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Progressing Permaculture at Caroola Farm (NSW, Australia)


Caroola Farm Open Day

We are now coming into our second Spring at Caroola Farm after devastating fires in the Summer of 2013 and we are pumped at the progress we’ve made.

We had our first ‘Open Day’ on International Permaculture Day this year and were blown away by the attendance of over 500 people — it put a bit of pressure on the new compost toilets and was a freezing cold and windy day… but a good time was had by all!

Small animal systems


Ducks

We have progressed in the small animal department and are now growing out approximately 200 meat birds and 60 ducks each month. The extremes of weather — 40+ degrees celsius in summer and -9 degrees in winter have meant many challenges and changes in the way we manage brooders, growers and pastured poultry.

We are also challenged with supply of day old chicks until we are able to hatch our own — the commercially available ‘Cornish Cross’ breeds are not very adaptable to outdoor living and don’t forage very much, however we have managed to source a variety of heritage breeds from Poultry Works, owned by the Sommerlad family, and are very happy with their adaptability to climate as well as their foraging ability. They take longer to ‘grow out’, but so be it!

For the first time we have just received 40 turkey poults to grow out for Christmas. We’ll keep you posted on that front.

Large animal systems


Pigs

We have reduced our cattle herd to 10 breeders with one bull and are looking at growing our sheep stock from 6 ewes and one ram to at least a dozen ewes. There seems to be a shortage of lamb, both in the market and in our freezer, so the downsizing of cattle numbers makes room for growth in this area.

All large animals are on pasture with supplementary minerals — Pat Coleby style in a self-select mineral station — and seem to be doing well. This will be our second spring since the fire and with current rains we are hopeful the pastures will spring to life.

We continue to ‘grow out’ pigs to 6 months and just love their energy and enthusiasm. They are such great ground preparers when the ground is moist and are currently being used in our market garden area to turn pasture.

Forest gardens


Apples

The main ‘canopy’ trees in our forest gardens were planted out in winter 2013, and are still going strong. The pioneer species of mixed acacias are powering along, although some of them are badly hit by frost.

With a few forest gardens workshops under our belt we managed to plant bulbs, ground covers, shrubs and small trees. The ‘mat style’ irrigation we installed has meant they have all flourished.

We have had to weed out much of the grass in order to give the ground cover an opportunity to flourish in the spring, but are hopeful we’ll only need to do that for a few seasons.

With the edges bordered by poplar logs, we inoculated them with various mushroom grain spawn, hoping to develop yet another layer of our garden.

Veggie gardens


Main veggie garden

We’ve added 6 raised veggie beds on the south side of the house, which may seem weird but it’s stopping lots of things going to seed too early.

Our ‘main’ veggie or kitchen garden has finally been mounded on contour after being rotated through with pigs, chickens, ducks, pigs, chickens, ducks, building compost mounds, greed manuring, rotary hoeing and green manuring yet again. We have just dug this in and are looking forward to planting for spring once we complete the rabbit-proof fencing.

Farm trees


Tree mounds

Trees, trees and more trees. Our summer was extremely hot and dry, so we spent a lot of time watering, but still lost a lot of trees. We re-planted many acacias and eucalypts in the Autumn, along with gleditsias (honey locust), hazelnuts and oaks during the winter.

We are now tree-mounding on yeoman’s plowed paddocks to provide for wind-breaks, stock feed and human consumption. It’s amazing what these ‘mini-swales’ can do….

We spend quite a bit of time green-manuring and raking in the seed so that the soil remains covered and the trees get the best start they can.


Compost toilets

Farm infrastructure

What a year for infrastructure. In response to demand we have built two compost toilets, a turkey house and are half-way through building two round-houses for our outdoor kitchen and shop front — oh, and maybe a third for a bathhouse.

We continue to adapt and build new poultry houses to cope with weather extremes, although are yet to find the perfect solution.

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Permaculture internship opportunities at Caroola Farm

Know anyone looking for an internship opportunity?

Caroola Farm are now offering 2-3, full time, 3-month internship positions throughout the year in each season, beginning September 2014. You may apply individually or as a couple.

These internships offer motivated individuals or couples the ability to get stuck into learning about practical permaculture applications on a small farm.

You need to be able to commit to a minimum 3 month period. Positions are now open for application for Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. The program is an opportunity to learn a wide range of on-farm skills with emphasis on sustainable farming. You will learn as you work alongside the Caroola Crew, and/or by yourselves, with a very practical approach to education.

The three month internship will be tailored to your learning objectives and be seasonally relevant.

More information here.

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