Past weekend my partner and I combined fun and study, and went for a visit to the Milkwood Permaculture farm. Not only was it a beautiful experience to leave the city and spend a weekend under the stars, but we also got to meet many amazing people, including Nick Ritar and Kirsten Bradley.
The idea was to travel to Mudgee, NSW to meet the Milkwood team in person and to check out the area (as a potential buy). Both of these were a score! I sat in on the “Introduction to Permaculture” course and observed Nick’s teaching style and student interactions.
The course was very dynamic and engaging. Nick employs a participatory teaching method, which is very effecting in getting people thinking and establishing new connections. This is similar to an amazingly inspiring teacher Rosemary Morrow. See her website for details and teaching materials.
We arrived to the farm late at night, and on the way we passed exactly 3 wombats, 2 bunnies and 1 kangaroo. That’s the most wildlife I’ve seen in weeks. At the farm we found super comfortable tents all set up and waiting for us. This is what I call camping Hilton-style :).
First morning on the farm was fresh and sunny. We walked up the creek to the WWOOFer’s shed where the class was taught, passing on the way the kitchen and this lovely kitchen garden.
This no dig garden is literally at the doorsteps of the kitchen. I heard that the PDC students have helped set it up. Here you can see clover happily helping the chives to grow, and comfrey plants invite bees and accumulate minerals from the soil in their leaves.
First part of the course was in the woolshed, where we discussed Permaculture ethics and principals, and played a fun ball game. After lunch we all went for a walk around the farm and looked at family’s future house, food forest, swales and dams. Nothing like a visual demonstration to support the theory.
This is a chicken tractor, which is essentially a mobile chicken pen that is moved to a new location every few days. The chooks scratch the soil in search of worms, seeds and bugs and they leave their phosphate-rich droppings on the ground. This makes the soil below the tractor more fertile, and it will later be planted up with productive fruit and nut trees.
This space will eventually be covered by a food forest, producing food for the family. It’s up hill from the house, and it will shelter the house from strong winds and flowing-down water. The trees of the food forest will also hold the heat rising up from the dam, and stop the cool air during cold periods from settling around the house.
We found these balls all around the area; they are called “seedballs”. The seedball planting technique was developed by Masanobu Fukuoka, and it’s an effective way to seed large areas, such as meadows or wild lands, with grasses and trees. Seedball is made up of a mixture of clay and various seeds that allows the seeds to stay protected inside the ball until it rains, and the conditions become favourable for sprouting.
The Milkwood guys have spread the seedballs with grasses to revive the soil in preparation for food forest planting.
If you are looking for a romantic, relaxing weekend with benefits, consider going up to Mudgee for a course or a workshop. And if you are serious about learning and practicing Permaculture, definitely consider going up to Milkwood! They’ve got courses, internships and invaluable wealth of information. So glad to have Nick and Kirsten near by!