Monthly Archives: March 2011

Milkwood Blackboard

Sometimes we work. Sometimes we just say silly things…

thanks for the clarification.

oh Amelie/so true Kade, so true.

...we hope not?


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Filed under Ephemera

How to build a Rocket Stove in twenty minutes

Have you ever wanted to boil a billy and all you had was a handfull of sticks? (and a few empty cans and a pair of pliers and a pair of tin snips, a can opener and some spare ash?) Well, we sure did.

rocket stove is what you need in this situation! Here at Milkwood, there’s an excellent rocket stove shower that provides us with deliciously warm showers every day – all we have to do is keep the stick pile full. Easy! So when our friend Harris showed us his portable rocket stove (that he boils his billy on) we had huge rocket stove envy.

Yesterday, we had a spare twenty minutes and felt the urge to build!

First, we got all of our equipment together. To make a portable rocket stove you’ll need:

– a large tin (ours was 25mm square and 300mm high) (keep the lid handy!)

– 5 small round soup tins (75mm diameter)

– some ash

– pair of stub nose pliers

– a can opener

– tin snips

We had a couple of different models that we incorporated into our design. The rocket stove at Milkwood, our friends portable one and some pictures we found on the net were all sources of inspiration. All you really need to do is wrap your head around the basic principles: to direct all the heat energy (from the flames) upward –  the heat goes into heating the food, rather than being radiated outward (like most campfires). The design also increases combustion efficiency – this helps to reduce smoke.

The only problems we faced were with our tin cutting abilities.. we went through a couple of tins before we got the shape we wanted for joining the chimney together. If you’e trying this yourself, maybe find twenty-five minutes of spare time instead of twenty for improved aesthetics.

rocket stove plans

l-r: the team, the equipment, kade makes the cut, tin inside a tin!

l-r: pushing the cuts into place, cutting some tin, measuring the shelf piece, inserting the shelf

l-r: Kade cuts the joins, joining two tins, it all comes together, filling the tin with ash for insulation

l-r: some more ash, cutting some more tin for the top piece, Kade secures the inner tin-pipe, rocket stove all lit up!

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Filed under Building

Kitchen Garden

We’ve been developing a planting regime to attempt to provide a good supply of vegetables year round. Priority production being focused around Spring Summer when Milkwood run courses and need to cater for attendees.

Things we had to consider and work with:

Climatic constraints. Average rainfall 650mm. Temperature averages, Min 8.2 degrees C & Max 22.6 degrees C

Layout plan of existing garden beds have been numbered 1 to 9

Crop rotation and companion planting guide for year one has been set out in table format.

Succession planting / seed raising plan has been included in the guide – colour coded.

Milkwood Planting Guide PDF – click to view

All kitchen garden beds are designed as ‘no dig’ beds. We recently created two new long beds near the food forest that are included in the guide under the heading ‘dig’ beds – as we dug these beds to a depth of about 400mm and added an equal volume of compost to the existing soil. These beds are now planted out with 3 varieties of garlic.

Fresh compost is added to the kitchen garden beds every two to three months and a thick layer of mulch added on top. All beds are irrigated and watered by an automatic timer twice a day. Interns tend the garden daily, weeding and removing bugs by hand.

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Filed under Building, Gardens

Notes – Chicken Coop and mulch run

New chicken coop to be constructed with a 15m run to produce manured deep mulch to be used around property

Desire for meat and egg laying birds

Desire to raise chickens from eggs

Utilize new chicken tractor

Points to consider

size and construction of coop – materials – recycled from around property –

Dimensions = 1600w x 1800L x 2400 on high side1200H low side with Skillion roof

Pitch of roof – est 30 degrees

water harvesting off roof into a seres of water barrels down slope that overflow into swale

Coop on stilts with slat floor to keep clean

Deep mulch run 3m x 15m

Laying box size – 400 x 400mm per 5 birds

dimensions for perches:

number of perches = 3 – (200mm per bird)

perches = 50mm diameter

1st perch optimum height from floor = 1200mm

spaces between = 400mm (back and above)

position for coop on property

position of tractor on property

chick raising program and equipment needed – hen raised

seperating broody hens into own portable pen

breeds of chickens for each purpose

– Australorps and Favorelle for meat and eggs

– Indian Game for meat

– Aracauna for eggs (existing)

Number of birds for coop – max 20

Number of birds for tractor – approx 10

growing forage near by – Millet, Buckwheat, Amaranth, sunflowers

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Filed under Animals, Building

Swales and amazing sky

Just wanted to share this after a massive rain storm we had this afternoon.



