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Showing posts from January, 2012

Saving seeds from your garden

Following on from my post the other day about starting from seeds , here's the next step to cheaper veges, saving your own seeds.  The advantage of saving your own seeds isn't just the money you save on seeds, it also allows you to breed plants that are more adapted to your climate and soil conditions.    drying seeds from spaghetti squash, button squash, roma tomatoes, beans and spring onions, I always have lots of little trays in the kitchen waiting for the seeds to dry. I was never taught how to save seeds, I just started leaving plants that had bolted and seeing what happened.  Actually it seems to be quite difficult to find information about seed saving,  much easier to just buy seeds, but I find seed saving interesting and usually quite rewarding (I found one good step by step guide here ).  All my gardening books explain how to grow seeds, but none discuss saving seeds, although I believe you can buy entire books just on the topic of seed saving, I haven't

Is it worth installing grid-connected solar panels?

We had a solar panel salesman call up and ask to come out and talk to us about his product.  I thought it was a good opportunity to do some easy research.  We'd been thinking about solar panels since my parents-in-law installed a few.  We weren't sure if it was worth doing or not.  This is my analysis of our situation. Depending where you live in Australia, most states will pay a feed in tariff for solar panels on your property connected to the grid.  However, if the power goes off, your panels get turned off to keep the lines dead (for the safety of those working on the lines to restore power).  Our biggest problem with electricity is losing power during storms, so panels that turn off aren't that useful. At the moment the cost of grid-connected solar panels is also subsidised by the Australian Federal Government's renewable energy certificate (REC) scheme.  The panel installers buy from you the right to sell "renewable energy certificates" on your beha

Dump shop finds

When we took our old BBQ to the dump I had a an opportunity for a quick look through the dump shop.  (I should also point out that the only reason we didn't put the BBQ on freecycle is that we took off the wheels and the hot plate for upcycling, and the burners were very rusty, so it was better off as scrap).  The dump shop is even cheaper than op shops and you can find some really unexpected things there. I was incredibly excited to find the 1980s Australian Trivial Pursuit game with ALL THE PIECES AND CARDS!!!!   I have wanted a copy of this for ages, yay!  We have an old monopoly game from the markets, but that game just gets so boring it makes us fight, and we've had to resort to playing cards lately.  This should provide hours of fun. I also found a couple of books, one about travelling in the Northern Territory and one about resources in Queensland.  I got all of this for $5.  Bargain!  Do you use a local dump shop?  Or do you think I'm gross? :)

Growing from seeds

Planting seeds rather than seedlings is a significantly cheaper option (if you think about it, for some vegetables you get about 6-8 seedlings for $2 or about 100 seeds for the same price), as well as giving you so many different heritage seeds to chose from.  Even better, if you start saving your own seeds its virtually free, apart from a small amount of time and effort.  This is truly sustainable gardening and way easier than it sounds. I have had very limited success with planting seeds directly into my garden, I think its just the clay soil, its too  heavy and the clods are too big, I also blame the slugs which have eaten baby seedlings to the ground before they get a chance to grow!  Strangely though, things that I haven't planted intentionally keep sprouting up in odd places this year, like beans and tomatoes, so I don't know what I do wrong when I WANT to plant things!  Anyway, this means that I mainly stick to planting in separate containers and transplanting into

I'm still sprouting... and other creations!

Since I first posted about sprouts  after reading about them in Nourishing Traditions , I've been continuing to grow them regularly.  Alfalfa has to be my stand-out favourite, it works every time with no issues and its great to have some on hand in the sprouter or in the fridge to use in summer salads and sandwiches. Alfalfa is my favourite sprout I did branch out and try fenugreek.  This is a very useful herb and the seeds smell beautiful, so I couldn't wait to taste the sprouts, but my first few efforts ended in tragedy.  All the sprouts clumped together in the middle of the jar and there wasn't much sprouting action, they just ended up rotting, very frustrating! I tried several times following some of the advice here .  I put less seed in the jar, I broke up the seeds/sprouts to make sure they didn't clump together and washed them carefully.  I had absolutely no luck until a friend gave me some different seeds, which did work.  The lesson here is don't giv

