Blitz 126 in Preston
Saturday 21 April was our very own permablitz at the rental property I share with my 4 other housemates in Preston. The weather was very cooperative! It started out a cold misty morning when the delivery truck came by with our 4 cubic meters of mushroom compost and mulch, but soon the sun came out for a very nice day. Volunteers started rolling in around 10am and started straight to work digging the fence for the chicken run and weeding the marrow by the peach tree. There were fewer people than we expected, but that turned out to be exactly the number we needed to get the job done.
Before: The backyard
Before: The backyard
Before – The backyard
Before – The frontyard
After opening circle and a round of stretches lead by Pat, we split up into the morning workshops. Phuong spoke about the importance of ponds and got several volunteers to help dig out the pond. Pat facilitated the finishing details on the chicken coop (the bulk of which was built the previous weekend), such as sanding down, painting on several layers of paint, and adding on the roofing. Moz worked on the chicken run fence with Hans and Freddy the majority of the day, digging in the chicken wire to prevent foxes and securing the fence posts. I managed the laying down of wet cardboard over the grass for our no-dig technique on the veggie patch. It took a lot more cardboard than we expected to cover the entire backyard! We actually had to make several extra trips to the supermarket recycling bin for cardboard (luckily it’s close by).
Weed the marrow
Dig the pond
Paint the coop
Dig the fence
Build the chook run fence
Lunch was a delicious vegan serving of potato salad, dahl, chickpea curry, and rice cooked by Pat. It was an excellent opportunity for everyone to network and get to know one another. There were a few people who were involved with the transition town movement, and I got to learn a bit about how they operate. I’d love to get involved with Transition Darebin in the future – the grassroots nature of transition towns is really appealing.
Cardboard, dirt and the birth of a vegie patch
A vegie patch ready for…
After lunch, we continued to work on the veggie patch, wheelbarrowing mushroom compost from the front to the back. We were initially worried that we wouldn’t have wheelbarrows to carry the compost, but our callout for tools was readily answered by our volunteers, who all seemed to bring a shovel or other handy tools. Indeed, some dedicated few even brought everything on their bike trailers. Our house setup made it easy to have two wheelbarrows going at once and soon the entire backyard was covered in mushroom compost. Chamali and I used string to measure out a circle for the bike-wheel design veggie patch and soon volunteers were planting seeds and seedlings.
The chicken fence was finished quite early so the rest of the volunteers soon moved on to building the composting toliet. Some measuring, pounding, and many a toilet joke later, our simple little composting toilet was finished.
Composting toilet workshop
Everyone was so efficient with the work that we had our finishing cake and tea before 3pm. Vegan chocolate cake and fruit after a long day of gardening was very welcome. Some volunteers stayed on to help with the front yard. We used the same no-dig technique out there with cardboard and mulch to suppress the grass, and soon the natives were all planted. The volunteers even dug out the concrete border and hauled it to the back, where we turned it into a nice little border around the laundry line.
All in all, I’m really happy with what we got accomplished. It took a lot of work in organizing, planning, and managing, but it was worth it. Permablitzes generally take place on land that the host owns because let’s face it, gardening takes a LOT of time, energy, and money. So there aren’t very many permablitzes that occur on rental properties. But I think that it’s important to show what can be done on rental properties. With a little ingenuity about where you get materials, you can do a lot. Even if we don’t end up staying at this house, having a garden will increase the value of the land and add to the urban ecosystem. So now comes the fun part of watching our garden grow!