Sep 01

Our Permablitz Part 1

Yes, Part 1, because there’s a lot to share :D

We had a Permablitz at our place a few days ago on a perfect sunny winter’s day. If you’re not sure what a permablitz is:


Permablitz Defined (

“Permablitz (noun): An informal gathering involving a day on which a group of at least two people come together to achieve the following:
    – create or add to edible gardens
    – share skills related to permaculture and sustainable living
    – build community
    – have fun
Permablitzes are free events, open to the public, with free workshops, shared food, where you get some exercise and have a wonderful time. To be defined as a permablitz each event must also be preceded by a permaculture design by a designer with a Permaculture Design Certificate. The network runs on reciprocity.”

But the definition doesn’t do justice to the amazing event and transformation that happens on the day.

We were blown away by the attendance and the fabulous transformation.
We had over 40 people throughout the day and collectively we

  • Dug 50 metres of irrigation trenches,
  • Moved 5 metres of recycled hardwood mulch for the mulch trenches
  • Moved 9 metres of straw for the chook run and garden beds
  • Assembled a vertical garden trellis around the 25kL tank using 12 metres of recycled wire-mesh fencing
  • Installed the posts and sleepers for the 14m fence for the chook run
  • Planted out 5 metres of strawberries under the grapevines
  • Weeded the area around the grapevine and transplanted the Pepino
  • Weeded, mulched and replanted three raised veggie garden beds
  • Weeded the pathways and areas surrounding the veggie garden
  • Pruned several fruit trees in the orchard area
  • Moved 2.5 tonnes of old sleepers into temporary storage
  • Installed grey water irrigation system to the mulch trenches


Phew! No wonder we were tired :-P

So, just to whet your appetite, here are a few selected photos taken by Edwin Reese from on the day as part of the Blitz. Edwin has kindly given permission to share these here but note that Edwin retains copyright on the photos as per this notice

All photos on this post (Copyright 2014 – Edwin Reese –

_R140164_R140035  _R140039_R140159     _R140108 _R140099 _R140080 _R140073 _R140070 _R140064 _R140059   _R140026 _R140131_R140127_R140169































We have plenty more photos and possibly a video of the event to come in part 2.


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Aug 19

3D Design and Printing Fun

I have finally got around to posting again after returning from Timor Leste a few weeks ago. I think I was a bit flat after the trip and took a while to shake off a persistent cold. Ah well, it is the time of year for such things. Anyway, the cold has gone and my enthusiasm has returned – Yay!

As a bit of a change, I thought I might post a quick couple of bits about some 3D design and printing I have been doing (partly work related). You may remember that I have an interest in 3D printing and design, and other fabrication activities, and I posted a bit about it here.


I am lucky enough to have access to a 3D printer and some other fabrication equipment at work and it has been a bit of fun and a little bit of hard slog, to learn how to get a design from concept, into a 3D design, then 3D printed, and finally to have the completed piece in place doing the task. OK, it’s been a lot of slog but heaps of fun ;-)

The main thing I wanted to make was a bracket to hold a computer fan on a box for a project we are building for a virtual reality display, as part of science week. I thought it would be appropriate to quickly design and print the bracket rather than modifying an existing bracket. It ended up harder than I expected, took much longer than I had anticipated, and became a very good learning experience.

I decided to use a very simple free online program called Tinkercad (

tinkercad-screenIt does have some limitations but it is easy to use with a simple drag and drop technique. It takes a little getting used to, like any 3D program, but it is surprising how quickly you can get the hand of it. The picture shows the 3D model I made of the computer fan along with an early prototype of the bracket I designed.

There were a couple of problems with the bracket and I ended up changing the design to the one shown below.

bracket-imageOf course I needed two of them, so I uploaded the file into the 3D printer, printed one to make sure everything was OK and then printed the second one.

brackets with fanThey worked a treat and I am very happy with the final result.

This kind of manufacturing and construction is on the increase and promises much. It will be interesting to see how it is used as the prices keep dropping and the technology makes it’s way into the home, office and small business.

Just for a bit of fun, after the brackets were completed, I very quickly threw together a few fun parts to make this creation, I call baby chicken (after all, there had to be a permaculture theme somewhere in this post  :-)   ).

It’s interactive so press the 3D button and have a look :-D

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Jun 27

Some More from Timor

Hey good people. Still having fun training in Timor Leste and couldn’t resist sharing a few more happy snaps.


hazy-morning mercy-corps

It was a little Hazy this morning as I arrived at the Mercy Corps Office and get ready to head off of to the training venue at Tibar.


Big-loadI think this guy had some help tying all this stuff onto his motorbike. He moved through the traffic effortlessly. It was amazing to watch.

deep-in-conversation Facilitating a discussion on the technical support requirements.


Queue-for-morning-teaTime for Morning tea at the Cafeteria. The hospitality students and staff serve meals up to all the staff and students at CNEFP.


morning-tea-popcorn popcorn-for-morning-tea

Including some interesting variations like these popcorn and sweet coconut slice goodies :)


Simao-the-director  Simao-the-gardener

Meanwhile the director of the Facility shows his versatility around the campus. He says it keeps him fit and focused when he is back in the office. It must work because he is a powerhouse of energy and drive.

 testing-some-PV Lucky he missed these PV systems set up for display and training purposes



Deep in discussion during the afternoon session


The-men-from-the-ministrySadly, all good thing must come to an end. Time for one last photo with the Government Electricity Department staff and one of our teachers and the translator as they wrap up their last day. It’s back to work for them while the teachers and I continue our training Tomorrow.


