Amanda Gray

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since Jul 12, 2016
Ireland, hoping to return to Canada
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Recent posts by Amanda Gray

Oh! Thank you for letting me know. I am using links from my dropbox so I guess only I can see them. I'll have to figure out another option.
1 year ago
Upon some consultation and thinking, I decided that cardboard and fine wood chips were not going to be enough to discourage the bluebells, so I set about a little bit of renovation last weekend. I nearly killed myself hauling 300 litres of soil ammendments nearly a kilometre from the local nursery when I discovered they didn't deliver. I was just feeling so enthusiastic and stubborn that I loaded them up on a trolley and pushed them home. I am pretty sure I've already established myself as an eccentric, a beet-faced sweaty girl slowly trundling down the road shoving a wonky-wheeled trolley ahead of her. But I got them home! And then I hauled the trolley back. My workout for the week.

I picked up a bunch of flower plants and a little gooseberry bush from a guy selling flats by the side of the road out of a truck. Hauled those home too. Then back to the nursery for a few more things to fill in...a lavender plant and a scabiosa, as well as a healthy looking rhubab crown. I might regret the rhubarb later if it tries to eat the whole front yard, but I am a sucker for it, having grown up with rhubarb forests and sliced stalks dipped in sugar on friends' farms in eastern Canada. I haven't planted it out yet though.

Now that I have indulged my immediate need for instant gratification, I'll be ordering most things online for delivery. It's a good story but my days as a freight animal are over.

So! Onto the work so far.

I emptied out the horribly dry and rootbound pedestal planters and filled them up with stones and gravel for drainage, then compost and a little stir of rotted horse manure, and a bunch of the flowers from the truck guy. I know the pinks, dusty miller, and assylium, though I'm not sure what the little yellow ones are and whether those big ones are a kind of geranium. Anyway I have seen these planters covered in hoverflies so I'm excited that there are polinators about where there previously none. I tossed a pink and a dusty miller into each swan planter too.

I planted a pretty astilbe and the last few dusty miller plants.

By the front door there were half a dozen busted sandbags from a flood years ago. I dug in lots of manure and some compost and planted out the scabiosa and a lavender with assylium and two little heathers rescued from the other planters. I sprinkled the inside of a few chamomile teabags over because I read they are likely full of seeds which could germinated, but no sign of any sprouts yet a week later.

I sheet mulched around the tired old roses in the front garden. They seem perkier already after a feed of manure.

I planted a little goosberry first edible. It seems happy enough. I have raspbery plants coming from a friend, too.

In the back garden I've intensively planted salad greens, radishes, and some broccoli raab in containers and windowboxes, along with a few beans. It's late but these are all successionally sown types so I think we'll get some salads before the season is done.

We drilled holes in a big black bin and started composting. It feels so great not to send that waste stream away anymore!

I have a bunch of mystery tree seedlings left over from the planter. I haven't identified them but I think they might be volunteered willows. I don't know what to do with them as I don't really have room, but I hate to discard any plants. Right now I am keeping them covered in wet newspaper.  There are also two little shrubby things from the planters with tiny little yellow leaves I don't know what they are either but I might put them in pots to observe them.

Weird willows?

Shrubby yellows...

What's next? I still have some leftover flowers and the rhubarb to plant. I also went a little nuts ordering seds and am going to plant a whole bunch of potted herbs. It's been largely ornamental so far, but food will be a big part of my plan going forward. I'm still deep in research and planning, but it feels good to get out there and do things outside.
1 year ago
I'm now Loved-Up in Loughrea, but still looking for permie friends!
Hmmm. Slight hitch in my no-dig approach to the big border in the front. I just had a visit from the landlady, who says that there's a a very old, very big population of native bluebells there. I want to get rid of the grass, but I don't want to smother those little guys at all. I guess I might just peel back the sod wherever I want to plant something in, and then transplant whatever bulbs I find in the holes. I guess this is the type of thing that a year-long observation period would help! Going one plant at a time might be a smarter and cheaper approach than going whole-hog lasagne at once. Patience, patience.
1 year ago
So when I first found Permies I had big dreams of buying cheap land back home in Canada and trying to rough out a little permaculture paradise for myself there. Maybe that will still happen in the long term, but for now I'm blooming where I'm planted. I've been lurking here for over a year but I'm excited to be more a part of things now.

