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Showing posts from July, 2016

How I use herbs - coriander (or cilantro)

Its winter and coriander (Coriandrum sativum)is coming up in my garden.  Outside of the sub-tropics, coriander is a spring/summer annual, but it quickly bolts in hot weather, so it grows better here in winter.  This herbs is known by its Spanish name, cilantro, in the US (and obviously in countries that speak Spanish).  Coriander is an ancient herb and spice, that is used in cuisines as varied as Indian, Chinese, Mexican, Egyptian and Mediterranean.





How I grow coriander You can get coriander as seedlings, but I usually plant it from seed.  When it goes to seed in my garden, I scatter the seeds and they come up the next year.  I also throw a few extra saved seeds around the garden in early in winter, to make sure I get plenty of coriander.  It does grow better here in the colder months, and quickly bolts to seed when the weather warms up or if the soil dries out.  The flowers are popular with bees and other pollinators, also resulting in plenty of seeds for next year's crop and for …

Holistic management - part 2: four key insights

The book Holistic Management: A New Framework for Decision Making (affiliate link) introduces four key insights that underpin the concept of Holistic Management.  (See my introduction to Holistic Management here)

1) The Whole is Greater that the Sum of the Parts
Hence the reason for the word "holistic".  Every landscape is part of a broader ecosystem.  If we make a small change on our property, say clearing trees or building a dam, it will have an impact on the wider system.  Every action we take, we must consider the holistic effect.  Later in the book, there is a chapter on forming a holistic goal for your farm, so that you can ensure that everything you do moves you towards the holistic outcome that you want, and doesn't do unexpected damage.




2) Brittle vs Non-brittle Landscapes
Landscapes respond to influences depending on where they sit on a brittleness scale.  Non-brittle landscapes have frequent rainfall, a fairly constant growing season and constant decay of biomas…

What breed of chicken should I get?

When we first got chickens we thought pure-bred chickens were the best option.  We soon found out that they don't lay as many eggs as they used to (thanks to being bred for looks rather than egg-laying abilities) and so we got some hybrid hens.  The hybrids lay well, too well, and are not great for eating as they don't get very big.  Now we have a bit of a mixture of Rhode Island Reds, White Leghorns and commercial laying hens, which we cross-breed to create our own breed of dual purpose (laying and table birds) for eggs and eating.



If you're wondering what breed of chickens you should get, I've developed a fun flow chart to help you decide.  Pop over to my chicken tractor ebook blog to take a look.What type of chickens do you keep?




By the way, my chicken eBook is now available if you want to know more about backyard chickens and using chicken tractors.  More information over at the chicken tractor ebook blog.  Or you can get it directly from my shop on Etsy (.pdf for…

Simplifying soapmaking - guest post

I know a lot of people would like to try making soap, but are put off by the cost of ingredients and equipment, the perceived danger of using caustic or the complexity of the recipes. Soap making does not have to be expensive, dangerous or complex. I want to share a few tips to get you started with simple soap making, and demystify the process to make it more accessible to everyone who would like to give it a try. You can start with a simple soap and add more ingredients as you get more comfortable with the process.

I wrote a guest post for Say Little Hen, pop over there to find out how simple soapmaking can be.






Here's a few links to my previous soapmaking posts.

Why use natural soaps and salves?
I prefer to use natural products, rather than commercial soaps and lotions with unknown and unnecessary ingredients.

Making tallow soap This is my first post about soapmaking, and I used tallow right from the start because we have so much leftover from butchering our own beef.  Its very chea…

Things to consider before you get bees

A beehive (or two) is an excellent addition to a homestead, even in an urban area, as they don’t take up much space. Bees not only provide honey, but also pollination services and beeswax. Since we’ve had a couple of beehives near our vegetable garden I’ve had the best crop of pumpkins and capsicums since I started growing vegetables, which I am sure is due to flowers being pollinated more effectively. I also use the beeswax to make salves and we sell the excess honey.



Bees have worked out really well so far, however, getting bees is a big decision and there’s a few things that you should consider first.  I've written a guest post over at Imperfectly Happy, so you can pop over there to read about what I think you should consider before getting bees.
Read my other posts about bees here:
Eight Acres: Guest Post: Bee-Keeping and Happy Neighbours

Eight Acres: Buying honey bees

Eight Acres: Getting started with beekeeping - with Vickie from ...

Eight Acres: Beginner beekeepers - wiring fram…

Soap making - how much water to use

For all of my soap recipes I use 1 kg of oils (including tallow), the amount of caustic to react with the oils (a little less to allow for "superfat") and about 330 mL of water.  Someone asked me recently why I don't specify an exact amount of water.  I had to go back to my soap-making book (Soap Naturally - affiliate link) to check where that ratio came from.



The water in soap making isn't actually part of the reaction.  The soap reaction is between the oils and the caustic soda (sodium hydroxide).  As the caustic soda is solid, it wouldn't disperse well and react evenly if we just added caustic soda granules to the oil.  We dissolve the caustic soda in water so that we can easily mix the caustic soda with the oil to facilitate an even reaction.  This is why measuring the exact amount of water to the mL is not important.

However, you do need to know approximately how much water to use.  If you use too much water, the soap will be gluggy and take a long time to d…

Plastic Free July

Has everyone signed up for Plastic Free July?  The idea of Plastic Free July is to try for a month to actively avoid single-use plastic.  You can sign up for the whole month, or just a week, and you can avoid all single-use plastic or just the TOP 4 challenge (plastic bags, bottles, takeaway coffee cups & straws).

This post contain affiliate links from Biome and Rad Pads, as well as advice from my personal experience.  You don't need to buy a whole lot of things to reduce your plastic consumption, there are many things that you can make yourself, I just suggest a few of the items that have helped us and may help you too.

Why?  Plastic is designed to last forever, but when we use it for "disposable" items they do not biodegrade and end up polluting waterways or filling landfills.  Each of us can make a difference by just reducing (or aiming to eliminate) single-use plastic.

Don't know where to start?  Here's a few posts I prepared earlier, and see below for my …

Farm update - July 2016

This month it rained for the first time in about 6 weeks.  We had two weekends of "east coast lows" drop about 50 mm in total on both properties.  The grass is green and the garden is sprouting.

The dogs wouldn't stay out of the rain, they were having so much fun playing.  Gus is now 22 kg and taller than Taz, so we are watching to see if the dynamic between them changes.  Gus is still a laid-back loving dog, he will come for cuddles while Taz is barking at us to throw her ball.

Is everyone signed up for Plastic Free July?  I'll post more about our plastic-free efforts in July. Here's what we've done in previous years.



Food and cooking
Winter weather brings out the slow cooker and I make my all-purpose casserole.  We love Y-bones and you don't ever had to chop up the meat, just put them in whole and pick out the bones later (bones = flavour!).  I add onion, carrot, any other tired veges from the fridge/garden, stock (beef or chicken) sometimes a can of tom…