Friday, January 31, 2014

Permaculture - Produce no Waste - with Linda from Greenhaven

Linda from Greenhaven shares her take on the permaculture principle "Produce no Waste".  Linda has a wonderful blog about her garden, chickens, fermenting, and more recently, homeschooling her kids, but my favourite post is her permie poem...  

If you would like to write a quest post about Permaculture, please send me an email at eight.acres.liz at gmail dot com.

The last guest post was Chris from Living at Gully Grove.

Here's what Linda has to say about Produce no Waste:

If you are new to permaculture, let me tell you that it is a design system which makes sense. A way to live which works in a fair, connected and thoughtful way. (Thoughtful of people and the world in which we live.

It has twelve principles which inter-relate to create a true synergy and can be applied to many different areas of life. While I have chosen to talk about principle six, throughout this post I will incidentally speak about many of the principles. To save me repeating myself over and over I will put the introduced principles in parentheses so that you can look them up yourself. I am no expert on permaculture, I just love learning about, and using it.

When Liz asked me to write a post about a permaculture principle of my choosing, I immediately knew which one I would choose. Permaculture Principle Six - Produce No Waste. I have always been frugal, recycled, reused etc. and, as a child, I loved my Nana's frequent saying of 'Waste not, want not'! Waste. It's an offensive word, isn't it? It brings to mind greed and indulgence and carelessness.

So how does this family work to achieve our goal of producing no waste? Well the most obvious way is by gardening. [3], [5] By growing our own food, we are reducing packaging. We put our garden waste into the compost, not the bin. And the compost goes back into the garden to improve the soil. (Hmmm. Can you see the synergy?) Or we feed scraps to the chooks, they eat them and give us eggs and occasionally meat. [3], [5]

Taking that a step further, we are creating a new orchard on a hill. This orchard will have a chook yard at the top. Their shed will catch water [2] which will water the fruit trees by the gravity provided by the slope [2], [5]. The nutrients from the chook manure will run down the hill as well.

We cook most of our own food from scratch, again to reduce the rubbish created from packaging.

We buy from op shops wherever possible or just don't buy in the first place if the item isn't really needed. [4]

We repurpose stuff all the time. When we look at a piece of junk, we don't see junk. Without even trying, we see alternative uses for things. I'm ashamed to admit it but we even covet other people's rubbish - especially pallets and bathtubs. Oh the things you can do with a pallet or a tub!!!

I have a wonderful potting table that hubby made me from pallets. He also made my son a kid sized work bench from old pallets.

I have a worm farm created from two old molasses buckets. It sits on recycled pallets and is surrounded by reused containers that are filled with compost, sand etc., that are used for potting medium.

Hubby made a laying box completely from junk including the closing latch which was made from an old trampoline spring. I love it!

We purchased a second hand olive barrel from which Hubby made a gravity fed watering system for the chook shed. As you may be beginning to realise, Hubby is the creator of all things good at our place. I do the garden and keep our systems running on a day to day basis.

Empty champagne and wine bottles become cordial, sauce and home brewed beer bottles. Jars are saved to store rubber bands and string or they hold the many buttons that I collect from clothes that are too worn out to go to the op shop. Or the jars are used for jam or storing honey.

Mismatched crockery is proudly offered to guests in our home. It is just as functional as a new set!! If you've been here and been served from the matching floral set then know that you must have come for a special occasion! That's when I bring out the fancy, op shopped matching set!! Though we often don't have quite enough to go around so out come the mismatched ones too. Lol!

We use the resources that are available to us. We have heaps of rocks on our property so our garden beds are built with rocks. When we slash long grass we use it for mulch. The other permaculture principles come into play with placement of systems on our property. Where the garden/orchard/chooks should be. With being aware of what is happening [1] and deciding what isn't working [4] and making changes accordingly [12]. I could continue talking all day. I mean, gee, I haven't even mentioned the permaculture ethics. There are only three and they are so simple but cover it all. Care for the Earth, care of the people and fair share. If everyone followed these three ethics our world would be an amazing place!

So you get the idea. We don't buy stuff for the sake of buying. We think things through.

We certainly are not at the point where we are producing NO waste. It's quite frustrating in fact! We still have heaps of junk. Maybe it's due to that tendency to hoard everything in case it becomes useful one day. But when I focus on the changes we have made so far, we are well on our way. And permaculture is the bees knees!!!

