Permaculture in Action

Friday, May 13, 2016

I think that the guinea pigs were the high light of the farm visit today. I just could not drag them away. I usually leave the guinea pigs til last, when the children are a little tired from their farm wanderings and looking for a quieter activity. It soon became obvious that they just couldn't wait any longer to hold these dear little animals in their laps. So into the back of the ute they went, where children and guinea pigs are kept safe.

Each child potted up a nasturtium seed into one of these skin care pots.
 This skin care company uses pots from recycled plastic. Their philosophy is to take back these pots and upcycle them in some way. Which basically means they have to find someone who can find a use for them. As they are already made from recycled plastic the plastic can't be recycled again and so another use must be found for pots. They have asked us can we make use of them and so we use them as plant pots. Now I'm not advocating the use of single use plastic even though it has been recycled. I'm very careful about what I buy and wouldn't buy this product because of the packaging. Really I wish they'd use glass or wash these pots out and reuse them themselves. I don't really want to be responsible for other peoples waste, but now that I've got them I'm looking for ways to to use them that fits our ethics. So far that's as plant pots but I'm in two minds to take any more from them. What do you think?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Eating Seasonally

Eating seasonally includes eggs. Our hens have all stopped laying while they moult. We have heritage breeds at the moment. They do what they need to do to stay healthy.That means taking a break from laying eggs. Just like us hens are born with their allotted number of eggs. Once they're laid there is no more. Those hens bred for the egg laying industries don't stop laying until they have laid their allotted eggs which is why the industry pack them off at around 18 months of age.

During the spring and summer we enjoy an abundance of eggs and it gives us a diverse array of opportunities when it comes to cooking and baking. But now the eggs are few and far between and we need to adjust our menus.

Here's a recipe for an egg free date loaf that we will enjoy over the coming months.

Date and Walnut Loaf ( from an old book Quick and Easy Vegetarian)


1 cup chopped dates
1 cup boiling water
2 tablespoons golden syrup ( I use honey)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla essence (I use extract)
2 cups wholemeal flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Place dates in bowl and add boiling water.Mix in honey (or golden syrup) brown sugar, baking soda, and vanilla. Sprinkle in the wholemeal flour and add walnuts. Mix until combined. Place mixture in a greased loaf tin and bake at 180degrees for 45 mins or until loaf springs back when lightly touched. Leave in tin for 10 mins before turning onto a cake rack to cool.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Farm Tour

On Tuesday some "earthy coasties " took a tour of our Farm to learn what they could about growing food for their local community.

They first took a look at our propagation house. This is where it all begins. All our seedlings are propagated here on the farm. It's pivotal to the whole CSA enterprise.

Showing how we do it here on the farm. Everyone does it differently and this is how it works for us. Seedlings germinated into punnets, potted up into small pots and put out into a hardening off area prior to planting out.

A rooster in with 10 hens inside our chook domes keeps the hens happy. Less fighting among the hens.

One of our hens showing of her latest hairdo.

While Mark talks to our visitors I make good use of the time collecting snails. The small amount of rain had the snails moving around. Great protein for the hens.

Explaining the system. Chooks do the cultivating and then are moved onto the next bed leaving a bed free of bugs and weeds and fertilized ready for new seedlings.

Our dear old dog Aggie following us around while we conduct the tour.

Drops of rain on the chilli.

Explaining the planting regime. Fast growing plants like this Tatsoi inter planted with slow growing plants. By the time the slower growing larger plants need the room the quicker growing plants have been harvested.

Discussing the bed set aside for the attraction of beneficials. This is our pest control;.

Ten years ago we decided to set ourselves up as a model to showcase our small market garden To show people how to live sustainably, to grow food and sell the excess or like us start a CSA ( Community Supported Agriculture).  We would like to see more market gardens started in and around towns and cities to feed the local community.

Monday, February 8, 2016

I See Red, I See Red, I See Red...

As Mark and I wandered around the farm taking photos for our Holistic Management homework, I caught sight of a splash of red in the distance. It caught my eye because of it's richness in a place usually devoid of such colour. This is the first time our little Firewheel tree has flowered.

It inspired me to grab my daughter and her camera. As we came back from taking a photo of the these beautiful flowers we were struck by the glimpses of red that could be seen here and there as we walked back up the drive.

So what follows are snapshots of red around the farm. Hope you enjoy!...

Love from me and Sarah.

