Hi! I'm Steve! My farm is a 'work-in-progress' permaculture property where we are growing a lot of food, fruit & berries, as well as seasonal foraging in the local area.
The farm is a permaculture property of 8 acres next to State Forest. Some of the 'green' features of the property are solar power & solar hot water, organic vegie garden, fruit & berry growing, bees, woodlot & forest garden. There is a two storey studio/ teaching space which has been used for classes & courses for some years. Help on the property includes general farm maintenance, building, garden, orchard & timber work. Accommodation currently for 1-2 or if you BYO tent or camper van there are more options! [One tiny houses just completed and another to be constructed so more helpers can be here in comfort. There is also a permanent camper van on site with comfortable bed base for single bed]. Children OK (my littlest one is here on some weekends and my two older kids (30 & 33) drop by from time to time). If you are interested in permaculture or alternative building, you will be interested in the quite large permaculture & building library (which you can use if you treasure the books as I do!) :) I've had a long local involvement in permaculture, climate change & Green groups so can plug you into those local networks, if you want to.
I manage a farmers market twice a month plus teach, give public talks on permaculture-related subjects and am one of the main teachers on a local permaculture design course (for which farm is the venue).
As most of my work is on the weekends, I usually prefer you to work 5 part days per week which gives you the weekend off. If you are a self-directed person with the right skills, you might also negotiate to help 4 full days and have 3 days off.
The farm is a bit over an hour west of Melbourne airport and just off the main highway from Melbourne to Adelaide. Ballarat is a town of 100,000 people so has all the usual services and features of a regional centre of that size. Train to Melbourne is 64 minutes so many visitors enjoy taking day trips or over-nighting it to events in Melbourne.
Extended stays & permaculture interest is preferred, but that is negotiable. Not interested in 1-2 night stays. It takes a few days to orient people and have us get into the swing of things, and that just can't happen if you're only there overnight. Longer stays, including 3 or 6 month internships are available, but these always start with a week or two of us getting to know each other and seeing if it will be a mutually satisfactory arrangement. I can pick up from Ballarat station, which is also the drop point for the direct bus shuttle service from Melbourne airport (don't go into Melbourne city if you are flying in and coming direct to the farm)
I eat an omnivorous diet! Those with special dietary requirements may need to assist with meeting their own needs. I have access to free bread, for instance, so it's a bummer if you are gluten-intolerant! ;)
NON-SMOKERS ONLY. NO ILLEGAL DRUGS. NO EXCEPTIONS. (Don't even ask)
Help with Eco project
Help in the house
Help with Computers / internet
Staying here is a practical introduction to everyday permaculture or sustainability. The farm is not a show-piece... there's lots still to do and lots under construction, but also some good practical examples of how to implement a sustainable lifestyle and live more lightly on the planet (e.g. DIY apple rootstock bed, large scale solar dehydrator, massive recycled water tank [256,000 ltr capacity!], berry tunnel)
Every day we implement simple strategies like recycling, minimising waste, composting, upcycling, etc. Life is made up of simple daily acts rather than grand statements.
For nearly 10 years, Steve worked with World Vision (Vision Mundial); an international NGO providing relief and development services across the planet. Steve has worked in Asia and Africa and this experience might be of interest to some travellers.
Help required at the farm is varied and seasonal. I always try to balance the needs of the property with the talents & interests of those staying with us. I can't always guarantee it, but I try to make the help project based so we can complete something in the time you are here. We might only work on the project part of the time & need to do other routine tasks (like weeding or watering!) as well, but hopefully that finds a balance which is rewarding to all.
At the moment, my only livestock are chickens & bees, but I plan to get sheep & a couple of goats in the next year. There is a big vegetable garden, berry planting, fledgling food forests and fruit trees at various spots on the property. Visitors who love working with plants will have plenty to do. [There are also rabbits, kangaroos, wallabies and the occasional echidna but they aren't mine - we just share the space!]
For those who love building - or want to learn! - there are ongoing projects at a range of scales; tiny houses, fencing, garden beds, storage sheds, new visitor accommodation building which is erected, but needs a verandah, internal lining, internal flooring plus construction of adjoining composting toilets plus rocket stove powered showers. More than enough to satisfy the builders!
If that building sounds a bit fiddly, don't worry... we have plenty of trees that need to be turned into firewood! Visitors who can't prove to me that they have had chainsaw training won't be using the saws, but there's still plenty to do splitting, carting, stacking, feeding the massive 26 hp chipper/mulcher (there's a certain satisfaction in producing many sq metres of wood mulch to add to the food forest floor or compost systems.
...and if that all sounds too heavy, there are also lighter jobs that can be found - like cooking, preserving or sitting quietly amongst hundreds of potted heirloom apple trees and removing the grafting tape from them!
There is also a project of the local permaculture guild which harvests fruit from forgotten or ignored backyard and public land trees. One third of fruit goes to land owner, one third to pickers and one third to charity. We often come home from harvests with many kilos of fruit so are very active at drying, bottling & pickling. In Autumn, we are also big foragers of edible mushrooms, so look out for that if you are here at the right time.
English (fragments of German & Spanish)
There is a tiny house which has a single and double bed in a 'bunk bed' arrangement; couples or multiple singles can stay there. There is another slab for a tiny house and we may construct that in 2019, depending on weather & other jobs!
There is a permanent camper van set up with built-in timber bed base for single bed.
If you have your own camper van, that is great. Tents or hammocks work in summer but not in winter.
The major tourism feature in the Ballarat area is Sovereign Hill, a massive outdoor museum on many acres recreating the goldrush period from 1851-1861. All of the travellers who have stayed here who visit Sovereign Hill are blown away by it - including the ones who aren't that interested in history and weren't too sure they'd like it! Best way to see it is with the two day pass, as you simply can't see everything in a single day. Open from 10 - 5 every day except Christmas Day.
Some of the Ballarat streetscapes from the 1870's and 80's are used in feature films and TV series (e.g. Dr Blake on ABC TV) so lovers of fine Victorian architecture, ornate cast iron decorative verandahs, etc. will enjoy that.
Ballarat has many other general attractions like gardens, parks, cafes, cinema, art galleries, shops, etc. There are also a range of camping stores, supermarkets (at least 3 Aldi' last time I counted), and garages where you could get your van or car worked on while you are here.
The farm is 10 minutes drive to the centre of town. It is downhill into town so I reckon it's 20 mins in on a bicycle and 40 min back. There is no public transport directly past the farm but I go into town most days and can give you a ride ( or pick things up for you). The nearest bus stop is about a 3 km walk, so most travellers don't bother to do it.
Limited internet access
We have pets
We are smokers
More than two
5 days (8 am - 4 with long morning tea & lunch breaks) You can negotiate to work 4 days or longer hours if you prefer.