DMK Permaculture

Permaculture Mandala Garden, Chicken Tractor Design


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We have a Stall at our Local Markets

Lately we have been marketeers, having become regular stallholders at our local markets for the last few months now. We are enjoying participating in our local community in this way, and it seems a two way thing with locals, and that’s gotta be good. We offer our excess produce and vegie seedlings for sale, along with timber work from our timber creations enterprise, and other knickknacks.

Our produce is utterly grown ‘clean’ and with the season changing rapidly the cooler climate vegies will be available very soon. We will have more on offer in the coming weeks.

Our seedlings are grown at home by us, they are 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:-

Innot Hot Springs on the 1st Saturday of the month, starting in March

Archers Creek on the 2nd Sunday of the month.

Tumoulin on the 4th Sunday of the month.

DMK Innot Hot Market 09 15


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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


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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.


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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


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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.


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Chook Dome Building Instructions

In true Permaculture spirit, we supply this information to other Permies for free,
there are no catches, no sign ups or registering emails, simply view or print and use with our best wishes.

The Dome featured was built in Dec 2013. Scroll down this page for a full detail set
of step by step instructions including photos.

Or… Click Here for Detailed Printable Instructions (pdf 4.3Mb)

Dome Build 51 We have built a new chook dome for our garden, also known to some people as a “chicken tractor” or a “chicken dome”. We now have two domes in operation circulating around the garden. This new Dome is made to our original dome plan sketch below, and we have posted photos and instructions of each step of the construction for you to follow.

Note that there are two things that set our our dome design apart from others you may have seen. ONE: We use a third horizontal ring for extra strength. And most importantly TWO: The use of a glued ‘T’ junction at the bottom where the ribs meet the base ring. Incorporating this ‘T’ junction negates the use of criss-cross wires to pull the dome into shape as per Linda Woodrow’s design. ALSO: Our experience clearly demonstrates (against popular opinion) that it is better to attach the tarp to the dome permanently, and then peg down the dome when strong winds or storms come, it is a whole lot stronger.

This post is a pictorial with instructions and hints on “How To Do It” . . . or rather more accurately . . . “How We Did It” The following is only a guide, plenty of handy women & men, can take one look at Linda Woodrow’s dome concept and its principles, and run with it and work out a pretty good facsimile for themselves. We have posted how we approached this construction, and hope it will act as a useful guide to the complete novice, or a reference of “how the hell they did it” to the experienced builder.

OUR DOME Dec13

We are estimating the whole dome will cost about A$250 to A$300. It is difficult to put an accurate figure on this because we already have some of the materials we’ll be using, but they are not expensive, and can last for years.

Click on Sketch for Closer Look

The sketch of the design DMK Dome#3 is of our existing 8 year old dome, which had a recent upgrade and refurbishment, can be seen featured at our page Chook Dome Tractor Old

A second dome was necessary to expand our garden from two Mandalas to four, with two domes rotating as planned. We had eggs incubating under a broody chook at the time of writing this post, eventually to fill this dome, so we had to get moving and be ready to move the hatch-lings in a few weeks. In the meantime the chicks will be in bliss in the recently refurbished broody pen below. It’s quite literally goanna & dog proof, and large snake proof. For more details on this Broody Coop, click on picture below.

Broody 1

BUT WHY USE A DOME?

There are other good reasons for persevering with a dome rather than a square shape. Chooks can be bitchy girls indeed, and the will naturally establish their pecking order – literally pecking the weaker chooks! Being a circular cage, it is difficult for the weaker chooks to be cornered, after chasing around a couple of laps, they all forget what they were doing, so the maintaining of the pecking order is not so relentless as in a cage with corners. They will be much happier chooks.

Second important reason for a dome is the shape has minimal wind resistance. We’ve had domes go through a couple of cyclones and the shape is more sleek than a square shape. If the tractor is light enough to lift and move, it will also be light enough to blow away or be blown over. We wedged four square bales of hay inside our dome and used a few hefty tent pegs around the base ring where the ribs come down. We faced the dome opening into a sheltered direction from wind. The bales got wet & heavy very quickly, the second cyclone we even pre-wet them, and the chooks sheltered on the ground between them, we didn’t loose a chook. The ground was so wet that worms were looking for higher dryer ground, and what we found after the cyclone was a bonus . . . the bales were chock-a-block full of worms.

Our garden system closely follows Linda Woodrow’s mandala circles system, as per her book, The Permaculture Home Garden. Our garden beds are circles thereby maximising the Permaculture Edge Principle, so the dome is built to fit neatly over the beds. It’s a ‘no dig’ system where the dome and it’s chooks become the tractor. The dome has to be light enough to get inside and lift and carry, yet strong and sturdy enough not fall apart when you do. It has to be rigid enough to last a long time and not go out of shape, and withstand strong winds and storms.

THE DOME CONSTRUCTION . . . Step by Step

It is important to use PVC tube of 20mm diameter. Do not use the black poly pipe as it will slump and change shape dramatically on a hot day, or in a strong winds. Do not use electrical conduit, it is smaller and has less wall thickness and not as strong or flexible. The internet is littered with examples of dome failures using these. Stick to the white PVC pipe, it is cheap and easy to use.

As the dome building description is long & detailed, the process has been divided into six sections . . .

Clickable Section Index:

BASE RING and RIBS
FITTING the RINGS
MAKING the DOORS
NETTING the DOME
FITTING the DOORS
ATTACHING the TARP

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