Earth & Straw: Building From Nature

It was 13 years coming, but couple Mara and Ralph have created a sustainable, efficient and loving home that was well and truly worth the wait.

I was singing Italian folks songs at the Boite Singers’ Festival when my partner Ralf asked for a second time ‘can we move to the country?’ Thirteen years earlier he’d made the same proposal but I wasn’t ready. On this occasion however, I craved change and the timing was perfect. So by the end of the festival weekend we had found a completely bare 15-acre grazing paddock just a 10-minute drive from the gorgeous town of Daylesford in Victoria’s Central Highlands.

It was a flat block with a very gentle slope to the west, boasting beautiful views of the Great Dividing Range, rich chocolate volcanic soil and adequate rainfall. Its treeless state meant we could revegetate to our heart’s content. It is on this site that our permaculture farm Orto began and where I host my cooking school Village Dreaming.