Saturday, November 26, 2011

Lateral permaculture - preventing falls, design that takes care of clever old ladies

These cats were drawn by my friend Norma, the artist. She uses her left hand when she wants to be more creative. 
Try it. When you use your right hand, the clever & competent hand, it goes into autopilot, and draws what it thinks should be there. 
Not what is actually there, and not the most beautiful or useful choice. 

Norma just gave me another lesson in looking beyond the obvious, in designing a fall-resistant garden for herself. 
Norma and Cecilia winter 2011

She sometimes has dizzy turns walking in the garden. I worry, everyone worries.

So what I did was ask around for a carpenter to make up a pretty rail. 
An institutional metal rail will not do, as this is an artists garden.

Twig fence from Twigology
Garden handrail sketch

Some natural sticks, sturdily assembled, to be a natural-looking presences in her graceful, Japanese-influenced garden.

So the other day while passing by, I popped in. 
No Norma. 
I asked the workers in the house down the road if I could borrow their mesuring tape, and quickly drew up a quick plan with mesurements, for the fantasy carpenter to work from.

You can't get volunteers to do ALL the work.
This will do, as a rough guide. 
Just find sticks from a tree lopper, find the volunteer carpenter, someone young who wants to try something new.  
Help him make it, and Bobs your uncle.  

But I didn't find the volunteer carpenter.

So a few days later I turn up at Norma's.
Look at what she had done to the back garden:

Uneven, beautiful cobblestones, precarious to walk on.

The cobblestones are still there, but blanketed by 10 cm of cushiony mulched tree trimmings, a present from the tree-lopping man down the road.

Now the walk-way is more stable, and if she does fall, its so much softer and safer.

And it just happened.

What a good story of 'share the surplus'. Or more correctly, 'availablize the surplus'.
Material that was 'waste' to the lumberjack neighbor could save Norma's life.

Norma's shady back garden

Still, if you are a young carpenter wanting to try something new, come and have tea with Norma and I, and see what can be done.
See what lateral inspiration happens, when you enter Norma's world.

Norma's sculpture in the back garden
Sweetpeas by the front railings

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Sydney's Sculptures by the Sea, inspiring 'Edge gardeners' to create new worlds

Domestic Bliss by Peter Tilley

A little sculpture, Peter Tilley's Domestic Bliss turned out to be the one that went straight to my heart.

It is a blessing to consider this rocky, windswept world, from the comfort of cat, chair and a well-cut coat. 

My cat and chair are far away, in another city, waiting for me to find my next beloved house.
Hang on in there, Galliger!
Lion Sculpture

Spiderweb and Sea

I liked this because:
   * Its pretty and dainty
   * I don't wear jewelery myself, so have to enjoy what tinkly, sparkley things come my way
   * I get this sculpture made fresh, every winter morning, in my own gardens. For free!
And mine catch mosquitos and bugs.

Love your spiders.

I liked this Dr. Seuss style way of constructing a tree.
Poor tree, poor cyborg tree. All alone.

We are no good alone.

Thats the way.

I was so happy to see this, a flotilla of boats, sailing though the forest.

What are you doing here, looking so lost?

Oh my!

Steve Webb, children's garden designer & Family.

This excursion was one of my Tim Ferriss Meetups, a way for me to find interesting new friends in my new city of Sydney.  

It was great having Steve Webb and his big family come along.
Steve is a Permaculture Designer, doing work I love. He creates edible children's gardens, full of improvised gadgets, constructions, and real-life artworks. I love his Chicken Palace/Pirate ship with subterrainian 'telephone' pipe that you can really communicate on.

Steve, it was a lovely surprise to have the company of you and your beautiful family. 
I haven't eaten fish and chips on the beach with children, since it was us 7 Macaulay children. 

Our family had crazily happy times, with all those lovely children.
Parents are special people.

If you live in Sydney, Id love to see you at the Tim Ferriss Lifestyle Designers Meetup, for plotting and doing extraordinary things.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ask for help: Lucky visit to the Culinary Studio of Japanese cuisine with Hideo Dekura

Visiting Studio Dekura
I had no trouble finding the home-studio of the Dekura family.

'Welcome Cecilia-san' said the Verandah blackboard.

I DID feel welcome, and I felt important.

Before I'd even walked in, I decided "Next time I have a garden of my own, I'm definitly including a message-board'.

That's the purpose of gardens, to connect us to nature and each other.
Get the props that help.

Inside was the marvelous studio of Dekura-san, where I was lucky enough to be invited for a light lunch with Mr Dekura and his lovely wife Keiko.

Isn't he radiant?
See more of his story Here.

Book Launch & culinary demonstration
I first laid eyes on Dekura-san only a few days ago, at a very well-attended cooking demonstration, held to celebrate his latest book launch. 

Sushi dance with the Japanese Consul-General

His soft, smiley expression enchanted me straight away, as I watched him work with fondness and playfulness for the things he handled, and the people around him. Wonderful people - a famous potter, great chefs, including Margaret Fulton, and my go-getter friend, Hirano-san who invited me.

