Posts Tagged ‘Permacultur’

Pixie Versus The Old Boiler

I was away for a few days during the week while I was at the National Sustainable Food Summit in Sydney. I left my mum home to look after things around the place while I was gone – namely make sure that Chickie and the chooks were watered, fed and locked up safe at night.

Well, things didn’t quite go to plan! You see we have a new addition: Meet Pixie Pantaloons.

Pixie Pantaloons

Pixie used to live at a neighbours house and just wasn’t well received by the other resident chooks. Sadly, they had bullied her so much that they had literally pecked a hole in the back of her head. So, we decided to take her in. Her wound has now healed and she is very happy to call this place home. She’s a delight! Compared to my other girls, she is wildly social. More on that later.

So, I was just about to sit down to a rather fancy dinner… I won’t mention ‘how’ or ‘why’ but, I received a nervous call from home that went a little like this:

“luuuuuv. We’ve lost one of your chooks!”.


“Weeeeeeeeell… we went  out to close them in and well luv, Pixie… she wasn’t there”.

As you can imagine, the conversation went on  =)

Well the long and the short of the story is that she was found at about 12:30 in the morning after she had been chased out of her hiding spot by the neighbours cat.

So, you would think that it was a happy ending and that it probably ended there.  Nope!   Why?   Oh I guess it was a little thing called Karma!

Yes indeed. The next day, in an attempt to make it up to us, mum decided to clean out the chook house (which was just cleaned but, we won’t tell her that!). This was the result:

That’s mum – stuck inside the girls house for 45min while she waited for my brother to come rescue her. He is wonderful my brother! Of course, before he let her out he had to call my cousin so that they could have a little giggle at the situation and take a photo so that everyone else could enjoy the moment too! (You’re smiling aren’t you?)

All I can say is that she is very lucky that she had her phone on her at the time because we weren’t due home until late that night.


Summer Herbs II

This post is for Alexa who wrote to me asking for more information regarding summer herbs. I thought that many of you might find this topic interesting so I have posted my response here for everyone’s benefit.

That reminds me that it is time to give my Thyme a haircut!

Alexa – hi Im in high school and I need to do this hospitality project, part of it is that I have to name 5 summer herbs but Im struggling to find any! I was wondering if you could list a few for me it would really help me, thanx 🙂

Hi Alexa,

Thanks for your question. I can see how this could be quite confusing as there is a lot of talk about herbs on the Internet but, mostly the information is non-specific in terms of their seasonal classification. It can also be tricky in some parts of the world, like here in Australia, where we don’t necessarily have clearly defined seasons. In cold climates for example it would be much easier to tell that you have “summer herbs” because they would be the ones that either can’t survive in winter or go dormant during that time. However, in my garden that is not quite so evident – because many of the perennial herbs that would, in a cold climate garden, go completely dormant, don’t. Sure, they start to look a little tired and die back a bit but, after a good prune they reshoot and continue to grow into the autumn and winter. Mint, sage and oregano are just a few of those continual growing “summer herbs” that I have in my garden.

So, I would say that “summer herbs” are those that like the warmer weather and do most of their growing during the spring and summer months. They are herbs that we plant in the spring to enjoy harvesting during the summer. They will often be the type of herbs that die down at the end of summer (but, not always!) or in the case of perennials, ones that need to be cut back hard before the frost arrives.

One place that might give you a good clue as to which are “summer herbs” and which are “winter herbs” is to look at a few recipe books. For example mint is one of those herbs that is used a lot in summer dishes and drinks. Pineapple sage and lemongrass are beautiful in fruity, summer iced teas and are also a nice accompaniment to bottled fruits like peaches. Basil is another important summer herb – very often teamed with fresh tomato dishes because they share the same growing and harvesting seasons and also because of their naturally superb flavour combination.

The following are some of the summer herbs that I have growing here in my garden. I have listed their Common names and their Botanical names for easy reference. I hope this helps.


Every Day In The Garden’s Summer Herb List:

  • Basil Ocimum basilicum
  • Chamomile Matricaria recutita
  • Chives Allium schoenoprasum
  • Comfrey Symphytum officinale
  • Echinacea Echinacea angustifolia
  • Horseradish (or Seeradish) Armoracia rusticana
  • Mint Mentha spicata
  • Oregano Oreganum spp.
  • Lavendar lavandular angustifolia
  • Lemon Balm Melissa officinalis
  • Lemongrass Cymbopogon citratus
  • Lovage Levisticum officinale
  • Parsley Petroselinum crispum
  • Pineapple Sage Salvia elegens
  • Summer Savory Satureja hortensis

Rainy Day Activity #3

Ok, its raining outside and you’re looking for any excuse to stay indoors. Well, I have a great activity for you to do while you’re sitting down watching Ellen /when you’re not dancing that is!

