Monday, October 14, 2013

Tours of Tenderbreak on October 20th & November 24th, 2013

We are running tours of Tenderbreak Permaculture Farm on Sunday October 20 & November 24, 2013


 
A view of the house from the dam

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 including a peek at our new mudbrick cottage (under construction)
  • Oat roller and motorised grain grinder (using an old washing machine motor)
  • Designing houses to resist fire & bushfire defence strategies 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, lemonade tree, white sapote, shatoot mulberry
  • 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
Hopefully all the blossoms will turn into plenty of fruit

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 and how to get here at tenderbreak@bigpond.com.

 If you cannot make it on these days, email us, and we will let you know when the next tour is on. Hope you can come.
  

Thursday, October 3, 2013

We're Back!

We haven’t been anywhere, but we decided to have a break from blogging for a while- a sort of hibernation over winter. We have not been sitting on our laurels though – here are some of the things that have kept us busy.

Our main focus has been on finishing our mud brick cottage. Completion has become urgent as we have just gained another 6 month extension to our permit and the authorities made it clear that they do not want to keep extending the permit. We are equally keen to finish the project so we can get on with other tasks, and are now aiming to finish by February next year. (Even though the permit gives us until April).

The Cottage is taking shape
 
 
So far we have laid over five hundred mud bricks and have about 250 to go. Most of the internal timber frame is up and ready to be cladded. The external west wall has been framed and has been clad with corrugated steel. We couldn’t use mud brick here because it gets the full brunt of the western sun. Our solution is to have a cavity wall with insulation and use mud bricks on the inside to provide thermal mass to help moderate internal temperatures.
We haven’t done much in the veggie garden apart from planning out our summer crops, mulching, building four big compost heaps, laying down sawdust on paths and transplanting a few plants. However, we have had a steady supply of food right through winter- including carrots, parsnips, cabbage, kale,  silver beet, warragul greens, parsley, spinach, rhubarb, pumpkin and the asparagus is providing a steady supply now too.
 
There are plenty of greens in the garden
 
 
It took over a week to prune deciduous trees in the orchard, and this year we focussed on reducing the height of many trees to keep the fruit within reach. We are not expert pruners but judging by the blossoms, we have got potential for some great fruit crops this year. We won’t get too excited yet though, as there is a long way to go before all those flowers turn into ripe juicy fruit. The citrus trees have produced masses of lemons, limes, mandarins, tangelos and grapefruit which we eat fresh or in tangy citrus drinks- plenty of vitamin C. The amazing thing is that they are already starting to flower again and hopefully produce an equally good crop next year.

The Tangelos make a very refreshing drink
 
We spent another week giving the hothouse a makeover by cleaning out unwanted growth, adding compost and planting some early summer crops and seedlings. So far we have planted five varieties of tomato, capsicums and several varieties of lettuce in the ground. The seedlings include zucchini, silver beet, cucumbers, pumpkin and more tomatoes.
 
 
The tomatoes in the hothouse are going well
Early spring is also our main time to start preparing for the coming fire season- hopefully it won’t be a bad one, but we have to do as much as we can every year- just in case. Since August we have spent one or two days each week clearing our firebreak areas of fallen timber. Logs and large branches are sawn up for firewood and the grass is kept mown in these areas.
Another area that has had a makeover is our shade house. This area had become a real tangle and apart from the fact that it was all overgrown was also a worry in terms of fire risk. Luckily for us, our daughter Kathy offered to help get it under control. We have now positioned a seat in this area (a wonderful Kathy idea), so we can sit and enjoy it from time to time.
 
Our shady Shadehouse
 
 
 
Of course life is not all about projects and work. Each day we walk Cobber (our dog) around our track and enjoy the beauty, peace and quiet of our recovering environment. This year the wallabies seem to be particularly prolific, the swallows do their daily displays of incredible aerobatics and the wombats and echidnas snuffle about doing their “thing”. At the moment we are just starting to see the first of the native orchids coming up and the mass yellow flowering of the wattles was spectacular this year.
August was a very exciting time for us, because our new grandson Logan was born. We have been making regular trips to Heathcote (about 120kms) to visit Sally, Liss and dearest beautiful baby Logan.
 
