Monday, 27 April 2015

Preparing a property base map - Part one

"In the modern world, during the last hundred or so years, there has been an enormous and historically unique shift: away from self-reliance and towards organization. As a result people are becoming less self-reliant and more dependent than has ever been seen in history. They may claim to be more highly educated than any generation before them; but the fact remains that they cannot really do anything for themselves." 
~Dr E.E. Schumacher

Wallum wildflowers

Right now in my permaculture studies I have reached the point whether the rubber hits the road. I am preparing my site assessment base map. To reach this point I have had to do quite a bit of preparatory work. The course requires participants have access to a client site, so assessments and plans can be carried out. For this course my husband and I are the clients.

So to reach this point I had to:

  • Develop an understanding of permaculture ethics and principles and how they can be applied to a given situation
  • Understand the client's needs - so looking at what we need and want from our property - our wish list as it were.
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of: -
    • Food miles - including what food can be sourced locally
    • Ecological footprint
    • What is really in the food we buy at the supermarket; this included looking at :
      • The extrusion process used to make packet cereals 
      • What happens to the nutrients in raw milk when it is processed
  • Develop a client brief
  • Develop a plant database of plants that will grow in the area
  • Create a list of the plants that the "client" wants to grow on the property
  • Plant profiles
    • Fifteen full length plant profiles
    • Mini plant profiles for the rest of the plants from the list of what the "client" wants to grow on the property. Why oh why did I list so many plants? This assignment took me forever to complete. But will prove to be a great resource in moving forward.

Old tobacco shed

And because permaculture is applied ecological design, I also had to:

  • Demonstrate a knowledge of
    • Climate change
    • Peak oil
  • Prepare an in-depth study of my bio-region
  • Examine and reflect on the eco-systems present on my property. This included considering energy flows, food chains and webs.
  • Study habitat, plant successions, plant stacking and disruptions to eco-systems
  • Make compost using the hot composting method

And in a repeat performance presenting the very popular Cyril the snake

In part 2 I will outline the steps I used to create my base map.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Remembering Our Anzacs

"Cambooya is a drab little township - about two shops, a pub, and a railway station, about ten miles south west of Toowoomba.  But on a day in 1915 it was a magical place. The Great Recruiting March from Wallangarra to Brisbane was to pass through there and the children from the surrounding schools were to gather at Cambooya to welcome and cheer the potential soldiers on their way. Dad drove us to Harrow Homestead in the sulky and Mr Ramsay's motor cars were to convey our school the rest of the way…..we arrived in plenty of time and presently away in the distance we could see the marchers approaching and hear the band that accompanied them. As they arrived, the school children lustily sang "Rule Britannia" and "Advance Australia Fair" and other patriotic songs we had learnt for the occasion."
 ~ Dora Berry

My grandfather died in the 1940's, many years before I was born.  It wasn't until the last few years I discovered a little about my grandfather, thanks to information passed on to me by my father's cousins. So now I know my grandfather loved to sing and had a lovely singing voice, he had a pony named Tuppence and a dog named Digger and became a farmer like his father before him. I also learned my grandfather was an Anzac.

My Grandfather was 19 years and 10 months when he joined up in July 1917.   His unit was the 11th of the 4th Pioneer Battalion.

I know from his service records that he was 5 foot 4 inches tall, about my own height. He had a medium complexion, his hair was dark brown and his eyes were grey. His looks must have come from the Welsh side of the family I think to myself as I read through the service records. I don't know why I think that, yet that is the thought that floats to the surface.

Less than two weeks from his joining he was departing from Sydney, on his way to England and then to France, to join the fighting. From his records I see he got into a bit of trouble when he overstayed his leave at Sutton Veny within a few days of his arrival in France. Had he run into his older brother while on leave at that time I wonder to myself?  For his older brother had joined the war effort earlier on and was also stationed in France, and had recently been promoted to Lieutenant.

 For overstaying his leave my grandfather forfeited a day's pay and received seven days of what looks like b b. That can't be seven days at a bed and breakfast, could it be seven days of bread and butter? I wonder. 

