Enabling change in our Society, Environment and Economy (SEE)

OBFT: Roogulli, Bywong

6 April 2014

Story by: Lucia Mayo, Woden SEE-Change member

24 SEE-Change members and friends travelled to Roogulli, Bywong on a pleasant Sunday afternoon. It was a fine cloudy/sunny day with light winds. It is 19 kilometers off the Federal Highway.

Roogulli is a long narrow undulating block with a northern aspect and creek frontage. This block was chosen because an undulating block has more micro climates. The land was purchased 16 years ago, Chris and Jennie have been resident with their children for 6 years. Jennie is a landscape architect who works in Bungendore which is only 20 minutes drive or ½ hr by bike.

The land had been heavily grazed by both horses and sheep and had only 7 eucalypt trees and also a lot of native and exotic weeds. There is a large dam behind the house which supplies all their water needs. Chris and Jennie were keen to do restoration of this heavily grazed block so over a thousand trees have been planted. The strategy was to plant, water and then leave trees to fend for themselves.

Swales have been constructed in the area above the vegetable garden to reduce the water pooling that can occur after heavy downpours. This has been very successful.

Chris and Jennie have llamas and alpacas (7 castrated males) for keeping grass under control. Jennie makes very original creations from the felt processed from their wool.

The house is a corrugated iron building, which is self sufficient in water and solar power for hot water and heating.  LPG is used for cooking. They also have a composting toilet and a grey water system.

Recycled materials have been used whenever available. These were sourced from landscaping business contacts and their building activities. Building the house took ten years before the family moved in.

The house garden is purely ornamental with native grasses and cultivars that need no irrigation. Some native grasses have proved problematic as they are a fire hazard and are hard to control. A paved area between the house and front garden includes several large wicking beds containing small fruit trees, herbs and some vegetables. It is protected from frost and wind by a mud brick wall, as it is colder than Canberra and can be quite windy.

This wicking technique is working very successfully.  Minimal watering is required as there is a reservoir to support plants in the base of the beds. These beds have been constructed from recycled metal IBC containers which can be sourced from rural suppliers.

A short distance from the house there is an enclosed fruit, herb and vegetable garden which appeared to me to be an example of the companion planting concept. However, I was informed this was not planned. Herbs are planted along path edges.  The netting is to keep out cockatoos. Chooks are kept in this vegetable garden area.

Chris has done some experiments with wicking beds including a poly-tunnel with an in-ground wicking bed. The trench is spade-width lined with black plastic leaving about ten centimeters of soil exposed to facilitate capillary action. Wood chips and soil were used as a planting medium. The trench is covered with planking which provides the pathway. There is also second in-ground wicking bed without the poly-tunnel cover.

NB both wicking beds and swales are permaculture strategies.

Wicking beds The boys Large netted kitchen garden away from house chooks Jennie with herd Jennie and Chris talking to the group

With thanks to our


  • ACT Government Environment and Planning
  • The Association of Independent Schools of the ACT (AISACT)
  • Catholic Education Office (Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn)
  • Education and Training Directorate
  • ACT Government