HABITAT SURVEYING


This has to be one of those ongoing observations that any permculturist makes. Having an allotment project next to a woodland on One Tree Hill comprised mainly of oak, sycamore, ash, hawthorn and plane, I found myself frequently taking trips into it, occasionally replanting uprooted trees that had no place on the project itself. My longer-term vision was to get schools coming down and using the wildlife area whilst I prepared food in the cob oven and maybe some children's workshops. Alas it never got that far before the committee threw me off the plot. I hear now that one of my former student maintains it as a wildlife group. But habitat suerveying is not just about trees. We had a specialist come down and look at the algae and lichen on the tree - indicators for purity of air. Honor Oak Park is also home to stag beetle colonies. And I always had one eye open for hedgehogs since they have become such rare beasts. Hence the pictures below look at my local area, originally part of the Great North Woods. One of the common widespread problems is Sudden Hive Death and there are a few beekeepers about who deal with it in various ways. The proposed orchard area was to create a diversity of shrubs and trees with mixed pollination attributes along with a watering hole for bees to drink from. The idea is to design for both animals and humans to live in hatural harmony. But nature is always dealing with human intervention and often the mistakes are apparent. If you look three rows down you will see a campfire area with a reduced hornbeam behind it. Apparently the council treeworkers thought it was the noted dead whitebeam next to it and so took off about 60% of the wood. I saved some of that wood but the glaring loss of habitat was all too obvious as the beautiful lozenge tree with branches and shade to the ground was butchered. It seems inconceivable that they considered this a tree dead. The extra light failed to benefit the shade tolerant plants I had put in around it. Also look at the second row down. There is a fallen Swedish whitebeam which was still growing. Because of its erect habit the branches were very straight and gave me an unlimited source of firewood. I also like to point out that because of the slope of the land we designed the raised woven beds to sit along the contours so that any run-off would be captured directly by them and contained in the thick mulch. Likewise the live willow structures (second row) were positioned thus in order to trap fertility, even though they may be hungry feeders themselves. During the Winter the much needed leaf litter protects the soil surface. Bear in mind that much of the top soil was non-existent before we turned up, with clay exposed to the surface. Planting trees was difficult enough, but small perennials and annuals were nearly impossible in the first few years. You can see on the third and fourth row down that various parts of the slope had been mapped out. During the full design course I ran we used home-made surveying equipment to figure out the contours of the land and design to plant up an orchard. Although it was never used due to my abrupt departure it showed that working with aspect and slope was essential if one was to maximise the benefits of natural features in the landscape. With this view in mind the brash fencing was designed for small birds and other animals like mice to colonise. Also, studying the natural distribution of wild garlic and bluebells in the woodland at the top of the hill on Devonshire Road nature reserve I sought to replicate this pattern in and around the beds ensuring that edible stuff was kept together. For a list of interesting documents look under the Gardening section for some extra facts. Not least is a report entitled OTHAS bird report 2005 made by OTHAS friend's group accorded to bird populations. They often get together for a dawn watch. For now then, I end with buch of photos from the design course and looking at alternative habitats. The first two are on making seed balls, a system that Fukuoka (One Straw Revolution) used to sow his fields in early Winter so that the balls would break down by Spring and prevent the seeds from being eaten by mice. It meant that he could reap the previous harvest at the same time as sowing the next one. See this link link for a fuller description of the method. Following this we made mushroom logs by drilling small 6mm holes and putting spore plugs in them ensuring that they were kept moist and shaded by partly burying them in the ground. Actually they failed to produce because of drying out but I hear that over watering them can also affect their production. The image of upturned wine bottles packed with vegetation shows that they can also provide for hibernating insects or alternative breeding grounds, as does old wood or bamboo canes. And the very last photos show the ecoshelter roofs. During the design course we loaded it up with top soil and planted seed balls into it. It was a very good exercise to do as the whole group could have a view to the local area whilst we checked out some old toll maps dating back a hundred and fifty years. From it we tried to trace the course of the old canal route which wound itself in and out of Forest Hill and Sydenham. Habitats then, can be seen as complete ecosystems or contained smaller environments. The interesting study would have been to see what plants colonised the ecoshelter over the course of time, and to see what birds they would attract.


Courses

Guerilla gardening
Backgarden permaculture
Spanish permaculture
Cob building
Green wood
Children
Gathering centres
Habitat surveying

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