Melliodora Tour with David Holmgren & Su Dennett (Permaculture Tours – Ep 2)

Melliodora Tour with David Holmgren & Su Dennett (Permaculture Tours – Ep 2)


I’m Su Dennett and this is my partner
David Holmgren and we’re here at Melliodora in Hepburn in Central
Victoria. Melliodora is situated on the edge
of Hepburn Springs, which is a very small town of a few thousand people, so we’re
effectively in a suburban street, but on two and a quarter acres, just under a
hectare of land. In building this house, for me the thing
that I was most passionate about was passive solar design, the idea that
houses can largely heat and cool themselves in southern Australian
climates without the use of much in the way of augmented heating, and no
mechanical cooling. Building with natural materials was also for me a given. So mudbrick as a material: very little in the way of embodied energy, great thermal
mass, not such good insulation, but a great structure to hold up the roof. And
the other was of course timber and my passion for trees, sustainable forestry.
So designing the house around those materials, with passive solar design and
to minimize the use of electricity, certainly no use in heating or water
heating, and also to build in wood as the secondary form of energy for cooking, for
hot water and back-up space heating. The kitchen was an important place for
me because I have a focus – very strong focus – on food. So the kitchen for me was really good in terms of having a wood stove that gave me the possibility
of learning how to use the wood that we had locally and that we could gather
ourselves. And I found that a very lovely family process to go out and
collect wood a couple of times a year. Another feature of the kitchen was the
cool cupboard, instead of a big refrigerator – The cool cupboard draws air
from underneath the house in contact with the ground, which then rises by
convection up the column of the cupboard. And so it’s a very simple technology;
it’s not a fridge but it means it’s much more suitable for storage of many
things and so we just have a small under- bench fridge and that’s been adequate
for us all these years. Living a lifestyle like we do, a self-reliant one, means that you do many many things and so you get pretty good at cutting the
corners off, if you like. In building with the permaculture design
framework we took it for granted that the area immediately around the house
would be intensive food production: the primary vegetable-growing areas,
high-value trees, maybe trees that actually need a special micro-climate
like kiwis and other things that will help the micro-climate of the house and
also that need a lot of attention, that are close to where you can see them. That also has the spin-off that that creates an environment which is naturally fire
retardant and it’s also part of the micro-climate modification, so the
grapevine arbor on the north side is a critically important part of the shading
structure, which is there in the summer and the autumn, but not there in the
spring and winter – so works with the passive solar design. The main feature of Zone 2 is an
extensive orchard of mostly drip- irrigated deciduous fruit and nut trees. And it’s where the animals range too: the
geese that lived in that orchard, converting a lot of the grass to manure
and eating a lot of the fallen fruit and helping control pests. It’s also where
the chooks get out from their deep litter yard on the edge of the Zone 1/Zone 2
system and get out to free-range. And also where the goats, they can be in some
parts of that at times. All of that animal activity is managed from sort of
a hub of the small farmyard, which is on that interface between those two zones,
which is really Su’s department. Animals are my department, his department is
plants and of course you can imagine there are tensions between those two. So
it’s nice; I advocate for the animals and he advocates for the plants. Animals that
are giving you a service, you must also provide a service for them. It took me a
lot of years to actually learn enough about goats to feel that I’m relatively
on a par with what they give to me I can give back to them. So right from the beginning we
identified there should be two houses on this piece of land. The second house,
which took till after the turn of the millennium to actually start thinking
about implementing, was variously called the cottage or the studio. The motivation
for actually then building that was my aging mother coming to live with us. The other building on the property we call the tea house… – After the Japanese tea
house style and size. –But it’s also a tiny house if you like. Brenna Quinlan,
the illustrator of our ‘Retrosuburbia’ book, is actually the resident there
currently. And so yeah, there’s now three semi-autonomous households sharing the gardens and sharing the facilities. So as well as the very early and
substantial earthworks for the house we did earthworks building two dams on the
property in the natural gully that ran through it, and that was critical for
irrigation in the summer. So those dams and the construction were very early in
the design process – in a lot of ways they proceeded the house earthwork design
because they are determined by the shape of the land. One of those things about choosing this
property is that it was surrounded by strips of land, road reserves they’re
called. All those areas just grew blackberries and weeds and we took on
the job of managing those areas, of slashing them so they were fire-safe, planting trees. I spend quite a lot of time with the goats doing fire vegetation
management. That’s a great, pleasurable thing to spend that time with them to
make sure that you have a fire-safe environment in your primary fire sector. The blackberries were sort of 12, 15 feet high in some places and the whole gully
was full of them. And it’s much more park-like now. That aim is to try and create a canopy of fire-retardant trees that will shade out
the blackberries and allow ecological succession to move along and to its next
stage. – We don’t distinguish greatly between the public and the private and
it seems that you shouldn’t think that you have to own a piece of land to feel
that you’re part of it and to feel duty towards that piece of land; to try to
understand its needs and how they work in accordance with your needs. I think the biggest changes that we’re
seeing in permaculture now is the focus on people and people interactions, so the
social side of permaculture. At the present time we have fossil fuels as our
slaves and so we’re not dependent so much on interaction. And I think for me
the most important thing is the behavioral adaptations not the physical
adaptations of buildings etc. We don’t need huge numbers of people to change the behavior to make a big impact. That, I think, has been always underestimated.

