Forward Ho…

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So we have a little bit of news. After 7 amazing years of growing, building, designing, digging, planting, watering, re-planting, driving to and from town (a lot), laying pipes, fixing pumps, teaching, harvesting, sharing and learning… we’re ready for the next phase.

We’ve decided, after much deliberation, to decamp from our rather remote little farm in the hills of Mudgee for a while – to be closer to community, and closer to the resources we need, in order to further what we’re building with Milkwood. 

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The core of Milkwood is, to us, about skills. Figuring out how to inspire and teach and share hands-on knowledge in a way that works.

We want those skills to stick, and students to go back to their farms and their houses and their apartments ready to get going, with new techniques for living closer to this Earth of ours.

While we do this, we’d like to be part of a community with a nearby school for our little one, sealed roads, local food security and a trainline to the not-so-faraway city where we do so our urban courses and projects.

The answer to this dilemma seems to be to relocate to the Kiama area, on the coast south of Sydney.

Kiama is where I (Kirsten) grew up – it’s a beautiful place with a great community, surrounded by amazing farmland that has incredible potential to become a important and resilient food bowl for both the south coast and Sydney, in decades to come.

From this position, we can work with local regenerative farms and the amazing knowledge base in this area to deliver hands-on regenerative agriculture and permaculture design training.

From this place we can also get going on the new urban permaculture learning garden we’re committed to building in inner-city Sydney, in order to help accellerate uptake of urban permaculture design and techniques.

We take with us the many, many lessons we’ve learned from the Milkwood Farm project – lessons about time, and land, and resources, and nutrient cycling.

Lessons about community, and hand-built structures, and how to make things grow.

Lessons about how to create effective Temporary Autonomous Zones, where 40 people come together to live and learn for two weeks of intensive permaculture design. Lessons about what our needs are as a family.

And we take with us gratitude to the so very many beautiful, crazy, eccentric, intelligent, amazing, impressive and inspiring folks, interns, teachers, family, friends, wwoofers, students and strangers who passed through Milkwood Farm these last 7 years.

Now, it’s time to really get to work. We want to build on this experience to catalyse communities, individuals and food systems into action.

We want to help others get the knowledge and the skills they need to build resilient, awesome futures.

So. Here we go.

On a practical level, this decision means that we’re going back to the world of renting, of buying the majority of our food (until we get a garden going), of inter-dependance. And that’s fine with us.

We can’t wait to find a little house where we can create an amazing ‘portable permaculture’ garden of edibilty. I look forward to my little guy being able to walk to other kids houses to play, to even walk to school perhaps, depending where we land.

I look forward to living in community. To being able to ‘pitch in’ on local projects that are closer than an hour’s drive away.

And most of all, we can’t wait to keep sharing, keep doing, keep going, keep growing.

To be part of the solution. To raise our child well.

To focus on cultivating community, rather than just our own orchard and market garden for our own needs.

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This move also means we’ll have more time to do some of the other things we’re really passionate about – sharing the stories of amazing farmers and growers and doers and makers.

We’re excited about doing more community events in Sydney and beyond, rather than one a year-ish.

We’re looking forward to the next phase of our journey, and embracing the chance to grow and learn from change.

Thanks for following us this far. And now…

Forward Ho!

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P.S. if anyone knows of an amazeballs rental in the Kiama area that would love clean and green tenants who want to put a best-ever veggie garden in, let us know! We’re looking.

49 Comments

  1. Raquel
    Posted May 3, 2014 at 7:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    Dear Kirsten, Nick n Ashar, wishing you an amazing new beginning. I am grateful I had the chance to study the PDC at Milkwood, but most of all to be so inspired by the people I met through its community. Thanks for all your writing, shared information, research and humour. I hope to keep reading the blog about this new chapter in your life. Love xx

  2. Alacoque
    Posted May 3, 2014 at 7:21 am | Permalink | Reply

    Congratulations! A brave move when you’ve put so much into your current plot. Best of luck finding the perfect spot for your family!

  3. Christine
    Posted May 3, 2014 at 7:36 am | Permalink | Reply

    Very best wishes for the next phase of your journey. Wherever you land, I’m sure you’ll make it wonderful :)

  4. Posted May 3, 2014 at 7:37 am | Permalink | Reply

    Beautifully expressed. Looking forward to the next phase of Milkwood and having you all in the ‘hood.

