"We're heading for 1.5 C (2.7 F) of global warming by 2030, due to burning fossil fuels, deforestation and agriculture. The result is more droughts, floods, wildfires, heatwaves and hurricanes. This prompts the question 'What can I actually do?'. The answer is simple: 'Commit to positive action now'."
Do an audit of your own climate impact and adapt accordingly.
Climate – Weather pattern over time, the general pattern of temperature, moisture, wind and sunshine is a particular area.
Microclimate – The climate of a very small or restricted area, mainly when this differs from the environment of the surrounding area.
Climate Change – More rapid changes in both global and local climates entailing increasing severity of weather patterns (not merely general warming).
"The hardest climate to change is that of the mind" - Darren Doherty
There is no topic more discussed at the moment than the climate and weather.
Weather and climate risk is a vast and complex subject, and we, as a species, have not responded to complexity well. One of the biggest challenges we currently face is to recognise the complexity of climate while at the same time, implement practical strategies of adapting and managing the impact of weather and climate and, hopefully, to regenerate for future generations.
"We're not designing, for now, we're designing for 20, 30, 500 years and looking at the patterns of the weather, climate, landscape and our own behaviour."
Typically, when we design for ourselves or a client, it is from the perspective of that point in time. While we try to think of that 20/30/500-year timeframe, it can be only a poor shadow of reality – the limitation of a 'master plan'.
We need to be adaptive in our thinking and our outcomes because, we do not really know what is coming. At best, it is an excellent educated guess.
Before discussing some practical tools for evaluating the land, it is important to emphasise that the most successful people looking at designing their area, spend time listening to the earth. In other words, learning directly from the opportunities and limits a property has to offer. It is better to match a given enterprise to the land, rather than try and work to shape the area to match the system. This is the underlying idea behind the scale of permanence.
The scale of permanence is a tool created by farmer and engineer PA Yeomans in Australia in the 1950s as part of an organising framework he called keyline design. The scale was the backbone of this system for whole-farm planning, and was initially dictated as:
The idea is that, as one moves down the list, the elements of a system become less permanent; that is, they take less energy to change and are less permanent as a factor for planning.
More recently, permaculture designers Dave Jacke and Eric Toensmeier, as well as Darren Doherty and Dan Palmer from VEG, have also adopted the idea of the scale of permanence into different variation.
Regardless of the variation, each begins with looking at climate. The most permanent element we are looking at in design and our landscape. It is easy, however, to fall into the trap of just looking at averages. Accessing the data and just looking at the average means we are designing for the norm, not for extremes and while things will flourish in those times, it is on the edges, the extremes, where we need to be at if we are truly to become resilient, regenerative and abundant.
One of the biggest things I have personally have done over in the last seven years to help with our climate impact was, interestingly enough, move. We had a larger property which was developed over time. We grew most all of our fruit and vegetables, had chickens and lived the 'sustainable lifestyle' or so we thought.
Yet the input in times of stress was immense. Travelling to get mulch or hay was not an easy prospect – a minimum of 40 minutes round trip, then the kids started school, then there were other activities. To do anything required a vehicle. Even a trip to the hospital, doctor or the library was an adventure due to the tyranny of distance.
So we moved. With an uncompromising list in hand, we began our search. High on that list was access to public transport, as much as we could within walking distance, good soils, fire risk, most of the yard in the back with a NE aspect, downsizing in land size but still wanted a rural feel. There was a lot more on the list but needless to say we found our ideal.
While already having existing infrastructure (House, shed, tanks and a few trees) pretty much a blank slate. Going through the design process, coming up with an adaptable working plan, we have since put in extensive gardens, planted about 160 trees as well as subtly adjusting some aspects of my landscape to hold more water.
Not everything has been rosy . I fell into this trap of complacency recently with one of my forest gardens. Without thinking, I had designed it for the average and when things got tough in the recent 12 months, it to suffer. The fault was not in the system but in the design. Going back over it and really looking at the figures showed me the flaw was and I was able to rectify the design with some simple adjustments with a shovel. Once done the next rainfall event, while only 20mm made a massive difference to the system.
