Dec 2017 video update

posted 22 Dec 2017, 15:24 by D Graves   [ updated 22 Dec 2017, 15:24 ]

Our Summer solstice quarterly video update - apologies for the length:

November cruised by

posted 3 Dec 2017, 03:55 by D Graves   [ updated 3 Dec 2017, 04:01 ]

Well, it's December already and nearly 6 weeks since the last post. We had Lou a French helper for 4 weeks, a week break, and then another French couple help for 10 days. Decided on a slideshow of photos to show some of what we have been doing:

SPG - Intro to Permaculture Talk +

posted 22 Oct 2017, 04:31 by D Graves   [ updated 22 Oct 2017, 04:32 ]

Decided to give the Talk again and happy to have 11 attendees come along to learn about the basics of Permaculture Design:

At the homestead we have been taking advantage of all the wetness and sheet mulching the rows in the new food forest:
sheet mulching in food forest

Everything is looking very green and lush:
lush homestead

Jag visits the dragon:
jag and dragon

SPG - Repair Cafe No. 3

posted 7 Oct 2017, 03:48 by D Graves   [ updated 7 Oct 2017, 03:54 ]

After more lovely rain recently; 40mm in Oct so far, we were excited to quickly visit Gardenfest to buy some plants before getting to the Repair Cafe.

It was great to have 4 general repairs; Chris, Dylan, Gary (+ helper), and Steve and 2 sewers; Patty and Gabby. Many items of clothing were repaired, 2 vacuum cleaners, a bedside table, an electric drill, and even a smoking pipe (which we advised to add some beeswax to help seal where the 2 parts join) was brought along. Overall, an interesting and satisfying morning. Thanks to Feast & Farmin' for hosting us and to the new Saturday Music organised by Feraliza.

sewers repairing clothes

repairing vacuum


posted 2 Oct 2017, 04:49 by D Graves   [ updated 2 Oct 2017, 04:52 ]

The rain has come yesterday and broken our dry spell of just 68mm in 5 months. After 15mm of rain, Evita wanted to get out today and loosen up some beds to allow even more water to infiltrate tonight and tomorrow, so here she is using the broadfork for the first time:

We had some helpers for 5 days last week. Of course they got to dig up more rocks in the new Food Forest, dig out some of the chicken house, go and collect cow and sheep manure, use the chipper to mulch branches and breakup manures, process dried herbs, bottle olives, dig out a bit of the duck pond, net fruit trees, and a few other useful tasks. They learnt a lot I think:

Spring equinox

posted 23 Sep 2017, 05:31 by D Graves   [ updated 23 Sep 2017, 05:32 ]

Another quarter has gone by - here is a video of the new food forest we are working on and an update on a few other things:

SPG - Chainsaw Maintenance Workshop

posted 9 Sep 2017, 04:55 by D Graves   [ updated 9 Sep 2017, 04:56 ]

Evita and I went to the Monster Market (supporting the Wildlife Carers Group) in the morning to set up another Permaculture Group stall to promote the group. We sold some kombucha mothers this time and the small amount of duck eggs we took. Bought a couple of nicely grown apricot seedlings as well as some more acacias for the new Food Forest.

Dylan left half way through the market to meet Howard who had volunteered to share his knowledge about chainsaw maintenance in a short workshop. Learnt a few more tips and serviced a couple of chainsaws, as did the other 2 attendees. Much appreciated! Lesson of the Day - well maintained machines last a lot longer, use less fuel, and are safer!

chainsaw maintenance workshop

Evita had a gift to bring home from a good friend:
Evita and the new dragon

This Malakin Fae creation now sits on and protects the 'obby 'ole:

SPG - Community Expo

posted 2 Sep 2017, 04:23 by D Graves   [ updated 2 Sep 2017, 04:25 ]

It was nice to be asked to do a talk or two and have a SPG stall at the first Community Expo which happened today at the public park in Stanthorpe next to the swimming pool. Its focus was health and wellbeing, so I decided to talk about the health benefits of growing your own food, as well as some more general healthy eating info. Here is a summary of my talk:

Why grow your own food in order to be more healthy?

Number 1: Know what is in your food. After checking that your soil is free of contaminants with a soil test, you control how your food is grown and therefore what is in it. You therefore know there are no poisons - herbicides, pesticides, fungicides in it and that there are no GMOs because you do not buy those seeds. Genetic engineering technology used in food is untested and the foreign proteins are likely to be irritating to the digestive tract.

