Wongari Eco Retreat



110psi Free Flowing

We are happy to announce the arrival of water at Kumbartcho. Removing all air from the pipe ensured that we achieved the expected 115psi. When connected to our soon-to-arrive Powerspout generator we hope to produce upwards of one kilowatt per hour, every hour of the day, week, year, decade ……. Then the sad news. It will only produce 2/3rds of what I was hoping. 650 watts per hour. It’s possible that the volume flow is too small but none of this was anticipated. Nevertheless, because the power is generated 24/7 every week of the year, regardless of weather conditions, then we will still be producing, over the day, more than we will need, nearly 15.6Kw. I think we can live with that. We can for the fact that we have a battery bank, and still only four in number, to even out the highs and the lows – and some other clever electrical equipment that will help send power to where it is needed, and when it is not.

The build is taking a little longer than anticipated but for good reasons we hope. The first: it is a quality build and we are not taking any shortcuts. And because we have two very good builders, father and son team, Kev and Chris, we are also adding features that could not have been anticipated from the original drawings we got. We are very relaxed and comfortable with the build and hope that our guests there will be too.

The other reason is how one decision causes a flow through – and the consequences are in time, labour and costs. Like adding the carport to the cabin. A great idea from our builders but how to get a road down there? And what about the over-the-surface water on a relatively steep slope? And who ever thought the septic was going to end up under it all? And did we ever tell you how slippery and dangerous wet, reactive clay soils are?

One aspect that needs attention is the landscaping. While the country that hosts our cabin is magic and imposing, the paddock it sits in was also used for dairy farming. Just as well really as the small access road, the two septic trenches required and the mountain of rocks dug up have not resulted in the destruction of one tree. On the other side of the equation we have planted upwards of 250 trees with plans to double this number.

We are trying to plant only those trees that are indigenous to this area like the giant water gum and river creek fig. We aren’t planting any Silky Oaks, native hibiscus or Red Ceders as these are self-seeding at an astonishing rate. We’re estimating that for every one of our plantings, another six are regrowth. And whereas we only plant occassionally, regrowth is a continual event. The rainforest is advancing faster than we can make way for it. One exception to the above rule is the Hoop Pine. We can’t get enough of these big fellas. They self-seed where they can but we’re impatiently planting in the gaps. When you see the grove of Hoop Pines that Kumbartcho sits in you will understand why.

But we have more rock walls to build, a driveway to construct, painting, oiling, fire pit, electricity and fit-out, tiles, fences, weed control, creek restoration, rails, stairs and, did I forget, finishing touches. So I may have to come back to this blog in a short while.


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Kumbartcho Up Update

Nature dwarfs our modest structure, Kumbartcho

Nature dwarfs our modest structure, Kumbartcho

Kumbartcho (native for Hoop Pine) is a happening thing. Out of the ground and looking very insignificant. Which is great. We tried to minimise its impact but have been overly pleased by the way nature has done it for us. I hope you like the photo. It shows the skelelton of a structure in the midst of an imposing grandeur. That’s from afar. Inside the structure it is quite different. You feel a little more a part of your surrounds and the sound of the creek passing by is soothing and exciting. Damn that generator!

Unfortunately (fortunately in the long term :), we don’t have mains electricity, or any source of power for Kumbartcho yet. We’re still in limbo with getting the water down to the cabin from our spring-fed Waterfall Creek and to the Powerspout turbine it will be driving. After that, us novices will have to connect it all up so that it can successfully power the cabin – but no tools. I’m in debt here to my electrician brother, Damon. I know it will be a success and another arrow in the quiver for sustainability – if only on our personal scale of things.

Our hydro-electric power ambitions are more invisible than Kumbartcho itself. It comes from a creek source some 120m above and along nearly 800m of 50mm piping till it drives a turbine 20m from where Kumbartcho now nestles. When it is working it will (hopefully) generate upwards of one kilowatt an hour ….. 24/7! With all led lighting, gas bbq and stove stop, and no excesses like a spa or oil heater (fireplace only :), we hope to have enough reserve in the system to make do – in a not so modest way.

The best thing about the hydro system is not just that it is a renewable source generating the electricity but that the water used is returned straight back to the creek from which it came. Given that we live on the dryest continent on earth this is as rare an eco opportunity as it is pleasing. And the pluses multiply: the turbine of choice, Powerspout from Ecoinnovtion of New Zealand, is made out of 68% recycled materials.