I've just moved to a house in a small town in the west of Ireland, and while it's just a rented place and the land is extremely limited, I want to see what I can do here. Unlike my other rentals in the past, I have no housemates (just my partner and a German Shepherd) and the landlady says I can pretty much do whatever I like with the place. It's a two year lease, though I could see us staying longer. I don't mind putting work into it, even if we leave...I like to think we'd be leaving the neglected place better than we found it, and we can enjoy it as it develops in the short term.
We're right across the road from a beautiful lake, and I've seen lots of plant and bug diversity over there already, which is lovely. I'm keeping my eye open for things I might want to gather seeds or cuttings from in the future.

Ideally I'd spend a year observing it, but frankly there is not much here. Because it's a short term projects, Ill be focusing more on quick, beneficial improvements, as edible as possible, though I need to keep things relatively ornamental in the front, at least. I don't mind that as I am a beauty-hound and former florist. I'm planting for bees and diversity as much as to put food in my belly. There won't be much in the way of infrastructure, I don't think, though I might look at some simple rainwater harvesting in the future for the veg. Money is terribly tight, and we dont have a car, so picking up freebies is very challenging. That said, I'm just going to do my best with what I have when I have it.

The front garden is teensy (I'll come back with actual measurements when my guy is home to hold the other end of the tape) and I need to leave some lawn, but I am planning to create deep borders on the front and right side of the yard, about a meter and a half wide. Maybe more if I have the courage and materials. I'll also put a shallow border along the walkway, from the depression left there and some intel from the neighbours, there was one there once.

The naff planters and the gnome are there to stay, but I'm going to try to make them less hideous.

Right now we have two sickly tea roses, a sprawling rambler which will be severely cut back in a month or so, a little fuscia bush and two overgrown cedary shrubs. There's some pretty volunteer bupleurum growing in and around one of the weird concrete swans (not visible in this photo), and the pedestal planters have some heather and two other unidentified little shrubby things that I'll ID later. I'm probably going to empty them out/paint them/refill them with new soil, but my strategy is to save whatever plants are already here, even if they aren't the most useful. Diversity and economy!

The back is all paved over. Pretty small but not too bad, laid out in an L shape. The concrete is well drained in two spots, there is an outdoor water source, and what little sun we get in this wet gloomy corner of the world is trapped here most of the day. And I think the reflected heat from all the concrete makes it a bit of a micro-climate. I've only been here a few days so more observation is needed, and I need to figure out exactly what direction everything faces.

Above the back wall is a plot with gravel over landscaping cloth, planted with one big cedar-like shrub, but I can put pots and stuff up there. I'm going to be doing a lot of pot gardening for greens etc. Though sourcing upcycled pots and containers may be slow as I can't afford to buy a whack all at once. I want to build square-foot-garden type raised beds with trellises against the long sunny wall where the table and chairs are for growing beans and squash. The main challenge here is money and materials. There's a renovation across the street and I'm keeping my eyes peeled for builders so I can ask them if I can have the pallets and old scrap lumber that's piling up there. Fingers crossed.

We're mid "summer" here so it's a good time to observe as it's really past any kind of planting time unless I had pots prepared for summer salads etc. and I do not. I'm hoping to keep those three pots in the garden but they belong to the previous tenant and I don't know if she's coming back for them.

My first goal is to get some kind of composting going--probably worms. We have municipal composting but it kills me to see the stuff going off-site. Just need the money for bins and worms...we stupidly bought clear plastic boxes for moving because they were cheaper or I'd use those, but I know worms hate light. If I kept them in the dark shed, do you think they'd be okay? If not,, I'll plant stuff in them, as they are nice and deep. Plastic isn't ideal, but it's what there is.  I'm burying banana peels and teabags in the front already. I'd like a proper big compost bin too, but I don't know if I can sacrifice the real estate in the back yard.

