Chopping And Dropping Comfrey Leaves

I’ve written a fair bit about comfrey and its many uses, including how to propagate it and making comfrey fritters. At one point, I wrote an extensive blog called “everything I know about comfrey so far” just to get it all out there and clear up a few myths. As an extension of that blog here’s a more detailed look at using comfrey leaves as mulch, aka “chopping and dropping”.

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We’ve got a big bank of comfrey downhill of our young espalier orchard which is on a small terrace carved out of a steep slope – you can see the design below and some of its  development story here.  The design matches reality around 99%, it’s now all there and thriving – we just decided to not run our chooks there for the time being.

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This particular type of comfrey grows *big*, well over one metre – providing a whole lots of biomass that can be cycled back in our garden. At least twice a season I’ll go through and chop the leaves off at the base and drop it straight back on the ground or move it to an area that needs mulch. This time round, I mulched the bank it grows on and the neighbouring currants and globe artichokes. Coming into summer, this is such a valuable resource – it means we don’t have to buy in mulch at all, our soil is protected and nourished for free.

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Comfrey has a reputation amongst keen gardeners as a “dynamic accumulator”. While there isn’t solid scientific data on this, you just can’t ignore the countless gardeners who swear that by adding comfrey to your garden, you end up with healthier soils and crops -we’ve observed this ourselves.  You can read up on this here and here. 

And after a solid hour of chopping and dropping – our bank now looks like this….

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While it looks like I’ve completely devastated the plant – rest assured I haven’t, new growth will start to pop back up within 1 – 2 weeks and the whole process will repeat again. You can’t kill this plant – or at least it would be really, really hard to.

img_7231Our currant bushes with a comfrey mulch

Our bank of comfrey is approximately 20m long with somewhere between 40-60 plants and counting. We subdivide and plant more each season to crowd out the grass, stabilise the bank and grow mulch for our orchard. If you can, grow your own multi-functional living mulches – you and your garden will never regret it!

img_7239One of our espaliered apple trees with a comfrey mulch on one side and calendula on the other – lucky apple tree. 

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Our Property Design In Process

We’ve been at our property for almost four years – you can see some of the work we’ve done on it here, here and here – it’s been a busy four years. Recently we bought the bush/weed block next door to us which more than doubles the size of our block. So we’re now redesigning our whole property to integrate it with this new patch of land. Thankfully, we always planned on buying this additional bit of land, so designed our place with this in mind. Our original design looked like this…

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We mostly stuck to this design when creating it all. Only “mostly” because as soon as you start implementing a design, reality kicks in – you learn new things along the way so respond accordingly. This is a good thing, a great thing actually as it means you’re working with the landscape, letting it unfold naturally rather than enforcing your fixed ideas onto it. When we work with clients we try and emphasise this – that the design we provide them will almost certainly change as you create it – embrace that.

Back in September we started drafting up our new “whole of property” design – it looked like this.

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We let this sit for a while – talked extensively with our excavator driver who’ll be doing all the terracing and building our driveway and quickly knew we had to make some changes to make the design “smarter”.

By smarter I mean we had to find a way to keep all the soil onsite, get ride of the retaining walls as they’ll blow our budget (we’ll build earth berms instead and grow useful plants on them), make the passive water harvesting system more elegant and make every terrace accessible with a wheelbarrow so you don’t have to do awkward carrying/lifting across our steep slope. The new draft looks like this….

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We fully expect to change this design *again* before we start implementing it this January. We also fully expect to tweak it *during* implementation as our landscape is a living entity that we work with and not against.

I’ll provide a second (and maybe third) chapter to this blog to show the design and implementation developments as they unfold. The key emphasise we’ll continue to demonstrate is the responsiveness and flexibility we try and embody when working with land. It’s already perfect as it is, and while we’re introducing some massively significant changes we know we can still do this within the natural integrity of the landscape. Watch. This. Space.

