Visioning our Dream

Visioning our Dream

As mentioned in our previous post since buying the property we have spent a lot of time working on our vision and design of our property. Part of this has seen us explore some more long term planning strategies we can do from afar.

Inspired by a post Deirdre found  on the client design process (at permatechers) we sat down the other weekend and created a vision for our property. The idea is to write down everything you can think of without judgement and refine it later on.

This process saw us individually define our Vision, Wants, Priorities, Limitations, Personal Resources and Timescale. After completing this task individually we then sat down together to formulate our shared vision. Below is our shared vision.

VISION (a statement on what you see the property looking/functioning like)

Our vision is of a comfortable off-grid home that produces 50-75% of household food across the year. The home and property will be efficient, sustainable, organized and easy to maintain. There will also be multiple ways to engage with the property.

WANTS (anything and everything no matter how ambitions you want)

Animals (Chickens and Ducks originally. Possibly Goats, Pigs, Geese), Hot Tub, Work shed, Accessibility for older parents, Heated Greenhouse for subtropical and tropical plants, Water pond, Mini food Forest with Fruit Trees, Main Crop Garden Bed, Kitchen Garden with wicking beds, Herb bed, Fire wood source and supply, Multiple Sitting and Viewing Areas, Walking Trails, House, Studio, Comfortable Bus, Outdoor Kitchen, Wood Sheds, Cold Storage, Root Cellar, Cheese Cellar, Water Tanks, Water Harvesting system, Grey water system, Compost Bays, Air Bnb accommodation, Creek Bridges, Swales, Aquaponics, Wood fired oven, Rocket Stove, Poly Tunnels, Small Market Garden (?), Sunny, Compost Hot Water Shower

MOST IMPORTANT (what are you priorities, what do you want to focus on first and foremost)

 Comfortable (Bus, Studio, House)

Self-resilient (Power, Water, Food, Wood)

Gardens (Kitchen Garden, Herb Garden, Ponds, Chickens, food forest/orchard)

Relaxing Areas

Engagement on Multiple Levels

Enjoyment (both Work and Play)

Don’t want it to become a chore.

That we can do it

Sustainable and efficient

LIMITING FACTORS (what are your personal, emotional, mental, physical, financial limitations to your vision)


Not good at maintanence

Can easily disengages

Dog proofing against animals, gardens and wildlife

Moderate Skills



Too big a dream

Need a paid job


Sore back/ sore shoulder

Need to work a paid job

Itchy feet (tendency to rush)

Excitement waning

Easily frustrated

Limited skill set re: building

Too big a dream

PERSONAL RESOURCES (what skills do you have to bring to the vision, what skills to build on from)


Basic building skills (measure, saw, hammer, read designs)


Enjoy physically doing and making aspects

Persistent and resilent



Developing knowledge of plant species and gardening techniques

Basic building skills



Basic CAD design

Physically able to work in yard

Enjoy maintaining garden

TIMESCALE (how long do you envisage your vision/dream to take)

Will develop over time. General 5-10 year plan. By end of first year will have bus converted, kitchen garden built, chickens and be working on studio space.

ANYTHING ELSE (what other details about the site do you need to consider when creating your vision)

Minimal cleared space

West Facing property- presents problems with sun

Property slopes upwards from house pad

Council regulations re: bushfire hazard zone, house plans and approval, grey water system sign off

Accessibility for builders/ plumbers/ electrician etc etc etc- we are off the main road on a dirt reserve road, limiting accessibility

So there you have it our vision for our property. All up it took 30-45 minutes to complete. Not too long in the scheme of things.

It’ll be interesting to look back on this in 5 years time to see how accurate our vision and what has changed.

If you are interested in other permaculture visioning approaches Milkwood Permaculture has another approach here.


Designing from afar

Designing from afar

This week marks 3 months since we took ownership of our property (and 6 months since we last visited it.) In that time we’ve spent hundreds of hours researching and discussing our different ideas for the property and bus. Yet only around 45 minutes actually on site! Thankfully we had a friend visiting Tassie in August who popped in and took some photos for us (thanks Franny and Kenny!).

As you can imagine it’s presented a number of issues when it comes to design (there’s been a few heated discussion.) We both have differing views on where North is in relation to the bus and house pad. One thing that is set (we think because we can’t quite remember and haven’t actually measured) is the size of the bus (10.5 metres by 2.5 metres)!

