Sunday, December 27, 2009

Swale travails and nourishing times in Uganda

Mulched trees on swale
As the year draws to a close, there has been a lot of work to do on the swale to prepare for summer. My partner slashed the field peas on the mound, and this has provided some good mulch for the trees. While grass is growing vigorously on uphill and downhill side of the mound, the mulch provided by the slashed peas has managed to supress much of the growth on the top around the trees. We brewed up and applied another batch of compost tea and also installed drip irrigation to the trees (excluding the nurse trees) to get them through their first summer. And finally we mulched around them, laying down cardboard and then chip. We left a cardboard-free collar round the trunk where the irrigation feeder lines from the main supply line go. Chip has also gone in the base of the swale.

Cardboard round base of avocado tree
We sourced the cardboard from the local supermarket, as a large compacted bale. It was a mighty effort to heave it onto our mini trailer, with supermarket shoppers looking on bemusedly.

Baled cardboard
And finally we lined the base of the swale with straw and chip, with some help from the earthmover who came to install the driveway to the new house site.

Luna's been enjoying the dam on hot days and ducks have taken up residence, along with frogs (heard but not seen).

In the patch the Jerusalem artichokes, potatoes, and comfrey border are kicking on, as are two new trees planted near the patch - a mulberry and a chestnut. Very exciting to see the mulberries already ripening.
Peninsula patch - corner showing comfrey border, potatoes and jerusalem artichokes
Mulberry and chestnut
Inner city patch
In the inner-city patch, not much activity. Instead I've been preparing the beds for a two-month hiatus over Jan and Feb (see below for details) by clearing the beds, putting the crop residue on the surface, covering with newspaper and then mulch (chip, branches, straw - basically any dry material I have handy). However, we have been harvesting broad beans and harvest, and purple king beans planted in early spring are producing a bumper crop.
Broad beans from innercity patch
Purple King beans from inner-city patch
The sorrel is also doing really well, leading to some tasty dinners. The success of this perennial green, and its ease of maintenance makes me think that I'd like to focus more on perennial vegetables. Eric Toensmeier, author of the fantabulous 2-volume Edible Forest Gardens, has just released a new book on this subject, Perennial Vegetables: From Artichokes to Zuiki Taro.

Sorrel tart, with mizuna and broad bean salad
A glut of herbs has led to herb posies for family and friends, and to herb vinegar making for christmas presents. I included chive flowers in the herb vinegar - apparently it makes the vinegar go pink.
Herb posy making
Herb vinegar for Xmas presents
'Food Water Security' at Sabina Children's Home Uganda
Tomorrow my partner and I leave for Uganda. From Jan-Feb 2010 I'll be the Rakai district in the south of Uganda, doing volunteer work at a children's orphanage and school where I will be assisting the incoming managers of the 'Food Water Security' program, a large edible garden and orchard, designed along permaculture lines designed to nourish the children and staff of Sabina (my partner will be staying for 2 weeks). The design and initial implementation was done in 2007 by permaculture practitioners Rosemary Morrow, Dan Palmer, Amanda Cuyler and Mike Cloutier. An excellent blog documenting progress on the site is at:

The orphanage is run by a US-based charity, Children of Uganda, in partnership with a Ugandan NGO, Daughters of Charity, which owns the land. The Food Water Security project is a partnership with Permaculture International. In January, the orphanage will also host a two-week permaculture course, with attendees from neighbouring African countries, including staff from African and international NGOs as well as government officials, but will also some overseas students from Australia and the USA.

So over the next two months, check in to for progress.

Happy festivus to all

Marie Antoinette


  1. Anonymous7:01 AM

    What a great resource!

  2. Anonymous7:08 PM

    hi everybody

    just signed up and wanted to say hello while I read through the posts

    hopefully this is just what im looking for looks like i have a lot to read.

  3. Anonymous8:07 AM

    "You have a actually interesting weblog. Too quite a few blogs that I see now do not genuinely provide something that I am serious about, but I'm definately interested in this one. Just believed that I would pass that message on. "

    my website is Rock Climbing Shoes .Also welcome you!

  4. Anonymous4:37 AM

    One again, your idea is very

    good.thank you!very much.