Alun Morgan

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since Oct 18, 2012
Cottesloe Sands, Perth, Western Australia
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Recent posts by Alun Morgan

Someone give this man an apple! Just for the idea of building a pen on a wheelbarrow's footprint, its a great urban solution, using as its starting a point a design that's been optimised for ergonomics for hndreds of years. The easier a coop is to move, the more likely you'll actually get around to moving it!
I can't help feeling its a bit too clever and over-engineered, plenty of opportunity for that automatic door to go wrong, but to be fair I haven't paid for the course, so can't understand the exact design. Well done Nick, all the best with your project.
5 years ago
I'm so sorry to hear about Jocelyn, I do wish you a speedy recovery.

I am a 100% pod person and have to support previous suggestions for observation as you walk. We'll get a better picture of what your place is like, and I'm sure it will be useful for both you and us to talk through what you see, what you think is happening and what you would like to do about it (or not). If you get visits from other Permies on a Sunday, it would be an easy topic for you, I'd love to hear you and Jack Spirko, Skeeter or anyone else with a slightly different viewpoint going for "walk in the woods"!

Another idea would be hand tools. I know you've spoken about certain power tools (earthmoving/tractors/mulchers/chainsaws..) but I'd like to know what hand tools you find invaluable and which ones you've found are a complete waste of time. This will be relevant to your Urban and Rural listeners alike. How about a simple knife, or a pruning saw? I only just replaced a wheelbarrow tyre with a solid one, before I found out a can of "emergency" vehicle tyre foam will last for years on a barrow...

Finally, thanks for continuing to dedicate your time to us! I know a lot of these topics would be better in a video, but I'm sure I'm not alone - I can't watch a video whilst driving to work. When I have time to watch a video, actually getting out and doing something, arranging the next local meeting or family always seems to be more important...

Ann Torrence said:

I've been to Perth in your early spring (Sept 1). Can't imagine how hot it must be now. Lovely. Margaret River is what California could have been if we hadn't wrecked it with roads.

California's definitely a climate analogue in parts, west coast desert with deep alkaline sands, what forest was here has been cut down and replaced with concrete and irrigation. We're about to get our first really hot spell this year, with easterly winds coming in off the desert. Temps predicted the same as my daughters body temp, and she's got a higher fever at the moment! Torrey sounds fantastic...
6 years ago
I'm in! The PDM has been sitting beside my bed for a while now. I've read a couple of the most relevant chapters, but it's an easy book to get distracted from.

By the way I'm in SW Australia. Winter is our growing season! We've had a long cool wet spring, but now with the height and strength of the sun there is not much going on except watching to see what things wither in the shade!
6 years ago
Hi, sorry I only got to this post 12 months late! What suburb of Perth are you in? Assuming you don't have a bobtail around, in Perth your best defence is probably frogs. Motorbike frogs will move in anywhere given a chance. Do you have a pond? Failing that, upturned citrus shells (eat the fruit first!) on top of a piece of cardboard will collect loads of slaters. You can then dispose of them as you see fit...

If you haven't already tried, one of the local permie groups will be more than happy to give you more local info and show their solutions, slaters are a problem for anyone around here who is starting up.
I'm with the Northern group (NAPEs).

I hope this helps,

6 years ago
The question I have for you, is are you talking urban or rural? I'm in Perth, Australia but I think we have similar desert climate. What is your soil like, ours is very alkaline sand. I'm very urban, so have little space for dedicated chook fodder, but generally speaking, whatever is good for you, is good for them too. Hence, I'm starting up paddock shift. The chicken will be moving in to each (irrigated) paddock after we've finished growing veggies in an area. Apart from standard annual veggies we are introducing weeds, for us, them and the soil too. English dandelion, thistles, plantains (plantago) are all edible and survive here with varying degrees of shelter and supplementary water.

If I were you I'd look well into your own natives/local plants, but as a thought starter, this is some of what we're using right now...
Wormwood - good for chicken to self medicate, will survive with little water
Tansy - brushing against it reduces flea/mite problems.
Azola - nitrogen fixing pond plant.
Tagasaste/Acacias/Leucaena - all nitrogen fixing trees, I'm not yet sure if the chicken will go for the leaves, but they will the seeds.
Sunflowers (pretty, insect attracting and the chicken may get any seeds the parrots drop!

Poultry mix. We're feeding the chooks soaked grains, meat and veggie scraps, on top of whatever they find (the occasional mouse), the grains are a mix of wheat, linseed, sunflower, I forget what else. Fairly regularly I sow some excess grains for them.

