24 April 2024

Ruby Fox burrows into the earth’s rich bounty

| John Thistleton
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Australian Native Bonsai founder in Goulburn Michael Thorpe, Goulburn Region Permaculture facilitator Rugby Fox and her son Zephyr.

Australian Native Bonsai founder Michael Thorpe, Goulburn Region Permaculture facilitator Rugby Fox and her son Zephyr, who is almost one year old, among bonsai in a garden that will soon have an even stronger link to the community through permaculture. Photo: John Thistleton.

When Ruby Fox was four years old, her mother and father drove a bus onto a 16-acre property near Binalong, east of Yass.

Living in that bus over the next seven years and helping her parents build a mud brick home, Ruby dug her fingers into high quality red clay used for the bricks. Her parents also taught their daughter how to grow food and live off-grid.

A teacher these days on maternity leave, Ruby is the driving force behind the new Goulburn Region Permaculture group about to build garden beds at the rear of the Australian Native Bonsai shop in Auburn Street.

She says the shop, a corrugated iron former mechanic’s garage owned by Michael and Juanita Thorpe that’s filled with locally grown flowers and apple box gum, embodies everything she has learned about nurturing a community.

“This place is unique; it’s a business; they are not growing things for the business. Michael and Juanita want to establish a community hub and a space where people can come and learn, grow and engage, community-wise,” she said.

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Permaculture enthusiasts will begin their latest garden project on Sunday 28 April. Alongside Michael’s potted bonsai they will create a communal space where people can experiment with plants as well as provide food for others who might be doing it a little hard.

Ruby says people who have not done garden design before can talk to people who have, about how to create a patch from scratch.

Gardeners will appeal for nurseries to donate seed and gather lots of organic material to enhance drainage.

“I use a lot of stable manure in my garden; that’s a free resource for people creating gardens here,” Ruby said. “Down at the show ground is a big pile of stable manure; it does need ageing. It can be very hot, nitrogen heavy, because it is urine-soaked sawdust. But it is a really good resource and can create a huge amount of life in your soil if you let it sit for a couple of weeks.”

Ruby says Goulburn Region Permaculture is modelled on another permaculture group she belonged to in the Riverina, which has been running since the 1970s. Before coming to Goulburn she was living in Wagga and found her fellow members to be kind and considerate as they helped one another prune trees, build garden beds, chook sheds, and a pond at someone’s house.

Now Ruby and her permaculture friends are doing similar backyard projects in Goulburn and surrounding districts.

“If someone comes to me and says they’re in Taralga or Gunning or wherever, and we have people who are happy to go out there and do a bit of work on their place, help them with design, that’s where we will go,” she said.

Their last working bee was for two people who also belong to Goulburn’s Community Garden. They helped gather and store seeds for next year’s planting.

“The idea is we are not just doing work, we’re building skills, we are creating networks, we’re creating systems of mutual support,” Ruby said.

“The last time we met we had a few newbies, people who had never created a garden from scratch before, and they were able to walk through this garden, helping out, giving back to the people sharing this knowledge with us.

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“They were getting clarification on terms they knew, picked up in their reading like ‘bed orientation’, but didn’t understand what that meant. We were able to point to an example of a bed orientated towards the west for sun hungry plants which needs really hot sun.”

Ruby says the learning, mutual support and community building is an umbrella over the top of physically getting your hands in the soil and getting something growing. “Over time it will grow organically a little bit, I hope,” she said. “I am hoping we can partner with Landcare down the track.”

Describing herself as an organised, butt-kicking facilitator, Ruby says permaculture directs her energy that would otherwise be used in the workforce. She has filled a 12-month calendar with projects and turns up in rambling backyards with her gardening mates with a whiteboard to implement ideas and solve problems.

To join the Goulburn Region Permaculture on Sunday 28 April, email your interest to [email protected] or go to Facebook for contact details.

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