Niwajiri, My Garden


I’ve included this page about my own garden as an example of my approach to garden creation.

A well designed garden is about far more than appearances alone, however to write about every factor influencing each design decision would be repetitive and confusing. So I have laid out the content below under general themes, but they all play together in a real garden.



As I wrote in About, I love beauty – beautiful sounds, tastes, smells, textures, and sights – and so too does my partner. Beauty comes in many ways and not only through the five senses which we perceive the world through. For us it is further enriched through authenticity or realness and connection. There is also beauty in something that works well and is integrated comfortably into its surroundings, including the ecosystem. There is beauty in the small details as well as the larger picture.

Niwajiri today is a result-so-far of my evolution and learning as a gardener and designer. I hope you enjoy its story.

ABC’s Gardening Australia story about Niwajiri. Here’s the link: Designed for Life story on Gardening Australia

The Home Page asks “How do you want life in your garden to be?” This has been a very powerful question for us developing Niwajiri, helping us make all decisions, so below is our response to that leading question. Yours may be entirely different, but the following might give you an idea of how useful a question it can be, and how it impacts the garden design.

We want life here at Niwajiri to be:

  • Beautiful – beautiful food, beautiful plants, beautiful sounds smells and textures, and beautiful pictures from every window.
  • Grow abundant fresh healthy fabulous tasting organic food, including plenty for preserves and to give away.
  • Celebrate the cycling of the seasons.
  • We love gardening, so maintenance is a joy, as are having projects to work on. However, we are not fans of unnecessary work, so systems need to function well and as easily as possible. (design so that the right thing to do is the easiest thing to do)
  • Abundant flowers to bring inside.
  • The garden must be appealing whether freshly clipped and tidied or left to its own devices while we are busy or away.
  • Places for sharing meals, conversation and fun for just two of us, and with a crowd.
  • Places for tranquillity and meditation.
  • An over-all visual coherence, but interest and diversity within that.
  • The garden must sit comfortably within the surroundings of neighbours’ gardens and the scrub up the hill, both from our perspective looking out, and for neighbours and passers-by looking in.
  • The house and garden must sit well with each other, and be comfortable & convenient to live with regardless of the weather.
  • The ecosystem will be robust, healthy and resilient indicated by abundant biodiversity (both wild and domesticated), clear clean water and deep rich soil.
  • We particularly like natural rather than highly manufactured materials, so salvaged stone and timber are used extensively.
  • To be a garden of meaningful connection to us;
    • To remind of connections and travels both real and through books, movies and childhood memories of landscapes from tiny courtyards to broad vistas, wild and man-made: the gardens, old buildings and farm lands from across southern Australia, particularly of the early German and English settlers in the Adelaide Hills (including my ancestors), but also of Japan, England, France, Italy, Turkey, southern China, and the North American mountain West.
    • To remind of people who are important to us.
    • Things such as pots, tables, chairs, stone walls etc made by people we know or get to know, rather than mass-produced commercial stuff.
  • To be inviting and hospitable for family, friends and strangers of all ages.
  • We intend to stay here at least until death, and we plan to live a long life, so systems and structures need to be operable by reasonably fit nonagenarians (90+!) - as far as practicable anyway.
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The Story of "the look"

I bought the land in 1988 as a vacant block of nothing more than over-grazed grass and 3 large black-berry patches. It was a blank canvass in a beautiful valley with good soil and water.


When I was young, All Creatures Great and Small set in Yorkshire was my favourite TV show. I especially liked the landscapes and buildings where everything – walls, paving, roads, fences, even rooves - were made of the local stone. It gave every scene a beautiful coherence; a sense that every element belonged and was at home in its landscape.

I also adored the early settlers’ barns and cottages from around the Adelaide Hills, where again local materials dominated; heavy exposed beams of timber, worn wooden steps and floor boards, and low ceilings. So these inspired the design and material choices for both the house (which I’d designed even before I found the land) and the garden.

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Not long after moving in here I read about Permaculture. I quickly acquired several books and undertook the Permaculture Design Certificate with David Holmgren the co-originator with Bill Mollison.