Near second goal is to lasgna-garden out the front borders ASAP. I need to scrounge some money for manure and mulch. I have lots of carboard from moving, thankfully! I'd like to get it rotting so that it's ready in the spring. And I want to put down some garlic and chard/kale in them for over the winter. If I can stretch the budget I'd also like to establish some rhubarb and fruiting anchor plants in this area--preferably fruit for me, but if it's just for the birds that's okay too. Maybe a butterfly bush or something along those lines for the polinators. I know autumn is a good time to get trees and shrubs in the ground, so I'd love to start planning for that now.

Not particularly permaculture or a priority but I'd also like to get loads of little bulbs in for some spring colour next year...February is a dark month here and they are such a boon to my mental health. Plus I justify it as biodiversity in the lawn. I'm looking at some native and rare/heritage varieties, though they aren't cheap.

We have two solid-fuel stoves to heat the house this winter, so I'd like to find some good ways to use the ash...need to research that. We can burn coal, turf, or wood. Though we'll have to chop the wood up pretty small to get it in the tiny stoves.

I very much welcome advice and ideas, and would love to meet other permies in this part of the world, especially those doing more with a little scrap of land! What would you do with a little place like this if you were stone broke from moving etc? What would you plant? How would you prepare for next season over the autumn and winter months? I'll be updating here as I go. Thanks for reading!
1 year ago
Hi Richard! I'm in Ireland too, not actively looking for a relationship myself (recently single and happy to stay that way for a while!), but curious to meet other permies here. I'm 33, Canadian, living in the west of Ireland. I'm brand new to the permaculture idea, though I grew up on farms for a large part of my childhood, now reading all I can. Could you tell us more about yourself?
2 years ago
I'm not currently rural. I have been in the past, and I hope to be again, though.

I have different but compelling loves for both the city and the country. In the city I love being able to walk everywhere I need to go, and I appreciate the convenience and the social life that's waiting for me any time I want it. As I get older though, I find I spend almost all of my time in my own house and only go out when I really need to. When I lived in the contryside the last time I was a homeschooled kid, and we only saw "other people" on Sunday, and I didn't mind. To be fair I had so many brothers and sisters that even an isolated lakeside property in Canada wasn't remote enough for me! I used to build myself tiny hidey holes in the woods to get away from everyone else. I'm not as antisocial now, but I am very content in my own company and never, ever get bored. I live with a bunch of housemates now for frugality/footprint reasons and while they are very nice and I enjoy our chats, some of my happiest hours are when I have the house entirely to myself. As a single woman out in the middle of nowhere, though, I wonder how I'd manage the isolation long term. I would need a bunch of furry beings for close company, a couple of cats and dogs. Then I might be just fine.

My biggest worry about moving back out is good internet. The places I'm looking at property have relentlessly terrible internet access. At the moment that's not doable for me, as the job that makes me flexible enough to work from any location needs just one thing. Reliable internet. So that's something I'm going to have to figure out somehow. I could drive to a town to work in a cafe a few days a week if I optimised my schedule. It's not ideal, but it's possible.
2 years ago
Thank you so much for your warm and friendly welcome, Tracy! It sounds like we do have a lot in common--it's so nice to meet you.

"Bloom where you are planted" is such a lovely saying, and it's so true. One thing that already feels a little different about this new enthusiasm is that I don't feel the usual near-panicky rush to "just start." I've always been impulsive, so that's usually how my adventures begin. But with this I know that there is so much I can be doing right now that will benefit me when I do get out to "my own place" that I feel content to start chipping away at the mountain. I'm greedy for information, but feel pretty chill about building up my skills and my nest egg over the next few years. What a novel, relaxing feeling!

And after years of phobia, I now have a sufficently compelling reason to learn to drive!