Beautiful Baby Logan
 During our hibernation we haven’t taken on many helpers, but did have two wonderful helpers (Kido and Tim) from Taiwan. Some lifelong friends of ours from Queensland dropped in for a few days whilst on their holiday. We had a wonderful catch up time and they were also eager to help with collecting firewood and building the cottage.

That roof will never fall down
 We have only had one tour of Tenderbreak over winter and that was a visit by the Dibble and Hoe Garden Club from Seville. They were a lovely group of people and we had a great day enjoying their company as we talked and walked around our property.

Now that we are “out of hibernation” we are going to run another tour of Tenderbreak on October 20. We will post all the details in our next post.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

A Challenging Summer: Planting an “Insurance Garden”

Every year is different in the garden. Some things do well and others don’t. Amongst the mix, there are usually a few disasters and a couple of successes. This is one reason why it is so important to diversify. If one or two crops fail, you can focus your efforts on the other crops and still get by.
Disasters first
The pears looked great at the start of summer
This year was our driest summer since we have been keeping records (19 years). December rainfall was low and then the rains virtually dried up until the last day of summer, when we got some relief. It was also our warmest summer ever, so evaporation rates have been high too. The heat did not stop with summer, as Melbourne is likely to have its hottest March on record too. This hot, dry weather was very disappointing because at the beginning of December everything pointed towards a bumper season and harvest (See We have gone Crazy this Year!). Most of the apple trees were loaded with huge crops. It looked like we would be getting our best crops of avocadoes, macadamias, pears, nectarines, nashis and so on.

And so did the nashis
But then the big dry set in. We tried keeping up with the watering but as each week became drier and drier it became harder. By early February we had to let some plants go and survive the best they could. We didn’t have the time, were exhausted with the total workload (and heat) and had to maintain good quantities of water in reserve in case we had to deal with fire. Some areas of Victoria have had terrible fires again this year and they took weeks to get under control, so that possibility was always on our mind.

Our beautiful apple crop started dropping off the trees well before they were ripe, and our lovely crop of nectarines and plums started to burn and shrivel on the tree and other crops suffered too.
Five Crown is one of our most productive trees
Although all the apples trees did suffer, some managed better than others. The five crown dropped a large amount of fruit but kept perhaps 50% (about 20kg). The Opalescent once again produced a crop of large juicy red fruit and being on a dwarf rootstock we were able to cover it with bird netting. The Orange Cox’s Pippen produced its best crop yet. The fruit is not very big, but their flavour is delicious with a distinctive taste- almost a lemony touch. 

Our total apple crop would have amounted to several boxes of fruit, which was more than enough for our needs. There was plenty to eat fresh, stew and the hot dry conditions were perfect for drying. Our pantry has a good store of dried apples for use after the season finishes.
The clothes horse made a good drying frame
There was plenty of other good news too.
Most of our berry crops such as blackberry, blueberry and currents withered on the plants. However the raspberries came in, just before the hot spell with its withering, dry northerly winds, so we were able to turn our harvest into enough raspberry jam to last the year.

We planted 5 varieties of pumpkins and although 3 patches struggled to survive, we focussed on the two strongest ones. We kept the water up on these patches and they have produced a reasonable crop – enough to last us through to next summer. What we lack in variety we’ll make up for in quantity.

Our carrots, parsnips and beetroot are just springing out of the ground and we will have our best crops yet. Our two small successive crops of corn have kept us supplied with corn for six weeks now and there are quite a few cobs still left. Cucumbers grew almost faster than we could pick them. The self sown parsley has produced around one hundred good sized bunches (which we sell at our organic market) and is still going strong.
 
Our bean tepee was very productive
We have been feeding off our climbing beans for over eight weeks now. We planted 3 small crops about 3 weeks apart. We are just starting to pick the third crop and have already harvested about 20 kg. The first crop which was planted around a tepee frame is still flowering so we should be getting many more.
Nothing beats summer strawberries
Our biggest thrill though was our strawberry bed. Although only a fairly small bed we have had 3 or 4 feeds of strawberries every week for over around 2 months. They have been so flavoursome and delicious.

We planted 6 tomato varieties and over 50 plants. We lost a few and some did not come to much, but most produced huge crops. The two best performers were Tommy Toe (our favourite for salads) and Principe Borghese  (a first timer for us). Altogether we have had plenty to eat in salads, soups and other meals, as well as enough to bottle for sauces and soups during the year.

