Nicola Stachurski

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since Nov 18, 2017
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chicken greening the desert cooking
outside Brisbane, Australia
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Recent posts by Nicola Stachurski

Loving your work!

And hopefully that poop goes to good use now.
2 weeks ago
That first photo is a tea tree I planted a month ago. It is surviving the heatwave with lots of TLC.

This photo is of a poinciana I sprouted about 18 months ago. Both these have a hole with organic matter thrown in. The cardboard usually goes out about 80cm around the tree, and it stops the grass as well. It looks ugly, but who cares when it means the difference between a live plant and a dead stick.

3 weeks ago
Hi Daz

What part of Australia are you in? I love the fact you have seen a wild platypus.

I have heavy clay soil, I'm in Qld, but I used to garden in Victoria, where I grew up. I find the limiting factor is water.

If you don't have water in your soil, you will not have soil life, and your clay will not develop into good soil. That's just the way it is over here. The other factor is sun. If you are anywhere but quite far south, the sun will fry your soil organisms too, when combined with low moisture.

If you are somewhere warm and dry, the best thing you can do is shade the soil. I have finally come up with a way to manage plantings on my place (it's taken me 11 years). It is too dry between the rainy seasons to sustain most plants, so it is hard to keep baby trees alive. I had a few that survived, but would just sit for years in the soil, not growing. My husband has a bobcat, with a post hold digging attachment. Now he drills a hole, I fill it with whatever organic material I can find, and I'm not fussy - old paperwork, kitchen scraps, cardboard, cotton fabric scraps like old towels used for dog beds, empty toilet rolls, used tissues and paper towel, paper being thrown away at my work, doggy doo doo, bark, sticks and twigs, grass, hair cuttings - and I put some of the dirt back over the top. I make a lip all around and a depression in the centre and plant my little tree into it. I then lay cardboard around the tree, so that sun will not hit the soil around it. I put a rock or chunk of wood to hold it down, and if I've done it right, the cardboard will slope down towards the centre where the small tree is, meaning any rain flows right to the base of the tree. I will attach a photo.

Almost every one of the trees I have treated this way have not only survived, but managed to grow to around 60 - 90 cm in a year. That is amazing for me.

Buried organic material makes an underground sponge that grabs onto the water that may flow through. It also puts the compost underground where the organisms are free from the sun.

The cardboard makes a lot of difference up here. I even had some 5 year old  Tipuana Tipus that were just not doing anything, and the year after I mulched their roots with cardboard, they finally started to grow. Lots of places throw out cardboard, or paperwork, so it is possible to keep collecting and burying, but by bit.

The other thing is overall shade. There was an old greenhouse here, and we moved it and I put veggie beds inside. I mulched with cardboard and paper, and it managed to say a lot more moist that all the surrounding areas with normal sun exposure. I even managed to get some black, crumbly, delicious soil. Sadly the posts rusted, so I had to pull it down.

But if you are trying to grow veggies, put up a shade structure and have small, intensively planted beds. Save your water for this area, and try to get your hands on as much cardboard as possible. If you have one area that is shaded and where you can modify the environment, it will be satisfying and cheering.

You may find people getting rid of old ripped shade sails. You can run wire along the edges to stabilise. You can make a shade structure by hammering in a star picket on either edge of your shade area, bending a piece of poly pipe so one end slips over the top of one star picket, and then arches and the other end slips over the other star picket. Then you have a big hoop to hang any shade cloth over.

3 weeks ago
"I know people who have been living here for many generations who will tell you that 'climate change' is a hoax. Go to the next person and we are all going to die from climate change. The fact is the climate has been accurately recorded for 100+ years, hotter and wetter is the trend in SE Qld"

Well, that's the thing; I live in a conservative area, and my father-in-law is no greenie. He still thinks Jo Bjekie Petersen was the best thing ever. His ex-wife, my mother-in-law, supports Cory Bernardi from the Australian Conservatives. The only thing that sets my father-in-law apart from other conservative National Party supporters is that he loves plants. He is always fiddling around in his garden, sprouting something. But as far as being environmentally conscious, the family collects and burns rubbish, they don't recycle their cans, they use plastic plates for any bbq and then just chuck them away. I am definitely different to them.

It's because he is always in his garden, working with his plants, that he notices the weather. I don't know that he would be convinced about climate change, but he does talk about the weather. And none of the other locals who have told me about the summer storms of their youth are remotely interested in environmental issues. That's why I take them seriously - they have no skin in the game.

Last week I saw this article in the Conversation:

I can see the tropics are getting wetter, and Australia overall is getting hotter, but I don't see that areas south of Brisbane are getting wetter (though NSW does seem to be in parts).
3 weeks ago
"The last few years have been a bit dry, but it was much worse in the early 2000's and many other times in history. While it is possible that a new weather pattern may be starting, the long term trends show it is actually wetter and hotter now."

Chris, I don't know where you are in Qld. I am near Ipswich, and a number of people have told me how much drier the summers are now, in particular my father-in-law. He is an old bushie, a green thumb who fed his family on what he could grow and raise. He is 70 now, and his father went to a nearby primary school, so he is very much a local.

