In this issue
How cool is grass?
With a hot summer upon us, consider keeping your grass a bit longer for the next few months – unless it starts turning brown of course.
- Uncut grass keeps the soil at 19.5°C
- Grass cut at a level of 10 cm maintains the soil temperature at 24.5°C
- Bare soil in the middle of summer rises to more than 40°C
A permaculture approach to growing trees on steep slopes
Forest trees showing mulch build-up on the uphill side, and hollowing on the downhill side
What does permaculture recommend for growing trees on steep slopes?
In short: cut above and pile below.
Above the tree – Cut an “eyebrow” along the “drip line”.
An eyebrow is a shallow “u” shaped channel made with a mattock or spade along the perimeter of the tree, along the drip line, starting just below the trunk on one side and ending just below the trunk on the other side. The debris from the channel is left as a “stop” at each lower end to prevent compost washing out.
In the forest, on steep slopes, saplings set seed. As they grow, rainwater runs down the slope, picking up bark, twigs, fruits and flowers. The eyebrow helps trap this debris on the uphill side of growing trunks, and over time the organic material breaks down to form compost above the tree. Biomechanics at work.
The nutrients from this compost seep downhill to the root ball, and wash to the lower roots.
Below the tree, pile your pulled weeds along the “drip line” on the perimeter of the tree.
When it rains, the soft growth at the end of branches -twigs and leaves- tend to bend downwards, forming a canopy. The raindrops run down the leaves and drop off the end forming the drip line. Roots tend to grow out towards this moisture.
If you add fertilizer below the tree, it is liable to be washed away with the first heavy rain. That is OK for whatever is growing below the tree but is a loss to the higher tree. But if you pile weeds below the tree along the drip lid they will also catch nutrients, stop the soil washing away and trap more debris to make more compost.
On flat ground, you dig the shallow trench all the way round on the drip line and compost.
The exception is palms including bananas. They usually have a channel or groove in the stem on the upper part of the fronds down which the raindrops run, and the root ball tends to be a dense shallow mat.
Biomechanics and permaculture at work and labour-saving too!
Reactive and proactive caring in community: some thoughts
A world cafe in action
The ability to remain living at home while aging, in crisis or when we have health or physical challenges depends on the supportive networks and services available. A month ago, 30 people came up with a few ideas around Age/Disability/Crisis care at Narara Ecovillage.
Our gathering was in the form of World Cafe, where we sat in small groups and rotated around tables during the discussion. This was a fabulous way to collate participants’ thoughts and ideas.
The questions we discussed were:
- What would our dream be for best practice aging/disability/crisis care for members of our Community?
- How much support can we realistically expect to deliver as a community?
Here are a few notes you might find edifying and useful for your own community.
- Proactively encourage health and wellbeing.
- Foster an environment where community members feel comfortable seeking help. This is with the understanding that generally we are not therapists or doctors, and that there are legal implications for some situations. We also need to respect the choices of those who may decline support for various reasons.
- People need to have realistic expectations when ongoing care is required. There are limits to what the ecovillage can do as care. People should seek the maximum standard of in-home support from government funded providers. Any support from the community would supplement this.
- Economies of scale enables any group to share resources such as massage, rehab exercise and adaptive equipment, and larger groups can arrange for therapists, educators and trainers to deliver their expertise or hold classes.
Blue Zones are regions in the world where people are claimed to live, or to have recently lived, longer than average. Narara Ecovillage will continue to explore the possibility of becoming the first Blue Zone in Australia, which would involve simultaneously increasing the quality as well as the length of life – wouldn’t that be wonderful?
More info about Blue Zones here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0V4uooM4lBQ (4 min)
A big year for the Community Environment Network
I’ve recently attended several events held by the Community Environment Network (CEN) and have been impressed by their commitment, passion and professionalism. CEN are an alliance of community and environment groups from the Central Coast and Lake Macquarie Council areas, and they are making a real difference to the protection of the environment on the Central Coast.
CEN was involved in this 2022 tree planting workshop at Narara Ecovillage
Based at Ourimbah just north of Narara, the group’s 16 staff and many volunteers were employed on programs including Land for Wildlife, Waterwatch, Habitat for Wildlife, Wild Plant Nursery, Bush Regeneration, Friends of COSS (Coastal Open Space Scheme), Landcare Green Teams, Wetlands and community support. In addition, CEN ran many campaigns designed to raise awareness of and bring political and media attention to serious threats to the natural environment on the Central Coast.
