Author Archives: Olive

Out going interns

Milkwood internship officially came to a close on Monday, three months have passed and it is hard to look back and believe that this all just happened.
I arrived out here with the desire to learn more about permaculture, what is permaculture? And what does it mean to be a permaculturlist?

I had always wished that I had grown up on a farm, nature has always fascinated me and the idea that you could keep a horse in your “backyard” thrilled me.

Life has kept me in the city, kitchens, restaurants, cafes, friends, family, lovers, music, dancing, food, wine, opportunity, endless possibilities, everything you need right there at your finger tips.
It’s amazing, I can not deny that.

I visited my grandmother a few weeks before coming out to milkwood, my family are migrant Italians and arrived here in the late fifties. My grandmother is 86 years old and still doesn’t speak English.
During our conversation she asked what I was to be doing out here, the word permaculture doesn’t exist in her vocabulary, so I just said I was going to learn how to be a farmer.
My grandmother grew up working the land in the south of Italy, her only real memory of farming was post war hardship, so of corse her reaction was with shock a disappointment.

Working outdoors under the warming sun, growing food to feed our families and share with community, raising animals to provide companionship, food and energy, managing the forests to ensure that timber needed to warm our homes, provide us with energy and build structures in our community could always come locally and be renewed, growing up with multi generations, having family, friends and community around to share and exchange skills and education with, managing the land so as to ensure that we passed it on in better condition then we found it.
Since when did we decide that these actions were not noble?

Permaculture = permanent culture = permanent agriculture = farmer = family = people = community = food, nutrition and energy from a sustainable resource = humans co-existing with their environment = life.

I have found inspiration and positive direction out here at milkwood. Thank you Kirsten and Nick for manifesting and materializing this place, your commitment to people care, land care and fair share is awesome.
To all my fellow interns, teachers and colleagues come great friends, it has been an amazing pleasure to connect with you all, sharing stories and gaining new one together, thank-you. Admiral Couling, thank you for your energy, enthusiasm and grounding nature. Trevor, three words for you, wisdom, intellect, carer, you are an indispensable part of community. And in the famous words of Eugenio Gras our bio-fert guru, Rosalita es un amore!!! Rose you have been amazing and at the epicenter of our existence here, thank you for nourishing us!

To all future Interns, don’t forget to bring a good pair of gloves, a positive and enthusiastic can do nature, and a good appetite.










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wHolistic Management

We are at the end of an inspiring three day course run by guru Kirk Gadzia, an absolute inspiration.
Kirk is a humble, passionate and down to earth man, with an incredible amount of energy and experience.
It was a wonderful opportunity to learn from a practitioner who has the ability to connect with farmer folk and a like, and pass on this invaluable information.

wHolistic Management is about people, families, community, farmers, animals, ecology and most importantly sustainable land management and regeneration. In the words of fellow class mates today, “our role here as stewards of the land is to leave things in better condition then what we found them”
Problems can not be fixed using the same mind set that created them.

Thank you Kirk and thank you Tamara for your energy, teachings and inspiration.

A few pics from the last few days in the field. Discussions of cell grazing, pasture health, animal health, stocking rates, flora disturbance, biological and ecological observations, water management and human goals and values.





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I love bees

So I was hitchhiking to Sydney a couple of weeks back, on my way to visit some friends before an international departure.
It was raining and cars were passing me by the dozens, all unperturbed by my thumb hanging out over the side of the highway.
After forty five minutes John pulled up and offered me a lift, he was very friendly and a little shocked by the fact that it had taken so long for someone to stop. It was ok by me, i was just happy to be out of the rain.

As conversation does, when you just meet a person who offers you a ride for the next three hours, it started formally.
John was a school teacher in some small town out west which i can not remember the name of, and on his way to visit a friend for the weekend. John was a good talker and easy going. Formalities eased off as I reclined in my chair listening to John talk about his family, although after having just spent a day and a half with Tim Malfroy (beekeeper extraordinaire) my attention was still with bees.
Not long after we pulled up at a road side vendor selling tubs of honey! A segway into discussion perhaps? I mean who doesn’t love honey? I have always, but never quite understood the ins and outs of a hive and just how great a roll those little guys play in this world.
So I brought up the topic, John was interested in knowing more, and I was excited to share my newly acquired knowledge.

We spoke about DCA’s which I have still not quite come to terms with, then entered heavy ground when the discussion turned to the topic of “where have the bees gone”.
It seems that John was interested to know more but at the same time not sure wether it was really important information. As far as he was concerned honey and bees could have been separate discussions. I gave it my best, relaying all the information that I had learnt through documentaries and some on line literature.
I felt that my story was received like a fairy tale and one that would have possibly made it home with him to be retold at the dinner table, but no further.

The city got closer and the thoughts of bees and nature and getting excited about lettuce coming from the garden or eggs coming from the chooks bum, all got a little diluted by the traffic.
Conversation shallowed and I said goodbye to John a short train ride from my destination.

So I think that I have been stung by the bees, they excite me, truly. And not just because they are Italian or by the fact that they are mostly female but also by the thought that a society of insects who have evolved over who knows what period of time, function in a manner where they provide so much for so little.

Right now I love that we (milkwood) invest our time in making food grow, regenerating poor environments, and in thinking about systems that better suit not just human needs but also those of nature. This is pretty important stuff!

