The Autumn ‘Katoomba Street Permaculture’ Design Course (PDC) is now complete. We had great fun and both Kat Szuminska and I personally learnt lots from the students as well.
Our ‘hands on’ activity was meant to be elsewhere but with ALL the rain of late, our timetable had to be arranged and rearranged for any out door activities in the hope of dry weather let alone dodging all the hail we had in the Blue Mountains. Just a small complication to what we had not anticipated!
Luckily for me all the class were rearing to learn and plainly fascinated with grey water systems. So as a class we chose to repairing my versions of a flow-type reed assisted grey water system. Holistic description for an essentially basic permaculture solution of making my bath water cleaner water before it got to my fruit trees.
Previously I had intercepted the bath water from the pipes outside the bathroom with a funnel and run that water into a small tank. Being grey water this water is then moved on quickly through hoses and ½ terra cotta pipes into my garden. In the pipes I have places aggregate rocks, so that the water is tumbled, oxygenated and solarized. Any particles of skin, hair or what ever will drop out of suspension into these pebbles along the way. Wanting the water to be even cleaner before it continued down the property, I had previously devised a further filter system. And this is where we needed to clean and repaired my structures…
We remodeled and repositioned three black plastic drainage pits (the type used for storm water) so that water from the one higher up the landscape spilled into the next pit below and then into more terra cotta pipes down to a retention pond below. I think of it as my ‘poor-man’s’ flow forms.
I was concerned that on such short notice I wouldn’t have the required materials on hand. But with a little bit of design and lateral thinking -recycled guttering, broken terra-cotta pipes and down pipe was resourced from bits and pieces stored on site for just such a recycling opportunity.
A few days later I made the final touches In the first top pit I placed a layer of charcoal underwater. Charcoal is made of carbon and has a large numbers of small pockets with an even larger surface area of it is able to absorb pollutant substances from liquids. In it I’m grow some duckweed, (Lemnaceae) these small floating plants likes high nutrient water and readily takes trace elements up as it grows and multiples. From experience I know it makes a plentiful supply of green feed for my ducks. In the next pit I have a layer of gravel and the final pit a layer of sand into which I have planted some Sweet Flag (Acorus calamus)). These are often used in constructed wetlands and take up nutrients from water and some accounts suggest the help oxygenate the water as well 1
I am well pleased with the results and I know that soon nearby plants will reemerge where we disturbed them in our work. They will once again blend the components into a complete ecosystem. Tadpole near by will hopefully be thrilled by our renovations and will be more than happy as adult and help me control unwanted insects pests in repayment.
As always, I am amazed at what a few willing workers can do in a very short period of time. As an added bonus in the process we harvested Jerusalem Artichokes that were growing in a dysfunctional tyre pond. One of the students went home and made us all a much-appreciated soup for lunch the next day. This we consumed with great gusto. Great work all round guys!
Soon Kat and I will be planning our next PDC!
1 Diurnal fluctuations in oxygen release from roots of Acorus calamus Linn in a modeled constructed wetland Journal of Environmental Science and Health Part A 2011