Candlelight Farm

The original Candlelight Farm was a 2 acre permaculture (Pc) property is located 30 kilometres east of Perth, Western Australia, in the Darling Range. When Candlelight Farm started in Hovea, in 1992, the property contained little more then a few gum trees. It was designed as a demonstration of a permaculture system. The farm has come along since then, but has now been sold and the current new owners are continuing to develop the property. It is not available for tours.

The property has a passive solar house, greywater re-use system, intensive gardens, aquaculture tanks and nursery, general plant propagation areas, large variety of poultry, compost production, worm farm, specialist fruit and nut trees, and heaps more.

Candlelight Farm, Hovea, is a solar passive home and contains

  • Rammed earth bricks
  • Solar air heaters
  • Natural timber finishes
  • Rammed earth paths

Domestic on-site waste disposal system

  • DOWMUS dry composting toilet
  • Approved greywater disposal and infiltration system
  • Trials of greywater treatment using flowforms and native plants for nutrient stripping

Companion planted gardens

  • Orchard areas

Propagation areas

  • Hot house
  • Shadehouse

Compost production areas

Specialist trees

  • Fodder species – tagasaste, acacias, oaks, poplars, grasses and bamboos
  • Fruit and nut trees
  • Water, salt and clay tolerant species
  • Dryland species

The new Candlelight Farm is currently been developed at a new property in Mundaring. Candlelight Farm is also the name of the permaculture business,  and you can order books and videos/DVD’s published by Candlelight Farm.

Candlelight Farm: where theory and practice converge

Candlelight Farm is a 1 ha property in Mundaring, which is about 30 km east of Perth. Besides being like many clichés that it is a demonstration site for permaculture, the property is quite unique. We were fortunate enough to buy the property which had some unusual trees to begin with – bottle kurrajong, giant bamboo, irish strawberry tree and many more, all of which were planted by a man who started the local nursery.

From the very beginning, since late 2006, there has been a conscious three-pronged approach to develop this property:

  1. Setting up and monitoring research-based endeavours;
  2. A site where it is possible to examine the various permaculture
    design principles in action;
  3. Where people could experience sustainable living practices.

Let’s have a brief look at each in turn.

Research

Having a scientific background makes research methodologies and strategies relatively easy to undertake. The focus so far has been on growing soil – trialling various compost production methods, making compost teas and biofertiliser, adding soil amendments (such as dolomite) to the acidic clay soil, and changing the nutrient balance of the soil to see the effect of corresponding changes to weed populations.

There has also been a focus on water, and this has included rebuilding a Biolytix wastewater treatment plant, water and nutrient management strategies for the nursery, treating the bore water to change its composition, and monitoring the function and nutrient output of an aerated wastewater treatment plant (Klaro) and two greywater diversion systems – one for main house and one for cottages.

Having nursery facilities also permits trials of germination and propagation techniques for different plants (including various bush tucker and bush medicine plants), and many of these types of experiments have been undertaken by accredited permaculture training students.

Permaculture design principles

Without listing and discussing all of these, you can examine large scale organic waste recycling, extensive appropriate building technologies (including 8 star strawbale buildings used as Mundaring Ecostay), energy production (6 kW solar system), integration of the landscape with buildings, polycultures and guilds, restoration of degraded landscapes (resulting in conservation of endemic species – especially the quenda and a multitude of birds that live here), and opportunities to observe, interact and respond to our environment.

According to Mollison it should be “everything gardens” – and basically the site is with food production all-year-round, including many varieties of fruit and nut trees, bush tucker, useful herbs and multifunctional plants.

Living practices

Permaculture is about designing human settlements, and therefore showcasing best practices for living sustainably. This doesn’t mean you have to live simplistically or extremely frugally. Not everything has to be low-tech, but living more simply can have its benefits.

Candlelight Farm does have a number of simple, appropriate technologies to see, such as the use of building materials that include rammed earth, strawbale, mudbricks, integrated roofing panels (ceiling, insulation and roof all in one), and cooking and heating low-tech solutions such as solar drier and oven, wood stoves and a haybox cooker.

At the same time we embrace modern technologies such as heat pumps for hot water (preheated by solar water panels), an aerobic treatment plant for wastewater recycling to irrigate gardens, mains water switching devices to allow town water to enter house fixtures when the rainwater is depleted, cold water diversion from the HWS to a rainwater tank, greywater diversion devices to capture effluent from bathrooms and laundry for garden irrigation use, and grid-connected solar power.

All of this makes a great learning and teaching environment, and Candlelight Farm continues to change and develop to showcase best practice in irrigation, building, food production, energy and water.