Forest Garden prep

The Forest Garden weekend course kicks off next Friday. I consciously postponed the course to January so that I could implement some of the lessons learned with Rowe Morrow last month. Look out for more fun & games and less lecture, people!

I’m excited to be sharing some of the information I’ve gleaned on my own forest garden journey. I remember wrestling with whether to make the trek to Milkwood, Mudgee, to do the 9 day intensive with Dave Jacke in 2013. So glad I did! That started a series of explorations that included going to the ‘States the next year to do a teacher training course with Dave (in Tennessee no less!) and touring various gardens in the US as part of that trip, then going to the UK for six weeks in 2017, which included courses with Martin Crawford and visits to many more gardens.

Chestnut Farm Cottage Garden
Graham Bell’s garden, Coldstream
Martin Crawford’s garden, Devon
Chestnut Farm forest garden planting 2016
Chestnut Farm forest garden late 2018 – still developing but a lot of the key plants thriving

Studio verandah

Check out this set of photos and watch the main verandah structure appear out of nowhere!  … here’s some slices of yesterday and today…

Alan digging post holes

Izzy painting main framing timbers

Post holes dug!

Izzy fixing the main cross beams

Florianne fitting the rafters

meanwhile, making purlins was a cause for celebration!

rafters fitted – while Cherry & Alan work furiously in the background painting the purlins

Florianne fixing the first purlin

Lunchtime today – 3 runs of purlins up

all purlins up – Florianne and Alan cutting off the rafter excess.

At 5 o’clock, it bucketted down and the Weather Bureau is forecasting that we’ll get our average December rainfall in the next 24 hours.  Should be good for the tomatoes and berries but don’t expect any more verandah shots for a couple of days!

Forest Garden course Early Bird extension

Apologies to anyone who has been emailing me this week; I’ve been having problems with my internet and have been ‘off air’ for hours at a time.  Although my provider’s meter shows that my usage for the month is normal (so it wasn’t the students at the teacher training last week chewing up the data!) , I’m unable to get online for big chunks of the day and the signal drops out randomly.  A couple of people have been trying to register in time for the Early Bird deadline for the Forest Garden course in January and I’ve been unable to get back to them as quickly as I’d like.

I’ve therefore decided to extend the Early Bird deadline to December 10.  That should give us plenty of time to sort out whatever’s happening.  If you’ve had a busy November and haven’t got around to registering, why not check it out?  🙂  Start the year with a bang!


Forest Garden course

Permaculture Teacher Training

Last week, Ballarat Permaculture Guild hosted a teacher training led by Permaculture Elder and international wonder woman Rosemary Morrow.  The course was co-taught by another international wonder woman – Brenna Quinlan who showed everyone that her skills are much wider than just in the graphic design area!

Rowe leading morning circle

A fabulous group of people from up and down Eastern Australia gathered, with many camping at Chestnut Farm.  The first day was here, then we shifted to the local Invermay Hall.

The 6 day course was as challenging as it was inspiring, with all students presenting micro-teaching sessions each afternoon.  The complexity of the micro-teaching increased each day and culminated with a 30 minute team teaching presentation on the final day.

Brenna prepping for another session!

Rowe taking a rest on the floor!

Tiny House #5

Insulating and lining the tiny house happened VERY fast – the joy of a small space is that it is quick to do nearly every job!  All the guys were fully into the swing of things and very keen to move it along.

What a brilliant crew – fantastic work guys!

In just a few days, Christoph, Leif, Alex & Scott installed all the insulation and lining – and painted the walls as they went!  I helped a bit, but it was mostly them.  🙂

Tiny House #4

At the end of the last post, we’d started putting external cladding on.  Last week, we had a few days on the tiny house, so lots of progress has been made!  Wendy Marchment dropped in to talk Permaculture Australia Board stuff, but was happy to help out on the build.

Scott & Wendy putting iron on the North wall

Valentina and Andrea made the trek from sunny Melbourne and brought some killer muffins and an amazing cake.  Who cares about the work – the food was fabulous!

Scott, Andrea & Valentina working on the East wall

We had three teams working that day; me on the roof adding a fiddly side section to one end, Leif & Christoph measuring & cutting iron for the West & North walls, and Scott, Andrea & Valentina working on the East wall.

Leif & Christoph

Check out the iron on the lawn in the rear of the photo below: that was Leif & Christoph’s ironclad way of making sure the iron would cover the area around the window on the North wall!

Fun on site

The West wall has no windows or doors and is only 2.4 m long, so went up quickly… so quickly that the trestle plank appears to have been forgotten!

Boys! I told you to put a plank on that!

Andrea did a great job carefully painting the barge boards and touching up the eave linings.

Andrea painting eave & barge boards

I got down off the roof and reworked some lovely old hardwood floorboards to make a frame around the doorway

The next morning, it was just the ‘home’ crew.  The North wall was the final one to be tackled and it was a great feeling to have the building enclosed!

Friday kick off on the North wall

Leif taking irrational pleasure in punching a hole in some iron!

That tricky piece above the window

While the boys worked on the North wall, I collected a load of packing sheets from a local furniture factory and returned with them on the trailer.

Internal lining arrives!

