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Showing posts from July, 2014

One Straw Revolution - natural farming - book review

One Straw Revolution - An Introduction to Natural Farming was published in 1978, a collection of Masanobu Fukuoka's writing translated into English by Larry Korn, who had spent time on Mr Fukuoka's farm.  The most recent edition (2009) also includes an introduction by Frances Moore Lappe, and preface by Wendell Berry.  (Excellent podcast interview with Larry Korn about One Straw Revolution here, in which he explains that natural farming is complimentary to permaculture, but not the same thing)

One Straw Revolution describes Mr Fukuoka's invention and practice of what he calls "Natural Farming", or "do-nothing farming".  The basic concept is to work with nature rather than against it, but not to abandon it completely to the wild.  Natural farming has only four rules:
No cultivation of soilNo chemical fertiliser or prepared compostNo weeding by tillage or herbicideNo dependence on chemicals If you are starting from either of the alternatives - traditional …

House cow milking schedule

I am often asked if we have to milk our cows twice a day, everyday.  I don't think we could handle that kind of schedule, so thankfully the answer is "no"!  Sure, if you want a lot of milk, and you have the time, you can milk your cow that regularly, but we only need a few litres of milk a week.  We use the calf as a share milker as soon as its big enough, and I've written all about it over at my house cow ebook blog...  Click here to read the rest...



You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy
Interview with myself

Interview with Mark and Kate from Purple Pear Permaculture

Interview with Kim from the Little Black Cow

Interview with Rose Petal

Interview with Marie from Go Milk the Cow

Interview with Ohio Farmgirl

Buy my ebook "Our Experience with House Cows" on EtsyLulu and Amazon, or email on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com to arrange delivery.  More information on my house cow ebook blog.





Reviews of "Our Experience with H…

Plastic Free - cleaning products

When I occasionally walk up the "cleaning" aisle of the supermarket I am baffled by all the different products, gadgets and essential items required to keep our house clean!  I have never made a secret of the fact that I don't particularly like spending time cleaning the house.  I have much more interesting things to do in the garden, but I do try to keep in to a minimum standard (and to be fair, Pete is the chief toilet cleaner).  We don't buy any cleaners from the supermarket these days, but we do occasionally clean the house.... more on this in a minute....

This July Pete and I have taken up the challenge once again to reduce and analyse our single use plastic consumption with Plastic Free July. Throughout July have to shared with you our progress, and lots of tips and ideas, and its been great to see you all join in. I have one more giveaway, so join in, share your ideas and have a chance to win some plastic-free products this July!

In Week 1 I wrote about food s…

Growing and eating chokos (chayotes)

Cooking chokos (not be confused with another post about cooking chooks) has been the subject of a few questions on my blog lately, so here's some more information for you.
Chokos - also known as Chayote, christophene or christophine, cho-cho, mirliton or merleton, chuchu, Cidra, Guatila, Centinarja, Pipinola, pear squash, vegetable pear, chouchoute, güisquil, Labu Siam, Ishkus or Chowchow, Pataste, Tayota, Sayote - is a vine belonging to the Cucurbitaceae family, along with pumpkins, squash and melons, with the botanical name Sechium edule.


The choko contains a large seed, like a mango, but if you pick them small enough it is soft enough to eat.  If you leave the choko for long enough it will sprout from one end and start to grow a vine.  To grow the choko, just plant the sprouted choko and give the vine a structure to climb over.  In summer, the vine will produce tiny flowers that will eventually swell into choko fruit.  The vine doesn't like hot dry weather.  And it doesn&#…

Making a dressmaker's dummy

For a while now I have believed that the main barrier to me doing a better job of sewing my own clothes was my lack of a or dressmaker's dummy (aka dressmakers form or mannequin).  When I last investigated the cost of  a dummy, they seemed too extravagant, so I looked for a way to make my own.  There are a few methods around, using plaster bandages, using paper packaging tape, and finally, the one I chose, duct tape!

Not only is making your own dummy very cheap, if you are careful, you end up with a form that exactly matches your own body.  Well its a lot closer than an expensive adjustable dummy anyway.  All you need is a few rolls of duct tape (at least four to be safe), and old tight-fitting t-shirt to wear (and cut up) under the duct tape, a spare 2-3 hours and at least one person to help (pick someone that you don't mind smoothing duct tape over your upper body, I used my husband).  The first element is the easiest, the others can be more difficult, when I got the bag of …

Plastic Free - Personal care, toiletries and other euphamisms

I often forget how much plastic is in a "normal" bathroom.  Bottles, tubes and tubs of shampoo, conditioner, bodywash, deodorant, hairspray, hair gel, hair dye,  moisturiser, cleanser, toner, eye wrinkle cream, make up remover, make up containers x a million, toothpaste, tooth brush, toilet paper packaging, razors, shaving cream etc.... more on that in a minute....


