As you can see from the “before” fly-over, our farm came with a lovely farmhouse, but not much else! Certainly not enough considering we’re totally off-grid in terms of power, water and sewage.
So while we’ve started planting out the first few patches of the edible forest garden, the focus has been on getting the basics of farm infrastructure in place.
The centrepiece of these efforts has been the new farm shed (aka “the barn”). The local council required us to position it away from the road, so it ended up half-way down a slope.
Echoing the design of an American barn, the shed is 10.5m wide and 7m deep, with a big 3m x 3m central door for the tractor.
Since the barn is now in the middle of a field, a new internal driveway was required. Befitting the location of the house, we decided to go all-out to create a pretty road.
This meant a road surface of crushed granite (on a solid road base), with brick edging (on a concrete edge laid alongside the full length of the road). With Priscilla’s keen eye for aesthetics, we laid the road out with elegant “swooping” curves. We put a single car-parking spot in front of the house, plus a large parking area in front of the barn.
The final phase was the addition of two 22,000L plastic water tanks below the barn, to catch the run-off from the roof. This triples our overall water storage.
Oh, and with the barn in place, I was able to purchase a brand-new 46hp Kubota tractor, which will be vital in reshaping the property 🙂
This is, however, still just the start of more work needed on the basic infrastructure. Activities yet to be done:
- One final water tank on high ground, which we’ll switch to using for the house, plus the garden. That will get us up to about 100,000L in total.
- A water pipe laid from the barn tanks (at the bottom of the property) to the new water tank (at the top), with a solar pump used to get the water up the slope.
- A power line run to the final tank, for a good-sized pump.
- A vegetable patch and greenhouse, with a water line run from the tank.
Phew! Still, a lot of this can be done with the new tractor, and everything is more fun with a tractor 🙂
This video was taken a few months after we acquired Lewisham Farm, 22 hectares of paradise overlooking Nowra. The property is completely off grid (water, power & sewage), and the land is 2/3 rainforest.
In this aerial view, you can see:
- The farmhouse, which is lovely, but requires a lot of little fixes
- The new solar PV, which we had to put in quickly when the old system died in week one
- One small water tank containing 15,000L, which ran dry at the beginning of Summer
- The concrete pad for the farm shed (now constructed, photos to come!)
- A single beehive, now kept company by two others
- The first two citrus patches, starting our journey towards an edible forest garden
- Plenty of open fields, some of which have been heavily eroded by horses
- The beautiful Australian bush that surrounds our farm
A heap has happened since this has been taken, follow us on instagram for more photos and videos to come!
The transformation of our 22ha property overlooking Nowra will take several decades. A core part of this journey is creating an “edible forest garden”, as described by Dave Jacke in his books with Eric Toensmeier.
One of the starting points is to document a clear vision or goal statement. There’s a few reasons for doing this:
- it’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re headed!
- an edible forest garden requires long-term planning
- there are many different ways of creating a garden
- there are often multiple people involved, with different goals, but with the need for a common vision
In our case, Priscilla is all about country gardens & flowers, and I’m all about big-scale transformations. So we sat down, did some brainstorming, then some wordsmithing.
I’m sure this vision will change hugely over the coming years as we learn a heap, but this is where we’re starting. (Note that Jacke recommends writing the vision as we’ve already achieved the outcome)
At the centre of the property, the country-styled house is surrounded by a delightful cottage garden. Laid out in neat shapes, it provides a relaxed environment and a year-round supply of cut flowers.
Surrounded by vibrant rainforest on all sides, the broader property is devoted to an Australian ‘edible forest garden’ that provides an abundance of fruits, nuts and native bushfoods. Arranged as interconnected fields and ‘garden rooms’, the local micro-climates have been exploited to allow a great diversity of spaces, each with a very different feel and mix of plants.
There is also a tranquil pond with ducks, productive bee hives, a vegetable patch and a greenhouse for propagating plants.
Our friends and family have also enjoyed the escape from the city, as well as helping with every stage of the transformation. The small eco-cottages set in the more distant fields are rented out to provide a modest income.
This has been a decade-long journey, with the learnings shared with the wider permaculture community. We’ve been able to show how much can be done by part-time farmers, and how Australian rainforest plants can be integrated into a food-growing system. (1 August 2017)
Over the years, we’ve implemented an tremendous series of improvements to our house in Lewisham. We’ve been growing all our greens, collecting eggs from our chickens and harvesting honey from the beehives on our roof.
We’ve also guerrilla gardened our verge, the convent behind us and alongside the railway station.
But our ambitions haven’t stopped there, and I’m pleased to say that as of today, we’re now going to be farmers!
After much searching, we’ve purchased a 22ha (56acre) property in the hills overlooking Berry on the South coast.
The lovely two-story cottage sits on the side of a hill, with a backdrop of lush rainforest. Amongst the trees, there are six main fields which total about 4-5ha (8-10acres), with a rural zoning.
Fear not, we’re not leaving Lewisham! For the next while, this will be a weekender for us, with our main residence remaining in Sydney.
We have big plans for the property, however, with a 10-20 year permaculture project in the pipeline. More on this soon…
In the meantime, we’ll start shopping for a tractor, and a shed to put it in 🙂
(We get access to the property at the end of March.)