Author Archives: Sabina Arokiam

Rip Rap

Recently, Kirsten wrote a nice articleon the work that we did at the top tank overflow. It was great to see so much happen in 3 days. We did some plumbing, and a lot of digging, planting and stonework. I was mostly involved with the plumbing, and all the stonework … and my, did I enjoy it. In fact, by the end of the day, they started calling me the Stonework Queen! It is not surprising that Trevor, who is the true stone mason at Milkwood finds stonework highly addictive.

If that’s a case then, Milkwood is a red light zone for stonework addicts. There’s an endless supply of stones all around the place, and every time you think you’ve run out of stash, a new heap appears out of no where! Gabions, rock beds, retaining walls, rip rap … you name it, we’ve done it. They’re all fun to do, but ‘rip rap’is a personal favourite of mine, doesn’t it already sound so hip hop happenin? Here are  pictures of the rip rap that I helped to construct.

rip rap top tank

Rip rap slowing and absorbing the spill over from swales. Pic by Adam Shand

rip rap road side

Rip rap diverting road run off and slowing water down at a particularly washed out spot at the bottom of a slope. Pic by Adam Shand


In case you’re not familiar with the term, rip rapare broken stones (e.g. gravel stones/ shale) loosely placed in water, or exposed earth to provide a foundation and protect surfaces from scour.

before rip rap

A surface before rip rap. First picture shows after rip rap. Pic by Adam Shand

Riprap works by slowing down and minimising the impact of fast running water before it reaches the defended structure or surface. The size and mass of the riprap material absorbs the impact energy of bodies of water, while the gaps between the rocks trap and slow the flow of water, lessening its ability to erode soil or structures on the edges of swales, river banks, or coasts. The mass of riprap also provides protection against impact damage by ice or debris, which is particularly desirable for bridge supports and pilings.

Of course, there is most often a better alternative to rip rap, and that is to cover the surface of exposed soil with plants which will hold soil together and absorb water. However, if immediate intervention is needed, plants do not grow in a day; and moreover, a particular area may not be suited for plants … hence the rip rap.

I leave you with a song that I wrote about our rip rap experience at Milkwood. Hope you like it as much as I do 🙂


Rip Rap by Sabina Arokiam

(Adapted from ‘Splish Splash’ by Bobby Darin)

Splish, splash
raindrops falling on the ground
Long about a rainy spell… yeah!
Just relaxin’ in the shed
Thinkin’ everything was all rite.

Well… we stepped out of the shed
Started walkin’ the ground
Where the grass didn’t grow
Streams n’ gullies appeared.

And… then-a… splish, splash
We realised it ain’t rite
Water’s erodin’ bare ground
Takin’ an easy way out…

We was a seein’ and a readin’ (the landscape)
Reelin’ with the feelin’
Talkin and a plannin’
Rollin and a rockin’ … yeah!

Bing, bang
We got the whole gang
Squattin’ where the soil washed away… yeah…
Rip Rap
We was layin’ stones down
All the interns had the stonework bug.

There was Olipop with-a Ashey Lee
Good Golly, Mr. Juergey was-a even there, too!
A-well-a…. rip, rap
We were havin’ a ball
We had our homeys and our gloves on… yeah!

We was a rockin’ and a rollin’
Reelin’ with the feelin’
Movin’ and a groovin’
Rippin’ and a rappin’… yeah!

We was a rippin’ and a rappin’
We was a rockin’ and a rollin’ …woo!
Yeah… we was a movin’ and a groovin’ … ha!
We was a reelin’ with the feelin’… heyeyay!
We was a rockin’ and a rollin’
Rip, rap… yeah!

We was a rippin’ and a rappin’…
We was a rippin’ and a rappin’… woo!
We was a rippin’ and a-rappin’…


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A peek into our days at Milkwood, week 1 & week 2

It’s been a month since we (Juergen and myself) showed up at Milkwood on a full moon’s night.  It had taken us a day’s journey to arrive from Sydney airport via train and then a coach which dropped us at Ilford, a bus stop in the middle of no where, about 30 km away from Milkwood. Nick was there to pick us up, and as we drove through the vast expanse of moonlit bush and pastureland, kangaroos and wallabies bobbed in and out of our sight.  I saw a  few houses along the way, but it was scarce and miles apart. Surrounded by wilderness, and a comfortable distance away from the bustle of people and buildings, I was already feeling very fortunate…

We were introduced to the rest of the Milkwood  interns, huddled up in the woolshed, covered from head to toe. They looked like a friendly lot but my brain was too frozen to register their names. It was -5 °C , the coldest night I’ve had at Milkwood by far, and I was thankful for the heater in the caravan that Kirsten put us up in temporarily before we got our tents.

