The Map Entry

With a project like this, planning is essential and over the years I have created various maps to work out positioning, planting and many other aspects of transforming our yard. In the last year or so though I’ve been working on a more comprehensive image, one which can be used as a base for other maps and will give us a good idea of how things should look when it’s “finished”.

In the last week, I was able to finally find the time to complete the last of the work on this map and convert it to digital form so I could play with it further. The original map is now on the wall in our main room – inspiration for continued productivity.

This map is based on a topographical style so the areas of blue do not represent permanent water necessarily but rather below natural ground level areas which may well fill with water during seasonal downpours. Only the deepest part of the lake is intended to have permanent water to allow for fish and yabbies, with the rest being allowed to evaporate and soak into the ground before being filled again – following the natural pattern for this area. The red lines represent fences and the buildings have cutaways to show floor material and room layout where appropriate.

Large Map Web

A digital image of the finished map.

Click here for a larger version

Permaculture encourages detailed planning so that trees planted are ‘in the right spot’ for their whole lives which are often far longer than those of the planters. One aspect of this planning is thinking about the frequency of use and locating things conveniently so that your ongoing lifestyle can be as relaxed and productive as possible. It’s an interesting exercise to really think about what aspects of your garden you will use more than others, especially when planning for self-sufficiency.

Permaculture Zones

Permaculture Zone mapping for our project

For further information on this method of garden/farm planning see Permaculture Australia or any number of resources available both in print and online.

I have also made some additional detail maps which if you are particularly interested, can be found here:

Location Names

Irrigation Layout

The possibilities for overlays seem almost endless but that will do for playing with this now, back to actually making it happen in the real world.


Planting the West Hill

After I had finished replanting all the natives that we had lost on the front hill, the time had come to press on to new lands… namely the West Hill (this name may change if we think of something better 😉 )

This is one of the largest zones to be planted this year so it took me a few days to get it done. I also implemented on of our new strategies to ensure the success of these plantings – I laid the dripper line as I planted the trees. I still needed to wait to turn it on until I’d finished planting the whole zone so that it made a full circuit, but it did mean that they started recieving regular water pretty quickly…. all except the 15 our of 75 that our tiny header tank can not reach on the line. These need bucket watering which is a pain, but I’ve already requested a quote from a steel manufacturer for a tank stand for the new header tank which will be about 4 times the size so that will fix that.

These trees, when they survive, will make a massive difference to the shape and climate of our yard, and I am hopeful that I can get as many again planted this year – covering what I can of the circle and Hecate’s Hill as well as maybe re-planting some of the hedge lines by some driveways… it all has to be done by the equinox though for any chance of survival and the sooner the better.

West Hill Planting (1)

The first half of the west hill just after creation in May 2013

West Hill Planting (2)

The first half of the west hill before Earthworks 2 – having matured for a year and ready for planting

West Hill Planting (3)

West Hill a couple of weeks after planting – the green is the revitalised non-prickly native ground covers taking advantage of the tree drippers

The Shed Tank (Part 2)

For the first part of the story see this post

Now that the hole was prepared it was time to put the tank in place. This meant some interesting manoeuvring with an old forklift and a lot of checking to make sure things lined up. After about half an hour of work though it was in and I was left to plumb it to the gutters and finish the stonework around it.

Luckily Noven was able to take on the majority of the child wrangling for 10 days so that I could make a concerted effort to get the zone finished. I excavated and levelled a further section of the old stone wall and used the rocks that were unearthed to build the start of a sculptural wall that will eventually edge the front of our block, finished the dry stone wall around the tank and wheelbarrow hole, laid out some paths and spread the shale – it was a lot of work but very satisfying especially as it constitutes an area of the yard which, now that it’s planted with some succulents, is pretty much complete.

I was also pleased with the results of the stone masonry – I’ve been playing with it a bit but this was the first serious ‘start to finish’ project I’d done so its success gave me hope for the eventual major house renovations that I’m working towards becoming skilled enough to complete to my satisfaction.

Following are photos of the finished product. I’ve planted the succulents in the raised garden beds since they were taken and there’s still a bit of work to do but all in all I’m quite happy with the point it’s at now 🙂

Shed Tank 2 (1)


The Shed Tank (Part 1)

A while ago we had organised a tank to replace the tiny one that was attached to the shed. Tanks take time though, so we didn’t expect it to come quickly. Time passed… All of a sudden, with very little warning we discovered that the tank was due to arrive and of course I’d been concentrating on other things so the area wasn’t cleared properly yet! With the help of the WWOOFers we had at the time, we pumped the small tank empty and shifted it to the poultry yards where it could have a useful temporary home. Then came the clearing process. It turned out to be quite a big job.

Shed Tank 1 (1)

The bushes came away easily as they are a shallow rooted (or so we thought) variety. However, underneath that camoflaging layer was the remains of an old stone wall and the tank that was coming was BIG so to fit it in that needed to be levelled, ie: digging out all the stones down to ground level to remove the mound from where the wall had fallen down years previous and melded with the landscape. The wall was made of very large stones so it was hard work but the lovely WWOOFers put in a Herculean effort and got it down to ground level.

