DMK Permaculture

Permaculture Mandala Garden, Chicken Tractor Design

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The EAT-Lancet Commission Launch Lecture in Oslo

The World’s Most Important Lecture guides you through the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health. The report has, for the first time in history, proposed scientific targets for what constitutes both a healthy diet and a sustainable food system.

Scientific superstars Prof. Johan Rockström (Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Stockholm Resilience Center) and Prof.Walter Willett (Harvard University), co-chairs of the Commission, presents the key messages, Dr. Richard Horton (Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet) will deep-dive into the findings, and Dr. Gunhild A. Stordalen (EAT’s founder and executive chair) will share her vision for a better food future.

DMK Permaculture, fully agrees and supports this concept of human diet and sustainable farming practices. So grab a cuppa, sit back and take time to watch this video. It is ground breaking and revolutionary but is actually based on bringing back ‘traditional’ diet and farming. This information is vital for our planet to control & reverse our changing climate.


Chicken Tractor or Chicken Dome in a Permaculture Mandala Garden

We use chicken domes, chicken tractors, or as in Australia we call chickens chooks, so our dome is called a ‘Chook Dome’.

We haven’t found it necessary to change to a geodesic dome, because our domes are sturdy and durable and have lasted well. A geodesic dome seems a whole lot of mind numbing effort, and I’ve seen a couple where it is too high in the centre to be moved by one person standing inside.

One of our domes has been in service for ten years, we refurbished the netting and revamped the door after Cyclone Yasi in 2011 gave it a bashing, but I gotta say that our dome has stood the test of the world’s 2nd biggest storm in history, so we reckon we built it right!  We built a second dome to the same design a couple of years ago in Dec 2013. Both domes work extremely well, they need little or no maintenance and the chooks are very contented.

Two Domes Now

Two Domes Now

The internet is littered with failures and examples of how not to build a dome. Do not use black poly pipe. Do not use grey electrical conduit. They are not as good as PVC and don’t last. For our design you need white PVC pressure pipe, 20mm (3/4 inch). It’s very cheap and light, comes in 6 metre lengths, and it bends easily without collapsing.

The DMK page link below, shows you exactly how we did it step by step, with pics of each step and a detailed sketch, and even printable instructions if desired.

Chook Dome Step by Step Building Instructions

Good Luck and Good Gardening

Wallaroo Paleface

Our resident Eastern Wallaroo. We call her ‘Paleface’.

A wallaroo is a bit like a kangaroo and a bit like a wallaby, and about half way between in size. Certainly cute and cuddly looking, she’s usually very timid.

Wallaroo Pale Face 4

Having several acres of natural bush, we have a number of critters who live and stay locally on our land or share the neighbour’s block. Sometimes the camera is handy when we interact. Many critters come seasonally, some move in and hang around for a few weeks and we never see them again. Some don’t leave and live locally with us all the time.

Our current favourite, ‘Pale Face’ the Wallaroo, has been living with us for 3 or 4 years now. She has had three joeys in three years that we know of, and her pouch is full again this year too.

Wallaroo Pale Face 2She is short and stocky, very strong on the bottom half, with short little arms, big nose, and small rounded teddy bear ears. Note the heavy pouch.
Wallaroo Pale Face 3

Her coat is thicker and fluffier than our local roos and wallabies.

Paleface Profile

Head close ups. (click head shots for closer look) Almost dog like snout.

Wallaroo Pale Face 5

Mum in front and the adolescent joey behind, note joey’s ears are more pointed.

Spring Collection

We have a collection of Trampoline Springs.

          The humble tramp spring is very handy as a good strong durable spring, and usually can be found in multiples, and . . most times for free. We have found they are especially handy for keeping gates closed. And another use for them is to keep tension on a tarpaulin.

         GATES   The photo below shows a gate with a spring fitted on a predominately vertical angle. This angle helps to soften the tension on the gate, so it closes more gently rather than slamming hard behind you.

