Skip to main content

Posts

Showing posts from February, 2013

Getting started with growing your own - Ohio Farm Girl

In my ongoing series of interviews with bloggers who grow their own, here's another interview, this time we venture outside Australia to the middle of the USA, with Ohio Farmgirl from Ohio Farmgirl's adventures in the good land.  

Thanks Farmer Liz! I'm Ohio Farmgirl aka OFG. I live on a small homestead-like farm in the middle of Ohio, USA. Here in The Good Land we have ducks and geese and chickens and turkeys and pigz and dairy goats. We grow a lot of our own food and also feed for our barnyard. We butcher our own meat here on our farm. My blog, Adventures in the Good Land, is about how we are making our way in this world. Previously I lived in the city and only had a small flower garden.

Farmer Liz: Tell me about your garden and climate
Ohio Farmgirl: I have a series of gardens across the property. Unfortunately we have extremely bad soil (clay with low fertility) so our biggest challenge isn't more space – its productive space. We've spent the last couple years b…

Passive heating and cooling

In February I've been writing a series of posts about the permaculture principle, Catch and Store Energy.  One of the places that this principle can be applied is within the home.  In most homes, the largest use of energy is in either heating or cooling the house to a comfortable temperature.  This can be achieved for free by considering the orientation of the house and the building materials, which is a technique called passive solar design.  This is most easily applied before the house is built, but there are also many options for retrofitting passive design techniques to existing buildings.

To understand how passive solar design works, it is important to first consider how heat is lost or gained in a building.  Heat transfer occurs through three mechanisms:
conduction - the transfer of heat from substances in direct contact with each otherconvection - the movement of hot gases or liquids due to density and radiation - the transfer of heat energy by electromagnetic wave motion (t…

A secondhand house for Cheslyn Rise

After living in an old Queenslander in the LockyerValley for several years before moving to Nanango, Pete and I were convinced that we never wanted to own another one.  They are beautiful, but a lot of work to maintain and sometimes have a very odd layout.  The house that we lived in was raised up to allow storage under the house, and with 8ft ceilings, it was very difficult to reach all of the external walls to paint them.  It also had the toilet located off the porch as you came in the back door, which wasn’t very nice on cold nights!
We were also sure that we didn’t want a cheap modern house.  Our house at Nanango is made of a product called “hardiplank”, which is fibre cement sheeting moulded to look like wood weatherboards.  It doesn’t look like wood weatherboards, it looks like moulded cement sheeting (I have heard that you can get a nicer version of this, but ours seems to be the cheapest option).  The inside has been fitted out very cheaply with just plasterboard walls and ti…

Perennial plants and trees - a food forest

In February I've been writing posts about the permaculture principle of "Catch and Store Energy".  One of the less obvious forms of energy is in seeds and perennial plants and trees.

Seeds saving
Saving seeds from annual plants is a form of catching and storing energy and a very simple way to ensure that food can be grown year to year.  Seed can either we saved directly by drying seed pods and keeping the seeds secure, or indirectly by simply letting plants go to seed and seedling to spring up again where the seeds fall.  This is described in Masanobu Fukuoka's classic book "One straw revolution".  I like to do a bit of both, I keep a small amount of seed for myself, I give lots away and I scatter the rest.  Everything I know about saving seeds is here.

Perennial plants
An important aspect of permaculture is to let nature do the work for you.  One of the easiest ways to obtain food year after year is to plant perennial plants that do not need to be replanted…

Getting started with growing your own - Gavin Webber

Today I'm continuing my series of interviews with bloggers who grow their own with an interview with Gavin Webber who writes over at The Greening of Gavin. Gavin grows fruit and veges in Melton, Victoria, just south of the Great Dividing Ranges, on his suburban house block. Gavin also keeps chickens, has two worm farms, and many compost bins. His blog was recently awarded ReNew Magazine 2012 Blog of the Year, where he writes about his sustainable journey and lifestyle that was brought on by a green epiphany.

Attracting over 1 million page views, and containing over 1200 posts, The Greening of Gavin has been published nearly every day for the past 4½ years, and is a treasure trove of sustainable living advice and gardening tips. Gavin has also written four sustainable living eBooks that are available from all good eBook retailers. 


Farmer Liz: Tell me about your garden and climate. 

Gavin Webber: My food garden is located in my average suburban yard in Melton, Victoria, Australia.…

Biological agriculture - a transition to organic farming

Since I did the Sustainable Agriculture course in July last year, I have been reading The Biological Farmer, by Gary Zimmer.  This month I'm writing about permaculture principle "Catch and Store Energy", and one of the less obvious forms of energy is soil fertility.  Biological agriculture is all about maintaining soil fertility in pasture and grain crop farming, so I thought it was appropriate to tell you more about it this month.