As you can see Permaculture is not hard or complicated. If you are interested in becoming involved my suggestion would be to find a good book on the subject and take it from there. A good basic understanding of how permaculture works and uses integrated systems will make it easier to set up your systems the right way the first time. Actually, if you can afford the time and funds, find a good permaculture design course and DO IT!!! You won't regret it. I found my course absolutely life changing! Permaculture has given us focus and confidence to move ahead knowing that there are ways we can easily improve the environment and the society in which we live.

The twelve principles can be found here as can the ethics.

Feel free to contact me at or visit my blog or face book page if you want to ask me any questions.

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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cattle fencing tips for small farms

While I like to use electric fencing for quick temporary fences, I do think its important to have a strong permanent fence for the boundary, around the house yard and, on a larger property, other fences to divide the property into paddocks.

This ensures that your cattle stay on your property even if your internal electric fence fails (for example, it the battery runs flat). For cattle, barbed wire is essential, at least four strands, if not five. Animal mesh can also be used, especially if you also keep goats or sheep, but be aware that cattle can climb over mesh by stepping on each section and gradually pulling it down (it sounds ridiculous, but I have seen this happen a couple of times), so a barbed wire top strand is needed to prevent fence climbing.

To read the rest, see my article on Farm Style.

Anything to add?

Monday, January 27, 2014

Branding our cattle - Part 1 - registering a brand in QLD

Let me just say at the start that I do not see the need for branding our cattle. Now that digital ear tags are compulsory as part of the NLIS (National Livestock Identification System), branding seems completely obsolete. However, in QLD, if we want to sell any cattle over 100kg (and we surely will want to sell them all eventually), they must be branded, and so we brand them. 

I have contacted the RSPCA over this issue and they say that they support dry-ice branding as a better option, however these systems are expensive and difficult to set up, requiring access to dry ice, which is not practical for farmers in remote locations.  And they are still painful for the cattle.  I hope that they are really working behind the scenes to outlaw this barbaric practice altogether, as it seems to be optional in some other states already. It is really just a waste of farmers’ time, as we have to tag the animals anyway (which is quicker than setting up a branding furnace!), cruel to the animals, an unnecessary risk of infection and a safety risk to handlers. 

I can understand using brands on large properties, where neighbours’ cattle may intermingle for some period of time before they are noticed, but on a small property, where we keep different breeds to our neighbours, I can’t see the point. I think that branding should be optional and if some farmers really want to use it, that's up to them.  I do not look forward to hurting them for no good reason, and each time I hope that I don’t get hurt myself. But, until things change, we will be forced to brand all cattle born on our property (except for any that we intend to kill on the property).

In order to brand the cattle we had to register a brand. This was the only fun bit of the entire process. I spent considerable time looking through the QLD brands database to find a suitable brand. Starting with combinations of P heart L (owwww) which was already taken, and working through the combinations of CRsomething for Cheslyn Rise, we eventually found that CNR was available. CheslyN Rise. Near enough.

We then followed a process that I suspect has changed little since the introduction of the QLD Brand Act in 1915. First we had to find out all our neighbours’ brands (a great way to meet the neighbours), fill in a form with the brand that we wanted, and send that away with our money ($85.35 in fact). We waited several weeks and then a certificate arrived with our brand printed on it, to prove that we are now the owners of CNR.

We then had to get the brand made. Pete could probably have made it, but it was easier to get it made by a blacksmith who does them all the time.  He built us a very nice stick with our letters on the end.

We were lucky that most of the first round of calves were branded before they were moved to Cheslyn Rise, but eventually, we had to brand some of our own before we could sell them.  I will write about that process in part 2.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Silent Spring - book review

Silent Spring was written in 1962 at a time when herbicides and pesticides had just started to enter mainstream production. They were being used indiscriminately and the devastating effects were starting to be obvious. It is shocking now to read that chemicals which are no longer available for general use were once sprayed out of aeroplanes, over forests, lakes, cities, and farms. These chemicals killed insects, birds, fish, domestic pets, farm animals, and no doubt, caused many people to get sick, if not die, as a result. And even with this clear evidence of the danger of such chemicals, Silent Spring was accused (and still is) of being hysterical and exaggerating the risk. In my view, Rachel Carson was far ahead of her time, in using the limited understanding of genomics and human metabolism at the time to predict that many of these chemicals were primary causes of cancer, as well as various environmental and health problems. This is a case of profit being put before human and environmental health, and it disgusts me that Rachel’s warnings were discredited so widely by the chemical industry.

