Eagles Deep is a 250 acre farm located high in a valley in the foothills of the Victorian highlands managed and hosted by project manager Carl Wantrup and farm manager Joe Herbert. David Spicer commented this is one of the fastest growing permaculture projects he has been involved with. A testament to the work ethic and commitment from its caretakers.
At the start of June David Spicer and Danial Lawton paired up to deliver a permaculture earthmoving course at the emerging Eagles Deep. It was a bloody cold week with sheets of ice on tents, group huddles around the campfire, lessons in the paddock and Joe’s amazing chef skills pleasing our palettes and warming our souls.
David, Carl and Joe came together a year and a half ago to start the major earthworks, water catchment, dam repair and tree planting project. This team combined vision, bravery, skill and experience which let the work speak for itself. In this time David has completed the major earthworks and over 2000 trees of around 100 varieties have been planted by Joe and Carl as well other additions. It is said sometimes you do not find a good book, it finds you. This may be the case with this property. Carl and Joe’s vision to apply a sustainable, profitable farming paradigm led them to the last property on their viewing list after an intensive 2 month search. Jumping the fence for a look, Eagles Deep became a reality. Danial has also been involved with the project early, having the knowledge and skills necessary to set up the off grid solar system and is well worth a chat to in this area.
David’s modesty is as great as his teaching ability, diversification and character. He is very adaptable, approachable and committed to teaching others. Danial likes a laugh and has a technical knowledge of subjects. He can explain in detail breaking down any complexities. They are both very experienced as permaculture consultants and earthworks operators. Together they compliment each other delivering this course and have provided relevant theory and practical examples leaving no stone unturned. They also provided some light hearted banter between the university educated vs the working man. Both asked for critical feedback of their presentation which is a sign of their humility and willingness to improve with this course.
The students’ knowledge of earthworks varied from no experience to several very experienced operators. They also came from ranging experiences and backgrounds and connected as a group willing and eager to learn. This provided an open learning experience with no-one afraid to ask questions and freely give their own knowledge. The location and scope of works undertaken was already a bonus for the course attendees but access to both Carl and Joe’s direction, knowledge and experience was a gift at another level.
The course began with a tour of major water catchment earthworks at Eagles Deep which provided the attendees with a mental picture for the coming theory in the classroom. The fire was quickly moved to the center of the shed to keep winter at bay a combination of theory, real stories and questions ensued. Intermittent smoko and lunch breaks were well timed, delicious and let us chat to Joe. His soil microbiology knowledge and practice is another gem in itself. Lessons in the field were also part of the program including, learning to use survey equipment and its practical application. A vital component of most earthworks. The arrival of an excavator provided everyone with a hands on turn operating machinery. The author was given the privilege of training some of the students basic excavator and safety techniques. They were all quick and level headed learners and with more time in the seat and additional training would make competent operators. In the bigger picture everyone should be confident to organize and direct any future earthwork projects.
The final day had everyone pack up and head down to Bonnie Doon to a 127 acre farm for a live consultation. A big thanks to Murray Lincoln for inviting the group to participate in this exercise. After giving us the brief we headed off on a tour around the property. There were some great examples of erosion by the overgrazing of sheep prior to Murray’s purchase. This was an educational point for David to impart his wisdom involving repair techniques. As a keen practitioner of permaculture and sustainable principles Murray provided us insights of the work he has completed and planned for the future. We had the opportunity to locate future dam sites and in particular identify a suitable location for water high up in the landscape.
There were so many valuable experiences gained by this gathering additional to the ones written about that are beyond the scope of this write up. As an experienced mobile plant operator the author would not hesitate recommending this course to anyone interested and would like to thank David, Danial, Carl, Joe and the other course attendee’s. There is no doubt some new lifelong friends and work colleagues have been forged from this flame.
David Connell’s profile can be found here on the World Permaculture Network.