“It’s not about self-sufficiency, as such – we believe in self-reliance and mutual dependence,” says David Watson, whose Bungendore farm, Mill Post, is a working livestock property that incorporates a wildlife refuge.
It will be open to the public as part of the Australian Open Garden Scheme on March 19-20.
The farm is designed around the principals of permaculture, or permanent agriculture – a productive, designed environment that mimics the balance found in the natural world, says David.
“It’s all about considering layout and design – it’s what you put where,” he says. “This is our first time opening the farm. We want to show people what we’ve got; what we’re doing here. It’s an opportunity for people to see permaculture implemented on a large scale.
“And we think it’s a nice place.”
It really is idyllic – remote and serene, with David and his wife Judith’s 1860s-built farmhouse nestled in lush cottage gardens, herbs at the kitchen door and winding paths through copses of damsons and crab apples to oaks, walnuts and redcurrants.
David says that homegrown food has always been the number one priority at Mill Post. “It’s all about security and food for our family,” he says. “I have a huge pile of firewood out there – that’s security to me. That’s warmth, it’s cooking, it’s comfort. That makes me feel wealthy.”
There are herbs, vegetables and an orchard, chooks, cows, ducks, geese and turkeys, a vast veggie garden for tomatoes, pumpkins, potatoes, carrots, parsnips, peas, garlic, globe artichokes, asparagus and hops.
The farm’s main, and most reliable, income comes from Merino wool, says David.
“Farming this way makes sense to us; it’s the opposite of planting a field of wheat,” he says.
“In permaculture, diversity is the key. We grow a variety of food plants, including fig, raspberry, persimmon, gingko, grape, kiwifruit, Kentish cherry, hazelnut and quince, but also useful plants, like cork oak, that become fodder for the animals.”
Mill Post demonstrates 30 years of permaculture practices, which David says is based on design and layout for efficiency in everything – from energy to labour. So as well as growing all their food, there’s also a compost toilet, a brick oven, mudbrick dwellings sited for gravity-fed water systems and broad-scale revegetation.
“People might think it’s an evangelical thing, but it’s not, it works for us. And if people want to come and see it in action then that’s great.
“This makes us feel there is a future in the land.”
Mill Post Farm, at 312 Millpost Road, Bungendore, will be open from 10am-4.30pm on Saturday March 19 and Sunday March 20. Pre-book online for specialist tours at 11am with local naturalist Rainer Rehwinkel, who will lead tours through the wildlife refuge, and at 2pm for tours of the permaculture farm with David Watson. Tours cost $20, including garden entry. Garden entry only is $8. Children under 18 are free. Book online for tours at www.opengarden.org.au.