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Showing posts from November, 2012

Alfalfa (lucerne) tea

I had this plant in my garden where I'd tossed out some "friendly bug mix" seeds.  I thought it was clover, but it didn't look quite right.  I'd been wondering what it was for over a year when my mum finally pointed out that it looked like lucerne (or alfalfa).  Its so silly that I didn't recognise it, but I'm used to seeing lucerne dried as hay and I'd never really seen the living plant.  Now that really got me thinking because I remembered reading somewhere that lucerne tea is really good because the plant has such deep roots and accumulates lots of minerals, but I didn't want to use any of the hay we buy because you don't really know "where its been" so to speak.  I forget now where I read that, and when you goggle lucerne or alfalfa tea, most of the links are about making tea for your garden rather than for yourself!  (here's one semi-helpful link)  Anyway, I didn't think it would hurt to cut some of the lucerne leaves an…

Using water wisely

I've written before about water at our place, but I thought now was a good time to get into more detail after I read a post about the same topic by Frugal Queen.  She was talking about saving town water, but we have a slightly different focus.

As you know, we are not on town water or sewage, so we have to manage our water use very carefully.  We have 3 22000 L water tanks that collect water from the roof of our house and our shed, and our waste water drains into a large underground septic tank, which has to be emptied every few years.  We use all our bath and washing machine water on the garden.  We built a system to drain the grey water into a drum under the house and then pump that up to the garden, this would be even better if the garden was downhill from the house and the water could just gravity feed straight to the garden.  Using the grey water on the garden means that we don't fill up the septic tank so quickly, and we always have plenty of water for the garden.


When I …

Neem oil for insect control

A few weeks ago now I was watering the garden just after dark, torch in one hand, hose in the other, when I was attacked by a swarm of mosquitoes (mozzies).  I could feel them biting me, but there wasn’t much I could do with both hands in use and I really needed to finish watering.  When I came inside I found that I had several bites on each leg between the top of my gumboots and the bottom of my shorts.  These proceeded to itch, swell and annoy me for several days.

At this time of year, when the mozzies start biting, as I do have such a terrible reaction to the bites, I usually reach for my bottle of conventional insect repellent, typically containing DEET (N,N-Diethyl-meta-toluamide, mmm mmm), and smelling terrible.  A quick search of google shows that the safety of DEET is questionable.  Yes the US EPA and the insect repellent companies say is ok, but plenty of other sources say that its not.  I suspect that it is a chemical with long-term effects that would be very difficult to me…

Frugavore book review

I was in my local library looking for a permaculture book.  I never expect to find much in my local library, it is a tiny single room and most of it is taken up with fiction.  I usually head straight for the corner with all the chicken and cow books.  They didn't have the permaculture book (requested on inter-library loan instead), but I was very surprised to find Frugavore: How to Grow Organic, Buy Local, Waste Nothing, and Eat Well, by Arabella Forge instead.  I had seen reviews of Frugavore when it was published in 2010, and I kept thinking about buying it, but I have so many books already, I'd never got around to it.  I suppose that's the point of libraries, you can borrow before you buy!  And its great when even a small library occasionally has something interesting to read.



I took Frugavore home and read the whole thing in three hours.  Which is not to say that its short, but most of it is recipes, so I was able to skim through and just read the interesting bits at t…

Hybrids, cross breeds and pure breeds

This is something that has been confusing me lately, so now that I’ve figured it out, I thought I’d tell you about.  For a while now I’ve been wondering how “hybrid” layer hens are made.  And I’d been hearing about using heritage seed rather than hybrid seed.  Then we bought the Braford cattle, a cross between Brahman and Hereford breeds.  So I looked it all up and now I’ll try to explain without getting too far into genetics!


First of all, what is a pure breed?
A pure breed is a stock of animals or plants within a species having a distinctive appearance and typically having been developed by deliberate selection.  For example, Hereford cattle are a pure breed of cattle.  Rhode Island Red chickens are a pure breed of chickens.
What is a hybrid?
A hybrid is an animal or plant whose parents are each of a different pure breed.  Cross-breed and hybrid have the same meaning, just the former is applied more commonly to animals and the latter to plants (and chickens, because it sounds fanci…

Managing Australian Paralysis Ticks in a Herd of Cattle in South East Queensland

Paralysis ticks (xodes holocyclus) are native to Australia and are found on the east coast from southern Victoria all the way up to northern QLD, and in the north of Tasmania.  The ticks’ natural hosts are native animals, such as bandicoots, wallabies and koalas, which have developed immunity to the neurotoxin produced by the tick.  Domestic animals, including dogs, cats, sheep, calves and foals, which have not developed immunity to the toxin, are affected by symptoms starting the paralysis of the back legs and progressing to paralysis of the respiratory muscles and finally the heart, resulting in death.

The Australian Paralysis Tick has a 3 host life cycle.  The eggs hatch into larvae, which attach to a host for a few days.  The larvae feed from the host, and then drop off to transform into nymphs, which then attach to another host.  After a few days the nymphs drop off and transform into adult ticks, and attach to another host.  Finally the adult female will drop off her final host …

Ginger and lemon tea

I tried some lovely tea at a cafe recently, it was ginger and rosella.  I bought some of the tea to take home, it was expensive, and when I finished the packet I wondered if I could make my own....

