Friday, 29 March 2013

Permaculture - A Farm for the Future

By following the link that Rhonda provided on Down to Earth's Weekend Reading, I found the following documentary - Farm For The Future.

Wildlife film maker Rebecca Hosking investigates how to transform her family’s farm in Devon into a low energy farm for the future, and discovers that nature holds the key.
With her father close to retirement, Rebecca returns to her family’s wildlife-friendly farm in Devon, to become the next generation to farm the land. But last year’s high fuel prices were a wake-up call for Rebecca. Realising that all food production in the UK is completely dependent on abundant cheap fossil fuel, particularly oil, she sets out to discover just how secure this oil supply is.
Alarmed by the answers, she explores ways of farming without using fossil fuel. With the help of pioneering farmers and growers, Rebecca learns that it is actually nature that holds the key to farming in a low-energy future.

Though the predictions about peak oil and the possible future with this declining resource upon which we rely heavily are grim, I also found it encouraging that if we start now to think of ways to deal with this situation in our own lives we have a chance to create a means of not only feeding our family but also to teach the next generation valuable skills that without action by ourselves they might not learn.  If we think its going to be tough for us in the next few years, then how hard is it going to be for them 10, 20, 30 years from now.

I can now see that our newly created veggie patch is just the beginning of our journey.   I could wish and wish and wish for more land but its not going to materialise so i need to consider my garden in a three dimensional aspect rather than just two.  Can i incorporate the principles of a forest garden and work vertically as well?  Hmmmmm food for thought.  I'm starting to plan again..!  LOL 

Thanks for visiting Living In The Land Of Oz  

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

I am a Farmer - At Last

A farmer is a person engaged in agriculture, raising living organisms for food or raw materials.   - Thank you Wikipedia!  I am therefore by definition a farmer because as of today (tonight) i am raising worms for raw material - that being castings and tea.  I know that this is not seen as such a big deal for some but for me it is one step further along the permaculture road i started last year.

A few weeks ago Aldi, God bless them, were selling Worm Farms for $49.  At the time even this small amount was too much but my dear mother gave me $50 for my birthday and then my mother-in-law gave me more so i not only have the hardware but the software as well.  That's one way to describe 1200 little wrigglers.

I have Tom with me today, telling me how i should do this post, so i am being careful to put all the instructions in full.  Wink!

Take the coir brick and place in bucket of 6.5L of water. 

Enlist the help of one teenage son to first read the instructions - this is important essential training for a future husband.  Then assemble as instructed  - not what you think!

It looks like a worm farm to me.

Pause - we are waiting for Dad to come home now so we can open the bag of worms together and assemble everything!  He's been visiting his mum for the day. 

OK, its now 10.30pm and we can keep going.

Place the cardboard provided in bottom of working tray and then put expanded coir mulch on top.  The cardboard will breakdown and the moisture in coir will keep soil and worms moist.   Then spread the worms on top - they will immediately try to hide as they don't like direct light. 

Provide them with a small amount of food.  Note that it will take a week for them to adjust to new food source and so you wont notice it missing for a while.  It should be cut up smaller but it will be broken down by end of week the way it is.   Then place blanket that has been soaked and rung out on top.  My husband actually said "Goodnight Wormies".   Cover with lid.

Its final resting place, just outside kitchen window so that i don't have far to add kitchen scraps (see menu below).  My husband's last parting comment was "Welcome to the Family", followed by my parting shot was "you'll soon be fat like everyone else in the house".   Sign of lunacy - talking to worms!   Or is it that after a full day at work, 11pm is time for bed, not worm farm building.

The following information is intended as a reference for anyone who might be thinking of undertaking the same adventure.  Its taken from the manual that came with the farm.  Most of it i already knew as i had attended a council sponsored composting course with Shoestring Gardening and VEG  - Very Edible Gardens in October.
Worm Menu

Composting worms will eat anything that was once living, that means organic material.  They like diversity of organic matter. 