I certainly notice a change in the 11 years I have been living on my property. The first year, the flood came in early December. Then it was January. For the last 3 years, the flood has not come until March - that is, in Autumn, not summer. It looks like we will get the cyclone in a few days, but again, this is still very late in the season. And dams all around me are being dug out, because people need to catch more water to make it through.

The current stocking rates for cattle and horses, and the dairy farms, will not be sustainable if this rainfall level continues.

That's why I'm on arid land permaculture sites - I'm transferring over to these techniques as it seems this is the way we are going.
3 weeks ago
I am interested too.

I live in an Australian subtropical area that has lost it's Wet Season over the last decade. That means it is now arid- though I doubt many locals would agree. There is always one sizeable flood event every year, it's just that all the other summer storms seem to have disappeared. Being a gardener and a greenie, I've been watching more closely than some.

Actually, one of the signs to me is that, as I have driven around the local area. I have seen 2 dams on 2 different properties that are being excavated to make them deeper. My husband was until recently working as an excavator operator, and has had a number of jobs in the last 6 months digging out dams or installing watering troughs for stock. There are a lot of cattle and horses in this area (even dairies), but I suspect the rainfall will no longer support the same level of stocking. If the weather patterns continue in the same way, it will be interesting seeing it play out in public discussion.

Joe, I would imagine seeing a lot of improvement in vegetative cover after fencing out the horses. Has this happened?
1 month ago
"What bothers me is that, as with many teachings that end up going in the direction of a religion or philosophy, we lose the ecological context.  What works for the soils in the Rhein basin, continental Europe or the Alps--or wherever Steiner actually came up with the preparations--of the early 1900s could very likely be quite different from whatever works in a different place and time.  Understanding the processes behind the myths liberates the wisdom, making it accessible to other ecologies.

The use of animal parts worked great in those farms of central Europe, where dead cattle was a given, and, at a time when de-horning was a general practice, these recipes made good use of a resource that would otherwise become a waste.  But, to me, importing cow horns just to be "true" to the original sounds like not the best ecological practice, no matter how biodynamically grown those cows were.

Funnily enough, one of the principles of biodynamic agriculture is flexibility: every farm being unique and different, requiring a lot of observation and individually designed amendments."

Just for interest, Biodynamics has not only been developed in Europe. There is a leader in the field called Alex Podolinsky, who grew up in Poland but emigrated to Australia, where he has been developing "Demeter Biodynamics" for over half a century.

In the past, I subscribed to the Australian Biodynamics magazine. What impressed me about this movement is how much time was spent observing their plants/soil. To me, it's the opposite of the approach that you get in industrial agriculture: "I read it in a textbook, so it must be true, and that theory fits with my other theory, so it will work, no need for study". I would far rather listen to a careful, thoughtful person tell me anything about the world, than one who has every degree known to humanity. That's not because I don't believe in science, because I do, but because humans often seem to be attracted to simplistic theories rather than complicated reality.

I never particularly believed in the theories of Biodynamics, but I could see the real-world results they produced. Each edition would cover several Biodynamic properties, and would include a photo of the soil, often with a photo of a neighbour's soil. It was quite clear that the Biodynamic soil was darker, fluffier and more crumbly. They also talked a lot about increasing the depth of their topsoil, and testing that showed a large growth in soil carbon. To me, no matter the method, any practise that increases soil carbon content organically is pretty good.

I am very satisfied with Dr RedHawk's explanations. I always felt the Biodynamic practitioners were onto something, but because they didn't actually know what it was, various rather airy sounding ideas were given. Probably the magical sounding theories put people off, where just a list of tests and results achieved may have been more convincing.

Just thought I'd post this, for the benefit of anyone who had not heard of Australian Biodynamics.
1 month ago
The other thing about mulching, and using what is a 'waste" product, is that you are turning it into abundance. A decade down the track, you will have a rich soil and probably enough plants producing their own mulch. And people in your neighbourhood will be able to see your fertile soil and systems.
A picture paints a thousand words, and seeing a property with superior fertility will inspire others. To be honest, at this stage, we need to convince all the people we can to take up natural gardening, which includes trapping carbon in soils. If we convert a waste stream into fertility, we build not just our own garden, but the place where others may be inspired. And they can start tapping into that stream of 'waste" after we have, to build their own place of abundance.
1 month ago
John Duda, I totally love your post!

This is the absolute spirit of science, the basis that we humans have always had, and have only refined, rather than inventing something new.

Careful observation is what good science is all about. It is not the job of the world to explain itself to us - it is our responsibility to look, to engage, to watch, to think about, and to learn to understand.

Humans have observed nature for as long as we have been around, and that it what has ensured our survival. Before we had sophisticated instruments, we had our eyes, our sense of touch, our sense of taste. We could see changes in our crops from year to year, depending on different conditions. We may not have been able to explain why, but we could certainly observe the "what" and "how".

Science is about trying to understand reality. If you have your head in a textbook, and don't check what you are doing against your results, you are not a good scientist. You are being led by your beliefs, rather than by evidence : )

4 months ago
I have an old pony at my place, and she eats the vetiver.

It only started to grow once we fenced her out!
7 months ago