The principles and design ideas continue to impact my thinking, especially to do with living well while caring for the ecosystem and human society which support us. Fortunately, I saw quite a variety of Permaculture gardens and combined with my existing knowledge was able to see that some of the “wilder weedy mess” gardens sometimes thought of as necessarily Permaculture are the owners interpretations of the principles, but not the principles in themselves. My preference for here was a little more visual order.

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Seasonal progression

The garden is designed to really celebrate the cycle of the year, and here in the Adelaide Hills that cycle is about as marked as it gets in South Australia. We don’t have the four predictable and abruptly changing seasons that some parts of the world do, but rather a continuous progression, which affords us more variety within those 4 basic seasons.

In winter the garden is pared back to its underlying structure. The strong shapes of clipped hedges, conifers and other evergreens combined with a lack of any flower except Hellebores and perfumed Winter-sweet in June and July gave it a deliberately “wintry” look. There is often a fog or frost to enhance the charm of bare branches. Reading beside the crackling fire looking out on this scene is one of my favourite times.

Just before we tire of the winter look, daffodils emerge in August with the promise of spring to come and while they flower through September, other bulbs and perennials are emerging around them. The colour scheme is still restrained: muted greens with soft lemon daffodils are the dominant view from the house, but around the front door the perfume of daphne and species hyacinths greet you.

As spring progresses, more flowers and tree blossoms open and the colours become stronger to cope with strengthening light as the sun moves higher in the sky. Colour schemes move from the daffodils through a predominance of soft lavender, blue and purple with highlights of lemon (wisteria, blue bells, iris). Then clouds of pink then white cherry, viburnum and crab-apple are underpinned by stronger blues and purples in Ajuga, lavenders and more irises. Then to bold gold, russet, carmine, red and electric blue before Christmas via lilliums, roses, delphiniums, geums and Chinese forget-me-nots.

The luscious green of deciduous trees in leaf start creating areas of cool shade for the on-coming summer heat and to provide background for the strong bold colours necessary to “hold their own” in the bleaching blaze of mid-summer looking towards the perennial garden.

As autumn comes on, the deciduous trees and shrubs colour up and chrysanthemums open in time for Mothers’ Day and other autumn perennials come on for a final show before leaves fall exposing their beautiful bare stems and berries for winter.

And all the while, the muted greens and greys of eucalypts, conifers, Blackwood Wattles, Lilly Pilly and box hedges settle it into its surroundings.

I chose the site because the climate soil and water supply here are conducive to the plants and garden styles from the places which inspired me the most at the time. The layout has a graduation from “Australian country track” leading to the stock-ramp, through European influence north of the house, blending along the eastern and western sides of the house, to strongly Japanese and a little North American influence to the south. This approach also suits the micro-climates, aids the “energy performance” of the house and helps reduce bush-fire risk.

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Influences, Originality and Authenticity

I’ve never felt the need to be consciously and deliberately “original” for the sake of that “originality” alone. While it can be fun, a bit quirky, its appeal doesn’t last long if it has no reason. Originality which emerges in response to circumstances that require it on the other hand can be wonderful and its appeal lasts forever.

Here at Niwajiri, I have taken looks, moods and styles that appeal to me and interpreted them in our situation. None of the garden is “original” or “an authentic” anything, except authentically ours. The area we call the Japanese garden has elements people would recognize as Japanese – pruned Pine trees, flowering Cherries, Japanese Maples etc - a general mood. But, it is not an “authentic Japanese garden”; neither of us is Japanese, many of the plants are not Japanese and Niwajiri is not located in Japan!

The casual romantic mood of Bickleigh Vale, Edna Walling’s village at the foot of the Dandenongs, inspires boundary plantings, and the mood the garden takes on when we let it ramble, especially in autumn.

I travelled through the American West while studying Holistic Management and, as I do in most places I go, fell in love with the plant life and the landscape. I later spent 5 months working as an intern cowboy on a ranch high in the Colorado Rockies. The landscape and plant life is awesome – truly awesome. Riding quietly on horse-back up a “crick” shimmering with darting trout and banks over-flowing with luscious herbage; meandering through Aspen then Fir and Spruce then back out into open park is an experience I’ll never forget. A number of North American species do very well here, so as stimuli to those memories they’ve been included as transition and back-ground from the more organized garden into the grazing paddocks.

