Treading Lightly to the Pub

It’s been a frantic week at Treading Lightly HQ. The Johnson Strip, our plant to reclaim the nature strips has made a quantum leap. Our nature strip is still looking great and the second box is really starting to fill up nicely with green as you can see.

One of our boxes with the sign that encourages people to harvest and even gives some suggestions for a riccota and silverbeat canneloni.

This is obviously making people consider what their nature strip could look like. That was always the plan so it’s really exciting that we are now actively into the second step where we are moving on to other peoples nature strips with two boxes being built as we speak.

The feeling that this idea is being taken up is really motivating because it will really spread the idea from just being about us to truly being about the whole street, and nothings builds action like visible action. The problem is that it takes a long time to break up IMG_1000the pallets but the idea of using new wood, whilst convenient just seems wrong. So I was pretty pleased when our next door neighbour called. Turns out that that he had been employed to pick up 60 odd hardwood timbers. Thinking that this is the sort of thing that we might be interested in he thought he’d give us first refusal. Did we want it, well at about an hour per 8 or so planks, what do you think? So we quickly snaffled them and now we’re into full box swing with the first to be placed on a nature strip in the next couple of days.

We’ve also decided that it is time to re-make the chicken house. This came after reading Michael J Roads book ‘Conscious Gardening’. Actually to be honest it came after a latte at a local cafe when the owner decided that I really needed to read this book and so lent it to me for a couple of weeks. The book introduced me to the idea of ‘deep litter beds’ in a chapter amusingly called ‘cackleberries’. The idea is that if you provide your chickens with a very deep bed(say 25cm+) of wood shavings, short straw, pine sawdust or that like and build a coop that keeps it dry it will actually provide a really healthy environments for the chickens.

Our chicken coop started off it’s life as a small cubby house that was left behind when we bought the house. It was in a terrible place (in the middle of what is now the new fruit tree planting from below) and I don’t think was ever going to be useful for a cubby house except for small IMG_1003monkeys! So I (with some muscular assistance from neighbours) lifted the house off the foundations, dug the foundations up and re-set them before moving it to where it is now. I sealed it up, added doors and a laying box and that’s been good for a couple of years for our 4 ‘ladies’.

But to be fair we needed to do something different, whilst they have a lot of space they have kind ofIMG_1002 decimated their area and with the wet weather it tends to be a bit, well swampy. So with the help of still more reclaimed wood and pallet timber, some reused chicken wire and some sheets of tin roofing that we found next to our local market we have now produced our second chicken space and the girls seem to love it. I also stole another of Michael’s ideas and have started suspending cabbage leaves from the roof. This keeps the chickens amused as they jump to nibble on the leaves. It also keeps small children amused as it turns  out that a chicken jumping is seriously funny to watch.

In time the white box will be broken down and re-used with more perches etc put in it’s place. The really cool thing about this development though is that it does multiple functions as the same time. The top of the new laying boxes will be a space to grow feed seedlings for the chickens and hold trellis to grow vines. Once the box is broken down it will open up a window that is now covered which will give light into my garage and also potentially allow for a protected space for chicks. The roof is seriously made (in fact a little over the top to be honest) so that it can potentially be used for a roof top box and is also tilted so that  it can channel water into a small water tank that will be place next to the door and in time provide water for the chickens and the fruit trees.

With the moving of chickens we now also have a new space. So we’ve been busy digging and planting our new ‘test’ food forest. We’ve started with a range of fruit trees but in time will build up other plants, flowers, herbs and manure IMG_1001plants like comfrey. This will provide us with a good foundation of fruit trees to build on the oranges, raperries, mandarins, lemons, persimmons, peach and apples that we already have and that are starting to be really productive. More importantly there is simply nothing better than fresh nectarines, peaches, and blue-berries. When the trees grow a bit it will also provide a better space for the chickens to pick around. They will clean up any dropped fruit, get rid of bugs and the deep litter from the house will go straight out the door to be mulch for the trees.

The other cool development came around through a conversation that we had at CERES (local permaculture nursery, amongst other things) about pruning which really appealed to Nikki’s ‘sciencey’ side. This has tripped her interest and so she has spent the weekend with secateurs in hand cutting and training which is great because I always get nervous when pruning!

Perhaps most exciting is that we’re taking ‘treading lightly’ on the road. Well actually we’re taking it to the pub. We’ve been invited by Transition Darebin to speak about our year and hopefully encourage people to take some (or more) small  steps to live lighter and more local. I’m pretty excited about the possibility to present what we’ve been doing but also to use the presentation as an opportunity to engage in a conversation with people about what we as a community could do next. So if you’ve got the 24th free (and maybe live somewhere near Thornbury) we would love to see you there as Zingara (check out the details at

That’s all for now, turns out that box building waits for no blogger !