Many of the chemicals discussed in Silent Spring are now banned because they have since been found to be too dangerous for routine use, but this does not render the book irrelevant. Firstly, it puts in context the amount that chemical use has been limited since the book was published and shows that we need to take seriously such warnings in future. We also should never be blasé about chemicals that are registered for general use. Just because you can buy something now, doesn’t mean that some new piece of information will result in the same chemical being deemed dangerous in the future. All farm chemicals must be treated with respect, if they MUST be used, all precautions to prevent contact with the chemical must be taken.

One thing that really struck me was the idea that these chemicals become absorbed into the cells of plants and animals with which they come into contact. That means any food that has been sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, no matter if it was within the recommended residue or with-holding period, will still contain trace (or maybe more) amounts of chemicals.  Any animal that has come into contact with the spray, or eaten plants that were sprayed, will also have those chemicals in its system long after they have left the environment.  The thing about organic chemicals is that many of them are endocrine (hormone system) disrupters, and that means that even trace amounts are dangerous.  Even though we don’t use any chemicals directly on our animals, if we are feeding them non-organic hay or grain, they will be receiving a dose of chemical anyway. It is so frustrating that food producers don’t have to tell us what chemicals have been used on our food.  To me this make organic produce no longer a "nice to have if you can afford it" idea, but really an essential for good health.

If you are interested in the history of chemical use and a long long list of case studies listing the detrimental effects from early chemical use, Silent Spring is a relatively easy, though shocking, read.  Have you read it?  Any thoughts on chemical vs organic farming?

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Surviving the QLD Heat Wave(s)

I’ve always said that I’d rather be cold than hot. I have had plenty of opportunity to test this theory during the recent heat wave in QLD (over Christmas and New Years, its been a little overshadowed now that southern states are experiencing their own heatwave, but to be honest, it hasn't really cooled down here either). Yep, definitely still don’t like being hot, although my tolerance is improving, 35degC now feels mild after the temperatures we experienced over Christmas and New Year (while bloggers in the US were writting about suffering through a polar blast). Fortunately we did not reach the highs achieved further west or down south (over 45degC in places), but we did get above 40degC on several days, which is plenty hot enough.

Each day of summer, no matter how hot it is, we force ourselves to put on our jeans, boots and long sleeves and venture outside to tend to animals, although we do try to spend the hottest part of the afternoon inside, waiting for the sun to go down. The only thing worse than suffering through a heatwave yourself, is watching your animals suffer. Most of our animals do not appreciate attempts to cool them down, even Cheryl hasn’t realized that when I put her in a bath of cold water I am actually trying to help her to stop panting like a steam train (we call her “puffing billy” on hot days), and Donald the bull was not amused when I threw a bucket of water over him around midday on one particular scorcher. We were lucky that we only lost one hen out of our entire menagerie, the consequences of this heat could have been far worse (although it is ongoing, so I shouldn't speak too soon). Here are some thoughts about helping the homestead to survive a heat wave.

The Vegetable Garden
I was expecting dry weather (although not quite so hot), so I had already prepared the garden with layers of compost, manure and mulch, this helps the soil to retain water. We have shade cloth over the entire garden, and usually I encourage extra shade by growing beans and other climbers up the fence, but this year they haven’t got established in time to provide much shade. I water the garden as soon as it cools down a little and the sun is off the garden, around 4pm, with a fine mist, to try to reduce the air temperature. I go out later, around 6pm, to give the garden a soaking and hope that it will recover overnight. Particularly delicate plants have their own upturned beer bottle to try to maintain moisture around the plant through the day. If you can just keep everything alive, it will regrow when temperatures improve.

The Chickens
Don’t expect many eggs through a hot spell! Just make sure everyone has plenty of cool water and access to shade. I let all the chickens out, even the naughty ones (broody or egg-eating), so that they can find their own shady spot. The only problem is young roosters, as we notice that they tend to chase hens until they are worn out (probably why that one hen died). Best to keep the young roosters separate so the hens get a break. At Eight Acres, the favourite place to be is in the dirt under the veranda, the chickens have made their own holes under there and Cheryl the dog lies there with them too. Another tactic that we use is to feed cool fruit or vegetables to chickens later in the afternoon, juicy options such as tomatoes or watermelon being particularly effective.

