Monday, January 30, 2017

Pack your own lunch recipes - January 2017

We take our own lunch to work every day because the only other option is the work canteen which is a) expensive and b) junk.  We usually cook up a big batch of something like a casserole, stir fry, curry or roast, and make up individual servings to take to work each day (in glass containers).  We eat the same lunch every day all week, and something different for dinner.  This doesn't bother me, but you might prefer to freeze some of the portions so you can mix it up.

I decided this year to share photos and recipes from our lunches so that you might be inspired to pack your own lunch too.  Here's what we took for lunch in January.  I also share them on Instagram each Sunday night (you will also see them on the Facebook page).  And I'll post the recipes at the end of the month.  I'm not great at following recipes, and I'm also not good at writing them, because I tend to just use up what we have in the fridge/pantry/garden, things that are on special or we've been given at our local produce share.  I'll tell you what I made, but I'm not saying you should follow exactly, just use it as a rough guide and use up whatever you have handy too.

Week 1: Spicy Asian mince with vegetables
This one is so easy and very tasty.  You can use any mince (this time we had pork) and could also serve with rice (I prefer to avoid grains and increase the vege content instead).  This made eight portions for our first week back at work after the Christmas break.

1 kg mince
lots of chopped veges (I used 1 x onion, 1 x carrot, 1 x zucchini, 4 x mushroom and half cabbage, substitute whatever you have in the fridge, garden or cheap at the supermarket this week)
about 1 cup chicken stock
about 1/4 cup soy sauce
2 large teaspoons of curry powder
  • Cook the mince
  • Add everything else and cook until veges are just soft (you will reheat for lunch, so don't over do the veges!)
  • Dish up individual portions for lunch
The chicken stock really makes this dish tasty, so if you're not making it yourself yet, have a go, its really easy in a slow cooker and will feature most weeks.

Week 2: Roast chicken
A roast is a really easy one to last the week, you just need a couple of hours to cook it, then slice it up and you have the meat done.  You can mix it up with different vegetables each day, or just cook up a bulk amount to go with the meat (as I did).  I cut up all the vegetables and cook in butter in a large frying pan until just tender.  I also made roast potato and sweet potato with this one as we had the BBQ on anyway.  Some of the vegetables were also for Sunday dinner, so it wasn't much extra time to cut them up.  Note that this was a homegrown roast chicken, so the leg meat is very dark, I eat the dark meat (so tasty) and Pete prefers the lighter meat from the breasts.  When you're finished with the roast chicken you can use the carcass to make more stock, just throw it in the slow cooker with some veges!

1 roast chicken
2 cup chicken stock
dried herbs - rosemary, thyme, bay leaf etc
lots of chopped veges
Potatoes and/or sweet potato for roasting
  • Cook the roast chicken (I put this one in theWeber Family Q BBQ for 2 hours in a covered roasting dish, the chicken sits up on a trivet with the chicken stock underneath),  Arrange herbs around/inside the chicken.
  • Chop up the potato and sweet potato, roast after the chicken is done, or when nearly done if it fits in the same oven/BBQ - I like to sprinkle more rosemary over them at this stage
  • Chop up the veges (I used 1 carrot, 1 zucchini, 1 broccoli, half a cauli, 4 mushrooms, 2 handfulls of beans) and cook in butter until tender
  • Strip the meat of the chicken and cut into portions, make up the lunches with some meat, veges and potatoes
  • Make gravy from the meat drippings/chicken stock in the bottom of the dish (I just put the bottom of the roasting dish on the cooktop and add a little flour in water to thicken - leftover gravy can be eaten with other meals throughout the week)

Week 3: Osso Buccu - Beef casserole with mushrooms and cream
Osso buccu is just a cut of beef, its the shins sliced into chops.  Our butcher gave us the option of osso buccu or casserole meat, so we decided to give osso buccu a try.  We cook Y-bone or casserole the same way.  I find that meat on the bone in a casserole has more flavour.  Referring to my trusty slow cooker recipe books (I'll write more about these next month) I found two options for cooking osso buccu (and really they can be cooked any way you like).  One was with mushrooms and cream and one was with a tomato sauce.  We decided to go with the mushrooms and cream this time, basically a strogonof type dish, so you could serve it with pasta or rice if you wish (we prefer to leave out the grains).

