Pop culture to permaculture

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Sustainable: A water-filled swale constructed on Graeme Little’s Beauciel property, French Island, which is being converted to operate under a permaculture system.

HORSE trainer Graeme Little has some healthy plans for the house and property formerly owned by pop star Kylie Minogue.

Instead of the lavish lifestyle portrayed by the carefully courtured pop jet-setting princess, Mr Little wants the property to be seen as a bedrock of taking agriculture back to basics with permaculture.

Permaculture is described as being a regenerative and self-maintained agricultural system modelled from natural ecosystems.

Mr Little bought the 20 hectare property, Beauciel (French for beautiful sky), and four-bedroom house in 2009 with hopes of turning it into an exclusive retreat for a small number of guests.

In October, Mr Little will hold a two-day permaculture course at Beauciel with instructor David Spicer, who has had more than 15 years’ experience in permaculture, including working and teaching with Bill Mollison at the Permaculture Institute (Tasmania) and Geoff Lawton, the managing director of the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia.

Those attending the permaculture course can either take their own tents or book overnight stays in “backpacker style accommodation”.

The island, the largest in Western Port, can only be accessed by sea or air and those attending the permaculture course are expected to use ferries from Stony Point or Phillip Island.

Permaculture research institute managing director Geoff Lawton says Beauciel is “an ideal landscape ready to be sculpted and re-patterned into permaculture abundance and to share that experience with students of experiential weekend workshops, at each stage by stage of development”.

“The diversity of slopes, soils, dams, fencing patterns, plus new and old buildings, makes this a very exciting proposition to share the learning experience with everyone who wants to know how to develop a property into a self-reliant life style,” Mr Lawton said.

Shallow swales have already been dug along contours around a hill to catch rainwater, allowing it to slowly soak into the subsoil. Under a permaculture system, the land around swales is usually planted with “food forests” and vegetable crops.

The main farming activity now undertaken by Mr Little is growing comfrey, a traditional “healing” herb used on humans, animals and plants.

He also plans to grow a range of other herbs at Beauciel, which has espaliered fruit trees dating from the property’s management under the Minogue family, along with some retired racehorses and Angus grazing cattle.

The permaculture introductory design course runs from Friday evening 23 October to Sunday 25 October.

Details: education@permaculturenews.org or glittle@frenchislandretreat.com.au or call 0419 369252.

First published in the Western Port News – 22 September 2015

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