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Growing Your Own Apple Tree Rootstock

Last winter our neighbour gave us two apple rootstock saplings and some advice for our developing orchard plans. She said:

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Save yourself money and grow your own rootstock. Just dig a long trench the same height of the tree and bury them (each in their own one) – they’ll sprout multiple times from their trunks and grow more trees.

Our neighbour is one of the best growers around, so we do whatever she tells us. We dug two shallow trenches, popped them in and forgot about them. The sketch below outlines the key steps to do this whole process – super easy.

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We now have ten young apple trees that we’ve since grafted onto with our desired apple varieties.

What varieties did we choose? The sturmer for its good storing abilities and the red galaxy – an older variety with pink flesh. We couldn’t find any reference to this variety, but how could we go past it with a name like that! Thanks to Fat Pig Farm for letting us lovingly raid their old orchard.

img_7049The young graft line, healing beautifully. 

img_7044Our ten apple saplings

We’re storing all the trees in one trench on the edge of our young olive grove until next winter, when we’ll transplant them into their permanent home in some new ground we’re prepping this summer. Until then, they’ll put on good growth so they’re ready for fruiting the following season.

If we were to buy all the plants we wanted to grow in our property, it’d add up to many, many thousands of dollars. Learning these life skills isn’t only empowering and deeply satisfying they look after the piggy bank too. But mostly, they’re just deeply satisfying – that’s what drives us – developing *useful* skills that all add up to having a good life.

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A Small Strawbale Home: 44m2 of love

Did you know the average Australian household is 214m2. To put that in perspective: Denmark’s average size is 137m2, America comes in at 201m2 , France is 112m2 and Hong Kong is a modest 45m2. So yep, Australia is “winning” in the worse way as the bigger your house, the bigger your consumption levels. As you generally need more energy to run the home, more things to put in it – more of everything.

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In the midst of the tiny house movement, we’d like you to meet Yani and Ben. We first met Yani as a student on one of our permaculture design courses and have kept in touch ever since. They’ve recently finished building their own small strawbale home in southern Tasmania – not quite a tiny home but tiny compared to the average Australian house, coming in at just 44m2.

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In Yani’s own words…

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After two and a half years as owner builders of our little house, we now live in the most beautiful space we could imagine for ourselves. With the help of many builders and experienced people we were a part of constructing the build every step of the way with the clay render definitely being the most hands on. We love every bit of our place and have achieved all the key elements we dreamed of.

Our home is around 44sqm and includes kitchen/living, bedroom, enclosed bathroom and we have a composting toilet outside. We are completely off grid with solar power, gas hot water and cooking, a wood heater (that also has oven and cook top) and collect all our rain water.

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The insulation that straw provides is superior to anything we’ve come across, the rendered walls give great protection against bushfire and the straw itself is a by-product of grain harvest. We are on about 5 acres of bush with a vegetable garden, food forest, two ducks, two ponies and two dogs.

Recently, we started making our own bread after realising just how many plastic bread bags we were going through! We will continue to aim towards a low waste lifestyle and think that a small home is a big part of that.

A well designed small home doesn’t feel cramped, funnily enough – it can feel spacious and an absolute delight to be in. Yani and Ben’s place does this – check it out…

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Obviously other benefits in building a small home is that it’ll cost less, which is always a helpful bonus! I think about small homes a fair bit – what is it in our culture that often makes people think bigger is better? When is enough, enough?

Our own house was built by someone else in 1925 and is 110m2. Its always felt big to us, admittingly having a little toddler makes it feel smaller, but not enough that we could ever consider having more. If anything we dream about living in something smaller – especially when we see folks like Yani and Ben create well designed homes that meet their needs in the most beautiful, functional and soulful way!

*Big thanks to Yani for providing all the photos.