The swooning perennial borders of the English Manor House combined with the low hedges and tall Italian Cypresses of some Tuscan gardens are the stimuli for our perennial garden, and it may sound a long-stretch but the landscapes depicted in the movies Jean de Florette, Manon des Sources and My Father’s Glory are the stimuli for the Mediterranean Hill-side. Maybe only we can see it, but that’s the point – it is a connection for the people who live here.

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“Natives and exotics”

The garden here is inspired by many different places, so the plants I’ve chosen reflect this. While I chose the site for its gardening conditions, I’ve since discovered that the soil is a bit of a limitation. It is a very heavy clay-loam, and through our cold wet winter becomes very boggy. During the early stages of Niwajiri’s development the range of native plants available was very small compared to now, and many just did not survive. Many native plants also tend to be pretty flammable, so are not sensible to have close to the house.

Since then, the range of plants selected and bred from native species has grown fantastically, and as I develop the last areas of the garden am now including them where appropriate. (Several local nurseries - Cleveland, Glenberry, and Tupelo Grove - continue to be sources of fabulous new plants to South Australia which are entirely appropriate for our conditions. I highly recommend them.)

Way back when I was a teen, Pam and I observed that her gardens had fewer pests and diseases compared with many other gardens we knew. They also had very high numbers of native birds, although she did very little to deliberately achieve either. Pam is a plant lover, so the diversity of plants in her own gardens has always been very high. We concluded that it was this diversity that lead to the stability and health, and also attracted the birds, although she did very little to deliberately achieve either.

I’ve since learnt that many (but not all of course) native birds and animals will adapt to change in the detail of the habitat if those details change slowly enough. The shift in life-style of many native birds from migratory (so they could find enough native food to eat or appropriate breeding sites), to sedentary, nesting in exotic plants and eating the fruit, nuts and other crops we try to grow for ourselves, is ample evidence of this. They’ve also taken up eating nectar from just about every flower that has it, and clearly aren’t fussy as to which insects or grass seed they devour!

When I purchased the land, I counted only 6 species of bird here – and only 3 of those were native. There are now 38 species that visit or live here, 35 of which are native. We’ve seen bats roost in our barn and bandicoots, koalas, red-belly black snakes, wallabies, blue-tongue lizards, hundreds of skinks, countless insects and spiders, a possum, and at least 3 species of frog live here or visit. (With judicious use of an organic deterrent spray on the roses, even the possum is welcome!). All these species are here because there is something that attracts them.

The abundant and diverse plant life and the diverse habitats are significant factors, along with no cats, nor dogs with a tendency to harass birds/small animals (terriers for example).

My point is that “going native” per se, is not the only way to genuinely improve the functioning of the eco-system, nor increase biodiversity. If you would like to make a positive contribution to the health of the ecosystem that sustains us all, the most significant contribution you can probably make is through your source of food and clothing. By all means, have a native garden if it appeals to you (and I’d love to help with it) but it’s a small factor in the environmental impact of our life-style in Australia today. See “Food” below.

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Practical environmental improvement while enjoying the garden we want:

One of the key lessons I learnt from Holistic Management® is that while there are patterns that tend to be similar in similar situations; each individual situation is in fact different. Every situation is a function of its specific social, environmental and financial circumstances, whether that is a farm, a city business, or a garden. Therefore, to decide the “most sustainable thing to do” in any given situation, including a garden, must be done in the context of its specific whole situation. Absolute formulas, prescriptions, so-called “best practices” often miss this crucial point, and if simply applied without consideration of the situation invariably lead to unforeseen, unwanted and sometimes not obvious outcomes.

Our garden, home and lives here are all part of the same “whole”; they are not separate things, so design decisions are impacted by far more than just the gardens appearance.


Because of our location, in a semi-rural environment with houses well-spread, smoke from a wood fire does not create an air quality problem for anyone here. Also because of the garden’s growth, and my work, we have access to wood for burning through prunings etc which would otherwise be put through fuel-consuming chippers and transport; or worse, simply burnt in a rubbish fire or put into land-fill. So, the most “sustainable” thing for us to do is use wood fires for heating and in winter for cooking as well. All the carbon that makes up the vast majority of that wood came out of the atmosphere via photosynthesis in the first place, so our burning it to harvest energy for heat is returning that carbon to the atmosphere as part of a cycle. Other situations will be different, so other solutions would be more appropriate. Clearly, heating every building throughout city and suburbs with wood fires would create foul air in those areas and probably devastate forests.

