Archive for March, 2015

Chicken Behaviour & Welfare

March 28, 2015

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This may interest all you chicken buffs out there. I’ve signed up for a Coursera course on Chicken Behaviour and Welfare. The course starts next Friday, April 3rd.

I love the idea of free on-line courses. I’ve done about 7 courses with Coursera so far.

Check out the introductory video at the link and sign up.

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The Lie We Live

March 26, 2015

Reblogged from Damn the Matrix.

Nothing more needs to be said. Just watch the video.

Damn the Matrix

This great video questions our freedom, the education system, corporations, money, the American capitalist system, the US government, world collapse, the environment, climate change, genetically modified food, and our treatment of animals….

“They gave us money, and in exchange we gave them the Earth”

Enjoy, and share widely……..

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Village Farming

March 19, 2015

I’ve been reading Gene Logsdon’s blog for some time. I like his intelligent, down-to-earth attitude to growing food, which generally allies with experience and against accepted dogma.

“…… I like to think that the village represents the apex of human civilization. Village life is more secure and comfortable than the lonely ramparts of the outer countryside or the crowded nonentity of the big city. The world is littered with the ruins of great cities. The way to keep a nation vital and human is to keep it as a collection of villages spread out over the landscape. This new age of local garden farming is a way to do this. It is causing the return of the village as the center of human endeavor.”

I hope a return to village farming will be the norm in a post-crash world.

City of Vancouver Food Strategy: What Feeds Us

March 14, 2015

Think I’ll move to Vancouver.

I’ll come back when Melbourne does something like this.

Industrial agriculture is war

March 9, 2015

I have a great deal of admiration for Dr Vandana Shiva.

She spoke to a packed audience in Sydney recently and Kirsten at Milkwood Permaculture has blogged about it here.

We are in a situation where we are, with every plate, making a choice.

About whether we are going to push the planet to dead soils, dead rivers, desertification, extinction of species, totally unstable climate. And people.

Because we are usually not conscious that the planet is always on our plate.

And therefore we will not obey any law that comes in the way of this higher duty.

Agriculture means the culture of the land – any activity that destroys the land, the biodiversity of the soil, the water, create greenhouse gas emissions – kills our bees and our butterflies and our pollinators – is no longer agriculture – it is war.

We need to reclaim agriculture – and through agriculture, we will reclaim the future of humanity.

Dr Vandana Shiva, Sydney, February 2015

Drying pumpkin…Take 2

March 6, 2015

I’ve written about drying pumpkin here and here.

Initially, I chopped it in the Thermomix and dried the chopped pieces in the Excalibur dehydrator :

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That worked OK, except that I had to keep turning the pile to ensure even drying.

I thought I’d try something easier. I chopped the pumpkin into chunks, sliced them with a mandolin slicer on the finest setting, and spread the slices on the drying tray :

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They took a lot less time to dry. Result….crispy pumpkin chips :

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If I want these in granular form (for my bread baking), they’ll be easy to chop in the Thermomix. Otherwise they’ll go into soups and casseroles as is.

February update

March 2, 2015

February wasn’t such a bad month weather-wise…a few days in the 30’s, but nothing that couldn’t be coped with. I’m hoping that’s it for summer. According to the weather bureau, Melbourne didn’t receive a single day over 40 degrees this summer. Bit of a change from last year! Only 3 weeks to the autumn equinox, when things will really start to cool down.

I’m weighing all the food that comes into the house (via garden and supermarket) for 12 months just to see how I’m going with the self-sufficiency effort. I did it a couple of years ago and found that I was growing about 50% of my fruit and vegetables, which accounted for about 20% of total food input. I decided to do it again this year…..starting last September…..because I felt that I wasn’t really improving and might even be going backwards. The end of February marks the halfway point.

In 6 months I harvested 67 kg of food from the garden and bought in 86 kg of fruit & veggies and 175 kg of groceries. So I grew 44% of my fruit and veggies which was 20% of total food. So I’m not doing any better, just holding steady (although some of the garden yield gets picked and nibbled on the spot and greens and herbs generally don’t get weighed). The next 6 months won’t be as good because winter in the garden is usually a lean time.