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Our Maturing Edible Forest Garden

Around three and half years ago, we excavated our hillside – shaping the very steep slope into a series of terraces.  We knew we couldn’t afford to build retaining walls to stabilise each terrace, so our solution was one that many people have used before us – use plants to stabilise the earth berms. The berms are angled at around 45 degrees (the legal steepness is 60 degrees where we live), are a hell-of-a-lot cheaper and turns out more productive and beautiful than retaining walls.

The earth berm below (circled in yellow) was our largest, most problematic slope to stabilise – our solution? Plant it out as a small edible forest garden (EFG). You can see the full process we went through to establish this patch here.

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558615_639447366089512_23328198_nDirectly after the earth works, we quickly covered the steep earth berms with jute mesh to help stablise the soil and hold the clover seeds we broadcast (in hindsight, jute mat would have been better). We then put in some basic timber shelves, back filled them with good soil and planted them out densely.

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While we still think of this little patch as our young EFG – it’s starting to produce food, provide habitat and food to small insects and critters, plus it’s beautiful. We now sit in our seat (below), have a beer or a cuppa while fresh mint and nasturtiums drape over our shoulders. It’s transformed and we love it.

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Contrary to most design approaches for EFGs, we’ve arranged our key plants in rows in order to help stabilise the steep bank and to create easier access in a relatively small space. Below you can see these lines reasonably well with currants at the bottom left, feijoa trees in the middle, a strip of comfrey and then myrtus ugni berries at the very top. There’s also rambling clover, mint, nasturtiums and many herbs in between all this as well.

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As an ever-evolving space it’s always changing from season to season. We’ve made some changes here and there, like replacing the tamarillo tree with a fig, but only because we like figs more and due to limited space had to make a choice.

While I was out there this morning cutting and slashing the comfrey, using it as mulch around the fig and feijoa trees, I had a happy moment – realising that we never have to bring in mulch for this patch any more. It produces *so much* bio mass, plenty to cycle back into its own system, plus feed the chooks.

20161025_103400The baby fig tree *flanked* by a serious wall of flowering comfrey and a cape gooseberry.

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Being a perennial system, the maintenance is *significantly* lower than our annual garden beds. While we’re currently busy weeding our spring veggie beds and keeping them under control – our EFG only needs only occasional attention. Our main jobs are pruning and harvesting to keep this tight space productive. For example, two or three times a year I’ll go through and “clear-fell” patches mint to dry for tea, plus give the neighbouring plants a break from being swamped by it. Below you can see a freshly harvest patch which will bounce back with fresh mint in no time.

20161025_103806A clear patch where the mint has just been harvested for tea. Image form October 2016

We’re approaching a very big summer/autumn of change for our property – expanding our gardens into the neighbouring block we’ve just purchased (with the bank). While there’s still a whole stack of details to finalise, we’re 100% clear on one thing – and that’s having more perennial, instead of annual gardens. The high productivity, improved soil health and lower inputs required make it a no-brainer!

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Holistic Decision Making Workshop

We’ve just wrapped up hosting our first Holistic Decision Making workshop with Dan Palmer from Very Edible Gardens – it was a good one.

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Developed by Alan Savory  holistic management is “a framework for making deeply sound decisions. Deeply sound in the tangible sense of honouring the whole situation, minimising unintended negative consequences, and taking you where you want to go”.

Decisions are the steering wheel for our lives, whether you go left, right, straight ahead or turn abruptly around, their impact is profound. Best to get them right. That’s where holistic decision making steps in to make sure your decisions are in line with your inner truth, your calling, your dreams – whatever you want to call “it”.

The late Bruce Ward explains holistic decision making beautifully…

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It’s actually very simple. Form a goal for yourself that describes everything that’s important to your life. Test every one of your actions towards that set of words and assume you could be wrong. Monitor (whether it’s financial, ecological or social) for early evidence that it could be wrong and if it’s wrong, make another decision towards how you want things to be – not to solve the problem, but to get towards how you want life to be.