Osso Bucco (4-6 pieces)
Beef (or chicken) stock - I had chicken stock from last week
Bay leaf, garlic, dried herbs (rosemary, thyme, oregano)
Sour cream, cream or plain yoghurt
Chopped veges steamed or sauteed
  • Brown the osso buccu pieces and put them in the pre-heated slow cooker
  • Finely chop onion, carrot and celery, brown in the pan and add to slow cooker
  • Heat wine and beef stock in the pan, add to slow cooker
  • Put the bay leaf, herbs and chopped garlic in the slow cooker
  • Cook for at least 12 hours (settings to suit your slow cooker) until the meat falls of the bone
  • Fish out as many bones are you can find (and the bay leaves!), stir in the cream or yoghurt
  • Chop and cook mushrooms in butter (I think they are nicer added at the end rather than cooking the full time, but you can add them earlier if you want to), add to slow cooker
  • Cook other chopped veges and dish up beef into lunch containers (again, I find that lightly cooked veges are nicer, rather than overcooking them with the casserole)

Week 4: Eggplant lasagna
Some weeks we chose to cook something that we feel like for lunch (or whatever we can find near the top of the freezer), other weeks, the lunch chooses us.  This week we were given seven huge eggplants, so of course I had to find a way to cook them for our lunches.  I loosely based it on this recipe, although I put in beef mince and more veges.  As we don't eat grains (much), we haven't had pasta for ages (I never felt well after eating pasta, its so heavy to digest), this is a nice alternative to pasta lasagna and makes sure you get plenty of veges in your day.

Beef mince (about 2 kg, which was too much really, but it was easier to just cook it all once it was out of the freezer)
Veges - 1 carrot, 4 mushrooms, 1 red capsicum, handful of snake beans, 2 x leeks, handful of celery stalks, half a clove of garlic
Cottage cheese
Lots of spinach or silverbeet (we have heaps of silverbeet in the garden at the moment)
Parmesan cheese (I used some of our really strong homemade cheddar)
Passata or pasta sauce or can of chopped tomatoes (or fresh if you have time to cook them down a bit first)
Thinly sliced eggplant (I managed to use up four of them!)
Mozzarella cheese to top (and a little paprika)

  • Cook mince while chopping up the veges
  • Cook veges, combine with mince and passata
  • Mix up the cottage cheese, parmesan and chopped spinach/silverbeet
  • Layer in a large baking dish - mince/veges, then eggplant, then cottage cheese, then eggplant, then mince/veges, then eggplant, then mozzarella 
  • Bake in an oven for at least 30 minutes until cheese is brown (I baked it in the Weber Family Q BBQ and I can't remember how long it took, the eggplant didn't seem completely cooked, but it is reheated at work, so it doesn't matter)
  • Dish up, top with chopped fresh herbs (basil and parsley)

That was four weeks of real food, frugal lunches that we took to work and enjoyed all week.  Do you take your own lunches?  Do you cook in bulk like me or take leftovers each day?  Any tips or recipes to share?

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

How I use herbs: Winter Savory

There are two types of savory - summer savory (Satureja hortensis) is an annual and winter savory (Satureja montana) is perennial.  Creeping and lemon, mint and thyme-scented species are also available.  I think I have plain old winter savory, although it came from a market simply labeled as "savory".

How to grow winter savory
Savory grows similar to thyme and rosemary, it grows well in full sun with well-drained soil.  It is propagated by root division or cuttings.  

How to use winter savory
To me it tastes similar to thyme, and I have been using it as I use thyme and rosemary - to flavour casseroles and roasts.  I have cut some to dry, and I also use it fresh.  

Medicinally, I haven't found much information about winter savory.  It seems to be quite similar to thyme and rosemary - good for respiratory conditions, antiseptic and digestion.   