Fruit  - Peelings, scraps, cooked or uncooked - not too much citrus
Vegetables - Peelings, scraps, cooked or uncooked - not onions
Hair Clippings
Shredded Newspaper & cardboard
Crushed egg shells  - use a mortar & pestle
Sea Weed
Vacuum cleaner dust, saw dust
Coffee Grounds - this is like worm steroids
Tea Bags


Worms have small mouths so they can eat faster if the food is smaller - chop it up or process it if you want it to break down quickly.  Warming it in microwave with water can also speed it up. 

Fishing Worms - Make up a mix of 50% chicken pellets, 10% wheat or corn flour, 10% powdered milk, 20% bran, 10% lime or dolomite  - sprinkle on food waste every couple of days and in several months you will have fat, tough worms ready for fishing.
Moving Upstairs

Start out with only one working tray and when the casings have reached 2cm above the moulded line stop feeding them for a week to make sure that all the food has been eaten.  Place the second working tray on top making sure that it rests on the castings.  Worms cannot jump.   Place food in second tray and cover with blanket and the worms will move up into second tray.  When you reach the top of the second tray, the worms will most likely all be in the second tray and you can use the contents of the first tray in your garden.

Worm Castings and Worm Tea

The castings and tea have a neutral pH level of 7.  Castings are the black bits in the soil and will help your soil breathe and hold water whilst encouraging more worms and microbes.  It is excellent fertiliser that stimulates growth, colour and quantity of flowers, fruit and vegetables. 

 Worm Tea is a nutritious tonic (Yum - must try it for breakfast - LOL) and is helpful when your veggies and plants are flowering or fruit ripening.  It also supports diseased and stressed plants, protects them against insects and helps establish young plants over two weeks old.

Both these are now FREE FREE FREE

I am looking forward to having two more items that i can trade at the veggie swaps.  My garden doesn't produce too much of a glut so its nice to be able to make a contribution. 

Frequently Asked Questions

If you would like answers to any of the following questions, please refer to the following link:

How much will my worms eat?
How can i help my worms eat more?
What shouldn't i feed my worms?
Can I feed my worms garden refuse?
Why wont my worms start eating the food scraps?
Should i add water to the worm farm?
Will i get too many worms?
Why aren't my worms moving up into the second tray?
What to do when temperatures are extreme.
Its raining and the worms are gathering in the lid.  What do i do?
Could the little white worms in my worm farm be baby worms?
Will the worm farm attract flies?
What about maggots?
How do i keep ants out of my worm farm?
Will the worm farm smell?
What about holidays?
There are still worms in the first working tray and i want to use castings. 

I hope Ive given another beginner a basic understanding that none of this is hard work and will add yet another dimension to your back yard and family life.  

Thanks for visiting Living In The Land Of Oz

Monday, 25 March 2013

Noelle's Funny - Humour has no Age Limit

Welcome to Noelle's Funny!   Noelle is my Angel (70 years young) that pops over once a week to help me in the house while i work full time.  She has been helping me for too many years to count and we consider her family.   My small payment helps her with living expenses as she is a pensioner and i think its a win win situation for all.   Every few days i get an email from her with something that has tickled her funny bone and i think that they are so hilarious that im going to share them with you.  It proves that humour has no age limit. 

Today's Funny From Noelle

 As I was lying around, pondering the problems of the world,
I realized that at my age I don't really give a rat's ass anymore.
.. If walking is good for your health, the postman would be immortal.
.. A whale swims all day, only eats fish, drinks water, but is still fat.
.. A rabbit runs and hops and only lives 15 years, while
.. A tortoise doesn't run and does mostly nothing, yet it lives for 150 years.
And you tell me to exercise?? I don't think so.
Just grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked,
the good fortune to remember the ones I do, and the
eyesight to tell the difference.
Now that I'm older here's what I've discovered:
1. I started out with nothing, and I still have most of it.
2. My wild oats are mostly enjoyed with prunes and all-bran.
3. I finally got my head together, and now my body is falling apart.
4. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
5. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.
6. If all is not lost, then where the heck is it ?
7. It was a whole lot easier to get older, than to get wiser.
8. Some days, you're the top dog; some days you're the hydrant.
9. I wish the buck really did stop here; I sure could use a few of them.
10. Kids in the back seat cause accidents.
11. Accidents in the back seat cause kids.
12. It's hard to make a comeback when you haven't been anywhere.
13. The world only beats a path to your door when you're in the bathroom.
14. If God wanted me to touch my toes, he'd have put them on my knees.
15. When I'm finally holding all the right cards, everyone wants to play chess.
16. It's not hard to meet expenses . . . they're everywhere.
17. The only difference between a rut and a grave is the depth.
18. These days, I spend a lot of time thinking about the hereafter . . .I go somewhere to get something, and then wonder what I'm "here after".
19. Funny, I don't remember being absent-minded.