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Life is busy – we know this feeling well. Our brains and bodies are often frazzled moving sometimes erratically with the speed of our modern world, compared with the steady, level pace of ‘earth time’.

Holistic decision making is a tangible tool that can be applied to you, your family, your business, workplace – anything – to help reign it in, keep it focused and on track to reaching the goal/s you/it needs to. There’s nothing wishy-washy, magical or fluffy about – it’s just a solid, well thought through method that will help you live the life you need to. That’s all. You can see how we’ve started to apply it to our own little family here. 

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Every time we hang out with Dan our brains stretch a little bit more and we walk away with new thoughts, tools and some good laughs. Thanks Dan…

You can read more about this approach here.

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Living Mulches

In our cool temperate climate, we make a point of not mulching our annual garden beds over winter as the soil’s so cold we want the sun to be able to hit it directly – warming it up as much as possible. Plus, mulching in winter creates the perfect habitat for slugs that’ll ravish your plants. However, come summer time we’ll happily mulch our annual crops to prevent evaporation, slow down any weeds and provide organic matter for our soil food web.

But in our perennial gardens (herbs, orchard and perennial veggies) it’s generally a different story. Having the soil covered permanently (or close to it) prevents evaporation, fosters a stable soil food web and will generally improve the health of all plants. So in our garden, rather than only relying on buying mulch we also grow living mulches that have multiple benefits… They reduce evaporation, can provide nutrients to the soil, attract bees, fix nitrogen and help stabilise steep slopes.  Here are four examples of living mulches we use in our own cool temperate garden…

Vetch

Vetch (Vicia sativa) is a nitrogen-fixing ground cover that (to our delight) actually volunteered in our garden. We foster it in our herb garden where it fills in any gaps between plants and adds to the colour of the area with its purple flowers (not flowering at the moment).

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img_6743Vetch filling in the gaps between our purple sage and curry bush

Comfrey

We’re big fans of comfrey (Symphytum) and plant it amongst our orchards and globe artichoke patch where it also helps stabilise the slope.   It’s deep tap root can “mine” minerals into its leaves which we then chop and drop beneath our fruit trees where they release these minerals into the top layers of the soil. We’ve written extensively about comfrey and its uses – see our past blogs and photos here.

img_6740Comfrey helping to stabilise our slope and acting as a living mulch for our globe artichokes and fruit trees.

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Clover

We use white clover (Trifolium repens) throughout our small edible forest garden. This quick growing, nitrogen-fixing ground cover is super hardy and popular amongst the honey bees. They’ll flock to the flowers, which of course ensure the fruit trees nearby benefit from pollination.

FYI – never plant this in your annual veggie patch as it’ll become invasive and you’ll never get rid of it!

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img_6749Clover (plus yarrow and plantain) flanking one our feijoa trees

Mixed floral

Easy on the eye and a hot spot for the bees, a mixed floral living mulch system is a great way to go for both the soil and often your tummy. A lot of these flowers are edible, including the nasturtium and calendula flowers – add these to your salads (and more) and you’ll end up eating rainbow dishes!

img_6738Nasturtiums, calendula and sweet alyssum all acting as a living mulch and looking fine in the process.* 

We use nasturtium (Tropaeolum), sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) and calendula (Calendula officinalis) as our main living mulch options as they self seed *prolifically*, are tough and the bees love them. We’re big fans of plants that can handle the ‘tough love’ approach to gardening. You wont fine anything that needs constant pampering on our property – we’re all about minimal input and maximum output.

* Please excuse the rain tank’s overflow pipe not being connected to anything (yet). We’re in the process of connecting it into an overflow system that will pipe it through our orchard (to its benefit) with all excess water then going into the storm water drain. 

img_6734A nasturtium creeper beneath our young medlar tree

What about native plants as living mulches?

Good question. We currently have two native plants we use in our garden as living mulches – the creeping boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium) beneath our young grevilleas and tea trees and creeping saltbush (Rhagodia spinescens) which we’ve planted beneath our young olives – this last one is recognised as a local bush tucker plant as well.

img_6728Creeping boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium) smothers out grass beneath a young grevillea.