The following month, this lad from the Darling Downs in Queensland,  was marching through France in heavy snowfall. Soldiers became ill, and their feet gave out, as did their boots. On Christmas day the company was given a holiday, and Christmas dinner consisting of roast veal, brussel sprouts, roast potatoes, Christmas pudding, nuts and one and a half pints of beer. I hope my grandfather enjoyed that Christmas dinner. On boxing day the whole battalion had a hot bath and a clean change of under clothing. The first they had had in over a month.

Pioneer battalions were trained to support the needs of both the infantry and the engineers. The RSL Virtual War Memorial site describes Pioneer battalions as "light military combat engineers organised like the infantry and located at the very forward edge of the battle area."

Day after day of travelling. Sometimes marching, sometimes by train. To bed at 4am, Reveille at 10 am. The Battalion arrived at Godezonne farm on the western front mid- January. So now my grandfather was in Belgium. Godezonne farm cemetary is the site of burial ground of the first world war. And so the reports continue. It is hard to keep up with where the battalion is stationed, as I read through the monthly records. From Belguim back to France? Marching and digging, cold and wet. I can imagine him making friends with the other soldiers, other farmers sons and people of very different backgrounds. The records show the capture of German soldiers. Could German prisoners of war be the source of the little bit of German my father spoke, passed down from his own father, and learnt whilst on the front?

I think of my grandfather's brother also fighting in France.  My great uncle was wounded three times. So many heart stopping telegrams received by my great grandparents. My great uncle, like my grandfather returned from the Great War, as did another great uncle who served with the 4th Tunnelling Company and later the 1st Tunnelling Company. My great great uncles, my great grandmothers brothers also enlisted. One served in the 19th Battalion, he was 32 years old when he enlisted in November 1915, and the other was 38 when he enlisted and served in the 16th Battalion also on the western front.

As a lieutenant my great uncle's responsibilities included writing to the families of the soldiers who had been killed in action. This is an extract from one of his letters to the parents of a fallen soldier " I wish to express the sincerest sympathy of myself and all Sid's old comrades with you in your bereavement. He was one of the best boys we had in the platoon, and was one who was marked for promotion if he had come through the stunt. He was always cheery and willing to do anything that was required of him at all times."  My heart aches when  I read these words. Not just for the young man lost and the anguish of his parents. But for the young man who penned the letter, a young country farmer of 24 years of age, who would have had to pen this type of letter again and again. My heart aches for the bravado in referring to such a horror that he was living through 'the stunt'. This young man watched comrades die, and perhaps he knew too when he was writing this letter that his younger brother was just joining the fray.  It is impossible to imagine the feelings endured under such hardships. 

It has been a poignant experience looking through the service records of the Anzacs from my family, and then reading some of the monthly diaries of the battalions in which they served.

I shall remember them with humble gratitude for their service.

You can find service records of Australian soldiers from the website Honouring ourAnzacs.

The Australian war museum has on-line records of the war diaries of the battalions that served during World War I.

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Thriving Through Thrift Thursday - April 2015

"In the end, thrift is really about self-control: making conscious, thoughtful decisions about how to apportion your energy. Not only will it make you feel powerful to practice it with even the most minor purchases in your life, but you'll actually end up more successful than people who don't. "

~ Zac Bisonette.

The quote above made me pause, reflect, and ask myself the following questions. Can practicing thrift really make me more successful than people who don't practice thrift? And, how am I apportioning my energy? 

In general I think most of us apportion our energy according to our habits without giving it much thought. This allows our habits to rule us and to map out the course of our lives. Perhaps that is why Socrates said the life which is unexamined is not worth living.  Elbert Hubbard wrote "for time rightly used is the thing which, when it co-operates with love and labor, produces wealth and all the things necessary to life and well-being. "

 2015 is turning out for me  to be a very different year from last year. This has provided me with the perfect opportunity to make some "thoughtful decisions" about how I am apportioning my energy with regard to home caring routines, writing, study and other activities. My new routine is worked out over a three week period, and each of the three weeks is a little different. If it turns out that this is not the right routine for me I will head back to the drawing board. 