Touch wood, since we have stopped commercial feed mixes and given them the variety of food, we haven't had any illness/infestations, it must be at least 3 years now. Note though, they have always had lots of space, normally about 50sq ft per bird. Soldier fly is something I'd like to do, if I can persuade my wife that it's hygenic/not smelly...
7 years ago
There are two approaches I know of:

The most reliable is to put up a conventional (artificial) fence, but grow things up it. We already have a passionfruit growing on more conventional chook wire fence, and it is in serious risk of pulling the whole thing down. For the latest extension we've erected weldmesh panels, 4mm (1/6in?) wire and 4inch square holes, with bamboo posts. The fence panels are seriously over engineered for keeping chooks in, but should be strong enough so we can grow heavy climbers (Choko, Chili Cayote, Children...?) on them without worrying. Looking at it now, and the lack of any lions locally, maybe 2mm wire would have been enough!

The other thing we are trying is a true living fence, using Bana grass. This is a 6ft clumping grass, apparently a sterile hybrid, but very fast growing and is very dense at the base. It's not quite ready yet, and will probably need some enhancement at the base in the first couple of years to stop chooks pushing through. In the winter I have thinned it out, cutting about 2/3rds of the culms (canes/stalks) down to about 2ft high. This lets more light through, but should still prevent flying over. We'll find out how it goes.

I suggest you need aim for 3 things:
1: Really solid at the base to prevent chooks pushing through (fencing may be necessary). The smaller of my australorp crosses pushes through a 4in wide, 8in tall hole. So 2in wide, or 4in squares should do the trick.
2: Pretty dense for at least 2ft (to be experimented with!) to prevent the birds doing a "power assisted hop" on to the top of any fence (I'm guessing 4in wide gaps would be enough)
3: Flight deterrent up to the full height (I need about 4ft). This just needs to be something unstable, possible solid looking that the chicken won't trust themselves to launch themselves at in flight

If you're happy to have the occasional escape, you can have some fun. The benefit of bana grass (and some other grasses/bamboos including sugar cane) is you can take a single culm and bury it horizontally, it should sprout at each leaf node along the length, giving you instant (in 6 months) hedge. I put down 3-4 culms to try and ensure it is dense enough. Depending on how many chicken you have for the area, you probably want to exclude them completely from getting to living parts of the fence until you think it is dense enough at the base to withstand them. Have fun, let us know how it goes.
7 years ago
Thanks Edward, I'd just given up on this topic! Nice to see someone else with this problem... Up my back it is! Alun.
7 years ago
I'm at the top of a hill in an arid climate, so I have keenly consumed Brad Lancaster's books, our slope is very slight where I'm concentrating at the moment so I haven't done anything yet beyond soil improvement (mulch, open wicking beds and sunken "huegelculture" as we're on sand), but the next big job is a roof runoff collection basin at the top of our slope, with swales taking overflow on a scenic meander throughout the rest.
I believe it is very difficult for someone else to tell you what feature you should put where without seeing your land. As a minimum they would need a contour map and details of soil, vegetation etc... If you haven't already, I'd strongly suggest you read "Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond" Vol 1 before you raise a spade, it might save a lot of work.

Without seeing your layout, or having a clue about your climate I'd suggest you seriously think twice about covering up the surface of a pond. A pond provides great beneficial habitat for your garden. Ours is effectively covered by Azolla (a local native here) which is reducing evaporation for free, as well as providing high protein chook food and high nitrogen fertilizer. I'm sure you can find something appropriate to your climate, planting can reduce evaporation by reducing windspeed (windbreaks at edge) and reducing the water temperature (shading the surface).

Have you been out in the rain yet? I can't recommend it strongly enough, I thought I knew what I was going to do, until I pulled on a good coat and went outside in a downpour and saw what was actually happening. When you see how much water is flowing where, it becomes much easier to see how you can subtly steer it to your advantage.

Don't get put off by Brad Lancaster's youtube videos. In my humble opinion, they are poor and do his books a huge disservice. The Geoff Lawton and Mollison recommendations are very good, but (after admitting, I haven't read this section in the designers manual), I feel Brad Lancaster has the best specialist book on making the most of your rain water.

Best of luck, let us know how you get on.
8 years ago
I'm one of the unseen podcast people, have been for a couple of years now. I primarily listen in the car, but the problem I have is the other time I'm listening - whilst working in the garden!

I find the garden to be the best place to listen to the podcasts, as often I can supplement the audio with immediate observation. The problem is however, I'm forever getting the headphone cables caught on some branch as I'm working, and pull them out of my ears/unplug them, or even pull the iPod off my pocket. I'm sure someone else has a neat solution for this problem!

I've tried iPod in my front pocket (nano touch), headphone cables inside my T-shirt, but somehow they still manage to catch somewhere.

Being in Aus, I nearly always wear a broad brimmed hat, which I don't think falls off very often, so maybe I should try tying the whole thing up there? Any other solutions pod people?

8 years ago