Do you grow winter savory?  How do you use it?

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 - Lemon balm

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

How I use herbs - Herb Robert

How I use herbs - Purslane

How I use herbs - Chickweed

How I use herbs - Neem oil

How I use herbs - Rue, tansy and wormwood

How I use herbs - Brahmi

How I use herbs - Yarrow

How I use herbs - Arrowroot

How I use herbs - Lucerne (afalfa)

How I use herbs - Lavender

How I use herbs - Rosemary and Thyme

How I use herbs - Oregano or Marjoram

How I use herbs - Sweet Violet

How I use herbs - Gotu Kola

How I use herbs - Lemongrass

How I use herbs - Coriander (or cilantro)

How I use herbs - Dill

Monday, January 23, 2017

One straw revolutionary - translating the translation

In 1974, an American, Larry Korn arrived at Masanobu Fukuoka's farm in Shikoku Japan, to begin an informal internship that culminated in him translating into English Fukuoka-san's book The One-Straw Revolution: An Introduction to Natural Farming (affiliate link).  The book was published in 1978 and Larry then hosted Fukuoka-san in the US and started his own business teaching natural farming techniques.  Now Larry has published his own book, One-Straw Revolutionary: The Philosophy and Work of Masanobu Fukuoka (affiliate link). which is the tale of how "The One Straw Revolution" came to be.   I first heard about this book on the Root Simple Podcast here.

I reviewed "The One Straw Revolution" back here and I have been strongly influenced by the idea of "doing nothing" and observing nature.  I know several people who have read "One Straw Revolution" and really struggled with it.  I had to read it three times myself before I came close to understanding natural farming.  I think it also helped that I studied Japanese and spent some time in Japan while I was at high school, so Japanese culture was not completely foreign to me.  This book is distinctly Japanese and I think "One-Straw Revolutionary" goes some way to further explaining the translating the concepts for those who do not have experience with Japanese culture.

The first chapter of the book recaps Fukuoka-san's experience as described in "The One Straw Revolution", with more background and explanation.  The books then takes a tangent to explain the author's time in Japan before arriving at Fukuoka-san's farm.  This is interesting and helps to set the context of the Japanese culture and farming traditions.  Then the author explains how he arrived at Fukuoka-san's farm and spent two years there, finally translating Fukuoka-san's book with the help of other interns.  When Larry returned to the US he found a publisher for the book and later arranged for Fukuoka-san to visit the US, which is also described in detail.

Finally, Larry has several chapters contrasting Fukuoka-san's natural farming with other methods, including indigenous ways, traditional Japanese agriculture and organic and permaculture methods.  
"'Modern society, on the other hand, has estranged itself from nature and lives in a world of its own intellectual creation.  It is based on the assumption that the world can only be understood through analytical thinking and the empiricism of  science.  This blocks people's access not only to the world as it actually is, but also to an understanding of nature as Mr Fukuoka experienced and tried so desperately to explain."

While I do use Fukuoka-san's philosophy of "doing nothing" and I agree with the four principles of natural farming:
  1. No cultivation of soil
  2. No chemical fertiliser or prepared compost
  3. No weeding by tillage or herbicide
  4. No dependence on chemicals
I also found it interesting to consider the ideas again with Holistic Management concepts in mind as well.  What Fukuoka-san was able to achieve on his farm and orchard in a distinctly non-brittle landscape with regular rainfall, may not be possible (or may need more intervention to get started) in our brittle environment.  For example, my attempts at hugelkultur and growing vegetables in the paddock with no irrigation have not been successful because we don't get regular rain.  That doesn't mean that the ideas are not useful, just that I need to think about how to use them and not assume that I can replicate exactly what Fukuoka-san did.

The final chapter is more philosophical - Without natural people, there can be no natural farming.  "Mr Fukuoka suggested that for someone to clearly assess natural farming they first need to come in direct contact with nature as it truly is; then they can decide for themselves whether or not to follow that path".  I think I was lucky to grow up with regularly contact with nature.  Not on a farm, but in a city in New Zealand, the bush was never far away, and I was often camping or tramping (bush walking) or on the beach.  I didn't really start to pay attention to seasons and climate until I started a vege garden and, only now that we have bees have I really started to notice the minor details of which trees are flowering and temperature and rainfall day by day.

