‘Catch and Store Energy’ – how we do it at Milkwood Farm

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‘Catch and Store Energy’ is one of David Holmgren’s twelve permaculture principles. It’s a far-reaching theme that can be applied just as effectively at the home scale as it can be at the larger level of communities and society.

So what are some of the ways we catch and store energy in our home system at Milkwood Farm? I’ll walk you through just a couple… 

Catching and storing energy by harvesting and storing our rainwater supply high in the landscape…

At Milkwood we harvest rainwater off the roof of a large shed build specifically at the highest point of the property. The shed is a massive storage space for the farm, and also collects more rainwater than a small family living in the tiny house could ever use in a year.

Catching and storing the water in this way ensures firstly that we have plenty of drinking water even in times of severe drought.

Catching and storing water at this point on the property also means that our drinking water supply is completely gravity fed – there are no electric pumps or header tanks involved. This ensures another layer of resilience to ensure clean drinking water is always available. More…

Catching and storing energy with solar panels…

This one is fairly self explanatory. We harvest our electrical power needs from the sun. They are stored in a battery bank. We use what we need, when we need it. We take care to minimise our need for electricity where we can to ensure that what we have is enough. More…

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Catching and storing energy with swales and dams…

We catch the rain that falls onto Milkwood Farm in our swale system and direct it into our dams. Once in our dams, that caught and stored energy in the water does many excellent things for us

  • the top dam irrigates our market garden (again, gravity fed)
  • The middle dam creates a thermal buffer for the tinyhouse, regulating the temperature and creating a more pleasant space to live. It also throws reflected winter sunlight up into the tinyhouse, making for a happier winter home
  • The bottom dam is our water in reserve – in times of drought or bushfire we can access this water where needed with a pump. In the meantime it creates habitat and stores energy that way. More… 

Catching and storing energy with thermal mass…

The tinyhouse has been built as a passive solar building, to make the most of winter sunlight and avoid summer sun. The sunshine in the cooler months of the year shines inside and warms the chocolate concrete slab, which then releases that stored heat energy throughout the night

Accompanied by highly insulated wattle-and-daub walls, this interior thermal mass ensures that any sunlight that enters our house during winter is caught and stored for later use, minimising the need to extra heating. More…

Catching and storing energy with worms…

There’s no such thing as waste, only stuff in the wrong place. We catch and store the embodied energy in food scraps with our many worm farms. The worms process this ‘waste’ energy back into nutritious, organic inputs for our market garden. More…

Catching and storing energy with a deep-litter chicken run…

The chooks in our gravity fed chicken run eat our food scraps. Their manure is partly processed by the deep litter system in their run, and at the bottom of the system we can access a well aged, semi-composted straw/manure mix that is a high nutrient input for vegetable growing and tree planting. More…

So that’s just a few of the ways we try to catch and store energy in many forms at Milkwood Farm. There’s gazillions more examples in place, of course. And another gazillion to implement!

Having catch and store energy in the back of our minds when designing, building or digging at Milkwood helps us layer functions and look to see ‘what else could this element do while it’s doing that’.

And as I’m sure you know, when you’re trying to stick lots of little pieces of time, space, chicken poo and sunlight together to make a functional small farm (or a backyard) system, you need all the help you can get.

Using this strategy of catching and storing energy wherever we can is already bringing in benefits – no power bills, nutrient dense food production based on good nutrient inputs, reliable, power-free water supply for drinking and growing. And we’re looking forward to upping our abilities to catch and store more energy of more kinds as we go, to further enrich our small  farm system.

You can read more about David Holmgren’s permaculture principles here.

Also we are very proud to be hosting David as a guest teacher on our July Urban Permaculture Design Course and also for an Advanced Permaculture Principles course straight after, if you want to get your fill of principles-based awesomeness from the co-originator of permaculture.

>> More posts about permaculture design


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8 responses to “‘Catch and Store Energy’ – how we do it at Milkwood Farm

  1. You folks are living my aspirations for a sustainable life. I grew up not far from Mudgee, but moved to Sydney for employment, and have been an urban resident ever since, (a very long time). We have done what we can here on our little piece of paradise, solar panels, rainwater tanks, chooks etc., and feel pleased to be able to contribute (somewhat) to reducing our effect on the resources of the planet. I follow that old 70’s exhortation, think globally, act locally. All the very best for your future endeavours, I shall be watching and learing.

  2. i just your site through a search for permaculture blogs, and am already in awe of the systems you’ve got in place. it’ll be fun to read back through archives, especially with such beautiful pictures. this is only my second year having livestock on my little homestead, and given how much water we all end up drinking in the summer, i Love your technique of catching and storing water at the highest possible point. thank you, gravity!

  3. Congratulations to the Milkwood team. Your farm is fabulous, and your are all an inspiration to the rest of us, with all the good work you are doing.


  4. Have a look at http://www.droughtbuster.com.au in a few days time when we get the first photo’s of our rain panels which I have installed on my farm in Bathurst NSW. These are HDPE moulded with a ballast trough and were very successful the other day collect rain water into our dam. This is the first installation anywhere and should be considered any where where the rain fall in sporadic and most of the rainfall ends up soaking into the ground.

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