 

The strawberry wicking buckets continue to provide good yields, albeit with a bit of variation in size :

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The tiny one clocked in at 5 g and the biggy at 25 g. If strawberries were sentient beings, I’d imagine the little one is feeling pretty cheesed off with life right now.

 

I’ve had huge yields of cherry tomatoes with the result that I’ve already filled two 1 litre jars with dried tomatoes and there are still plenty more coming :

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The cucamelons started producing, not immense amounts, but at least enough to take a photo :

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Pumpkins and zucchinis were a disaster this season. There weren’t many flowers and those that did appear failed to produce fruit because of poor, or no pollination. I was pollinating the earlier flowers with a paintbrush, but got a bit lax with it towards the end of the season and got no fruit at all. I think I proved pollination was the problem by hand-pollinating one last zucchini flower and getting a fruit from it, before I pulled the whole lot out in disgust and disappointment. Maybe the lack of flowers was due to low potassium levels in the soil…..they were planted in a hugelkultur bed….so I will add plenty of wood ash from the fire before next season.  Lack of bees is a greater concern. Perhaps I need to plant more flowers to attract them.

 

Last year I put half a dozen raspberry plants in a hugelkultur bed. They flowered in spring and I picked some berries, but there were so few that I didn’t bother to net them. The old canes that flowered died off and several new canes appeared. Now they’re flowering and there are plenty of tiny raspberries coming, so I thought I’d better do something about netting :

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Star pickets at each end of the row. Melaleuca sapling cut for crosspiece and wired to the star pickets. Pieces of 19 mm poly pipe wired to crosspiece :

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That should do it :

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Mystery seedlings. I have a tendency to not throw out seedling trays when I’ve finished potting up from them, until I’m desperate for room in the polyhouse. I do chuck out the labels, though. Silly. I was about to consign this tray to the compost when I noticed the 4 seedlings in the corner :

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I didn’t recognise them. Unlikely they’d be weeds as the seedling mix is pretty clean and they couldn’t have blown in because all my seedling trays are kept in the polyhouse. The leaves at the top belong to zaatar, an oregano-type herb which I’d finished potting up. So I checked on my propagation database to see what I’d sown about the same time. Well, with  great surprise…..it could have only been elderberry! And I’ve sent away for elderberry seed so many times and never got it to germinate. So much so, that I was rapt when Maree of Around the Mulberry Tree brought me an elderberry plant late last year. Here it is, planted and doing well :

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Same pinnate foliage…..surely that has to be it! And then I remembered; the seed came from Phoenix Seeds in Tassie. I’d always sent for European Elderberry before; last time I asked for American Elderberry. It obviously germinated, but has taken its time. Now I need to look up the differences between the two. It looks like I’ve gone from having no elderberries to having five!

 

I found this piece of ginger in the cupboard :

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I’ve tried to grow ginger (unsuccessfully) once before and almost threw this piece out, but then thought, what the heck, I’ll give it another go. So it’s in a pot in the polyhouse, where I can keep an eye on it :

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I had a plant of Red Russian kale which flowered and went to seed. I cut off the top part with the seed heads on and the bottom part shot out new clusters of growth from the leaf axils. I’m always looking for new ways to propagate plants, so I broke off a few of the clusters and put them in as cuttings. It worked! They grew roots :

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I’m starting to prepare beds for planting garlic and potato onions at the March equinox. I’ll plant my own potato onions harvested from last year, but my garlic was very small, so I’ve sent off to Yelwek Farm again for more bulbs.

 

I’m very disappointed with my bamboo. I planted it 9 months ago and I thought by now I’d be cutting stems for stakes. I watered it with comfrey tea which made it greener but it didn’t grow. At least it hasn’t died :

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We had 26 mm rain during the month, less than half Melbourne’s average of 46 mm. March began with 11 mm. I hope it continues; I have dozens of plants waiting to be planted.

And finally, this from the morning paper a week or so ago :

 Australian health authorities are reviewing the case for fluoride in drinking water amid concerns scientific evidence supporting the benefits and risks to people’s health may have shifted

My views on fluoride in drinking water are here. If I didn’t already have a water tank, I’d be putting one in.