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From figures collated by Sydney University, 41% of the environmental footprint of the average Australian household is from the food we eat. That’s right … 41%!! Clothing is another 14%, personal care products another 1%, and services such as restaurants, accommodation etc another 8%.
Building and running the average house accounts for only 11%, and household transport for only 6%!

I don’t know how they collated these figures, nor the assumptions they used. I assume that because the figures are “Australian average” they are calculated using the conventional food industry; its feedlots, chicken and pig factories, large scale irrigation, broad-acre conventional agriculture and supermarket distribution chains.

I am pretty sure from other research I’ve done, that the food itself isn’t the source of problem, but rather how it is grown, transported, processed and packaged, transported again, and then retailed. I further suspect that disposing of all the waste this conventional chain creates is also a significant problem.

The figures were quite a surprise to us, as most of the talk in the media these days implies that the damage from households (as distinct from industry) is from the energy consumption of buildings and cars. However, if this study is even approximately right, the biggest negative impact and the easiest to do something about is the way we source our food.

So, being much tastier, almost definitely healthier and certainly cheaper, deciding to grow as much of our own food as we reasonably can was an obvious choice in our circumstances.

As far as is reasonable, we also get what we don’t grow ourselves from local growers whose practices we trust or via locally owned and operated small businesses who label the source of their produce. We reserve the consumption of food from far away for treats like chocolate and coffee, and at least they are processed here and with minimal packaging. We go to a supermarket only for things we cannot get elsewhere.

In a nutshell, shopping at supermarkets and other large chain stores where the product is excessively packaged and/or transported over long distances and often heavily processed, is just about the most damaging thing you can do to the environment in your daily life. There is also plenty of evidence that it is one of the most damaging to local economies, local employment and small businesses too.

Costs and savings

From 2000 through to 2009 I kept meticulous and detailed records of where and what we spent on food. In 2009, with a home vegetable patch still only in about 2/3rds production, chooks, small orchard and a few sheep, two of us spent the same dollar amount on food, including snacks, eating out etc and including all the cost of production (seed and seedlings, occasional fertilizers, chicken feed etc) that I alone spent in 2000. We also gave lots away. We eat out a little less now than I did then, but not a lot. The CPI over that period totalled 38%, so the net saving is approximately 2/3rds of our would-be food bill, and we still didn’t have it in full production! Now we do have it in full production, with at least 95% of our vegetable from the garden, and we’ve found that we are enthusiastically eating even more vegetable as a proportion of our diet, and eating out has little appeal unless it is for social values or the food is spectacularly good.

Now, as I wrote earlier, every situation is different. In our situation, growing a lot of our own food makes environmental, financial and social sense; we have the water, the space, the time pays for itself, and we have the desire. Your situation may be different, so I promise if I design your garden, I won’t badger you into a vegetable garden if you don’t want one. Nor will I ever mention shopping and other consumer habits, but if the stories and information on this website has motivated you to improve your impact on the ecosystem, my efforts here have been worth-while.

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Niwajiri receives an average annual rainfall of 1150mm, and we are not connected to the “mains supply”, so we harvest rain from the rooves, and have a bore into an aquifer which recharges every winter. We are in an unusual and fortunate position.

Long before water restrictions were imposed, and “water-wise gardens” became fashionable I’d observed that poorly designed, manufactured and installed irrigation systems were causing more damage than good in many gardens. They lead people to disconnect from observing their garden. They encourage people to water far too often and with too little amount in each watering cycle; the net effect being weak surface-rooted plants, often over-pumped and susceptible to disease and utterly dependant on irrigation – the greenlife equivalent of human obesity. They also lead to a lot of wasted water.

As I’ve stressed above, every situation is different, and the “most responsible thing to do” regarding irrigation must be determined situation by situation. Soil types, plant choices, site exposure to drying wind, tree root competition etc. all play a part, as does the source of the water used, and it’s alternative uses. The details of water restrictions in South Australia during the 2008-10 drought have been a classic case of politics and bureaucracy over sensible policy; where a “how-to” is prescribed far removed from individual situations, rather than a policy objective being set and enabling individuals to work out how to best achieve that in their own circumstances. I know from private discussions with “insiders” that volumetric restrictions (which would have enabled individuals to decide for themselves how best to use their allocation) while being technically possible were not used because they are perceived as politically too risky by both major parties as well as the bureaucracy.

