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Showing posts from November, 2014

A week in New Zealand

We spent a lovely week in New Zealand.  It was green and cool, with a few rainy days (a novelty for us at the moment).  We spent most of our time around Tauranga, with trips to Whakatane, Rotorua and north of Auckland to Whangarie and Dargaville.  Here's some photos from our holiday.












Does growing vegetables save you money?

What do you think, does growing vegetables save you money?

It can, but not necessarily. Of course its possible to overspend and try to grow inappropriate plants that fail. I read a very negative article a while ago (and lucky for you I can’t find it again, so you don’t have to suffer through it too), it was written by a person who had spent a ridiculous amount of money buying pots and potting mix and trying to grow tomatoes on an apartment balcony. They worked out how much it cost and how few tomatoes they harvested and concluded that there was no point growing anything. I found it very frustrating because they had really just set themselves up to fail and it wasn’t fair to conclude that gardening is not worthwhile.




Start small and don’t spend a lot to get started
If you are completely new to gardening, don’t jump in and buy six raised beds, soil, seedlings and an irrigation system. Just get a pot, possibly from your local dump shop, and some potting mix, and some herbs for a few …

Basic water quality testing

When buying a property is easy to fall into the trap of assuming that any water is good water. Unfortunately we learnt this the hard way. When we bought our property at Nanango, we thought the dam looked good and we would have plenty of water for the cattle, chooks and garden. The day we moved in with all our animals, our neighbour dropped by to tell us that our dam was saline. According to our neighbour, the previous owner had nearly ended up with two dead horses as they had refused to drink from the dam.

We promptly tested the water with an electrical conductivity (EC) meter that we already owned from back when we grew hydroponic tomatoes (pre-blog days) and found that the water was indeed saline. It was OK for the cattle water, but no good for the chooks or garden. The most annoying thing was that we already owned the EC meter and hadn't thought to use it to test the water because we had no idea that dam water could be salty. Since then we have used it on several proper…

Hand sewing - replacing a button

A couple of weeks ago I shared some tips for adjusting (or mending) a hem on a skirt or trousers. It seems like hems come apart very easily on most bought clothes these days. The other thing that I seem to be constantly mending is buttons. My sewing machine sews buttons and I guess that industrial clothing manufacturers use something similar. The problem is that the ends of the thread are left lose, so as soon as one end starts to pull, it doesn’t take long to unravel the whole button. I prefer to hand-sew replacement buttons for a more permanent solution. I’m pretty sure that I learnt to do this for a girl guide sewing badge a long long time ago, and I have sewn many buttons since then, so its a pretty useful skill to have!


First find a button. If you’re lucky, you will still have the button that fell off.  Sometimes you can move a decorative button to replace a useful button, and in fancy shirts a spare button is usually sewn into a tab in the seam.  If not, try to find a mat…

Are you prepared?

I guess there’s something about this time of year that gets me thinking about disaster preparation, because I wrote about it last year in November too.  In summer in QLD we either have hot dry weather, perfect for bushfires, or wet weather, storms and floods. Either way, we are at risk of losing power for up to a week, being isolated, or being forced to evacuate. No wonder being prepared is on my mind as we come into summer!



The most important to thing is to be aware of your risk. I grew up in New Zealand, and I was very aware of the risk of earthquake, and most people there will be prepared with food, water and supplies to survive weeks without services. We don’t have an earthquake risk here, so our needs are different. Know what could happen in your area, and when it is likely, and from there you can figure out what you might need. This also dictates whether you would need to shelter in place or evacuate, or if both are a possibility for you.  Our state has a website called &q…

Three simple ideas: Eat local and seasonal

I have a few more simple ideas to share with you to help with getting started with simple living.  As many of us have discovered, simple living isn't simple, certainly when you're getting started, there are lots of new skills to learn and its important to find a routine that works.  I've already shared simple ideas for growing your own food, for saving money on groceries, and cooking from scratch. If you do want to cook from scratch, the cheapest option is to supplement what you can't grow yourself with local and seasonal produce.




