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Showing posts from September, 2016

Winter Woodfires: Cooking in a woodstove

Did you know what you can get woodstoves that are designed for both heating your house and cooking?  We've owned two woodstoves now, both with ovens under the fire box for cooking.  I hardly ever use our electric oven in winter (and in summer we tend to use the BBQ or the slow cooker because its too hot in the house).  Cooking in a woodstove is easy and convenient.  If you are considering installing a woodstove for heating, you should consider the cooking option too, as it doesn't cost much more and you will be able to cook all your meals for free while your heating the house anyway.


The first woodstove that we tried was a Nectre Bakers Oven.  It was a lovely little oven, that heated up quickly.  But it has a tiny firebox and doesn't stay warm overnight (important in a drafty old Queenslander!). We cooked many roasts, loaves of bread, cakes and roast potatoes in the oven.  In fact, because the electric oven in that house was terrible, I baked and cooked more in the woodsto…

Using mulch in your organic garden

Not only does mulch help to suppress weeds in the garden, it also adds organic matter to feed the soil microbes and retain water.  I also use mulch on the paths to stop them getting muddy.  As more worms have started to make their home in my garden, I find that I regularly have to top up the mulch around my garden (the worms pull is down into their burrows).  Luckily I have a few sources on our property and rarely have to specifically buy anything to use as mulch.  Here's a few ideas for using mulch in your organic garden.


Some of the types of mulch that I use in the garden: Sugar cane mulch sold in the produce (although this gets expensive)Bales of mulch hay, which is really just good hay that's been out in the weather too long, most hay farmers will have a few bales of mulch hay that they can sell cheaply, although this is difficult to collect if you don't have a ute and can contain seeds (I usually have a lovely crop of oats in my garden from using oat hay at some stage,…

Growing and using celery

Celery is one vegetable that I never used to like before I grew it myself.  Silverbeet is the other one.  Celery from the supermarket is usually stringy and tasteless, and depending how old it is, may also be a bit limp.  Homegrown celery is crunchy and tasty.  Here's how I grow and use celery.



How to grow celery
I have had no luck growing celery from seed that I planted, and resorted to buying seedlings, however, celery that then went to seed seems to have now produced more celery seedlings.  I still don't know how to get celery seeds to germinate, so if you're new to gardening I recommend buying seedlings to avoid disappointment.  Celery needs plenty of moisture and I have observed that it will not grow well when we get very hot and dry conditions.  It does grow through winter here though (surviving light frosts) and thrives any time we have warm and wet conditions.  If you keep it growing long enough it will eventually go to seed and die off, however it seems to keep gro…

Holistic management - part 4: ecosystem processes

The book Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making (affiliate link) sets out a guide to developing a holistic goal for your farm or business.  (See my introduction to Holistic Management here, and part 2: four key insights for the reasons why holistic management is important and part 3: holistic goal for understand what you are managing and what you want from it).



Holistic management considers four fundamental and interelated processes that function within our ecosystem/environment: Water cycleMineral cycleEnergy cycle Community dynamics These processes are the foundation on which we can build our holistic goals.  The holistic goal should be formulated around how we want to influence these processes, as any improvement in one will result in an overall improvement in productivity of the land.  I will use this post to discuss the processes and further develop the holistic goal that I drafted previously.

Water Cycle
Most of us would have learnt about the water cycle in schoo…

The story of our turkeys - from eggs to roast

The turkeys arrived at our property as 12 eggs, bursting out of an egg cartoon (being larger than chicken eggs), towards the end of June 2010.  We put them all straight into the incubator and 28 days later 4 chicks hatched.  They were just like chicken chicks, maybe a little bigger, but just as cute.

The turkeys got bigger quickly and soon stopping looking like chickens.  They started to get their weird turkey features and we could see that we had 2 hens and 2 gobblers.  Speaking of gobblers, there's some wonderful terminology for turkeys, which has been a source of much amusement since they arrived here.
Caruncle - brightly colored growths on the throat region.  Turns bright red when the turkey is upset or during courtship.Snood - the flap of skin that hangs over the turkey's beak.  Turns bright red when the turkey is upset or during courtship.Wattle - the flap of skin under the turkey's chin. Turns bright red when the turkey is upset or during courtship.
We were worried a…

My top five veges for beginner gardeners in the sub-tropics

I wrote this post when I had only been gardening for about 3 years, but these are still my favourite vegetables to grow.  They are easy to grow and produce a good crop.  This is a list of my top 5 favourites for beginners in a sub-tropical climate:



1. Silverbeet
This is a surprising one, as I never ate it before I had a garden, but it was the thing I missed the most when we first moved house and I had no garden for a few months.  Once established, silverbeet keeps going for months (in this climate anyway).  We usually have about six mature plants in the garden at a time, which provides a couple of leaves for our dinner each night and extra as a treat for the chickens.  Even when veges in the supermarket are between seasons and expensive, we can always top up a meal with a few leaves of silverbeet.


2. Cherry Tomatoes
While the large tomatoes have proven to be delicate, disease-prone and attacked by fruit fly, the little cherry tomatoes have had no such trouble.  They just keep going no m…

Native bee hotel

Like I wrote back here, native pollinators are as important (if not more important) than honey bees for pollinating crops and native plants.  There are a few things you can do to attract native pollinators to your garden:

Grow flowers and let your veges flower to feed the pollinators all yearHave a source of insect-friendly water in the garden (shallow dishes are best)Provide somewhere for them to live/nest/lay eggs - a bee hotel! In Australia, our native pollinators consist of both stingless native bees, which live in a colony like honey bees, and lots of solitary bees and wasps.  These solitary insects are just looking for a suitable hole to lay their eggs.  You may be familiar with these in sub-tropical and tropical areas, in summer you will find any and all holes, pipes and tubes around the house plugged with mud by what we call "mud daubers".  These area a real nuisance, so I'd rather provide some custom holes near the garden where they can live instead, so I don'…

Farm update - September 2016

August is over and we are coming into spring.  The days are getting longer, the nights are warmer and its just a nice time of year for getting some work done before the heat of summer.  We've had a few more rainy patches to keep the grass green.






Food and cooking
I had a cold, and the highlight was using the rosemary and thyme infused raw honey that I made in summer from our honey.  It was beautiful with lemon and ginger.




Land and farming
Our neighbours burned one of their paddocks, and I was not impressed (see my thoughts on burning pasture here, which I will expand on when I get further into holistic management).


Chickens We finally got a chance to butcher the four remaining roosters and cull six older hens, which has got us down to more management numbers (20-ish hens with three roosters in three chicken tractors).  And now one of the young hens has gone broody...




Cows and cattle
We have put the angus cows and calves onto the improved pasture, but as it borders our neighbour's …