With that certainty we have set about designing our bus conversion. Below are a couple of designs that we have worked through.

1st Design

Our first seeds of this design began in a pizza restaurant in Derby. Waiting for our dinner we both drew our own version of the converted bus. From there we settled on a combined design that became the basis for the balsa wood model we built below.

Our first seeds of this design began in a pizza restaurant in Derby. Waiting for our dinner we both drew our own version of the converted bus. From there we settled on a combined design that became the basis for the balsa wood model we built below.

In this design the bedroom is at the back of the bus with a couple of wardrobes acting as a hallway leading into/from the kitchen. The bus is then an open space consisting of a kitchen/dining area and lounge room centered around the wood fired heater. The front of the bus is a study with desk all around and the driver and passenger seats repurposed as chairs.


picture of the bus as it currently is


After knocking the model over countless times and having to rearrange the furniture a few too many times we decided a more portable model was better. With this in mind we downloaded Sketchup and spent a few days learning how to create the 3D model below.

bus layout 1


 Inspired by the office bench in the bus at outside found we redesigned the bus to include a long bench top that would act as both a kitchen work area and eating bench. We’ve also changed the front of the bus. After looking at the photos we realized that the wiring and seats at the front would probably be too hard to pull out so we would have to leave them insitu. Again we set to designing on Sketchup and on a day off this week Deirdre came up with the plan below (adding measurements to make it easier for construction.)

bus design take 2

3rd Design (and more)

 Whilst we are happy with the 2nd design it’s by no means the finished and final design. For starters we are not sure exactly where the back wheel hubs are. The design is for the wardrobe/kitchen cupboard to sit over the top of them (concealing what would be too hard to take out). Our measurements for the bedroom are based on what we think would work best not on any onsite measurements (who needs a measuring type when you’ve got a dream!) so until there we won’t be certain.


the front of the bus as it currently is

We are also not sure where to put the kitchen stove and sink. On the passenger side (same side as the door) would make it easier to connect the gas. It would also save clearing the silver wattle and bracken on the drivers side of the bus. But, we want to have a zone 1 kitchen garden come cooking area (with rocket stove and pizza oven) on the drivers side of the bus. So this area needs clearing anyway. And it’s always nice to look out over a vegie bed when washing dishes.

Then there’s the question of shelving and storage. How much stuff are we taking? How much storage do we need? How much storage is already there? Again until we are on site we won’t know.

And that’s just a start. There’s the grey water system and plumbing and gas for the bus. There’s the lights: what type of LED; how many LED lights; how many power points and where to put them. Plenty to keep us busy over the next 8 weeks, tweaking and altering our dream.

What a waste

We’ve been doing a lot of research for our Tassie move lately. Lighting, grey-water system, bus conversion frames, insulation, cool climate plant species, wicking beds, plant guilds to name a few.

One area that’s taken up more time then we thought is waste disposal. Along with being off grid for water, sewage and power our Tassie property is also off grid in terms of waste collection. Whatever waste is produced by us has to be dealt with by us.

When we first found this out we were both really excited. After living remotely (where it’s easy for everything to get thrown in the bin) it was liberating to be in complete control of our waste. It’s lead us to look closely at some of current approaches and put in some plans to reduce our waste. Some of these we’ve tested up here and will continue in Tassie. Others are untried and sure to have more written about them at a later date.

Dog poo

 Currently our approach to Oscar and Yoda’s waste is in one word: slack. We generally leave the poo to dry until it gets too much for us and then we pick it up in a plastic bag and put it in the bin.(Not the best I know!)

For Tassie though we have come up with a two-prong attack. The first, while we are converting the bus, is to get ourselves an Enso pet bokashi bucket . This will be dug into the ground and break down their poo into the soil in situ.

When the bus is finished we will then be setting up a dog poo worm farm, turning their shit into something productive for the garden. (Oscar and Yoda will now be contributing to their keep!)

Household Products (laundry and bathroom)

This is one area in which changes are already in place. Earlier this year Deirdre started making our own laundry powder from baking soda, lectric soap, citric acid, salt and soap flakes. All products we were able to pick up in the supermarket. It’s relatively easy and works well. It’s also good for the garden as it’s borax free so non-toxic to the plants.

Deirdre has also been making her own deodorant using coconut oil, baking soda and arrowroot flour (her’s is recipe 2). She swears by it and finds it much more pleasant to wear than deodarant. It even withstands the Kimberley build up!