Dylan talking
Number 2: Ensure the best nutrition in the food. You can ensure your soil is alive with biology and therefore that the plants can access minerals and trace elements they need. Food can be eaten soon after being harvested and when things are properly ripe and not green. You can also grow health giving foods that are not available in markets and supermarkets (yacon is one of our favourites). This includes many common weeds - sheep's sorrel, chickweed, dandelion, dock, lambs quarters, nettle, and so on, as well as thousands of heirloom varieties that have superior taste and therefore nutrients. In the US 20 plants produce 90% of the diet, 9 of these equal 75% of the total diet and rice, corn, and wheat equals 50% of the total. Where is the biodiversity?? (there are 30-80,000+ edibles available)

Number 3: Exercise outdoors; bending over, turning compost, and forking the soil all give the body muscles some work to do. Get some sunshine so that your body gets important Vitamin D. No sunscreen. Cover up before burning.

Number 4: Reduce fossil fuel use (or eco-footprint) of the food you eat so that pollution decreases. If you grow some of your own food, less artificial fertilizers are used, less transport needed (typically hundreds or thousands of kms), less storage, less packaging - this benefits the environment we all share - cleaner air and water for everyone!

Number 5: Make new friends who also grow their own food. Share seeds, plants, knowledge, successes and failures. Exchange produce with them. Learn from each other and learn together. This is satisfying and beneficial to your soul. 

What if you cannot grow some of your own food because you have nowhere to grow?
1. Basil in a pot loves a window sill as do many other plants. Grow micro-greens (the green sprouts of seeds) inside with a grow light.
2. Go to a Community Garden and grow food there.
3. Ask a neighbour or friend if you can grow in their back yard or on their farm.
4. Happy Pig Farm has offered land to use for reasonable exchange.
5. Plant in pots or moveable containers if you rent.
Start with something...

What if you cannot grow (and exchange) all your food, but want quality purchased food to make up the difference?
1. Get to know a local farmer or two. Find out how they grow food - do they grow ecologically or with artificial chemicals and poisons? Buy from them if eco-friendly. Another option is to buy from a food aggregator (eg Symara Farm) who sources from organic farmers
2. Buy local honey from a beekeeper who uses no poisons
3. Buy foods certified Organic - Woolworths, Aldi, even IGA has some organic dairy, GoVita has some organic
4. Join a bulk buying group who buys Organic and supports Australian farmers - this makes Organic more affordable.
5. Buy from cafes and restaurants who use organic and local ingredients. Encourage them to use more and more of both.
6. Buy local at market or shops or farm gate if no other option.
7. Buy from supermarket, but avoid imported foods/ingredients.

Other Healthy Eating points:
alive foods - ferments, pickles, kefir, natural yogurt, simple cheeses, wine, vinegar, kombucha
meat and fish broths
breads (see note on grains below)

raw milk & cheeses
Organic whole grains - must be soaked overnight, sprouted, or fermented to reduce phytic acid that blocks Ca, Mg, Cu, Zn being absorbed in the gut. Grains need fresh milling.
high quality dairy
animal foods raised naturally without unnecessary poisons or medicines
lard for cooking with (pork, beef, poultry)
cold pressed extra virgin olive oil - ok for moderate heat cooking, best raw
coconut oil - ok for moderate heat cooking, best raw
organic superfoods in small amounts:
 - cod liver oil 
 - high vitamin butter oil
 - evening primrose
 - borage or blackcurrant oil
 - bee pollen
 - acerola powder (berry)
 - wheat germ oil - vit E
 - azomite mineral powder
 - kelp/seaweed
 - probiotics
 - nutritional yeast processed at low temp
 - bitters
 - amalaki powder (indian fruit)
 - algae/spiralina
 - canned whole coconut milk (not lite)
- flax seed oil

homogenised milk
low fat anything
pasteurised milk, unless you add lacto bacteria to ferment it
aspartame - artificial sweetener
packaged breakfast cereals - high pressure and heat extruded grains with high sugar content
MSG - neurotoxic
HFC - high fructose corn syrup - highly processed
alcohol - esp spirits, unpasteurised natural beer ok, organic wine without preservatives ok
soft drinks - esp diet
flour in all processed foods
vegetable oils
deep fried anything in veggie oil
processed SUGARs
canned foods

If you don't think margarine or some other processed food is bad, put an amount on a saucer and leave outside. How long until eaten by insects, animals, mold, fungi? Compare with a natural food eg butter

These ideas mostly come from 3 books I have read lately: "Gut and Psychology Syndrome", "Nourishing Traditions", and "Nutrition and Physical Degeneration" as well as watching the recent docu-series on "The Truth about Cancer" and start of "GMOs Revealed".

