I started “making the change” in January 2014. My first thought was creating my own veggie garden. Whilst having been a gardener I haven’t really done a proper veggie garden. I was moving from tropical gardens and fernery to growing food.
I started by just growing some herbs, lettuces, spring onions, than cucumbers and tomatoes in crates. But what I really wanted were a couple of raised veggie garden beds. However, I was stuck in the thought of what was the right way to go about it. Google can be helpful, but most things I found were related to eastern states weather conditions.
Chickens came next. I didn’t go out and buy them; they literally showed up on my front door step one afternoon. I had actually thought these chooks were from my neighbour down the road, and they had just escaped, but nope not hers, and after door knocking, wasn’t anybody else’s on our street.
After making a quick temporary home in the front yard for them, after 2 weeks, no one had come and claimed them, so they got moved into the backyard to share with the dog and cats. I have always verge crawled, so there new home was sourced from items off the verge from bulk collections. They were my next step into making the change.
Next, was the Groat Street Festival in late 2014. I don’t remember how I heard about it, but there concept resonated with me. I was umming and arrhing about going until I saw the “Free” workshops that were being presented in the Garden Section, there were lots of other free workshops too, but gardening was the priority.
Well off I went, and spent most of the day sitting in the school veggie garden learning heaps. I heard presentations from Charles Otway, Brett Woodhouse, someone from down south discussing Mycorrhizal fungi and a couple of others I can’t remember. So I learnt about compost, soil composition, mycorrhizal fungi inoculation, wicking beds in olive barrels and vertical gardens in crates
I also found out about all the Facebook groups. Now I’m not a fan of social media, but with the opportunity to learn more, I decided to bite the bullet and joined Facebook. The groups I joined were WA Seed Exchange, Jetto’s Patch and Swan Valley Happenings, from there I became aware of even more groups of interest.
Swan Valley Happenings Swap Shuffle and Share, introduced me to more plants, cuttings, seeds and produce, which I wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to grow or try if I had to purchase them from the Big Green Shed. The upside being that if I didn’t end up liking it, I could always bring it back to gift to someone else next time. It also gave me an opportunity to meet other like minded people on their own path of sustainability.
I also attended a WA Seed Exchange event, which gave me the opportunity to pick up LOCAL acclimatised seed, seedlings and cuttings.
By December 2014, I finally felt confident enough to start my veggie garden and created 2 raised inbuilt wicking garden beds at my rental. It was a chance to experiment and learn. My first wicking garden bed attempt, did not work. What I ended up with was a hole full of bentonite clay slurry as it wouldn’t stay on the walls of my reservoir, so mixed lots of compost into it, and rethought that concept.
My second inbuilt wicking bed, I decided to dig into the sand to create my reservoir, well the sand didn’t hold its shape, and whilst I lined it with plastic, and used quickfast bricks and gravel when I put my next level on, the reservoir was slightly bigger than the level above. It did function and worked as a wicking bed but I wasn’t happy with it, so again had to rethink and replan.
By the 3rd attempt I had it figured out. I stacked 2 raised wooden garden beds on top of each other. The bottom being the reservoir, still lined with plastic and using fastbricks and gravel. Both the 2nd and 3rd builds still resulted in a productive veggie garden, but I do love olive barrel wicking beds and olive barrel planters.
During Groat Street Festival I was also exposed to the concept of “Permaculture” and “Sustainability”, which has changed my vision of where I am heading. Originally I was just looking at being self-sufficient. Now I am also much more aware about the waste that I produce and am actively reducing what I put into landfill, and am upcycling more.
I than heard about Northern Permies (NAPES) (through Facebook) and joined them. My very first event that I braved with NAPES was a permaculture design afternoon. I took the plunge and went by myself. This was where I got introduced to more concepts about Permaculture. That day we got the opportunity to learn some basics about designing using permaculture. There was a talk about what to keep in mind, and what the family wanted incorporated in the design before we started. We all got our own basic layout of the block and house, and were given free rein to design away, with an opportunity to share our ideas at the end. We also submitted all our designs for the family to look over and decide which concepts they liked and could implement.
From there I have attended free events at Duncraig Edible Garden (DEG), Transition Towns Stirling (TTS), Joondanna Community Garden, Permaculture West, Swan Valley Happenings, WA Seed Exchange, and all have been learning experiences with the bonus of connecting with likeminded people.
I have gone from growing some veggies in crates to, saving and growing from seeds and cuttings, from 40 wicking pots and planter pots at my last rental to now having over 140 wicking pots and planter pots, my own home built worm farm, several chickens, quails and bees all at my new rental which I moved into 18 months ago.
My next project is catching and using rain water, adding raised wicking beds and learning how to process chickens and quails for consumption.
The biggest thing I have discovered is that so many of us are making the change, we might not have the jargon, but we feel intrinsically that we need to make changes in our lives. All it takes is that initial step.
I personally suggest that people start by attending a local Swap, Shuffle and Share it is here that you can make connections with others. It also gives you the opportunity to pick up some seedlings or cuttings of herbs and veggies shared from others. I believe this helps in taking the pressure off in having to succeed in your first attempt at growing such things. The upside of getting free cuttings and seedlings is that well if they fail or it doesn’t work, you can try again, by picking up some more at your next Swap Shuffle and Share event without worrying about the monetary value if you had purchased them from the big warehouses.
You also get to experiment with plants that you might not otherwise have purchased. It certainly exposes you to trying new food plants. My garden has developed with over 50% of what I have because someone was willing to share, seeds, cuttings and seedlings. My garden is at a stage in which I have been able to share my excess produce, seeds, cuttings and seedlings now with others which brings me great pleasure.
So make the change. Just take one small step. Join a Facebook group and/or attend an event.