Vegan Kimchi

13230164_1162222730478637_321146754051828737_nWe’re big fans of the wild ferment and make all sorts of nutritious and delicious veggie and dairy ferments.

I recently came by this particularly enormous and beautiful Chinese cabbage at the local markets. It inspired a flurry of kimchi making, plus a photo shoot to capture its glory for all eternity.

The main difference to our kimchi recipe is that it’s and vegan, here’s how we make it…

 

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Traditionally, kimchi includes fish source or products, this provides a distinct ‘kimchi’ flavour which is incredibly popular. Being vegetarian, we simply leave this out – our ‘base’ ingredients are:

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  • Salt – 3 tablespoons
  • Cabbage- 2kg (any type, but chinese cabbage is usually the most desired for kim chi)
  • Ginger (grated)
  • garlic (however much you’d like)
  • chilli (fresh is best, but dried flakes or powder is also great -use as much as you like
  • carrot (we like ours chunky, but you can grate or dice it if you prefer) – use as much as you like
  • **Usually I’ll also add some daikon radish (or other types of radish), but we didn’t have any ready in the garden this time round.

Sometimes we’ll also add additional flavours including mustard seeds, dill seeds, bay leaves – anything that takes our fancy. But we always, always have the above ingredients to form the foundation taste.

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The first step is to roughly chop your cabbage into large chunks. Of course, if you prefer, you can dice it finely – it’s all up to your personal preference.

Place it in a large bowl and add the salt, massaging it roughly with your hands to make sure it’s nicely integrated.

Leave it on your kitchen bench over night to let it ‘sweat’, in the morning you’ll see a nice puddle of brine (salty water) has formed at the bottom. Keep all of this for the following step.

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The brine ‘puddle’

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Chop up all your other ingredients and mix them through your cabbage/brine mix so they’re beautifully integrated.

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Gradually pack your fermentation vessel* with your mix, packing it down as you go. This is an important detail as you need to:

(a) Remove any air pockets, and

(b) Squeeze the brine out of the cabbage so it covers the entire mix.

*We happen to have recently purchased a crock pot from local potters, Zsolt Faludi and Nanna Bayer. Until up last month, we simply used glass jars to make all our kimchi and sauerkraut in – which are more than fine for the task. It was just a bit of a life dream to get a large crock pot (this one’s 4 litres). We like some of its design features which include a large ‘lip’ to catch the sometimes overflowing brine and the purpose made clay weights that fit nicely inside the pot to keep the mix down and the brine covering it.

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Other options to use for a weight are a small plate or a whole cabbage leaf with a clean stone or glass jar of water on top to hold it down.

img_6221After 24 hours the brine will have risen above your weight and started to bubble (as you can see in our photo below right). This is what you’re looking for – the bubbles tell you the fermentation process is well under way. Your kitchen will also smell like kimchi – aka delicious.

Check your kimchi once-twice daily to make sure the brine stays above the weight, if it isn’t either press it down until the brine rises up, or add a small amount of de-chlorinated water. After 2-3 days start tasting it until you’re happy with the flavour. If you like strong kimchi, leave it for longer, if you prefer a more mild taste you might stop the process after a few days. The speed of which your kimchi ferments also depends on your climate, the hotter your climate, the quicker the fermentation process.

IMG_6223How do you “stop” it? Once you’re happy with the flavour, decant it into some small glass jars (or leave it in the jar it’s in), screw the lid on and place it in the fridge or cool pantry. The cold will ‘stop’ the fermentation process, pausing it so you can enjoy the flavour. Of course, nothing ever really stops and it will still mature very, very slowly in the fridge. It will last for months in your fridge, so you can eat through it at your own pace.

Want more?

