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Grafting and queen mating flight

kate-barnwellOne of the joys of working in nature are the occasional special little moments of connection.
Kate Barnwell, fruit tree enthusiast from South Carolina, was helping us catch up on some grafting. While scoping out what we wanted to do across the whole orchard, we had admired how active and plentiful our bees are this glorious Spring.
Then about 30 minutes later we were working on this cherry plum, 200 metres from the hives, when a  cloud of bees passed right over our heads, coming from the direction of the hives.
We tried to follow them on foot, but unlike a swarm they were travelling purposefully, too fast for us to follow them far, and quickly went out of sight beyond the olive grove. The next day none of the hives showed reduced numbers, as they would have if they had given up a swarm, so it seems we were just in the right place at the right time to witness a queen and some of her admirers on their way to a drone congregation area. It felt very magical to have just been admiring the bees 30 minutes before, then to be 200 metres away and have them fly right over our heads, as if they wanted to show us what they were up to.

Internship information

Update – 20th May 2016: an opportunity has opened up for a suitable person or people to visit here over the next three weeks or so. Accommodation indoors (not tents this time), and a range of autumn tasks, including care of milking goats and tree shelterbelt maintenance, hence happy times harvesting firewood, burning dry sticks, chipping green branches, and finding delicious mushrooms along the way!

This is a permaculture small farm on the edge of Violet Town, just 800m from the train station. The farm is well established, as most tree planting was done between 1996 and 2000. WWOOF host since 1999.

We have a large established fruit and nut orchard, an olive grove, vegetable gardens, chickens, milking goats, bees, forestry for shelter and timber, and large dam for irrigation and swimming. Our house is made of timber and mudbrick, and we catch our own water.

The fruit and nut orchard gives fresh fruit all year round, with a peak in summer, and the veggie gardens are planted with different crops at different times of the year. Delicious organic produce is always available on site, following seasonal variations, and includes: peaches, apricots, plums, pears, apples, cherries, figs, loquats, feijoa, pecans, walnuts, almonds, avocados, oranges, lemons, mandarins, pine nuts, carobs, a range of vegetables for each season, honey, cheese, olive oil, table olives, and home killed or hunted meat.

We are self-reliant and prepare meals mainly with what is available on the property, which allows for creativity in the kitchen, cooking meals on our wood stove (in cooler weather) and on cooktop or in solar cooker in summer. Preparing & sharing meals all together is an important part of our lifestyle here and you will be encouraged to fully participate in those warm, sociable moments. We eat a mixed diet, with many non-meat meals.

About 60% of helpers’ time goes toward your and our own food supply and housing, which feels good; self-reliance before commercial.

Type of jobs: farm and garden work, combined with learning, and share of household tasks, including food preparation from farm ingredients. We appreciate help with caring for our vegie gardens & orchard, with our goats and chickens, with cheese making and other food processing (tapenade, preserves, etc.), with home food harvesting and preparation, with fruit picking and grading, with beekeeping and honey extraction, forestry, with beer brewing and bottling, and sometimes with building and building maintenance. Summer routine includes putting on a stall at a farmers’ market most weekends, which visitors may help with, or come along for the ride, by arrangement. Weekends are mostly free time other than a share of basic animal and watering tasks.

Bicycles, internet, and small library of self-reliance/permaculture books available. David teaches and consults in permaculture.

Travel to here is easy: 2hrs from Melbourne by train directly to Violet Town Station or pick up from Benalla if coming on the NSW Countrylink train.

Minimum stay 2 weeks, longer can be better. Longer stays by arrangement after the first week.

Please make initial contact by email. In your application, or on your profile, please ensure that you outline your work experience, what study you have done, your skills, passions and interests, and include at least one photo of you. References or positive helpx reviews are helpful.

Helping here suits people who have a work ethic, enjoy being active and productive doing well organised work, and are seriously interested in sustainable living and organics. In order to guarantee an optimum experience both for us and for you, we expect you to demonstrate maturity and be independent and proactive in household tasks, and experienced/comfortable with communal living, which requires an open minded, tolerant and flexible attitude towards others.

See also internship overview and internship testimonials


Produce no waste

The 2015 2016 Murrnong PDC is happening over seven weekends, one weekend a month, focusing on one of the 12 design principles each day.

Here we were looking at how the wood chip compost at Murrnong takes branches and prunings from forest and orchard, combined with goat bedding wastes and occasional other goodies, and lets the composty critters work on it for more than one year. This produces beautiful wood chip compost to go back to the food producing tree crops. No waste.

Shae checking out the compost

opening up wood chip compost