The pigs did a great job of banking earth up against the electric fence that ran on the contour line – a beautiful manured bund. This would normally be ok to plant straight into but we had some big mango trees to prune, so with the problem (what to do with two ton of mango prunings) being the solution, we had the mango wood for in-situ materials to make hugelkultur, and our preparation done thanks to the pigs.

Contour bund made by pigs, serendipitously ready to be filled with mango prunings.

Contour bund made by pigs, serendipitously ready to be filled with mango prunings.

The first bund filled with mango prunings.

The first bund filled with mango prunings.

The first bund transformed into hugelkultur bed on contour, with soak trench/footpath on upslope. Second bund now being filled.

The first bund transformed into hugelkultur bed on contour, with soak trench/footpath on upslope. Second bund now being filled.

Second bund being filled over.

Second bund being filled over.

Mulched and starting to plant.

Mulched and starting to plant.

Things starting to grow.

Sunrise over the Pacific ocean (click image). Things starting to grow.

The downslope of the hugelbeds are perfect for bush like plant like zucchini etc. After watering them in as seedlings, they are only watered passively from the watering of the tops. To my upmost delight, I have found that on the hottest of days they have never wilted, something I have always taken as a given with broad leaved cucurbits.

The downslope of the hugelbeds are perfect for bush like plants like zucchini etc. After watering them in as seedlings, they get moisture passively from the watering of top of the beds. To my utmost delight, I have found that on the hottest of days they have never wilted, something I have always taken as a given with broad leaved cucurbits.

The contour hugelbeds are designed to passively harvest runoff during rain events, the water is halted in the soak trench and the water soaks into the hugel beds and a lot of the moisture is stored in the bed itself. These beds will continue harvesting water and a freshwater lens will be created under the site, benefiting the landscape in general with water and nutrient flow – particularly the creeks and forest lower down. We have already noted a response in the trees downhill, especially a particularly gaunt avocado. In the spaces between beds, we have planted papaya to take up some of this available moisture. In aggregate, these contour beds act as a main swale.

I will from time to time post some events of the past which have led to where we are now. This post is about an area of awkward land that lends itself quite well to lantana infestation. It is steep country, fairly typical of areas of the Gold Coast hinterland that end up being voids. The emphasis here is permaculture design – adapting to the situation and using the intrinsic properties as strengths. The area is known as the ‘Bottom 40′:

IMGP2965j

My Father and I had pondered what would be the best kind of earthworks for the ‘Bottom 40′. We considered ‘Net and Pan’, a set of small swales approx 10m apart and also a combo of both, where in between swales there would be a net and pan. As it turned out it was far too steep (43%) for any swales, the one we did make ended up near vertical at the back and front and too small in capacity. The net and pan could have worked but two problems arose; the first was that in between the net, we still had steep incline that was largely unusable and hard to access -with the rainfall and temperatures here, nature would have stacked it full of ecology in no time, and left us lagging far behind. The second was that the net part of the job would have more than doubled the cost.

bottom40aerialaa

We ended up closing all of the pans up to create a scale pattern- like on fish and snakes but inverse, it soaks instead of sheds.

 

IMGP3006j                                                                                 The tool we used was custom made for the job. It was an old 3 point linkage grader blade that we had cut gussets from the back to create half of a hex, and then the top was modified so the 4 in 1 bucket could pick it up- the same way it picks up a level bar.

We ended up pretty happy with the result, although the machine was on the edge of it’s limits with the incline- always wanting to drift sideways away from the slope, needing the bucket dropped to stop the machine tipping downhill- and it is a tractor specially designed for steep grades too!

We have planted a food forest with an annual productive groundcover that will work as a market garden until the canopy climaxes and shades out the floor (out – competing lantana). Each pan or ‘scale’ will be a guild containing a tree, shrubs, vines and support species of all kinds.

I can now get around on the ‘Bottom 40’ without skittling downhill on my bum so many times!

cutlettest

Time to try the cutlets – the first meat out of the system, courtesy of the pig tractor. They came with a bit too much back fat so I trimmed them down. They are thick cut american style pork cutlets, with no rind so the fat can be browned nice and crisp without having to overcook the loin eye. The meat is marbled quite nicely.

trimmedcutlets

I rubbed celtic sea salt into the trimmed cutlets.

cutlet1

I started with the back side down over a high heat to start crisping the fat. The trick is to cook these the same way as steak to medium- put them on a high heat and sear and crisp the outside and don’t let the middle overcook.

cutlet2

The outside browning off, and fat starting to render.

cutlet3

The quality of the pork is unbelievable, it tastes so good! The outside and the fattier parts were nice and crunchy and the loin was moist and tender. These cutlets would go really well on a BBQ grill.

The pork belly with rib bones removed

I was keen to see how the pork tasted after I picked it up from the butcher. I selected a piece of belly weighing 3.4 kilos, quite a hefty piece from a 115 kilo pig. I purposely grew these pigs out to this size to get a decent pork belly and nice big collarbutts (neck), as well as trying to develop more flavour in the meat.

With the ribs removed I cut the piece into two parts, reserving one for curing.

With the ribs removed I cut the piece into two parts, reserving one for curing.

I included the knife I used in the pic, we have just moved house, our kitchen is a work in progress and my cooking knives are still packed…somewhere. It is my field knife, part hunters knife and part cooks knife, as you can see from the heel of the blade being lower than the handle, I’ve never seen another knife like it. It was all part of the type of cook going on, a bit improvised.

I scored the rind and rubbed in celtic salt

I scored the rind and rubbed in celtic salt

Having no oven forced me to improvise and the camp oven went on to the gas flame

Having no oven forced me to improvise and the camp oven went on to the gas flame

On a medium heat skin side down to start the crackling.

