Last year was a crazy busy year work and life wise and now I have space to breath I thought it would be a good time for an update on our goings on.
Our house was finally finished and we moved in August last year. It is everything we wished it would be. Small (3 bedrooms, one bathroom) but it feels big, especially the open planned living/kitchen space. The in slab heating and combustion fire kept us warm and cosy during the last miserable months of Winter and our solar passive design and the polished concrete floor kept us cool, even with the weeks of hot dry weather we’ve had this Summer and no air conditioner. Once we have landscaped and added the water features, the trees and plants should provide us with good shade from the sun and a break from the wind during the worst of the Summer heat.
For the moment we’ll have to live with a lack of landscaping around the house but we have so many plans! We want to get rid of our water tank because it blocks the beautiful view to the back paddocks. Instead it would be fantastic to store the rainwater in storage bladders underneath the deck and verandas of the house. Or install an in ground tank between the clothesline and the back deck. Where the tank now sits we want to put in a natural pool, which will serve quite a few purposes: 1) somewhere delectable to take a dip in the midst of hot Summers, 2) an ‘airconditioner’ that cools the hot, dry air down as it blows from the East into the house, 3) habitat for aquatic plants and animals, 4) a beautiful aesthetic feature that can be enjoyed in all seasons (of course we will need to have it fenced but a pool fence is much nicer to look at than a big old water tank).
The front is currently hosting some magnificent weeds and dust. It will be wonderful when we can turn it into a beautifully designed native forest. We’ll probably need help from a designer because we don’t know enough about native plants to create a proper design that provides Summer shade, habitat and food for the birds and insects, possibly a dry creek bed, as well as framing the house nicely.
We also have a hydrology issue. When it rains, water sweeps down the slope towards the house and pools between the shed and the house. The downpipes on the shed also overflow and it sends water into the shed during heavy rains. We’d like to put in another rain water tank to store water from the shed catchment and figure out some ground works to draw the water away from the house and down to the North and East (back) of the yard.
The Northern part of the garden will eventually have a cute little granny flat/studio cottage further down near the back of the house and a native grass lawn for games of backyard cricket, tussles and bare foot musings. This will be hedged by gardens but I’m not sure what to put in near the fence… maybe a deciduous fig, though they might destroy the water pipes. Maybe some citrus though we seem to have black thumbs when it comes to them (the heavy frosts we get in Bungendore don’t help either).
The food forest/orchard struggled through the extreme winds that bowl through Bungendore valley, heavy frosts (including a late heavy frost in December!) and the dry, intense heat we’ve just had, as well as infestations of cherry slugs, strawberry weevils and grasshoppers. As you can see it is now thriving thanks to the irrigation David installed just before Christmas. The mint has gone crazy and is competing with the grass, and the strawberries are spreading out and are just starting to produce regularly. Our herbs are thriving and the comfrey has exploded with lots of big green leaves and little purple flowers. It’s nice to see the happy nodding faces of the heart-ease popping up en-masse here and there throughout the food forest.
In our vege patch I’ve had to get creative with zucchini recipes as our three different varieties of zucchini are producing a glut. Here’s a great ‘paleo’ zucchini brownie recipe that has been popular with the family (remember to squeeze out the juice from the grated zucchini). I couldn’t keep up with the snow peas for about a month but they seem to have stopped producing as much, probably because of the terrible heat waves we’ve had. We’re also getting a good crop from the spinach, silver beet and parsley but I need to start finding ways of using them in our cooking (though I make a mean gluten free tabouli).
The tomatoes have taken a long time to produce but they seem to finally have come on. The Roma tomatoes just started flowering last week and have a lovely dark green, dense foliage. The heritage tomatoes have started to fruit and we should be able to harvest in the next couple of weeks. There’s another tomato that seems to be doing ok though I don’t know the variety (round) and unsurprisingly the cherry tomatoes are doing well but looking a little ‘leggy’. This is the best crop we’ve ever had and it feels so satisfying to wander down into the garden to pick food for the night’s dinner.
In the bramble patch, it’s taken a long time for the raspberries to set fruit and they haven’t grown much this Summer. We have had a handful of raspberries in the last couple of days and it was worth the wait! (We keep eating them before I remember I want to take a photo of them). The grape vines we’d planted a couple of years ago didn’t take so they were pulled out at the start of Summer last year and replaced with butternut pumpkin from seeds we’d saved from one of our roasts. The pumpkins were doing really well until the December frost smashed them. They’ve bounced back but aren’t as vigorous and though they have lots of flowers I can only see one very small fruit. I hope they hurry up or we won’t get a crop before Winter sets in.