  5. Posted May 3, 2014 at 8:12 am | Permalink | Reply

    Wow! Huge decision! Congrats on this new phase, I hope it is everything you want it to be. :-)

  6. Posted May 3, 2014 at 8:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    wowee — only a few hours up the road from my little patch here at sams creek so I’ll get to drop in *one day*

    it only seems like last week that I read one of your early blog entries about heading off to the country to have a stab at building a permacultural future…. and look at everything that’s happened since! but gosh it must be a wrench to move away from that tiny house that you’ve finally go to inhabit…. and the gardens…. and the food forest….

    but its totally understandable when you have a small one to think about…

  7. Lee-Ann
    Posted May 3, 2014 at 8:46 am | Permalink | Reply

    Welcome to our temporary backyard also!!! We are loving Kiama & Jamberoo (The Abbey). We look forward to connecting with you & are very excited to see you here. You will be a huge asset to our local community which is a fast growing foodbowl in the Illawarra.
    Lee-Ann & Birdie

  8. Posted May 3, 2014 at 8:49 am | Permalink | Reply

    Great to hear you are coming to the south coast. Lots of people interested in sustainable food production in this region. Look forward to catching up and
    sharing ideas. Kathy MPBY

  9. Deb Reynolds
    Posted May 3, 2014 at 8:50 am | Permalink | Reply

    So well articulated, as always Kirsten. Many congratulations on your decision, so obviously the logical one for your family when expressed in those terms. I hope all goes well with the move, setting up and joining or founding another wonderful community. Exciting times ahead, I look forward to reading about it as the next phase is implemented:-)
    So many fond memories of mine & Zoe’s time there PDC-ing Oct-Nov 2013.

  10. Posted May 3, 2014 at 8:56 am | Permalink | Reply

    Good on you Milkwooders, for having the courage to pull up stumps and follow your path. Knowing you two (albeit only electronically) you’ll do a brilliant job with your future endeavours. You’ve helped bring food growing to the masses over the last few years and I can’t wait to see what the future brings for your family. All the very best!

  11. Posted May 3, 2014 at 9:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    There are times in our lives when these momentous decisions just have to be taken, and kids starting school is often a biggie. The South Coast (even the FAR South Coast) is starting to do local food in a well thought out and happening way.
    The SAGE Farmers Market Moruya has only been going for 16 months but the changes it has brought about in food security and the real jobs that have been created are just amazing.
    The Kiama farmers markets will be the same catalyst for change. Having you as part of that scene is a great bonus.
    A good decision.

  12. jenny
    Posted May 3, 2014 at 9:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    We all know that Kiama and surrounds is the best place in the world! All the best with the next phase in your life.
    Jenny Reed

  13. Phoebe
    Posted May 3, 2014 at 10:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    What will happen to the mudgee farm?

    • Posted May 3, 2014 at 11:01 am | Permalink | Reply

      We’re hoping a friend will take it on who wants just what the site can provide… Fingers crossed!

  14. Clare
    Posted May 3, 2014 at 10:50 am | Permalink | Reply

    Good luck with the move. I wish, wish, wish you guys could have become custodians at my folks place in the foothills at Berry. Would have made it exciting to say goodbye.

  15. Bee Winfield
    Posted May 3, 2014 at 11:06 am | Permalink | Reply

    They told us at school the mark of good people is they leave a place in better condition than they found it. I am sure you have done exactly that in Mudgee and wherever you go will be far the greener for you being there. It is important for Ashar not to live in isolation from other little folks and this decision will pay off in a great relationnship between you .All the best at this exciting time. And love to your parents.

  16. Posted May 3, 2014 at 12:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wow! Big changes in the wind. Onwards and upwards.
    You will make it rock where ever you land.

  17. Posted May 3, 2014 at 2:12 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Oh dear… your news came as a shock… I haven’t visited Milkwood Farm but have loved all the photos and news… lucky South Coast!

  18. Posted May 3, 2014 at 6:58 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Wishing you all the best with your move. Kiama is a gorgeous place and as you say, it is easy to access Sydney from there. I am a bit further south on the south coast. Enjoy! xxoo

  19. Posted May 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Good call, we’re totally with you on this. Best of luck with it and looking forward to catching up on one of our regular trips to the Gong.

