Friday, August 17, 2012

National Sustainable House Day 2012

National Sustainable House Day is celebrating its 11th birthday this year on September 9. This annual event is held Australia wide and gives people the chance to visit houses that have been designed, built or fitted out with sustainability in mind and talk to owners, receiving unbiased advice.
As was the case last year, we are running a tour of Tenderbreak Permaculture Farm as an ancillary event to Sustainable House Day.

Our summer garden
Features explored on our tours include:-
  • Passive solar house design using thermal mass to control temperature
  • Earth bermed walls, mudbrick construction and radial sawn timber
  • Oat roller and home motorised grain grinder
  • Designing houses to resist fire & numerous bushfire defence systems including a fire shelter
  • Solar power system that provides power to our house (No mains grid connection)
  • Grey and black water worm farm treatment system.
  • Wood stove for cooking, heating, ironing and hot water supply
  • Fresh water and garden irrigation reticulation systems
  • Large organic veggie garden and use of compost to build soil depth from 10mm to 300mm.
  • Seed saving and companion planting.
  • Organic orchard with over 100 varieties of fruiting trees and bushes
  • Less common plants include yakon, medlar, lemonade tree, white sapote, shatoot mulberry
  • Our flocks of free range hens and ducks
  • Fences, gates, trellises, hothouse and outbuildings made from recycled materials.
  • Our plans to use a steam engine as a back-up power supply for our solar system
  • Fish stocked multifunction dam, and much more
One of our tours
Our property is in the Yarra Valley, 65km from Melbourne. If you would like to join our tour you are very welcome. Bookings are essential as we have a limit of 20 people. The tour runs from 1:30 to 4:30 and the $15 per adult cost includes afternoon tea. Email us for more information at

If you cannot make it on that day, email us, and we will let you know when the next tour is on.
Of course there are plenty of houses open on the day in every state in Australia. Details of these can be found on NSHD website .

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

A Busy Winter

For the third year in a row we are experiencing a wet winter. After around 10 years of drought we are not complaining, but are finding it takes longer to get some jobs done.
However, with the help of Jeff (see our last post) we have still managed to complete a number of tasks that needed doing.  Many of these were listed in the last post, but we also painted the battery room, did quite a bit of work on our barn conversion (see future post) and paved the back area of our large shed (using secondhand pavers) which means we no longer have to trudge across the clay to gain access.

Sadly, Jeff has now left Tenderbreak to continue his Australian trip and will shortly return to China.  We did manage to fit in a bit more sight-seeing, including a trip to Heathcote where we visited Sally and Liss. Although the kangaroos at our place kept out of sight, there were plenty around the Heathcote township, giving Jeff a chance to get some great photos. 

We also visited our friend Pete the Permie to buy a heritage apple tree. We chose Opalescent, which happens to be our favourite eating apple. Whilst there, we showed Jeff around Peter and Silvia’s nursery and farm. He really enjoyed meeting the sheep and especially the Llama.

Before he left, Jeff wrote a message on the supporting post that he helped install in the chook pen. Although the message is in Chinese, he put the translation on the other side. We wish Jeff all the best for the future and perhaps one day we will meet up again.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Our New Helper Jeff

Our latest helper (via Helpx) is Jeff, who is on a holiday in Australia, after finishing his degree in China. However it is not much of a restful break, because he has very kindly helped us out with many tasks. Normally at this time of year, most helpers head north to keep away from our cold Victorian winters. But when we told Jeff that temperatures can drop to zero on some nights, he replied that where he has come from, the temperatures can drop to minus 17 and snowy conditions prevail for months on end. Our winter was mild in comparison!

After a short visit to some Chinese friends in Springvale and Strathmerton, Jeff travelled out to our place. He has been very busy ever since. Some of the jobs he helped with, include digging out and mulching an old blackwood tree, weeding and mulching the garden, shifting mudbricks, replacing a post that held up the chook house roof, collecting trailer loads of old bricks and transporting them home, helping with our market stall, covering our hot house with plastic sheeting, cutting back vegetation that was encroaching on the drive, shifting a piles of gravel and earth, digging drains, jackhammering a hole in a brick wall, mowing grass, helping out with most of the daily chores and more.

Jeff is keen to learn about Australia, its culture, our food and of course permaculture. We have spent many evenings discussing these things and for us learning more about China. He has a very good appetite and has enthusiastically eaten a wide range of meals that differ greatly from his normal diet. In fact he has not only eaten them, he has often taken photographs of our meals. We jokingly told him he could turn his photos into a cookery book. Jeff has even adopted our habit of starting the day with a bowl of porridge- in fact at the moment he is our chief oat roller. The only food he cannot cope with, is the one that most visitors to Australia find hard to take- vegemite!

Of course he is very keen to meet the local native animals, but so far they have been very uncooperative- only the wombats have been out and about. However, while he was shifting some mud bricks he did uncover a baby (40cm) snake (deep in hibernation mode). After that, we took over shifting the rest of the bricks, just in case the snake’s parents were around. Fortunately, all we found was one other baby, and we made sure both reptiles were safely transported away from our buildings to “snake corner” where they were released.

The stay is not all work of course. When possible we have managed to explore a bit of the Yarra Valley and taken the dogs for walks around our tracks. So far we have visited Healesville, the local tourist railway line, Maroondah Dam, William Ricketts Sanctuary, the Skyhigh scenic viewing area on top of Mt Dandenong and we spent a day exploring the Mornington Peninsula.

Jeff has made good friends with our dog Bluey and Ruby (a dog we are dog-sitting for a friend). In the photo above, you can see Jeff testing out a Chinese saying that says “if you ride a dog, it will rain on your wedding day”. Hopefully the saying won’t come true!
Free Hit Counter