Spring Coll 1

The spring below is fitted to tension the gate so it closes very firmly, with no chance of it blowing open in a strong wind, or being nudged open by a dog’s snout. Spring Coll 2

We used a very small ‘D Shackle’ to connect to the gate, which are cheap from hardware store and ideally suited to this application. We used Vice Grips to grip the spring and heave it round to hook on the gate or the D shackle.Spring Coll 3

          TARPS   The photo below shows a spring tensioning a tarpaulin, by tying the rope to the spring and connecting the spring to the corner of the tarp.Spring Coll 4

The tarp stays fairly taught at all times and is much less likely to balloon out and rip or break free.Spring Coll 5

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Gate Handling

Big “Easy-Grab” Gate Handle

 The Handle is simply a piece of  1.1/4″ Rural Poly Pipe screwed with double screws to prevent slewing. This works extremely well, is cheap and strong. Our cost for 4 screws and a half a metre of poly was about $1.50

Fence 14

AND . . .

Gate Holding Strap, efficiently holds gate closed or open. This is made from old ‘tie-down’ hook, with stretchy elastic loop (cheap from hardware store), joined by using fencing ring clamp tool, clamping with double rings. 

Fence 15These two gate ideas have been proven and tested in our garden for a couple of years now, and the handle and strap have not deteriorated at all, they still work exactly as intended.

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Potty Idea

We’d like to share a potty recycling idea we employ, utilising plastic containers of various shapes and sizes in the garden as seedling pots.

Pot Idea Pic 01
The biggest hurdle is being able to put holes in the bottom without splitting the plastic or hurting yourself with poky sharp tools! Well the answer is a soldering iron.Pot Idea Pic 02

A simple small soldering iron will melt your holes in a few seconds. You must do this outside in well ventilated preferably windy area so as not to breathe any burning plastic fumes.Pot Idea Pic 03

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We have a Stall at our Local Markets

We are keen marketeers in our local country market scene, we enjoy participating in our community this way, and it seems a two way thing with locals, and that’s gotta be good. We offer any excess garden produce, but mainly vegie seedlings, seeds and the odd preserve for sale.

Our seedlings are grown at home by us, they are hardy and climate ready. Not only that but as addicted seed savers, we know our seedlings are strong varieties that do well in our unique tablelands climate, and most importantly they are Non GM.

Currently three market locations:-

Archers Creek on the 2nd Sunday of the month.

Wondecla on the 3rd Sunday of the month.

Tumoulin on the 4th Sunday of the month.


ALSO playing at Wondecla is DANA, one half of DMK

Entertaining with cruisy music for a Sunday morning.

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Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn   Michele shows a staggered planting of sweet corn. See in foreground the young plants, behind them on the left the corn is just reaching full size, and on the right are plants fully matured and very healthy, and bursting with multiple cobs ready for harvest. We’ll be eating fresh corn tonight and for many weeks to come. There are a heap of rock melons under the corn on the right, and they’re nearly ready. Yum.Corn 3 Stages

Wooroora Fires

9/11/14    We didn’t start out thinking that this fire some 10Kms away was much of a threat to us, as indeed it did turn out to be. The main hot & fast fire front came past, just over the ridge from the back of our block, only being kept at bay from us by the dedicated Volunteer Rural Firefighters. During daylight there was a relentless bombardment of water from choppers & crop-dusters. Unbelievable! We were treated to some very low flying, coordinated fly-bys of multiple aircraft simultaneously, all of which prevented the fire front ripping right thru us. We have one of 8, 10 acre blocks in a row, the first 2 properties were burnt to the backyard area of their houses. If the fire wasn’t stopped at an easement 2 blocks over, they’d have been fighting it on our driveway next.

             We had a plan that, before we were trapped on our own land we’d leave, and that’s what we thought was going to happen, so we escaped to friends close by at 12:30am. The RFSQ did manage to stop the fire in the early hours of Sunday morning, at the back boundary of our block 100mt behind our shed, and at the easement 2 blocks over 200mt away. However as Sunday’s strong winds sprang up, a spot fire sparked up on the side ridge close by, looking quite nasty and threatening, but again the volunteers and aerial attack was relentless all day, the fire finally succumbed and fortunately we were not impacted. We were affected personally both physically and mentally, but our property and assets are in tact.

