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Showing posts from August, 2015

Are you saving seeds?

Maybe this post should start with a warning..... once you start saving seeds its very hard to stop.  I cannot walk past a seed head without wondering if I should save the seeds.  This includes public gardens, and other people's gardens.  At this time of year my garden is full of brassica flowers, which are gradually turning into seed pods, and I know in a few weeks I will be starting to harvest the seeds.  If you want to save seeds, you need to start thinking about it when the flowers start to appear.  Don't rip out your plants right away, you could be missing out on free seeds!  Here's why and how to save and store seeds. Why save seeds from your garden? Seeds that you save are free, you don't have to buy seeds or seedlings You start to develop strains that are adapted to your climate and conditions You have something to swap with other seed-savers - more free seeds You remain in control of your food supply, not relying on seed companies poor mans beans s

Sustainable habits that our visitors find weird

Its not until we have visitors, or we stay away from home, that we realise how weird some of our habits might seem to other people.  If you are trying to live a simple, frugal, self-reliant or sustainable life, you probably have some weird habits too.  I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours.... 1. We eat what we grow Sometimes people bring us food.  Honestly we don't need any food, if anything we have too much food.   We have all the meat, vegetables, eggs and milk we can eat at the moment .  I actually got a little stressed out recently by exactly how much food we HAVE at the moment.  Please don't buy food for us, but we would love to share what you grow yourself.  When I want to take something to share with someone else, I usually want to grab something out of the garden, is it weird to turn up with a kg of tomatoes, or a carton of eggs?  We occasionally stop at the bakery and pick up a sugary bun just in case our home produce is not welcome, and then I don't want

Book review - The Third Plate

Occasionally I imagine what would happen if Pete and I ended up on one of those reality TV cooking shows where you have to prepare a meal in your own home as a couple.  The first part of the show usually involves the couple rushing around the supermarket buying ingredients.  I wonder what they would think when most of our ingredients came from the garden or the freezer (no rushing required), would we be disqualified because we don't need to buy much to create a wonderful meal? "shopping" for ingredients Dan Barber's book  The Third Plate: Field Notes on the Future of Food  is about creating a sustainable meal.  His first plate was the conventional meat and three vege, his second plate was organic meat and three vege, but the third plate (the sustainable one) was a steak made from carrot, with a beef sauce, he goes on to develop this concept into an entire meal of plates.  You would think that a chef with a nose-to-tail farm-based restaurant wouldn't have to

Buying honey bees

Since we went to the Valley Bees Open Day last year , we've been really keen to get some bees ourselves (they are running the open day again this year  (.pdf flier), be warned, attendance may lead to compulsive beekeeping).  Pete and I read lots of books and listened to podcasts and went our local beekeeping group until we were confident that we were ready to get some bees. A lot of the beekeeping information out there says to wait until Spring to get bees, but that's not really necessary in our climate .  Actually we have several gum trees flowering at the moment which are providing plenty of nectar and pollen for the bees.  Although we do get frost, its not too cold during the day for bees to forage, so there's no reason not to get bees.  If you're anywhere north of Brisbane, you are probably in the same situation, I don't know about further south, but have a look at your local climate and what's in flower.  Chances are, you could get bees now too if you wa

Feeding chickens

There are many options for feeding your chickens. For a while we thought the solution was chicken layer pellets, they are uniform, so the chickens don't pick through them, but you never really know what's in them, and they are usually a relatively expensive option.  Read about a few other ideas of feeding chickens (some for free!) over on my Chicken Tractor eBook blog . By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the  chicken tractor ebook blog .  Or you can get it directly from my shop on  Etsy  (.pdf format), or  Amazon Kindle  or just send me an email eight.acres.liz {at} What's the eBook about? Chickens in a confined coop can end up living in an unpleasant dust-bowl, but allowing chickens to free-range can result in chickens getting into gardens and expose them to predators.  A movable cage or “chicken tractor” is the bes

How I use herbs - Arrowroot

Arrowroot ( Canna edulis ) is a plant that you may not immediately think of as a herb, but I use the definition from Isabel Shippard's wonderful book "How can I use herbs in my daily life?", she says a herb is " any plant that is used by man for food, flavouring, medicine, aroma, dye or any other use ".  And of course arrowroot features in the book too, so its one of Isabel's herbs. Arrowroot is also known as Queensland arrowroot, not because its native to Australia but because there was once a thriving industry here producing arrowroot flour from the plant .  Not to be confused with the South American Arrowroot ( Maranta arundinacea ), which can also be cultivated for flour, but I haven't seen or heard of it growing here. How to grow arrowroot Arrowroot is propagated by division of the rhizome.  I was given a small piece of root and leaf and I thought it had died, but it managed to grow and multiply very quickly, now it takes up a corner of my gard

Cleaning a milking machine

People often assume that using a milking machine would be more work that milking by hand because of the time needed to clean the machine.  Actually its surprisingly quick to clean after milking.  And it only occasionally needs a more thorough clean.  Read more about how to clean a portable milking machine at my house cow eBook blog here . The queue at milking time - waiting for their grain ration! 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 ebook blog . Reviews of "Our Experience with House Cows"

The solar bore pump - part 1

Windmills were once ubiquitous in the rural landscape, but you might have noticed something new appearing in their place. Increasingly farmers are choosing to replace old windmills and equip new bores and dams with solar panels instead. Like windmills, solar panels use renewable energy and have very low running costs. Solar panels and pumps, however, are now cheaper to set up and to maintain, giving them the advantage over windmills for remote applications. Even where access to grid electricity is available, with increasing electricity prices, the use of a free energy source is desirable. And they are far more practical than diesel or petrol pumps which must be attended regularly for starting, stopping, maintaining and refuelling.    The disadvantage of a solar pump, like a windmill, is that the power source is not always available on demand. A windmill will only pump water while the wind is blowing, and similarly, solar panels will only power a pump while the sun is shinin

Farm update - August 2015

Its about time for another update!  This is the post where I try to give you a bit of a taste of everything that's been happening at our place over the past month.  I'd love to know what you've been up to as well, please share your update in the comments :) Food and cooking With some cold weather during July it was definitely time for some pumpkin soup (recipe from The Eat Drink Paleo cookbook ).  We also culled two roosters and three old hens, so we minced the meat and made some wonderful thick stock with all the carcasses, look at all that gelatin!  ( Here's what we do with the older birds ).  You really can't go wrong with soup when you start with a stock base like that.  If you're not making your own stock yet, I think its the one traditional cooking technique that is really worth the effort for both improved taste and the health benefits of eating all that gelatin and minerals from the bones. pumpkin soup from The Eat Drink Paleo Cookbook Minci