During the heatwave we were also running our incubator and have had a terrible hatch rate as the incubator was frequently running too hot. Incubators are not designed to run at such high ambient temperatures, and they do not control temperature effectively when he outside temperature is so close to the intended incubator temperature. We weren’t expecting a heatwave, but in future, we will avoid incubating at this time of year.

The Cattle
Again, cattle need access to fresh water and shade. It is heartbreaking to see a paddock with a single tree and 20 cattle trying to all stand under it in the heat of the day. If you don’t have sufficient trees, you need to provide some other form of shade structure so that all your cattle can get under it.

The Dogs
Cheryl likes to take a dip in the dam on a hot day, but its a long walk for her to the back of the property, so often I put her in the bath (which, according to Cheryl, is not the same thing at all). I also pour buckets of water over her, no wonder she likes Pete the best. I have tried her with frozen bottles of water and wet towels, but she thinks I am mad and will not lie near them.

The Kitchen
The homestead kitchen is full of living things too! If you find that your sourdough starter or kefir or any other ferment is going crazy at these temperatures, put it in the fridge until the heatwave is over. However, I did make one of my better loaves of bread, seems to really get the yeast going! Any natural beauty products should go in the fridge too if you haven’t used any preservatives.

Also note that the hottest day is not the day to decide to render that last batch of fat in the freezer.  It took me a while to realise that I could set up the slow cooker outside instead, the smell was quite overpowering when we had all the windows shut and air con on.

A note about airconditioning and house design
It is my belief that airconditioning should not be necessary in a well-designed passively cooled house, even during a heatwave, however, our house at Eight Acres is anything but well-designed! It is a small hardiplank box that heats up in the afternoon and stays hot all night. It is horribly uncomfortable without airconditioning on any day above 35degC, so we run the airconditioning a few days each year. Our new old house at Cheslyn Rise has been positioned to take advantage of passive cooling and wind currents, and even though we are yet to put insulation in the roof cavity or fit any window coverings to reduce radiation, it was much more comfortable during the heatwave (although we couldn’t stay there because all our animals that needed attention were at Eight Acres!). If you are stuck in a badly designed house, there is not a huge amount you can do without major alterations (we have doors and windows all in the wrong place), although you can consider fitting window screens and increasing insulation in roof and walls. Unfortunately, a house that is cheap to build is often more expensive to run, so its best to spend the money on designing the house to reduce future running costs.

our grass after 6 weeks with no rain and intense temperatures
Any tips for surviving extra hot and dry weather?

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Monday, January 20, 2014

How I use Permaculture - with Chris from Gully Grove

Chris from Living at Gully Grove shares some excellent examples of using permaculture design principles to improve her property, as a response to my invitation to guest post about permaculture. If you have something to contribute that could help others learn how to use permaculture at their place, please send me an email eight.acres.liz at, and I'll send you some more details.

A family of three (now four) left suburbia in 2007, to start life on five acres. We could only afford degraded bushland on slopes, which has proven to be a lesson in how natural systems work. The only way we could live harmoniously with the challenging terrain, was by implementing some clever permaculture designs. It's a constantly evolving process too. We dubbed our little patch “Gully Grove”, simply because gullies are the natural terrain here, and planting groves in them, are our solution to avoiding degradation.

Personally, I never wanted to be a Permaculture convert, but curiosity led me to explore it's potential. We were looking for different ways to interpret the landscape on our five acres. I wasn't sure if any of the strategies would work, but they certainly got me to question my understanding of managing natural energy for long-term permanency.

One thing that should top the list of defining permaculture though, is how it's primarily a design process. All the twelve principles of permaculture you will read about, are meant to start the design process of any garden (or space) you want to create. It's also an evolving process which is ready to adapt to feedback from the environment you've co-engineered with nature.

