Category Archives: Building

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’…


Leave a comment

Filed under Building

Farm structures 101

So what do you do when you need to build a shelter for an upcoming course, at very low cost? You call in Shane, and a couple of interns, and send them out around the farm to gather materials and get building.

I thought we’d be gathering already milled timber, but oh how I was wrong, and oh how I was excited. We headed out to the wooded area and assessed the area for suitable trees! That’s right, we got to cut down trees to make the posts for our ‘building’. The trees there are young and crowded so they could do with a clearing out to enhance the growth of the remaining ones. Shane located some ‘yellow box’ eucalypts approximately 20cm in diameter and cut them down. Ashley and I then spent a good 30 mins hitting the fallen trees with the back of an axe, completely stripping it of it’s bark. We had to strip the bark to avoid compromising the post hole when the bark rotted, and it had to be done quickly or it became near impossible to get off. I was blown away both by the ease at which the bark came away from the trunk and the colour of the inner bark, the brighest yellow I have ever seen.


Next we had to get the auger and drill some holes, Shane makes removing the excess dirt look easy, it wasn’t! Ashley and I were getting 3 grains of sand to Shane’s 200000. He says you get better with practce, here’s hoping. The packing in of the dirt with the crowbar was the easy bit. I was once again amazed at how little dirt was required to hold the poles in place.


We also grabbed some old recylced hardwood and iron from around the farm and gave the structure some stability and a roof.


In no time at all and for very little money we have the perfect shelter for all our biofertiliser needs. And in true permaculture style, it will double as the place to store rubbish bins and non compostable wastes!

I can’t wait to get home and build one for the caravan, for storage and for water harvesting!



Filed under Building

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

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.


Leave a comment

Filed under Building

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!

Continue reading


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.

Leave a comment

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

1 Comment

Filed under Animals, Building