Over the last 10 years PSI has been creating a permaculture demonstration site at Bandusia Country Retreat and the adjacent PSI Farm. The power of a demonstration site we believe is the best way to share and influence knowledge about ecologically sustainable buildings. PSI has offered a range of natural building workshops providing the theory on each of the methods and hands-on experience with the participants building complete structures for a full learning experience. These include a Wattle and Daub structure; a strawbale structure; and earthbag dome structure and a bamboo structure.This year’ s natural building structure is a geodesic dome which will become our greenhouse. PSI has drawn upon expert trainers in each field to teach the workshops. Come and check them all out next time you visit, take a tour or do a workshop or course here.

The Strawbale Building

Now sitting beautifully in the landscape this structure provides an ideal chicken home. It provides excellent insulation, ventilation and insulation,  regulation of temperature and protection from the elements, and fire and predator protection. It also offers noise control from roosters. The bales were stacked on a raised slab, providing another enclosure underneath.  The bales were then rendered. The chicken house adjoins a food forest so the chickens can access both the food forest behind or grass out the front. This is regulated to manage the needs of the flock and the food forest.   Inside is also rendered with lime render to minimise pests and can be hosed down as required. The windows are nesting boxes that can be accessed from out-side.

The Bamboo Dome

The bamboo dome provides a perfect home for our ducks. It provides excellent ventilation,

protection from the elements and predators and an ideal home for ducks for sleeping and nesting. The bamboo, grown and harvested from site, is split then curved into a dome then covered with wire mesh and rendered. It’s strong and waterproof. A pond is attached to the dome the ducks can access and that provides extra protection. The pond water fertigates the food forest downslope, running into a swale that then irrigates the fruit trees.  

The Earthbag dome

This large dome built into the earth and made out of earthbags provides and unique, safe and comfortable home for our turkeys to sleep and nest in. It is made from hessian bags filled with earth from the site stacked upon each other then tied and rendered. The whirly-gig on top sucks the hot air out from inside. The turkey earth dome was invaluable to us in the recent bushfires that came right to the back of the turkey enclosure. Being super cool inside most of the time it makes a perfect fire shelter for them.

The Wattle and Daub Hut

The Wattle and Daub hut is another example here of a structure that is ecologically sound, energy efficient and financially affordable. This is how many of the houses were once built by the early settlers and some still outlive the modern.  Made of local natural materials, the foundation is formed from on-site rocks at the base. We then used privet to weave the walls before rendering them with mud and lime. The only purchase was the gal roof and some screws. The hut will now be used for temporary accommodation and other purposes but, most importantly, it serves as another example of what you can do yourself with some input from a workshop.

The Geodesic Dome

This geodesic dome when constructed at our next workshop will become our greenhouse on the PSI farm. The geodesic dome is an energy efficient design – it is the strongest, lightest and most efficient means of enclosing space. It can handle the strongest storms of wind, rain and snowfall. It  also offers another alternative to a low-cost tiny home. Here we will be using it as a glasshouse for growing and propagating plants for the adjoining mandala vegetable garden.

The Tiny Home Caravan

Whilst we love making new structures we also like to retrofit and renew existing ones like our caravan. The big retrofit of the on-site caravan continues with furnishings being built in and made like new from mostly recycled materials. The 10 r’s come to mind here – renew, refuse, reuse, restore, renovate, repair, repurpose, retrofit, and recycle.  Stay tuned for more to come on this in future news.