a couple of citrus trees will fare better with us). Our landlord is a bit particular about the house, though, so I have to give a plan of where I want it/what I want to plant to the real estate agent. I am still deciding (that's the best bit, really), so I'm delaying. Meanwhile there're a zillion seeds germinating (hopefully!) in our bathroom, and we've put in a compost bin - without permission!

There are two flats in this house (a front and a back one), and we only have two bins between us (one recycling, one general waste - still no freakin' green waste bin!), so we need to keep our waste to a minimum. We find that with composting and generally avoiding massively packaged food (which we should all do anyway - nasty sugar, salt, artificial shit - don't buy that prepackaged pasta sauce - make your own! Don't buy skanky jarred sauces - make your own! They taste better and they're much better for you), we don't produce much garbage generally. Between the two flats we're not filling our bins each week anyway.

I'd really like to get to a market or even a nursery to buy some plants, but we don't have a car, so it's going to be a challenge getting the mofos home. But we've hoiked heaps of shit home in our backpacks before, so we're not afraid. I'd also like a few bales of straw to mulch the garden beds, but that might be even more ambitious. Frankly, I'm thinking about getting into growing my own mulch - cheaper, easier. There are a few seed options, but I want to think about it carefully first.

Any how, here's my seed/plant list (btw, I buy all my seeds from eden seeds - gotta love those hippies with their 24 hour turnaround:

passionfruit vine: fast growing, good screening plant, lovely flowers, great fruit (and I want to try a variety that likes these warmer climes)
lemon tree (pot or ground, but probably pot)
kaffir lime tree (same)
lime tree (same)

Some native action:
I'm thinking small trees (our garden is sloped and I want to screen the front rooms from the (busy) road - probably banksia, grevillea, etc. I'd like to use stuff indigenous to this area, though, so I'll have to do some research. I'd also like to add in some smaller plants - grasses and things that smaller birds like.
So we're looking at about 4 small trees (I'm thinking 5m max), some shrubs (4 maybe) and some grasses (as many tubes as I can afford, in as many types as I can find). All low-water ones. I'm also keen for some sort of vine (a climber not a sucker) to twine up the front steps. There are a couple of natives I quite like, but I'm considering something 'traditional' and quite strongly scented, as it's a 'federation' type house, and really needs a 'traditional' element, even if I do go nuts with the natives.
The other week we were at the Ashfield shopping centre (checkin' out the new hood), and the council had a stall where they were giving away 'free trees'. Your average punter is never hugely interested in these - they think they're being sold something. But I've seen council stooges doing this before, and I have a scam: I make them give me as many as I can before they start to balk. So we scored 3 or 4 tiny tubes of anonymous natives. I have planted them in the garden, discovering the dirt is gorgeous.

Any how, I'd put the natives in the front part of the garden, and the herbs and veggies up the side. The side is quite sloped, which is nice - good drainage. I'm considering some sort of decorative mass-planting approach: eg using a few lemon grass plants as a feature, a few rosemary plants as a low hedge up the path, lavender under the clothes line (smells good on the laundry!), some masses of parsley (I'm really fond of parsley as an ornamental - it's so green and fiesty, and comes in a few useful varieties. I also use it a lot in cooking), and of course a heap of oregano, basil, mint, marjoram. This time I'm going to take care with different species of mint and with the oregano/marjoram - those fuckers are incestuous and you end up with a general mass of 'plant'. I'd also like a couple of chilli plants.
I am a little bit interested in growing some ginger - it could be warm enough here. They have a whole big garden bed of native ginger at the university, so I'm going to casually hack out a heap of shoots one afternoon and take them home to pot (I'm wary of putting it into the ground as it can go nuts). I am going to brazen my way out of any challenges: "it's ok, I'm staff, this is for a class on indigenous food, nothing to see here."

Seeds I've planted in the home made greenhouse (just get a plastic tub from Big W, and fill it with the little seedling planter things - punch a few holes in the tub, but tape them over when you don't want moisture getting out):
parsley (flat Italian)
sweet basil
bush or European basil
Thai basil
lemon grass
some lavender cuttings
garlic chives
... and something else.

I don't actually have much hope for my seeds, as I've gotten really slack and useless with germinating seeds (not like in the olden days), but still. Seeds are best, as you get nice, tough plants, and it's about $2 for a pack of seeds that'll make a zillion plants, as opposed to $5 for a pot of a couple of pathetic young plant that've been abused and force-grown in scary mass greenhouse situations. But I think I'm going to need to go to the nursery for some stuff.

Incidentally, we haven't actually broken ground on the garden beds. Why not, when spring is so obviously upon us (and my, it's nice being back in the subtropics, where there're proper 'wet' and 'dry' seasons, not this bullshit 'European' type seasonal arrangement)? Well, partly because I'm trying to figure my way through some sort of raised bed arrangement - it's always a good option. I've been on the lookout for railway sleepers (less ambitious than you might think - we're near a railway yard - more ambitious than people without cars should be, perhaps), old bricks, etc. I'm wondering if I'm hardcore enough to flog bricks from building sites - I've seen a few lying about. I know it's wrong, but well, I just don't care. My main concern is not getting caught. As I did today on the bus with my 'student' bus ticket. Damn.*

Have I mentioned that I now work three jobs?
1. working at the lovely bookshop.
2. DJing
3. teaching stoods at the Big Rich G8 Uni

I like all of them, but teaching is currently no.3, because I'm not sure academia is for me any more. Working at the bookshop is no.1, mostly because there are a lot of books there, the people I work with are lovely, and ... well, there are BOOKS there. It's not a chain store.
DJing is second, because I get to play music that I like. That's great. This job pays crapperly, but teaching has the worst hours and most exploitative working conditions.
Teaching is interesting when it's going well, but I'm not enjoying the broader institutional structures. I'm having trouble adjusting to a G8.

Also, I am thinking of becoming a professional explorer (kind of like this, but more with the arse kicking), because I am good at reading maps and walking. I think I'll make The Squeeze be my Tenzing Norgay, because he is both strong and brave. He is also aesthetically pleasing, which I think will help when we are somewhere particularly inhospitable. Like North Sydney. Having conquered all of Paramatta Road from Summer Hill to Glebe, our next expedition will be to either the Glebe Markets or the Burwood Markets. We will need to employ pack ponies, I think.

*the stooge at the campus newsagent gave me the wrong ticket and I only noticed once I was on the bus. Then I just kept throwing them craps til the 5-0 busted me today. I didn't cry, but I did try the 'poor tourist' card. The man was very nice, but also very strict. But it was the most hardcore bust I've ever been in - I'm surprised no one was gunned down by The Man. About 20 cops/traffic gumbies stood in the road (in the CBD!) and waved down the buses, then boarded and did a spot ticket/pass search. Any dodgy action, and we were off the bus, onto the curb. Then the bus was waved on, and we were left there on the side of the road with millions of The Man. But I didn't cry. I considered it as a scam, but changed tack. Mostly I was worried I'd be late for my horrid 9am start. But I got there in time, escaping with a $100 fine. Dumbly, I failed to give an inaccurate address - I could've gotten away with it as my ID was all Victorian. But I don't think I'm hardcore enough for that shit. So I took my fine like a badass and got on the next bus they waved down and strip searched.

Posted by dogpossum on September 5, 2008 10:26 PM in the category greenies