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Showing posts from February, 2015

Five acres and a dream - book review

Starting a homestead, or just living more sustainably where you are, is a daunting project.  There are so many factors to think through.  First you might get chickens to provide eggs, but then you have to think about what you will feed them, do you want to rely of store bought feed or try to grow your own?  Are you going to hatch your own to replace the layers as they get old?  With an electric incubator or a broody hen?  Are you going to kill and eat the older hens or the roosters?  Each decision leads to another, and gradually you piece together a sustainable life that meets your needs.




Fortunately there are many great blogs and books around that step through the thought processes of other homesteaders.  One that I have particularly enjoyed recently is Leigh Tate's book called 5 Acres & A Dream The Book: The Challenges of Establishing a Self-Sufficient Homestead (affiliate link here).  Leigh also writes a blog called 5 Acres & A Dream, which details their progress towar…

How I use herbs - purslane

You might know purslane (Portulaca oleracea) as a weed, its also known as verdolaga, pigweed, little hogweed, red root, pursley, and moss rose. It is an annual succulent, native to India and Persia, that spreads and produces tiny yellow flowers. It can have green or red stems. It seems to be prevalent in most temperate climates and has been used since ancient times as both a medicine and a food.




How to grow purslane?
You may gather wild purslane, or you may want to cultivate it in your garden (and have some control over your supply). It starts easily from seed, and is one of those wonderful plants that produces copious seeds, so you will always have some in your garden. Apparently it tolerates poor compacted soils, and drought (I have seen it growing in a gravel on our farm tracks), so I guess this combined with the amount of seeds, explains why it is considered a weed.

Even better, purslane can benefit other plants in your garden. Purslane provides ground cover, which assists wi…

Using compression fittings on poly ag pipe

If you want to move water from one place to another on your property, you will probably use poly pipe, or "ag" (agriultural) pipe.  Ag pipe comes in a range of sizes, from 3/4 inch to 2 inch nominal diamer, and in high and low pessure ratings (900 and 800 kPa respectively).  The larger the diameter, the more you will pay for the pipe and the fittings, but the less energy you will need to pump water through the pipe for a given flowrate.
When you have decided what size pipe and which pressure you want, you will probably need some fittings.  The fittings are "compression" fittings, which means they use a "ferrule" and an o-ring compressed to the pipe to seal the fitting.  (Would you believe that there is a Wikipedia article that explains this?).  When buying fittings, make sure you get the right size, and the right pressure rating, as its very difficult to get the high-pressure fittings to work with the low-pressure pipe! The high-pressure pipe has thicker…

Eat Drink Paleo - book review

I keep seeing that word Paleo pop up and I keep thinking I should really find out more about it, so when Penguin asked me if I would like to review Eat Drink Paleo The Cookbook (by Irena Macri), I said "yes please".  Irena has a blog of the same name and a passion for Paleo cooking.  Click here to visit Eat Drink Paleo The Cookbook .



While this book is a cookbook and does not get into the detail of Paleo (although Irena suggests a number of books to read if you want to know more) it does cover the basics and presents a wide range of recipes.  Basically, the aim of the Paleo lifestyle is to eat and exercise more like our distant ancestors would have done.  That means no processed foods, no grains and legumes, no potatoes and no dairy.  It also means lots of free-range meat and eggs, fresh veges and fruit and good oils like coconut and olive oil.  Its much like how we eat now, except we would have to give up grains and legumes (I only eat a small amount at the moment) and dair…

Renovating a Queenslander ( + what is a Queenslander?)

We have started painting our Queenslander. And by “started painting” I mean, we started sanding, its a long process. Its an old house and it has been painted many many times before, we are just adding another layer.



If you’re now wondering “what is a Queenslander?”, its a style of house unique to the tropics and sub-tropics of Queensland, Australia. It has a broad definition, but you know one when you see one, generally a Queenslander is:

timber construction with corrugated-iron roof; highset on timber (or metal) stumps (can be anywhere from 1 m to 2 m off the ground) ; single-skin cladding for partitions and sometimes external walls (i.e. vertical join (VJ) walls); surrounded by verandas front and/or back, and sometimes the sides; adorned with decorative features to screen the sun or ventilate the interior. 

Someone asked on facebook if our house has a foundation. The short answer, is no, it doesn’t have a slab, it sits on stumps of 75mm box section (RHS) that are concreted into the g…

Planting a perennial pasture

We have been talking about perennial pasture for months now. Actually I wrote about it in July 2013, so its been nearly two years in the planning and discussing phase. This weekend we bought pasture seed, ploughed up about 10 acres and planted the first section of our 60 acres of cultivation land with a perennial pasture mix. What were we waiting for?  Rain mostly, and also just deciding what to plant and how to plant it....

Here’s what I wrote before about why we wanted to try to establish a perennial pasture instead of growing forage for our cattle:
When we looked at how much we had spent on diesel, seed, and fertiliser just to plant these forage crops, which never made it to hay bales, we started to question whether it was really worth doing. Forage crops do have more energy and protein compared to perennial grasses, but they cost more to grow and are unpredictable in dry-land farming.

From a permaculture perspective, all this driving around in the tractor, ploughing and planting, …

Slow living farm update - February 2015

As we come into the final hot month of summer, I'm joining in the Slow Living Monthly Nine again, started by Christine at Slow Living Essentials and currently hosted by Linda at Greenhaven. How was your January?


Nourish We roasted one of our frozen chooks (roosters from last year’s hatch) and after carving the meat, I popped the carcass into the slow cooker to make chicken stock. I just add a carrot, celery from the garden, an onion and some herbs and leave it cooking for 24 hours or more. Then I put it in the freezer in small containers to use in cooking. Real stock with lots of gelatine is healing and makes everything tasty without the need for “packets” or additives.  (More about making stock in the slow cooker here)



Prepare We made more soap from our beef tallow, this time using some zeolite to colour it, and an essential oil mixture for scent.  We are pretty confident about using our tallow to make soap now.  And we have a lot of soap to use up after all that practicing!  …

Garden Share - February 2015

January has been another good month for rain, with summer doing just about what its supposed to do here, and producing plenty of summer storms, we got around 100 mm for the month.  We've had some very hot days, like last summer, but with the rain, this results in everything growing really well (instead of just withering!).


With the rain has come BEANS!  I currently have four types of beans growing, eight purple bush beans, two climbing purple kings, one yellow butter bean bush, and one snake bean.  I'm particularly excited about the snake bean as I haven't grown them before and it got off to a very slow start.  The snake beans are long and thin, and rounder than the other beans.  They are supposed to be more suited to the tropical climate.


The choko vine has finally started flowering, so we should have chokos soon.  I'm still waiting for the rosellas to flower.  In the meantime we have plenty of button squash.  The carrots that I planted in winter have started to grow…