Archive | Visitors

Visiting Melliodora

We have many visitors at Melliodora. Friends and neighbours drop in, or pick up veggie boxes and bulk food through Hepburn Relocalisation Network. We have people coming here to take part in our monthly garden and house tours. More than 100 people have come through the gate for both tours this season. They go home inspired and buzzing at the end of the tour (There are still three tours dates to visit Melliodora this season: March 1, April 5 and May 3 and still places available, but please make your bookings early here as last year, we saw a surge of interest towards the end of the season, and regrettably had to turn many people away).

We also have visitors who stay here longer, eat, work, sleep, and experience a permaculture life. They are voluntary helpers, we call them interns. They come from all corners of the world with different skills and life experiences, but they have one thing in common; they are all keen learners. They come to experience what permaculture living is like at a well established mature permaculture site.

Alister Tuffnell recently came and stayed with us for three weeks and has sent us this piece reflecting his time here. With Alister’s kind permission, here’s “Lessons from Melliodora”.

For quite a while I have thought I would like to make a living from farming. After constantly hearing my dreams of farming, my wife Christine who has a real understanding of the hard realities of farming suggested I go to a farm to get real experience (reality) before I jump in to something I know very little about. And she suggested I apply to do an internship with the co-founder of Permaculture, David Holmgren. So I applied at Melliodora, in Hepburn Springs.

When I got accepted to do a three week internship I read a book called Fields of Farmers by Joel Salatin, which is about mentoring and interning. I attempted to heed his advice for the intern: from first accepting everything and forgetting judgment up front, to not being a prima donna about the jobs that need to be done.

Chances are there is more to any procedure than you know. Devote yourself to accepting the protocols and techniques of the master you’re with. Every task is a valuable component of the entire process. Jump in, it’s all about immersion. (Salatin)

Salatin states that he has learned something from every farm he has visited. Sometimes it‘s simply a slick new gate latch. He goes on to explain that interns must not be casual observers; “When you’re out working with a mentor get up where you can see. What really is the technique? How does he hold the hoe? Foot placement? Body placement? Eyes in relation to hands? Every single thing, every single thing has a host of nuances”.

I have just completed the internship. Melliodora is a 1 hectare garden farm and sustainable home which is a model of small scale intensive permaculture. David Holmgren and Su Dennett designed and built the sustainable home and farm (with many helping hands) and they maintain mixed food gardens, orchards, dams and livestock (chooks, geese and goats), as well as do ecosynthesis (use of introduced species to fill niches in a disrupted environment, with the aim of increasing the speed of ecological restoration) creek revegetation.

David and Su openly shared their knowledge and experiences with me and the other interns. To be able to spend three weeks working at one of the best examples of permaculture, under the guidance of such experienced mentors, was a real privilege. I learned by observing David and Su and by doing the daily garden farm chores. Perhaps I learned most through osmosis, just being there.

I had many stimulating chats with David and Su. There was much time for dialogue and explanations about why things are done in such ways at the garden farm. On one occasion in the garden I asked David about his method of gardening and he explained the importance of intuition and listening to his emotions. For example on this summer day it was cooler and it had been raining earlier which provided extra moisture in the soil. David described how this ‘autumn-like’ weather made him feel like planting, and so that is what he did today: sowed carrots, daikons and butter lettuce.

David and Karl sowing carrots, daikons and saladsDavid and Karl sowing carrots, daikons and salads

Melliodora has been designed to mimic the patterns and relationships in nature. After 30 years it continues to work productively and sustainably due to its systems management. Many applications such as chooks and orchards have been adopted (rather than single use farming) which require interconnected knowledge. Human physical labour rather than complex machines are used to organise and maintain the permaculture garden farm.

Human labour with simple machines is mostly usedHuman labour with simple machines is mostly used

The amount of embedded knowledge that David and Su have can be overwhelming at times. To try to cram into three weeks a lifetime’s knowledge and experience couldn’t be done on my notepad which I kept with me at all times. However through the stories I was told and the context of doing , the internship became a means of developing habits –not just procedural how-to’s but the way I think and behave. The effectiveness of the internship was that it put me, the student, next to masters who have earned their status through time and trial.

My confidence grew as David explained some of the mistakes and changes in thinking they had made in their thirty years at Melliodora. And what he has learned from his mistakes and observations. For example David described to me, while we were picking hazelnuts, how he had originally placed too much lime in the soil for hazelnut trees. Also he described how his original thinking at Melliodora had a large focus on fruit trees but now his focus has increased on nut producing trees.

Some highlights of the three weeks included walking around the property in the rain with David observing and maintaining water flows. This was very exciting and educational for me as we walked around in our raincoats seeing water fall from the sky and flow along the contours of the land. David has designed the landscape of Melliodora to catch and store water from a large catchment of 40 hectares. On this day I observed the two dams (0.8 Megalitre and 0.3 Megalitre capacity) fill up with water to capacity – much needed to maintain a healthy intensive vegetable garden and orchard at this time of year.