         If we didn’t have a Rural Fire Service, we couldn’t live rural like we do, no one would want to! Their existence makes it possible for many of us to survive here.

Chookhouse Breeding Pens

          The plan on our home page shows three breeding pens for chooks adjacent to the seeding shed. These pens will be for breeding chooks to sell as breeding pairs, and to raise for eating. The concept of the pens was done as a drawing sketch with a rough idea of dimensions but mostly we ordered standard lengths of steel and it is being developed as it’s built. It’s kind of an organic development.

Chookhouse & Shed 05 2015

Panaramic Fisheye View of Chookhouse & Seedling Area

          The pens are absolutely dog and dingo proof, python proof, goanna proof, and even rat proof. We had two young roosters in the same dome so they had to be separated. We have eaten the other two roosters, but we are keeping one; Syd, a Sussex boy with a good temperament. He’ll be handy to us in future. 

Here’s Percy and Prissy, a Plymouth Rock couple, the first occupants of the new pens.

                          We put some fertile eggs from Percy & Prissy, and also some from Syd Sussex & Red (a Red Sussex hen) under Sparkles, a broody Seabright/Sussex cross, and we now have ten chicks, in the luxury of the new pen.

                        These pens will have a little night house at the rear which will be raised up from ground level and will also have a large access door at the rear for easy cleaning, and a slide out worm farm positioned under the night house floor, so droppings can be scraped straight in. The raised night house also allows for the droppings and hay to be scraped straight into a wheelbarrow parked at the rear.

Chookhouse 1

Main Frames

Chookhouse 2

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Lap Chicks

Here’s what happened when I went out and sat for a while, camera in hand in the dome with the new chicks in it, this morning. I read their actions like a comic strip, and as I had the camera I took snaps to show the story as it unfolded. My intention was to teach them to jump up on the newly fitted perch some how!

But it seemed my lap was more interesting. It was the little hen from the broody coop who was super inquisitive, she flew up to my lap 4 or 5 times, wanting even higher, all the while the female chick from the dome was getting more & more agitated, and just before I got up to leave, the dome female flew up and stayed a few seconds just to know what is was like!

Rather a nice experience interacting with the chicks at 8 weeks old, when they are at the cheeky stage and they’re getting zippy fast, and have made the great discovery of “wings” and “flying”.

Lap Chicken

SlideShow Lap Chicken 2

SlideShow Lap Chicken 3

SlideShow Lap Chicken 4

SlideShow Lap Chicken 5

SlideShow Lap Chicken 6

Predator Ponds

          The Mandala Design we are following has a pond featured in the centre of each mandala. The pond is a critical part of the natural pest control system of our garden by enabling a better balance of the predators versus garden pests. We’ve installed a natural pond, without much filtration or attention needed.

           The garden pests are controlled in a natural way using larger predators who can live in plentiful numbers, in and around the pond, e.g. frogs, lizards and spiders, all we do is maintain an environment to nurture the sustainability of the pest control system. A healthy natural pond with plenty of hidy holes in the rocks.

Pond Hole 1

         Construction seen here . . . the only way to dig a hole is with one of these. Introducing “Bill the Excavator” (BillEx) Our newest edition to the workforce, demonstrates Pond Building without the sweat.

Dana & BillEx Pond1

           Started with a basic hole the desired size and depth of about 1,500mm diameter by 450mm deep. Then purchased a rubber liner of the correct size to accommodate our dimensions. Smoothed out the surface of the hole with care, removing all sharp stones or twigs, and then laid the liner straight in/across. Spread over the hole, and held in place around the perimeter with nice looking rocks, just add water, it all stretches, and hey presto! The result is a great looking pond, shown below ready for planting of water plants and herbs in the garden beds surrounding the rocky border.

