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Living with Millipedes

By Helen McGowan    Helen is a member of the Permi8 group

As I write, a Portuguese millipede drops from the roof onto the floor.  Ugghh! What will it take to keep millipedes out of my house? 

One of the many things I learned through my Permaculture course at our local National Environment Centre (Riverina TAFE at Thurgoona) is that it’s OK not to know the answers.  Living with the ‘not knowing’ encourages my curiosity, vigilance and often leads to an answer which is unique to my situation.  I am helped by being part of a learning community. 

What is permaculture?  It’s about living in harmony within my patch of earth and in sharing with other creatures. Its practice involves designing spaces and places to reduce work whilst increasing production. The name reflects the intention to create permanent agriculture and permanent culture. Practitioners are encouraged to design our own self sufficient environment in harmony with other land users.

As a lawyer and fifth generation farmer, my life is a mix of searching for the answers to questions and tailoring practical solutions.  Permaculture – with its ethic of caring for the earth, caring for people and taking your fair share – has given me additional skills of observation. My mother used to say “The best fertiliser for a farm, are the footsteps of the master!” It took me a while to realise that it’s the act of paying attention, which generates action. What is going on around me? 

As a food producer and steward of this land, I am responsible for paying attention to this patch of the earth.  Discovering permaculture has reminded me that the power is in my hands.

Graduates from our permaculture course have formed the Permi8 group which continues to explore problems and successes.  We email and meet face to face, and get first hand experience of what is happening in our local area.  This week, we are meeting at our place.  My Dad will talk about his historical record of rain fall in the Indigo Valley, Annie Stelling will explore the concept of community supported agriculture and we’ll walk around and look at our veggies and farm layout.  Perhaps they’ll help me with the millipede control or maybe they’ll console me that the best that can be done is to continue to sweep them up every morning, and put them outside! 

If you are interested in learning more about Permaculture, contact the National Environment Centre at the Riverina TAFE.