On a medium heat skin side down to start the crackling.

Once I got a start on the crackling, I turned over the belly and turned down the heat, put the lid on and waited.

Once I got a start on the crackling, I turned over the belly and turned down the heat, put the lid on and waited.

I rubbed the other piece in a cure of celtic salt, raw sugar and black pepper.

I rubbed the other piece in a cure of celtic salt, raw sugar and black pepper.

Some nice in season oranic pears would go alright with the pork I reckoned.

Some nice in season organic pears would go alright with the pork I reckoned.

Coals on top to finish

Coals on top to finish

I had the pork on the low flame for about four hours, with some sweet white wine, some brown sugar and a hint of cinnamon. Again, improvising without an oven I took the camp oven outside and put a shovel load of coals on from the fire to finish the crackling.

The crackling turned out great and the meat was fall apart tender.

The crackling turned out great and the meat was fall apart tender.

Apologies for the lighting, my kitchen is a bit dark at this stage.

I fried the pears in butter to get a light caramelization.

I fried the pears in butter to get a light caramelization.

Flambe with a bit of Irish whisky Andy left behind (I told you I wouldn't drink any ;-))

Flambe the pears with a bit of Irish whisky Andy left behind (I said I wouldn’t drink any ;-))

Added some farm spinach to the pork and pears, and drizzled over some salty sweet juices from the roast.

Added some farm spinach to the pork and pears, and drizzled over some salty sweet juices from the roast.

The belly cooked up great, no taint like factory grown pork, beautiful and clean tasting with a nice clear pork flavour. The crackling came out spot on and the fat rendered right down to leave an almost gooey meaty texture, it was great. The crackling was even crunchy the next day. I think it would have been better on the bone in hindsight.

phoenixcsa

We aim to open our farm to members from the Gold Coast area. We want to intergrate with the community as much as we can, so members can be part of the project too.

At the start -presently, we will be offering produce as it comes off the farm while we build up to a stage where we can deliver a mixed box weekly to members. This will be done by a mailing list, where we will send out a note on what is coming off the farm and take orders.

As the system starts producing more, we will offer a box subscribtion, where members sign up for a weekly delivery of fresh cut produce.

We will be taking feedback from anyone involved and working the project to suit. We want members to vote on what gets planted, as it is essentially their crop.

The main goal is to provide food of the same quality and freshness that would come out of any good gardeners backyard, plus other perks. This isn’t normally available on the market, as even a lot of organic food has travelled a long way and isn’t as fresh as a local (organically grown) product.

We want members to visit the farm for a chance to meet and gather, see the system with their own eyes and audit the health/safety of the system for themselves. There is a plan to hold some lunches and give some educational tours on permaculture systems while receiving feedback on what crops etc. would suit members best.

Photo0070

We tractored and rotationally grazed some Birkshire X Duroc pigs around the site at the beginning to help build the soil in preparation for crops, now their job is done and sadly they have to come back as pork. They had an enormous time eating roots, grass, worms etc. They were also fed plenty of fruit and veg grown on the farm – lots of jackfruit, pumkins, mangoes, melons etc. They were also cut forage such as comfrey, borage, sunflower and sorghum. A mixed grain was added as a supplement. They had enough choices to get fussy.

We made sure they got a wide a spectrum of nutrients as possible, even kelp, so as to be a healthy animal as possible and pass those nutrients on to the soil and to us. There were no chemicals, sprays or drugs of any kind near these animals and when they were dressed, there were no signs of any disease or parasites in the organs, they were in good health.

The only main regret is not killing and processing them onsite, as I think taking an animal away to a strange place to be killed isn’t nice. We killed one pig earlier on the farm and there was no stress to the animal at all, the rub is I can’t legally share that meat.

Out of all this I hope there were five less pigs that had to go to live an awful life in a factory farm.

Image

We are a fledgling permaculture project based at Mt Nathan on the Gold Coast. We are creating a model of a local farm to provide for a Community Supported Agriculture- CSA. The project is based on using the landshare concept as a site for the farm, we work with our host to create a beautiful, ecologically sound and regenerative food producing system, instead of the other option of ongoing brush cutting and slashing lantana and the likes.

We hope to be able to provide members of our community with safe, nutrient dense local food, along with a relationship to the farm and the food source. As a parrallel, we want to provide a model for a more productive and beautiful utility on otherwise high maintenence lifestyle blocks. If this model can get through it’s early stages, we can provide a template for other blocks who’s owners want something more useful out of their land. We hope this will lead to a self replicating model where our food supply can come home and we can be safe in the knowlege that our food is grown in a safe and ecologically sound way, as well as being more secure in regards to our food supply.

We have to pay someone, whether it be interest on a bank loan, or a lease or whatever. In this situation we prefer to pay our host a percentage of our sales. This keeps us from exporting capital from our area and gives owners of otherwise high maintenence acreage blocks an alternative. Instead they have a beautiful permaculture garden as a feature and a value adding asset- a garden of Eden.

Up to this stage we have been doing a year of trials to see what works well. We have had success and failure and a pathway has now been created for a small productive mixed farm. One of our biggest challenges has been dealing with the recent volatility of the weather – a dry pinch lasting 5 months followed by over half of a metre of rain in a big dump. We anticipate weather shocks like this as being a fairly regular part of the future and our designs in response to this have worked better than expected – we have had great results with contour Hugelkultur beds, that harvest water runoff into their own soak trench and in aggregate, act as a main swale (I will be putting up a more detailed post about this).

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.