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


Checking out the bees

Its been a difficult summer for the bees here at Violet Town this year, and for a lot of inland Victoria. There has not been much nectar flow available for the bees to make honey with. The Murrnong bees have remained healthy, with plenty of pollen, and plenty of brood. It is lucky that we left plenty of honey in the hives, because the girls have kept consuming their stored honey even through summer, when we usually hope to see them bringing in fresh honey. 2015 saw only 280mm of rain here, way down from the 625mm yearly average, so it has been tough for the plants, and one plant survival strategy is not to flower in dry conditions.

Mary holding a frame for inspection

Mary from the February Backyard Bees course is holding up a frame of healthy brood. 

Some bee keepers have been moving their hives for better forage elsewhere, and some have been feeding sugar syrup. We were just at the point of feeling we needed to move our hives, when Grey Box, E. microcarpa, started flowering. Fortunately, with 125mm of rain here between Christmas and end of January, there seems to have been enough moisture available for the Grey Box to put nectar in their flowers. So.. phew, when we are around the hives, we can again smell the sweet scent of nectar and fresh honey.

The next Backyard Bees hands on workshop is on Sunday March 20th.

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

Getting started or getting better with honey bees

Backyard Bees 20th March 2016 A4

In this one day workshop we cover the basics of beekeeping, and consider some of the decisions that a small scale beekeeper makes.

You will also gain some perspective and insight into how small scale and back yard bee keeping fits into the ecology of our food production.

Together we will open some of the Murrnong hives, and learn to recognise what we see happening in there.

This is the second of these workshops this autumn, after the first one, on Feb 21st, sold out. Here is a picture of the group dressed up and ready to head down to the hives. The calm warm autumn weather, with the bees busy foraging, made it an ideal and peaceful time to look inside.

group photo Feb 21 2016

To book, email, or phone 03 5798 1679

Getting Started or Getting Better with Honey Bees

Backyard Bees 20th March 2016 A4

Keeping even just one hive of bees in your backyard can give a big surplus of honey, do wonderful things for the pollination and productivity of your garden, and can also help to make sure we have plenty of healthy bees for the future. A well placed and well managed bee hive, with the flight path out of people’s way, can be nothing but a positive. The first your neighbors might know about the hive you have had for the last six months could be when you give them a jar of honey. Felix and Grace bees in street

Felix and Grace Arnold excited and a little nervous about this bee swarm that their Dad was about to collect from a little bush in Violet Town in 2006

Bees are under stress around the world, bee numbers are down, the Varroa mite will probably get to Australia one day, and the neonicotinoid pesticides, so toxic to bees, continue to be used. Species diversity in large scale agricultural regions is now too low to feed bees through the year. In the apple and pear orchards of south west China, bees have been eradicated by pesticide use and habitat loss, and people have to do pollination (the free work of bees) by hand, with a feather and little bags of pollen. In Australia, beekeepers are paid to truck their bees in to pollinate horticultural crops.

There is species diversity in towns and home gardens, though. These are now an important bee forage resource. Backyard bees mostly feed from a different forage resource to commercially kept bees. The garden plants benefit, and we get the honey. Towns can provide a surplus of bees to support the surrounding agriculture or horticulture.

Backyard bee keepers often collect ‘wild’ bee swarms, and so are potentially working with a broader range of genetics in bees than is possible when all the bee queens are commercially bred. This is important to allow for continual evolution and adaptation among bees.

In Australia bees kept in backyards, or on rooftops in the city, generally have less exposure to insecticides than when bees are used for pollination in agriculture.

With their smaller scale, less commercial pressure, and hives kept mostly in one place, backyard bee keepers have opportunities to experiment and innovate with their bee keeping practices. All of this can contribute to a bee keeping culture of continuous improvement, and a healthy increase in bee numbers. 

Getting Started or Getting Better with Bees with David Arnold, Sun 20th March 2016, Violet Town, $60,   ph. 5798 1679OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Ready for hive inspections at the Murrnong March 2015 Backyard Bees workshop.

Eldorado open consultation

Kate Marsh and Ralph Nottingham of Creative Collectives are putting on an open consultation at their property near Eldorado, Sun Nov 29 2015.

David Arnold will lead the workshop through the process of reading the landscape, figuring out how that land works, sift through their wish list to plan for functional connections, consider house site options, and develop a concept plan.

And… what can they do about water?

Kate says “Take the next step in learning about Permaculture. Come along and contribute to the planning of Hidden Valley Permaculture farm, Eldorado VIC.

Our Permaculture Transformation is about to begin.

20 acres, North-East Victoria, surrounded by national park, relatively clear site, sandy granitic soils, lots of wild life, mixed pasture, some infrastructure…..

Little House on the Hill

I am rapt that we have been able to include another tutor and another site visit for the upcoming PDC. Karen Retra will be with us for the day we spend at the Little House on the Hill that she and Ralph Vegter have retrofitted and developed. This will be a great addition to our course, being another example of urban retrofit and low budget innovation, lead by a terrific communicator who you might have heard sometimes on ABC Goulburn Murray. See more at the PDC Tutors and PDC Site Visits pages.


The Art of Free Travel book talk and forage walk

art of free travel book talk Nov 4 2015 extended

The Artist as Family (Zero, Meg, Patrick, Woody and Zephyr) came through Violet Town in 2013 on their family cycle tour from Daylesford to Cape York, and back. They ‘stealth’ camped by the creek, and had a good time here. They rested, met some people, foraged for some food, found a power outlet in the park to recharge their bikes, and in return for the 20c worth of power they used (0.6kWhr) they picked up some rubbish from around the park.

Now they are coming back, again on their bikes, to talk about their book of that journey, The Art of Free Travel.

Wednesday Nov 4th, here at Murrnong. 4pm to 8pm

At 4pm, Patrick will lead a forage walk to find some of the wild foods (some of them weeds) that sustained them on their journey. This part costs $10, if you can make it here at that time, for Murrnong.

At 6pm Patrick and Meg will give a book talk about their journey, the book, how they did it, why they did it, and are they complete nutters? This is free.

Bring a plate to share if you would like to stay for a meal together afterwards.

It helps us if you register here