Pond 1

             We will never walk in this pond as this will definitely cause a puncture in the liner, but the water’s own weight is not enough to cause a puncture. Better to pre-line the bottom of pond hole with sand, and/or old carpet, or similar sheeting to soften the inside of the hole. As we are not going to step in the pond and ours was soft dry powdery clay, we didn’t bother softening the hole with other layers. Hope it’s OK, guess we’ll see what happens.

Chook Broody Coop

The ‘A’ Frame Broody Coop.

          This is an old hardwood ‘A’ frame Broody Coop that we built in about 2004. It has been used as a broody coop for hatching chicks many times, but it ended up being stuck in middle of a fixed chook yard for years, with them roosting on top at night. It literally took shit . . . all over it! The softwood was eaten by termites and the netting in tatters, shown here it has been stripped and refurbished ready for use as broody coop again.

Broody 1

           New netting is Galv Arcmesh, 25mm square by 2.5mm gauge. It is strong and we are confident it is dog, goanna & python proof.  The little verandah roof drops down & when closed iron overlaps to make it completely water and wind proof on this side.

Broody 2

           Access thru little door, with convenient lip so little ones can’t jump out. Also shade-cloth is permanently attached, giving the option of shade on this side and the end.

Broody 4            Light enough for one person to be able to drag around, even with mother & chicks inside,  but heavy enough and shaped so it won’t blow over, or away in strong wind.

Broody 3

Here it is in use showing mother hen and chicks, safe inside secure mesh.

Broody 5

Only hatch four chicks this time, and they coped with the broody design with ease.

Broody 6

           With hay over the mesh floor, and the full view out the end of the ‘A’  it gives it the feel of being free range to the babies. Certainly mother hen has been very happy.

Broody 7

          Mother hen didn’t like the camera and did have a go at it, then herded the babies down to the corner. A little house like this made this an easy experience and we know we will use the broody coop again many times in the future. 

           We have a second ‘old broody coop’ sitting buggered and ready for refurbishment, so now we know this re-design has been successful we’ll rebuild that one too (when we get a spare moment or two!!).

Broody Old


Produce Gallery

Real food – fresh & local. Food miles is about utilising local seasonal food. Many people need to be educated to know what fruit & veg is in season locally, not expect all produce – all year round.

Sometimes we produce fruit & vegies which are classic, and of course this happens when you provide them with a near optimal growing conditions – rich organic soils and the right weather. We have posted pics of some of the more exciting examples from our garden . . .     

Michele below shows a staggered planting of sweet corn. See in foreground the young plants, behind them on the left the corn is just reaching adult size, and on the right the plants are fully mature, very healthy, and bursting with multiple cobs ready for harvest. We’ll be eating fresh corn tonight and for many weeks to come. There are rock melons under the corn on the right, plentiful and nearly ready. Yum.

Corn 3 Stages

Purple Podded Peas, they’re savoury, not sweet, great for pea soup, pea flour, or mushy peas.Purple Podded Peas

 Ruby Lou’s Potato, freshly washed & eaten same day as harvested.Red Potatoes

Rainbow Chard which we call Ozzy Spinach!   Oi Oi Oi (it’s green & gold)Spinach

Tropical Peach – “Prunus Persica” is a native to China

Tropical Peach

We had chickens hatch last xmas (2013) and here is one of the roosters at around six months old, and of course he wasn’t going to lay eggs so he was destined to be roasted. Organic and fresh . . weighing in at 2.2Kg  and absolutely no food miles. If you like chicken, it doesn’t get any better.

Surplus Rooster

Nicely Roasted

Cooked Chook

Below is a photo of a morning’s harvest in early Nov 2013. Michele presented this to her daughter for her birthday.  About 15 varieties of veg, couple of herbs and a dozen eggs, all grown in our permaculture organic garden. 