Wherever possible we have strived to make eco-sensitive choices. Sometimes those choices are easy to make. Like the rock retaining walls that we are making in every direction. We have a big need for rock retaining walls because the site is situated high on a relatively steep slope. This way it shares the hoop pine canopies with the birds and mammals of Wongari. We’ve used the walls for the driveway; for water management; and for the placing of the water tank. Fortunately for us, rocks and boulders grow out of our grounds. No more rocks other than those found while clearing the site have needed to be used – and still we have many left over. It has turned out to be an invaluable resource and it is simply right under our feet in thick, clayey, reactive soils.

So we’re not long into the build and are now waiting for the roofing spans to arrive in order to proceed. There will be a slight delay as the roofing is taking nearly five times longer to deliver then we anticipated. However, we’re appreciating the opportunity to move other projects forward. But that is another story for another time.

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Kumbartcho is starting to take form despite persistent rain and clay type soils that turn gumboots into cement shoes. We’re at the stage of putting joists over the beams so we can nail our floor down. The pace is rapid and in the experienced hands of our builders, Kev and Chris, it is certain and adaptive. We’re making changes on the run and it is all for the better. It might just be the mountains and beautiful days that are making us feel good but the knowledge that a good job is being done has its own rewards as well.

As for the hydro electric unit we hope to install…. It also has been a challenge and sharp learning curve. It has taken us many weeks to lay the pipe just 500m. We have 300m to go. Thankfully, it is all downhill, so to speak, from here. But we have come to yet another delay. While we have managed to get water through the pipe we are also battling with air getting into the pipes. Air and water flow do not mix. Until we can get ourselves another air-release valve we will have to wait before we can go further down the hill and test our final pressure. We are quietly confident that all will end well.

Out of the Ground

So little and yet it feels like a cabin already

50mm pipe to hrydro

Weaving Through Forest


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The Festival of the Farm Gate

Keep Saturday June the 25th free because it is ‘Festival of the Farm Gate’ time again. Part of the Scenic Rim ‘Eat Local Week’ it is a great day for visitor and residents of the great South East. It is especially good for us here on Christmas Creek as this is the first time we will be featuring a rare and locally sourced Vintage Car collection. From the back of these utes and sulkies farm fresh groceries locally sourced will be available for the discerning buyer. We hope to see you all here for a great weekend. Make a full weekend of it and plan ahead by visiting our Farm Gate Festival web site.

Below is a copy of the invite our collective, theLostWorld, dropped in the letter boxes of locals. Our festival, it seems, is being warmly received as it is as much about community as the attraction for visitors.

Farm Gate Festival: coming to a gate near you – again

Dear Neighbour,

In a nutshell, operators on our tourist drive, the Kerry Valley and Christmas Creek Road via the Darlington Connection Road, and collectively known as the Lost World, are opening our gates and offering our produce and selected acitivities to all who wish to take part – yet again.

It follows on the last two year’s success so we are naturally very excited about it again this year. It has brought a new form of celebration into our region; it show-cases the diversity and quality of our region; and it will continue to give locals who have something to offer an opportunity to do just that. Travellers now see the Scenic Rim as a destination on its own merits. We have a lot to offer.

We would like to extend an open invitation to all those who are on our tourist drive to participate in this event on Saturday the 25th of June. Maybe you have a hobby, a food, a novelty or just excess produce and only need the incentive to offer it to an appreciative audience at your own farm gate. Maybe you might check out the drive yourself?

Or you might like to participate in the following events:

On the Kerry Road:

Kerry Valley Wood-Fired PizzaTaste the Difference: 2061 Kerry Road

Tommerups Dairy FarmMoo to You and Farm to Fork: 2142 Kerry Road

Kirro TeaMorning and Muster: 2614 Kerry Road

Worendo Olives Open DayWith Wild Lime Cooking School: 3161 Kerry Road

On the Christmas Creek Road, Lamington

Christmas Creek CafeDrop In, Make and Bake: 2745 Christmas Creek Road

Stinsons Park MarketsFood, Produce and Picnic: 2787 Christmas Creek Road

Here it is: The Farm Gate Festival. Join us and join in the fun.

You can find out more about our contribution to ‘Eat Local Week’ and what the ‘Farm Gate Festival’ will be doing by going to the website of the Lost World: www.thelostworld.com.au.


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Arts in the Olives

The Arts in the Olives is a festival celebrating the creative arts.  The festival is a collaboration between the residents of the Lost World Valley Tourist Collective and BADCAP-Beaudesert and District Community Arts Projects. On offer are a variety of workshops in disciplines such as basket weaving, breadmaking, blacksmithing and more -much more.   The site is the lovely Worendo Olive Grove, Lost World Valley in the Scenic Rim of South East Queensland.

may june 2012 020

There are an array of interesting and informative activities that will take a good part of the day to fully appreciate. There are olives and olive products, yoga, massages, photography and drawing – to name but a few. The festival will again offer an exciting programme of music entertainment as well as gourmet food and wine tasting amongst the wonderful variety of artisan stalls offering beautiful handcrafted  goods.