Fukuoka-san also suggests a "do nothing" approach to life, by questioning assumptions such as the need to have a job or live a certain way.  Do I want to buy this thing just because its fashionable or do I really need it?  etc.  This leads to minimalism and mindfulness, simple living and self-reliance.

I have a feeling that I'm going to need to read this one again in future as I'm sure that I've missed some of the nuances, but it has helped to reinforce the concepts of natural farming.  What do you think?  Have you read either book?  

See below for Amazon affiliate links.


Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Living in regional Australia - pros and cons

Pete and I live in the South Burnett region of Queensland.  We are about two hours drive from Brisbane, the Sunshine Coast, Dalby and Toowoomba in each direction, which are all much larger towns and cities.  Its not exactly the middle of nowhere, its more like nowhere in the middle of everywhere else.

An afternoon walkies on our quiet country road

Only about 10% of Australians live in rural areas (although I'm not sure how they defined rural).  In fact, 25% live in Sydney, so there's more people in Sydney than living in rural areas.  This made me think that many of my readers have little experience with rural and regional Australia, but given that you're reading this blog, maybe you're interested in moving away from the city and into a regional or rural (or remote!) area at some stage.  And maybe you're wondering what its really like out here.

We've had a few trips to Brisbane lately (and of course Pete grew up there and I've lived there on and off a few times), which has helped me to contrast our quiet rural life with the busy city routines.  Our Eight Acres property is close to Nanango (population 4000), and Cheslyn Rise is close to Kumbia (population 350).  The biggest centre in the South Burnett is Kingaroy (population 12500).  I always think you can gauge the size of a town by the number of pubs and supermarkets.  Kingaroy has four pubs, three supermarkets and nearly all the other shops we need most of the time.  We pop in there every few weeks, and we go to Brisbane or Toowoomba every few months.

What I like about living in the country
I like going outside to lock up the chickens after dark and being able to look up and see the stars, smell the gum trees and hear only leaves rustling in the wind and the frogs and insects calling.  No neighbours, no cars and no streetlights!

Everyone is friendly.  We wave to everyone we pass in the car, we say g'day to everyone we pass on the street.  I tried that in Brisbane and all I got was funny looks.

Everyone is connected to the land and the weather.  Even people who live in town drink tank water and care about when its going to rain next.  Unlike the Brisbane conversation I overheard in which too ladies were complaining about the much-needed rain ruining their hair!

You can park anywhere.  Even in town.  I have never ever had to worry about where I was going to park.  Also, no traffic lights!  Well there is one set in Nanango and Pete can still get mild road-rage if he has to stop there for a minute :)

The Brisbane River

What is hard about living in the country
You can't always get what you need at the local shops.  I have to mail order a lot of things, but that's not so hard now with the internet, you just have to be organised.  And some things we have to drive into Brisbane to collect, like a new sofa, and floor tiles, but at least we are only two hours away.

Health care and education opportunities are limited.  I think it you're elderly, ill or young, its pretty tough living out here.  There is a small hospital, but if you need chemo or specialist care you have to go to a bigger centre.  There are highschools and a TAFE with limited courses, you have to leave to go to university or get a decent apprenticeship.  Jobs are pretty limited for young people.

Entertainment and other amenities are limited.  There is no BIG museums, art galleries, theatres, or libraries.  There is a small one screen movie cinema (which mostly shows childrens movies, we've never been to it).  There are other things, like country shows, rodeos, church concerts and local theatre groups, a small library, local galleries, that fill the gap.  These were the things I enjoyed in Brisbane while I was there.

There is no public transport.  Well there is a bus once a day on weekdays only that stops only in town centres and goes to Caboolture train-station, which is then an hour on the train to Brisbane.  But for general commuting to work, there is no public transport.  So you have to own a car.  When I lived in Brisbane for two years I had no car, and only used public transport and it was no problem.