The boobialla grows incredibly close to the ground, while this particular variety of salt bush will grow to around 30cm before spreading out – they’re both beautiful and vigorous plants.

img_6732Creeping saltbush (Rhagodia spinescens)

Obviously there are many more plant options available to you depending on your climate and context. The key thing to aim for is to choose plants that benefit, rather than compete with one another.  As a general rule, most ground cover plants will have shallow root systems, meaning they’ll be suitable as a living mulch around fruit trees or larger plants that generally have a deeper root system.

At the end of the day, maintaining bare soil in your perennial crops is a lot of work (think weeding and watering). Why bother when you can grow a living mulch – the benefits are many and while it still requires input from you, it’s significantly less and the rewards and more!

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Hobart City Farm’s 2nd Growing Season Is Go!

The Hobart City Farm is coming into its second growing season – and jeeze, it’s looking fine. Over winter, this little farm has had a rest, allowing some of the team to continue building infrastructure, tweak and refine systems – all to make sure this coming growing season *cranks*. And crank it will.

Their online shop is due to open in mid October, if you want to be one of the very lucky ducks to eat this organically grown produce then you can register your interest HERE. It operates on a first in basis, so don’t be slow!

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Spring onions and radishes – integrating a range of crops into the same bed strategically is an efficient (and beautiful) use of space and time, ensuring you get the highest yield possible out of the available area.

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One of the exciting new additions to the farm is the very fantastic washing station. This is where all produce is cleaned efficiently and thoroughly. Made from mostly recycled materials, this is a must have for the market gardener – having the right set up can literally save hours of time.
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The hot house is a space for propagation (you can see tomatoes above) and for in-ground grow beds. Soon those tarps you can see in the background will come off to make way for around 150 tomato plants to grow high!

You can get your hands on some of these heirloom tomato seedlings at the upcoming Community Garage Sale, this October 22nd at the Hobart Tip Shop from 10am – 2pm.

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While a market garden is based on annual crops, this space has also integrated a loooong perennial bed around one edge of the Farm. This allows the team to grow a large range of beneficial and edible flowers to attract pollinators to the garden as well as grow additional crops like herbs, comfrey, mashua, rhubarb and more. I believe every market garden should include something like this as the benefits are many.

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Every now and then the Farm has a working bee where people come and get their hands dirty, hearts happy and connect over food production. Something we all need more of.

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It’s also where you get to lounge in wheelbarrows, drink tea and eat cake. All part of a successful working bee experience!

14449760_1263322570368652_610734374247997211_nAnton and Frida Maria working hard at the recent working bee

If you’re in Hobart and would like to source your veggies from this super local (and rather awesome) farm each week, register your interest HERE. 

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Broom Millet Scrubbing Brushes

Unnecessary waste products sneak into our leaves in the most invisible little places – take the kitchen sink for example. Most people will have an array of steel and/or plastic sponges and scrubbers hanging around to wash their dishes. These, of course, all eventually end up in the bin – AKA landfill.

These days there are a vast range of kitchen scrubbers in the eco-products department that you can buy which break down in the compost pile which is fantastic. But did you know there’s pretty much always something you can grow yourself that will do the same job?

Growing up in sub-tropical Brisbane, we’d grow the luffa vine and use this in the bathroom and kitchen. In more tropical climates, people use coconut husk. Alas, it’s a tad cold in cool temperate Tasmania for either of those plants – hence our enthusiasm when Anton’s mum gifted us with a little broom millet (Sorghum bicolor) scrubbing bush all the way from (very cold) Sweden.

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We promptly went about sourcing some seed so we could grow our own, and one year later we now have our own little batch of broom millet scrubbing brushes. Here’s the full journey in pictures…

12814170_1105742886126622_5899092105589912269_nBroom millet grows up to around 3m

13178584_1154314151269495_5849002741447914003_nHarvesting and cleaning with Frida Maria.