Leif & I cut the first ceiling sheet to size and he started painting it.  Meantime,  Scott cleaned down the roof and Christoph went around the base of each of the walls and screwed the bottom sheet of iron to the bottom plate.

busy bees

This is an attempt to exclude vermin from the Olive House.  It was a job that required attention to detail, so Christoph was just the man!

Christoph getting down

We were all excited about the prospect of starting the lining, so we worked late and got one sheet up!  The eaves were stuffed with insulation and then we packed insulation above the sheet before fixing it.

Ceiling sheet one

It was a super-satisfying two days where we started with a frame and house-wrap and finished with the building externally clad and the internal lining begun.  As always, a huge team effort – but we also saw the benefit of building small… you get SO much done so quickly!

Old tracks into new

Ever wondered what to do with excavator or bobcat tracks when they die?  As with all recycling, the key is to look at the object’s inherent qualities, rather than what it was previously used for.  When a mate offered me a set of used tracks, I initially rejected them.  But then I thought “What are they?”  They are long, tough, heavy, waterproof, strips that are wider than a car tyre and likely to last a lifetime or two… and if you had a soft spot where you’d nearly got bogged, how about setting them into the ground as a permanent driveway?

Guess what?  I’ve got a soft spot at the bottom of my workshop drive which could be perfect for testing the concept!

Setting out the positions of the tracks

Christoph, Lief and Alex took on the task, which involved measuring the distance between the ute wheels to decide on a distance apart for the tracks, digging shallow trenches to put the tracks in, and then doing a little careful infill to align with the heavy rubber ‘lugs’ that engage with the drive sprocket of the machine – this last step to avoid air gaps under the track when it was laid down.

You can see the rubber lugs on the upturned track in the photo above

Alex laying track

Leif confirms the spacing is right!

and here’s the final ‘product’ – a simple, solid base for years to come.

The grass will grow around it, it will settle in and be a great asset.  Much better than throwing the old tracks in the skip; I’m now officially on the look out for another set to extend further up the hill!  🙂

Tiny House #3

Spring is here and that means more Workaway helpers… so more work on projects.  It’s been a busy week!  We made the roof timbers and erected them…

Roof timbers in place

Eave linings are a pain to put in place after you’ve put on the roof or walls, so before adding any other cladding, we cut, painted and erected the eave linings.

Scott & Christoph measuring eave lining boards

Scott excited about eave lining!

Scott & Leif

The eave linings we done and it was 4.30 pm on Tuesday.  Rain forecast for Wednesday so I asked the guys if they’d mind pushing on with  the roof.  Everyone was up for it so we worked another 2 hours and put the roof on!

Steve and Leif fixing first sheet of roof insulation

Insulation lining under roof

Wednesday morning dawns…. and no rain!  Sweet!  OK, let’s put the window in before it rains…

Window about to be installed. Many hands make light work!

Still no rain, so let’s just carry on!  My brother had donated some off-cut iron from a building project and we reckoned it was about enough to clad the South wall.

Sizing iron for the South wall

On goes the cladding!

Thanks to Andy for kindly donating the cladding!

Now it’s Thursday morning, so we’ve got another big day today with extra helpers coming for the Tiny House skillshare.  Because I’ve got 3-4 helpers for the next few weeks, we’ll probably have 2 people working on the Olive House each day… so expect big progress.  Christoph leaves in early November and wants to be the first person to sleep in the Olive House.  Will we make it?  Dunno, but I better get out and get too it!


Tiny House #2

Second day of work on the house started on a very social note with Chris and Rachael separately dropping by to check out what we were up to, then our fabulous Italian helpers who drove up from Melbourne…

Andrea & Valentina

With Jim & Christoph fixing the frame for the West wall together, Andrea, Valentina and I got the exotic job – shovelling clay and levelling areas adjacent to the slab so we can set up scaffolding and work easily once we start erecting the frame.

Christoph & Jim nail-gunning the prepared frame together

Although he is currently working as a pastrychef, it turns out Andrea is an electrician, so he helpfully re-fitted the lead to my small power saw.

Andrea working magic

Bracing strap was added to both side walls, then we decided we better stand one up and see how ridiculously high we’d made it… oh boy!

Christoph tells me he loves how high it is and that being super high will create a sense of space inside.  I did design the thing, and having got to this stage I’m sticking with the plan, but I’m confessing here & now that it might be too high!  For the technically minded, it is 3 m at the front and 2.7 m at the rear.  Most homes in Australia are now built with 2.4 high ceilings.

Mmmmm…. we’ll see!  🙂

Tiny House #1

We kicked off the series of ‘Tiny House Thursdays’ last week.   The slab has well & truly settled down and is ready for something to be built on it!  We’re starting with the Olive House, so named because it has a lovely olive tree established next to it.

Christoph & I had cleared out a workspace at the front of the workshop.  Jim joined us for the day and we made some good progress.

After working out our plans, we started framing up the West wall, on the floor.

We needed to stack up some more timber (all salvaged from pallets)

Jim & Christoph carting timber from the back of the ute to the stack.

and there’s the glorious stack, with a tarp to keep it dry & shaded.

Here’s Jim positioning a noggin before hitting it with the nail gun.

At the end of day one, we had a West wall finished – which we can now use as a template for the matching East wall.  Sweet!

(If you’re free on Thursdays, we’re working on the tiny house every Thursday in September & October… let us know you’re coming, though, please!)