Monday, November 28, 2011

our little propagating nursery ....

so ... feeling the drive to get some tree's ready to plant has really been on my mind.  with the exchange on our house in sydney this week, and settlement early january .... it means that we need to be working hard to have some tree's ready to be planted out when we find JustEarth here in the heart of Northern NSW.  but gee-willy-wonkers!  the sun can really get to the young tree's up here!  so striking and then just setting out in a pot won't do it here, they need heaps of tlc ... love and tender care .... they need a nursery!

so enter one amazing husband who is about as ingenious as it gets ....

we had an old greenhouse that we brought with us in them move, thinking that somehow, someway .... ONE DAY it might get reused ..... so hubby cracks it out and puts it together.  we put shade cloth over it, but not before installing a  gentle drip line so that i can turn the tap on and let those tender young trees get soaked.

pretty great, huh?  all up it cost us around $50.  and when you think that the goal is propagate well over 100 trees, the cost savings to provide some tlc as these babies harden up is immense!   there is excess run off from the water right now and the misting system is a bit "generous" and sprays around the outside edges of the nursery as well.  but the cool thing is, once we are passed the heat of the summer, with those plants that are bigger, i can put them outside the nursery to harden up a bit and they'll get the extra misting from the system!

right now we have 3 acacia's, 3 mango's, a native macadamia and a fig.  i went a bit berzerk at Daley's Nursery ... they are the best sub tropical and natives nursery around, and they are 20 minutes away!  all of these i got for a total of about $49.  wow!  i just had to spoil myself!

however, the reality is that most of my propagating will occur from cuttings that i get from neighbors and friends.  i have access to coffee, mulberry, willow, a variety of citrus, olive .... so many things.  the more i can do via "freebies" the better off i am.  not just cost wise .... but if i am sourcing local cuttings ... it means that the tree's are local and have been hardened to this environment and as such, stand a better chance of surviving.

so i expect that most future additions to plant nursery will be much smaller and will take some time to grow.  but that's ok!  it's all about planning and doing now, so that when we are ready to move ... one of the first things we can do is get heaps of tree's into the ground!

Friday, November 25, 2011


that's it .... that's our dream and our goal.  our sustainable slice of paradise called


for a long time we kept thinking that when we saw the land we wanted, we would know what the name should be.  perhaps something with a filipino connection ... or something about the land itself.  but as time has gone by, we realised that our farm will embody a philosophy.  our approach to our future is that, whatever piece of land we get ... it is our job to be wise stewards of.  so after a few hours of driving around the countryside (with sleeping kids in the back) and tossing names around we came up with a few interesting concoctions  .... but after mulling it over and living with the name in our hearts .... we love this ... JustEarth.

just as in only or simply
just as in doing the right thing
earth as in soil / dirt
earth as in our planet and the community we engage in

the name embodies for us all that we want to achieve.  recognising the role that we have as stewards of this world and that we need to engage with our neighbors, not withdraw from them.  and above all,  acknowledging our Creator God's original design for this amazing world.

so that's our start .... our dream if you like (ok ... so maybe a bit "build it and they will come."  but that's ok!).  we are already dreaming about a sub tropical food forest, orchards with chooks running under them, humanure toilets, solar power, a market garden, pigs and raw milk .... <sigh>.  the journey to JustEarth will be fun, of this i am sure!  right now we are in the final stages of selling our house in sydney so we can actually look to buy and build.  it is a dream that is within reach ... where our children will live away from the city .... we will embrace sustainability .... because of our desire to secure our children's future and care for our Father's great world.   i look forward to sharing the journey with you!

Psalm 24:1 sais ... 
the earth is the Lord's, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it. 


(follow our journey to JustEarth ... in the next few weeks i'll add a page in the TOC 
called JustEarth ... that follows our journey to our slice of paradise!)