Lack of diversity.  Nearly everyone here is a white Australia.  Some people have never left Australia, some have never left the state of Queensland.  There is a distinct lack of diversity and interest in other cultures.  I think its more ignorance than actual racism.  It wouldn't be easy living here if you looked different, even having a New Zealand accent is bad enough!

Postal service.  It can take a week for parcels to arrive from Brisbane, which is a 2 hour drive away.  I don't know why (possibly they go to Sydney to be sorted and then come back here, I wouldn't be surprised).

I'm not saying its unbearable out here, but I want you to know that some of the conveniences in the city are not available.  But for me all the positives make it worth the small sacrifices.  Before we moved here I had never really thought about what we might miss out on, so its good to know about these things if you're thinking about moving.

Do you live outside the cities?  What do you love, what do you miss?  If you're in the city, what do you want to know about country life?

Monday, January 16, 2017

Secondhand house update: aren't you finished yet?

If it feels like its taking us a LONG time to finish our house, it is.  We first saw the house in December 2012.  It was moved to our property on the back of a truck in July 2013 (full tour with BEFORE photos here).  We got council approval for it in July 2014.  Then we replaced the roof, and started working on stripping back each room (including removing floor coverings, asbestos, all fittings from the kitchen and bathroom) and gradually painting and renovating.  The bathroom was fitted out about in the middle of last year, but it took us ages to get back to painting it as we had other rooms to work on first.  We painted the outside of the house with the help of my parents early last year (there is still a bit left to do, but its looks so much better).

A few months ago we had the new hardwood ironbark floor installed.  Now we are just waiting for the cabinet maker to build the kitchen (and then the plumber to plumb it, the electrician to the power points and the tiler to do the splashback!) and to finish off the laundry.  I have spent hours with the cabinet maker choosing colours and deciding where the cupboards go, it is tiring making all those decision!  But We Are So Close!  It will just depend how quickly we can get all the trades organised to get their bits done.

Also, we finally got the shed wired, with lights and power points, so that we can start setting up Pete's workshop.  Our builder has built a room under the mezzanine floor, so we that we will have a clean area for honey and soap making and storage.  I have a second-hand kitchen to install in there (not from the house, it was 1960s era, I picked a newer one up locally).  Our builders also fitted the front awning on the house and put in all the skirting boards.  These are jobs that we could have done (slowly), but when the builders are there, I give them all the odd jobs to do as well, just to save us some time (and they do a better job).

Over the Christmas break we painted the new shed room (we picked up some cheap miss-tinted paint from the hardware, it was fun because it didn't matter what colour it was, we went with a cool lime green pastel).  We also stripped the laundry ready for the builders to work on preppping the floor for tiling.  And we took a massive trailer-load to the dump.  I hate how much rubbish comes with building, even though we used a second-hand house, it seems to have generated way too much waste.  I have set aside a few things that we can sell or give away, that might at least be useful to someone - windows and heaps of architrave that we don't need.  I hope it can be used.  And we have a pile of various kinds of timber in the shed at the moment, which "might be useful", just need to find somewhere to keep it.

So here are the photos of the current state of the house:

Here's the front of the house - complete with awning

The laundry is ready for the builders, last room to be sanded and painted.

Another view of the laundry

skirting boards done - need to be painted with primer before we get the floor polished

the shed

the shed kitchen painted (we need to paint the concrete floor now)

the shed kitchen from the outside (we need to paint the outside,
got some miss-tinted grey paint for that too)

What do you think?  Are you renovating too?  Any tips? 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Beekeeping - boom and bust

We got our first little nuc of bees back in July 2015.  Since then we have been slowly building up numbers, we bought another nuc and three full hives that were already on our property, and we've made several more nucs and hives from splitting those first hives and catching swarms.  Over the last 18 months we've become hyper-observant of all the flowering plants on our property because bees increase their numbers when they have access to plenty of nectar to make into honey.  Suddenly Pete is interested in all the flowers that I've been pointing out for years!  We are also observing our bees and their response to different flowers.