Prince Borghese tomatoes were a big success
Having diversity in the garden is great for variety, but it is also like an insurance policy. If extreme weather events are going to be more frequent, planting an “insurance garden” is a pretty good idea!

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Autumnfest: Healesville’s Big Day Out

The Autumn solstice is always a bit “iffy” in terms of the weather and this year was no exception. A few days ago we had gale force winds, heavy rain and cool temperatures. However, those who worked the weather magic smiled on Autumnfest again this year, and gave us the most pleasant day possible.
Plenty of delicious gourmet food & drink

All the hard work, months of preparation and organisation paid off with our best Autumnfest yet- possibly 2000 visitors over the course of the day. There was a wonderful ambience and sense of community under the century old oak trees of Coronation park as individuals and families came together to enjoy the various activities, glorious food, talks, performances, demonstrations and opportunities to share information and knowledge. Our photos show some of the day’s activities.


Luna's veggies were popular

The crowd enjoyed the Irish Dancing

The goats received lots of loving

Mmmm! Pure Olivetto Oil

 
During the day we met and chatted to dozens of people and were lucky enough to meet several readers of our blog. Everyone we spoke to, seemed to be enjoying the day and gave positive feedback and happy responses. Thank you to all helpers, participants and visitors for joining in and making it such a successful and special event.
There was great interest in our Permaculture Tours
Hopefully it will all be happening again next year close to the Autumn equinox in March. If you want to join in as a stallholder or volunteer or just be kept informed about the event, keep an eye on this blog or send us an email (tenderbreak@bigpond.com) and we will add you to our mailing list.
 
Winsome's Crepes & waffles went well with Yarra Coffee

Hmmm! Which apple shall we choose?

Pete the Permie had plenty of advice about fruit trees

Suzann and Paul demonstrated their skills

Skipping Stones Circus skills for youngsters



Tour of Tenderbreak Permaculture Farm on Sunday April 7

If you happen to be near the Yarra Valley on April 7 we are holding a tour of our property in the afternoon. Tours cost $15 and bookings are required. Email us for more information.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Healesville Autumnfest 2013

HEALESVILLE AUTUMNFEST
Saturday, 23rd March, 2013
Healesville Autumnfest 2013 is going to bigger and better than ever. With over 40 stalls and displays there will be something for everyone to enjoy.


Our regular market stalls are famous for their organic locally grown food and they will be joined by others selling an even wider range of fresh local produce. There will be tastings of various heritage apples and if you discover a variety that really appeals you can even buy a potted tree so you can grow it yourself. Apart from produce there will be stalls selling clothes, wooden toys, wooden furniture, jewellery, preserves, woollen products, soaps, natural body products, seeds, books and lots more.

There will be plenty of entertainment for all ages. The Healesville Music Festival has a line up of local acts on its stage and Skipping Stones Dance is running a series of activities called “Adventure  Fun - Circus, Dance & Ephemeral Art” for children. There will be milking goats to pet and Edd or Amanda will be happy to answer any questions about these friendly animals. Emily will be there again doing delightful and creative face painting, but you’ll have to be quick because she had a queue all day last year.

As the event is organised by Permaculture Yarra Valley there will be plenty of information about Permaculture and topics related to sustainability. There will even be a demonstration Permaculture Garden in the Community Garden area. 
 
A program of talks will include a talk about Edible Weeds by local author Doris Pozzi, and you can purchase her book if you wish. Other topics of talks include Seed Saving, Designing a Permaculture Garden, Climate Change, Tenderbreak Permaculture Farm and Propagating your own Plants (along with a propagating activity for children). Many community groups will also be setting up displays to demonstrate their fantastic work.

There will be a number of stalls selling yummy organic food to eat, so forget breakfast and lunch and enjoy a meal of fresh, locally made food under the shade of the gorgeous Coronation Park trees. 

Autumnfest is sponsored by Permaculture Yarra Valley and Yarra Ranges Council and entry is free.  Email autumnfest2013@gmail.com  for more information. If you happen to be in the locality we would love to see you there.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

12 YEARS WITH A COMPOSTING WASTE WATER DISPOSAL SYSTEM

The system's main components
As mentioned in the last post we recently had trouble with the pump that moved water from our worm farm waste water disposal chamber to the underground distribution system. As many people who come on our permaculture tours are interested in the system, we thought we would elaborate on how it works and review its performance over the past 12 years.