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Tomato's in my heart

ah .... so me and tomato's .... well .... i love them.  so much you can do with them and so many possibilities!

before we moved i made a commitment to growing as many as i could to exploit the full length of the season.  well .... we moved and that didn't happen.  <sigh>

but ... when you move to the sub-tropics your world takes on a whole different perspective.  i smile when i think of the guys at Milkwood who are just now putting in their tomato's because out in mudgee they are just heading out of the frosts.  here ... well .... all i can say is that it's already sweltering.  which means .... GREAT tomato growing weather!!!  woohoo ... happy dance time!

so before the season started, i did this great little chart to show what tomato's can be grown to extend your season as much as possible.  check it out here.  i would be pulling a complete furfy to say that i have pulled off having these grow.  in total truth ... i have only one of these types growing ... the Rouge de Marmande ....

as you can see, these are growing in pots, happily, on my patio.  but i also have two others .... a lovely genovasy which gives fabulous medium sized fruit.  and some yellow current .... lovely little yellow cherry type tomato's ..... have heaps of these.

these are the Genovasy

yummy yellow currant
they are still growing .... but, as with my other seedlings, we will be running a test to see how they grow in the ground vs. in the aquaponics system.  hey!  it's fun and why not!  i have the perfect spot in the garden picked for them .... they will get heaps of sun.  mulch has been laid and now just need to build the trellis ... monday's project!  small ones have gone into the aquaponics system and are thriving already.  its kinda scary to be honest!

i have no doubt that a few others will get tested out as well. but i have to remember that we are in a rental and only have a certain amount of space.

wait till we get on our land and have a passata making party!  what fun that will be!

Monday, November 14, 2011

aquaponics 101 ....

so .... i am back after a weekend camping at the beach and am chuffed to say .... the fish survived!

the fish survived?  what are you talking about?
ahhhh ... i've been keeping a secret.
the aquaponics system is pretty much there.

i think it's important to highlight, for just a minute, the value and benefits of aquaponics.  they are great in small area's where you have limited space to grow things.  food grows 3-4 x faster than it does conventionally.  what happens is that the tubs are full of water from a pond that houses fish (in larger scale, you can get fish that you eat).  this water cycles through ... pumped from the pond into the grow beds.  the water is full of fish poo and nutrients from the fish that are heaps beneficial for the plants.  the plants use these nutrients and clean the water which, via a bell siphon, is periodically pumped back into the pond.  the force and dramatic pull down of the water from the grow beds, encourages the roots of the plants to grown down .... make sense?

i thot i'd just do one big post when the whole thing was flash with fish and veg.  but, as with all experiments there have been a few hiccups along the way.  so, this is a post about progress so far and some of the foibles along the way!  <g>  i figure a picture is worth a thousand words .... so i'll let the photo's tell the story.

first things first!  lets not forget what aquaponics is about!
an alternate way to grow our veggies ... and quicker too!
here, JJ is helping me transplant some of the green leafy matter to get better roots
before putting them in the aquaponics.
enter Scott, aka brillo with bath tubs and tubes to make
an aquaponics system work.  here he is checking out levels
for his bell siphon.
this is cool watching what dad is doing!
internal workings of a bell siphon.  
but what the heck is a bell siphon i hear you say?  all i can say is that it sucks the water out when it fills up because the air is trapped and it flushes.  i know ....pretty weak.  but have a look here on E-How.  that's the best i can say.  but i can tell you that it works, after figuring out a few foibles and with a few tweaks left to go .... yes .... it works!
the bits of our bell siphon for tub #1.

yeah for girl power!
so the next step was to start filling the  tubs with river pebbles.
there are these lightweight beads you can purchase which are VERY
expensive ... so we have opted for river pebbles.  a cheap alternative
that works just as well .... only real draw back is how heavy they are.
and no wonder it got done so quickly!  we had bumble bee and
batman helping us out!  
tada!  the tubs are fulled!  notice the black pipes.  these are from the
pond and are used by the pump to put water back into
the beds.
what a helper!  he is helping us fill the tubs and cycle through some of the
gunk from the rocks before we put the fish in.
that's me .... putting in our first plant....
a strawberry.  i was so excited!
doesn't it look fabulous with the spray of water!  the water, when at full
tilt sprays onto this rock and helps to aerate the water.
i wish i could say it was all running perfectly!  the next day we were gone the whole day and when we came home the plant was dead!  for some reason the pump wasn't working correctly and it didn't get any water on a very hot day.  we are having continued issues with our pump .... but scott is tweaking and pulling things apart and each day it gets better and better.  we have also put up a shade cloth.  hadn't realised just how much sun they get and i am concerned they will fry.  so we have a 50% shade structure.  it serves two purposes .... to shade and will act as a support for plants going in.  i anticipate plants within a week .... so watch this space!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

food forest fantasy

... imagine walking through a lush forest.  around you are thriving trees and bushes dripping with fruit.  canopies of trees that create a lush environment where trees don't need to be tended, but take care of themselves, getting what they need from the cover crops on the ground that provide all the nutrients that they could need ... just as Father God intended.