Some of our hives

Since we got the first nuc we have seen hives fill with honey and bees to the point where they are too full and the hive will swarm (a group of bees will fly away with a new queen to start another colony), at other times we have seen them eat all their honey stores, lose numbers and get over-run with the dreaded small hive beetle.  As beekeepers, we have to try to stay one step ahead, by anticipating what will flower next, how much honey it will produce and whether the bee numbers are increasing or declining, whether they need more space or have too much.  All this while not checking the bee hives too often, as it really does disrupt them.

At one stage there we could not build nucs quick enough to keep up with the bees, but now we've lost some of those hives as the 'nectar flow' (that's what beekeepers call it when there are a lot of flowers around) stopped suddenly when we had a run of dry weather and the bees ran out of food.  If we had been alert to this, we could have fed them sugar syrup to get them by until the next nectar flow started.  We are learning!

Apple gum blossom

I don't mind feeding them sugar syrup as a last resort, but I would rather try to plant our property with more trees and flowering plants.  The main bee food on our property is gum trees - ironbarks and apple gums, which only flower for a few weeks a year, as well as purple heliotrope (which seems to be less popular, but ok with they have nothing else) and wattles.

People say that it can be easier to keep bees close to town, as there is always something flowering in gardens that are watered regularly.  This got me thinking about my own garden.  As part of my garden/food forest/orchard, I want to have a range of flowering fruit trees, flowering herbs, natives (bottle brush is very popular) and plants like roses.  I have NEVER been interested in roses before, but a large climbing rose can flower prolifically throughout the year, it might just provide a bit of bee food when other sources are not available.  Flowering trees seem to be the best option for providing sheer volume of blossom, however they will take a few years to grow large enough.

What do your bees eat?  What flowers do you notice are popular with bees?  What should I plant??

Monday, January 9, 2017

Farm update - January 2017

Happy New Year everyone!  I hope you had some time off to relax.  We had a few days at the beach and then we got back into house reno work.  I'll have an update on that for you next week.  We had really hot and dry weather until last week, when we finally started to see some of the monsoon rains, so the season hasn't been too bad so far.  When I say hot and dry, I mean I left an egg outside and when Pete cracked it into the dog dish, it was half cooked!  We have been running the aircon in the bedroom and I'm so glad we got that installed.  I can handle the heat until I need to sleep and then its just really hard without aircon.  The dogs LOVED the beach, and then LOVED taking a dip in the dam to cool off while we were working.

the dogs enjoying beach playtime

Food and cooking
Its mango season here and I got a nice tray of mangoes for only $25, it came all the way from Bowen QLD.  I'm looking forward to planting our own as soon as we get the water organised for our orchard.  I find that one or two trays is plenty, we will be sick of mangoes by then!

I have started posting our work lunches on Instagram each Sunday night (you will also see them on the Facebook page).  Over the weekend we usually cook up a big batch of something (stir fry, casserole, curry or roast etc) and make up 8-9 lunch meals to take during the week.  Yes, it is the same lunch every day for a week, but it is cheap and healthy.  Our work is remote, so the only other option is a canteen, which seems to serve fried food or fried food, and its expensive.  Taking a packed lunch is frugal and better food , so I'm posting our lunches as inspiration.  I'll post the 'recipes' (you know that's a pretty lose concept for me) once a month, if you need ideas.  If you take a packed lunch yourself, post it on Instagram and use the hashtag #packyourownlunch and tag me @eight_acres_liz so I can see what you're having for lunch (and everyone else can be inspired by your lunch too).  Let's make 2017 the year of taking your own lunch, for better food and saving some money!

the best part about summer - Mangoes!

Land and farming
Once again, we haven't got out and done much at all on our land, we've been in the house painting, however we have been observing all our wonderful gum trees starting to flower, and its great to know that they are working for us even though we don't have to pay them any attention.  They are producing flowers, shade, timber and pumping water up from deep down in the soil.