Date for 2015 is Sunday May 8th – Mothers Day.

An important objective is to be all about community at the grass-roots level where it counts. The festival is predominantly volunteer operated and would not operate without this major component. One of the important aims of the festival is to support and encourage local arts practice. But thanks too to the Scenic Rim Council.

Ben creating

The workshops are affordable and are aimed at a broad range of ages, interests and abilities. The organisers are delighted that they can offer several free workshops for children- the children love it and their parents are free to participate in their own choice of workshop.

For more information: click here


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Introducing ‘the pad’

Now we are ready to go. Weather permitting. Just waiting on council approval to commence construction of Kumbartcho. You can see some of the Hoop Pines in the background. This is the Pad – or will be if you click to read more … It is all cleared with road access (out of frame).


an evolving story of a pad

that time between ‘ready, set’ and ‘go’

You can’t fully appreciate the slope. It drops away by 6m off to the north. Hopefully, the deck will help give the impression you are amongst the pines themselves.

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Introducing Kumbartcho


Kumbartcho North low res

A grove of Hoop Pines, Emporers of the Forest.

Wongari Eco Retreat is adding another cabin to complement our original Serenity. After three years, our first cabin, Serenity, has earned her title? But our next cabin, Kumbartcho, is a little harder to encapsulate. Kumbartcho in the native language means Hoop Pine. The first botanist to see this country referred to these pines as the ’emporers of the forest’. They are indeed a majestic tree. And we have a beautiful grove of them which seems to multiply its impact.

Standing on the rough mark-out where the cabin is to go you are treated to a passing number of glossy black and yellow-tailed cockotoos. The sulphur crested cockotoos have departed us for greener pastures and we look forward to their return.

The cabin, Kumbartcho, will sit comfortablely in the this grove of Hoop Pines. The view of Christmas Creek is on high from a large cabin deck. The creek runs visibly east to west behind a forest of pines. And all of this under the imposing rock faces of Buchanan’s Fort.

If the aura of Serenity was …..well just that, Serenity…..then Kumbartcho feels more like energy, an urge to explore and wonder.

Looking west on Days end

Day One Done and Dusted

I’m looking forward to helping our builders, father and son, Kev and Chris, get the building into place. It is a cabin with a few surprises in it and which I will love to present as they arrive. Suffice it to say that we hope you will see a construction grow out of the country it is in, and respects, to a cabin that will delight those that happen-chance upon it.


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Everywhere a Waterfall

Area 10 blog before

Unknown country becomes known

Waterfall Creek, Area 10, After Clearing

Just thought I would share with you a before and after of our clearing on Waterfall Creek.

Waterfall Creek comes out of the Macpherson Ranges which rises out of our property, just to the south, and are part of the Boarder Ranges. Lamington Falls introduces Waterfall Creek and from the falls to Christmas Creek there is but 1200m and a drop of 500m – that’s almost 1 in 2. You can know why this is called Waterfall Creek. There are many rocks and rock pools on the way down this spring fed creek that has never dried up. But beware the wet season as its flow can be as  treacherous as it is sedate and persistent for most of the other times.

Where it meets Christmas Creek, in the shadows of Buchanans Fort, it forms an effective link between two national parks. the Fort being in Lamington National Park. Our ambition to restore this as a wildlife corridor has finally completed its first major stage. The first 400m of Waterfall Creek, from Christmas Creek, is now cleared and many plantings have been complemented by a blossoming of trees unburdened by lantana and a massive regrowth of native riparian vegetation. We are really stoked. It is trully a beautiful environment to enjoy.

What is encouraging too is that there are only a few places in the National Park where we have to further clear it of weeds as the rainforest invariably reasserts itself if given the chance. Its been a little different in the area we have just cleared as this was once in the way of a dairy farm till the early 90’s and before that it has been clear felled for its timber – the last being in the 60’s. It’s hard to fine a tree here older than 50 or 60 years. It gets dramatically different the further you go up the creek. Despite this it is remarkably pristine and marked by quite distinct and different forest types as the creek decends.

Now it is a matter of following the broad clearing we have done (limited judicious poisoning followed by our LF brushcutter) and stop the vines from strangling new growth and young trees. Also to be monitored is any comeback by lantana and kroften weed. Fortunately, both are relatively easy to deal with and I now go into the creek armed with little more than my hand clippers. When I get the time, as often as I can squeeze in, I get into the creek and tidy it up. It’s the most satisfying time I spend on this property.