On our five acres, we've had to lean heavily on the use of swales to manage water flows over the land. Otherwise, water will run rapidly down the slope, taking a lot of soil and nutrients with it.
December 2010 – photo taken from our front verandah
For years we've worked at digging the swales directly above the house by hand. We even designed a small pond in a clay area, which is now a popular watering hole for the kangaroos and birds. It was necessary to implement this design, to protect the house from the water flow – but it also gave us an opportunity to find new ways to hold and direct water, to benefit other living things.

small pond and swale directs the water away from the slope
Our front swale has grown in the seasons, since it was first conceived. With the aid of pigeon peas to shade the pond, and a bank of cana lilies to hold the water back (should it ever break the swale) we have designed a more resilient system to cope with water flows.
2012 – swale on right, cana lily bank on left
(notice the cut green grass on the swale in a dry period?)
Out of necessity, it became important to understand how the natural elements were working on our parcel of land. The permaculture principles and design process really helped us plan a strategy that would defuse negative energy and build resilience into our landscape. It's still an ongoing process.

Swales are not the only tool which can be used in a permaculture design process however. Like most people just starting to explore permaculture for the first time, chances are, you're already living in a permanent dwelling. You cannot change the main structure, but permaculture is a way to design the areas around it, to your own benefit.

Even though we live on acreage, I still utilise the covered verandah around my house. I garden in pots because its easier than gardening in the elements sometimes. I propagate by cutting, division and seed, all on my front verandah. I even get the occasional surprise, like this tomato growing in a pot I did not plant there.

A volunteer tomato
It came via the compost I added to the potting mix. This tomato plant survived the 45 degree temperatures we had in our area recently. I've had to wait longer for this plant to fruit and develop, as it hasn't had access to full sun – but it survived the heatwave which saw my other fruit trees, drop their developing fruits.

I can garden in my pots year round, as they are living in a selected environment I can manipulate to my advantage. If they're not happy in a particular spot, I can always move them to a new one. If you're living on a small block of land in the city, plants are of tremendous value that can fit almost anywhere. You just need the right design to get you started.

Geraniums are hardy pot survivors, sheltering chives in the middle
No-one has to be an expert or full convert to permaculture, in order to try the design principles for themselves. I can think of no greater place to start than Geoff Lawton's website. If you subscribe with your email address, you will receive video links created by Geoff and his team, that will truly inspire you. I've read a lot about permaculture, but have found the new Geoff Lawton videos to be particularly helpful in understanding the design process, with real working models. It covers acreage, urban areas, as well as hot and cold climates. There are new video's uploaded regularly.

Deep Green Permaculture is another site which provides a great start for understanding permaculture, but it also houses a wealth of information for small scale gardens in urban settings.

Even though I've had a few years to test the permaculture design principles in my own backyard, I have to say, I'm constantly developing new appreciation for what I can learn. Permaculture helps me understand the landscape and the immediate human environment surrounding me, better. And I'm not even a full convert. I think I tend to dabble, and that's what works for me.

If you're interested in looking at the world a different way, then consider permaculture. There is plenty of free information on the internet, or borrow a book from the library. You can even purchase ebooks over the internet, or if you're really keen, pay to complete a course. Permaculture is in the public domain, how ever you choose to explore the subject. I haven't regretted dabbling in it myself.

Thanks so much for sharing Chris, what excellent practical examples and before and after photos that really show the power of good permaculture design to improve and make use of a difficult property.  If you would like to comment or ask any questions of Chris, please visit her blog at Living at Gully Grove.

The Chicken Chick

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Ginger syrup

Eating real food is always a compromise.  Soft drink is obviously a bad choice, its full of sugar or artificial sweeteners, and various artificial colours, flavours and additives.  If I feel like something fizzy, I usually drink one of my fermented fizzy drinks, however these are not to everyone's taste.  Specifically, Pete doesn't like them, but he doesn't want to drink soft drink either, so he's been buying cordials to mix with the fizzy water he makes with his beer keg carbon dioxide (see what happens when I leave him alone in the house during the week!).  Personally I don't think that cordials are much better than soft drinks, the only advantage is that you can make a more dilluted drink and not have quite as much rubbish if your drink.  I've tried to get him into apple cide vinegar, but he's not a fan of than either!

I decided to try to make a better version of cordial, which might at least have some goodness in it.  If you put enough sugar in a syrup, it can be kept at room temperature.  The only thing to remember is that you only need a tiny amount because it is so concentrated in sugar, and you need to balance that sugar content with lots of your other flavours as you're not going to put much in the drink.  

