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Showing posts from January, 2015

The air-conditioning dilemma

When I first moved to Brisbane from New Zealand I arrived in late January. I firmly believed that air conditioning was a waste of energy, so when I stepped off the plane to 30degC heat (coming from a summer that had barely hit 20degC) I was determined to acclimatise as quickly as possible, even though I felt like I was melting. When I got to my hotel I tried sitting on the balcony with a cold drink, to begin adjusting to the heat. I don’t think I lasted more than ten minutes before my resolve crumbled and I was back inside trying to work the air conditioner! I have come a long way since then. I can now work outside in 30degC or hotter, in jeans, long sleeve shirt and boots, but I still can’t sleep if its too hot.



Our house at Eight Acres came with an older style ducted reverse cycle split system air conditioner installed in the lounge. On very hot days, we would turn it on and lie on the couch to try to cool down, but the cold air never quite made it to the bedroom at the other …

Natural soap using beef tallow

We had two aims when we started making soap:

1) to make soap from local ingredients, especially those that we could grow ourselves

2) to not use any chemical additives for colour, scent or preservative

We achieved the first aim recently when we made 100% tallow soap from our own beef. That means that the ingredients were tallow, rainwater, caustic soda and essential oil. The only thing we had to buy was the 100g or so of caustic soda and 15mL of essential oil, so that was pretty close to being locally sourced ingredients. (I am interested in making soap from wood ash instead of caustic, but that is another project!).

That was a very plain soap, and fine for Pete and I to use, but we wanted to make something a bit nicer to give as gifts and we wanted to smell to last longer.




I came across the Nerdy Farm Wife Jan Berry’s ebook “Natural Soap Making” (Affiliate link) at just the right time (actually it would have been good to find it earlier, as it starts with a great step-by-step guid…

Hatching chicks!

We hatched some babies!  24 chicks from around 38 eggs.  Not the best hatch rate, but plenty of chicks for us to raise.  See this post on my chicken tractor ebook blog for a summary of all my posts about incubating, hatching and caring for baby chicks.





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 safe, have access to clean grass, fresh air and bugs. Feed costs are reduced, chickens are happier, and egg production increases. 

Natural toothpaste options

We have been using a natural toothpaste for years, its probably one of the first changes that we made from a "conventional" lifestyle to our current weird hippy lifestyle. At first I just wanted to avoid sodium lauryl sulphate in commercial toothpaste. But there are other ingredients that I also found suspicious, artificial sweeteners, flavours and fluoride all made me a little nervous. I don’t want to get into the conspiracy theories around fluoride (here is a relatively balanced article, and one from the other end of the spectrum), except to say that I’ve looked at the data on flouride and tooth decay and I’m not convinced that mass-flouridisation prevents tooth decay, so I’d rather avoid it. I bring my own rainwater to Brisbane so I don’t have to drink town water, so my consumption is fairly low.

I went to the dentist last year, after a break of a couple of years, and I was pretty nervous.  Even though I was sure I was doing the right thing, I wondered how I would re…

How I use herbs - Herb Robert

Last year I start my review of herbs in my garden, both to give some ideas for readers about how herbs can be grown and used, and to force me to read some of the herb books on my bookshelf!  So far I have reviewed some fairly common herbs:

How I use herbs
How I use herbs - Mint, Peppermint and Spearmint
How I use herbs - Aloe Vera
How I use herbs - Basil
How I use herbs - Ginger, galangal and turmeric
How I use herbs - Marigold, calendula and winter taragon
How I use herbs - Soapwort
How I use herbs - Comfrey
How I use herbs - Nasturtium
How I use herbs - Parsley
How I use herbs - Borage

This year, I'm keen to start writing about some of the more unusual herbs in my garden.  For a start, have you heard of Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum)?  Of my four herb books, one does not mention it at all, and two only have a brief paragraph, which doesn't tell you much.  Fortunately, Isabell Shippard included a lengthy section in her book "How I Can Use Herbs in My Daily Life", which det…

Kefir for beginners

Most people have heard of yoghurt, but kefir, also made by fermenting milk, is less well known and just as tasty and benefitial for our health. The origins of kefir are shrouded in mystery, we may never know where it came from, but if you can get hold of some kefir grains for yourself and look after them, you will always have kefir, which has endless uses.