This July Pete and I are taking up the challenge once again to reduce and analyse our single use plastic consumption with Plastic Free July.

What's plastic-free in my bathroom?
Homemade soap (details here and here)
Homemade deodorant (recipe here)
Homemade skin salve (recipe here)
Damadi moisturiser (made in Australia, packaged in glass jars that I reuse for the above)
Shaving stick and brush

What's still plastic?
Toothpaste (Miessence organic, in a plastic tube, something I should make, any suggestions?)
Toothbrushes (just the normal supermarket version, I tried the bamboo ones and I just wasn't happy wi…

Plastic rainwater tanks - neutralising drinking water

I realised that the rainwater in our new plastic water tanks was acidic when I wanted to test our garden soil pH and I couldn't get the pH meter to work properly.  I thought it was broken.  I recalibrated it several times, and still it was reading below pH 5 on water from the tap.  After some research, I realised that the pH meter wasn't broken, our rainwater really is that acidic.

You've probably heard of acid rain.  Rain absorbs gases such as suphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which creates sulphuric, nitric and carbonic acids respectively.  In concrete water tanks, the acid dissolves the lime in the cement and returns the water pH to neutral (7), but that's why concrete tanks usually end up leaking.  Evidently a similar reaction occurs in rusty metal tanks, probably with the iron, as our water used to be pH 7 in the old tanks.  In plastic tanks, there is nothing to react, so the water remains acidic.  We live near a power station, …

Cooking old chooks

We usually keep around ten to twenty hens for eggs.  Unfortunately, as hens get older, they lay less frequently, and that's an awful lot of hens to feed if they are not producing eggs.  Every year we cull the older hens, but they don't go to waste.  If any are really skinny or unwell, we bury them in the garden, but the rest of them we butcher and cook.  Sure old hens can't be cooked the same as a young rooster, but you can still prepare some delicious meals from them. We don't buy chicken meat, so any opportunity to eat chicken is a rare treat for us and we don't waste anything!

Roast hen - you can roast the hens, but they need to cook for a long time, several hours, in a closed roasting dish with liquid in the bottom so they don't dry out.  I season with herbs and garlic.



Minced hen - we also like to mince the breast and leg meat and make meatballs, this avoids the stringy texture.


Chicken stock - I fill the slow cooker with as much wings and feets as it will fi…

Plastic Free - Recycling and reducing rubbish

Ironically, this July is the beginning of the end of recycling in the South Burnett Regional Council area.  Yes, you read correctly, from July 2014 we will no longer have curb-side collection of recycling, its all going to landfill.  Not to recycling at the landfill either, we don't even have the option to take our own recycling to the tip, there is simply no facility for it. Essentially our council tricked us into this change.  They sent out a survey and asked if we wanted to pay extra for another bin for recycling.  We were happy with our one split bin - half for rubbish and half for recycling.  Unfortunately the options weren't well explained, and our region didn't vote for the second bin, our council is now only providing one bin for rubbish, no more split bin.  Apparently they are now "looking into" providing recycling facilities at our landfills, but at the moment there is no local recycling options.  More on that in a minute....

This July Pete and I are ta…

How I use herbs - Soapwort

I bought a tiny little soapwort plant a couple of years ago and I have been waiting patiently for it to grow because I really wanted to try using it for laundry detergent.  I found out about soapwort after I started using soap nuts for laundry.  I like soap nuts, but they are imported from overseas and can't be grown here as they are considered a weed plant.

Soapwort (Saponaria officinalis) is commonly grown as a flowering plant (unfortunately I don't have a photo of mine in flower).  Its leaves and roots contain saponins, which is a chemical that lathers when mixed with water.  This makes soapwart an effective cleaner.  Soapwart can also be made into a decoction to treat external skin conditions (I haven't tried this), and although it can be taken internally for various ailments, it comes with many warnings, so I haven't tried that either.  As soapwort can be poisonous, you need to grow it where grazing animals cannot access it, so I have kept mine in a pot for now.  …

Garden update - July 2014

June was really warm (relatively), it didn't feel like winter at all, and then after winter solstice its suddenly got properly cold (for Queensland, that is!).  We still have day time temperatures in the mid 20degC, but it has been frosty overnight.  I have been heating up wheat packs to stay warm in Brisbane during the week, while Pete's had the woodstove cranking back home (and telling me about all the roast potatoes I'm missing out on!).  The harvest in late June was the last of slightly frost damaged chokos (more about them later in July) and tromboncinos and lots of brassicas.  A few peas that have climbed so high, they may survive (they tend to only get frost damage on the tendrils).  Radishes, although I never find these easy to grow (why does everyone say they are easy??) and some stalks of celery (I pick it as it grows rather than waiting to pick an entire bunch).  And two eggs from our newest laying hens, its a good time to buy new hens, as the old girls are taki…