The quote mentioned at the outset says that persons exercising thrift will be more successful. So are thrifty people more successful than those who are not?  Well how would you know if a thrifty person was successful? Because thrift is the wise management of one's resources, thrifty people are living below their means. This article points out that the millionaires in our suburbs are driving second hand cars and don't live in McMansions. They are not suffering from the 'big hat, no cattle' syndrome, they have not mistaken the difference between consumption and wealth.
Elbert Hubbard said "When you are earning more than you spend, when you produce more than you consume, your life is a success, and you are filled with courage, animation, ambition, good-will."  He also wrote "Loving labor and thrift go hand in hand. He who is not thrifty is a slave to circumstance. Fate says, 'Do this or starve,' and if you have no surplus saved up you are the plaything of chance, the pawn of circumstance, the slave of some one's caprice, a leaf in a storm. …..The surplus gives you the power to dictate terms, but most of all it gives you an inward consciousness that you are sufficient unto yourself."

  I think this is the point at which I would like to arrive -earning more than I spend, and producing more than I consume. That to me would feel like a success.

What I have done lately to thrive through thrift.


  Part of my new routine is to have one day every three weeks as a designated baking day. I remember my grade 3 teacher Mrs O'Halloran saying "Saturday is my baking day."  Half her luck to be able to do baking every Saturday, perhaps when my life is simpler, I too can bake weekly. So far on my first baking day I made two batches of chocolate slice and one weet-bix slice. Yes I am staying with the easy baking recipes.  Due to the Easter public holidays I decided to do some additional baking. (I can't help it  I am a baker's daughter after all.)  I made a matrimonial slice, a zucchini slice and a muesli slice.

I have started knitting another scarf. I am hoping to improve my knitting skills as time goes on, so I can actually knit some clothes,  but for now I will have to be content with garter stitch scarf's until I can break my habit of sporadic stitch increases. I know the problem is that when starting a row, I have often mistaken the first stitch as two stitches thus accidentally knitting into the first stitch twice. Sounds complicated doesn't it? Well that's me - I can make a simple garter stitch scarf complicated.

Our supermarket junk mail has become quite sporadic, so I have started looking for the catalogue specials on-line. It is a lot more time consuming than going through the junk mail catalogues. It takes me around an hour to compare the supermarket specials on-line. However it has been saving us money and making our grocery budget go further. I am also building a stockpile by buying extra quantities of items that are on sale at half price or cheaper.

 I have commenced  bringing out cool weather clothes and packing away warm weather clothes. I will do this over a number of weeks as our cooler weather is mostly early and late in the day with the middle of the day lovely and warm but not hot.

Don created two raised garden beds from a blue food grade  barrel. He did this by cutting the barrel in half with a cut off disc. Next he drilled some holes in the bottom for drainage and then he reinforced the sides with some aluminium strips. 


I am wasting less food. I have made bread crumbs from stale bread using my food processor. I have added grated carrot, semi-sundried tomato and left over sweet chilli cream cheese to my zucchini slice. I had half a tub of guacamole that was not being eaten and some cashews that were nearing their best before date. I put these in the food processor with some Greek yoghurt, olive oil and parmesan cheese to make a pasta sauce.  We really enjoyed the pasta sauce, though next time I will add a little more olive oil.

New Practices

My new routine mentioned earlier, is a new practice and it will take a while to become a habit. If I can get it down pat it will help things run much more smoothly.

Monday, 13 April 2015

Plant Profile ~ Zucchini

"Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influences of each. Let them be your only diet, drink and botanical medicines."
~Henry David Thoreau

 I enjoy zucchini, but my husband doesn't really like it much. However he does like my cheese crumbed baked zucchini.   As zucchini is one of the plants I want in my vegie patch this season, I thought I would include zucchini in my plant profiles. 

A member of the summer squash group, it is a frost sensitive annual. According to The Diggers Club's  "Sow what when" chart I can plant zucchini year round here in the sub-tropics. 