Tomato Ties!

Yes indeed. You can make your own tomato/any-plant ties while you’re sitting in front of the TV and you don’t need to buy any fancy materials to do it!

To make your tomato ties you will need:

A sharp pair of fabric scissors

An old t-shirt or any other light knitted fabric like jersey. Scrabbies will come in quite handy here. What’s a Scrabby I hear you ask? According to “The Meaning Liff*” – a Scrabby. (noun) is a curious-shaped duster given to you by your mother which upon closer inspection turns out to be half an underpant.

Stretchy fabric. Note that from thumb to thumb is "across the knit".

Now for the fun stuff:

If you are using an old garment, first cut off all of the seams so that you are left with clean pieces of fabric that, you could stitch back together to make a slightly smaller garment than before. No, no, we mustn’t get distracted!

Don’t throw away those seams! You can use them as ties too.

Now quite simply cut your fabric into strips, cutting across the knit so that you are left with stretchy strips that when pulled will curl inwards. I usually cut mine about 2cm wide by about 20cm in length. Suit yourself though as I usually use my eyeometer. You can make them wider or longer just not shorter or they won’t allow you to tie them securely.

When tying my plants I usually use what I believe is called a half bow knot. Particularly when tying tomatoes. Now, this will be interesting explaining how to do a half bow knot without a video handy. Here we go: You need to imagine that you were tying a bow in the usual manner except that when you get to the final loop you push the whole piece through so that you are left with one loop and two tails. You can then pull on the tail of the existing loop to release the knot without the need for scissors. How was that? Give it a few goes on your big toe first. Yes, I was tying it on my big toe while I was writing that description. Haha I told you there would be no fancy materials needed!

It is best to dispose of the ties after each use as they can harbor diseases that you don’t want to spread to other plants in your garden.

So now you can get a years worth of plant ties and recycle your old clothes AND you don’t even have to leave the front door!

Yay for you!

* The Meaning of Liff is a very funny dictionary of words which describe common objects or situations for which no word previously existed. The Meaning of Liff written by Douglas Adams and John Lloyd (two men who, I am positive, enjoy their whiskey).

Duck Deficiency?

This post was inspired by Bill Mollison who said “You don’t have a snail problem, you have a duck deficiency”.

We used to have ducks. They were great company, kept the more slimy pests in the garden at bay and were great fertilisers.

How we came to have ducks is a funny story but, it’s a long one so I won’t go into it here. Since my ducks have been gone for some time and my chooks aren’t at all interested in snails and slugs (I can’t blame them really) I have developed a duck deficiency. The most common symptom of a duck deficiency is: an increased number of snails and slugs in the garden.

With the very wet year we’ve had the population of snails in our garden has exploded. As you can see in the picture above I lifted a plank of wood and found where all of the snails have all been hiding the past few years. Now, most people would be pretty disturbed by such a sight and break out the snail pallets or beer traps. That’s just not my style. So, how do I treat a duck deficiency?

I put them in a container and take them to my local lake where there are heaps of ducks and geese that are only too happy to help.

If these were strawberries I’d get $7 a punnet. These ducks are getting a bargain!

Punnet of snails anyone?

Putting the fun in Fungi!

Over the Easter weekend we went out to Daylesford in Victoria for a Fungal Ecology Workshop with photographer and fungi enthusiast, Alison Pouliot.

Alison Pouliot

Her impressive collection of fungi was beautifully displayed around the room in their family groups, with field guides from around the world and interesting anecdotes about various species. It gave us a wonderful picture of the habitats and the diversity of fungi the world over. Best of all it enabled us to get up close and personal and to get a great sense of what’s what in the world of fungi.

Now, I thought perhaps I knew a thing or two about mushrooms. I mean, I know the different types that you can buy at the shop. However, from the minute I walked in the room and saw that fabulous display I realised that, in fact, I knew virtually nothing at all. That wasn’t a problem though because that’s precisely what this workshop was all about. By the end of the day we had learnt how to tell the difference between an edible mushroom and an inedible mushroom. We learnt where to find them and that there are mushrooms that glow in the dark! What?!