Here at Niwajiri, we have heavy soils high in organic matter (as a consequence of our management). They have a high capacity to hold it compared with many other soils. We’ve encouraged our plants to develop deep roots, and if a plant cannot cope with the conditions an alternative is found. In the parts of the garden that are irrigated, we wait until the garden really needs it before watering, and then we do it by slow deep soaking, at night when possible, and usually only before the on-set of a high fire risk period.

Wherever possible we use a sprinkler type that has very little misting (hence no wastage), but in some dense shrub beds in-line drippers are used. I try to minimize these as while they are advocated by many, my experience is that they have a limited useful life because a/ mulch and roots accumulate over them and they become blocked or strangled, b/ to be effective one needs miles of it closely spaced and can lead to frequent punctures which are hard to find being “buried” under growing roots, c/ one cannot easily see if there is a problem, d/ they utterly saturate the area immediately around each dripper killing off many soil micro-organisms which are adapted to rainfall which leaves air in the soil as the water moves through rather than the water-logging and finally, e/ there is a heck-of-a-lot more plastic used per unit area of finished irrigation than sprinklers and so much greater ecosystem damage. The sprinklers and the timing in combination with the plants and mulch used have the added benefit of reducing our fire-risk by having the plants well-hydrated and therefore reducing flammability.

The vegetable garden is watered according to the needs of each crop. Uniform irrigation across the whole vegetable garden is wasteful and often creates problems for the crops anyway as they have differing requirements. In addition to hand watering, we use parallel strips of in-line dripper connected in blocks which fit the modules I refer to in “Internal Design Tips”, and each block has a simple poly tap, enabling it to be turned on or off as needed. They are pegged in place, but can be lifted out of the way for digging or when the chooks are put in. This set up is used only for the solonaceae and corn & cucurbits beds as over-head watering is problematic for them. We use over-head “rain-like” irrigation on the roots legumes and greens beds. Interestingly, I believe there is ample broader evidence, and our experience here is that “home grown” vegetables and fruit consume far less water per unit of food produced than the same crop produced in the industrial scale vegetable farms. In 2012-13 we recorded all the water we used from public resources (our bore). We drew just 172kilolitres to grow our vegetables, fruit chooks and lamb AND run the whole household dunny flush shower washing drinking etc. We put 560 kilolitres of bore water onto the ornamental garden. That is 732kl in total. To put that in perspective, a couple buying their food through the industrial food chain would have consumed 7,300 kilolitres! That’s right, the industrial food chain uses 1,000lts per day per person it feeds in Australia - ten times what we used for everything, just their food - but it wouldn’t show on their water bill, and current public sentiment would be encouraging them to feel that they’d done the right thing by not watering their garden. Another reason for growing your own or getting from a local small grower!

While compiling the portfolio photos, I revisited a garden Pam designed and Mark and the team built in about 1995. The client’s brief included that the garden had to thrive without any supplementary water. The owner swears she has never irrigated. Apart from a few losses toward the end of the drought, the garden is still sensational. It shows that the range of plants that will grow on rainfall alone is much greater than you might think.

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Grazing and gardening practices store carbon

We’ve ascertained through soil tests that in just 0.6 Ha and over only 5 years of Holistic Graze Planning we put an extra 10 tonnes of carbon (that’s 36.7 tonnes of CO2 from the atmosphere!) into the deepening and more fertile soil in our paddocks and orchard. The tests show the ornamental garden soil is even higher in organic carbon, and the vegetable garden higher still; we calculate a further 3 tonnes of carbon therefore another 11 of CO2.

The details of the grazing and why it is such an effective capturer of carbon are amazing. However, here is not the place for full and detailed explanation. If you are interested, I recommend and, David Mason-Jones an Australian journalist sceptical of claims that this could be achieved has researched and written a book on the subject, which makes fascinating reading. “Should meat be on the menu” is available via his website where you’ll also find a précis of the book.