Also, with the ongoing drought the ground covers here (and to be honest, everywhere around here) had died off. With the temperatures rising (and I will freely admit to missing the feeling of cover beneath my feet) I started using the grey water on the exposed soil, mixed with a number of 'witchy brews' (biology) that rapidly brought back a living cover over the soil between the house and the shed. And while yes, it is currently grass (I am not going to ignore succession) it proliferated in that space and has had the effect of dropping the temperature between 10-15 degrees.
This has, in turn, lowered the temperature of the house. Add to this the fact the way the shed and building are facing and the distance between creates a venturi effect in the summer months which channel the breeze through that space dropping, the temperature further is an added bonus
There is always something to do and always something to learn.
Some take homes:
Your local council website for localised data and services offered in your community
Carbon foot print
Climate data (rain, wind, temperature, frost)
Type “climatology *your local weather station* and it should come up with the data for your local area from BoM
Property risk assessment – MLA
It has hairy, long, slender ribbed leaves that form 1 or more rosettes from which emerge long, slender flowering stems carrying dense, brown, cylindrical seed heads that often have white anthers sticking out of them from October to March or in July. Has a long Taproot.
As A Soil Indicator:
Very low Calcium, High Phosphorous, Very high Potassium, High Manganese, Very high Magnesium, High Iron, High Sulfate, High Copper, High Boron, High Chlorine, High Selenium, Very little organic matter.
Annual, biennial or perennial. Germination occurs mainly in the autumn and winter. More abundant in the higher rainfall areas.
Palatable fodder while other fodder is limited, Insectary, Nectary, May eat young leaves as a spinach.
Host for some plant diseases. Host plant for light brown apple moth
May cause hay fever. May have a mild laxative effect
A many branched annual to perennial shrub or small tree to 3 metres tall with stalked, large leaves with 5-9 finger like lobes and softly spiny capsules. It has yellow male flowers below the reddish female flowers from spring to autumn.
As A Soil Indicator:
Low Calcium, Very low Potassium, Very high phosphate, Very high Magnesium, High Manganese, High Iron, High Sodium, High Copper, Very little organic matter.
Annual biennial or perennial. Germinates from autumn to spring and grows quickly. They may reach a height of several metres in their first year. Flowers from August-March depending on the area. Seed may be set in the first year. Growth slows or the plants die in winter. Surviving plants commence rapid growth in spring. It behaves as an annual in frosty areas.
Castor oil extracted from the seeds for a lubricant and hydraulic fluids because its viscosity is stable as temperature increases.
Seeds contain ricin and are poisonous to stock and poultry and humans. Seeds are very toxic to humans and 6-8 seeds may cause death.
Seeds produce an allergic reaction in skin. Cases of poisoning in the field are rare. Horses are most sensitive followed by sheep, cattle and pigs and poultry are the least sensitive. Seeds and oil can be made safe by heating to 500C or more.
Blackberry is a semi deciduous, perennial shrub with scrambling, arching, prickly stems (canes) that may form dense, tangled thickets to 4 m high. The stems take root where they touch the ground, often forming dense thickets. The broad leaves are 3-15 cm long and divided into 3-5 toothed leaflets.
As A Soil Indicator:
Very low Calcium, Low Potassium, High phosphate, High Magnesium, High Manganese, High Iron, Very little organic matter. More abundant on fertile soils
Perennial. Flowers November to January. Fruits January to April. Seeds germinate from spring to autumn and grow very slowly in the first year usually reaching 50-70 mm height with 3-6 leaves but have a disproportionately large root system. After 3 or 4 years, they develop into a shrub about 1000 mm round. In winter they loose most of their leaves and grow very slowly. In spring and summer they produce new leaves and canes quickly. First year canes emerge, in late winter, from the central crown that may be up to 200 mm round. The first year canes grow very quickly at 50-80 mm per day.
Blackberries are picked for food, preserves, jam, pies, wine, liqueurs. Leaves are used as a tea substitute. Canes are used for securing thatch. Fruit is rich in vitamin C. Pollen and honey are produced from it.
It has been used as a hedge plant and for controlling stream bank erosion.
Provide a refuge from feral cats for native birds.
Used in herbal medicine for coughs, diarrhea and blood cleansing..
