Tag Archives: hydrology

Applied Watershed Restoration: choosing some sites

So it’s only 2 weeks until Australia’s first EVER Applied Watershed Restoration course, which is happening at Milkwood Farm (and is FarmReady approved. And will be incredible. Ok, end pitch… but you really would be crazy not to join us).

Like many farms with fragile soils, Milkwood Farm has many examples of small-scale erosion – in our case, a legacy from previous landholders. I went looking for typical examples that we could use as part of the course. I have never been so excited about photographing erosion. Continue reading

Craig Sponholtz talks watershed restoration (video)

Here’s a great video of Craig Sponholtz explaining his guidelines for watershed restoration. As with much of permaculture design, it’s all about expanding the edges of fertility, and starting with what you have. Which, is the case of re-hydrating a landscape, is the wet spots!

It’s important to have options for fixing erosion and repairing your landscape’s hydrology that can be achieved at human scale, with the available labor that you have. And as you can see from this video, restoring moisture to the landscape is all about small slow solutions… Continue reading

Advanced Watershed Restoration, here we come…

Screen shot 2012-01-19 at 3.48.27 PM.jpg Screen shot 2012-01-19 at 3.48.27 PM_2.jpg

It is with great excitement that we’re announcing an upcoming Advanced Watershed Restoration course at Milkwood Farm, with Craig Sponholtz. Huzzah!

As part of RegenAG, we’ve managed to haul Craig out to Australia for a couple of weeks to skill us up on some ground-breaking, doable techniques in erosion control and passive water harvesting, as first brought to prominence in ‘Let the Water do the Work’ by Bill Zeedyk. Continue reading

Top tank overflow: design + implementation

On occasion, our two big water tanks at the very top of Milkwood Farm overflow. What to do with the intermittent extra water? It’s too precious to just drain away. Time to design a water catchment and planting plan to make the most of it.

Since solving this problem is both necessary and interesting, we decided to develop an intern project around it. The brief: design, implement and plant a system that makes use of intermittent excess water, shelters the intern camp and shed, and provides a useful yield. Go, you fabulous interns! Continue reading

The saga of the middle dam

First off, i would like to make an important point: we are yet to meet a challenge at Milkwood Farm that we could not fix with careful thought, good advice, relentless research, a strong dose of creativity and a stronger dose of humor. That said, the saga of the middle dam nearly had us stumped. But we got there in the end, with a strong brew of the above.

Secondly, I would like to point out that sharing our challenges so nakedly on this blog is not something I really enjoy doing. Sometimes I would rather paint a rosy picture of first-generation farmers awash in successfully implemented permaculture solutions and photogenic fields of nitrogen-fixing perennials. But hey – where’s the fun in that? Continue reading

Water and me. And you.

garlic chives and pear tree

Water woz ere. A clearly hydrated landscape thanks to good hydrological design at Strathcona Community Garden, Vancouver Canada

We’re all becoming acutely aware of the value of water. And so we should, as water’s role in our lives and in the planets’ cycles cannot really be understated. When designing and planning a Permaculture system, it’s top of the list – the order goes: Water, Access, Structure. Design and sort out your water catchments and systems before you design anything else. Give them priority. Water is not an optional extra. Without water, you’re stuffed.

So it’s very strange to consider that, in most temperate and dryland urban biospheres (and, god help us, many rural ones), water is not top of the list in terms of how living systems are designed, and therefore how our lives are led. Designing water into our landscape is still seen by many as an optional extra in terms of habitat and urban design. Because worst case scenario, you can just turn on a tap. Or a drill a hole down to the shrinking ground water. Water is still seen as someone else’s problem, or something we deserve to be handed on a plate with no conditions or responsibilities. Continue reading

Our first dam

The studio dam, the one halfway up the ridge and in the middle of our system, was the first one we all sunk our teeth into. And boy oh boy…earthworks are something else… it’s like having your skin torn off in large slabs, while someone tells you it’s not skin, it’s just butter. No problem…

Strange analogy, perhaps… but until I had witnessed these earthworks, the landscape of Milkwood to me was a solid and impermeable mass… something that you could get a shovel into if you were lucky, but essentially one big, solid object. And then the bulldozer showed up. And now everything looks like a completely different place.

We were actually really lucky with what is usually a  traumatic time (don’t get me wrong… it was still pretty scary) when setting up a property… hydrology earthworks are something that you want to only do once, if at all possible. Nick and I had chewed over the Permaculture earthworks design for months, and to add excitement to the situation, we invited Geoff Lawton to Milkwood to teach a Permaculture Earthworks course during the first three days of the madness that has been the terra-forming of Milkwood. Continue reading

Surveying the site from scratch

Having grand plans is all very fine, but there comes a time when one must make the first, single, decisive gesture towards action.

For us, this meant placing a small wooden peg, painted white, at the southern boundary of Milkwood. And then surveying a contour which continued aaaallllll the way around the hillside at the same height as that first peg, right around to the other boundary of Milkwood on the western side of the ridge. This first contour was important to mark out for a couple of reasons: Continue reading

Milkwood – the water design

aerial shot of kirwin

Aerial photo of Kirwin, with Milkwood top left-ish. Taken in about 2002, we think.

Standing on a bare hilltop, with the creek below and a small creekflat to the left, it all seemed so easy when we first got here… all we had to do was figure out where to put some structures, avoid the big trees, and build a bridge over the creek to get in. Grow something on the creekflat, put in a vegie garden, and get water from the sky… and the rest of it all, all those complex ideas and fiddly bits, could just wait till we were nicely set up. Continue reading

Milkwood Timelapses: and so it begins…

studio site looking south

Site of Strawbale studio and middle dam, looking southish – the courtyard will be on this side, along with a few prize deciduous trees.

One of the things that always gets me is seeing old photos of how a place used to be. I have a photo of what the headland at Kiama looked like when it was still a windswept farm – before my parents (and everyone else) put up their brick-veneer houses in the 60’s and turned it into prime-real estate, densely packed suburb it is today….

So in light of this, and because we like to document things (incase you hadn’t noticed) , Nick and I have committed to a very long-term project: Milkwood Timelapses. Every morning before sunrise, we will walk the boundary of Milkwood, taking photos from 7 different points. We will do this each morning, every morning that we are here, until such a time as we can walk no more… and by then we will have trained monkeys to do it for us. Or some future solar-powered zero-footprint adsl whizz-bang gadget which requires no maintainence and also makes cheese as a byproduct. Continue reading


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