While biological agriculture shares many philosophies with organic agriculture, they are not the same thing.  Like organic agriculture, biological agriculture focuses on soil fertility and working with natural systems, however biological agriculture also uses limited amounts of synthetic chemicals where they will help the soil to rebuild.  This may seem a contradiction, but when you get into the detail it does make sense.  Its fairly obvious that all synthetic herbicides and pesticides will damage natural systems and these are not recommended …

A sourdough cake starter called "Herman"

My friend gave me a bowl of sourdough cake starter, called "Herman".  A bit of a google revealed that this cake starter has been around for a long time, maybe not this particular starter mixture in my kitchen, but the idea of this cake starter has been circulating since the 1980s or earlier.  There's actually an entire website devoted to it, as well as lots of newspaper articles and forum discussions.  Have you heard of it before now?

In its current incarnation, the mix is given away with instructions on how to look after it for 10 days.  It needs to be "fed" with flour, sugar and water on day 4 and 10, and stirred on each of the other days.  On the 10th day the started is split into four portions, three to give away and one used to make a cake.  The recipe that comes with Herman is for an apple and cinnamon cake, which I hear is delicious.

As you know, I love trying fermentations.  Fermenting is both a low energy and simple method of preserving food and way …

Getting started with growing your own - Linda Woodrow

As part of the series of interviews I started last week, today I have asked Linda Woodrow to tell me about how she gardens and the advice she gives to someone who wants to get started with growing their own.  Linda blogs over at The Witches Kitchen.  She says "out of the witches kitchen should come food that is healthy, tasty, local, seasonal, ethical, green, and sustainable", although she also acknowledges that this is almost impossible to achieve, but absolutely worth trying!  Linda writes from decades of experience with food gardening and food preparation and has also published a book called "The Permaculture Home Garden", which I reviewed recently, and highly recommend to anyone thinking about starting or already started with food growing, it has some excellent advice for all levels of gardeners and all sizes of garden.  


Farmer Liz: Tell me about your garden and climate.
Linda Woodrow: My garden these days is small and very intensively fenced against bandicoots,…

Permaculture - Catch and Store Energy

In January I wrote about the first of the 12 permaculture principles - Observe and Interact.  In that post I discussed the various ways that we can observe and interact with our environment, from keeping your own records to research on the local climate and solar path.  Observing and interacting is a continuous process of improvement.  Of course its very important at the start of a design project, but we can always look for opportunities to improve a system.

This month's principle is Catch and Store Energy.  Energy is defined very broadly in this case, encompassing both the obvious heat and electricity, and less obvious forms of energy, such as water, trees, seeds, food and soil.  This principle is important because we live in a time of energy abundance due to the availability of cheap fossil fuels and it can be very easy to forget to plan for energy catchment and storage.  We have become accustomed to buying what we need when we need it because fossil fuels have made this such a…

Dried garlic granules

A guy at work who grows garlic commercially was selling it for $10/kg.  It was pretty good quality, just the same as the garlic that is $30/kg at the shops, so I bought 2 kg of it.  We weren't sure how well it would keep, so we decided to dry it.

We spent about an hour peeling 1 kg of the garlic and laid the individual cloves on the tray of our dehydrator.  We ran the dehydrator on and off for several days until the cloves were no longer sticky.  I then whizzed them all in the food processor to for granules.  We dried the granules on baking paper in the dehydrator for another day.  This produced about half a jar of granules.  As this translates to 1 kg of garlic, I imagine that they will be rather strong!

We are going to use up the rest of the fresh garlic first, and then use the granules.  During winter we often find that the Australian garlic runs out and we have to buy Chinese or Mexican garlic, so I hope this year we will be able to stretch all this garlic through the entire …

Getting started with growing your own - a series of interviews

I vaguely remember a time before I had a garden, chickens and so many cattle.  A time when I lived in a rental property in the city and I thought I’d like to grow things, but I seemed to have a knack of killing anything in a pot.  Gardening seemed really hard, and I didn’t really know where to start.  Somehow over the last few years I’ve figured out how to grow things, even how to propagate seeds and make compost, in some ways it seems completely unbelievable given where I started.

I recently had a question from someone just like the old me, she wants to start growing some veges in a rental property, but doesn’t really know what to do.  I started trying to think what advice to give, and it wasn’t easy!  When I started my latest garden, we had lots of cow poo and mulch in the paddock, so we just borrowed a rotatiller and dug up part of the house yard.  My husband welded up a nice frame to support a massive amount of shade cloth that we got at a clearance for $50.  He also set up a recy…