Invades pasture land and blocks creeks and rivers. Reduces access to amenity areas and streams. Form impenetrable thickets that harbours vermin such as foxes and rabbits. Old infestations can be a serious fire hazard due to the large number of old dead canes. Sheep can become entangled in the canes and die. Very few companion plants survive in the thickets. It delays or prevents regeneration of forests after thinning or cutting.
A tall, relatively hairless perennial grass with broad, long leaves with a prominent midrib underneath, jagged membranous ligule and erect stout stems arising from a creeping, rooting, scaly rhizome. It produces a purplish-brown pyramidal, seed head about 25 cm long in summer. It is listed as one of the 10 worst weeds in the world
As A Soil Indicator:
Very low Calcium, Very high phosphate, Very high Magnesium, High Manganese, High Iron, Very high Sulphur, High Copper, High Zinc, Very high Boron, High Chlorine, High Selenium, Aluminum, High Salt, Very little organic matter, Anaerobic bacteria, Prefers damp soils.
Perennial. Flowers November to June. Seeds germinate in spring to early summer. Initially top growth is slow as roots and rhizome develops. Flowering commences about 7 weeks after germination. After flowering the rhizome grows quickly. Flowering is continuous over the summer with a peak in early and late summer. Rhizomes dormant over winter. Top growth dies after frosts in winter. New shoots emerge from rhizomes in spring. Shoots from rhizomes emerge earlier and grow faster than those from seed. Rhizomes are short-lived and are produced in one season, sprout in the next season to form a new plant then die as new rhizomes are formed.
Aggressive weed, Crosses with sorghum producing weedy biotypes.
Toxic when stressed, frosted, wilted or stunted. Cattle, sheep and pigs have been poisoned in Australia. Cattle appear to suffer the worst losses. It may also contain toxic levels of nitrate and cause nitrate poisoning especially during periods of vigorous growth
SO FAR as we are able to determine this is the first book to be written in praise of weeds. According to Joseph Cocannouer, weeds -- the common ragweeds, pigweeds, pusleys and nettles, to mention four -- perform the following valuable services among others:
1. They bring minerals, especially those which have been depleted, up from the subsoil to the topsoil and make them available to crops. This is particularly important with regard to trace elements.
2.When used in crop rotation they break up hardpans and allow subsequent crop roots to feed deeply.
3. They fiberize and condition the soil and provide a good environment for the minute but important animal and plant life that make any soil productive.
4. They are good indicators of soil condition, both as to variety of weed present and to condition of the individual plant. Certain weeds appear when certain deficiencies occur.
5. Weeds are deep divers and feeders and through soil capillarity they enable the less hardy, surface feeding crops to withstand drought better than the crop alone could.
6. As companion crops they enable our domesticated plants to get their roots to otherwise unavailable food.
7. Weeds store up minerals and nutrients that would be washed, blown or leached away from bare ground and keep them readily available.
8. Weeds make good eating -- for man as well as for livestock. The publisher can vouch for the superiority of lamb's quarter -- a favorite of the author -- over any other domestic form of spinach or cooked greens.
No, Professor Cocannouer does not believe that weeds should be allowed to go rampant and take over our farms and gardens. The function of this book, a pioneering work, is to demonstrate how the controlled use of weeds can be sound ecology, good conservation and a boon to the average farmer or gardener.
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(From the Introduction)
A bristly, annual or biennial (lasting 2 years) herb with a rosette or deeply divided leaves with toothed margins with a much larger rounded terminal lobe that grows to 90cm high. The stems are wiry with pale yellow terminal flowers.
As A Soil Indicator:
Very low Calcium, Low Potassium, Very high phosphate, Very high Magnesium, Very low Manganese, High Iron, High Sulphur, High Copper, High Zinc, High Boron, High Chlorine, High Selenium, High Salt, Very little organic matter, Anaerobic bacteria, Prefers damp soils.
Annual or biennial. Seeds germinate mainly in autumn with some in spring. It forms a rosette of leaves over winter and sends up a branched flowering stem in spring. It usually dies off in summer but some plants in moist conditions may survive into their second season.