73 thoughts on “Melliodora Tour with David Holmgren & Su Dennett (Permaculture Tours – Ep 2)

  1. We hope you enjoyed this tour! We've got an exciting video coming up for episode 3 where we revisit a permaculture farm that we first filmed with back in 2015.

    Who's property would you like to see featured in a future episode?

  2. I love this place! Thank you so much for sharing! Imagine how the world would like if many more people lived like this! Paradise.

  3. This piece of land is so beautiful with those various kinds of trees, plants and animals. Thanks to the lovely couple for creating something beautiful for us to appreciate and be inspired.

  4. So inspiring. I wish I could be like you. For me I try to maximize what I have now. Super small house 60m2 + very small garden 40m2 (considered I'm kind of 'lucky' because most of my neighbour only have 10m2 garden in my block). I try to grow as much as possible with the space I have

  5. So wonderful to see Sue Dennett (an accomplished permacultulist in her own right) featured along side David Holmgren. I adored Retrosuburbia and getting glimpse of the illustrator was such a fun bonus. I love how you divided to tour into permaculture zones! So well done. Thank you!

  6. He, Bill mollison and Geoff Lawton are my inspiration. Great video that shows some basic principles of Permaculture. ??

  7. Wish I was good at design. But my permaculture zones are evolving as I go with no exact plan in mind.
    I have two woodlots the I don't own but manage. It is exciting to watch them looking healthy and increasing in biodiversity.

  8. I would have wanted to know more about their method of vegetable gardening. What mulch do they use ? Do they plant cover crops ? Do they use compost, wood chips, straw ? Do they get all the mulch they need from their land or do they visit the local landfill for wood chips and stuff ? Are they completely autonomous in terms of meat, vegetables, fruits ?

  9. Happen Films make the most beautiful films……wonderful filming and editing along with the storytelling….well done!

  10. Goats and fire retardant tree for fire management! As I write, we are seeing the consequences of not managing public and private space in this manner.

  11. If someone offered me this life, I would quit living in Los Angeles in a heartbeat. Such a beautiful life to live.

  12. Ну все классно, но титры можно было бы другим цветом выделить. Черный ну как-то совсем не видно. Дизлайк

  13. Wow I really admire u both and I too wanted to have this kind of life. I am a boy from a very remote area Zanskar. I want to design my permaculture garden over there. How can I? coz climates over there is extremely cold semi arid high altitude area. Plz contact me if can. [email protected]

  14. We visited this property over 20 years ago and to this day we have been inspired by having a permaculture garden where we live.

  15. Thank you very much for the video. Would suggest you would start by telling in your videos about the climate zone, distance to sea, latitude and altitude of each property. Greetings from Portugal.

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