Traditional English Orchards

Today I visited a number of fruit tree planting sites around Woodbridge, Suffolk.  This was after attending the Saturday farmers market, where my mind may have been turned toward all things apple by purchasing a bottle of James Grieve apple juice for morning tea!  Many areas of the UK have distinct agricultural and horticultural traditions.  While we tend to think of orchards as massive plantings of hundreds or thousands of trees, there are only 3-4 counties of England where this is common.  In the rest, orchards tend to be smaller groupings of 5-15 trees arranged around or near a farmhouse.  Often each tree is different, which provides the farmhouse with a range of fruits across the season.

Bramley Seedling planted on public land by Transition Woodbridge

There are a range of great local and national groups that support orchards and heirloom apple varieties across the country.  For instance, the Suffolk Traditional Orchard Group have a range of aims, including to

  • record and protect old orchard sites;
  • promote the new planting of traditional orchard fruit and nut varieties; and
  • preserve and disseminate the practice, cultural and historical value of orchards through education and publication

Suffolk has its own unique named varieties of fruit trees, particularly apples like the St Edmund’s Russet (pre-1875), Maclean’s Favourite (1820), Lady Henniker (c. 1845), Lord Stradbroke (c. 1900), Catherine (pre 1900), Old Blake (pre 1900)

Here are some of the collection of STOG working notes – resources which may not be applicable depending on your soils and climate, but which provide a great base for overall understanding of many of the principles of orcharding.

You can find out about orchards all over England through the Orchard Network of the People’s Trust for Endangered Species, who list links to local groups and have an Orchard Network webpage.

Since I’m staying in Suffolk right now, I have been looking at some plantings carried out by Transition Woodbridge.

Espaliered apples & pears planted by Transition Woordbridge near public housing playground
Transition Woodbridge food forest planting

For locals looking for trees of the right heritage, there are several well organised sources of supply, including the East of England Apples and Orchards project, which is a charity aimed at preserving old orchards, creating new ones and having people plant varieties traditional to their local county.  Check out their 2017 fruit tree catalogue and you can see how easy it could be to grow a range of heirloom varieties in your local garden.



Permaculture entrepreneurs

The Knowledge Exchange for Entrepreneurship in Permaculture (KEEP) project is a fabulous UK collaboration between the Permaculture Association (UK) and Kingston University London.  It is funded by a  grant from the Institute for Small Business and Entrepreneurship.

The aims of the project are to:

  • conduct preliminary research on the current state of permaculture enterprises and entrepreneurship;
  • identify and explore key factors underlying the success of permaculture enterprises;
  • identify, prepare and share case studies of outstanding permaculture enterprises;
  • develop knowledge resources and knowledge sharing processes which will encourage a new wave of permaculture-inspired enterprises and;
  • assist the Permaculture Association to create an enterprise hub

Check out the project website  which includes a wide range of case studies showing how different people have created diverse incomes based on permaculture – and it’s great to see that lots of the businesses are about things other than gardening or teaching permaculture (!)

…or here’s a great Vimeo video of Permaculture Association researcher Chris Warburton Brown talking about the project.

Central Victorian educators gathering

Monday was a public holiday and a few of us in central Victoria celebrated by gathering to discuss permaculture education across the region.  There were lots of ideas canvassed, but one interesting theme was how to make the Permaculture Design Course more relevant to renters.  One of our current PDC students came across with us and presented her view that permaculture sends a strong message that only those with land, or access to it, can have a permaculture lifestyle.

educators Rowe Morrow Nick Ritar

Rowe Morrow, who is visiting the region for a week or so, dropped in on the meeting and her comments about making permaculture relevant to nomads and the landless in developing countries echoed the point about renters.

David Holmgren described how renters are woven into the stories in his upcoming RetroSuburbia book.  There was general consensus that long-term renters (as opposed to those who are renting short term before buying land) are not well served by the current PDC syllabus.  I wondered whether there should be a PDC just for renters.  Wouldn’t the dynamic in the room change if everyone didn’t own land?  …and maybe had little prospect of ever doing so.  What would our design projects look like?  Would we see less landscape-based work and more designs in other domains?  It could be a very interesting project.  I’m on the plane in four days, though, so I don’t need a new project to keep me busy… might have to ponder on all this while I’m away.

oh, and at the end of the meeting a few of us ended up in Joel’s shed getting excited about a hand-powered milk separator he’s using to extract olive oil.  Check it out…  🙂

Joel’s butter churn

Permaculture Principles Masterclass

In late July, I will be running a one day event in Suffolk (UK), exploring the permaculture design principles as outlined by David Holmgren in his 2002 book “Permaculture: Principles & Pathways beyond Sustainability”.  In the fifteen years since the book was published, David’s set of principles have become increasingly recognised as suitable for application to a wide range of contexts, rather than just applying to landscape or garden design.  In this workshop, through a process of individual and group work, we will explore each principle, find personal examples of each and look at how multiple principles can be used to help make decisions in relation to a single project, such as writing a song or building a house.

