Day release

normal day in the office for Meg & Su

I got out of the office for a few hours yesterday to have a catch-up with David Holmgren and Beck Lowe about the Retrosurbia juggernaut.  I told them how our RS bookclub is going plus we talked about some ideas for future implementation in Ballarat.  It was great to hear about the new resources that are going to be added to the Retrosuburbia website (resources arranged by book chapters, which’ll make finding them super easy), plus the new Slack group for RS groups around the country.  There’s a Retrosuburbia weekend training coming up in WA later in the year and we’ll probably get David to come do a talk in sunny Ballarat early 2019.  If you’re not already onboard, join the Retrosuburbia Community on FB.

Aside from the business, it was nice to have lunch with the Melliodora and Milkwood crews, including old mate Speedy who was working with Nick getting ready for a mushroom weekend.

Beck n Nick chilling after lunch

First Forest Garden enrolment

Yay!  The first enrolment has arrived for January’s Forest Garden weekend course!

I’m looking forward to this course group coming together and expect that it’ll be a great group of people with loads of knowledge, skills & motivation!

Forest Garden talk for Diggers Club, Aug 2018

Can you feel it?

Spring is just around the corner…  I’ve got daffodils blooming in the paddock and the afternoons are becoming lovely to work in.  Mornings are still chilly and the ground is soggy underfoot, but there’s long sunny days coming!

Christoph & I finished the timber rack on Tuesday, which was the ‘best’ day of the week, according to the weather bureau.

Here’s Christoph getting the tools organised.

Small patch where the lock in the roller door used to be!

The zincalume capping along the front of the roof, shining in the winter sunshine.

This is a section of tank liner material, which we’re dropping down so that it provides weather protection but still allows access to the middle of the rack, in case timber gets jammed or needs to be shuffled side to side.   Probably some rain will wash that mud off and the drop sheet will return to black, although I don’t mind how it looks right now.

and there’s a great view from atop the timber rack roof… this is the resource processing and deployment section of the property.  🙂

Forest Garden course dates

Some of you have been waiting for the dates of the Forest Garden weekend course I’ve been planning, and I’m pleased to say that they are now posted on a new page on the website, which gives loads more information about the course.

Quick hack – January 4 -6 2019.

Running during the summer holidays might enable more people to attend, plus you get to work on your forest garden designs for a few months before winter (peak season for planting bare-rooted fruit trees that might be the lynch-pins of your design).  Course numbers are limited to 18 to ensure a quality training experience.

Please share this with friends who might be interested – I’m excited to be sharing both the wisdom I’ve received from Dave Jacke, Martin Crawford and others, but also to pull together a crew of people passionate about creating forest gardens.  I predict a fun weekend and many stimulating conversations and networking opportunities! 🙂

Timber rack roofing

Just a quick post tonight to share the joy of recycling a roller door into a roof!  [Share this to all your buddies who are into The War on Waste.]

You’ve seen the construction of the mighty timber rack…  this afternoon we rolled up a ‘stripped’ rollerdoor (no longer functional or repairable), put it on the roof structure and tek-screwed it down… simple as that…

… instant roof!

looks great from under neath

Christoph put all the screws in and was justifiably proud of his efforts!

Permaculture moral of the story – observe the inherent qualities of an object, not just the label society puts on it.   A ‘dead’ roller door isn’t scrap metal – it’s a perfectly fine 2.5 x 4 m piece of steel just waiting to be re-purposed!

Whatcha planting this Sunday?

This Sunday will be 10 C, cloudy and a slight chance of rain….  a great day for putting in a new apple tree!  Dig your hole now, to be ready for the weekend.  🙂

I’ve pulled out four trees on MM102 rootstock – bigger than the usual dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties that I sell – and have them ready for pick up now.  Maybe one of them would like to be at your place?

[All trees are in pots & are $25 each.  Bring feedbag or similar to put them in, to keep the car clean on the way home.  :)]

London Pippin (aka London Five Crown)

“Very old cooking and eating apple with the distinctive 5-lobed base. Originated in either Essex or Norfolk. It was recorded in 1580. Fruits have crisp, white, acid flesh. Of its many synonyms Five Crown is the most widely used in Australia” (from

Dual purpose, late harvest.  Good drier and keeper.  Flowers late (FT 5)

Calville blanc d’Hiver

“The perfect choice for tarte aux pommes, its spicy aromatic flavor makes it one of the world’s top culinary apples.” (from

Cooker, flowers mid/late season (FT 4). Self-fertile.   Very high in Vitamin C.