Nectary plant. Leaves and shoots edible. Used in herbal medicine for colds and chest complaints
May taint milk. Relatively unpalatable
Not recorded as toxic
A rapid growing, finely hairy, climbing perennial vine with purple-blue, bell shaped flowers at most times of the year with a flush from November to April. Unlike many of the other morning glory species, it is mainly a weed of agricultural areas and disturbed sites (e.g. crops, roadsides, parks, gardens, fence-lines and waste areas). However, it also invades bushland and riparian areas and can be a serious environmental weed in warm moist areas, where it chokes out native plants.
As A Soil Indicator:
Very low Calcium, Very low Potassium, Very low phosphate, High Magnesium, High Iron, Very high Sulphur, High Copper, High Zinc, High Boron, High Selenium Very little organic matter, Anaerobic bacteria, Prefers damp soils.
Perennial. Widely naturalised in the warmer parts of eastern Australia (i.e. eastern Queensland and the coastal districts of New South Wales).
Ornamental and medicinal uses. Leaves reported to be used as pig food. Seeds are strongly purgative.
Vigorous fast growing. Once established it is difficult to control
Not recorded as toxic
A many branched, robust, biennial or annual herb, usually 1.5 metres tall with twice divided leaves, many white flowers in spring in umbrella like arrangements at the top and with an unpleasant mousy or parsnip like smell when crushed. The stems are hollow and usually have distinctive purplish blotches.
As A Soil Indicator:
Low Calcium, High Potassium, Very high Magnesium, Very high Manganese, Very high Iron, High Sulphur, Very high Copper, Very high Zinc, Very high Boron, Very high Chloride, High Selenium Very little organic matter, Anaerobic bacteria, Prefers damp soils.
Biennial or annual. Seedlings germinate in autumn and sometimes in spring, producing a coarse rosette initially and a deep taproot. Some plants flower in their first spring or summer and die. Others remain vegetative and flower in their second spring and summer then die. It may become perennial in regularly cut situations like Lucerne.
Very toxic. Weed of moist areas, especially along roadsides, ditches, creeks, lucerne, gardens, alluvial flats, rubbish dumps, disturbed areas and in pasture. May cause dermatitis after handling in some people.
Hosts carrot fly and celery yellow spot..
Very toxic plant. Contains a number of toxic alkaloids.
Eating leaves, roots and seeds mistakenly have caused human deaths. Leaves may be mistaken for parsley, roots for parsnip and seed for aniseed. Most toxic when green and varies with climatic conditions.
Livestock usually don't eat the plant but contaminated fodder can cause problems. Many cases of poisoning in cattle, pigs, horses and poultry are reported. Sheep and goats appear to be more tolerant. Young stock are more susceptible than old stock. Taints milk. Secondary poisoning may occur.
Caltrop is a flat, sprawling, summer-growing, annual herb. Stems. Caltrop has numerous green to reddish brown stems radiating from a crown. It grows prostrate to 2 m long with many branches and fine hairs.
As A Soil Indicator:
Low Calcium, Very Low Potassium, High Phosphorous, High Magnesium, High Iron, High Aluminum Very little organic matter, Anaerobic bacteria, Occurs on a wide range of soils. More abundant on sandy soils..
Annual or short lived perennial. Seed germinates from spring to autumn after rain and it grows rapidly producing deep roots. It grows mainly in the warmer months. It grows profusely after summer rains and flowers mainly in summer and autumn. The flowers open in the morning and close or drop their petals in the afternoon. They usually die in autumn or winter after the first frosts. In tropical areas the deep taproot develops and the plant becomes a perennial.
Nectary plant. Fodder. Kills bacteria and used in herbal medicine as a diuretic, tonic and aphrodisiac.
Injures animal feet. Contaminates wool. Contaminates dried fruit. Injures shearers and wool, fruit and vegetables handlers.
Dense infestations may be toxic to stock causing photo sensitisation of skin around lips, ears and eyes followed by swelling of the head. Sheep are more commonly affected than cattle.
Causes a chronic staggers mainly in the British breeds of sheep.
Spiny burr may cause injury to feet and intestines of stock and form pussy sores where they penetrate the frog of horses hooves.
It can accumulate nitrate and oxalate levels high enough to cause nitrate poisoning and oxalate poisoning in stock especially after spraying with industrial chemical herbicides.