We have also been stocking up on bamboo toothbrushes and oxygen bleach. Bamboo is a fast growing grass, more sustainable then wood and breaks down better then plastic, and oxygen bleach is a non-toxic bleach. We’ve yet to use the bleach but the toothbrush works fine and it feels good to hold something solid and wooden when brushing your teeth.

We’ve also bought ourselves a stockpile of tissues and toilet paper from Who gives a crap. Another every-day thing we were surprisingly excited about. (Deirdres’ even gave some to her Mum for a birthday gift!). The toilet paper and tissues are made from recycled materials, a percentage of profits go the charity to build toilets in India and it’s a successful start-up. We are yet to use them but being made from chlorine free recycled paper means it should be fine in our composting toilet.

Deirdre has also attempted to make her own shampoo and conditioner from water and baking soda, without much success. The bi carb and water seem to separate and the result is a liquid that doesn’t lather up and leaves her hair looking greasy. A work in progress but one we’ll come back to for sure. But apple cider vinegar and water works well as a conditioner.

Our next household challenge is to find an alternative to store bought toothpaste. At this stage we are leaning towards making our own but have yet to find a recipe that we can make out of easily accessible products. Besides during the holidays we stocked up on toothpaste so we need to use those first before making our own.


Kitchen (cling wrap)

A while ago we also ran out of cling wrap and decided not to buy anymore. Instead of cling wrap we’ve been using containers, repurposed plastic bags (still plastic I know) and honey bee wraps. The wraps work well keeping things fresh and they are quite beautiful to look at.

Dog Food

Currently Oscar and Yoda are fed frozen kangaroo meat. This comes in plastic that just gets chucked in the bin. Deirdre’s been hatching a plan to collect and harvest roadkill for Oscar and Yoda to eat. It won’t provide every meal for them, but it’s a start.

Future Challenge

The real challenge is going to be when we get to Tassie and put these ideas into practise. We’re bound to find some other waste we produce that we haven’t even thought about and have to reassess and come up with new approaches . We don’t think we will be totally waste free from the get go (like everything else it will be a step by step process) but it feels empowering to be responsible and more aware of our waste. And that’s a good start! Any other ideas or suggestions please leave a note.


The banana circle one year on

These school holidays mark a year since we first dug out and built our banana circle. It was our first attempt at applying permaculture practices in our garden and its fair to say it’s been a reasonable success. More on that later, first here’s an overview of how we built it.

The Process

As with all the new knowledge we’ve gained it begun with a lot of googling. After sifting through some sites we pretty much settled on the design from the treeyopermaculture site. Minus the taro and the cassava as they weren’t available to us.

With the design chosen we then set out to find a site in the backyard. We went with a sandy area of the backyard for both practical and aesthetic reasons: practically it would be easier to dig; aesthetically it meant from our kitchen sink we could see the lush green banana palms as they grew.

Site chosen, we began by marking out the area with a piece of string and some sticks. Per the instructions we marked out two concentric circles. One a metre in diameter, the other 2 metres in diameter. With the two circles marked out we then sprayed the grass in between the two circles to ensure we would get no grass growing back up through the soil.

A week later we set to digging out the hole. It was harder work then we envisaged as the sand was only the top layer of soil. Underneath was hard earth. With lots of water and working in shifts we dug out the centre circle to a metre in depth, taking the earth from the centre circle and piling it up on the outer circle.

Sprinkler soaking the ground mid dig. Soil from centre circle piled up in outer circle.

Next was to fill up the middle with the compost. To do this we laid out some smallish branches we had lying around and put these at the bottom of the pit. On top of this we added leaves from around the garden, grass clippings, some cow poo that we collected from the cattle yards down the road and some blood and bone. To the mounded soil we also added some cow manure and  blood and bone. We then let the circle sit for a couple of days.

A couple of days later we planted out the circle. The banana suckers we harvested from some ineffective banana circles at school. These were placed at roughly 2,4,6,8,10 and 12 on the clock. Either side of the bananas we planted out some lemon grass- divided from a large plant in the back corner (you can see the rest of the plant in the photo below.) We then planted some water melon seeds and sweet potato (we used the ends of store bought sweet potato that we had been saving). These were planted around to act as a living mulch.


The banana circle a month or so after planting. Sweet potato and watermelon are growing around the edge and the banana’s have established.