The system is called the A&A Worm Farm Waste System (designed and built in Australia) and we are very happy with it. All waste (bathroom, toilet and kitchen) flows by gravity to a storage chamber (the worm farm). Solids form a compost heap in the tank and liquids gradually drain through into the sump. A submersible pump activated by floats takes a couple of minutes to pump the liquid to the disposal area where the waste is dispersed underground.
 
Our plan is to one day run this waste water through reed beds and then use it to water fruit trees. It is possible on some sites (in fact desirable) to have the whole system run by gravity. This would negate the need for a pump, and the only need for power would be to charge the battery on the alarm system which lets you know if the system is not working properly.

The rechargeable alarm
There is a compost bin on top of the chamber for adding other organic matter. We dispose of cardboard boxes and invasive weeds through this, to give the worms some variety in their diet. 
Over 12 years we have had some large parties and events and the system has coped well. The solids in the chamber have reached about the halfway mark and seem to have stabilized at this level. As the solids are broken down by microbes and worms, small particles get flushed out with the water.
We see the system’s main advantages as:-
·                 The waste water can be put to use in orchards or grassy areas
·                 Minimal power use (Almost nil if gravity is used instead of the pump)
·                 The cost of the system is reasonable with no ongoing maintenance contracts (like some other systems)
·                 There is virtually no odour – even when the access lid is lifted up
·                 A simple design that doesn’t require specific technical knowledge and problems are easy to diagnose and fix
·                 Most of the time there is no maintenance required at all
·                 The compost chamber allows easy disposal of persistent weeds and other organic matter
Looks like a compost heap inside!
 
How has it performed?
Even though we have had occasional issues that need attention, we think its performance over the 12 years has been excellent.  During this period it has largely operated day in and day out without us giving it a second thought.
The issues that have arisen with the system have mostly been of a minor nature and were easily fixed.
  • Stuck floats. A couple of times the floats that turn the system off and on have become stuck. Usually the solution is to give the sump outflow pipe a shake and this frees them up.
  • Build up of sediment. Every year or so we pull the pump out of the sump, wash it down, inspect it and empty any sediment that has built up in the bottom of the sump. The pump is not designed to cope with sediment so this is more of a precautionary measure.
  • Pumps have a limited lifespan. Our issue with the pump was detailed in the last post
  • Blocked Disposal trenches. This took a bit of effort to solve, but was very site specific. During the drought (years of very dry conditions) the ground surrounding our disposal trenches dried out to such an extent, it had set like concrete, and lost the capacity to absorb water. We would have had the same issue with any system of underground distribution of waste water.  In these conditions our soils were just not capable of absorbing the required amounts of waste water quickly enough. We replaced the first few metres of the installed underground distribution channels with Plastic Domed Drain Material which had a much bigger capacity and was capable of holding the waste water long enough for it to be absorbed over a longer period of time.
Domed drainage added to each absorption trench
 
Most of our issues were relatively easy to solve in retrospect. They were also part of the process of learning about how the system works, its limitations and maintenance needs. This last point is part of our basic philosophy – to take responsibility where possible for growing food, generating power, harvesting rain water and disposing of our own waste. Life has become one huge learning experience!



Saturday, February 23, 2013

Fixing our Worm Farm Waste Water Treatment System

At about the worst possible time (between Christmas and New Year) one of our electrical safety switches activated, switching off power in the house. After a few minutes of plugging appliances into various power points, we narrowed the problem down to the circuit that supplies the back half of the house.
Further investigation showed the problem was in the submersible pump that pumped waste water out of our worm farm waste water tank. This system processes all our effluent from the kitchen, bathroom and toilet. The waste water filters through a compost heap, where the solids sit until they decompose and the pump empties excess water that builds up in the sump.
 
There is no odour in the worm farm tank but the waste water entering the sump does have a mild smell. (Mild compared to that in a traditional septic system.) Still there is an odour and it is not the best time to be working with it, in the middle of our hottest summer for many years. This timing was also unfortunate because during this period most plumbers, plumbing suppliers and pump repairers were on their annual holiday. We decided that our only option was to have a go at it ourselves.
 
After checking the power point it was clear that the fault lay in the actual pump. It was time to get our hands dirty and extract the pump. It is fairly heavy at 15kg and a reasonably tight fit with the attached floats, but we managed to disconnect the wiring and piping and haul the unit up to the surface. We worked through many of the obvious possible problems trying it out again and again after each time. We even left it for a few days in the hope that if moisture was causing a short circuit it would dry out and at least work for another week or more. No luck!
 
