We’ve had sheep on our property now for over 3 years and each year we have them shorn around November to help them keep cool over the long, hot, Australian summer. We have a great mobile shearer who comes to us and does them in the yards, which is fantastic for small producers who don’t have all the facilities of a complete shearing shed.
Each year he leaves us with a whole lot of sheep fleece which we have stored in our farm shed. Some people have suggested that we use it for mulch – it certainly seems to take a long time to break down and would be great for covering bare soil. Suffolk sheep’s wool doesn’t have a very long staple and this can make it challenging to spin – but not impossible. Learning to spin is on my list of things to do, but in the meantime the fleece is piling up!
We decided that we could use it to insulate our shed (the one that we are lining) to make it a bit cosier. I also decided that because it had been out in the paddock on the back of our sheep for around 12 months it needed cleaning. Below is the ‘before’ photo…
At this stage we don’t have hot running water on the farm. We have our spring-fed dam and three rainwater tanks to supply all the water we need. All cold water. Anyone who has ever owned a lovely woollen jumper or scarf knows that wool needs to be washed in warm water to stop it shrinking, or worse, felting. Or so I thought …
After a bit of research and asking anyone if they knew anything about how I could clean the wool, a sister of a friend told me about a cold fermenting method to clean the wool. You can find it here and it looks like this – all woolly and nice!
So I bought myself a couple of big laundry bags (the type made of net, with a draw string top), a couple of BIG black tubs from the cheap shop, as recommended by Wool Ewe, and prepared the first batch. I left it for a couple of weeks to ferment. This process doesn’t remove the leaf litter or the dags, I do that when the fleece is dry. Some of the leaves are still in there – mainly because this wool is going in the walls of the shed and they are just a bit more organic matter to add to the insulation! If I was planning on spinning the wool, I would be a lot fussier about it’s final condition.
Here is the fermented water and the bag full of wool going in – I’ve had this brew going for around 12 months now, so it is really, really pongy! But it does a great job of cleaning the fleece.
Once it has brewed for around a week, we lay it out onto the racks which we picked up from a builder’s rubbish pile next door to my mother-in-law’s place and they are just perfect for laying out the fleece to dry in the sun.
From here it goes into the walls of the shed – to keep us warm and cosy as a lamb on a cold winter’s night (I hope!).
It’s nice to know that all this wool that they have produced isn’t going to waste – the more I live this permie life the more excited I get about finding uses for what others consider to be waste. What waste product can you turn into something useful? I’d love to hear what you’ve found!
PURPLE PEAR FARM in New South Wales, Australia, is a permaculture and biodynamic farm with rotating tractor domes over mandala garden beds, pigs, chooks and some great philosophy.
Mark, a Permaculture Australia member, and Kate run a small community supported agriculture scheme, offering vege boxes to their local community.
Purple Pear is one of Australia’s smaller, family-owned farms trading in their local economy. Doing that is a means of increasing food security (and here) year-round reliable access to good food, locally.
So just how relevant or valuable IS an American farmer like Joel Salatin coming to Australia to talk small farm skills and enterprise planning?
As it turns out, quite a lot. The techniques + thinking of Polyface Farms’ founder has influenced many amazing small farm enterprises in Australia that we know of, helping them to thrive, and feed their communities with good clean food in the process.
In February, Joel Salatin will visit Australia for the 6th time to talk turkey. And chickens. And cows, and interns, and on-farm processing, and integrated market gardening, and pigs, and many other things besides.
Over the years that Joel’s been coming to our shores, we’ve seen Joel effect, activate and inspire folks of every scale, ever landscape, and every budget, to either get farming or get more involved in their food system.
Of course, this is not a magic bullet situation – far from it.
All the folks we’re talking about here were already motivated and determined to make farming clean food their livelihoods.
And many of them were already doing it – with skill and with passion.
In some cases, I think it was a case of editing existing growing systems, farm designs or enterprises.
For others, it was the activation they needed to explode out of passive land ownership into the amazing, challenging and rewarding life’s work that is a small farm enterprise based on ethics, clean food and a regenerative landscape + economy.
Here’s a few stellar Australian farm projects we know who took Joel’s knowledge to heart, and added it to their farming futures:
Buena Vista Farm – NSW
Fiona + Adam Weir-Walmsley returned to Fiona’s family farm in Gerringong NSW a few years ago, with a resolution to start a small mixed-enterprise farm providing clean food (and cooking skills) to their community.
Attending a workshop with Joel Salatin in 2012 had a major effect on the direction of their enterprise, and a recent chat with Joel helped with nutting out some issues with their layers + also meat birds.
Here’s what Adam had to say about Joel’s influence on their enterprise…
“I read an article by Joel at a stage where we had moved back to the family farm but were still undecided about what or how we wanted to farm. Joel planted a seed in our mind about the possibilities of diversified farming on a small area, farming in a way that had the potential to provide a living and improve the land we lived on.
While we weren’t particularly experienced ( i.e. not at all!) Joel gave us the inspiration and the confidence to give it a go, make mistakes but learn from them, and do what you are passionate about. And so we did…..”
The Buena Vista crew currently focus on pastured broiler chickens, pastured eggs, farm kitchen fare (from pastured chicken liver pate to ferments) and seasonal pastured pork + vegetables. www.buenavistafarm.com.au
Southhampton Homestead – WA
Jeff Pow + Michelle McManus established Southhampton Homestead as a: “small family farm producing chickens and Muscovy ducks on 120 acres of beautiful farmland near Balingup in the Southwest of Western Australia. Our animals are hand-reared on perennial pastures, insects and sunshine. The way they are supposed to be. At Southampton Farm we harvest and prepare the birds by hand in our custom-built poultry processor – a modern, fully equipped and approved micro-abattoir and butcher room. The result is great-tasting and naturally nutritious food for our customers.”