    Gem, Todd and Bonham

  20. Posted May 4, 2014 at 12:23 am | Permalink | Reply

    Awesomeness! Looking forward to having you (back) in this area!

  21. Posted May 4, 2014 at 1:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    Sounds like a wonderful family adventure. Thank you for sharing your stories and knowledge with us here. I understand the draw of more community and the many benefits of living a less remote lifestyle. May your endeavors be blessed with much joy and actualization of your dreams….. keep us posted.

  22. Posted May 4, 2014 at 5:25 am | Permalink | Reply

    this post really touched me, i have been ‘watching’ you from afar… best of luck with the change and looking forward to more amazing posts from wherever you land…

  23. Posted May 4, 2014 at 8:15 am | Permalink | Reply

    How about a rental in Berry? After two inspiring Milkwood courses, including the Natural building one we are just about to finish off renovations on the cottage on our property ready for tenants/holiday lets.

    My company has repositioned itself down the south coast as a builder of natural homes- and the extension of our little architect designed cottage will be in straw bales.

    It’s 2.5 acres, down the end of a lane, the local school is lovely and our biggest problem at the moment is too much feed in our paddocks on our ridiculously fertile river flat soils! The veggie garden- scoped at the outset by your graduate Imogen is due for a major expansion!

    It’s a spontaneous idea- but we would be up for a chat if you were interested.

  24. celialeverton
    Posted May 4, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    Congratulations on your courage, clarity & conviction. Hard decisions well thought through & heart felt strengthen us, our family & our community xx

  25. James
    Posted May 4, 2014 at 10:35 am | Permalink | Reply

    Best of luck. Loved doing the PDC at Milkwood. James

  26. Jeremy
    Posted May 4, 2014 at 12:50 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Welcome to kiama! I’d love to get alongside you guys and help out and learn :)

  27. Posted May 4, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Permalink | Reply

    have always admired kirsten’s bright writings and nicks’s courage
    I think milkwood has been a foundation stone for the permaculture movement of the world and all the more wonderful for the humility demonstrated over the years
    much love

  28. Posted May 5, 2014 at 11:05 am | Permalink | Reply

    Sounds really exciting! Good luck with the move and I can’t wait to hear about your next adventures : )

  29. sue napoli
    Posted May 5, 2014 at 1:29 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Kirsten and Nick, Wow a big step forward for your family. I have always felt privileged to complete the Dave Jacke course at the Milkwood Farm. It has been an experience that has stayed with me since then. All the more special now knowing I had that unique opportunity when I did. I’m looking to take what i’ve learnt and apply and inspire in the urban environment around me here in Northern Sydney. All the best for everything that lies ahead. Cheers Sue Napoli.

  30. Liesel
    Posted May 5, 2014 at 9:14 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Oooh exciting! We’re near Wollongong, and there is a healthy permie subculture humming along around here. You could get a permablitz happening to jumpstart that new food garden ;) Thrilled to hear that all your experience and enthusiasm is coming this way :)

  31. Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:18 am | Permalink | Reply

    Awesome news and as a former Mudgee dweller who moved to the coast, albeit north of Sydney on the Central Coast, the changes in what I could do in my humble back yard garden made me giddy with delight, and still do. So enjoy the new space and new challenges and new joys.

  32. wendy muffet
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:30 am | Permalink | Reply

    No doubt a bitter sweet decision. You will achieve
    amazing things wherever you live and work – lucky, lucky Kiama

  33. Justine
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 10:55 am | Permalink | Reply

    Congratulations on being open to refining your vision of how to best live your lives, such choices are how parents really do play good role models to their children.

  34. Marilyn Edmond
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 11:31 am | Permalink | Reply

    Sad that you are moving from the bush but glad you are getting closer to me (my farm is in the Southern Tablelands). I used to live in Kiama, then Wollongong – it is a lovely area but I just couldn’t afford the land prices around there. I was desperate to get back on the land, so here I am at the Mullion instead – just embarking on a huge tree planting project with Greening Australia, starting to use regenerative agriculture practices, and will have a permaculture garden once I get my house built … also looking forward to doing more of your courses… so much to do, so little time!