Zucchini fruit can be dark green, yellow, white, or striped, and are cylindrical in shape. The plant produces yellow flowers which can be either male or female. The plants have large dark green leaves with silver-gray markings on the mature leaves. I have been told that some gardeners have mistaken these markings for mildew. 

Zucchini seed should be planted in a full sun position, in free draining soil that has been amended with compost.    I am going to allow about 80 centimeters between the plants and I will mulch well, once the plants sprout.   Zucchini’s need consistent and ample water.  If I don't supply the zucchini with enough water, the immature fruit may drop off the plant. But  I will need to avoid wetting the foliage in order to reduce the chance of mildew. I live in an agricultural district, and some local farmers  plant their zucchini's in holes cut into  plastic with the irrigation running to the plants underneath the plastic. I assume that this is in an effort to avoid powdery mildew.  If I do have problems with powdery mildew I will try one of the home remedies listed on the  Gardening Australia website.  

Zucchini grow well with sweet corn. Other companions are nasturtium, lovage and marjoram.

Much of the zucchini’s nutrients are in the skin, however the skin of the dark green variety has a reputation for being bitter. For this reason some people prefer the golden skinned variety. My seeds are a mixture of both colours, plus white, so I will have to wait and see which colours I have planted. 

Earlier this year, Patsi from A Working Pantry had this post on how to make Zucchini flour. I found this idea very interesting and if I end up with a glut of zucchini, I may give it a go.

Have you ever tried growing zucchini?

Foods that Harm , Foods that Heal - Readers Digest
One Magic Square - Lolo Houbein

Monday, 6 April 2015

In My Garden in April 2015

“That evening was the evening of the full moon. The garden was an enchanted place where all the flowers seemed white. The lilies, the daphnes, the orange-blossom, the white stocks, the white pinks, the white roses - you could see these as plainly as in the daytime; but the coloured flowers existed only as fragrance.” 
Elizabeth von ArnimThe Enchanted April

March was such a hot month that I put off starting my vegie garden until April.  Mid-April is generally considered the end of our wet season.

The Swamp Bloodwood have been flowering. Apparently they are easy to grow from seed. 

Last month I did some soil tests for my permaculture course. I now know a lot more about my soil, I will share more about the soil tests - what I did and the results - in a future post. My soil does need a lot of amending however I think I will be covering how to improve my soil in a future unit of my course. 

Here is my list of things I would like to do this month.


Tino on Gardening Australia prepared his soil for planting by mixing half a barrow load of compost with 1/2 a bucket of cow manure and about the same of well rotted chicken manure, 2 handfuls of blood and bone, and three handfuls of pelletised chicken manure to make sure the plants were fed for a longer period, and one handful of sulphate of potash. He then dug the mix into his soil.  This was for a garden bed of about two square metres. 

Tino said that the bed would be ready for planting out straight away.  Here is the link if you want to watch that segment of the show. If you are not familiar with the Gardening Australia website, and you like gardening, you may want to check it out. The site has oodles of information and videos from the show.

I would like to plant the following this month:

Zucchini - though it is normally thought of as a summer annual, here we can plant it from April through to July (some sources say it can be sown all year in our area) due to our mild winters.

Tomatoes - I really wanted to plant some tomatoes last month but as I mentioned it was really too hot to do so. I am not sure what varieties I am going to plant, but I do want some cherry tomatoes.

Strawberry runners - I will plant these about 30 cm's apart and then apply some blood and bone and cover with lucerne or sugarcane mulch. I am thinking of putting them in some large pots I have rather than into the garden beds.

I would also like to plant some Borage if I can find some at the nursery. Failing that I will try planting from seed.


All of our mango's need pruning, but one tree in particular still needs heading back as Don didn't get to that last month.  The rest of the mango's can just have a bit of a tidy up with the removal of inward growning and downward growing branches.

My hibiscus need dead heading, and my salvias need a really good pruning, as does one of my duranta's


I need to fertilse the mango and stone fruit with something like Organic Xtra. I can also feed the citrus trees and spray with white oil to control citrus leaf miner.


Everything needs weeding. The advent of the cooler weather should mean the weed growth slows down for a while.

What are you doing in the garden this month?