Surprisingly, the honeydew melons that we’d planted from the seeds of a store bought melon, have flourished and we already have a couple of melons growing with a few more on the way. I wish we’d saved watermelon seeds and planted them, both David and William have been eating watermelon almost every day through Summer. Even better are the random plants that have popped up from when we’d had the chickens through and were feeding them a seed mix. Sunflowers have popped their happy heads up all over the bramble and vege patches, as have fat stalks of wheat and corn. We’ll let them dry out and feed them back to the chickens.
Speaking of chickens, they are finally laying properly and we’re getting one to five eggs a day. Sadly three of them were taken by a fox in November (a good reminder to close the chook house well before dusk) and our poor rooster dropped dead one night last month. Not sure if it was from heat stroke or if a fox got him while they were sleeping. Needless to say, we’re making sure to shut them up while there is still a good amount of sunlight. We also need to build a better hen house. The one we have now is far too low, it’s difficult to clean out and only William can get in to collect the eggs.
I finally picked up the Warre bee hive that I’d ordered after doing Tim Malfroy‘s fantastic Natural Beekeeping course in May last year. It’s too late to put it out for the bees before Winter but I’m looking forward to catching our own swarm next Spring, or if we’re lucky the bees will find the hive in the backyard themselves. I don’t see this year being a better one for the bees than last year’s horrible season but it’s nice to see them buzzing around the flowers in the garden.
Living here in our little cottage, surrounded by our fledgling garden, sweeping views across the paddocks to the hill, hens happily clucking, seeing Oscar stretch out in the sun or stalk through the foliage like a jungle cat, watching William on strawberry hunts in his rain boots and straw hat or charging up the paths with his Tonka truck, I am starting to feel peace again. I love this little bit of heaven we’ve carved out for ourselves and it’s nice to share it.
Hi there. It has been such a long time since I last posted anything. So much has happened but I’ll save that for a later post. In the meantime, I’ve found a fantastic recipe for paleo (gluten free, dairy free, sugar free) zucchini, chocolate brownie, which is a handy recipe to have on the cusp of a zucchini glut! The brownie is more cake-like than a traditional brownie but it is still delicious (and healthy)… Give it a try and let me know what you think!
prep 15 mins ∙ cook 30 mins ∙ makes 16 nice sized brownies ∙ source Fastpaleo.com
- 1 cup / 250g nut butter
- 1 1/2 cup grated zucchini (juice squeezed out)
- 1/3 cup raw honey or coconut sugar
- 1/3 cup raw cacao powder
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp vanilla
- 1 tsp baking soda
- Pinch of salt
- Spices to flavour (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)
- 1 cup dark chocolate chunks
1. Preheat oven to 180° C.
2. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl.
3. Pour into a greased 9×9 baking pan.
4. Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
On the 8th of December we attended the annual Milkwood Permaculture open day at their farm near Mudgee, NSW. We’ve been following Milkwood Farm’s exploits on the web for years and had decided to sign up for the Milkwood beekeeping course in November. We were really sad something came up and we had to cancel. So it was great to finally get there and see it all in action.
Mudgee and surrounds has some great foodie spots, so it wasn’t a hard decision to make a long weekend of it and enjoy some of the region’s delights. We stayed around 30 minutes away from Milkwood and the drive to the farm provided a perfect example for why permaculture is important. We were shocked as we drove through a barren landscape suffering from intensive overgrazing. It was the typical strip cleared landscape, littered with erosion gullies and any remaining trees were dead or dying. You could see there was nothing but a layer of dust on top of the rocky ground and any water would run straight off. It really got us thinking deeply about the principles of permaculture before we arrived at the farm. Driving in to Milkwood you sensed something was different. Tracts of green highlighted what, elsewhere, was dry, barren landscape.
The day started at the ‘Woolshed’ with a couple of presentations explaining permaculture, what Milkwood is and does and their food philosophy. Around the Woolshed we were shown Milkwood’s rocket stove powered showers, seed ball making, mini forest garden, composting toilets, erosion management, kitchen garden and worm farms. The Woolshed was also host to the amazing eating experience we had throughout the day. Read More
We were lucky enough to visit Roogulli, in Bywong, during their open day for the open gardens Australia program. Roogulli is an amazing property being restored using permaculture principles and emphasizing sustainability. It was great to see all the principles we are learning about and trying to achieve in our little garden on a large scale. Here’s some photos and if you want more info on Roogulli you can find it at the Fresh Landscape Design webpage.
