Thursday, July 23, 2009


After a short break over winter we are recommencing monthly tours of Tenderbreak Permaculture Farm. In the past 12 months over 1000 people have attended one of our events (Some have even been twice).

Bookings are required and tours will be held on:-
Tour 1 Sunday, AUGUST 9th
Tour 2 Sunday, September 6th
Both tours run 1:30pm to 4:00pm and include afternoon tea.

Our tours are suitable for anyone with an interest in permaculture, organic gardening, passive solar house design, tank water, mudbrick building, property design and layout, chooks and ducks, solar power, grey water systems and sustainable living. In fact our tours are a bit like doing a mini Introduction to Permaculture Course.

Part of the tour looks at defensive strategies against bushfires. The fires of Black Saturday burnt most of our 96 acres, but we were able to save our house and most of our infrastructure. We can now give an account of what aspects of our fire plan worked well and what needs to be improved.

Although our property is a large bush block, we provide information and ideas that are suitable for both rural and suburban dwellers. The size of the groups is limited to ensure there is plenty of scope for questions and discussion. Other dates are available for group bookings.
Contact us for more details or for bookings at

Monday, July 20, 2009

Fires Aftermath

It’s now 5 months since Black Saturday, but it still seems like a bad dream. It is hard getting used to the blackened trunks, bare branches and a cooked landscape. Every time we return home, a sense of sadness arises within us when the burnt forest comes into view. This feeling is only partially offset by the gradual rebirth of our environment.

Recovery of bush/animals
The tenacity of Australia’s forests is amazing. The tree ferns and grass trees were sending out new shoots within a couple of weeks and the green really stands out against the black backdrop. Many of the eucalypts are now sending out side-shoots, with some clothed in green shoots from top to bottom. Of course there are many that will never recover and will stand for years like black sentinels reminding us of Black Saturday. The forest floor is gradually turning green with a carpet of mosses and young shoots starting to hide the ash.

Amazingly some of the wildlife managed to survive, but they are not out of the woods yet (pun intended). They survived the fire, but can they survive the loss of habitat and food source? We are doing our best to help by doing regular food drops of approved food around our place – hopefully it will get them through. So far we have seen a few wombats, a couple of echidnas, one baby snake, a small mob of kangaroos, a handful of wallabies and two lyrebirds.

Odd stuff
Many people have commented that at least we now have tons of firewood. Strangely this is true for next year and into the future, but the bulk of blackened wood on the ground is green- that’s why it didn’t burn during the fires. Any dry wood (including a few piles we were saving for future firewood) burnt very well when the fires arrived. Fortunately we managed to locate enough seasoned wood to get us through this winter, but many other people may have found it more difficult.

Flue Cleaning
One consequence of using wood stoves/heaters is the need to keep the flue clean. We have aimed to do this annually, but for various reasons have left this messy job for two years. So in May we donned our overalls, dragged out the flue brush, climbed onto the roof and gave the flue a brushing. We were pleasantly surprised by the relatively small amount of soot that dropped down. Our guess is that due to the very dry nature of the wood we use (usually it’s been seasoned for 2 years or more), it burns very cleanly leaving little residue behind. From now on we’ll clean out the flues before winter every odd numbered year.

Wood Fired Appliances
Winter has well and truly arrived and with that, the need for heating. Over recent years wood has received much “bad press” as a use for fuel. In the suburbs a poorly operated system or one not using dry fuel can cause discomfort for neighbours, but in rural areas there are many advantages over other fuels.
The Australian Greenhouse Office, in their brochure "Global Warming Cool It!" lists the following Greenhouse gases (pollution) per unit of heat
• “Natural gas produces 0.31 kg.
• LPG gas produces 0.34 kg.
• Electricity Aust. Average 1.00 kg...
• Wood produces 0.00 kg.”

