Friday, May 22, 2020

sitrep in words


REFRAMING THIS BLOG, APRIL 2020... 

I Dennis, at 76, am limited in things I can do these days.

Helen, a creature of passionate gardening, determined about aesthetics and productivity, has begun some tidying of my garden, which like Helen's garden is more than a decade into its maturation. And having ceased full-time work in November 2019, Helen has put huge energy into our gardens as well as into our private lives more generally. We are happy together, which is very useful isolated in pandemic. I am able to do some light work and we are good at thinking and planning together. I bring from the 1990s my permaculture designer's certificate training and my brief time building a small orchard and securing its organic certification.

In many ways our gardens are now at climax. But any notions that permaculture involves a decline in work, just avoiding falling fruit, is far from the reality of fascinating observation, contemplation, observation, discussion, intervention, observation, correction, experimentation, observation... Helping the garden find its way forward, with exhilaration.

We are very fortunate. Fortunate to have each other, fortunate to have the comfort and rewards of this permaculture environment in a regional town in which at my age I am not supposed to go out, and Helen must also limit outside activities because of COVID-19 risks.

When we say permaculture we refer not just cute massing of edibles in nifty maybe magical gardens as some have betrayed the hard concepts... but thinking about permanent agriculture AND permanent culture. The term permaculture was coined by David Homgren in his doctoral thesis at the University of Tasmania in the 1970s, supervised by Bill Mollison. Mollison became the campaigning public face of permaculture; Holmgren a more private, intense, intellectual example of applied permaculture in whole-of-life.

I note that this Australian, now global, concept of permaculture is about sustainable living. I note also that the term 'sustainability' did not enter language with its present meaning until 1987 with the publication of the Brundtland Report Our Common Future by the United Nations. Permaculture tends to occupy a slightly off-centre place in sustainability discussions because of its private not public sponsorship and the tendency of some proponents to live at the bottom of the garden with fairies. While, alas, the term sustainable has been largely obliterated of meaning with theft of the term for so many other purposes. I am sure that in this moment as I write someone is writing a paper on sustainability of the sex industry in the era of physical separation obligations because of the 'virus'. Search the web and youtube in particular for 'permaculture'. Its serious and a great focus in difficult times.

This COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences have followed a succession of natural stressors for us.

2019 was a period of savage drought in much of eastern Australia, including our gardens, mine in Nowra more than Helen's in Gerringong because of slight temperature and humidity difference and dramatically different soil quality. Helen's garden sloping volcanic origin clay and developed soils. Dennis's garden flat, former dairy pasture clapped out by superphosphate use and tramping heavy animals, with just a scraping of tired soil above tens of metres of fast-draining sandstone and conglomerate, needing in the best of times nurturing with mulches and development of soil humus.

Then in the beginning of December 2019 this corner of Australia caught fire. Forests burned in unprecedented ways because trees and soil were bone dry as regards water, the predominant eucalyptus trees loaded with eucalyptus oil. Advancing fire fronts gobbled a fuel-air explosive mixture and match-stick dry timber. Fire came within ten km of Dennis's house and destroyed a house and organic orchard Dennis built some way south two decades ago and sold to nice people in 2013. The air was filled with smoke and leaf fragments and dust for weeks.

In January 2020 the fires were put out by flooding rain. The flooding especially of Dennis's garden achieved resuscitation and restoration of the water table, also washing in a load of potash and carbon and more by way of growth promotants blown in from the fires.

So in the moment of the arrival the of SARSCov.19 virus and its disease COVID-19 we had gone through fierce phases arriving at a basis of garden health and abundance. With which to stay home...

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