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

 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.

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