1. A low tract of land, especially when moist or marshy.
2. A long, narrow, usually shallow trough between ridges on a beach, running parallel to the coastline.
3. A shallow troughlike depression that carries water mainly during rainstorms or snow melts.

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Filed under Building, Ephemera

Cell Grazing and Ewes are so Sneaky

For the next 5 weeks I have been assigned to ‘Sheep’ –  a new and challenging experience.

Milkwood have recently implemented ‘Cell Grazing’ using 55 Wiltipoll wethers and ewes. In addition to the economic benefits of owning Wiltipoll sheep they are also used to reduce unwanted growth of blackberry and weed grasses on the property.’Cell grazing’ bascially means a small fenced off paddock is constructed with movable electric wire and posts – the 55 sheep are grazed in this cell of about 480m2 for 24 to 48 hours then moved to the adjacent cell. The sheep are very selective and will eat the good stuff first, but as they are restricted they will eventually eat the less palatable growth/weeds. (Just like how we humans eat the choc chip biscuits from the biscuit tin first and gradually move on to the scotch finger, then when there is no other option, we finally get around to eating the milk arrowroot). The cell is then left for a minimum of 100 days to allow regrowth and manure decomposition. Evidence of Dung Beetle action is great as they return the carbon and nitrogen in the sheep dung to the soil, so that the nutrient cycles can be maintained. I’ve observed Dung beetle activity after only one day which means there are plenty of beetles around. In this way the soil is fertilized and eventually the area could be planted out with a crop of food trees –  enriching and building soil is the goal. Building soil with mulch and manures also improves water retention.

The challenges so far have been erecting the mobile electric fences  securely to ensure the sheep don’t escape – as being confined is not what they are used to. Of course there are a select few who manage to slip their way through – Houdini #320 and Lamb Chops #318 to be precise – the sheep are ear tagged with numbers so ID is made easy. Due to the increase in getaways I have upped security, from 3 electric wire strands to 4. Each day after breakfast I head to the other side of the property to check on the sheep and monitor the level of pasture consumed. Dung is also monitored for irregularities and worms. Unfortunately one of the herd suddenly passed away last week and we suspect either snake bite or Barbers Pole worm – the latter being less likely, but monitoring for this condition is underway. Moving the herd to a new paddock every other day also breaks the worm cycle – another huge benefit of Cell Grazing.





Lamb Chops got her name because this will be her fate for being too smart!



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Adventures in Permaculture

Sometimes reading a book, doing a course or having a good chat just isn’t enough. You need to get out, put your hands in the soil and learn from experience. For anyone who has done a Permaculture Design Certificate (PDC), you’ll know the feeling –  inspired, overwhelmed and itching to get something started. Whether it be small or large scale, Permaculture principles have the potential for broad application and provide scope for both urban and rural environments.

So here we are: Amelie, Bel, Christian and Kade, four enthusiastic interns learning the day-to-day practicalities of life on a permaculture farm at Milkwood. Each of us have our own set of life experiences, personal interests and expectations (and oddities). In this way, we all bring unique and diverse viewpoints to the table.

Milkwood has been running an internship program for the last year, providing the opportunity for PDC graduates to gain on-site experience by participating in farm chores, system establishment and the running of on-farm courses. It operates in a similar way to WWOOFing: we work hard and we get food, shelter and a tonne of knowledge in return, huzzah!

Located in Mudgee NSW, Milkwood is a small organic family farm and a Permaculture Demonstration Farm in the making. Milkwood features an array of permaculture design features, such as passive-solar housing, a food forest, seedball production, kitchen gardens, and permaculture earthworks and water-harvesting features.

Over the next two months, Kade, Christian, Bel and Amelie will document their experience day to day or week to week and in turn provide insights and information on the machinations of a Permaculture Farm.  We hope that future Interns will maintain this Blog keeping you updated.

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Filed under Introductions