In September 2009, I spied online what looked like my dream country place. Low price tag, enough land to play with and most amazingly an old house that looked to be in a fairly liveable condition. Tim and I had agreed upon what we wanted for our budget: a watercourse, even if only running in winter, a shed or basic structure, close to a train line and suitable for m permaculture wants, food growing and a few animals.
What we got: An old house with town water and power connected, storm water outlet running onto property, plenty of sheds, old pigeon coops, a couple of old pear and plum trees.
Challenges: Storm water coming onto the property had created an erosion gully that had been overrun with gorse for the last 20 years. The property had been overgrazed and then neglected for years. Rubbish, car parts and broken glass were strewn everywhere. The first focus was on cleaning up and using whatever resources we could find in sheds and strewn about.
We started work to retrofit the house for energy efficiency, attack the gorse forest without the use of chemicals, utilise the storm water more effectively to tackle the erosion problem and find the pipes that bring mains water to the house.
A lucky resource was the years of pigeon poo that had collected in the pigeon coops over the years. It was old, dry and very dusty, but a fantastic resource. I set to work almost immediately to start composting the pigeon poo goldmine. I used the Berkley method, and made a pile using a a mix of straw, newspaper and pigeon poop. This I turned after four days and then every second day til 18 days had passed. Check CSIRO's publication 'Composting - Making Soil Improver from Rubbish' for a guide to mixing your materials for the right carbon/nitrogen ratios, downloadable here.