  35. Posted May 6, 2014 at 2:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Kirsten – we’re looking forward to welcome you (back) to the area! Will be wonderful to have another passionate food-growing family to connect with. I shall keep my ear to the ground for places to rent. What is your time frame for the move? Let’s share a meal when you arrive… With love, Fiona P.

  36. Gavin
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 4:57 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Guys, good luck with the property search – you will be fab-o tenants and looking forward to seeing you in Sydney more! We have just come back from a weekend south of Moruya and had to make ourselves come back – will be looking down there again soon for that elusive bit of land!

  37. Posted May 6, 2014 at 5:47 pm | Permalink | Reply

    For some this may be sad news, but for us on the south coast – bring it on! I look forward to now being able to attend one of your courses, join in the learning and sharing (and perhaps having you try our lovely beef available mid May at Rosebank Butchery in Kiama for the first time)! And if you’d like to run a permie course in marvelous Milton…..we have the land….

  38. Kerrie
    Posted May 6, 2014 at 7:18 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Vive la différence! Possibly too far south for you, but we have shares going in our co-op 30 mins north-west of Batemans Bay Public School, where our nine-year-old son attends. Whatever – we look forward to eccentricity anywhere within cooee of The Gong. As Joel would say, bring on the disturbance.

  39. Joshua Christian
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 7:41 am | Permalink | Reply

    I am from Sydney and my parents regularly took us to the Kiama area (a place in the mountains called Ben Ricketts) for holidays. I now live in England but would love to see what you guys are doing in Kiama when I next get back for a visit or, maybe even for good. Best of luck

    • Posted May 7, 2014 at 8:59 am | Permalink | Reply

      Cheers – and Ben Ricketts sanctuary is still going strong!

      • Joshua Christian
        Posted May 13, 2014 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

        Kirsten, it is indeed. I got over there with the folks when I was back in Oz in February. A special part of the world.

  40. Posted May 7, 2014 at 8:18 am | Permalink | Reply

    Wow guys. Big changes! I hope you do find someone great to continue on whey you’ve established at mudgee. I’d imagine it would be mixed emotions for you leaving something you’ve put so much of your heart into. Have you guys connected with Tim at a Taste of Paradise in Berry? http://www.atasteofparadise.com.au/home.html

  41. Andrew hyslop
    Posted May 7, 2014 at 9:26 am | Permalink | Reply

    Awesome guys. Can’t wait to see the updates & come check out the new place. Will be great to have you closer aswell 😄

  42. Steve
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 10:14 am | Permalink | Reply

    Big news.. Look forward to the updates as you find a base… And look forward to visiting it in July! ;)

  43. Suzanna Cace
    Posted May 13, 2014 at 10:04 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Kirsten and Co…..Welcome to Kiama……..Attended one of Joe Salatin days …no doubt you guys will bless us all with your knowledge and skills …Priceless….and yes community is most important for little ones …Sue

  44. Alex
    Posted July 2, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Permalink | Reply

    Hi Guys, I never did get to see those Muscovys…never mind. Leaving a good impression is not such a bad thing and I’m sure you’re doing precisely that. Very best wishes for the new adventure! It will be good for the youngun to have some Kiama ambience to grow up in. If I’m not mistaken there are some good folk down that a way. Cheers n regards, Alex M.

  45. Posted September 3, 2014 at 10:23 am | Permalink | Reply

    Congrats guys, yes I also have followed you the whole way, the most memorable vid I ever watched was your car trip loaded with all your stuff. We live rural have 3 young boys so get all you are saying. Here’s to the next phase !

4 Trackbacks

  1. […] also us. Although we’ve recently decamped from our small farm for a spell (the why is here), we’re often at a range of amazing small farms;  looking, teaching, learning, helping. So […]

  2. […] of us don’t switch a faraway hillside farm for streetlights and garbage collection. But i guess we have. For now, that […]

  3. […] project further and into contact with many more people; as Kirsten put it on her fantastic blog, to “build on (their) experience (at Milkwood) to catalyse communities, individuals and food […]

  4. By …And we’re back! | gather and grow on August 15, 2014 at 12:12 am

    […] many of us dream of getting out of the suburbs to the ideal farm somewhere in the countryside, Nick and Kirsten of Milkwood did the opposite: they moved from the amazing permaculture farm they’ve been developing in very rural […]

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