Then we got on the phone and managed to find a pump repairer who worked from home. He did a few tests and told us that it was indeed faulty and would cost more to repair than buy a new one. The next day we went to Water Pros, an irrigation supplier in Lilydale (by now the holidays had finished). They were very helpful and to our amazement had a new pump for us within 2 days at a better price than I could find on the internet. We highly recommend them for their service and price on irrigation and pump equipment.
Once home we removed the piping, floats and wires from the old pump and transferred these to the new pump. After a few trials and tribulations we turned it on and it worked (no tripping of safety switches) and as the water level rose, it activated the shut off float and turned itself off. We were back to normal at last!
 
Altogether it took over a week to get the system working again. That was a week with minimal showers and working out ways to dispose of kitchen and laundry water onto the lawn (not a bad idea in summer anyway). The main worry was the fact that if water levels built up in the tank, the composting worms that process the waste, would all drown. Therefore emptying the waste water in the sump by hand (using a plastic ice cream tub screwed to the end of a pole) became a daily ritual. It took around 30 minutes to lift out about 200 litres.
The pump has now been working well for around six weeks, so we are hoping it will do so for many more years yet. However, both the pump repairer and the irrigation shop staff said you are lucky to get 5 or 6 six years out of a submersible pump in our situation (the old one was 9 years old). When we get time we will take the old one apart and see if we can repair it and keep it as a spare for emergencies.
 
Over the years we have found that it is possible to give things ago ourselves. As owner builders we frequently come across issues that are beyond our existing knowledge. We are by no means technically minded, but often find that doing some research on the web, asking around for information and taking things step by step helps. The process takes longer, can be a bit frustrating but it saves money and we learn new skills at the same time.


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Back at work on the Cottage

Even though it has been a hot dry summer with regular temperatures in the thirties, we have been steadily at work on “Tenderbreak Cottage” (formerly our barn). Several helpers have helped us get the mud brick walls started and they are close to a metre high already.

Our latest helper is Andrea from Italy and he has helped us do one of the trickier parts of the retrofit, which is to strengthen the roof frame to make it strong enough to support a solar hot water system. This involved installing heavy duty beams to support the extra loading on the roof and bolting these into place.
 
The next step was to use recycled chipboard to make a temporary floor on top of the existing collar ties so that we had a stable working platform to walk on. Once this was in place we cut the extra rafters to size, installed them beside the existing ones and bolted them in place.
 
This job would have been quite difficult to do alone, and it was great to have an enthusiastic helper like Andrea.  He was happy to help to lift the long timber beams and work in the reasonably confined space (which was quite hot up under the roof).
He cheerfully contributed his muscle power, helped work out methods to overcome problems that arose and made a good working companion. In fact he was so keen, that on his last day when we suggested we could take him for a drive and look at some of the local sights, Andrea said he would prefer to finish off the roof frame because as he said “when he starts a job, he likes to do a good job and finish it”.
 
Thanks to Andrea our little cottage has moved one step closer to completion!

Friday, February 8, 2013

A Simple Pet Carry Crate made from Recycled Materials

Our family has a new member called “Cobber”.  Cobber* is a Red Heeler or Australian Cattle Dog puppy.  The lady who sold us Cobber suggested we buy a puppy carry crate so he could ride in the car. We were not keen on spending money on a commercially made crate, which we may only use once, so we thought out a much cheaper (free) alternative, using an old grass catcher from a lawn mower.

The grass catcher was perfect for the job because it was reasonably light, had a built in handle, was secure and strong, had good air circulation, allowed the puppy to see out, was safe without rough edges and easy to clean.

The door was made from an old refrigerator shelf. It was strong being made from stainless steel, easy to clean and without rough edges. It was cut to size with bolt cutters and bent to shape to fit over the grass catcher opening.

We bolted a piece of wood to the top of the catcher as a base for a door hinge mechanism.

To enable the door to open freely we used what we had on hand, which were  “U” shaped staple nails, but could have used wire or “U” bolts to make a neater job.

We made a simple toggle locking mechanism out of a piece of scrap wood, which rotates to lock or open the door.

The whole job took less than an hour. The carry box could be used to transport a variety of small animals such as cats, puppies, rabbits, guinea pigs, large lizards and small poultry.
 