David in the rain observing a leaky weirDavid in the rain observing a leaky weir in situ


Another highlight was working in the garden with David and two other interns from France, Karl and Aline. Being in the garden for several hours each day allows one to observe and become attuned to changes and progressions in plants and animals.


The meals together were great. The food was brilliant, healthy and delicious. There is something about eating, preparing and cooking your own food immediately from your garden and animals that cannot be matched.

Working with David and Su, their immediate family and other interns, and interacting with the local community allowed me access to an intended vocation without the full responsibilities of running a business. At Melliodora, I got to test the waters of permaculture garden farming and see if it is something I want to seriously pursue.

Alistair Tuffnell can be contacted via [email protected]


Travelling Australia without money

Natalie & Marielle GroupHolmgren Design regularly welcomes interns who come to add their energy to the maintenance of the house and garden systems and experience the Melliodora low-impact permaculture lifestyle first hand.  Melliodora interns share with us their permaculture experiences from their own country and from the places they have visited around the globe. Recently two unique young people from Sao Paolo, Brazil, brought a special gift, something that’s difficult to put into words, so let them speak for themselves:

Natale: I’m not much different from anyone else. I come from a traditional middle class family, grew up in a big city [Sao Paulo] and studied Law at university. The only difference I can see is that I’ve always been aware of social and environmental issues which make me feel as part of a small (but growing) minority of young people disillusioned with the conservative consumer society.
When I first thought about living without money I was living in the United States and working for Disney. I had been feeling very uncomfortable with the situation of the world for a long time and already wanted to do some traveling since I finished school. I didn’t know what exactly I was going to do or how I was going to do it, all I knew was that I wanted to travel around the world and spread love.
Just after this I read the books Sacred Economics by Charles Eisenstein and The Moneyless Man by Mark Boyle that I came up with the idea of doing this travel without any money. I still didn’t know what I was going to do or how but I knew it had to be without money.
I had two main reasons to start this journey in Australia. First, because it was here where permaculture was born – I always had a great interest in permaculture as the best way towards a sustainable living. Second, because Australia is 15,735 kilometers away from Brazil and only here I would find the freedom I needed to do what I had in mind.
I didn’t know that one week before I was coming to Australia I would meet someone and fall in love. What I also didn’t know was that instead of changing everything, she was going to make everything happen. Today I can say that I couldn’t have done these 10 months without money without her.IMGP7943
Marielli: My view and attitudes about money started to change when I traveled to Europe. The first 9 months I was making just enough money to pay for my food and accommodation but all the same I was still doing everything I wanted. It was during this time that I realised how much money I spent when I was in Brazil. In Europe I was consuming less and at the same time enjoying life as much as or maybe more than when I was in Brazil.
The last 3 months in Europe, I had my first experience of living without money. A friend of mine had invited me to live at her family’s hotel in northern Italy. They all knew that because of my visa I couldn’t work, but they insisted that I go and live with them. I had a room just for me, and was eating from the hotel’s restaurant. And in exchange they wanted nothing. I was so grateful for what they were doing that I couldn’t just do nothing so I helped with small jobs when they let me. I have no words to describe how important this moment was in my life.
I came back to Brazil with a different mindset. I was shocked with how much money my family and friends spent. I had decided I would spend only what was necessary.
On the 3rd day after I came back from Europe I met Natale at a music festival happening in a museum (a free-entry event). I remembered we were talking about my trip to Europe, which lead to a conversation about money.
A few days later we were cycling in Sao Paulo and Natale explained to me about his trip to Australia. He said he wanted to spread love to everyone and the best way to do that would be with no money. I thought it was a fascinating idea but I was still asking if it was really possible to live completely without money. Two months later I was in Australia living without money with him.