I hope you enjoy the photos. But I also hope that people who stay here will enjoy the walk up to Lamington Falls from our waterfall creek and enjoy the myriad of  niche environments and abundant bird life that our riparian restoration continues to open up.



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Almost lost to most of the people of Australia is the life and lives of those who work our land. Fortunately, it’s not quite all lost in the Lost World as the Tommerups Farmstay illustrates in their not-to-be-missed family-friendly Open Day.  It would be a nice way to see August out as it is on the 31st of this month. Come for the day or stay overnight in any one of the quite unique accommodation options you have with the Lost World Valley.

Who needs fast food?

What child wouldn’t like vegies like these


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Learn how to light a fire and keep it going

Instructions that may help in lighting a fire and keeping it going

(for dummies)

The do's and dont's of Firelighting

Every good fire appreciated

Below are the instructions of a friend and trainee fire guru. I appreciate his generic view but I would like to add specific information regarding our bakers oven and fireplace. A good firebox it is! and comes from New Zealand.

I’ll add my comments where they are needed though I think he has done a pretty good job:

First, there are two vent levers. One at the top pulls upwards and connects the heat flow between both chambers. You need to have this up if you wish to utilise both boxes and down, its normal operating position, if you want to only have heat from the top box.

The second vent is at the front bottom of the door and is circular. Spin anti-clockwise to open and clockwise to close.

1. Ensure that the stove firebox is not full of ash – remove ash if necessary using a suitable metal container. Hopefully, you will not have to do that as we try and have the fire ready to go. In winter, if it is not already alight, then we would have it ready to go. Just light a match and watch it burn. It’s the only bit of instant gratification we are in favour of.

2. Open the bottom air vent of the stove and open the flue damper if you have one. No. Only open the top lever after the fire has been started and is beginning to ramp up some heat. By opening the front air vent you allow more air to be sucked in and so the fire should start more easily and burn more readily.

  • 3. Tear single pages of a newspaper in half and then scrunch them into smallish balls. Place the paper balls in a circle in the centre of the firebox, in a circle large enough to cover about a half of the base of the firebox. (Some people use firelighters but you may not even need them!) Otherwise, wrap one up in the paper for a more assured event.

4. Now, make sure you have all the right pieces of dry wood you need before you light the fire. (read through the steps below and then gather your wood). Good advice and usually you won’t need to go much further than the back shed.

5. First up you will need some kindling, that is, small pieces of dry wood and sticks, thin and about 10 -15 cm long. Softwoods are best. Lay around 6 small pieces on top of the newspaper in different directions – a bit like the game pickup sticks. Remember that the idea is that air and flames should be able to get to each piece of wood. Now lay a few larger pieces of soft/lightish wood that are standing up-it should look like a tee-pee shape. Make sure the round vent is fully open and the top vent is pushed down.

  1. Light the newspaper in 2-3 places at the bottom and when they have caught alight you can close the door of the stove – although don’t close it fully with the handle just yet – just let the door lean gently on the frame. You want the fire to get very hot, because this will allow you to have some great hot coals burning away at the bottom of your fire (hopefully right through the night!). No short cut either. Good wood has to burn for a while before hot coals are available.

7. Once the wood has caught alight and the fire is going well you can put some larger pieces of wood into the firebox. Place them gently on top of the fire, in the tee-pee shape – this helps to prevent the problem of smothering the fire by placing the logs over the fire in a way that stops the air and flames getting to all the pieces of wood in the fire. Now that your fire is burning well, you can close the door fully. I concur (again): make sure the flames can breath. The hotter the fire the less flame and the more hot coals.

8. Do not fill the firebox with wood, maybe burn around 3-4 largish pieces of wood at a time. At this stage if your fire is going really well, you can close the vents a little, but keep an eye on your fire because you want to maintain good flames and don’t want the fire to smoulder. You can close the vent when the fire is really raging.  ditto but fill the box to its limit so long as you have good spaces between them or the fire is very hot with mainly coals. Fire also favours burning up and under a piece of aerated timber. You don’t want the fire to either smolder due to too many sealing off air-flow or, too much air and good wood wasted in heat you probably don’t want. ;At this point you can regulate the air vent on how warm you want the room to be.

9. Keep the really heavy, hardwood pieces until last. When you are thinking about heading off to bed, you may want to put your one or two large, heavy, hardwood pieces on the fire so they can burn through the night. Make sure they are alight on their underside before you head off to bed. The front vent should almost be closed, the top vent should have always been closed unless you were baking, and the red hot coals should be glowing under lightly packed, hardwood cuts.

  1. A good fire is a joy to behold.



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