The second talk I decided to do was on vermicomposting as a waste reduction strategy and I wanted to demonstrate how quick and easy it is to create a worm farm in an old bath tub. So, I borrowed a tub from Paul (of Happy Pig Farm) and used some enthusiastic children volunteers to help make it:
worm farm bath tub

Step 1: Isaac silicons around the hole to 'glue' in place some fly screen over it - this stops worms from accidentally going out the hole and allows free drainage
Step 2: Add bedding material - ideal is coir (coconut fibre), but torn up newspaper is good too
Step 3: Add some animal manures - cow, sheep, horse, etc
Step 4: Add some food waste - a little to start with 
Step 5: Sprinkle of lime on everything (aids worm digestion processes & raises pH) [do this every 2 weeks or so]
Step 6: Add some compost worms
Step 7: Cover to exclude light with cardboard layers, old material, etc. Can be a wooden or iron lid, but need to regularly check it's moist
Step 8: Would be to make a wooden stand so that bath is at waist height OR sit the bath on old bricks or rocks, etc OR use 4 star pickets instead of a stand
Step 9: Put bucket or similar under the hole to collect leachate - keep returning this to bath until it's a very dark color - then it's great to dilute 15 to 1 with water for your soil/plants

Always keep contents moist and best to place tub in shady area. This system takes about 6 bath loads of 'waste' until it is full with worm castings -> black gold !!

The Permaculture Group stall showcased what activities the group has been doing as well as upcoming events:
SPG stall at expo

Evita talked to a few people about kombucha and sold some organic pastured duck eggs. She still has several kombucha 'mothers' if anyone would like to make their own at home. It was great to meet some new people interested in Permaculture!

Photos credit - Shane Andersen

Visit to Mara Seeds

posted 11 Aug 2017, 04:19 by D Graves   [ updated 11 Aug 2017, 04:39 ]

On Tuesday, we had a day off and visited Mara Seeds on a GBLC organised tour. "Mara Seeds Pty Ltd is a family owned business started in 1967, located at Mallanganee in the foothills of the Richmond Range in northern New South Wales."

The tour was hosted by the owner Stuart Larsson - a self professed "crazy man"! He started by showing us a presentation outlining the history of his family farm and business and how it transformed to Organics in the mid-1990s due to the diminishing returns on artificial fertiliser and chemical systems and increased costs, both financially and health related. He says he is crazy because of following the ideas he has despite nay-sayers around him. He clearly has lots of innovative projects going on (grass seed, soy, wheat, maize, cattle, compost, biochar, livestock feeds, gluten free foods, hemp seed growing and processing)!

After the talk, Stuart took us on a tour of the factory where they make the livestock feeds, out back to the composting, and to various places on the farm to see how it's being managed or newly acquired properties are being transformed:

livestock feed factory

BioChar is a key element in all the feeds. The research is showing reduction in odour, increase in productivity, and better health (no dead birds in the large poultry operations):
green chicken feed

Chatting about compost and biochar production (biochar is used in the compost):
chat about compost

Stuart loves this Weston fencing that he now only uses. This is a new property recently purchased. I asked if they plough before each crop. To my surprise, they are a no-till enterprise! After harvest, the stubble is smashed up and left on the surface. This is then direct seeded - the weeds are minimised because they overseed to outcompete the weeds. Biologically active sprays are used to get the soil alive with microbiology. Interesting how broadscale grains can be done organically:
Weston fencing

The soils are re-mineralised through cattle licks. This is dispensed as a powder and they take 500g a day in the beginning which reduces down to around 200g a day after a couple of weeks or so. Once paddocks are re-mineralised the cattle don't use the lick that much at all:
cattle lick

We didn't get to hear that much about the hemp projects, but the plans are to process hemp seed for human consumption - much needed in Australia!! We found the day to be very interesting. Thank you Stuart for taking the time to spend with us!

SPG - Grafting workshop #3

posted 6 Aug 2017, 04:38 by D Graves   [ updated 6 Aug 2017, 04:41 ]

Tom, a local orchardist, again shared his knowledge and skills with the permaculture group for the 3rd year in a row. As always everyone had hands on practice and access to a large variety of scion wood from Tom's farm. Many new fruit trees going out to new homes! Thank you again Tom!

grafting talk

scion wood

grafting practice

Delectable lunch, thank you for sharing your talents in the kitchen people - it was awesome:
sumptious shared lunch

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