Setting foot

Leash again, picking up where I left off.

Marrickville to Murrindindi

2 days after Amy popped me the first email, I was cruising on the M5 with Greggles, on our way from my place in Marrickville in Sydney’s inner west to way out west proper. 1 hour of motorway, and a brief confused segway of cheekily driving in reverse on the turnpike, we had landed at the farm for the first time.

Parking by the shed

The first thing that hit you was the drop you felt as soon as you got out of the car. A sense of centeredness, solidity but also softness of the ground beneath your feet, firm, yielding green earth, energy settling, and also lifting with the trees and hills above you. The sounds of the birds, the 4 stroke whipper snipper yonder motoring away in a Castle-like blast of “feeling the serenity”, but even that with a kind of charisma to ears overstimulated by a daily city thrum.

The second thing that hit was the big picnic table laden with jug after jug of home brewed beer, a spread of scrummo food and the rest of the crew, a hefty welcome wagon.  Leon Williamson – Amy’s dad, owner, passionate social outreach advocate and teacher and organic farmer, and beer culprit. Michael Roxborough – solid, spirited student and local Gong leader http://thegardennorthgong.blogspot.com.au/ in permaculture and sustainability consultant. Marcello Dards – Folk virtuoso, teacher, keen home and community gardener, general legend, and of course our brave leader Ames.

After tucking into a delish pot luck spread Leon gave us a full tour of the property, setting the scene.

Looking up

Murrindindi sits on approx 26 acres, located in a valley called Spring Creek, in the locality of Mount Hunter (also known as part of Razorback).  It’s a long thin rectangle, generally flat, rising gradually, with a few gullies, and finally climbs to a relatively steep hillside, covered in trees at the edge of the valley, which overlooks the rest of the property.

Creeping through the trees

The big gullies largely stem from the property’s historical use by horse trainers. After decades of abuse through being overstocked with hooves, the earth was eroded, and dusty, stripped of trees and turf. Erosion naturally proceeded.  Lots of effort has gone into rehabilitating these erosion gullies which were prominent across the property. Using clean fill, piling logs and rocks as natural barriers, strategic planting of trees and other techniques centred on slowing water flow and encouraging the growth of vegetation that holds the soil in place, this damage is well on the way to being restored.

Deep erosion gully being restored by banks of trees

Deep erosion gully being restored by rows of trees and shrubs planted in ridges perpendicular to the flow of water, above barriers of wire fencing and logs to catch the top soil. The barriers capture the soil as it slips down the hill and the plant life keeps it in place, gradually restoring the gully over time

Logs piled up in a minor depression to catch topsoil

Logs piled up in a minor depression to catch silt washing down the hill. The logs will rot down as the soil builds and plant life colonises the mound

Trees and turf planted across the property have further stabilised the soil against erosion and it now has beautiful 20 year old gums, casuarinas and other species forming groves and corridors throughout and replenishing the health of the land.

Moo

The pasture has also been improved through planting a broad range of nutritious perennial grasses and moderate grazing strategies over the past 20 years.  All planting and rehabilitation has been done by the principles of permaculture. The site was used as a demonstration farm for many years, where the community was invited in to learn about sustainable farming and animal husbandry techniques and this is a legacy we hope to continue.

Stables

After some of the less desirable remnants of the horse business were removed (namely hundreds of syringes!) some elements still remain in the guise of old stables. These have proven to be excellent storage spaces and some of them have even been retrofitted to house chickens which we’ll definitely be taking on as well (yay chooks!).

Stable mesh

House of chook

Leon’s tweaks to the place include custom built cattle yards with a ‘crush’ for treating/tagging and a ramp for moving animals onto trucks for sale/slaughter. There is fencing throughout the property, enclosing 4 good size paddocks and secure boundaries.

Leon by the market garden plot

We have a nifty area fully fenced set aside for an orchard which also acts as a nifty stable-side chicken run. Next to this we have a 400m2 ish area allocated for a market garden which is going to be our main event project, once we get our home settled and kitchen garden growing nicely.

Dam

Water water everywhere, we’re really stoked with the setup that Leon’s engineered over the years. There is 35,000L of water in tanks next to the house, shed and stables. There are two dams; one large (put in by us), the second small on the boundary with the neighbour. There’s also a bore in a worst case scenario with continual supply of fresh water but we hope not to have to tap into this cache. The moving it around caper is also already well taken care of – with a broad range of pumps and other infrastructure to move water to drinking troughs and is already lined in to our market garden and orchard area which is fantastic.

The homestead

The house was built in the early 1900s, made of local timber and has since been renovated to a four bedroom home with large living and dining areas, enclosed back verandah and open front verandah. It has a large kitchen with a wood fire which is pretty much our natural habitat right now! (Brrr!)

There is a large ‘shed’ which is the equivalent of a 6-8 car garage. A double garage size is lockable and weather proof with a roller door. The remaining space functions like a carport with open walls and a roof. This is a space we’re sharing with Leon while he uses it to tinker now and then and as large equipment and tool storage, which works nicely.

Roxy doing yoga showoff

After all the ts were crossed and is were dotted and all the farm particulars were clear, we all went for a relaxing amble up yonder Mt.  Mt Hunter – which incidentally the area is named after. The moniker makes a bit of a mountain out of a mole hill, but it is a really beautiful spot. The hilltop is peppered with naturalised grasses and native shrubs and trees and has a feeling of being restored and re-swallowed by the forest in a successional cycle. It’s a lovely, serene spot and one of the nicest parts of the plot. We horsed around, chewed straw, dreamed about the madly ambitious yoga earthbag natural building retreat Australian answer to Esalen to follow, and generally stood in calm, deep fresh breaths and sight of the possibilities that could be birthed from this wonderful place.

Cheesily looking off into the distance

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