The article continues: "Carbon dioxide from burning wood is not counted, as wood is a renewable resource: a natural cycle exists in which carbon is captured by growing trees, then released by burning or decaying and again captured by growing trees." Our energy utilities would have us believe that are at the forefront of environmental protection. The truth is fossil fuels are ruining the environment and our health........ This site also outlines some serious health dangers related to the use of gas fuelled heaters. See for more information.

Wood is the perfect fuel if you are replanting trees to replace the wood you use.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Winter at Tenderbreak

We cleared vegetation off our dam wall and resolved to keep it free of trees. Roots from large trees can penetrate the wall in search of water and this could lead to an empty dam. At times we have made attempts to get the job done, but it was just too big.

However this year the fires did half of it for us. The photo shows a small section. All we had to do was grub out the burnt trunks of perhaps 200 saplings. It still took two full days but at least it’s done and all we have to do is to regularly cutback growth to prevent trees getting established. Time will tell if we can keep up our resolve to keep regrowth down.

Whilst doing this job we took the opportunity to create a meandering path which leads to the gate valve (previously we had to battle through dense vegetation to get there). It also leads to the gully below the dam providing a pleasant bushwalk.

Another job we have been intending to do for many years was to build a hot house. We have now collected a pile of second-hand material for this purpose and started excavating the site. Hopefully this project should be completed in the next few weeks.

We’ve harvested around 70kg spuds and 80 pumpkins (Butternuts, Jarrahdales, Queensland Blues and a handful of unknown heritage). We continue to pick lettuce, celery, carrots, beetroots, turnips, silverbeet, wong bok, chicory, parsnips, daikon and many herbs. The brassicas are all doing well. We are enjoying the taste of freshly picked brussel sprouts and will soon be able to tuck into caulies, cabbages and brocccoli. Our focus in winter is on garlic, onions, (both planted in May) and broadbeans (for food as well as a green manure crop).

Our passionfruit gave us a pleasant surprise. This was the first year it provided a crop and we have been patiently waiting for them to turn purple. In the end we gave up, tried one and found it to be ripe and sweet. Apparently we have a yellow fruiting variety and are now enjoying them “passionately”.

In the orchard we have started pruning fruit trees, divided and transplanted some rhubarb plants and have prepared spots for a few more fruit trees. We’ve also cut down a few older acacias, cut back others and used our mulcher to turn the prunings into a big pile of mulch.

Sunday, July 5, 2009


David is a woodworker friend of ours, who manufactures and sells a variety of wooden toys and other products. For some time he has been working on a chook feeder design that will prevent birds, rats and mice from stealing the chook food. We are pleased to announce that he has now developed a bird, rat and mouse proof Contented Chook Feeder.

The chook food is placed in a hopper which is covered by a lid. When the chooks step on a flat plate, a clever lever mechanism lifts the lid giving chooks access to the food. The storage hopper is large enough to store several kilos of food, allowing owners to go away for a weekend in the safe knowledge that their chooks will have a supply of food available. Of course they will also need a supply of clean water.

It takes around 2 weeks for chooks to learn how the feeder works and to get comfortable with the device. Two or three chooks can eat together, but it is also suitable for use with larger numbers of birds. We use our unit to feed 12 hens by having at least 2 days supply of feed available in the unit. The result is that hens go to the feeder when they are hungry- usually one or two at any one time.

The feeder needs to be kept under cover. This is partly to preserve the timber components, but also to ensure dampness does not get into the chook food. If feeders are left exposed to the elements the chook food can absorb moisture and go mouldy.

The units are individually handmade and there is quite a bit of work in each one. For these reasons David can only make a limited number each week, subsequently there will a short wait for orders to be filled.
David has just commenced manufacturing these units, and orders or expressions of interest can be placed with us at our Healesville Organic Market stall (Outside the old railway station every Saturday morning). We have a demo model on display at the market. If you would like more information contact us, at and we can email more details and extra photos. Another alternative is to ring David on mob. 0420 528 606.

Some of his other great products include possum boxes, a great little art stool with built in blackboard, wooden hobby horses, and many other educational toys
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