I took a look at your website: I adore your paintings. I can just see how much your life must inspire you. What a gift!
2 years ago

I stumbled on this magnificent corner of the internet a few weeks ago. My external productivity, I have to say, dropped through the floor for a while as I read thousands and thousands of fascinating and inspiring posts, but my internal productivity is off the charts. I'm in my early thirties, which is still pretty young, but at this point in my life I've noticed it's a rare thing to have your mind blown and perspective changed. It seems like when I was younger it was happening all the time. Well, discovering permaculture has done it. How did I go this long without learning about it?

A bit about me: I am a Canadian who currently lives in Ireland. When I was about six, my family moved away from the city and into a more rural lifestyle. My dad always went to the city to work, but we kids were homeschooled, and most of my happiest childhood memories are from those years where I got to raise geese, milk goats, laugh at chickens, fish walleye and bass out of the lake, cry about the delicious but beloved pigs we'd been warned not to name, freak out over tomato plants pelted by freak July hailstorms, and get the pants scared off of me by Giant Raccoon Beasts. I read the hippylicious Grow It by Richard Langer cover to cover a thousand times. It wasn't a particularly successful hobby farm: my extremely busy parents just didn't have the time to devote to it, but it was enormously formational to me.

When I was a teenager, my dad's job moved us to a subdivision. I always missed the farm.

Anyway, fastforward a few decades and I'm an amiable globe-roaming weirdo. I have lived a lot of places and had a lot of jobs. Now I eke out a pretty relaxed living as a freelance copywriter. I could make more money but I prefer the free time. I share a house in a small city with 4 other people and channel my love of making stuff into millions of craft projects. For years I've tried to lower my impact on the natural world and reduce my involvement in what seems like a crazy hostile society to me, though I have never been systematic about it. I'm an artist and not neurotypical (if "typical" is even really a thing) and my somewhat bohemian lifestyle allows me to be quietly weird without too many consequences. But it's a bit rootless and not as satisying as it once was. Recently I've felt a craving for a "bigger project". Something more than the latest writing assignment, dinner, or pair of hand-knit socks. I'd always assumed that a relatively low income single person like me had no chance to buy property. Without a particularly meaningful career or a family I've been wondering what my life is building to, if anything. A random conversation with a friend ended up changing my mind. I found land in my native country, on owner financed terms, that is actually affordable to me, in remote but beautiful corners of the country. It was like falling through a wormhole. I looked up information about affordable, natural building techniques, and ended up here. Wow!

The possibilites are thrilling, and I am absorbing as much information as I can. This forum feels like an inexhaustable well of anecdote, experience, and valuable knowledge. I only hope that in time I can contribute even a fraction of what I'm gaining.

So! Research. I have a lot of great skills homestead skills already, because they have meshed with my own personal interests, but I'm missing a lot of important ones. I live cheaply, but no where near as frugally as I could. I have never saved any money. Now seems like a time to start building up a nest egg and thinking in terms of a 3 to 5 year plan to purchase property, while building up the knowledge I'd need to make it work. I've started doing some simple, tiny things here at home to help. Cutting my liberal wine and cheese budget way back. Paying extra for the organic option wherever I can. Growing half a dozen herbs and a tomato plant I nursed back from a "half dead in the clearance section" state. Trying to reserve laundry for our rare sunshiny days so I can dry them outside. Starting my own sourdough and eating the gooseberries in the back yard for breakfast. I learn well from reading. Even as a child I could do anything if I only had a book about it and some supplies to improvise with. And now there's the whole internet!

Thank you all. I'm really looking forward to learning more as I build towards my dream of starting my own permaculture project.
2 years ago
Newbie here who'd love to revive this old topic. I wonder how everyone's clearcut projects are going?

I'm a Canadian living overseas who is eyeing some of those Nova Scotia parcels going cheap as they are the one thing in my price range that I could start working on if/when I get back in a few years. A lot of them seem crazy remote so I'd love to hear how you guys are doing it and your plans, dreams etc. Are you ever camping/staying on the land? How are you bringing in/getting water? It's exciting to know that someone else is leading the way. I want to stalk your progress.
2 years ago