Well how did it work in practice? Cobber travelled happily and of course we made regular stops to give him a toilet break and a walk around. We are unlikely to use it for Cobber in the future though, as he has already grown bigger in the past couple of weeks.
*Cobber is an Australian colloquialism meaning "mate" or "friend".

Friday, January 25, 2013

In Memory of “Blue”


This is the hardest and saddest blog entry to write for us. It has been five months now since our dear dog “Blue” passed away suddenly.

Blue was only six years old (not old for a Blue Heeler) when he developed bowel cancer. It all happened so quickly that we were all in total shock and heartfelt pain.  Even now we still feel overwhelming sadness with a huge hole of emptiness in our hearts. It seems he is still here and each morning and dozens of times each day we are expecting to see his smiley face or waggy tail, but of course we cannot.

Blue was our very first dog and in his short life he became a very special member of our family.  Each of our family members developed their own personal relationship with him. This dear dog gave so much to so many people who met him.  The adage that “a dog is man’s best friend” is so true.

Blue was handsome, loving, loyal, absolute fun, cheeky, obedient (except when sniffing out rabbits), “ratter” extraordinaire, watchdog, friend to children and adults alike, playful (especially with other dogs) and much, much more. Most of all though, he was a real character, so easy to love and he gave love back unconditionally.

We have asked ourselves how we can move on without a constant feeling of loss and the gnawing heartache that goes with it, but never forgetting the special place that Blue holds in our lives. Blue would have loved a puppy mate to play with, and we did contemplate another dog to grow up with him.

Your mate is coming Blue; a little red heeler pup called “Cobber”. He is your best mate and will continue to keep the essence of you alive in our hearts.

Our daughter Sally compiled the attached video clip to celebrate Blue’s life.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

We’ve hit a century!

Our first open day. The crowd "blew us away".
Not in age, but in the number of posts we have done on this blog! We actually passed this milestone without even realising it, but now we know, it is a good time to reflect over the four and half years of our history that is recorded in our blog. More detail about the events below can be found by clicking on the links or using the blog index on the right hand side.

What a beautiful day it was.

2008 posts started with a report about our first public open day on 21 September. It was held in conjunction with Permaculture Yarra Valley as part of a project to celebrate 30 years of permaculture in Australia. As it was an “open” event we had no idea of the number of people who would turn up and were blown away (stunned!) when over 500 people came to do a tour. Apart from the wonderful day, this event was the primary motivation for starting the blog.
The garden looking towards the dam

The next three posts went back in time and told about our background and how Tenderbreak Permaculture Farm came into existence (our vision and permaculture design, our owner builder experience and setting up our gardens. See building related posts.
The frame went up fairly quickly

2009 started off really well with posts about the start of our regular small group tours (which we still run from time to time) and about the wonderful wildlife that shares this property with us. Then things turned ugly with the devastating Black Saturday bushfires that burned much of Victoria as well as 90% of our bushland.
Our beautiful forest became a changed landscape

After several posts about our experience in the fires, we tried to get back to normal with posts about other topics. They included a post on our first “WOOFER” a lovely French girl named Emilie, several posts about the design and building of our passive solar mud brick house and how we turned our garage into a temporary art gallery for our photographer daughter.
The garden with burnt forest in the background

2010 was fairly light on for posts. One reason was because this was the year our experience with the fires caught up with us. We made a trip to Europe to catch up with family members that we hadn’t seen for many years, but when we returned to our still blackened landscape, many deep emotions came to the surface. For several months we were feeling low and it took quite some time before we could get on top of it. Even today the sight of wild fires on the news brings a lump to our throats. Amazingly, not long after that, we went through what we call “The big wet” where for weeks on end we were getting really good rains- so much so, there was flooding through much of the Yarra River including across our access road.
The "Big Wet"

2011 in retrospect was a really good year. There were lots of posts about our developing gardens, visiting helpers, new infrastructure and our future dreams (including our plans to use steam to generate electricity).
Our new verandah

2012 was largely summarised in the last post. As for 2013, well that is a story we cannot tell yet, but we will tell it as soon as it reveals itself to us. If the past is anything to go by, there will be surprises (some good and some bad), there will be many, many things to learn, much to do and many wonderful people to meet (in person and over the web). Life is certainly a rich tapestry!
 
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