Stayman’s Winesap

Dessert apple from Kansas (1895).  Cross between Stayman and Winesap, it is medium-large and a good apple.  Flowers midseason (FT3) but is a triploid so has sterile pollen.  No problem if you have other FT3 trees nearby or live in town.  It was considered the best of the Winesap ‘sports’ or seedlings.


“A red flushed summer apple. Quite sharp with a raspberry or redcurrant flavour.” (from Keepers Nursery, UK)

Dessert apple from Worcestershire dating back to the mid 1700’s.  Partially self-fertile, but benefits from having other mid/late flowering varieties (FT4) nearby.

Please email or send me a text on 0409 551 539 to arrange pick up (prefer 9 – 10 am Sunday morning).  I have many other trees available, on M9 and M26 rootstock as well as MM102.  Let’s arrange a time for you to drop in next week with your list.  🙂


Winter building

Although we are in the middle of winter, there are still some great days for building.  It might only be 10 C but if there’s no wind and the sun is out, working outside can be fine.  Adeline from Singapore wanted to do some building work, so we decided to jump start the big timber rack that has been sitting idle for a few months.

We visited old mate Richard’s and pulled apart a heap of pallets which Adeline then painted:

timber rack Chestnut Farm Adeline Singapore WWOOFER

painted timber beams Chestnut Farm

On Thursday, Adeline and I fitted the last of the steel crossbeams on the timber rack.  It was going to be hard to do that after we’d roofed and clad the thing.

timber rack

Our trusty guides at the Weather Bureau predicted a fine still day on Friday, so I contacted Marty, who recently completed the Permaculture Design Course, and he came over to help.  He’s going to be building and wanted to practise… seemed a fair trade!

We had so much fun on Friday that I didn’t take any photos!  (Marty & Adeline did so I’ll add some of theirs later.)  We got all the roof rafters up; don’t they look pretty all painted white with their front ends lined up so straight!

Yep, I’m pretty happy with the line of those rafters… we fixed the two end ones then ran a string line between them to set the rest by.  Just like Jimmy would have.  If in doubt, ask yourself… “What Would Jimmy Do?”

We’ll put three rows of battens – front, centre and rear.   Last Friday, we only put up the first two pieces of the front row.  While we mucked about up top, though, Adeline did massive quantities calculations working out which sheets of recycled corrugated iron could be cut to go together with minimal waste… and then put up three sheets on the back wall – she loved getting stuck in with the grinder.  Not enough work with power tools for girls growing up in Singapore, me thinks.

This week we’re being hit by cold fronts and massive winds so the rack will sit for a few days – maybe some more progress next week?  If you want to help out or learn a bit of basic construction, let me know.  Extra helpers for a few sunny hours can be a great asset when it gets decidedly cold mid afternoon!

Storage rack build

Had a very productive 48 hours (well, yesterday and this morning) building a new storage rack along the back wall of the paint shed.  Thanks to new helper Victor for his work yesterday  – here’s the end result, man!

Vertical posts screwed into the wall with 100 mm tech screws.  Horizontal support rails screwed into the uprights (and into the wall) with 100 mm tech screws.

Victor checking the position of the horizontal rails on the front structure.  The front is built ‘free standing’ and attached to the wall-mounted timbers by the shelves themselves.

Shelves are 24 mm melamine offcuts from a local furniture factory.  Industrial waste product becomes sweet, high visibility, easy-to-clean shelving.

End of day one: all uprights in position, half the frame painted and some shelves installed.

Clara did a heap of helping on Day Two – especially painting the recycled pallet timber frame so that it looks good and reflects light within the shed.  (No electric lights in here).

Day Two (lunchtime) finish… couldn’t resist throwing a few tools on the shelves to make them look occupied.

It’s the little things…

While juicing some Carolina Black Rose grapes, Pepper found this little dude in a big bunch of grapes…

She thought it was Christmas…  “What a cute baby snail!”

After letting it crawl all over her fingers for a while, she went to show everybody else then gave it a special home in the garden.  I was reminded of  something I’ve heard David Holmgren say repeatedly – how when we observe the environment, we often need to pay attention to the small things.  Good onya, Pepper… you’re on the job!  🙂