Apple gum in flower

The hens are laying well again, although they are losing a few feathers (from the heat and nothing more serious I hope).  We have been letting them free-range as much as possible so that they can find some shade.  We've had two older ones die, one who was clucky for ages, I think she just got too hot on the nest, even though I kept moving her off it.  We're not going to hatch any chicks this year (sad face), so we don't have too many animals to move later in the year.  Don't worry we still have plenty of chickens, I haven't counted them for a while, but its around 16 hens and 2 roosters.  We also have the 2 bantams and I've started letting them free-range too after my friend who gave them to me told me that she used to let them out with the big chickens.  I thought the big chickens would pick on the bantams, but the big chickens just ignore them, so they wander around the yard together like Camp Mother and Camp Leader on little adventures!

the chickens always like to help with gardening

Cows and cattle
Its been hot and dry, so we've fed out a few round bales of hay to keep the cattle going.  The calves are looking nice and fat, but their mothers are getting skinny.  And now that all the little boys have lost their balls and healed up, its time to decide how we want to wean them (i.e. who goes into which paddock for a while).  Also, the one cow who hadn't had a calf yet, which we were going to eat, just turned up with her own little baby.  So now the calving rate is 100% (nine from nine) and we have no rations!

well hello little calf, where did you come from

Bees and Beekeeping
We checked our bee hives and some hives had way too many small hive beetle, so we loaded them up with traps and hope they will be able to get it under control.  The apple gums are flowering now, so that should help them to build up some more honey supplies.

busy bees
There is a lot going on the garden and its very difficult to get a good photo of it all at once, so I'll do another post later with more details.  We should soon have plenty of zucchini and beans, I have been watering and spreading worm compost and mulch around.  Lately we have just had silverbeet and celery and some very determined capsicums from last summer.  I have put up even more shadecloth and there are empty beer bottles everywhere!

the garden jungle
There is so much to tell you about the house, I will need another post with all the photos.  We spent the Christmas break painting the room in the shed, wrecking the laundry and the builders have been busy installing skirting boards.  Its exciting.  Now I'm just trying to organise all the trades to get the kitchen and laundry finished asap.

spot the difference?

Last year in my monthly updates I reviewed the twelve permaculture principles from David Holmgren's book Permaculture: Principles and Pathways beyond Sustainability (affiliate link) and then I went through Bill Mollison's principles. I want to keep talking about permaculture.

 I thought this year I could work through Toby Hemenway's Gaia's Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, 2nd Edition (affiliate link).  This is particularly significant as Toby sadly died recently.  I first came across Gaia's Garden in 2013 and although I had tried to read other permaculture books before that, this was the one that really helped me to understand the concepts, both what to do and why.  Toby made an enormous contribution to permaculture and I'd like to remember him by reading his book again.  The book as twelve chapters, so I can review one each month in 2017.

Chapter one: Introducing the ecological garden

In this chapter Toby explains his concept of the ecological garden as a combination of an edible garden, an ornamental garden and a wild space.  Not just combined, but connected and multi-functional.  I think I am only just starting to see this, as I want more flowers for my bees, my vegetable garden is evolving into a more wild space with ornamentals (mostly geraniums) as well as edibles and herbs.  This chapter also contains several pages of permaculture basics to get you started and a very interesting discussion about the benefits of native vs exotic plants.  He also brings up an interesting point that the more you grow for yourself (even if you're not completely self-sufficient) the more you are helping to avoid habitat loss in other places and on other farms.  I hadn't thought about it like that before.

Are you reading Gaia's Garden?  Join in and let me know what you think!

We didn't do "gifts" for Christmas, but that doesn't mean that we don't give each other a few bits and pieces of handmade, found or foraged items when we see family and friends.  This year I asked Pete's mum if she could spare any rose petals from her lovely garden and she was only too happy for me to help dead-head the roses!  I brought home a massive bag of petals.  I have dried most of the them and also made a large jar of rose infused oil which smells wonderful.  I will share more about the process when they are ready to be made into soaps and salves.

so many beautiful petals!
How was your December and Christmas break?  What are you plans for 2017?  

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