Later in the day we went out to the forest, where we got to see them in person, in their natural habitat, which made the world of difference. Getting out to the different sites to look for mushrooms was more fun and surprising than I could have ever imagined. At one site we had a plan to walk a kilometer or so along a particular track. I think Alison was quietly hoping that people wouldn’t stray too far so as to keep the group together. Well, as it turned out that wasn’t going to be a problem. After an hour and a half nobody had managed to get further than 150mt from the cars. This being such an amazing season there were different species everywhere we turned. The diversity in such a small area was outstanding. How Alison managed to drag us out of there I’ll never know =)

Oh, and we did find the glow in the dark mushrooms. I couldn’t believe it until I saw it!

Pictures courtesy of Alison Pouliot Photography

It was truly the best day out I’ve had in a long time. I would recommend Alison’s workshops to anyone young or old, novice or expert. There is something for everyone. If you’d like to join one of Alison’s workshops here are the details for the remaining season for 2011.

SATURDAY 07 MAY, CRESWICK – Bookings: 5345 2356 or

SUNDAY 08 MAY, CRESWICK – Bookings: 5345 2356 or

SATURDAY 14 MAY, TRENTHAM – Bookings: 5424 1354 or

SUNDAY 15 MAY, TRENTHAM – Bookings: 5424 1354 or


SUNDAY 22 MAY, APOLLO BAY – Enquiries:



Or go to Alison’s website for more details

Have fun-gi’s.

Saffron Milk Caps - I got em!

Tomato Cake – It’s sweet, not savory!

At this stage of the year, if you’re like me, you might be getting a little over tomatoes. It’s at times like this we need to get a bit creative so that what’s left out there doesn’t go to waste.

I was staring at my still heavily laden bushes the other day, thinking about all of the things I have done with tomatoes, sweet and savory, when I had an epiphany. I though “pumpkin cake, carrot cake, zucchini cake… TOMATO CAKE!!”. Why not?”

So, I put my thinking cap on. I thought that it was best to experiment with my most subtle varieties just in case it tasted a bit on the savory side. For all the tomato nerds out there the varieties I used were: yellow sausage (big tick) and gold dust (not meaty enough but it I added more as I went). Having made it now I would be quite confident to use any medium–large meaty tomato. Green tomatoes might be very nice.

7 people have now tried my cake. Everyone enjoyed it and nobody yet has detected the tomato.

I still have some tweaking to do but I think you’ll like this one. If you like carrot cake or banana and walnut cake, this is for you. This is what I came up with:

Tomato Cake

Tomato Spice Cake

Serves 10

4 or 5 medium-large tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed and pureed. You’ll need 250ml of tomato puree.

1 tablespoon vinegar

150g walnuts (or a fist full or whatever you have on hand or none at all). I had walnuts so that’s what I used. You could use any other soft nut macadamias, brazil nuts etc.

½ cup plain flour (to mix with the walnuts)

1 cup plain flour, twice sifted

1 teaspoon bi-carb soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ – 1 teaspoon of ground cardamom – depends on your taste. Don’t add it if you don’t like it.

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

4 eggs 
(5 if very small)

1 ¼ cups brown sugar, lightly packed.

2 teaspoons of orange, lemon or lime rind. I used orange.

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/3 cup melted butter

Line and grease a 22cm spring form cake tin. Pre-heat oven to 160°C.

First you need to peel the tomatoes. If you have never done that before: cut a cross into the bottom of each tomato – the end opposite the core. Then into a pot of boiling water add the tomatoes and cook for 1 minute. Remove and place immediately into a bowl of cold water. The skins will begin to peel away themselves. You’ll need to handle them gently. Cut each tomato in half and with a teaspoon scrape out the seeds. Puree the remaining pulp, mix in your vinegar and put aside.

Place nuts and ½ cup of flour into the food processor and blend. Don’t go too long as you’ll want the nuts to remain in small pieces.

Sift together the remaining cup of flour, bi-carb soda, salt and spices. Combine this with the nut mixture.

In your mixing bowl beat the eggs until they are pale and have thickened. Whisk in brown sugar. By this stage the mix should be nice and thick.

Now, add the remaining ingredients, a little at a time – dry ingredients, then the puree, some more dry, then more puree and so on until all are incorporated. Lastly mix in the butter.