The guts of it though, is that by bunching grazing animals into higher densities as they do naturally in the presence of pack-hunting predators (we use fences), and grazing smaller areas at a time but far more intensely, and then allowing adequate time for the pasture to re-grow before it’s eaten again, substantial increases in soil carbon occur. It also massively increases bio-diversity above and below the soil surface. Lest this be misunderstood as simply “rotational grazing”, we also closely monitor the pasture and especially soil surface to constantly fine-tune our animal numbers, the length of time the mob spend in each paddock, and to ensure we are constantly improving the whole eco-system health – water cycle, mineral cycle, bio-diversity and energy flow. Simple rotational grazing can lead to disaster. High density grazing is a powerful tool and like any powerful tool its use can go powerfully wrong if not used appropriately or not carefully monitored.

The process also improves water infiltration and increases the soils water-holding capacity, and significantly slows and reduces run-off, in turn reducing flooding, erosion and nutrient loss, and is the most effective and permanent solution to “weeds”.

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In the home orchard

Having researched widely and experimented with many theories of how best to set up and manage home orchards, in 2013 we bit the bullet and started again! We’d tried the unpruned romantic wild orchard. We tried trellising integrated with frames to hold temporary nets, and we tried raising the height of the canopy so that sheep could graze beneath. We found a number of things – 1/ wild-life does not see share and share alike as a two-way deal and unless we put up “100% sealed” netting we get NO fruit ourselves!- kangaroos, birds, possums, rats all will take whatever they can access. 2/ Temporary nets are awful to handle and regularly need to be replaced if they are to even remotely reduce the losses, leading to ongoing financial cost to us and ecological damage from such waste. Sheep very quickly learn to stand on each other’s backs so the canopy has to be so high that handling nets is even harder, and pruning, other management and harvest all become very inconvenient.

The solution has proved to be an absolute joy! The trees are all espaliered inside enclosures which are permanently netted with galvanized fine steel mesh. This is fox-proof to enable the deployment of chickens on occasion, and keeps all the unwanted creatures off. What I didn’t expect was how easy all the regular management becomes! Spraying (organic of course), pruning, harvesting and checking the entire tree for problems are all extremely quick and easy tasks now, and have become a joyful rather than unpleasant process, and we get to enjoy the fruit!


In the garden

We don’t want mobs of sheep or cows trampling all over, nor chooks digging everything up, so we have to do most of the work ourselves by making compost and by using decomposable mulches. It is not a sensible use of our time to gather dung from the paddocks, so we purchase it from a neighbour, or buy locally made (so there is reduced fuel burnt in transportation) dung-based fertilizers.

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Back-yard Chooks

Like most animals, if chooks are kept in one place all the time the chance of pests and disease increase and so too does the work for their human keepers. The Niwajiri chooks have a secure shed and dry run for when we’re away or they are not needed elsewhere. It includes a “deep litter run” where they process some of the kitchen scraps, garden weeds, snails, slugs and slaters into material ready for composting.

To deploy them in the vegetable garden and orchard we’ve built a “chook wagon”. This way we can deploy the chooks as wanted without need to be here and attend to them twice a day.
The adjustable and movable run contains them where we want them - their first preference is to scratch around the vegetable garden and dig up seedlings! The arrangement also helps disperse their dung where it is wanted. The wagon is mounted above salvaged motor-bike wheels so that it is easy to push around, collect eggs, top-up water or feed, and catch young roosters to eat off their night-time perch.

Chooks are most happy roosting as high as possible too, so it works for all concerned. The roosts are peeled branches of native cypress which are naturally insect-repelling and the varying dimension of the natural branch is better for the chooks’ feet than a perfectly regular rod. Beneath the roosts is galvanized mesh so the dung can mostly fall through (reducing cleaning) while keeping the chooks safe from predators.

There is a wide door on each side to maximize our access to the inside, and also enable the run to be which-ever side is convenient.

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Worm farm

We’ve only recently got around to acquiring a worm-farm. We’ve been “going to” build our own, but haven’t. When several friends raved about the success of their bought ones, we lashed out. It is a case of “why did we not do this years ago!?” With almost no effort on our part, it produces about 2 litres of worm-wee every week, which we dilute 1:10 with water and use as liquid fertilizer throughout the vegetable and ornamental garden. The results of this liquid feeding are really impressive. However, the biggest attraction is no rats! Our hither-to compost heaps have been a real attraction for rats, but with all the food scraps going to the worms or chooks, there is little to attract the rats. The compost now only takes garden waste, weeds, fire-place ash and collected dung. The purchase cost was paid for in less than the first year by savings on liquid fertilizer and rat poison.

