Gimme a sign

No this isn’t about a Ryan Adams song, nor about a Kevin Rudolf or Breaking Benjamin song either, not that I have ever heard of either of the latter two… thank you, search engine. I actually thought it was going to come up with some story about Moses in the desert, but not according to said search engine. Anyway, this post is not about songs or burning bushes either, it is about signage. So why would we want to have signage on a permie plot – duck’s can’t read, can they?

Actually, I don’t mind the ducks so much. Besides having gobbled up all the pond plants, they’re quite light on the forest garden. But I wish the chooks could read – KEEP OUT!! But this isn’t about protecting the garden against the foul, oops I mean the fowl, either… From when we started developing Dreamland, the goal was to one day use it as a demonstration and training site. Unless we wanted to talk ourselves silly, or be at a few tens of places at the same time, we needed some signage.

Overhead signs

When we put in the gates between Homeland and Dreamland, we got some rough wood to put up a few signs – one between Homeland and Dreamland, one for the “main entrance” to the Savannah Forest Garden, and I used a left-over bit to put up a sign over the entrance to our Berry Corner. These didn’t all go up at the same time. Initially we tried to do the Dreamland / Homeland sign by burning the letters into the wood. I tried a soldering iron, a small gas flame and later even the big gas burner that we sometimes use to exterminate weeds (and melt the irrigation pipes…). The gas burner made an impression on the hard wood, but it was hardly readable. So I found if I used the router on the burnt wood, you could at least partially read the letters.

Sign - Original homeland

However after one winter’s rain, all the black had disappeared. There weren’t really any run-off marks, but it was all gone. So all you could make out of the letters were the routed bits. In fact, you could just read it if you knew what it said.

Sign - Original dreamland

One day, much, much later, I was busy with a white weather-proof undercoat for another project. I had some of the undercoat left and so I tried it with a fine little brush on the routed letters of the Berry Corner sign. At the time I still thought, well at least if it flops, it’s miles away from everything else. But it came out brilliantly!

Sign - Original berry corner

So now all the overhead signs, including the newer one at the Savannah Forest Garden entrance, all have white undercoat in the routed letters.

Sign - Savannah forest garden

Tree signs

At Homeland we have more than 40 heritage fruit trees, which we got in two batches as bare root stock from Pete the Permie in Monbulk. But the problem is, we don’t know what half of them are anymore. Record keeping is not our forte, and the harsh winds blew most of the labels away since we got them years ago. So when we planted Dreamland, we knew we had to make another plan. So the tree label project was born – where the idea was to put hand-painted labels at each of the fruiting trees and shrubs at Dreamland. So we painted a large number of boards, which were then (and now and then still are) decorated by various friends and family.

Well that all started about 2 years ago. So, some of the lists are outdated, like where the casualties of the dry summer had been replaced. And guess what? Some of the labels at Dreamland have also been blown away, so it is really interesting to match the signs to the trees now that we eventually got it going again. However, with a “permie get-together” planned at Dreamland for this coming Sunday, and with Grammy – the very talented family artist – in visit, the sign project got some new energy and many a new sign has been created; way more than just tree names.

Sign - Grammy

Grammy – the artist at work

Dabbling in pyrography

When we did the overhead signs way back when, the idea of wood burning, i.e. pyrography, started. Since then I’ve had numerous attempts with gas flames, soldering irons and who knows what else, but all the attempts came out pretty amateurish (which I can easily live with – luckily I’m no perfectionist or aspiring artist), but the worst was that each of the tools eventually gave in. The gas flame didn’t ignite anymore (yes, I did refill it), and the points of two soldering irons broke off in the fitting. Maybe I’m too hard on them? I guess they just weren’t up to what they were sold for.

So early in this year I ordered a pyrography set from Sue Walters Pyrography. She tailored a little package especially to my requirements and got it off in a flash. My word, it arrived with an instruction booklet, an instruction video and each part had neatly typed detailed instructions included. It doesn’t get much better than that. So I started making some signs that we can use at Dreamland as a permaculture demonstration site.


This one below about the permaculture ethics is an interesting one. On many sites there is this “under the covers” debate whether the third permaculture ethic is “fair share” or “future care”. So I started this sign right at the time when we were planting clover, and the idea of an Irish four-leaved clover inspired me a tad. I just figured, why should there only be three ethics? I would actually like to teach all four when I eventually get to teaching. To me “fair share” and “future care” are two different, but equally important concepts. The first teaches us not to be greedy, while the second teaches us to wake up and become more future- and climate-change focussed. Anyway, we will no doubt debate that more in a future post.

Sign - Ethics

Anyway, I’m having a bit of fun on a rainy day here and there, but where am I supposed to get the time to keep it up, along with surfing and relearning to play the guitar with the kids?




About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

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