Highlights for 2023, revealed at a November Networking event, include:
- Working with 12 local community groups to protect the mature trees in Austin Butler Reserve in Woy Woy, and working to have a planning proposal rejected that would have resulted in over-development of the Peat Island land west of the M1 Motorway
- CEN’s work on Land for Wildlife NSW has resulted in 2886 properties joining the scheme, bringing more than 210,000 hectares into a scheme to manage biodiversity and wildlife habitat: this includes 7000 hectares added on the Central Coast in 2023.
- Bush regen team has planted over 1600 plants and worked on restoration of 150 hectares of bushland this year.
- Habitat for Wildlife, which encourages urban landholders to conserve and improve habitats for wildlife, now has 1945 members on the Central Coast
- Waterwatch conducts water quality monitoring at 57 sites along the coast, by involving schools and community groups in its citizen science activities.
To become a member of CEN or subscribe to their newsletters and events. Go to: https://www.cen.org.au/
Movement, nutrition, toxins & stress: Lessons from a wellness and beauty festival
Four expert presenters at Narara Ecovillage’s one-day Health and Wellbeing Festival shared ways to live long and healthy lives. They touched on Mindfulness and Meditation, Naturopathy and Nutrition, Forest Bathing and Ecotherapy, and Energy, Hormones and Aging well.
While we are on planet earth, let us optimise our life and generally be in good health, then drop off the perch quickly! Thanks to epigenetics (the study of how your behaviors and environment can cause changes that affect the way your genes work), only 10% of human disease is attributed to our genetics. We can make a real difference to our health & wellbeing!
Here are some of the main ideas from the day which will help us all live well:
Get the best sleep that you can. It is important to wake at the same time every morning. To catch up on sleep you should vary the time you go to bed. As soon as you wake, hydrate and bathe in the sunlight.
Choose what brings you joy, and then aim to complete the following:
- Zone 2 Cardio 180-200min per week.
- Resistance Training –‘push, pull, squat, hinge, core’
- VO2 Max Cardio “220 minus your age” 2 x 20 sec max heart rate exposures minimum
You should use your full range of movement when undertaking Zone, Resistance and Cardio movements.
Nutrition: Avoid refined flour, refined seed oils and refined sugar.Include a high protein and high vegetable intake. Eat quality produce and be mindful of variety and nutrient density.
Reduce Toxins: Assess all products used in your home, on your skin/hair, and in your garden. Consume organic food. Have your home assessed by a building biologist so that your environment is as healthy as your food.
Stress Homeostasis: Embrace some discomfort – cold water, and heat exposure like a sauna. Adopt tools like yoga, Tai chi, Qi gong, dance, meditation and/or massage. If you are able, visit a forest like or natural space for ‘Forest Bathing’, and participate in reciprocal breathing with the trees (as you breathe in oxygen and out carbon dioxide).
Top 10 actions: Emissions reduction event & Net zero kayakers
Ecovillagers display electric cars, including an EV-fueled sausage sizzle
In November Narara Ecovillage welcomed two activist grandfathers who kayaked more than 400km from Port Kembla to join the coal ships blockade of Rising Tide in Newcastle. At an event organsed by the Community Environment Network (CEN), several presenters provided information and ideas on reaching zero carbon emissions, including the top ten actions in Climate Future’s Community Plan.
An important presentation by Richard Weller of Climate Future provided not only the data that shows how quickly we need to reduce carbon emissions but also a checklist of actions that we can take to contribute to reducing emissions.
It was heartening to note that the Ecovillage is already either taking most of these actions or encouraging and supporting residents to act.
The top ten actions in Climate Future’s Community Plan 2022 (and report card for Narara Ecovillage) in order of importance are:
- Reduce use of petrol and diesel vehicles: the Ecovillage has a set of activities in place from the Green Transport Plan to assisting each other with transport needs to individual decisions to purchase electric vehicles.
- Install rooftop solar or purchase fully renewable energy: all Ecovillage residences and commercial/ community buildings operate mostly on solar power.
- Reduce energy use in the home and the workplace: for homes at least, heating and cooling energy needs are reduced by abiding by the building standards related to orientation, insulation and double-glazed windows and doors.