Today's Pick

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Mandala Layout Guide

          From the diagram below you get a good idea how the Mandala layout should look ideally. Six circle beds all in their own big circle, with a herb bed & pond in the centre. The diagram below suits a mandala using a 3.5mt diameter chook dome. Working with a string line from centre post, mark out the inner circle line for the centre Herb bed and Pond, then mark out the circle line of the centre points of the six circle beds.   (click on diagram to view larger &/or print pdf)Mandala Layout guide

         A hint with this is; The radius of a circle, will divide it’s own circumference into six, well nearly, roughly . . . there-abouts anyway!  So if one gap between circles ends up being a bit wider than the others it’s OK. We deliberately planned our layout to provide a little more width for the main access pathway into the middle of the mandala and pond.

           Hammer in a peg in the centre of each circle bed, and mark out the individual circle outlines of the beds. In our case, we used ‘lime’ to mark the circles, but you can use flour. Then compost up the beds adding horse poo and peanut mulch, plant some buck wheat, cover with mulch hay. Water the bed a plenty and let it settle & the buckwheat shoot and grow a bit, then it’s ready for Chook Dome to move on to it. Freshen the mulch and plant vegie seedlings straight after the dome moves to next bed.

Mandala 1 Planning

Mandala One Layout

          The Chook Dome moves around the two Mandalas (set of circles) in a figure 8 pattern, spending 2 weeks on each bed. This equates to one complete circuit every 6 months. Clockwise on the first Mandala (pic below) and anticlockwise on the second Mandala still in layout (pic below that). Note; Chook Dome sites are only the outside circles, the centre circle is for a pond and perennial herb beds.

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Banana Circles

Turning a disadvantage into an advantage. In the wet season we have a potentially boggy patch on our driveway. Banana Circles have been created alongside the driveway, and able to benefit from channeling excess run off away from the driveway into the circles. The two Banana Circles are side by side, one is slightly uphill from the other, so that when/if the first one floods, the water runs down into the second. Beginning with a backhoe digging out rough circles, heaping up soil around the perimeter. The circles were then more clearly formed by hand, and the rocks within used to support the outer edges. The raised perimeter beds are mulched and further formed into high and low sections. The higher for Pawpaws, and the lower for Bananas, mulch in the centre. Around the outside will be mulch crops, lemon grass, yacon, Egyptian spinach, lucerne etc.

Ex Tropical Cyclone Oswald with buffering winds and torrential rain, sat stationery on us (the Cape) for four days (Jan2013), bringing a much needed 300mm (12″) of rain. This has demonstrated that our water control plan using the circles did indeed work. The water from the higher circle did flow into the lower circle, and did drain off the driveway effectively, meanwhile plants around the circle are powering.

NOTE: (Nov13) Unfortunately the neighbouring horses pushed the ordinary wire fence down and decimated one whole side of the plants. We will post pics when they are restored. 

The photos look at 3 different views of the two circles, and seven photos per view, covering one year.  Just click on the big photo below for a comparison slide show to start . . . .

Critter Proof Fencing

Our definition of a critter proof fence is to keep out bandicoots, rabbits, cane toads, foxes, dingoes, dogs,  kangaroos, wallaroos, wallabies, betongs; and other critters like a neighbour’s stray goat, horse, cow or pig. There are some we will never stop, such as large pythons, and goannas.   Qu “Where does a 300Kg gorilla sit?”  Ans Anywhere he wants!”  The same with +6mt long pythons and +2mt goannas, when we come across them, we gently coerce them to move on, or call wildlife enthusiasts for assistance.
Fence 00
The fence is 165cm high, has three wire strands with dog wire mesh from the top strand 120cm down to the bottom strand about 50cm off the ground. Recycled corrugated iron is hung horizontally along the bottom of the fence, trenched into the the ground about 20cm to 25cm. We found this design of fence is effective in keeping unwanted critters from the garden. Some fences have a skirt buried outwards from the bottom of the fence,  and while this was considered as well, in the last 5 years we haven’t found it necessary. Digging under the buried corro iron will be challenging enough for critters. So in keeping with permaculture principles we have designed a fence which we know to be effective to keep out the critters and pests in our area.

We chose to use galvanised pipe for posts and strainers rather than timber, for longevity reasons and given our local termite issues, we are simply too old to do things twice, or ‘the hard way’. Using galv pipe saved on labour costs and messing with heavy tree trunks and machines. The extra cost ended up being a small price considering the years it will last.