I made my syrup using ginger, lime peel and rosella petals.  It wasn't exactly succesful, as Pete still prefers his bought syrups!  (but I like it).  And it grew mould during our hot spell (over 35degC for a week), so in future I would increase the sugar content even further or just keep it in the fridge.

The sugar ratio I used was 2 parts sugar to 1 part water, and I just simmered the ingredients together in a pot for an hour or so until is smelt lovely.  Then I let it cool and strained it into a glass bottle.  I have no advice for actually making a husband-friendly cordial syrup and I would prefer to drink my fermented fizzy drinks, but this is refreshing in still or sprakling water and quicker to make.

Do you make syrups?  Any tips?  Does your husband enjoy real food too?

The Chicken Chick

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

How I use herbs

My herb garden has grown from a few herbs in pots to over 30 different herbs (depending on your definition of herbs), some in pots, some in permanent spots in the garden, and some self-seeding where-ever they please. I have come to use herbs in cooking, preserving and fermenting, in herbal teas, and in various other applications around the house and garden, both for their taste and their healing properties, and as natural alternatives to stronger chemicals. As my interest in herbs has grown, I have also collected a number of herb books. I started with Isobel Shippard’s comprehensive How Can I Use Herbs in my Daily Life?, and added to this several more from markets and op-shops. I’m no herb expert, but I would like to start to share what I have learnt so far and maybe interest you in some of the more unusual herbs in my garden and some less obvious applications for them.

I’ve decided to feature a herb (or a group of herbs) each month and write in detail how and where it grows and how I use it. If you are a herb-geek like me and would like to share some herb knowledge on your own blog, please send me the link and I’ll publish it in my monthly garden post (I’m too stingy to pay for a proper link-up!). Tips for growing and using herbs in different climates will be very useful to other bloggers, so please share what you know.

To give you an idea of what I’m going to write about, here’s my current list of herbs, where they are growing, and how I use them:

Mint – in a pot, used for cooking and tea

Peppermint – in a pot, used for tea

Spearmint – in a pot, used for tea

Rosemary – in a pot, used for cooking and tea

Thyme – in a pot, used for cooking and tea

Oregano – in a pot, used for cooking and tea

Lavender – in the garden, used for bug deterrent and bee food

Sage – in a pot, used for cooking and tea

Ginger – in a pot, used for cooking and tea

Galangal – in the garden, used for cooking and tea

Turmeric – in a pot, used for cooking and tea

Arrowroot – in the garden, used for animal fodder, mulch and root can be eaten

Warrigal greens – in the garden, used as green vege

Herb Robert – self-seeded, used in salads and tea

Rue – in garden, used for bug repellent and chicken worming

Wormwood – in garden, used for bug repellent and chicken worming

Tansy – in garden, used for bug repellent and chicken worming

Raspberry – in garden, fruit eaten (If I’m lucky) and leaves for tea

Winter tarragon – in a pot, used for tea

Nasturtium – in garden, leaves for salad

Soapwort – in a pot, used to make detergent

Comfrey – in a pot and in the garden, used for animal fodder, mulch, compost

Dill – self-seeded, used in salads and pickles

Basil – self-seeded, used in cooking (pesto!)

Parsley – self-seeded, used in cooking

Yarrow - in a pot, used for tea and compost

Marigold - self-seeded, bee food and benefitial conpanion plant

Brahmi – in a pot, used in tea and salad (very bitter though)

Evening primrose – in a pot, not sure what its used for yet

Borage – self-seeded, flowers and leaves used in salad and tea

Calendula - self-seeded, flower petals used in tea and for skin salves

Lemon grass – in a pot and in the garden, used for cooking and tea

Chickweed – self-seeded, used in salad

Garlic chives – self-seeded and spreading (and impossible to eradicate), used in salad

Aloe vera - in the garden, used for compost and healing burns

Isobel Shippard’s book is my absolute favourite because she lives and grows herbs on the Sunshine Coast, which is only about 200 km from Nanango and has a similar climate. All my other herb books are from the US or UK, so they do not offer as much advice about local growing conditions, although some go into more detail about the actual chemicals in the herbs, and some books have different recipes and applications for the herbs. I am going to refer to all the books as I summarise the uses for each herb in my garden.

