One of the points that Josh Byrne makes when talking about permaculture on Gardening Australia is that it “creates a habitat for life around us”. He talks about it more on the DVD, and refers to permaculture as inviting nature in. This is something that we’ve noticed, both in our suburban yard and in our country place.
Our suburban house was surrounded by other, uninspiring suburban houses, which were surrounded by uninspiring suburban yards. Seriously, how many agapanthus, diosmas, and ugly palm trees can one suburb have?! Over several years we transformed our yard and made it as productive as we could. It took a while to notice, but the wildlife increase was huge! We had a heap of extra insects, which led to a multitude of birds.
I think the thing I noticed first was the spiders. I understand that spiders are a sore point for some people, but I’ve always found them fascinating. Being Australian I have a healthy respect for them, and the damage they can do, but they really can be quite beautiful. Over a few years we noticed waves of orb weavers cropping up in our yard. They even started to spill into our neighbour’s yard, much to their disgust. 🙂
Now we’ve noticed the same thing on our three acres. A year ago we moved in and had a heap of sparrows and starlings. Apart from an owl we saw one time, there were no birds of prey. Our three acres had never been used productively, and had a grand-total of 4 fruit trees on it, 3 of which had been mutilated to the point of being nearly useless.
A year on and we’ve changed it so that most of our three acres is now productive, with two acres under crop, an orchard area with somewhere near 60 fruit-bearing plants, around 400 square metres of veggie producing area, along with chooks, ducks, goats, pigs, and cows (at present). The difference to the wildlife on the place has been amazing! We have wattle birds, honey eaters, rosellas, galahs, other-parrots-I-don’t-know-the-name-of, willy-wag-tails, magpie larks, and magpies, none of which were here a year ago. Better than that though, we have birds of prey! We have both kites and falcons hanging around.
This change would be subtle if we didn’t know why it was happening and if we hadn’t experienced it before. We’re slowly conditioning the soil and making habitats for the things that the birds and rodents prey on (the creepy crawlies). In turn the things that prey on them show up.
Of course, we’ve seen an increase in things we don’t want to see. We have a rabbit where our neighbour tells us there hasn’t been any in years. We also have some destructive insects to deal with. However, the benefits FAR outweigh the negatives, and it’s freaking fascinating seeing a tangible response on an ecosystem scale to what we’re doing here.