When clouds of smoke came from the oven where the squid was roasting, he didn't fret or freak out his  assistant.
"Mmm, this will taste MUCH more interesting" he assured her.
Positive. Adaptable.
That's what you need to do new things in this world.
I must remember this.

My second favourite part of the night was how he playfully persuaded the dignified Japanese consul general into doing the Sushi Dance, and forming lovely gentle bundles of rice for sushi.

My #1 favourite moment was watching him skin the ocean trout. His knife just 'swam' through the fish, instinctively listening to where it had to rise and fall, perfect.  All while he chatted on to us.

As he was busy signing books that night, I slipped him my permaculture pamphlet.
I had this fantasy of he and I demonstrating permaculture balcony garden cooking, here at my brother's grand kitchen in Ananndale.

My heart was racing when I got a phonecall the next day.

"Cecilia-san. Here in your pamphlet, it says "People with organizational skills wanted to collaborate on Creative Projects". I'm organized!"

Daikon Japanese Radish, with a okra garnish and bonito stock

So here I am in Dekura's house, eating his food, and doing a show-and-tell of my last decade of Permaculture projects. He likes It. I knew it!

Green shiso, in the garden of Mr Dekura

Potplants Galore
After lunch, we visited their impeccably-tended potplant garden.
The freshly-made raised-bed garden gets plenty of compost, with all the food scraps a fussy chef generates. 
In return, it gives hard-to-find japanese herbs such as shiso, myoga, and even the first yuzu citrus tree I've seen in Australia. 
Smuggled in by seed, I wonder?

Myoga, a kind of ginger, in the edible garden of Keiko Dekura
Mr Dekura did the carpentry of the wooden raised bed for Mrs Dekura's garden. 
Every day, in every way, in action, making his wife happy.

Cha gama, for boil water for tea
Look out for our event, in February 2012: 

'Zen House - how to use Japanese Tea Culture and Permaculture for a lush, action-inspiring home life. Force, virtue and willpower not needed.'

Monday, November 14, 2011

Haunted Cafe


Visiting a wise old friend in the next neighborhood, I stumbled upon a big find. 
A Haunted Cafe.

A stylish ghost from decades past said 'Come in for Tea'.
So I did.
I carry a Japanese thermos with me always, but I came in anyway.

Of course I did.
Wouldn't you?

A man came out. He probably grew up here.
Now he is an old man.

I said 'a Cup of tea please'. Then things started to happen.
He delved into plastic-covered shelves, slipped away. He some measuring, some fetching, some assembleing, some searching and finding.  I was getting a bit worried, because my parking meter was expiring.
Then I decided that you are meant to experience risk and loss at haunted cafes, so I settled in to do what his cafe is expert in.
Wating for the minutes to tick past. Without interuppting.
A good long stretch of minutes.

The tea came. There were many vessels.
A haunted house tea ceremony.

 He rang up 2.90 on the register. 
Then he carefully wrote a figure in a big book.

He sold ice cream, sweets, cigarettes, and tea. Just as promised.
That's how he lives his life.

I've been marveling at how resistant I am to doing new things in the first year of my new life, in my new city of Sydney. 

Maybe if I come back to the haunted tea room, the man of my dreams will walk in. 
Of the bus, maybe. 

All my resistance to life will melt into sweetness.

But the chances aren't marvelous.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Start at your doorstep, and keep on going - Harborside picnic with apple pie mistress Natsuno Kotori

Its Natsuno San!
Yellow is exactly the right color for this sunny lady, who I just met today.

By day she is a writer for Sydney's Japanese News Magazines.
In her 'other' life, she bakes golden french-style pastries and cakes, from her home in harbor-side Sydney.  'Arielle's Organic Cakes'.


She is also a master of 'Value adding'.
Why just have a grey interview in an office building, when you can have a picnic at the park in front of her apartment?
Why just two people?
She invited Mrs Umeyama along too, who is doing beautiful work getting the Japanese Seniors of Sydney connected and having fun.
Then I just tell my story once, and have more time for important things.
Like Apple Pie.

How was her pie? It was amazing. The pastry was flaky and stretchy, the chantilly custard was delicate.  The apples fragrant, not soggy, and because it was high in deliciousness, low in sugar, it tasted like food.

That meant I could just keep eating and eating it. 

For my first 7 months in Sydney, I stayed in Balmain, which has a reputation as Cafe Heaven. 
Its true there are excellent bakers, but most of them spoil everything with toxic amounts of sugar, so I only get to eat a mouthful.

Going back up to her apartment, she invites me to nibble the street trees. Lovely mulberries!
There was another rather wonderful surprise on the ground, sweet-scented sweet peas, just rambling around.
What do sweet-peas smell like? Easy! They smell of childhood Christmas. The dizzyingly wonderful smell of fresh plastic:  barbie doll hair and blow up swimming pools.
So terrible, that when you grow up and can do anything you like, most of the childhood desires have vanished.