Monday, January 11, 2016

After Rain Farming Practices

When ever people ask how the farm is going, my answer always depends on the weather. If it's been dry I will invariably say that we could do with a little rain. If it's been raining the question is always followed by "have you had enough rain yet?", and my usual answer is that we can't have too much rain.

Weeeell after over 230mls of rain I may have to revise my answer, because, even though all the ponds, dams and tanks are thankfully full, the garden is somewhat waterlogged. This along with the following days of humidity has meant we now have fungal problems and root rot.

The tomatoes that we planted really deep to develop good root growth are now succumbing to root rot and in places we can see a little powdery mildew.

Conventionally this would be treated with a fungicide but we like to strengthen the plant instead. We do this firstly by building the soil so that the plant has the nutrients needed to make itself strong enough so that it doesn't succumb to pests and disease. But just like with people, in times of stress plants often need a little something to boost their immunity.

In this case the stress placed on the plants from the excess moisture and humid conditions can be counteracted by the use of a Biodynamic preparation called BD 508 or Equisetum.The silica forces in the horse tail (Equisetum arvence) strengthen the plant’s ability to cope with conditions conducive to fungal attack. In NSW Equisetum arvence is listed as a noxious weed, so we use Casuarina instead. It is boiled up, cooled and sprayed out. We also added some seaweed to the mix as a tonic.

And when I bent down to get a photo of Mark spraying I noticed some red peeking through. Can you see it? This lot were hiding in close to the stake....

If you'd like to know more about Biodynamics, we have some information on our website under Farm Practices (there's a link on the side bar.) and we also run courses on Biodynamics here on the farm.

The Hunter Biodynamic Group made it's headquarters here on the farm late last year. Mark works in the groups herb garden, which is part of our on farm community allotments, on Wednesdays and welcomes anyone with an interest in Biodynamics to join him. Contact me through the comments for more details.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

This Day On The Farm

After 230mls of rain in just a couple of days the farm is looking lush and green, although a little soggy. We are hoping that as the water recedes we will have come out of it okay. The farm is on quite low lying land. The land to the south of us is swampy. We have worked to build our soil  up to sit above the water line but some parts especially on the southern side can be quite slow for the water to drain away. Last summer we lost a lot of tomatoes and capsicum due to this. we've got our fingers crossed that it won't be as bad this year.

The passion fruit vines have loved the extra water and are producing well. I grew these plants from seeds that I'd saved.

A couple of shots of two of the mandalas, one showing seedlings still in their pots where Mark was beaten by the heavy rain in the middle of planting out a bed. We'll need to let the garden dry out a bit to complete the job. All the paths in the garden were under water so you can see how well they've drained over night.

One of the pumpkin patches looking good and loving the extra water.

Both the irrigation ponds are full and overflowing.. good news for us if the weather heats up. The bees on the southern sides of the ponds allows for them to fly out towards the sun each morning and ensures that no one walks in their flight path. You can't see it in this photo but the bees were very active, like us enjoying the break in the rain.

We are gearing up to the start of our hectic program in February commencing with a preserving the harvest workshop. Prime preserving time just now with the abundance of summer. Are you coping with the amount of produce coming from your garden or do you need some help learning how to preserve? Come and join us on 6th February. Bookings essential and can be made through the website.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Zucchini Soup

I don't usually like to eat soup during summer. It's something that I long for as the long hot summer draws to a close. But yesterday was cold and wet and as we have an abundance of zucchini I decided it was just right for dinner last night.

 Cream of Zucchini Soup

2 Tblspns.  oil
1 tsp butter
1 onion roughly chopped
1 kg zucchini, trimmed and sliced
2 tblspns fresh oregano
2 1/2 cups stock
4 oz cheese
300mls cream 


Heat oil and butter in a large saucepan. Add onion and cook gently until softened but not brown

Add zucchini and oregano. Cook over a medium heat for 10 mins, stirring frequently. 

Pour in stock and bring to the boil, stirring. lower the heat and simmer gently stirring occasionally   for about 10 mins. Stir in cheese until melted.

Process the soup with food processor until smooth. 

Add 2/3 cup cream and stir over low heat but not boiling. swirl in remaining cream and garnish with oregano and extra cheese. 

And look who we rescued from the rain last night. The geese had wandered a little too far yesterday and this little one couldn't keep up so Mark picked her up and brought her inside. She was very chirpy this morning full of cheek so I put her back out with the others. I've kept them locked up in a smaller paddock today so they can't take her too far.

 Rain is still falling and has delayed the harvest for today's CSA but it will get delivered, just a little later than usual.