Some of the herbs in my list may not always be considered herbs. Some are also weeds, spices, flowers, fruit or vegetables, but Isobel includes any plant with medicinal or survival properties in her herb book, including raspberry, chickweed and warrigal greens, so I’ve included these too. She also includes chokos and garlic. Its pretty difficult to define what is and isn’t a herb, every time I read a definition I can think of exceptions that are commonly considered herbs, but not included by that particular definition. I’m just going to include in my list anything that is in at least one of my herb books.

Do you use herbs?  Any thoughts to share on what is and isn't a herb?

The Chicken Chick

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Permaculture - an invitation

Each month in 2013 I reviewed a principle from David Holmgren's Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability.  If you missed them, here they all are:

Reading the book, one chapter at a time, over a whole year, really made me think about each principle.  Not just the practical aspects, but the wider social implications.  I had some great discussions with readers along the way, and I think that really deepened my understanding of permaculture.

Now I want to turn it over to you readers.  I think everyone has their own version of permaculture and their own thoughts to add, so I'm hoping to get some volunteers to write some guests posts about permaculture.  Most of all, I want you to make your posts accessible to new permies, tell them what permaculture means to you, how you discovered it, and how you use it every day.  Tell them how they can learn more about permaculture too.

If you're interested, please send me an email on eight.acres.liz at gmail dot com and I'll send you some more details.  I'm going to publish whatever you send me, so don't be shy, let's share the permaculture knowledge with everyone!

Who's keen to share?

Friday, January 10, 2014

Fermented mustard

I have been wanting to try making mustard, but my plans involved growing my own mustard seed.... and that just hasn't happened yet, so I realised I was just going to have to try it with some bought mustard seeds, not organic or anything, oh well.

The recipe is pretty simple, just combine 1/2 cup of mustard seeds, 1/3 cup of water, 2 T organic unpasteurised apple cider vinegar, 1 T raw local honey, 2 T whey from raw milk cream cheese (or kefir or yoghurt), 1 t sea salt, a little garlic and lemon juice, in the blender and whiz until it reaches the desired consistency.

The only difference between this fermented mustard and other mustard, is the addition of the whey.  You need to leave the jar of mustard at room temperature for a few days to allow it to ferment slightly.  You can't taste the fermentation, but it will help the mustard to last longer.

Fermented mustard is the accompaniment to homegrown beef steak!  Especially if you are trying to avoid the high-sugar sauce options.

Have you grown mustard seeds?  Made mustard?  Fermented anything lately?

From The Farm Blog Hop  Homestead Barn Hop

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Farm update January 2014

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you had a good break.  We haven't had the best start to the year with the weather so far, two weeks of heat wave and very little rain is not ideal, but I keep thinking the rain will come eventually.

Irrespective of the heat wave, Pete wanted to get some work done on our house at Eight Acres and that involved me having to climb on the roof, so I thought I'd take a few photos from up there, as its a perspective that you don't get very often!

looking out to the round yard and the chicken tractors
looking up the driveway and the hugelkulture on the right
looking across to our water tanks and the garden is a little shady oasis in the brown grass

Apart from the horrible heat, there are some good things about summer:

mango season
Going to the beach
kangaroos at the beach
gum tree blossom
Back at the farm, did I mention it as hot?  We are feeding the Brafords molasses, copra meal, minerals and countless bales of hay.  We don't have much for them except dry grass, and not even much of that left... but they are at least not as skinny as last year.
Brafords enjoying their molasses ration
The place to be in the heat of the day is under the veranda

And I wrote about the poor dry Garden here.

And the best news for last, we got a puppy!  In no way does this little one replace Chime, we still think of her a lot, but it is lovely have a new little puppy to distract us.

She is called "Taz" because I said she looked a little bit like a tasmanian devil with her little white nose.  She is a kelpie/short-haired border collie cross, 11 weeks old, $100 from the Nanango markets last Saturday, apparently from working parents, so we are hoping she will work cattle one day herself.  She seems to have figured out toilet training, chasing ball and rounding up the chickens already, and she's running old Cheryl ragged!  It is interesting watching the dynamic between the puppy and the old dog, at 11, maybe Cheryl is too old to put up with puppy shinanagans!  We are going to need to do some puppy training in a few months, so that will be interesting... any tips for keeping an energetic puppy occupied and not annoying her grumpy old friend?

Cheryl meets her new friend
Taz sleeping after a long day of running around like a crazy dog!

A few interesting blogs that found me in the last few months:

How was you December and New Year?  Any plans for the rest of January?

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