Drying herbs

Over summer, I have such an abundance of herbs, its hard to believe that in winter they will all die back and I'll have to resort to using bought dried herbs again.  This year I had a plan, I wanted to dry my own herbs, the aim was herb self-sufficiency! I had borrowed an Excalibur drier  from a friend a few years ago and managed to dry some parsley, as well as tomatoes and apples, before I gave it back.  Our thoughts on this drier were that it was HUGE and loud, but very efficient at drying.  With our small kitchen, and an aim to mainly dry herbs rather than worrying about fruit (as we don't have access to any cheap/free fruit at the moment), I wanted to use something smaller (and therefore cheaper). I did have a very brief  attempt at air drying herbs, but in our humid climate, all I achieved was mouldy leaves! As an early Christmas present for myself I bought the Sunbeam food dehydrator in December. Sunbeam food dehydrator - "healthy and natural snacks&qu

Natural Sequence Farming - using Peter Andrews' methods at Eight Acres

Peter Andrews is an Australian farmer who has worked hard over several decades to observe, experiment with and understand the natural cycles in the Australian landscape.  The focus of his work is the role of plants in controlling the distribution of water and fertility in the landscape. I read Peter Andrews' books " Back from the Brink " and " Beyond the Brink " a couple of years ago and I decided to read them again recently to refresh my memory.  I'm so glad I did, because I had forgotten so much and I found that some of the things that didn't make sense the first time really clicked into place this time.  There's no way I can summarise all the ideas here, if you are interested in improving the fertility and water-holding capacity of your land, as well as reducing your input costs (fertiliser and irrigation), you really need to read the books carefully yourself.  However, I can summerise the ideas that we are applying on our property. Farms

Real food trifle (and meringues)

Without having a religion or kids to give Christmas a higher meaning, for me, its all about the food!  Christmas is not complete without good food, with my two favourites being ham and trifle (not mixed together!).  We bought a delicious ham from our local butcher (although not nitrate-free, or organic, will try harder next year!). This year I volunteered to bring a trifle for Christmas lunch with my parents in law.  But when I thought about my traditional family recipe, I knew I was going to have to be creative, because its not real food! Traditional recipe for trifle (not real food): Take one supermarket sponge cake (full of additives, yuck, and even better if you can find one "reduced to clear", as it will already be nice and stale) and break into pieces. Drizzle with sherry Make custard from custard powder (not real food) and milk, pour over sponge Drain a can of peach slices (from goodness knows where) and place slices over the custard Whip cream and spread ove

Molasses for cattle supplement feed

Living in a sugar refining state like Queensland gives us easy access to a by-product called molasses, which we feed to our cattle.  If you don't live near a sugar refinery, its probably not worth trying to source it.  However, if you can get some molasses cheaply, it is a great supplement feed as, according to our text book " Dairy Cattle Science ", it contains: calcium cobalt copper iodine magnesium potassium iron biotin + various other B vitamins other trace minerals These are all the good things in sugar cane that are removed to make pure sucrose sugar for us humans to eat, see why we shouldn't eat refined sugar?!  In Natural Cattle Care , Pat Coleby mentions briefly that consuming excess sugar in the form of molasses can make cattle more attractive to insects, so we don't feed molasses during summer when buffalo flies and ticks are a problem.  However it does provide valuable energy in winter when our grass dies off. We have been buying molas

Tanning a steer hide - update and answers

Thanks everyone for the comments on my first post about tanning  our first two steer hides.  I was asked a few questions and I've done some more research since then, so I thought it was time for an update. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- I was asked to provide a photo of the fleshing tool, so here's the one we got with the kit.  My husband made I similar tool from metal, so we'd have one each.  If you're not a metal-worker, then you can probably use any blunt tool (or bit of metal) that's large enough to grip each end. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Also, because I only described our process, I didn't go into detail about the other methods available for tanning hides.  From my research (google and books I mentioned in the last post), the following methods are possible: chrome tanning (the method we used