PA member George Gilmour describes his experience with permaculture succinctly: “it has changed the way I look at everything”. Since his PDC in 2017, he has been working on his site, One Tree Reach, in Gunderman NSW, overlooking the Hawksbury River, and applying permaculture principles to its challenging 16-22˚ slope.
George worked with Penny Pyatt at the Permaculture Sydney Institute in 2017 to gain his PDC. The most valuable lesson he learnt was the value of effectively observing a site and understanding the zones, plants, water use, sun movement to inform effective and sensitive site design. After all, not everything works, and what may work on one site may be entirely inappropriate for another. He has used this valuable knowledge at One Tree Reach and at his sister’s site, Elaringai Permaculture, in the Hunter Valley.
One Tree Reach, right on the banks of the Hawksbury with magnificent bush views, faces its share of unique challenges for George. Due to the south-facing site and the mature eucalyptus trees covering zone 1, he has had to think creatively about sunshine maximisation. Further, he has overcome steepness challenges by constructing terraces engineered using the cut trunks of mature eucalyptus that were cut down and left by previous owners. In the bottom terrace, he has planted a bush tucker garden and he has planted a further 200 native trees around the site. He has also maximised the limited space of the site with espalier fruiting trees, that can interact with vertical walls and the built-up space
A significant challenge his site faces is water runoff and erosion given the challenging steepness and he has incorporated these considerations into the design of the site. He has undertaken some serious engineering to mitigate this issue. Summarising his action here:
We have a concrete water tank, engineered to park two cars […] which holds 106,000L collected from the roof, which pumps to a smaller 5,000L poly tank up the hill above the house which gravity feeds the house. I use drip irrigation to control water use as well as using the water from our bio cycle septic system to water nut and fruit trees in the bush tucker garden.
To George, permaculture only works following observation and understanding of the site you’re working with, particularly when its conditions are so unique, and his PDC was instrumental in developing this technique. Indeed, permaculture is not about a one-size-fits-all approach. It instead relies on a knowledge and sensitivity of existing parameters and processes.
You can check out George’s website here.