Category 5

Rob Scott – ‘Tiny House’ Builder


Rob Scott and his family of five own a 180 hectare organic farm in the Macedon Ranges, just outside of Melbourne, Victoria. The family has a huge passion for organic farming, permaculture, animal husbandry, alternative building and holistic living. Rob started out building ‘tiny houses’ at the farm eight years ago as extra bedrooms for his children. He now runs workshops in tiny house building and builds custom designed tiny houses for clients.

What is a tiny house, and why do you build them?

A tiny house is a dwelling small enough to put on a trailer or a truck. I was always building cubby houses as a kid. And when our third child arrived we eventually needed another room. I had an old Dodge truck, and I thought building a room on that was the easiest option, out of necessity: no plans, no foundations.

Permaculture Plant: New Zealand Flax (Harakeke)


BOTANICAL NAME: Phormium tenax

ORIGIN: New Zealand and Norfolk Island

DESCRIPTION: This clumping, evergreen, perennial plant has sword-like leaves to two metres long, and grows to sixteen metres. It will grow in most soil types, is relatively frost tolerant and moderately drought tolerant once established. Cultivars come in a wide range of colours.

Unlike the plant commonly known as flax in Australia (Linum usitatissium or linseed), New Zealand flax is more closely related to day lily. It can be grown successfully in most of Australia, except for the arid interior.

Save Your Seeds: Cucumber


Words and photos by Steve and Kerryn Martin from The Lost Seed In most of Australia cucumber is a warm season crop; sow after frost. It likes well-drained soil, but don’t let it dry out. Can be sown indoors, then transplanted out when first leaves appear. Germination requires minimum soil temperature of at least 15 °C. Avoid overhead watering to prevent disease.


ANNUAL: Will produce seed in the first year

POLLINATION: Cross Pollinating. Insect pollinated. Will cross with other cucumber varieties; to ensure purity, grow varieties at least 500m apart

Simple Greywater Garden Design


Only three per cent of the earth’s water is fresh water; and only one per cent of this can be used for life, people included.

While the amount of water cycling on earth remains the same, the availability of this water – for humans – depends on where it is and how we use it. Water cycling through land-based soil and plant systems returns to the land via the atmosphere and rainfall within a few months. Whereas water flushed down the drain and out to sea takes hundreds of years to cycle through the ocean to the atmosphere and fall again as rain!

Human systems generally spoil water quality, then flush it from land to sea quickly. A better solution would be to re-use ‘waste’ water, locally. Imagine a landscape of abundant, biodiverse and beautiful gardens that capture and store greywater, break down pollutants, absorb nutrients, replenish groundwater and re-humidify the atmosphere, supporting regional rainfall patterns and water cycles.

Film & Book Reviews


Film directed by Lisa Heenan and Isaebella Doherty, created by Darren Doherty (Regrarians Media 2015),

Review by Robyn Rosenfeldt

‘This is not just a film about farming, it is a reminder to us that the food we eat is farmed by people on land, in soil’, Darren Doherty.

Polyfaces follows the life and work of Joel Salatin and his family, creating a new farming model that will, in the words of Salatin, ‘heal the land, people and culture, one bite at a time’. Set in the stunning Shenandoah Valley in northern Virginia USA, Polyface Farm uses no chemicals, and feeds over 6000 families and many restaurants and food outlets within a three hour ‘foodshed’ (distance from the farm).

The Doherty-Heenan family spent four years with the Salatins, documenting the food system they’ve created. They show that there is an alternative model to the current one: one that regenerates the land and builds community, and will be able to feed families for generations to come.

Taj Scicluna–Designer


Taj Scicluna is working to create a fertile and abundant world, where the earth’s resources are distributed fairly, with care and responsibility.

Her passions include beekeeping, primitive living skills, herbal medicine – which she studies – and spoken word poetry. And she aims to bring back people’s medicine, people’s food and people’s freedom, not only through a passionate voice, but through individual action and community empowerment.

Taj has run Permaculture Design Courses, with co-teacher Tamara Griffiths in the Dandenong Ranges, which incorporate interactive and creative teaching methods for all kinds of learning styles.

Through passionate permaculture education and regenerative environmental services – such as permaculture design and the creation of delicious ornamental edible gardens – Taj aims to nurture diversity, and to protect ecology through healthy and resilient communities and ecosystems.

From Degraded Land To Abundance: Bethel Business And Community Development Centre, Lesotho


Outside the small village of Bethel, in the remote mountains of Lesotho, southern Africa, is a remarkable community. Surrounded by degraded land, characterised by heavily eroded washouts, is a verdant forest of food.

Tiny and landlocked by South Africa, Lesotho is a mountainous country where most people rely on subsistence agriculture, and around fifty-seven per cent live below the poverty line of US$1.25 per day (World Bank 2010 data).

In the past, Lesotho produced enough wheat and corn to feed its people and export grain. However, soil erosion, land degradation and a decline in soil fertility, combined with a HIV/AIDS epidemic, contributed to a steady decline in production. And agriculture is also vulnerable to climate variability.

Kids’ Patch


Building your own cubby – using things found in nature or your garden or scavenged from waste – is immensely satisfying. Depending on where you live, and the materials you can find, your cubby is going to look wonderfully distinctive: there are always different materials to find, and new designs to try out. Experiment – build a little one or a whole village!

You can try this in your yard, in a neighbourhood park, at a school or community garden, while you’re on a camping holiday or a bushwalk.

Keep it simple and do it with your friends – it’s a great group project. Most eco-cubbies last for at least a day or even a week; some are robust and last for years.

Josh’s House


Josh Byrne, presenter on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia, and his wife Kellie Maher began construction of their remarkable 10-star rated house in Hilton, near Fremantle, in November 2012. Construction of two dwellings on a little over a ‘quarter-acre’ (1012 m2) block was completed in June 2013. Josh, Kellie and their children Oliver and Caitlin live in the rear house, while another family lives in the front house. Both houses achieved a ten star Nationwide House Energy Rating Scheme (NatHERS) rating, mainly due to their thermal performance, efficient power generation and use, and the largely self-sufficient water supply.

The minimum standard for all new houses built in WA, since May 2011, is six stars. Ratings are calculated considering the climate zone, location, dimensions of the dwelling and occupancy. A ten star rating is difficult to achieve. Besides maintaining a comfortable temperature all year round, without the need for air conditioning or additional heating, the construction is required to feature efficient insulation, as well as thermal mass, to hold heat and thus moderate variable temperatures often experienced in Australian houses. Window placement is another necessary consideration, to enable cooling breezes to enter when required, using windows that act like vents to extract warm air to surrounding areas.