Heaps of amazing stuff has happened since, and I feel like a kangaroo, jumping from one great project to another with a bunch of other hip hop happening Roos, which makes the learning and doing twice as much and twice  as fun!

Here’s an attempt to show you snapshots of our lives at Milkwood week by week, over the past month. I’m starting off with week 1 & week 2 and Juergen will continue with week 3 & week 4.


The caravan where we spent our first 3 nights in

Campsite for interns. One of the highest points in the property

Milkwood is neighbours to Nick's dad's property, which is mostly bushland,sheep pastures, and olive groves

Day 1 site tour. This is where Nick told us about the resident red belly black snake which is pretty harmless if not provoked

Forest Garden sessions and forest garden planting with Dan Harris Pascal

3 day Organic Market Gardening (OMG) Workshop with veteran market gardeners, Joyce & Michael from Allsun. Click on picture for workshop details


More Food Forest sessions with Harris, and more plantings. Newly planted tress are protected from frost, wind and sun with tree guards

Food forest plant identification, labelling, and getting everything checkered on our species list

We took turns working on mud render/ construction work for Nick & Kirsten's tiny house

Juergen and Oliver had a natural flair for rendering, and an insatiable appetite for mud. Glorious mud!

Juergen and Frank Thomas having a lot to exchange in German. An expert in strawbale building and rendering, Frank is very generous with his knowledge and passionate about what he does

Oli, the chef roasting bush deer for dinner around the campfire.

Sheep shearing demonstration at the weekend Windeyer Town fair.Can you spot the sheep's face?

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A shot of permaculture espresso to last a long way

Juergen and I are on a Permaculture Tour, travelling around Australia to connect and learn from amazing people and projects on the ground. Back in Malaysia, we had a small permaculture education & demonstration site, where we ran the first PDC in Malaysia. We organised 2 other courses the following year in 2010, and interest in permaculture has been growing steadily since! However, we do have a long way to go. When I look at how permaculture has taken off around the world and compare it to Malaysia, we are but a tiny sprout finding its roots. The time is right, but the soil is in need of some ecological, and perhaps even some geographical intervention 😉

Considering the fact that Malaysia and Australia are close neighbours, I have often wondered why hardly any of the worldwide permaculture action ever found its way into my teeny little country, less than one twentieth the size of Australia.We may be blessed with one of the world’s oldest rainforests, and recognised as one of the 12 mega biodiversity countries in the world, but it’s fast disappearing! According to the most recent report by Wetlands International, forest destruction in Malaysia is three times faster than all of Asia combined! During the last five years alone, we’ve lost 10% of our forests, and one third (872,263 acres) of our carbon sequestering peatlands to mass palm oil cultivation.

Needless to say, most Malaysians have no idea as to what they’re loosing, and could benefit from a strong shot of FAIR SHARE permaculture ESPRESSO! We Malaysians have much catching up to do, and I’m here to make some of it it happen. By the time I finish my six, hopefully nine months of permaculture travels in Australia, I hope to establish a strong network with folks here, and look at how we can build a permaculture bridge from Australia all the way to Malaysia. Already, we have established connections with several Malaysian NGOs, government bodies and universities that are very interested in incorporating permaculture in one way or another, and I am keen to see how some of these needs can be addressed through a collaborative effort.

Education and awareness building, as well as having working models on the ground is crucial to the success of mass permaculture infiltration. Importing teachers to conduct our PDCs has been both enriching and inspiring. To grow deep and far reaching roots, we will need to build local resilience and have locally grown permaculture teachers and doers. I’m working towards becoming a teacher myself, and intend to start working on my permaculture teachers diploma during our trip; looking at different models and approaches to permaculture education, and how it is taught to a diverse cross section of learners with varying needs, and learning outcomes. I recently did a Teachers Training with Rosemarry Morrow, a wonderful source of inspiration that led me to believe that there’s nothing more exiting and fulfilling as empowering people to realise the wisdom within themselves… which in a nut shell, is exactly what permaculture is all about.

So, here I am at Milkwood, stop no.1 on our permaculture tour, feeling very at home despite the occasional 0 to -5 degrees chills. It feels like I’m at the right place at the right time, with a great bunch of people, and ample opportunities to be, to learn and to share. Thanks Nick and Kirsten for choosing us for this much sought after internship spot.

a morning cuppa and Kirsten's wooly mammoth keeps me warm

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