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Showing posts from July, 2015

Simple winter knits for beginners

Over the past few winters I've been practicing my knitting .  I was taught to knit originally by my granny when I was younger, so I knew the basics, but I had never really practiced until I became interested again a few years ago.  I have been buying wool and needles from markets and op shops and teaching myself using youtube.  I never like to spend time practicing something just for the sake of it, I like to make something that I can use, so I have been trying to find things to make that help me to refine my technique, but are also simple and ultimately useful.  Obviously I can't launch into huge projects while I'm still struggling to knit consistently and neatly, but I managed to find a few small things to knit that have really helped me to gain the confidence to make something larger. This is what I made this winter to practice before I make something bigger. Here's what I have come up with as suggestions for beginner knitters to practice: Headband or ear-

Three essential principles of organic gardening

Organic gardening is easy.  In fact, once you get your organic garden established, it should be easier and cheaper than "conventional" chemical gardening.  The most important thing is to forget everything the chemical companies have told you about gardening.  Forget NPK fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides.  You need to learn to work WITH nature and gradually nature will start doing most of the work for you.  Don't just replace chemicals with organic inputs either.  Here's three essential principles to get you thinking differently. 1. Forget fertiliser - feed the soil I wrote about soil a few weeks ago  and my main conclusion was that if you increase organic matter everything else starts to balance.  My favourite way to increase organic matter in the soil is compost.  And my favourite way to compost is using worms.  Worm compost is fool-proof!  You just need to set up a worm farm , add worms and kitchen scraps and harvest the compost and leachate .  Lately

Active transport = frugal exercise

Do you pay to commute to work?  Either on public transport or by driving a private vehicle?  Do you also pay to exercise at a gym?  What if I told you there was a frugal way to get to work AND get some exercise, either free or at a reduced cost compared to your current commute? Active transport is a term used to describe getting around by walking or cycling (or skateboarding, roller skating, running, skipping etc).  I have been walking to work and back in Brisbane since I moved in December to a unit a bit closer to the city (I drive down there first thing Monday morning, then back to the farm on Friday afternoon, long story back here ).  My main motivation is pure stinginess.  The bus was costing $35/week, and my new unit is only a 45 minute walk to work, which is actually quicker than the bus as I can take short-cuts through parkland.  I was also finding that I got home too late and didn't feel like getting any exercise in the evening.  Best to get that over and done fir

How I use herbs - yarrow

I haven't found the best spot for yarrow ( Achillea millefolium ) in my garden yet, but when it does grow well, it has a number of uses. How to grow yarrow According to this link , yarrow will tolerate a sunny position and doesn't like wet soil.  I currently have yarrow in a pot with my other herbs and occasionally it flowers, but more often it looks like its struggling to survive, especially if the pot dries out.  I really need to find a more permanent position for it, maybe if it has deeper roots it will be more resilient.  Yarrow can be propagated by division or from seed.  When it does grow well it can be a vigorous ground cover.    How to use yarrow In the garden, yarrow's flowers attract beneficial insects and the plant is used as a compost activator, and in biodynamic preparations The plant contains volatile oils (linalool, camphor, sabinene, azulene), flavonoids, bitter alkaloid (achilleine), and tannins It has medicinal uses as a diapho

Soap with coffee grounds

Before I started making soap I used to buy a soap with coffee grounds in it.  It was a "gardener's soap", the coffee grounds were supposed to help with scrubbing dirt off your hands.  Recently I decided to try making something similar.  I found a few recipes ( here  and  here ) to get an idea of how much coffee to use. The recipes say to use fresh coffee grounds and fresh espresso to make the lye, but as we don't drink coffee, and this was just for washing hands, I wanted to use waste coffee grounds instead.  We got some from a friend of a friend with a cafe and I dried them in the woodstove.  I used packets of instant coffee that I keep around in case someone wants a coffee. I decided to use half tallow, quarter coconut oil and quarter olive oil for this recipe as the coconut oil adds more suds and that seemed appropriate for a soap that would be used to clean hands.  The recipes also suggested that the coffee would remove other odours.  I wondered what it

Buying, selling and moving cattle - what are the rules?

When we first started with cattle I found the rules and regulations for buying, selling and moving cattle to be very confusing.  Here are a few tips that you may find useful.  Remember that I am no expert, I'm just telling you what I understand of the system, consider this advice from a neighbour leaning over the fence, please check the details with your local stock inspector or state department of primary industries (or equivalent).   Read the rest on my house cow ebook blog . You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy Interview with myself Interview with Mark and Kate from Purple Pear Permaculture Interview with Kim from the Little Black Cow Interview with Rose Petal Interview with Marie from Go Milk the Cow Interview with Ohio Farmgirl Buy my ebook "Our Experience with House Cows" on  Etsy ,  Lulu  and  Amazon , or email on eight.acres.liz at to arrange delivery.  More information on my  house cow

Book review: Omnivore's Dilemma

I feel like I am the LAST person to read Michael Pollan's 2006 book  The Omnivore's Dilemma .  It has been mentioned on so many blogs as an influence over the way people eat and how they understand food production, when I saw it at the library I thought it was time I read it too.  I'm so glad I did!  I think I would enjoy ANYTHING that Michael Pollan wrote.  He really has a wonderful way with words, sometimes I read a sentence twice just to try to absorb some of that ability for myself.  Even better, the topic is something that interests me immensely.  The omnivore's dilemma: What should we have for dinner?  As an omnivore, we CAN eat nearly anything, but what SHOULD we eat? Michael attempts to answer this question by tracing four meals from their origins to the table.  The first meal is monoculture corn, through to feed-lot beef, in a burger containing corn derivatives such as high-fructose corn syrup, eaten in a car running on ethanol made from corn.  Many woul

How we ended up with a farm

You might be wondering how two city kids ended up with 258 acres?  This is what I wrote for Grass Roots magazine a few years ago. ***** When I tell people that my husband Pete and I have bought a 258 acre property and we want to raise cattle and grow our own food, they often ask if I come from a farming background. When I tell them that I’m from the city, they assume that my husband must be from a farm. When I tell them that he’s also from the city, they usually look at me with a mixture of amazement and sympathy. They are clearly wondering how two city kids can possibly run a farm, and thinking that we are just wasting a lot of money on a crazy hobby. The truth is that we started small and focused on a few things at a time as our interest in self-sufficiency grew. We took every opportunity we could find to learn from other people, and from books, how to do what we wanted to do. And we are still learning more everyday. I hope that by sharing our story, I might ins

Farm Update - July 2015

What was old is new again.... You might have noticed over the past few months I've been trying to fit in with other formats for sharing monthly updates, so that I could link them to other blogs.  It was just getting too difficult to say what I needed to say within those formats, so I'm starting again with what I used to do.  Just one farm update with everything that happened in the previous month.  This post is mainly for my family and friends (including long-term blog followers that I've never met), who just want to know on what we've been doing over the past month.  Its also a good record for me to remember which animals we had and what the weather was like.  I'm just going to use this an opportunity to share lots of photos and tell you what's going on.  And add a few links that I've enjoyed reading during the month. I'm going to structure it based on the pages at the top of my blog.  If you read my posts in an email or a blog reader (for exam