Kefir grains are a mixture of yeasts and bacteria that form a solid mass, they are not actually "grains" in terms of seeds, they are just a squishy translucent blob that grows in the milk. The composition of kefir grains varies naturally from one batch to another, but all contain a mixture of lactic-acid bacteria and various yeasts. To make kefir (or kefirred milk), the grains are placed in a container of fresh milk and allowed to stand at room temperature for at least a day, if not several days, the grains are then strained out and used to make more kefir.


Kefir tastes sour, slightly cheesy and is a little effervesce…

Watermelon granita recipe

In summer we can usually buy cheap watermelons (I am yet to master growing them myself, I think I am missing the key ingredient - water), but usually we can't eat the whole thing.  I like to make granita.  Granita is like a chunky form of sorbet.  I use less sugar than most recipes and I just blend the whole watermelon (rather than juicing it), so you get all the fibre.  I also put in some ginger, lemon and herbs (mint, lemon balm and winter tarragon).  Pete thought that it tasted too "herby", but I think it complements the watermelon and I love to use my herbs.  On a hot summer's day, I'm glad to have some real-food granita to cool me down, rather than a sugary, artificial ice block.


I use our handchurn ice cream maker, it takes about 20 minutes to make 1 litre from pre-chilled mixture, but if you don't have an ice cream machine you can just put it straight in the freezer and scrape the sides down every half hour.

Watermelon Granita

Cut up your watermelon and …

Slow living farm update - January 2015

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you had a lovely break and time with family over the past few weeks.  I'm joining in the Slow Living Monthly Nine again, started by Christine at Slow Living Essentials and currently hosted by Linda at Greenhaven.  We were very busy being slow in December....


Nourish I wish I could say that I grew this beauty, but I am yet to master watermelons in own garden. Fortunately there are plenty of growers around us (but none are organic) and we can usually get a few cheap watermelons in summer. We can’t eat a whole melon though, so I like to make granita, which I can pull out of the freezer to enjoy on hot summer days. I’ll post my recipe soon, but I can tell you it includes ginger and mint, I’ll take any opportunity to use my herbs!




Prepare We have been waiting for the pickling cucumbers to grow and I thought I’d better start fermenting the three we had so far, or they might be too far gone by the time I had a jar-full. I ferment them rather than pickle…

Raw milk in Australia - the facts without the media hype

Have you been following the current controversy over raw milk in Victoria? Long story short, one child has tragically died and others in Victoria, Australia, have become sick with various food-poisoning, all of them consumed raw milk, but there is no proven link between the milk and the illnesses. Details in the media are few and a bit muddled.  Nevertheless, the Victorian government has already made plans to force producers of raw milk to add a bittering agent to their milk prior to sale, so that it cannot be consumed. Now the NSW Premier has joined the discussion, and its looking like this issue could become a problem for all states of Australia. All of this before a coroner’s inquiry has had a chance to officially determine the cause of death, which may not even be due to raw milk.

Even if you are not personally interested in buying and consuming raw milk, this story has implications for everyone's right to chose what we eat and drink. Most of the media show very little un…

Garden Share - January 2015

Happy New Year everyone!  How are your gardens?  Did you get a chance to do some gardening over the Christmas holidays?  I had two weeks at home pottering, and we finally got some rain!




About 100mm altogether, which is very close to our long term average.  The garden did what its supposed to do, and GREW with all the rain.  If the weather did this every year, I think I'd have my sub-tropical spring seed-raising system nearly sorted.  I need to start the seeds as early as possible in a green-house, around late August, so that they are big enough to survive the hot dry months of September and November, and then take off when it rains properly in December and January.  Unfortunately we can't always rely on the rain, so you never know what will make it through to actually producing a harvest.  Last year we were still waiting on decent rain by March!



This year I have plenty of purple bush beans.  Does anyone else find bush beans difficult?  I prefer climbers, but they are slower to…