this is my dream ... and it's called in permaculture terms a food forest, or forest gardening.

but .... what is this you ask?  here is the wikipedia definition .... forest gardening is a food production and land management system based on woodland ecosystems, but substituting trees (such as fruit or nut trees), bushes, shrubs, herbs and vegetables which have yields directly useful to humans.  making use of companion planting, these can be intermixed to grow on multiple levels in the same area, as do the plants in the forest.

having a hard time imagining what this is talking about?  here is a picture to help give a visual representation for you.

i find visuals to be really helpful.  really makes sense, doesn't it?  it takes a little bit of time and effort to get the balance right .... but once you have a plan it's a go!

right now i am planning and dreaming about what we will have in our food forest.  part of that research is just seeing how the guys who have been successful did it.  the other part is looking at what our family eats!  and working out a way to companion plant so that they all work together well.

so who has or is doing a food forest well?  the list of successes is amazing ... but here are a few of the ones that i am enjoying.  and i say enjoying because as with anything to do with stewardship of our Father's land ... time is a huge element and they say it takes 5-8 years for a food forest to really get established.

  • The Food Forest.  these guys have established a food forest in the barren scrub around Gawler, SA.  pretty amazing stuff!
  • you can never go wrong with what Wikipedia has to say.  just remember ... it's not always 100% but generally good!
  • and yes ... how could i not include the Milkwood food forest journey.  theirs is a start.  part of what i like ... and a transparent process and journey towards their dream of sustainability.
  • the guys at Zaytuna out in The Channon have a great resource on food forests.
  • and i like this one from Happy Earth because it is done on a suburban block.  you don't have to have 100 acres to be sustainable!
  • and last but not least .... watch this "time lapse" of Geoff Lawton growing a food forest.

so right now, i have an excel spread sheet with a growing list of trees that i want to think about using.  interesting things like the brazilian cherry and black sapote.  and what about the ice cream bean?  <g>  and once our house in sydney sells and we have a place here ... the food forest will be one of the first things to go in ... and those dreams i have of a forest floor of sweet potato and strawberries with a canopy of avocado's and mango's ... will be worked on in earnest!

Psalm 24:1
the earth is the lord's, and everything in it,
the world and all who live in it.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

ode to the Broad Bean

if you've been following me for long, you will know that i have a secret and unabashed love of broad beans (to see that post go here.)  and it is with that same adoration that i return to one of my favorite foods ...

i was desperately sad when i realised that in our move i would not get to harvest the broad beans that i had planted.  i had taken the time to plant three crops, ensuring that we would have a generous supply of these yummy protein rich legumes from the end of october throughout the summer.  and for us to move just as the first crop was starting to seriously  throw beans that looked to be developing beautifully .... <sigh>  just made my heart sink.

there are many people who think that the effort you have to go to in order to eat them just isn't worth it.  to these i say tsk!  tsk!  the taste IS worth the effort!  from mixing this joyous bounty through mash or having them in a wilted spinach salad they are divine!  or my favourite way to enjoy this food gift .... cooked and mashed, slathered on a slice of crusty toasted bread with a poached egg and a few lashings of Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil!  yummo!

so imagine my absolute delight when i went to do my fruit and veg shopping on saturday (new habit:  going to the kyogle farmers market .... what a treat!  small but wonderful!).  there was a gentlemen there selling MOUNTAINS of broad beans!  woohoo!  the past two weeks i have purchased a kilo and loved every minute of it!  i love the imperfections, the time it takes to peal the beans .... and then after they have been steamed popping them out of their casings is just another amazing way to taste them with your eyes and senses before eating.  yup!  i was a happy camper.

and i had a loverly conversation with this farmer about when the season is for them up here and he said you plant them in march!  yippee!  so rather than july .... i get to start enjoying them earlier in the year!  how cool!

.... and yes .... i have taken about 20 of the plumpest, fattest beans and put them aside to dry out and plant them next season.  <g>