13124724_1149357191765191_3436995366471048251_nHanging to dry in our kitchen.

Once you’ve grown, harvested and dried the seed heads thrash the seeds off the plant and save it for eating and/or for growing for next seasons (that’s what we’ll be doing).

THEN… Cut it into desired lengths and form a nice little bunch in your hand. Next you simply have to tie some string around it to keep it all together. We recommend using a waxed string as this repels water, preventing the string from becoming smelly with excess water hanging on.

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I just went ahead and roughly wrapped the string around and tied ten knots to keep it on. Then Anton walked into the room and proceeded to wow me with one of his sailor knots where it’s beautifully neat, you can’t see the finished knot and it’s approximately 100 times stronger than mine…. So I think you should know about it.

First, use some rubber bands (or equivalent) to keep your millet in place. Then lay the string out as seen below.

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Next, start wrapping your string neatly around your bunch, leaving the loop exposed at one end (the right in this case).

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Once you’re happy with the amount of wraps (i.e. run out of string), put the end you’re working with through the exposed loop. Gently and slowly, pull the other loose end of string (shown on the left in the photo below) until you’re pulling the looped end under the wrapped area. By doing this, you’re making a knot which ties off the whole thing.

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You’ll be left with two bits of string sticking out from either end of the wrapped area – just chop them off, remove the rubber bands and you’re done!

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img_6652The finished product

The patch of broom millet we grew was around 3m x 2m with approximately 25 plants. Of those plants, some seed heads were lost to birds and some didn’t form overly well. We ended up with seven scrubbing brushes from around 15 plants.

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But interestingly, one scrubbing brush will last for over one year – we’re still using ours that was gifted to us well over a year ago. I’ve had to replace its’ string once, but otherwise the fibre is incredibly strong and still going. Technically this means we have over seven years of scrubbing brushes in the photo below!

img_6637We trialled some different shapes (short and long) to see what we prefer.

Please note, all the bunches above are tied together using my slap dash technique and they’ve since been re-done using Anton’s sailor knot as shown earlier in this post.

The green string (seen above) is hemp which works fairly well, however we prefer waxed string which repels water and therefor lasts longer.

While it took a while, we’re now very sorted in the scrubbing brush department. Say goodbye weird plastic products and hello compostable, uber local and satisfying resources!

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Brewing Beer From Scratch

Beer! I don’t need to sing its praises but I think folks should know a bit about how it’s made, especially once you find out how amazing it can taste *and* how much money you can save from brewing your own.

Making beer is a process that definitely rewards effort. I (Anton) have been a homebrewer for almost two decades, and until recently would have described my approach as a bit hit and miss.  You see brewing beer is a fairly simple process.  You mix malted barley with water, boil in some hops and then add some yeast, wait a few weeks and drink.  Too easy, and I’ve been in the habit of throwing these ingredients around in fair disregard of any recipe or documentation.  The results are variable from great to not so great

Perhaps it was one of these “slap dash” home brews that inspired Hannah’s dad to give us the very excellent “Sustainable Homebrewing” by Amelia Slayton Loftus.  This remarkable read introduces homebrewing and takes the reader through the entire process of brewing beer, using whole grains and developing your own beer styles.  She also takes it to the next level with mushroom cultivation on the spent grains and even DIY vegemite…yep – she’s awesome.

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From reading this book I’ve learnt something extra about every aspect of the brewing process, deep details on the malting enzyme process or little tricks of what temperature to keep your mash for sweeter beers.  She also has a bucketload of award winning recipes, from  simple beginner beers to over the top trophy winners.  If you’re interested in taking up home brewing or taking it to the next level I heartily recommend this read.

I got so inspired by this book that I thought I should share the process of making beer from scratch (without the growing and malting barley bit).  This process is known as a “full mash” in brewing circles.