- Consider food sources, type and waste: food is sourced on the Ecovillage land and from sustainable local suppliers as much as possible, and a circular economy ensures that food waste is used for chicken food, composting, etc.
- Home design: As above re the village’s building standards.
- Preserve and plant trees and forests: our Bush Regen team is busy every week cutting back and weeding out noxious and unwanted plants and replacing these with natives; many individual and common gardens are also planting native trees and shrubs.
- Recycling: Apart from the usual processes of council and commercial recycling, the ecovillage reduces landfill through composting and/or woodchipping much of our brown garden waste, as well as recycling certain plastics in a nascent plastic grinder, and using a Slack channel among residents to redistribute excess building or household goods.
- Banking and super: Both the ecovillage Co-operative itself and many residents have relationships with banks that have no involvement with fossil fuel companies.
- Consume less: see point 4 above. By redistributing unwanted goods, residents save money and shop less.
- Buying offsets: This has not been a major focus of the Ecovillage to date, though donors to the community battery can receive a certificate regarding carbon offsets.
For a copy of the Climate Future Community Plan, go to: https://climatefuture.org.au/reports/
Exploring Edible Gardens on the Central Coast
For the second year running, members of the Ecovillage participated in the self-guided Central Coast Edible Garden Trail. This is an annual weekend event showcasing food-focused gardens, connecting new and experienced gardeners, and bringing opportunities to share knowledge, inspire and grow community.
Donna welcomes visitors to her garden.
Inspired by the Edible Garden Trail movement, starting in the Blue Mountains in 2018, this event was held on the weekend of 21st-22nd October.and supported by Permaculture Central Coast. This wonderful initiative was once again championed by two members of Permaculture Central Coast, Anna and Sandi.
The purpose of the Trail is to encourage people to try growing food naturally at home by providing a direct connection between new and experienced gardeners, bringing opportunities to share knowledge, inspire and grow community.
At the Ecovillage, we had 6 individual garden hosts,, our farmbot in the Nursery area was ondisplay, and we showcased our Triplespan Garden (market garden growing area) and the Scribbly Gum Food Forest. The Coffee Cart was available for food and beverages, and some of our children took the initiative to have a stall selling homemade elderflower cordial, made from flowers onsite.
The event was a great success on a beautiful, warm day. We had around 175 visitors, with almost 500 ticket sales in total. Comments from departing guests included, “Inspiring!” and “A tribute to you all!” The day was a fabulous demonstration of edible gardens as well as community living.
The The Chef’s Garden Plate
Participants from edible gardens across the Central Coast also donated produce to The Chef’s Garden at Empire Bay, which made a delicious tasting plate that included the following:
- Mixed mushroom pate
- Thai curry pumpkin dip
- Jen’s garden pesto
- Spinach & warrigal green crackers
- Cape gooseberry tabouli
- Char grilled asparagus with lemon
- Pumpkin & lemon thyme crackers
- Smoked beetroot hummus
- Pickled malibar gourd infused with black mint, and
- a posy of edible flowers & fresh herbs
Gosford local Member Liesl Tesch (centre) was one of the visitors.
Global Donut Day, Sydney 2023
Participants at the 2023 Sydney event in November
What round thing has a social foundation and an ecological ceiling, allows humans to thrive, not just survive, and tastes yummy? or to put it another way, can we design an economy to meet the needs of all people as well as the natural world?
In November I joined about 20 people to help Regen Sydney celebrate Global Donut Day, an initiative of the UK-based Doughnut Economics Action Laboratory, now working worldwide. It seeks to make the ideas described in Kate Raworth’s book, Doughnut Economics, into a reality.
EXPLAINING THE DOUGHNUT/DONUT
The Doughnut consists of two concentric rings: a social foundation, to ensure that no one is left falling short on life’s essentials, and an ecological ceiling, to ensure that humanity does not collectively overshoot the planetary boundaries that protect Earth’s life-supporting systems. Between these two sets of boundaries lies a doughnut-shaped space that is both ecologically safe and socially just: a space in which humanity can thrive.
The aim is to help create 21st century economies that are regenerative and distributive by design, so that they can meet the needs of all people within the means of the living planet. Regen Sydney has been working on a Sydney Doughnut for the past two years, and released its first sketch of the Sydney Doughnut a month ago.