I hope you are amused and share this with your friends.  Laughter is good for the soul.  Feel free to share one with me.

Thanks For Visiting Living In The Land Of Oz

Sunday, 24 March 2013

Food Art - From My Garden

I never was good at art in school but I think I’ve found my niche.  I’m not asking for kudos just gob smacked that I actually grew this.   Isn’t it pretty?   I prepared it for a veggie swap meet but got the details wrong and there was no one there.  Oh well, it made a nice gift.  I was hoping for some worm pee/juice (or whatever you call it).  I saw a program on SBS called Gourmet Farmer and they showed a trial between a veggie bed with microorganisms added and one without.  The extra growth and improved flavour in the veggies grown in microbiotic soil certainly proved that soil needs to be "alive" to get the best out of it.  Hence my need for worm pee.  I'm looking forward to getting my own worm farm someday and I’m kicking myself that I didn’t get one from Aldi a few weeks ago when they were only $49.  What a bargain.  Oh well, always learning.

Thanks for visiting Living In The Land Of Oz

Saturday, 23 March 2013

Take 1 Cubbyhouse Add Volunteers To Make 1 Chook House

Busy day at the Western Region Environmental Centre in Wyndham Vale today.   Yet another workshop which is part of the Growing Communities Complete Wyndham Food Gardener Workshops sponsored by Wyndham City Council.  What a mouthful for a name!  They should look at my post of acronyms and shorthand and come up with something catchy and shorter. 
Its great to meet each month with like minded people with a similar interest in making our home gardens part of our food chain.   Today workshop was again run by Shoestring Gardening and Craig from Edible Gardens. (See Links Below)

At no time during my journey down this path to being more self sufficient could i have imagined doing so without having my own chickens?  Not only are they great composters of food scraps and garden waste but suppliers of manure, yummy organic eggs and a whole lot of entertainment. Its all Win Win Win with chooks.  However, before you can consider having chickens you must consider housing them and so of course my mind has started that never ending process (seemingly) of planning the ultimate chicken coop.

Another option for those who want something more mobile is a chicken tractor.  This is a smaller yard with wheels at one end and a pair of handles at the other so that you move the chooks around for fresh feed or perhaps over a finished bed to clean it up before preparing for next season.  Like i said, its all win win win with chooks.
 For more designs on coops and tractors, check out the gallery on this site.

The day started, as all council sponsored programs should, with Craig explaining the by-laws in Wyndham regarding the keeping of chickens.  In Wyndham we are allowed 6 only that includes no roosters.  Sorry boys, but if you persist in making as much noise as possible and making a nuisance of yourselves then there's no choice but to give you the chop.  Can we do this with husbands and noisy teenage boys too?  Only joking, my wonderful husband came with me today and was most helpful, amusing and interested. 
Note that other councils have different limits so check with them first.  Chicken coops also need to be 1.5m from the fence line and no higher than 2m.

Its a good idea to check with neighbours to see if there will be any objections but you will probably find that since you are not having a rooster it will be OK.  In fact, mine already have their hand out for eggs.  I suggest that you always be mindful of making sure that your coop is clean and that there is no odour that might offend. 