Simple: buy bulk meat directly from a farmer
I can't offer much advice with this one, as we kill our own animals for meat.  You will have to look in the paper or online to find a local farmer that sells bulk amounts.  And then you will need a large freezer!  A side of beef is around 150 kg (depending on the animal of course) and a lamb is only around 20 kg.  If you have the space for it, this is the cheapest way to buy meat, and you will …

The history of heirloom vegetables

Heirloom vegetables are the old varieties that have been passed down through generations.  Some vegetables have a history spanning thousands of years.  Heirloom vegetables are open pollinated, which means we can continue to save seeds and develop new species adapted to our individual climate.  Unlike the modern hybrid vegetables, that have been bred to comply with the requirements of an industrial agriculture system, heirloom vegetables are bred to taste good!  And best of all, they are open-source, not owned by anyone and can't be patented, we need to keep them alive to ensure food freedom for all.



Penguin sent me Simon Rickad's latest book Heirloom Vegetables: A guide to their history and varieties to review (see detail here).  Simon write that the main purpose of the book is to tell the stories of heirloom vegetables family by family.  The book itself if a lovely hardcover, nearly 350 glossy pages, with plenty of photos.  I would never had expected that reading about vegeta…

The story of our cows - Part 2

As I started explaining back in Part 1, our cows are drama queens, but we love them anyway.  Owning the cows has been a huge learning experience for us.  I wrote my ebook "Our Experience with House Cows" to try to help other cow owners get started, and it took me so long to publish it because we seemed to have a new issue to deal with every time I thought I had finally recorded everything we knew!  Here's part 2 of the story of our cows...




You might also be interested in my series on getting started with homestead dairy
Interview with myself

Interview with Mark and Kate from Purple Pear Permaculture

Interview with Kim from the Little Black Cow

Interview with Rose Petal

Interview with Marie from Go Milk the Cow

Interview with Ohio Farmgirl

Buy my ebook "Our Experience with House Cows" on EtsyLulu and Amazon, or email on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com to arrange delivery.  More information on my house cow ebook blog.





Reviews of "Our Experience with House Cows"
K…

How I use herbs - Borage

Borage (Borago officinalis L, not to be confused with broage) is a herbaceous annual leafy herb, native of the Mediterranean region. While borage is a very old garden plant, more recently is has been cultivated to harvest the seed oil, which is apparently high in gamma-linolenic acid. I grow borage to attract bees, to make herbal tea from the leaves and to occasionally surprise Pete with flowers in his work lunch.



How I grow borage

Borage grows VERY easily. I planted seeds by scattering them around the garden once, a couple of years ago, and now I just pull out unwanted borage plants and leave a few to prosper in different areas of the garden. I have harvested seeds to send to people for seed swaps, and I cannot imagine how they are harvested on an industrial scale. The seeds are tiny, four per flower, and they dislodge very easily! In some climates borage doesn’t grow and flower through winter, but I can grow it all year in the sub-tropics as long as it has enough water in dry p…

Slow Living Farm Update - November 2014

Once again, its time for the Slow Living Monthly Nine, started by Christine at Slow Living Essentials and currently hosted by Linda at Greenhaven.



Nourish We currently have 20 hens, half we hatched this year, so we get 15-16 eggs a day.  I have been selling most of them at work, but its also nice to occasionally cook up a giant quiche!  This one was filled with ham, onion, kale, mushroom and topped off with tomato and cheese, yum!  Other options that I've see recently include dehydrating the eggs and freezing eggs, I haven't tried these as we usually has enough eggs over winter.



Prepare We have been waiting and waiting for a roofer to be available to work on our house, but this month he told us we are next in line!  We are very excited!  The roof did not have to be replaced for us to get council approval, but it won't last much longer, so we wanted to get it done before we started working on the rest of the house.  Soon it will change from rusty red to Colourbond Evening Ha…

Garden Share - November 2014

October was hot and dry, apart from a few storms that brought about 15 mm of rain.  We had temperatures close to 40degC on our veranda (see evidence below).  Fortunately we got a chance early in the month to add more shadecloth to the garden.  In previous years I have grown beans up the north side of the garden to shade it, but lately its been too dry to even get the beans started, so this year we have put up shadecloth all along the north side and its making a huge difference to the garden, the plants are not looking as wilted by the end of the day anyway!  I have also been adding manure and mulch by the wheelbarrow load.



My other big project was digging a trench the centre of the garden for the herbs.  The pots kept drying out to the point that water ran right through them.  I dug the trench, lined it with newspaper (to make it drain more slowly), and packed around the pots with mulch.  I am hoping that this keeps the pots cooler, and more water is available to the roots in a kind o…