I didn't have any rosella, but I thought I could start with trying to dry the ginger.  I bought some organic ginger from the the Nanango markets and sliced it up really thin.  I spread it out in my dehydrator to dry.  I ran the dehydrator on and off for a couple of days (its very loud, so I don't like to have it on when I'm in the kitchen), until the ginger was crispy dry.

At the same time I had a massive bag of lemons from a friend's tree.  I knew that they were organic, so I decided to peel the skins and dry them as well, to add some lemon flavour to me tea.  The ginger/lemon smell in the house was wonderful!


I have some rosella seeds now after swapping seeds earlier in the month, so I've planted them and maybe I'll soon have enough rosella fruit to make ginger an…

The best chicken book I’ve ever read

About a year ago now I bought a copy of the best chicken book I have ever read.  Its taken me that long to read it properly, I’ve read it three times now, in between reading other books, just to be sure that I got everything, because there’s just so much information, its easy to miss something on the first or second reads!


The best chicken book that I’ve ever read is The Small-Scale Poultry Flock, by HarveyUssery (Affiliate link).  Harvey has years of experience with a whole range of poultry, but the thing that makes this book the best I’ve read is the way that he explains how to integrate a flock into a garden or farm system.  So many chicken books start off by going through all the breeds, tell how to house and feed them in a little cage and collect the eggs etc, its all just the same simple information regurgitated.  This book tells you how to get the most out of your chickens, whether you’re keeping them for meat or eggs, how to also put them to work in the garden and how to grow …

Manure spreaders

Some people spend thousands of dollars on a manure spreading system that attaches to the back of a tractor so they can spread manure over their pastures.....







We just keep chickens  -  and we get eggs as a by-product.....

(Although it can be difficult to find any manure to put on my garden because the chickens spread it all out in the paddock before I get a chance to collect any!)

By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf format), or Amazon Kindle or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at} gmail.com.



What's the eBook about? Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.
 A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the best of both options – the chickens are sa…

Green onions, spring onions or shallots or…?

I have many confusing conversations with people about green onions, spring onions and shallots. Well, not that many, but when it does come up between myself and another gardener or cook, it is important to first clarify what we are actually talking about, because everyone seems to have a different idea of what these alliums actually are.
This year I planted leeks, and what I call spring onions and what I thought were shallots.  They both did quite well, especially considering that each bunch of shallots came from single cloves given to me by a friend and all the spring onion seeds were saved from the previous year.  I’ve grown more than we can eat right away and I need to make room in the garden, so I am going to try to keep some of the shallots for storage and dehydrate the rest to make more onion flakes.

The confusion is caused by the fact that I never bought any of these vegetables as seeds with names on the packet, they are from bulbs and seeds that were given to me, so I don’t …

The truth about legumes and nitrogen fixation?

We are commonly told to plant legumes in pasture or in the garden to increase the nitrogen in the soil.  It is true that given the right minerals and microbes in the soil, legumes will develop a symbiotic relationship with rhizobial bacteria, which can “fix” gaseous nitrogen from the air and make it available to the plant (more here).  The important point is that this nitrogen is used by the growing legume plant and only minimal amounts are transferred to the soil orother plants.

“The amount of nitrogen returned to the soil during or after a legume crop can be misleading.  Almost all of the nitrogen fixed goes directly into the plant. Little leaks into the soil for a neighboring nonlegume plant.  However,  nitrogen eventually returns to the soil for a neighboring plant when vegetation (roots, leaves, fruits) of the legume dies and decomposes.” Therefore, the only way to harness the nitrogen produced by the legume/rhizobial relationship is to use the legume as a cover crop and mulch it o…

Managing pasture - is burning necessary?

This time of year (spring) we don’t get much rain.  The tropical grass species in our pasture have dried out over winter due to the low temperatures and low rainfall.  They are in a fully mature state, with relatively low protein and mineral content.  The stock feeding on this pasture tend to lose or maintain weight, but rarely gain significant weight.  Now that the temperatures are starting to increase, we are waiting for rain so that the pasture will re-enter its leafy growth stage and provide good quality fodder for the cattle to start getting fat for market. In Queensland, late winter and spring tend to be our dry period, with rain coming in summer.
There are several ways to accelerate this process.  Certainly if you leave the dry dead bushes of grass in the pasture, the amount of leafy growth, even when it rains, will be reduced.  The new leaves tend to grow from the outside of the bush, so the bigger the bush, the less useful leaves are growing on the inside.  If you can remove…

Farm update - November 2012

The weather in October has been less dry, with a few nice storms to cool down the evenings, but no significant rainfall either.  Our water tanks are down to two half full and one full, and our dam is looking very empty.

Gardening in October as been all about the seeds - both planting and saving.  I have saved a crazy amount of tat soi and mizuna, as well as others, so don't be shy, I have plenty more too share or swap if you're interested plz email me (I also still have way too much kefir, so let me know if you want some).  Also see this great link on seed saving.  I'm still harvesting lettuce, broad beans and peas, although the last two are nearly finished and ready to make room for others.  I've planted out the corn, cucumbers, trombocino, soy, pumpking and beans that I started from seed and started some more.  I also planted out the water melons, and the chickens got in and destroyed them AGAIN, lucky I had started some more seeds already, ha chickens, you will not …