More information and tickets are available here:

chestnut farm principles card game

Cubby front wall

The last couple of days have seen some great work done on the front wall of the cubby.  Glen, new WWOOFer from the UK, took on the job of finishing the front wall, which was started by Clara a few weeks back.

chestnut farm cubby front wall 001 chestnut farm Glen cubby front wall 01

We’re cladding the wall in old fence palings.  They’re Australian hardwood and probably already 60 years old.  With a double layer of palings and a coat of paint, how long do you think they might last?  Another 60 years?  longer…?

chestnut farm cubby front wall glen 02

After finishing the second layer of palings (which are off set to cover the join line of the lower layer), Glen got stuck into a first coat of paint.  We’re not sure of the final colour but Pepper is keen to have the cubby painted and decorated as flamboyantly as possible, so consider this one an undercoat!

chestnut farm cubby front wall glen 03 painting

Pepper is being very patient about the time it’s taking to finish the cubby.  She loves working on it and says to me “We do a little bit every day, Dad”.  Wise words from a 4 year old.

chestnut farm Pepper at cubby June 2 2017 chestnut farm Pepper pointing to her name June 2017

Forest gardening in the Scottish Borders

It’s June already!  In a few weeks, I’ll have the very great fortune to visit Graham Bell at his home in the Scottish Borders.  Graham is an inspirational thinker, business person, campaigner and long term permaculture trainer (who was Ian Lillington’s PDC teacher many years ago).  I’ll be chatting with Graham, currently President of Permaculture Scotland, looking for ideas to improve both Permaculture Australia and Ballarat Permaculture Guild…

…but I’m also very excited to visit Graham’s forest garden, which Tomas Remiarz has described as ‘the best established .. in this country’.  Here’s how Graham describes his garden:

It’s a life’s work, an ambition constantly being realised. It’s a soft factory where food and fuel create their own abundance. It’s a classroom and the best meditation space I know. It’s a place to be in love and to play and to eat out. It’s an energy source and a living changing example. It’s a work of art and a solace. It’s a home.

Look forward to a report and lots of photographs.  Meantime, check out the forest garden page on Graham’s website.  Or Tomas Remiarz book Forest Gardening in Practice (a review of real life examples of forest gardens)  is available at Real Life Forest Gardens or your favourite book seller.  The cover looks like this:

Chestnut Farm Forest garden book

North wall window

I lay in bed last night as a huge thunderstorm pelted rain to earth.  It sounded like it was sitting directly above my place.  I wondered if I’d been a little optimistic on Friday when I didn’t put something over the window space in the north wall of Pepper’s cubby house.  I’d put corrugated iron around the window but didn’t get to put the window in before it got too dark to work.

Sure enough, the floor was wet this morning, so I swept it out and used a couple of sunny hours to put the window in.  Some scrap angle iron made great flashing.  The window is the unbroken half of an old bathroom window I salvaged.  The corrugated iron is from my brother’s dairy.    Still the South and West walls to finish before I go to Europe on June 19, but good to have half of them ticked off!

chestnut farm cubby window

chestnut farm tick

Obtain a Yield

The permaculture design principle Obtain A Yield often conjurs images of lush vegetable gardens or fruit trees, but there are many other yields to be found.

Yesterday I removed some roofing iron and old timbers from the roof of an abandoned dairy.  The timbers were old Australian hardwood; very strong and increasingly hard to get.  Because they are aged, they won’t twist or shrink.  The timber comprised 4 x2 purlins (already removed prior to photograph below) and 5 x 1.5 rafters.  I found a bit of borer in some of the purlins, but the rafters were all in great condition – and the larger ones measured out at 5.3 metres (sorry to mix the metric & Imperial systems, but I’m bilingual)

chestnut farm roof timbers obtain a yield

By the way, this is not Produce No Waste….  Produce No Waste relates to your place and your systems: when you go somewhere else and scavenge, salvage or forage something that someone else would otherwise discard, you are obtaining a yield.   😉

The roofing iron was 7.3 m long – too long to fit on my tandem trailer – so I cut it in half.  3.65 m is still a pretty useful size sheet.

chestnut farm roofing iron obtain a yield

Permaculture Design Course hosting

It has been a fabulous weekend; I’m really enjoying hosting the Ballarat Permaculture Guild PDC group… a great crew and it’s a real pleasure to share the farm with them on this learning journey.  Yesterday, we spent a beautiful Autumn day  at Melliodora – David Holmgren & Su Dennett’s property in Hepburn – where David gave the group a property tour in the morning (focussing on design process) and we talked about his upcoming book Retrosuburbia in the afternoon.

Chestnut Farm Melliodora dam autumn Chestnut farm David Holmgren laughing Melliodora PDC tour

Today the PDC group were back at the farm to have an enthralling day led by Ian Lillington.  We swept across several of the permaculture domains: land tenure, housing options, finance & economics, group processes, health & spiritual wellbeing.  In between robust discussions of LETS systems, the Brixton Pound, co-housing, whether there’s a place for spirituality in permaculture, how renters can crank their permaculture systems and much more, the design teams had brief meetings to set themselves for the final weeks before their presentations in June.  It was a FULL day!   🙂

Chestnut Farm Ian Lillington 2017 PDC Chestnut Farm Liz laughing

…and we’re back!

Welcome to the new Chestnut Farm website.  We’ve simplified the site and made it easier to stay in touch with what’s happening.  Our blog posts now go directly to the Farm FaceBook account, plus you can now subscribe to have blogs emailed to you directly.

It’s been a busy 6 months at Chestnut Farm and I’m very excited to be heading to Europe in just over 4 weeks.  I’ll be attending the Permaculture Scotland Gathering June 30/July 1 & 2, doing a weekend forest garden course with Martin Crawford in Devon and also offering some one day courses in Suffolk, so share that course info with your UK friends!  [If the details aren’t up yet, give us a day or so. .. 🙂]  After the UK, I’ll be in Germany for a few weeks, so…

…if you know cool places to visit in either the UK or Germany, please let me know…   🙂

Last weekend I was elected to the Board of Permaculture Australia, so thanks to Richard Telford and Oliver Holmgren for nominating me and all those who voted for me.

chestnut farm rainbow