Pour into the spring form tin and bake for 1hour.

Keep an eye on the cake towards the end of the cooking time. Depending on your oven you may need more or less time. Test with a toothpick if you’re not sure if it’s cooked. If the toothpick comes out clean it will be cooked. If uncooked, pop it back into the oven for a further 5-10 min or until it is cooked.

We had this cake plain, dusted with icing sugar. It would be lovely with a citrus and cream cheese icing.

I recommend you puree some of your excess tomatoes, storing them in batches of 250ml in the freezer, for use during winter and spring.

Saving Carrot Seed : Rainy Day Activity #1

A few weeks ago I snipped the dried out seed heads off of my carrots and plonked them in a big bowl for a rainy day. Well folks, yesterday was a particularly rainy day so, I sat down at the table and started harvesting those seeds. This really is one of those “sitting in front of your favorite show” type activities. Sometimes Paul and I sit at the table together processing seed & shooting the breeze. If we’re really lucky friends or family might join us. It’s a nice thing to do while you’re sitting there chit-chatting.

The things youll need to process your carrot seed.

Carrot seed is one of those slightly fiddly seeds to harvest and clean but, don’t be put off because it is really rewarding.

Carrots are members of the Umbelliferae family, which is quite easy to tell when we look at the way the flowers, or seed heads are formed. The flower/seed heads are called umbels – yes, they resemble umbrellas. You probably wouldn’t believe that carrot flowers can grow up to six feet tall. True!

Carrot seed and umbel.

The idea of saving carrot seeds can also be quite daunting because they are deemed “biennial”, meaning that they aren’t expected to produce flowers/seeds until the second spring/summer. It should be noted however, that it’s not always the case. In my experience it depends on the variety, the time of year the carrots were sown, and most importantly, the weather conditions. My latest batch of seed came from a single carrot, sown autumn-winter, that flowered sometime in spring and had seed ready to harvest by late summer-early autumn – the end of the first season.

Ok, so lets get down to the nitty-gritty.

Harvesting the seed:

Once the seed heads have formed and sufficiently dried, snip them off as I did and pop them in a bowl. If the seed is well formed but the umbel has not completely dried out and you find that the weather is wet, it is fine to cut the umbels (leaving 10cm of stem attached) and bring them inside to dry.

Processing the seed:

You will notice that the seeds have what is known as a “beard” attached to the seed coat. Practically all seed you buy from seed suppliers will come to you having had the beard removed. Whether or not you de-beard your carrot seed is totally up to you. The beard is, of course, there for a purpose and that is to assist the seed working itself down into the soil. So, there is certainly no harm in you leaving the beard on your seed. Personally, I find it easier to handle without the beard and I love the smell of carrot oil that is released when you rub the seeds together. To remove the “beard” simply rub the seeds between your hands until the seeds become smooth. You will notice that the chaff will fall away as the beards are crushed. I let it all drop down onto the table, picking it up and rubbing again and again until the seed is sufficiently clean.

From there I scoop it all up, pop it into my tea strainer and shake it all around until I am left with clean seed. Notice that my sieve isn’t the finest you can buy. You need it to have enough space to allow the chaff to go through but not your seeds. My hot tip is to do this in smaller batches, as it is easier to shake the seed around.

And that’s it. Just store your seed as you would any other (for more details, see my earlier post on ‘general seed saving practices’).

Now, before I go I should tell you a couple of important things to be aware of when saving carrot seed.

1. It is recommended that you allow at 500m between carrot varieties to avoid cross-pollination (unless, of course, you are hoping to crossbreed your own carrots). Also note that if you are growing Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota –wild carrot) you should be careful not to allow them both to flower at the same time i.e. cut off the Queen Anne’s Lace flowers. If the two are allowed to cross the Queen Anne’s Lace will dominate.

2. The umbels (flowers/seed heads) at the top of the plant will produce the biggest and best seed. For every set of umbels below that the quality of the seed is reduced. That does not mean that it is no good, just that it is of lesser quality.  You should always use the best seed if you intend to save seed again.

In terms of viability, carrot seed has a relatively short shelf life. The seed can be kept for up to three years if stored well.

Good luck and have fun xx

Oh and just because I know how much people love Chickie-boombah, this is what she likes to do on rainy days 😉

Chickie Boombah doesnt like rain. Shed rather stay inside & eat peaches.

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