Category Archives: Gardens

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.










1 Comment

Filed under Cooking, Gardens, Introductions

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.



1 Comment

Filed under Animals, Gardens

Learn somethin’ new every day

One fine day, the sheep needed to be fed. Nick, who I amicably refer to as Farmer Boss, took a fellow intern Jurgen and I in the Ranger buggy to feed the wiltipol sheep. Stocked with sheep grub, we zoomed through the olive grove in attempt to beat the hungry flock chasing after us toward the feeder trays. No sooner than I decided to hold on for dear life did a mess of lambs dart out in front of us clumsily kicking and prancing- as aimless as they are adorable! We poured the grain and chaff and stood back and observed the ewes gather and munch lustily. Our attention was drawn to the olive trees. Farmer Boss Nick pointed out the lace wing pest that had wiped our nearly every tree of a particular variety (good thing there are several varieties in the grove!) Another problem with the olive trees is black sooty stuff. These trees are sick, and like any sick organism, these trees need a remedy. A simple remedy in particular would do a lot of good, not just in one way, nor two, not three, but at least four ways. Farmer Boss Nick prescribes simply to raise up some hardenburgia violacea. This will draw some beneficial mycelium in the soil, attract some much needed predatory insects, provide more diverse sheep fodder, fix some wonderful nitrogen in to the soil, and probably more. This exemplifies a key tenet of permaculture: stacking functions. Awesome. It’s good to be here.


Filed under Animals, Gardens

Layer upon layer

With the market garden growing at a rapid rate, tree planting by the hundreds and the Bio-fertile farm workshop just around the corner, we are in desperate need of some compost. So it was off to collect all of our ingredients and make some compost lasagna.

It’s the ‘Berkley method’ of compost we are using here, also known as ‘Fast compost’. All our waste products will be converted into amazing soil full of all the nutrients and good bacteria to meet the needs of the plants, in 2-3 weeks. Yes, you did read it right, WEEKS. You have to see it to believe it.

We gathered our ingredients in no time at all. We needed high carbon content material and high nitrogen materials too. The right mix is 30:1. It’s important to break everything up into small pieces, both to increase the surface area the microbes get to sink their teeth into and to make it easier to turn with a fork.

Our ingredients we found around the farm, and from the local racetrack that gives away as much horse manure soaked wood chips as you can shovel. We had Jerusalem artichoke stems, old compost pile leftovers, hessian bags, cardboard, horse manure, wood chips, hay, blood and bone, ash from the rocket stove, green manure, kitchen waste, even a dead fox! It’s important to water in each layer also and evenly spread the materials.

We layered each in an order of carbon and nitrogen needs into a removable cage and covered it with a tarp. After one day the temperature was at 20 degrees, tomorrow it should be at 65 degrees and ready for it’s first turn. We will then fork it like peeling an onion making a donut of compost and pile it into the cage again. We will repeat this process every time the compost gets to 65 degrees, and in 2 -3 weeks we will be ready to spread the love.



Filed under Gardens

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