A queen bee is determined by her swarm. They alter the shape of the cell that her egg is laid in and nourish that egg differently to the others. Then hatches a queen. She mates once in her life and that is enough “love” for her to lay hundreds of thousands of eggs during her five year life, with all the genetic diversity needed for succession.
Incredible, no?

We have been designing an Apiery here and today was the first day of implementation. It was warm and the bees were out in action.
Sabina will blog more about that later but I will leave it here with some pics from the hive.



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Sanks Wose

For me food has always been synonymous with people.

Ashar is Kirsten and Nick’s beautiful little boy and he LOVES Rose, infact we all love Rose as she is the amazingly talented chef who nourishes us three times a day here at Milkwood.

Ashar is amazing, he is a great little talker and addresses us all by name each time we converse. Adam is Adam, Claire, Claire, Sabina, Sabina and he even nails my name which puts him about 100 miles in front of most people as the majority mispronounce Olivier, but not Ashar. That privledge is saved for Rose, or in the articulation of a two and a half year old, Wose!

I met Rose almost 8 years ago. She was 20 years old and into the second year of her chefs apprenticeship. She was a fairly shy girl with not always a lot to say. We got along pretty much straight away and I have been fortunate enough to share a friendship with her ever since!

Rose loves food, she loves people, she loves kids and is passionate about nature, gardening and especially nutrition. Rose is very artistic and once drew a picture for me as a gift, I framed it.
She has an amazing smile and a contagious laugh, in fact she is a great candidate for bad jokes as she laughs at lots of things easily, often cracking herself up!
When Rose talks about food she gesticulates with her fingers using them as if she was picking salad or putting the final touch to a dish. She is a quiet achiever.

When you know and believe in good food you want to share it with people, in fact I would say that most of the greatest cooks I know in this world love sharing their talent. Rose is one of these people, and don’t we all feel richer and fatter for it!

I have attached a pic of Rose with her daily bake, sourdough bread! She rocked up with the “mother” on her first day here and has been nurturing it and nourishing us since.

At lunch today we ate savory pumpkin tart with a beetroot and sweet potato salad, delicious, thanks Rose, or in the words of young Ashar, Sanks Wose!





Filed under Cooking, Introductions

Earth Dom-ain

Earth dome rendering was the theme and rubber gloves were the attire.

We have all walked past the earth dome numerous times over the past month and each had our fantasy of what it could become, or at least which one of us could possibly occupy it once finished.
I myself imagine a lead light door, a futon mattress, an old candelabra and the smoke and aromas of insence!

Situated in the wood land just east of the intern tent city, the earth dome today continued to take shape.

The objective was to finish the dome cap, eves and fire place with a cement render. (3:1 sand to cement)
Then lime render the lower part of the dome, stopping 600mm from the base where a cement ball/ fish scaly technique was used to protect the foot of the building from water and conceal cracks.

Our ambitions were great and an incredible amount was achieved. The cement rendering was a bigger job them expected and let’s just say that their were many lessons learnt in render consistency!

Here are a few pics to high light the days events and a link to a short video that I made of us all out in action today. Check it out!







Filed under Building

Meatloaf madness

Just a quick little group photo of the beautiful people that are the Milkwood Interns. We call this one a meatloaf hug.

Oh and that is me, enjoying my Yerba mate morning ritual.



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A walk in the woods, introducing Olivier

What a glorious day, and a busy one to begin the week. This is my first post on the Milkwood intern blog, exciting!! I will be out here for the next three months so will en-devour to make contact whenever possible.

I arrived out here at the start of the month and so much has happened already. I decided to get here a little early as I was keen to sit in on the Forest garden course run by Dan Harris. There has been much learning and progress made in the forest Garden since then and last week had been particularly productive as it was the week of planting. We put in fig trees, a variety of Acacias, Hazelnuts, and a mix bag of stone fruits only to name a few. I think that there must have been around 150 trees planted in those few days, but more on that another time. One of the things which I was just so inspired by was Dan’s knowledge of flora, species names, geographical origin, characteristics, and properties wether medicinal, edible or otherwise.

This is one of the many things which I would like (or at least begin) to learn while out here and to do so, myself and fellow interns will be starting a little botanical catalog of what we are growing in our Forest Garden and just in general around the farm.

As food and nourishment are also on the agenda, I think that I will share a little news about what comes out of the kitchen here at milkwood. Rose, our resident chef is a wizzardess in the camp kitchen and passionate about paddock to plate ethical cuisine. I think that we will be the first group here to leave fatter then we arrived, thank you Rose!!!

Now to share just a few words about myself. I have been working and living the hospitality lifestyle for the past 15 years. The kitchen has been my domain although I had always understood that food, beverage and community were synonymous so sort the education and training to develop a dynamic skill set. I have been fortunate enough to travel and work with some amazing chefs in Many different cities in Europe and here in Australia.

Earlier this year I returned from Italy after a couple of years away. My main focus during my time there was in natural wine making and holistic land management. Permaculture also slowly revealed itself and on returning I decided that the kitchen needed a rest and diverted my attention to this. It feels like a very natural transition and coming to Milkwood for me is all about new learnings, natural food productions, community and land care, self nourishment and care and new beginnings.

My attraction to the kitchen started with my passion for eating and a fascination with produce. Provenance is extremely important to me and I want to re-learn the traditions of reconnecting food with family with community. Milkwood is a special place and already feels like home, I am excited to be here and am loving the opportunities that are here for me.

Ok, I will leave it here for the night as there are books waiting for me in my tent on the hill.




Filed under Introductions