Then the tank arrived. It was even bigger than we thought! In fact it was bigger than the shed, well taller anyway. This presents a problem when you want the water from the roof of the shed to run into the tank with maximum efficiency/minimal storage loss. The only solution is to sink it into the ground. Cue a lot of digging. The hole required needed to be 4.5m diameter and 40cm deep from the level at the base of the corner of the shed. Not only was that a massive volume of dirt to shift, but the stone wall had foundations (with some truly phenomenal rocks in it) that went a way below the ground level and those shallow rooted plants actually turned out to be deep, fragile rooted plants which broke off easily and left behind a network of woody booby traps to contend with. It took over a month to do with the help of 7 other people (WWOOFers and visitors) through that period it was achieved and what a relief that was!

Shed Tank 1 (2)

I also cut out a ramp for the wheelbarrow to get the dirt out and then, when it was deep enough for the tank I sank the ramp down a further 80 cm so that the wheelbarrow could be positioned under the tap. There is nothing more frustrating than not being able to get underneath a tap at the bottom of a tank! All the original tanks here suffer from that problem, but not this new one 🙂

Before we could position the tank though I needed to sift some shale and line the base of the hole so that there was a soft, level base for the tank. With a future 27,000L of water to be stored there it is vital that the base is prepared properly so as not to puncture the base of the poly tank – that would be a disaster. I also put up the first part of a dry stone wall where the tap was going to be situated so that the tank could rest on the edge of it when in position. Finally…. we were ready to put the tank in position… to be continued 🙂

Shed Tank 1 (3)

Earthworks 2

The success of the earthworks from the previous year encouraged me to organise to complete the planned major landscaping in May this year. This time I organised to hire a bobcat digger from the nearby pastoral station. This piece of machinery was much better than the dingo digger that I used the previous year being a bit bigger and more comfortable to use. I had access to the machine for two weeks this time so I was confident that I would be able to get everything done. It certainly helped that I had used the dingo the previous year though because it only took me about an hour to get back into the routine of the skid steer mechanism so I was able to be much more productive.

I started by finishing of the ‘lake’, digging the deepest part that I hadn’t been able to finish the previous year and using that dirt to build ‘Hecate’s Hill’ wrapped around that cove. This will be the only part of the waterscape except the reed bed graywater system to have permanent water – being the retreat zone for our fish when the lake is finished… but that’s a ways off yet. After the end of the first day with the bobcat the shape of it was there though.140510 Progress Earthworks 2 (3) (649x800)

The hole looks much deeper than it is because of the hill right next to it – a handy illusion 🙂

With that area of the yard now finished it was time to move onto the second acre where eventually our animal yards will be situated. I had marked out the plan with spraypaint and pegs as that system worked well the previous year, but this design was about three times the size and much more complicated – basically a figure of 8 of ‘waterways’ with varying depths to encourage water flow when we get rain and deep areas to act a pig wallows. These low points were to be surrounded by the corresponding ‘hills’ formed from the dirt I was moving. None of the hills are particularly tall. It took me about 5 days constant work to get it all done but I did!140510 Progress Earthworks 2 (1) (649x800) 140510 Progress Earthworks 2 (2) (649x800)  140510 Progress Earthworks 2 (4) (649x800)It’s quite difficult to get good representative photos of it. I would love to get an aerial shot one day. Now we will leave that area to settle (although I may plant some green mulch species on part of it in spring) for a year before planting it heavily with fodder appropriate natives that will allow our animals to free range as much as possible as well as stabilising the soil, blocking wind and creating a micro-climate that will grow more effective the more trees we can get in.

Before I took the digger back we also got some local shale gravel delivered to spread on paths and clear areas. This fine purple stone is the most amazing material and we are blessed to have access to an abundant supply. I am pretty sure that will all that we had delivered we will have enough for all the landscaping I had planned. I spread it out into smaller piles situated near where it needs to be used but it still needs to be laid out on the paths and clearings – a big job!

It’s so amazing to have all the earthworks done though! The shape of the land is there, like the first pass on a marble sculpture; the details will come but the character of the work can be seen now I think.

Summer Bounty

Even though we had a very hot summer, as soon as the temperatures started to drop the veggie garden in the shade house took off for a late but sustained productive burst. The hard work getting the structure of the area right is starting to show results, and what results!

Shadehouse Summer 2014 1

Shadehouse Summer 2014 2


So this summer we came one step closer to our goal with a glut of tomatoes, cucumbers and chilli and a goodly number of eggplant, sweet potato, pumpkin, zucchini and squash. Of course there is still much to learn and the rampant tomato plants choked out rhubarb, asparagus and countless other smaller species so some location specific changes will come next year. Its a fantastic feeling to see the desert so verdant though… even if in a small, well controlled area… hopefully its a sign of the future to come!

Wrap up of the Second Year

At the end of two years living back here in Beltana it was heartening to take a few photos for comparison of our progress and to see that even though it felt like there was a long way to go, we had actually achieved quite a bit.  I think the photos in this regard speak for themselves and I feel like I had a productive year, but I hope to achieve a lot more in the coming years so no time to rest really…