The 13 November “walkshop” in Manly both celebrated Global Donut Day and provided input to a Manly Council survey about the liveability of the Manly foreshores. We walked on both the harbour and ocean beach promenades, and discussed several local initiatives such as farmers’ markets, a food co-operative and a herb garden started out the front of a local Patagonia store.
ABOUT REGEN SYDNEY
Regen Sydney is a network of organisations and individuals exploring a regenerative future for Sydney, connecting across silos and sectors to reimagine a new economic narrative for the city, together.
READ THE REPORT: SKETCHING A SYDNEY DOUGHNUT
To see the Report or to join Regen Sydney, go to: https://www.regen.sydney/
Wed 10- Mon 15 Jan 2024: NVC Canoe Adventure
6 days, 5 nights of compassionate connection, with daily sessions to facilitate and deepen our Nonviolent Communication with qualified facilitator Kate Raffin and Whitewater Instructors & Guides to keep you safe on the water; includes all food and canoeing equipment
- When: 10-15 January
- Where: Nymboida River, Northern NSW
- More info & Registration Click here
Our holistic paddling adventures for adults are designed to rejuvenate your mind, body and soul.
Sat 27 Jan 2024: Narara Ecovillage Open Day
There will be no Open Day in December, so please join us when Open days resume for 2024, starting on the last weekend of January. Look for the registration page on our website here.
Meanwhile, you might like to watch this 7News item from December. (One error: the Lots cost more than $340k) Click here to view on X formerly Twitter
FOR SALE IN THE VILLAGE
Bellbird House for sale
Due to a change in personal circumstances, Mark & Nicky are moving very close to the Village (we are definitely NOT leaving the Ecovillage community) and reluctantly and sadly selling our beautiful 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom heritage home on Syncarpia Crescent.
This gracious beauty has been lovingly restored to incorporate modern technology for comfort whilst retaining its elegant period charm and lush established gardens with hugely productive veggie beds. Here are a few photos: https://photos.app.goo.gl/aqmC1bQcgieGSSwC7
As we are currently overseas for a family funeral, please contact Geoff Smith (0418 167659) to arrange an early inspection, make an offer or for any other questions.
If you want space and to avoid the challenge of building from scratch here are some details for you:
- 4 beds (or 3 with a large office)
- 2 bathrooms (1 ensuite)
- Huge kitchen/dining/living room
- Sitting room with fireplace
- Laundry/mud room
- Wrap-around verandah
- Ducted air-con/heating
- Garage and car-port
- Under house storage space
- 6Kw PV system
- Landscaped established gardens
- Raised veggie beds
- Automated irrigation
- Privacy and space
- 1356m block
We invite offers over $1.4m
As we are currently away from the village, please contact Geoff Smith (0418 167659) to arrange an early inspection, make an offer or for any other questions.
Vacant land for sale at Narara Ecovillage
This is a rare opportunity to purchase a beautiful block of land at Narara Ecovillage. The views are spectacular, and it’s ready to build on straight away.
- Where: 10 Kintay Lane
- Contact: Brian from Property Central https://centralcoast.propertycentral.com.au/staff/brian-milson/
For sale in Narara Ecovillage: stunning natural-built 4-bedroom home and granny flat
The owner is relocating to Queensland to be near family, so is offering for sale this unique 3-year-old architect-designed eco-home, with 4 bedrooms, 2 ½ bathrooms and a separate one-bedroom granny flat.
The home includes an earthen floor, rammed earth feature wall, straw bale and straw panel walls, Marrakesh bathrooms, natural stone benchtops, traditional timber frames, double glazed windows and doors, curved external stairway.
The home is jam-packed full of wonderful features, including an entertainers’ kitchen, open plan dining/living area and a media room (or a fourth bedroom). There is a powder room upstairs and internal access to the large single-car garage. Downstairs are three bedrooms, two with ensuites, and the master bedroom includes a walk-in robe. There is also a large laundry with lots of storage/linen space. The home includes underfloor heating and a whole-house water filtration system that supplies both the main home and the secondary dwelling.
Outside is a courtyard with a garden and water feature, and a patio with a surrounding raised vegetable garden.
The separate dwelling has its own entrance and a designated parking bay. It has the same quality appliances and finishes as the main home.
To buy in the Ecovillage one needs to be a member of the Co-operative. More information here.
- For more information and photos and to arrange a viewing please contact Peter Morris on 0405155702.