Well, we’ve been a little slack over the last couple of weeks, but I’ve been playing with my camera. Here’s a couple of photos from our kitchen garden.
More updates coming soon…
It’s been a while since we’ve updated you on the progress of our little forest garden. It’s coming along and we’ve been doing a lot of planting. A lot of work is also going into the eternal fight with the grass. We don’t want to use a synthetic weed mat, but it seems the grass has survived under the cardboard and mulch. With the recent heat it has pushed itself through and seems to be thriving in the environment we have made for it. So we are back to the drawing board on keeping it at bay…
Over the last two weekends, as well as mowing and fighting the grass in the forest, we have been busy planting. We’ve planted Tansy, Raspberry, Blueberry, Lemon Balm, Rhubarb, Lavender and some ground cover Thyme. (Thanks to the Urban Homesteading Club – Canberra for donating some of these!). Many of our fruit trees and bushes are flowering as well.
Next weekend will probably be more of the same, although less planting and more fighting grass. It’ll be a lot easier when we finally have a house and can live here… We’ll update you on our kitchen garden soon!
Last Saturday David and I went on a ‘date’ without our baby William for the first time in almost a year. Actually, it was better than a date! It was a fantastic dinner and panel discussion hosted by the Mulloon Institute at Mulloon Creek Farm on ‘Food – the Art of Health.’ The inspiring and fascinating panel included: Read More
This week’s links are a juicy selection of topical subjects, sink your teeth into them!
Genes and Gut Bugs
The Assembly of an Infant Gut Microbiome Framed Against Healthy Human Adults – This is a fascinating short video depicting 3D model growth patterns of human gut microbes from a new born human birthed vaginally to 3 years of age. This is the newest frontier in human health and wellness. Look after your microbes!
On Wednesday the 3rd October I was pleased to attend the Sustainability Learning Community‘s annual ‘Great Green Debate’ at the Australian National University. This year’s topic was a contentious one. Distinguished panel guests were invited to address the topic, ‘Should Coal Seam Gas play a larger role in Australia’s energy future?’
Pinch and a punch for the first day of the month, we hope you had a fabulous long weekend! This week we focus on food security and genetically modified food. We hope you get impassioned by the challenges and inspired by the potential.
Food Security In Spotlight – Until we have a nationally endorsed food plan that takes into account the concerns and interests of all Australians there should be a moratorium on the sale of national food, water and environmental assets to foreign investors.
Vanishing Horticulture – Despite the government’s insistence that we have a ‘strong and resilient’ food system and that we should be focusing our food production efforts on Becoming Asia’s food bowl, we are far from food secure and rapidly losing our food production assets.
The Right to Food and Nutrition Watch 2012 – The gross inequality in our food systems, loss of land and water ownership to multinational corporations, environmental pollution, hegemonic control over food production and distribution…. it’s not only a developing world problem, it is happening in Australia…. Occupy our food system! Get involved in the People’s Food Plan! http://australian.foodsovereigntyalliance.org/
Myths About Industrial Agriculture – This is an excellent article in Al Jazeera by one of the heroes of the fair food movement, Dr. Vandana Shiva. We need to take note and get involved in supporting a more sustainable, equitable and holistic food system. “Industrial agriculture is an inefficient and wasteful system which is chemical intensive, fossil fuel intensive and capital intensive. It destroys nature’s capital on the one hand and society’s capital on the other, by displacing small farms and destroying health.”
Genetically Modified Food
Scientists Warm on CSIRO GM Wheat Threat – What is the CSIRO thinking??? Why is the government allowing these trials to happen without proper testing. The risk to human health and our environment is huge, for what purpose? To line the pockets of greedy multinational corporations!
Safe Food Foundation Media Release – Another article on the dangers of GM crops and the need for stronger regulations, more stringent and rigorous testing and banning of GM. The risks to our health, the environment and the resilience/sustainability of our farming communities is too high.
Diet and Health
Diet and Disease: What’s the Link? – Now I am really excited about going to the Mulloon Institute’s event “Food – The Art of Health” next weekend. This article highlights what an interesting line up of speakers/panelists will be there and its all happening in a wonderful setting with delicious food. See you there!