Today was an exercise in repurposing an existing children's cubbyhouse situated in the middle of the back yard.  Its presence has been a constant irritation to the Shoestring ladies.  The vision is to create a place that can be used for educational purposes for school and community groups by demonstrating a working backyard garden that incorporates the principles of organic gardening and being eco friendly by reusing, recycling and repurposing materials.

As you can see it is very intrusive and creates a lot of lost space. 
It had to be moved to the other end of the yard and resized so the first job was to remove as much weight as possible by removing the vertical slats and flooring, chopping the legs to accommodate the 2m height restriction and then using the combined people power of those in attendance to carry it to its final resting place.  At some point, everyone was contributing by either hammering, unscrewing and removing planks or storing them for recycle.   Of course, while all this is going on there is much laughter and chatter and valuable tips and information passed along to the beginners.  Craig is a wealth of knowledge and experience on seemingly every topic related to DIY and gardens and is very generous and patient when dealing with novices.  This guy deserves a halo (just make it tight because he's cheeky)!

Hubby sitting down on the job                                                  All Hands On Deck

Throughout the day there was plenty of mentoring on how to use power tools safely (including power saws), measuring and levelling, cutting tin with shears (did you know they come in left and right hand) and OH&S for the DIY.  Although it was not completed, we achieved a great deal and we all went home feeling warm and fuzzy and having learnt a great deal.

 DIY Class  - Use of Power Saw                                  Many Hands Make Light Work

From this to....


On the other two sides is bird wire.  Chicken wire is not actually best for a chicken coop.  The holes are two large and small birds and pests can get in to feed or spread disease.  The recommended wire is bird wire which has smaller holes or better still wire mesh as it is longer wearing, stronger and also has a smoother finish.

Wire Mesh used in the shelves of the  green house also ideal for chicken coop/yard.

Site Supervisor, banned from site for wearing inappropriate footwear - Smart Girl!
The next course on 21st April is on Keeping Chickens and between now and then Craig will complete the structure and yard so that we will be in a position to have some feathered friends on hand. I am very much looking forward to it. 

If you would like any more information about the courses please contact Shoestring Gardening via or Craig from Edible Gardens via  .

Thanks for visiting Living In The Land Of Oz

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Mum & Flowers - what more could a girl want?

Today was spend with Mum and my sister, Glenda, wandering (get back to that later) around the Melbourne Exhibition Building at the International Flower & Garden Show. 

First - The Building

Australia's only World Heritage listed building was completed in 1880 for Melbourne's first International Exhibition, it was the site of Australia's first Federal Parliament in 1901. It is famous for the mural paintings in the Great Hall. I personally love the fountain outside - its very ornate and huge. 

Secondly - The Flowers

Its hard not to be impressed by the range and detail in the formal arrangements but i think that each flower spooke for itself.  Simply beautiful.  The flower of the show seemed to be orchids, especially  the yellow tiny yellow Dancing Ladies, they were everywhere. 

Believe it or not, this is a steel tree made up of potted yellow orchids - thousands of them. 

I took literally hundreds of photos, these were some of my favourites.  I was actually a little disappointed in that there were no display gardens by landscapers outside.  I was sure that the winner of the Chelsea Garden show was going to reproduce his winning outdoor room but the only thing a saw were lots of vendors selling their wares in very average displays.  None of us were there to buy so in that respect only, it was not "up to scratch".

Lastly, it was a girl's day.  I get to see my Mum maybe once or twice a year for a weekend.  Glenda comes down to Melbourne from home in NSW to see her daughter so I see her maybe every few months, again for just a few days.   So this was a special day of just chatting and spending time together with no event that had to be organised (Wedding, 21st, Funeral etc).  Just girls being girls.   When i said above that we wandered around it was a joke because Mum rolled, I limped and Glenda pushed.   At 83 and in need of a hip replacement we forced mum to use a wheelchair. This freed up her walking stick which was passed to me and i have to admit that it did support my bad knee which was on a slow burn most of the day.  So this left poor Glenda, as usual, to be the carer.  She doesn't even like flowers so thanks a bunch Sis.

It was a lovely day. 

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