Photos © Craig Mackintosh
Rosina Buckman tells me she’s 72 years old. She looks honest enough, so I’ll take her at her word, but her youthful spirit and energetic stride did give me a moment of pause. And more than that – her urban homestead was overflowing with clear evidence of passionate and fruitful labours that belie her age. I’m not the only one that’s impressed either, as the Sunshine Coast Council have just presented Rosina with one of their 2009 Living Smart awards – she’s their ‘Edible Landscape Winner’.
Rosina, a New Zealander by birth, lives in Tewantin, a small suburb on the fringes of Noosa – a tourist hot-spot on the Sunshine Coast in south-east Queensland. This is a land of ululant lorikeets and cackling kookaburras. The bird life in particular seem intoxicated with life, and nature in general seems jubilant – either optimistic, or just plain carefree, in the face of all we humans are throwing at it.
And we are throwing a lot at it.
The population of the Sunshine Coast is exploding – expected to grow from 280,000 people to 480,000 by 2021 – this will place significant strain on the natural systems locals rely on. Water in particular is already becoming a serious issue, with seasons increasingly getting out of whack – either delivering far too much rain, or none at all.
The Sunshine Coast does have something going for it though – a strong Permaculture community: The Permaculture Noosa group in particular. Rosina has been a member of the group for only eight years, but despite that her little urban homestead is a great, positive, living example of the work of the individuals that make up the group’s ranks. Her little yard boasts a profusion of edible and/or ornamental plants that all together create a veritable garden of eden in the midst of suburbia. Rosina has managed to transform her property from a bland, generic cookie-cutter type yard into something that’s not only entirely practical, but also highly aesthetic.
The front ‘lawn’ in March 2005, when she took the place, and now…
Only a few years ago the land, as you can visualise from the ‘before’ shot above, was pretty much dead. There wasn’t a worm in sight. Instead of a monocrop lawn, Rosina’s yard now has a banana circle, chickens, worm farms loads of edible plants and support species, etc.
Rainwater supplies drinking water – with excess overflow draining off into the garden
Chickens are moved between garden sections, fertilising and death dealing to ‘pests’
Despite this photo being shot on almost the shortest day of the year, there’s clear evidence of a lot of spring/summertime activity in this nursery. During the hottest months Rosina spreads a large white cover over the structure to reflect the heat.
Two worm farms recycle kitchen and yard scraps into rich compost – a free service offered by the grateful, hard-working invertebrates
The back yard hideaway. Note: The polystyrene planters are purely because Rosina educates people without a garden how to … er… garden without a garden!
No monocrop lawns here – only beauty, diversity, and food!
Rosina doesn’t believe in electrically powered air-conditioners – on very hot days she makes use of the pool instead. And, before you get all precious about the water consumption, be aware that no town water goes into it – Rosina fills the pool from rain water run-off from the roof (see image below).
When the water tank has had enough, Rosina points this down pipe add on at the pool, then turns a valve – and lets the rain do the rest. Simple!
Pineapples grow in pots poolside
Even the scattered fungus colonies on the ground are beautiful
It’s colour and biodiversity at every turn
Well done Rosina! You’re an inspiration to young and old. Making such a dramatic transformation in just a few short years shows us all what is possible. Indeed, it seems we really do only have a few short years to do likewise, and more…. The next step would be to eliminate grid dependency, and attract enough like-minded individuals around us so as to really develop full self-sufficiency.