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Jun 25

Once More in the Land of the Crocodile

I’m in Timor Leste once a gain completing the last few days on the Mercy Corps training program at the vocational training centre, CNEFP at Timor about 30 minutes west of Dili. I’ve posted a story on CNEFP in the past here.

This is the final phase of the contract this week. Next week I am doing some volunteer work for the ATA before returning home for a while. I must admit, I’m not looking forward to the wild and freezing weather in Melbourne at the moment.

Anyway, I thought I would share a few rag-tag happy snaps of Today’s activities with you.




On the way to Tibar. They have finished the main fountain near the entrance to the airport. Very imposing!






St Michaels-02St Michaels-01

How could I pass up the opportunity to show you St Michael’s :-)


Through the main gate at CNEFP


and into the staff room to say “Hi” to the mix of office staff and teachers


Discussing the final detail of the box construction for some of our test gear

CNEFP-workshop-01 CNEFP-workshop-02

busy assembling the variable load


The board going through it’s testing before being used for some equipment testing


On our way home again

hometime-01 babyonbike

Along with everybody else including mum, dad and the baby.

I hope you have enjoyed the happy snaps. I will have a few more, no doubt, over the next two weeks including a few from the districts where we will be installing some systems in a school and some houses :-)



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Jun 22

That Garden Bed

Oh, remember that garden bed I mentioned in the previous post, you know that one that also featured in a a very early post (here)?


Yes, that’s the one. Well I did a bit of work on it last month and, of course, there was a bit of scope creep, and the simple cleanup turned into a major refit!

It all started when I decided that I wanted to redo the borders as part of the preparation and general cleanup prior to our Permablitz in August (Oh, have I mentioned we’re having a permablitz?  ;-) ). I will provide some more detail closer to the date but you can also find all the details at

Anyway, I started with a simple idea. Remove the existing rotting red-gum sleepers and replace them with newer bits. Sounds simple, right? and it would’ve been, but…I got to thinking (oh, oh).

Since the original bed was built, I have installed a grapevine trellis running behind it with some mesh fencing and steel posts for support. Wouldn’t it be nice if I could use these posts as the corner posts for the sleepers together with the posts at the front that support the verandah and storm water pipes to the tank.

But, of course, the existing posts were in the wrong spot to make it work properly so they would have to come out and be repositioned. Which meant dismantling the fence and unhooking the trellis wire supports for the grapevine.

I would also need to place a new post in the other corner to complete the process.




So there was nothing for it but to start digging!






And more Digging!








Now, there was a bit a planning involved before all that hard work. For example, making sure that the bed lined up with the trellis and support fencing, and was positioned away from the boundary fence which is overdue for replacement. The idea was to make the mesh fence double as a brace for the trellis and a climbing frame for plantings in the bed. It was also important that everything was square.

So how do you make sure that everything is square. Good old Pythagoras provided the answer a few thousand years ago. The diagram shows some of the measurements used to make sure the posts were going into the right place.  The second set of measurements with the dotted lines show the results of scaling up the classic 3-4-5 triangle to get a right angle (90 degrees) as a check.


I decided to concrete these posts in place because I needed them to be solid. The trellis wires are under tension and the original posts had moved a little, despite the bracing, and it was also going to be used as a climbing frame. Suddenly, the next bit of scope creep appeared! If I made the posts a bit longer and put some horizontal bracing between the four corners, I  could drape plastic film over the whole lot and make a temporary greenhouse for winter and extend the growing season in the new bed!

Damn! now I had to bolt some extensions on the bottom of the second hand posts to extend their height for the greenhouse idea. Oh well! it’ll be worth it :-)


At this point a friend said to me, “why are you mucking around with the grinder making brackets from old bits of post scraps when they’re so cheap at the hardware store?”

To be honest, had I realised the work involved, I may have done just that. However, I enjoyed making them and I was able to re-purpose some material that would have ended up in the scrap bin rather than buying new material.

So I cut up the brackets, drilled the holes for the mounting screws and sprayed them with anti-rust paint.
gardenbed-upgrade-11 gardenbed-upgrade-12      gardenbed-upgrade-13

Then it was just a matter of bolting the brackets to the posts at the right height and bolting the sleepers to the brackets. Easy :-)
gardenbed-upgrade-14 gardenbed-upgrade-15     gardenbed-upgrade-16

Now at this point, with some of the sleepers in place, I needed to put in an extension support because the sleepers were not long enough for the garden bed. I had already done this at the rear of the bed with a post because I wanted the mesh fence for the climbing frame but what was the best way to do this at the front of the bed, and then…more scope creep!!

What about putting another post at the front and extending it later to the top support for the pipe to the tank? That way I could install a door and make the greenhouse more permanent. No problem!

So in went another post making a 900mm opening and the remainder of the sleepers.





The finished Product Tada!!

“But what about the soil?”, you ask? “Oh yeah!” Ok, let’s get some soil and chicken manure into the bed.


That’s Better !! Several barrow loads of composted tree pruning and chicken manure later and it’s finished.

Even the basil and capsicum survived the rebuild.



I have since re-attached the vine trellis, planted out some peas, broad beans and garlic and they are doing well. I’ll post some more pictures in a few weeks.

So now I have a much larger garden bed complete with built in climbing frame and provision for turning it into a greenhouse in the future.

It was supposed a one day or casual weekend project but it morphed into quite a large project that ended up taking several days over three weekends to complete but I am very happy with the result.

Got any projects planned for your backyard?

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