Fence 01

First the corner strainer holes were dug by machine auger, the posts were cut and assembled and concreted in position as one piece, all bolted together. We used 2 inch posts, and 1.1/4 inch angled braces.
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Chook Dome Tractor Old

          A fully functional & ergonomic Chook Dome Tractor is imperative to our garden system. The garden plan involves two domes tracking around four Mandala layouts. The second dome has been built based on this old dome below, and is featured on our page “Chook Dome Building Instructions”. This dome pictured below was built in 2006, small improvements were made during refurbishment in 2012, now it’s back in use and exactly what we want . . . durable & maintenance free.

          There are plenty of chook domes about, but if you have predators of chooks & eggs, then most I’ve seen just aren’t going to cut it. When you have to worry about dingoes & large pythons who will both take several chooks in a night, or smaller pythons and goannas and rats who will leave no eggs, then your dome will need to be strong and secure.

           There are two things that set our our dome design apart from others, i.e. we use a third ring for extra strength, and; the use of a ‘T’ junction at the bottom where the ribs join the base ring. The ‘T’ junction also negates the use of criss-cross wires to pull the dome into shape. We also believe against popular opinion, that it is better to attach the tarp to the dome permanently, and peg down the dome, when strong winds or storms come it’s a whole lot stronger. Chooks don’t like constant flapping tarp noises.

          If you feed your chooks grain supplements as well, then native birds will feed all day. Then dome pictured has small bird wire covering it to prevent birds getting in, and it is behind a dog proof fence. Believe me when I say we had a 7 metre python come one night and take five chooks. If you want to make a dome that is light enough to lift and carry, then we’ve found there is ‘nothing’ you can do to stop a snake of that size, considering the dome doesn’t have a floor, if it did the chooks wouldn’t be able to scratch, so what’s the point? We put a rooster and ten bantam chooks in this size dome.

           This dome has been in use for many years, it survived the brunt of Cyclone Yasi 2011 intact, shown in the picture above during re-netting and new door in 2012. Cyclone preparation was to peg the dome down using long tent pegs, hammered in at an angle holding the ring at the bottom of each rib. We put 4 square bales of hay inside, positioned against the walls, then soaked them with water. Our chooks sheltered between the bales, and afterward the bales were ckockablock full of worms. We didn’t loose a chook.
 We have two perches, hanging from the top ring. Our perches are a branch of un-even thickness from about 35mm to 45mm, each chook will choose a position where the diametre is comfortable for the size of their feet. We found the best idea for a nesting box is an old lawn mower catcher, and you only need one, they’ll all use the same one. Water and grain hangs off the ground from middle ring, but under cover of the tarp.

The back of the dome is mostly covered for shelter from cold winds in winter and rain in the wet season.

           Chook dome door detail; Note a little hatch door below the main door, this is to return escapees back in, simply open the hatch and chase them around and they’ll go straight in, it works. The main door and frame is sheathed by soft poly pipe to prevent us humans from getting scratched when going in & out. The doors are 25mmsqu galv arcmesh 2.5mm gauge, sheathed around the outside with 12mm soft black poly pipe held on with ring clips. This door can be thrown open and slammed with abandon & it continues to close without gaps. Three nifty little ‘flick open’ wire hooks hold it firmly closed.

           Front of dome shows the door section as being ‘flat’ across, so that the door will close without gaps. Construction of the dome is 20mm PVC tube, it is rigid yet flexible and importantly light weight and cheap. Black poly pipe is not rigid enough and will end up floppy and out of shape, also will collapse in strong winds. The joins of the ribs and rings are attached by drilling a hole through both and wiring together using 2mm thick wire. Old wire coat hangers are a good source of free wire. The bottom ring of the dome shown here has “T” junctions where the vertical ribs join, this holds the whole frame quite rigid.

(See Also; Chook Dome – Building Instruction )

This is a rough dome sketch with sizes and measurements. If you have questions about construction, you can leave a message below.