Our First Winter

Winter is here, and the rains have started. Or at least – we had two weeks of rainy weather, and now we have Melbourne winter weather. Cold and dry. It’s lovely for going out in, but my poor baby trees need the wet. K commented the other day that being a permahippy has the unexpected consequence of making you respond to a rainy day with excitement and happiness. So much precious water, so many things that can grow as a result.

The current objective is to extend the tree cover as much as we can before next summer, to provide shade for planting fruit trees, and to start building soil. With that in mind, we’ve been planting seedling trees, which are doing beautifully so far, and we’ve seeded the swale mounds with broad bean (Vicia faba), green lentil (Lens culinaris), and lupin bean (Lupinus spp.) seeds, which are all sprouting. It’s very exciting.

We’ve made (or attempted) a first generation of seed balls, containing some tough, drought tolerant tree seeds (mainly wattles and black locust), pioneer shrubs and groundcovers, and flowers. Flowers for our soon-to-be-established bees, to bring birds and insects onto the property, and just for the joy of flowers – which is, I think, a highly underrated motivation.

The seed ball making wasn’t a complete success. It’s difficult to get red clay powder, or in fact any powdered clay, here so we used bentonite clay which is sold to be dug into garden beds to assist with water retention. It works, but it isn’t ground up very finely, and when you add minerals to it in the form of rock dust it ends up being quite gritty. On top of that, our compost was a little bit gritty as well, with wood fibre in it that hadn’t completely broken down. As a result, our mixture was reasonably granular, and didn’t nucleate as well as I’d hoped. We did make seed balls, but it didn’t go as smoothly as expected.

Lessons for next time? Don’t add rock dust – just sprinkle that out separately on the ground when we broadcast the seed balls. Use the finest clay powder available. Use a more fine-textured compost. I should relax and not be quite such a perfectionist about it.

UPDATE: And after all that, the seed balls worked out fine. We broadcast them last weekend, as well as digging some more swales and starting the Polish swales, and planting another load of tree seedlings.