Citing Joel Salatin + Polyface Farms as their initial inspiration, these folks have a knack for finding just the right bits to make their enterprise sing (including a micro-abattoir AND a duck plucking machine…).
Here’s what Jeff had to say about Joel’s influence…
“At Southampton Homestead and Farm, applying the Polyface methodology has led Michelle and I to build WA’s only pasture-raised chicken operation, establishing buying clubs, dealing directly with our customers, with the icing on the cake being our on-farm micro-abattoir.
After a devastating bushfire wiped out the farm, Joel, Daniel and Sheri Salatin visited us in 2014 and further inspired and energised us to push through the bureaucratic and heavily regulated food environment to establish on-farm processing.”
And so they have. We can’t wait to watch Jeff + Michelle evolve their farm in the coming years. www.southamptonhomestead.com
Allsun Farm – NSW
Joyce Wilkie + Michael Plane established Allsun Farm in Gundaroo over 25 years ago as a ‘garden farm’ focussed on organic vegetables + pastured eggs, with side products including ducks, broiler chickens, pigs and other seasonal extras.
Their friendship with Joel goes way back, and each has hung out at the other’s farm multiple times – there’s a great video here of a kitchen chat between these two crews.
Here’s what Joyce had to say about Joel:
“Farming is never about dogma – it is always about taking the things we know deeply, the knowledge infused from our parents and early teachers, the books we read and the people we meet, and using all that, and our own creative abilities, to make the best possible use of our land, our climate and our abilities.
The best thing about the Salatins is that they have, by example, encouraged us to experiment, learn and most importantly think for ourselves.”
You can read our archive of posts + resources about Allsun farm or visit their farm + toolshop here: www.allsun.com.au
Taranaki Farm – VIC
Ben Falloon runs Taranaki Farm at Woodend with his two daughters and seasonal interns. He’s implemented many systems based on Polyface Farms’ influence, including forested pigs, egg mobiles, holistically managed cattle and broiler chicken tractors.
Ben has also taken inspiration from Polyface Farm’s ‘buying club’ model that sees direct farmer-to-consumer relationships, creating value for the community and a living wage for the farmer. Here’s what he had to say about Joel’s influence on his enterprise:
“What Joel Salatin inspires is HOPE – for both farmers and local communities. His tireless work and educational advocacy toward a farmer’s right to earn a respectable living is profound.
Beyond developing Taranaki Farm using Keyline principles, we’ve been hard at work adapting Joel’s farming methods to the local context, implementing classic Polyface enterprises here in Victoria, Australia.
We’re adamant supporters of Polyface Farm’s mission statement which is to “create ecologically, emotionally and economically enhancive prototypes and facilitate their duplication around the world.”
You can see more about what Ben and his crew get up to at www.taranakifarm.com.au
The Farm at Byron Bay – NSW
Devised as a Community Supported Agriculture project that also boasts on-farm cafe, education, agritourism and a food-based enterprise hub, The Farm is a larger scale project to many of the family-scale examples above.
However, speaking with Will Cotteril, the farm’s general manager, revealed that Joel’s influence is alive and well in a farm project – The Farm hopes to create holon enterprises (independant businesses that share central resources that would be inaccessible to a small enterprise) along Polyface lines.
Here’s what Will had to say about Joel’s influence:
“The one thing about Joel and his approach to farming that has left the biggest impression on me, has been his constant ability to challenge the norm.
So many farmers do what they do because that’s the way it’s always been done but Joel makes us stop this repetitive cycle and look outside the square. Whether it be his actual farming methodology or how he is multi-stacking businesses under his Polyface umbrella, he is always looking at ways to improve what he and more importantly, others do.
What sets Joel apart from so many others is the fact that he is walking the walk while he is talking the talk. Very often we confronted by teachers that know their stuff but have never successfully put it into practice. Joel has done it. What’s more, he’s still doing it.
This for me, is what makes his message so much more powerful. All credit to him, and his family, for making such a positive impact on the art of regenerative agriculture.”
More about this new project at www.thefarmbyronbay.com.au
And of course, there’s many, many more Aussie farms that have been influenced in spired in ways both big and small, by Polyface Farms. It’s good stuff, people.
So there you go – not bad for one guy in a hat (representing the amazing and enduring team of family + crew that have created Polyface Farm, of course). And we rekon there’s plenty more that Joel has to give.
So if you’re farming, or thinking of farming one day, please join us in February! Along with our mates at RegenAG, we’re bringing Joel to Australia to get a bunch more folks inspired to build apon their own knowledge and gumption, and get things growing…
You Can Farm: The entrepreneur’s guide to start and succeed in a farming enterprise…
We’re also sorting out some webinars with Joel while he’s in Aus which will drive to the heart of specific enterprises – things like pastured chickens, pastured pigs, and setting up an enterprise on rented land. Make sure you’re on our mailing list to hear about those once they’re live.
Or, if you’re in Queensland, never fear! Our mates at RegenAG have a full program of Joel Salatin workshops etc for you to join in.
We hope to see you there! Please tell your friends and community and help us get the word out? It’s going to be awesome.