ACT News


Suburban warrior uses pigeon power for a good cause

A MAN who says he could feed himself from a garden fuelled by pigeon poo lives on an average suburban block in Canberra.

Paul Crawford reckons he runs a better farm from his average suburban house block than he ever did at a 32-hectare bush property he once owned.

''I get one kilogram of food a day out of my garden and I spend about two hours a day in there,'' he said.

''I do think we should only be using our fair share of resources.

Mr Crawford spends $50 a week on groceries - mainly bread and milk - because he uses every centimetre of his 760-square-metre block, a chunk of which is taken up by a house.

It takes an area the size of 13 rugby league fields to sustain someone from Canberra by growing their food, storing their waste and producing electricity.


The ACT's State of the Environment Report last year said the average environmental footprint in the territory was 9.2 hectares.

The report said Canberra's footprint was large compared with other states in Australia and very large compared with the 1.8 global hectares per capita that makes up the world's productive space.

''The large ACT footprint is driven by high salaries and high spending,'' the report said.

At Mr Crawford's, no sewage leaves the property when he is there alone. After being broken down it fertilises the plants. He has not had a car for four years, instead getting around by recumbent bike.

Travelling by bike, he collects up to 200 litres of pigeon poo at a time from urban areas for his gardens.

There are 25 fruit trees in the front yard, and roughly the same number in the back.

''I plant more here than I did on my property,'' he said. ''Everything there was ringbarked by hares and rabbits.''

Nick Huggins, an organiser of non-profit gardening group Permaculture Exchange, said more Canberrans wanted to learn how to feed themselves, not because of high grocery prices but because of a fear of chemicals in food.

''They all want to get off the dependency of shop food whether it's factory farmed or genetically modified,'' Mr Huggins said.

For years Mr Crawford has had solar panels on his house and gets back about $60 a quarter.

He does this despite the fact the windows of his two-storey house, which casts shadows over the garden, face south - the wrong direction for saving energy.

Part of his secret, apart from passion and persistence, is his compost. It is a mixture of not only pigeon droppings and other manure but a seemingly never-ending supply of grass clippings.

While most people want to get rid of their green waste, a sign in Mr Crawford's front yard asks passers-by to drop it off. The avid gardener and vegetarian estimates 4500 trailerloads of other people's grass clippings have been dropped off at his Mawson home in the past 13 years.

He receives an average of one trailerload of clippings a day.

As many as eight trailerloads a day arrive in the warm months and as few as one a month in winter.

Any extra compost is used on the reserve at the back.

He has re-planted the reserve, once a refuge for weeds such as firethorn and ivy, with native trees and uses any leftover compost there.

Mr Crawford can be considered a lover of household solutions to basic problems.

He uses empty juice bottles to catch and kill thousands of flies to feed to his chickens and ducks.

Holes are poked in the sides of the bottles, with water and a teaspoon of Vegemite used as bait.

''You can get an inch of flies a day in one bottle,'' he said.