Growth and Change

As the photos below show the banana circle has grown from that hole in the ground in October last year to the maturing grove of this year.


Banana circle, end of March 2015.


Banana Circle, June 2015.


Banana circle, early October 2015.

We’ve also changed and added some things as the year has gone on. Early December 2014 we added some paw paw to the circle. We harvested seeds from paw paw we brought at the Broome Markets. They take a long time to germinate (we found they germinate quicker if you just pop them in potting mix without soaking overnight as many google sites recommend). We thought that they would work well in the circle but in hindsight it would have been better to plant out two circles- one with paw paw and one banana – to stop competition for nutrients.

To make it easier access to the compost pile in the middle we removed one of the lemon grass. Earlier this year we also started using laundry grey water on the circle. In hindsight we would add a piece of pipe to act as an outlet to feed the grey water into.

In April this year we tried planting chilies around the banana plants after hearing how they were pest deterrents. With the bananas and paw paws well established the chilies had little chance at getting the nutrients they needed. Next time we would look at planting the chilies at the same time as the banana suckers.

The Rewards

Whilst we have yet to have any bananas or paw paws from the circle we have managed to harvest 15- 20 sweet potatoes, with more to come. We’ve also had the pleasure of eating a watermelon and used the lemon grass in multiple dishes in the kitchen.


Deirdre and home grown watermelon, February 2015.


Sweet potato harvest, October 2015.

The circle has also acted as an effective and efficient compost pile. Many a times we have pilfered from it to use else where in the garden . The lemon grass also is an easy mulch to harvest. Every month or two we give them a hair cut and spread the leaves around the garden or into the centre of the banana circle.

Finally there’s  the aesthetic pleasure it’s given us. Sure it’s purpose is to produce fruit but as any gardener knows the visual side can be as pleasing as the eating side. And that’s certainly the case with this. Both Deirdre and myself enjoy sitting out the back, coffee in hand, looking out at the banana circle. Particularly when the straw necked ibis is stalking around the edges scratching away for insects.

When the sprinklers fail… make chicory coffee

So it’s just over two years now since we’ve been here at Kupungarri. A period of time that’s gone both quickly and slowly in that way that time in a remote community does.

It’s had its challenges: a dozen snakes; 500 km shopping trips; blurred lines between work and social life. But to be honest we can’t really complain. The remoteness has provided us with both the time and reason to do a lot of work around the yard.

And work we have. Over the last 18 months we have created our own vegie patch, a banana circle, two no dig garden beds, converted to empty into wicking beds, made a garden pond and planted out a little mango grove. In total we’ve grown over 50 different edible plants with various degrees of success.

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One of the most successful transformations has been along the front fence. What for year and a half had been nothing but a patch of grass ( see photos below) was converted earlier this year into a couple of veggie beds.

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Planted out with tomatoes, pumpkin, kale, mustard green, lettuce, marigolds, chicory, dill, coriander, shingku, and carrot. The beds add a splash of colour against the dry season landscape as you can see in the background (beautiful but harsh).

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Well until last weekend they did. With school holidays upon us we headed into Broome for a weekend away. Sprinklers and timers set we were expecting to come home to the same lush garden we left.

In my rush I didn’t put one of the sprinklers on properly and it come off. Leaving us with a garden bed of wilting tomatoes and marigold and dead shrivelled chicory. It was frustrating but there’s always an upside…the chicory roots.

I’d planted them out as an experiment of sorts to help break down the soil. The ground when planted was dry and heavy with clay and chicory with their long taproots and extensive hair roots breaks through the soil and aerates it. The roots can also be used as a coffee substitute. My frustration had subsided and now I was intrigued to see how effective this experiment had been.

Come the following morning I was up early (to beat the heat) in the yard watering digging up the chicory roots.

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Some of the roots were tangle and small from not being thinned out but the impact on the soil was better than expected. I don’t have a photo of the soil before, but as you can see from below the soil is now lose and crumbly.

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With a little scrubbing, and some scissors to remove the hair roots, I was able to get a few longish roots and took them inside ready to roast in a moderate oven (180 C) for 30 minutes or so. And then I burnt them, but was able to salvaged some unburnt bits.

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I ground it up and brewed it in our stove top.

The ‘coffee’ was nutty and earthy with a slight astringent after taste. I didn’t mind it, Deirdre’s still to be convinced. A project to be perfected.