Thursday, 17 September 2009

Minutes of the 8th Meeting

Excursion to KEV. Some members were out of country or busy so it was Beate and myself, who met at Burgel's place to drive together to KEV. On the way I was listening to the funny stories of Beate and Burgel about their time-out from their families while enjoying the luxury of an air-conditioned car driven by Pak Suasa Ketut. We are heading towards the end of the dry season now with very hot weather during the day.
We all were curious about the progress of KEV since we last visited in January for setting up the first waste water garden there. Brigitta and Silvia, both tanned and healthy looking from outdoor working, welcomed us together with a refreshing breeze from the sea.

Brigitta's Beach House

Brigitta, Silvia and Evelyn looking at the sludge blanket

septic tank with sludge blanket

Brigitta first took us on a tour through and around her new lovely beach house. The tiles are painted bright to reflect the heat and the windows are designed that the breezes can cool the house. We could not resist to open the septic tank after having heard so much about sludge blankets and never seen one. It is much less smelly than expected and the plants in the leachfield seem to enjoy the nutrients from the tank as do the maggots around the lid. We wondered how they got in there. I fell in love with the bathrooms which Brigitta decorated with jadegreen pebbles and tiles in meandering curves with little mirrors in between. Very playful and serene!
The place for the diving equipment has 2 basins for washing the gear. There is also hot water available. With a switch Brigitta can choose depending on the saltiness of the water if it is drained to the septic tank or the got which leads directly to the sea. At the moment the shed for the generator is in construction. To reduce the noise the walls are built as a sandwich of 2 brick layers with a layer of rice husks and cement in between.
Then Silvia took us to her site. Amazing what she has done since January! The restaurant and the big kitchen are in the finalising phase. It will be very spatious and airy with its big roof made from alang-alang which people from a mountain village have brought. They lived and worked on the construction site until the roof was covered.

Silvia's farm shop with thermal chimney

The store where Silvia will sell fresh vegetables from her garden and other products made from local plants like natural cosmetics is also in the finalising phase. It will be cooled by air which is sucked in through an earth pipe and then circulated into a thermal chimney. And the first guest bungalow is on its way. All buildings are made out of adobe. As the earth for the adobe is always different they do first a sample. Depending on how much clay the earth contains more or less sand has to be added that the adobe does not crack.

mulch on the veggie beds and sawdust on the paths in the mandala garden

seedlings ready to move

The vegetable garden is laid out as a mandala, the plant beds thickly mulched and the paths covered with saw dust. The first seedlings are soon ready to be planted. More than 60 young fruit trees are planted and the pigs look happy and healthy. Sweet potatoes, rosella and maniok are already available for cooking.
As the sun was setting we returned to Brigittas house and enjoyed coffee and cake on her peaceful terrasse. Great excursion with lots of inspiration! Thank you, Silvia and Brigitta.
Elena and I will attend the Permaculture Design Certificate Course with Bill Mollison in Melbourne from Sept. 21 to Oct.3. We will keep you posted here in the blog.

Please note the date for the next meeting: Saturday, October 17, 2009. The venue is not yet clear, maybe Renate's construction site in the east.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Guru's Talk

Hi Folks

Tomato blight, like so many other pest problems here, is fungal. That's why you see the grape growers spraying so much, it's usually a fungacide to control fungal outbreaks on the grapes.

Traditionally, gardeners have used Bordeaux Mix* for fungal problems. I don't any longer consider it organic, but in my opinion, it is ok to use occassionally when you're having problems with fungus.
*Copper Sulphate & Washing Soda (many recipes on the 'net) You can get the ingredients at Saba Kimia in Denpasar.

You were right, Evelyn, about creating the conditions to encourage fungus by watering the leaves. Better you water well around the roots and keep the leaves dry. Also better to water thouroughly say twice a week (so the soil is soaked to the roots), than a light watering every day (which will keep the surface moist ie. fungal, but may keep the roots thirsty).

Finally, it's a good idea to germinate your seeds in a sterile potting mix (if your seedlings are falling over because the stem has shrivelled, it's probably fungus). Just spread your potting mix out in the hot sun for a day. You can quickly rebuild soil-life later with compost mixed with water.

Have you all got some pigeon peas in? Silvia's didn't grow well but try one seedling in a poly bag till 30-40cms then plant them out. They are fragile until established - keep weeds away from them and give them some water - so look after them until they're about 1m tall, then they should be ok.

Something to remember, in the tropics, heavy rains wash nutrients out of soils leaving them quite infertile. In nature or a well managed garden, nutrients are constantly cycled by leaf-drop, plant/animal wastes or compost & mulching, but in most modern gardens, there is little nutrient cycling and soils become infertile.

If the macro-nutrients (Nitrogen, Potassium & Phosphate) are low or missing, nothing will work. So, you need to get your maco-nutrient levels up to achieve strong plant growth. You'll do this over time with good management, but in the short term, some fertilizer will help.

Once again, it's not considered organic, but for a new project where the soils are not yet too good, I suggest an occassional (1 or 2 times/year)light application of NPK fertilizer to get your garden going. Ignore the manufacturer's advice, just a light dressing over your gardens will do. After this, concentrate on building and balancing micro-nutrients, minerals and soil carbon...

Are you preparing seedlings and sites for wet season plantings? Have you thought about stormwater drainage BEFORE the wet season? Save yourself problems later by sorting out your drainage issues now...

Silvia, I love your project, it will be one of the best examples of sustainable development in Bali - I especially like your pig system. We're looking forward to linking our Lodge guests up with your place.

Attached, a pic of Norm's new hideaway and workspace.