First up – grow some hops.  In temperate and cool temperate hops grow like crazy, getting to over 5 meters tall in a season.  The vine is cut down in autumn and hop flowers harvested and dried.  Of course, alternatively you can buy dried hops.

IMG_6035Cascade hops growing amongst our orchard.

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The first step in the actual brewing process is weighing your malt and placing it into hot water.  It’s steeped somewhere between 65-68 degrees celsius for around 1 hour.  This process extracts the sugars from the malt into the hot water.

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I like to use a “hot box” to steep the grains.  Once the grain and water are at the upper limit of the correct temperature they are wrapped in blankets, doonas and pillows to stay warm.

IMG_6038Our low-fi hot pot system doing its thing

The next process is called “lautering” – basically trying to get the sweet malty water separated from the grains.  Here we have press-ganged an urn into service.  It has a “false floor” consisting of an upturned collander and cheesecloth.  Hot water (around 75 degrees) is poured in the top and malty water drained from below.

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This keeps on going until you have washed as much sweetness out as possible.  More recently I’ve been doing the entire first malting process in the urn. It saves one whole process of transferring hot liquid in heavy saucepans.  It’s also worthwhile to note that brew shops are full of specialty brewing equipment – so you don’t have to have to improvise with your kitchen implements.  Most of these purpose-made tools would make your brewing process easier, but definitely more expensive.

The next step is boiling the “wort”.  That’s the name given to this sticky sweet liquid.  Over the course of around one hour a variety of hops are added to the wort.   Boiling the wort also sterilises the it, ensuring your preferred yeast strain flourishes.  From now on, you should be concerned about sterilising everything that touches the brew.

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Next up, you can start adding your dried hops which are the bittering and flavouring agent – they also help to preserve the beer.  The amount of hops, the timing of the addition and the variety will contribute greatly to the final taste of the brew. Hops are added in stages over an hour, this allows different flavours to develop in the boil (much like tea has different flavours the longer it is left).  Also note that different hop varieties have different flavours and amounts of bitterness.  Be careful when starting out because too many hops can turn a good brew bad.

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After the wort has boiled it’s strained into a brew barrel – I use 25 litre plastic barrels, but glass carboys work as well.  At this point we need to cool down the wort as quickly as possible.  I place the barrel in a large tub (actually baby bath) and add cold water.  This approach creates a lot of surface area to cool the brew, it usually takes around 30 minutes.

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Once the wort is cool, I give the brew a strong stir to introduce oxygen and then add brewing yeast. Brewing yeast is available in packets from brew shops. It’s also fairly easy to use the remains of a previous brew batch to start the next brew, or even recover yeast from shop-bought beers.  Be careful with this process because contaminated yeast can make the previous hours of hard work turn to vinegar – you have been warned.

It normally takes around two weeks for the brew to do its “primary fermentation”. At the end of this process all of the available sugars have been converted by the yeast into alchohol.  During this process it will have released carbon dioxide and if you have installed an airlock on the brew barrel you would’ve heard it bubbling along.

After the brew has stopped bubbling it’s placed into bottles along with a small amount of sugar or malt. This addition of sugar is the “secondary fermentation” and as the yeast releases carbon dioxide it’s trapped in the sealed bottle and makes those refreshing bubbles we know and love.

Its a good idea to label your beer, a marker pen on the lid does the job.

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Or you can make some special labels, below you can see some bottles we prepared for our mate’s wedding.

The joys of homebrew are endless – from making it to sharing it with mates, it just keeps on giving. It’s one less thing we buy and one more thing we make – adding to our home-based approach to living. Taking responsibility for our needs is one of the most satisfying things for us, and while beer isn’t technically a “need” it’s a perk of life we like to enjoy every now and then (preferably with excellent humans).

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And obviously, we advocate for sensible and smart consumption – look after your brain cells and keep it all in moderation :-).

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