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

Winter progresses

posted 25 Jul 2017, 04:33 by D Graves   [ updated 25 Jul 2017, 04:36 ]

A month since an update of what we have been doing. See the slideshow for some photos of action:

A reasonably mild Winter weather wise, but perhaps it is just coming later and later each year. Was proper cold the last 4 mornings with decent frosts.. Been drier than average in terms of rainfall, although the heavy dews keep the ground fairly moist. Lots of beautiful clear, sunny days to enjoy!

Successional planting planning tools

posted 5 Jul 2017, 04:38 by D Graves   [ updated 6 Jul 2017, 03:34 ]

I wanted for some time to do a couple of videos showing how to use the two tools described and available in a previous post:

These are the detailed How To videos - one for the Google Sheet and one for the Excel spreadsheet. They show HOW to use the tool in each environment.. perfect for beginners: (Excel):

Winter solstice update

posted 21 Jun 2017, 19:06 by D Graves   [ updated 21 Jun 2017, 19:07 ]

Well, the past 3 months have cruised by. We have had a surprising lack of helpers, so getting a lot less done than normal - more of the maintenance type things and ongoing projects such as trying to dog proof the fence along the neighbour's. There has been a lot of time taken in preserving the harvest - bottling tomatoes, pickling and fermenting vegetables, and so on. Despite low rainfall, there is much greenery around and alot of the weeds seem to grow pretty well now. There is a good amount of moisture around because of the heavy due we get each evening. Hopefully more of the citrus trees will produce next season, as this lemon is doing:
lemon tree with lemons on it

A day trip to 'underground creek' in Girraween gives us a break:
Evita at underground creek

and here is a video update:

SPG - Seedy Saturday

posted 3 Jun 2017, 04:57 by D Graves   [ updated 3 Jun 2017, 21:09 ]

Stanthorpe Permaculture Group had a great turn out this morning with around 22 people coming together to exchange seeds. The variety of seeds available was incredible. We put all the contributions on the table and then people helped themselves to what they wanted to grow. 

explaining how the seed exchange works

Some chokos to keep somewhere dry and dark until the Spring:

Let's go:

Great meeting and chatting to new and old friends:
seed exchanging

Those who came without seeds or envelopes/packets to put them into donated money to Permafund. We collected $61.15!

The joy of sharing nature's gift:
lots of seeds

SPG - Repair Cafe 2

posted 26 May 2017, 22:42 by D Graves   [ updated 26 May 2017, 22:42 ]

The second Repair Cafe organised by Stanthorpe Permaculture Group happened today. Many articles of clothing were repaired or improved - several work trousers with holely knees, trousers shortened, and buttons put onto clothes from an Op Shop. While that was happening a general repairer tightened screws on a chair, glued the armrest of another, and fixed the switch on a Swiss made blender! Never seen something (besides chocolate) 'Made in Switzerland'! Now it works again :) 

Advice for repairing children's clothes was given so that the owner could go home to fix them instead of throwing them away... away... away to where??

repair in progress

One pair of trousers converted to shorts and the happy blender owner!
repaired items

Unfortunately, due to very poor design - a portable speaker set for i-products whose battery was no longer holding a charge could not even be opened! Destined to be used only when plugged in to power.


posted 24 May 2017, 04:41 by D Graves

We've had 'problems' with one or more quolls. First getting into the pigeon cage perhaps 2 years ago. And this year into the duck cage around New Year and then again on Friday night. Horrible. Not going to describe it on here. After improving their cage yet again to make it more impenetrable, I decided to set a trap. I put it on top of the duck house. The next morning it was lying on the floor. So, I turned it the right way up and set it again, leaving it on the ground alongside the cage. Next morning it was empty but the door was closed. Not sure if it was a possum bumping it or what (something is able to open the food buckets some days??!). So, I set it yet again. Next morning I went to open the duck house door and looked over to the cage - a quoll ! Got it. Incredible. Somehow, I wasn't angry with it.. I moved it away from the ducks and went to call Evita and get a camera:

After calling a nearby National Park, we drove to the edge of the park and let it go. It is a beautiful and rare animal.

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