Permaculture design: Stacking, increase edge, useful diversity

But I think there is something kid-like in Natsuno's delight in baking.
Her equipment cupboard is a kind of toy box for grown-ups, all these lovely tools and treasures.
Note the 'stacking'.
You just have to look at someone's cupboards to see if they enjoy cooking, or actually cook.

If you don't know where things are, or spend all your time searching and failing, cooking is a discouraging act.

Helping people re-arrange their kitchen so that harbor side picnics happen every day, that is one of my dreams in life.
Little by little.
Lets see how long it takes me to hold such workshops in my new city of Sydney.


Natsuno and her husband have moved 3 times, each time her kitchen getting smaller, and her view getting better.
What can be seen on her balcony?
There are herbs in pots.
There are punnets of Asian greens, sprouting from seed.
There are colorful lorikeets flying in for a feed and a squark, and there is a view of a very, very beautiful city. 

Keep your surroundings as beautiful as you can. 
It just might be that it makes its way into the taste of your cakes.

Order cakes from Natsuno:
Cremorne Point, Sydney.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Thai Orphanage garden, powered by Permaculture

Ginger beer, passionfruit drink, Watermelon, and a place to enjoy it all

Like a lot of people in Sydney, when I heard of the work Detective Inspector Baines was doing for orphans in Thailand, I wanted to do something myself. 
So I did what my skill is, and I drew up a pretty and useful garden. 

Now I have to work out how to make it real.

Its a permaculture garden, designed to catch its own water, and attract the love and harvesting it needs.

Most of all its designed as a 'best self' garden. 
While these children are creating and tending it, enjoying it, and watching others admire and enjoy it, they are saying to themselves 'Im pretty amazing, to have made all that'.

And it will be true.

Wicking bed design: Dr. Ross Mars. Artwork: Cecilia

There are now a long list of things that must be found, before this drawing becomes a real garden.
To Find
Someone expert, or about to become expert, who will build it.
Another reason to go to Thailand, so I can help.
Some corporate types who will donate us their frequent flyer miles to go .
Someone to source suitable, beautiful plants that the children will love.
And ways to overcome 100 other challenges, so that the children actually spend time there. 
Designing for bare feet. 
Designing so HIV affected children don't get wet. 
Designing so that fruit doesn't go unharvested - in Yasothon, when fruit rots, it really 'goes bad' attracting snakes and scorpions.  We want sweetness and light.
Designing so that willpower is not needed to keep things going. 

Curving, 3D garden for children to clamber in. Click to enlarge.

Please give me your ideas.
I sent out a request for ideas a few weeks ago. The water design below just turned up from Dr Mars, in Perth.
I nearly cried, I was so happy. 
Then I started drawing.
Dont do things alone. It won't work, and its not Permaculture.
Don't let me try to do things alone either. Thats my problem, you know.

Permaculture Design Strategies 
for Yasothon Orphanage Thailand    
by Ross Mars
The following ideas solely examine the use of rainfall as a method of irrigation of annual vegetables, small herbs and other shallow rooted crops.


•    Buildings do not have gutters 
•    Local materials such as small stone, soil, timber or larger rocks are available 
•    Plastic sheeting can be purchased, donated or sourced

Rainfall patterns
The following data was used in the design process:
•    Yasothon in NE Thailand has the annual rainfall of 1350 mm, much of this in the ‘wet’ (winter months).

•    There are two extremes – drought in the ‘dry’ from November to March (worst in December and January) and floods in the rainy season April to September.

•    Pan evaporation is high in some months. e.g. April, the hottest month, has a daily evaporation of 7mm (220 mm for the month).

•    Daily rainfall events typically are less than 10 mm. (If this amount fell in April then only 30% of the water is available as 70% evaporates away).

•    The monthly rainfall patterns are in table below.

•    There is a high degree of variation in rainfall – both what falls each month and yearly. •    There are about 68 rainy days and 297 non-rainy days (historical data since 1952).

Conclusions from data
It is essential to capture rainfall and store it. As evaporation can be high, rainfall events are infrequent and precipitation typically low when it does rain, trapping water in a reservoir that allows plants to pull some of the water as required is an important strategy for irrigation of food plants.
Some variation of a wicking bed is proposed. Essentially, this is:

•    Garden bed, with water reservoir built above-ground or below-ground, is lined with water-proof plastic sheeting to hold water. Capillary action enables water to slowly move towards the surface where plant roots can absorb and use effectively.

•    A piece of plastic pipe, or other, enables a person to examine water level and top-up as necessary (assuming some water is available from elsewhere).

•    Bed retaining by timber or rocks, which ever is available.

•    Large stone used to direct rainwater into reservoir, and prevent splash against building walls.

•    Small stone placed on bottom of bed to enable spread of water quickly across to all bed. Slotted piping would also help.

•    An overflow pipe (or more for large beds) is required to allow excess water to move from the reservoir. Water could be directed by piping or channel to a sump elsewhere where it could be used by other plants.

•    Bed will naturally fill with rainfall, as well as from the roof.