Author Archives: milkwoodinterns

Venison Jerky

With the backstrap of the venison I decided to make jerky.. I have never tried or even thought about making it in the past. It is actually very easy.
First I sliced the lean meat into thin strips and then added 20g of salt per kilo.

Then I added my desired spices: One with worcestershire and pepper, one with mexican spices and one batch in soy. I marinated for 24 hours.

Placed then on a rack over a tray and threw them in the gas oven and left the pilot light on overnight.

E violaVery tasty Jerky. I liked the Mexican spices flavouring the mostest. Memories are reminiscing… I think I might go eat some now.



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Hot Compost

We had a lot of vegetable scraps left over after feeding people for a week during the Earthbag workshop, way too much for the chickens (5) or the worms to possibly consume. Mission Decompose was the answer aka: Time To Make Compost!
We planned to make a large pile of hot compost, which requires a bit more work than the average “leave it in a pile compost”, but will break down quickly and reach a hot enough temperature to kill any seeds. We had some nitrogen rich veges and Nick grabbed some pure horse manure (manure without wood shavings) on his way back from town to add into the mix as well.
All that was needed was some more green nitrogen rich leaves such as herbs, comfrey and nettles to act as our compost activators and also a lot of carbon rich material.
While Bel sourced our green goodness, Kade, Amelie and I attacked the purple top armed with a rice knife and scythe. Once we had the purple top we cut it with the chaff cutter to create quickly digestible material to add to our compost.

The following is a list of all the “ingredients” in our compost recipe:

100 Litres Oaten Hay (1 Bales)

100 L Lucerne Hay (1 Bale)

450 L Purple Top chaff

90 L Pure Horse Manure

45 L Food Scraps

50 L Green Waste / Activators

1 L Rock Dust (for Minerals)

40 L Old compost (innoculates the new pile with beneficial bacteria/fungi)

First we made a cage to contain the pile, approximately 1.5m in diameter. We started with a layer of carbon about 20cm deep, sprayed it well with water then added a thin layer of vege scraps, followed by a thin layer of manure moistened with water and repeated this process until we ran out of material. In between the layers we added rock dust and the compost activators. We  turned the compost every three days to keep the aerobic bacteria at a healthy high number and to encourage a faster break down rate.
To get a better understanding of what is happening and to learn how to improve future composting we have been documenting the entire process by taking temperature readings morning and night and noting when we turn the compost. The compost should reach between 55 and 65 degrees Celcius in order to kill the seeds so that we will not get weeds germinating in the garden. Any temperature higher and that will start to damage the micro organisms and fungi.

30 days on, and we have since incorporated this compost mix into a new garlic bed, the kicthen garden beds. Ultimately the size of the pile will dictate the rate of decomposition. A pile ready to use will drop in temperature and have no odour – just a nice cool soil smell. It will look dark and crumble in your hand –  not be wet or sticky.

Here are some images showing a 2 week old pile being turned. We unclip the cage then transfer the whole pile back into the cage adding water as we go.


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Brrrrrrrrrrrr & Birthdays

Today was Christian’s birthday so we gave him a flanny shirt to make him feel like a real farmer – wrapped delicately in newspaper and bailing twine. In the evening we gathered in all our finery to eat pumpkin soup, organic meat pie and roasted vegetables cooked in goose fat. Delicious! F its cold in this here old woolshed.

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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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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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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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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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