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The Good Life

Vegetable Garden

The vegetable garden at Niwajiri has had 3 incarnations – and we finally have it as good as we can get it now. It’s not perfect, but that would require moving the entire garden AND the house so it isn’t going to happen.
The first location, right across the patio from the big windows of the living room, was chosen after being enthused by my first exposure to Permaculture. Great location to use – very close to kitchen, good sun, moderate frost, good soil, except….. when I was too busy to attend to it the whole area became an eye-sore, and eye-sores don’t meet the beauty part of our how we want life to be here.

The second location was near the chook shed – great for integrating chooks and vegetables, and out of site when it had its neglected face on, but too far away to be convenient to just “nick out and grab a few leaves”. Also, I didn’t pass through that area unless deliberately going there, so while it was out of site, it was also out of mind.

It is now across the patio from the kitchen, but mostly hidden by the glass-house and out-door kitchen which have lovely stone and timber walls facing the house. The barn and driveway adjoin it providing easy access, including by vehicle. An added benefit is that I park my car there so every time I go to & fro I am observing the conditions and having timely reminders to attend to whatever tasks.

We now produce a majority of our own fruit and vegetables and almost all of our own eggs. The flavour of fruit and vegetables straight from the garden is sensational, and the nutritional value of most is also much higher, and in part that’s why they taste better. A number of crops which used to be expensive treats can now be gorged upon! – berries for example.

Click here for tips about designing your own vegetable garden!

Grass-fed Meat

The meat and fat from grass-only fed grazing animals is actually GOOD for you having amongst other things comparable or higher levels of omega 3 than salmon, which is quite the reverse of feed-lot and shed-raised meat. The same applies to eggs from chooks on pasture (or lawn) compared to factory eggs. and have clear explanations of why grass-fed is much healthier.

Combine this with the environmental benefits of grazing planned through Holistic Management processes, as opposed to the environmental damage done by the feed-lot and shed models, (a significant portion of the environmental footprint referred to in "Food" above) and everyone is winning.

Just over half the land at Niwajiri is divided into very small paddocks of pasture, on which we currently manage a few Dorper ewes and ram to produce much of our meat. We plan to add to this eventually with an occasional pig and geese.

Fire-fighting water to natural swimming pool

During the process of installing a big in-ground concrete tank for fire-fighting purposes, I found a small business who builds natural swimming pools. Long story short, Wayne and Anika’s pools are amazing! They are truly beautiful, very adaptable, cost only about 1/3 of a conventional pool to run and they also become the most exquisite habitat for frogs, dragon flies and the like. The building process is still progressing, and ours is not yet a pool, but rather a very clean storage tank. Eventually though, it will be a beautiful big pond in the garden complete with water-creatures and plants, which we can swim in, and in the event of a fire, we will have drinking quality water to fight that fire and thence not poison any of our soil with salt, chlorine or any other chemical.
Conventional swimming pools are ecological disasters, with almost nothing good about them. Wayne and Anika’s pools are a positive boost to the ecosystem.

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Our life here at Niwajiri is pretty good – in fact it’s fabulous. We love it and we love sharing it with our family, friends, livestock and wild life. We hope you’ve enjoyed reading about it.

But more importantly, it is an example of thinking about how the people living here want their lives to be and how the garden has been designed and developed to facilitate that.
It has taken time, and it has evolved and changed in the details as we have, but the driving force, the true-north has been the description of how we want life to be here, what we have to produce to achieve it and what the resource base (the communities around us, the environment, our infrastructure and finances) has to be far into the future to enable it to continue.

Whether you chose to engage my services or not, I encourage you to think about how you want life in your garden to be (indeed life in your whole home, business, etc). It is amazing how helpful this is, and how it ultimately eases your decision-making toward achieving it. Take the time to think about and discuss it with those in your household. The reward is well worth the effort.

Contact me, Steve Hailstone via
Or phone 0418 822 212

For more information:
Vegetable Garden Design Tips gives tips for designing your own vegetable garden

About gives my background and influences.

Philosophy is an in-depth explanation of the foundations and philosophy behind my approach to garden creation.