natale, hamish, marielli, maureen

Marielli and Natale:
To help with this journey we chose to do the WWOOF program. The WWOOF book was the last thing we bought in 10 months. It’s definitely not the only way to do a moneyless experience but it was certainly of great help. By WWOOFing we would cover our main needs of food and shelter and at the same time work at something we really believed in.
When we weren’t WWOOFing we relied on the love and generosity of people who always offered us food; and on the stupidity of a society that supports mass production and wastes thousands kilos of food everyday. To be honest we’ve been very picky in our “dumpster diving” – visiting most of the time local and organic veggie shops. We always find some kind of fruit or vegetables and with luck sometimes we find nuts, cheese [still cool from the fridge], and beautiful loaves of bread.
We never in our whole lives had such a good and healthy diet. We believe that about 95% of the food we eat is organic and most of it comes straight from the garden.
During the last 10 months we passed through permaculture schools, permaculture farms (well developed and on early stages), communities and attempted communities and private homes, all of which contributed enormously to our learning experience.
We also volunteered for a month at the Woodford Folk Festival. Woodford is not only an incredible cultural event; it also gives a really good feeling of community. In total there were 2000 volunteers that lived, worked and shared meals together weeks before the festival had started. We had the opportunity to work in an amazing bamboo construction: a 100m long bamboo tunnel and 20m high log/bamboo tower. All with guidance of the Taiwanese artist Wang Weh-Chi and the team of experts from Cave Urban.
For transport we thought hitchhiking would be the best way to do it and we’ve been proved to be right. Not only because of the environmental issue but also because by hitching we had the chance to meet the most amazing people, each one with a unique story to share. We hitched from Mullumbimby to Sydney, from Sydney back to Mullumbimby and from Woodford all the way to Melbourne.
We have many stories about all these rides but one in particular was very special. We were coming from a Sea Shepherd event that happened at Brunswick Heads going to Burringbar; a thirty-five minute drive. It was late at night and at night is always more difficult to hitch. We were very tired and about to sleep by the side of the road when a car stopped. We told the driver we were going to Burringbar; he didn’t know where Burringbar was but told us to jump in the car. The driver introduced himself as “Cosmic Dave” and he not only took us home but on the way stopped at his place and gave us a bowl of homemade granola bars!
In these 10 months we’ve had the opportunity to do things we had never done before. We lived in a train wagon, in a caravan, in a bus and in a tipi. We went to circus and music festivals, cinemas, theatre, museums and concerts. We went to beautiful beaches, waterfalls and have done surfing, snorkeling and even skydiving. Recently we also did the Great Ocean Road all the way to the 12 Apostles.
Sometimes we don’t believe what’s happening. It’s like we’re living a dream. Everything we wish somehow comes to us. We don’t know why that is, but we think it’s because we’re doing what we were supposed to be doing, because we’re doing everything with all our heart. It’s more about living from love than living without money.
One day we were cycling from Hepburn Springs to Daylesford when Marielli’s bicycle punctured. At this exact moment a truck stopped to check what happened. The driver took her (and the bicycle) to Daylesford, fixed the bike and didn’t even ask for money. We still don’t know if it was a person or an angel.
One very important thing we noticed is the degree of relationship between people. When there is money involved, the relationship can be very superficial or sometimes could be no relationship at all. But when there is no money the relationships are much stronger and true. In what could be considered a short period of time (ten months) we’ve made friends who will be in our lives forever, people we know we can count on whenever we need to.
Living without money also showed us how to value every simple thing in life. We are always very grateful for everything that comes to us. From a simple slice of bread, having a place to sleep, or even looking at a beautiful starry sky.
Living without money is just one way to disconnect from the current system that governs our societies. It’s not about being independent, it’s actually the opposite; it’s about community. All these things we’ve done in the last 10 months couldn’t have been done without the help of many people.
Going moneyless: it’s been a gateway to connection, intimacy, adventure and authentic experience of life. Far from being a path of sacrifice to qualify oneself as good, it’s being a path of joy and – dare we say it – a path of wealth.


See their latest story in hypness (in Brasilian).


Welcome home, Charlie

We have a lot of visitors at Melliodora.

Last week, it was the ‘Inimitable Vegetable Sound Machine’ Charlie Mgee himself, turning up at our doorsteps with his tool-of-trade ukelele in hand.

He spent a few days here, before appearing at the Hepburn Mineral Springs Reserve sound shell during the Swiss Italian Festa last Saturday, and left promising to come back in January (stay tuned).


After six months on the road, of gruelling tours in northern hemisphere, Charlie was instantly in his element at Melliodora. Though this is his first visit to permaculture central Melliodora, he looked quite at home and on arrival jumped into all sorts of activities around the property. He blended in, as if he had been here before, and he looked sparkling best when he was working in the garden with David. Charlie’s like that, as you can guess from his music. He was also sighted on Saturday at Maldon Folk Festival busking hard…. he sure gets around. He even took  time off to play a game of scrabble with the Melliodora elders (though he came up with some nice words, sadly, he was soundly beaten by the elders, we were told, not just once, but thrice).

We are all looking forward to his January visit (and some more games of scrabble, of course). Charlie (and David) is appearing also in the Rainbow Serpent Festival.


V.E.G. PDC at Melliodora

IMG_8430 It is a rare  opportunity to be taught permaculture directly from a concept’s original developer. It is a unique opportunity to learn permaculture at Melliodora, one of the most mature permaculture systems around. When this unique opportunity materialises, people have a pretty special experience.

No doubt the students of the V.E.G. (Very Edible Gardens) PDC  taught David Holmgren over the weekend will forever remember the weekend. They had not just a team of awesome teachers, Dan and Adam, as well as David, but were also treated to food prepared by Su Dennett. Su gave the visitors a feast, making use of Melliodora’s abundance, fresh from the farm garden, with preserved food from past seasons, and supplemented by other locally and ethically obtained food items. What better way to learn permaculture!

IMG_8422The dynamic permaculture duo will be back again (with other excellent teachers) to host a PDC at the Rocklyn Ashram in February 2014. Bookings have just opened but places are filling fast for this course, so if you have been thinking about it (but have not done anything yet), you still have time, but we recommend you to act pretty soon.

Here are some other courses David (and Su) will be involved in;

We are also offering a seven day live-in Seasonal Cycle Course in March (autumn) next year with a limit of 8 people. 6 places left

More photos from the weekend, VEG’s collection.