  • Get to know Sandor Katz’s and his work.
  • This November 26th (2016), we’re running our annual Fermentation Fest where we’ll teach you how to make your own kimchi, tempeh, yoghurt and so much more. CLICK HERE for more information and to register.
  • We make our own eduction tea towels – including one about how to make sauerkraut – you can check it out HERE. 
  • You can contact Zsolt Faludi and Nanna Bayer to order your own crock pot (and other great fermenting vessels) here: zsolt.faludi@utas.edu.au.
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Ten Tasmanian Bush Food Plants

Tasmania is home to a large range of bush food plants, however most of us walk straight by them or grow them in our gardens without realising they we can actually eat parts of them. So here’s ten hardy, nutritious and delicious native plants of Tasmania you can sink your teeth into…

karkalla_3Pig face (Carpobrotus Rossii): This succulent ground creeper can be found along the coast growing in sand dunes. They have a purple/pink fruit which is *delicious* (salty and sweet), you just have to suck out the small seed pulp of the fruit. This is by far my favourite bush tucker, you can also eat its green leaves in salads, apply ‘pig face juice’ to sandfly bites and make a poultice of crushed leaves to help ease pain from burns – image from here.

 

kennedia-prostrata-running-postman-1-kirsner-1Running Postman (Kennedia Prostrata): This plant’s beautiful red flowers can be added to water where they’ll realise a delicious nectar. The leaves can be infused in hot water for tea and apparently you can use the stems as a strong twine. This ground cover is naturally found in coastal regions but can thrive in a home garden in a well drained, sunny location, image from here.

 

Richea_pandanifoliaDragon-leaf Richea (Richea Dracophylla): A popular plant you’ll see on any good Tassie bush walk. The large flower heads are full of nectar, you just have to remove the ‘gum nut like’ cap cap from each one and suck out the nectar. This plant will grow up to 3m at higher altitudes, but can also live in a pot in a moist, shady spot – image from here.

 

Rubus_parv_xNative Raspberry (Rubus Parvifolius): Similar to raspberries, only with a smaller berry. Eat them fresh, in jams or other preserves. This plant will climb to 1.5m and have spiky thorns, adding to the harvest challenge – image from here.

 

 

 

lomandra-longifolia-a-6500-700Sagg (Lomandra Longifolia): This is a popular landscaping plant that sometimes get overlooked as a bush food. Its young, white shoots can be eaten raw and taste a bit nutty – they can also be baked. This clumping grass can grow in dry or wet conditions up to around 1m high – image from here.

 

MPberries_readyNative Pepper (Tasmannia Lanceolata): Definitely Tasmania’s most popular bush food used by cooks across the world in place of common pepper. You can harvest and use the pepper berries fresh, or dry them and use at a later date. It grows as an understory shrub and prefers cool, moist areas – you can also grow them in large pots as well – image from here.

 

nativemintRiver Mint (Mentha Australia): You’ll find this strong tasting mint herb growing along water ways in northern Tasmania. Use it just like you’d use common garden mint, in drinks, salads and cooked meals. Some people write you shouldn’t eat this while pregnant – so please be careful, image from here.

 

kunzea-ambigua-2Sweet-scented Kunzea (Kunzea Ambigua): Use the leaves as a tasty tea or as a strong flavour in cooking. People say this is the best native plant to add to dishes like roast meat and veggies. Kunzea will grow to 3m on average soils and can be pruned easily to keep it smaller – image from here.

 

 

 

Water_Ribbons_02Water Ribbons (Triglochin Procera): You can eat Water Ribbon’s thick, tuberous roots. To prepare them pan fry or roast them. These tubers were a major food food indigenous folks in Tassie and the mainland.  They grow best in slow moving or still water up to 50cm deep or in really damp ground – image from here.

Eucalyptus_gunni_flowersCider Gum (Eucalyptus Gunnii): The Cider Gum’s sap can be collected and used as a syrup, similar to how maple syrup is used. It’s said that indigenous Tasmanians made an alcoholic drink from it. To harvest the sap you need to make a wound in the tree’s trunk – we suggest only doing this for trees on your own (or friend’s land) and not out in the bush – image from here.

 

A really important thing to remember when identifying bush foods out in the wild is to be careful – if there is any doubt at all simply don’t eat it. If you’d like to find out about more about these plants and many more we recommend getting in touch with Plants of Tasmania near Hobart. They have a wealth of knowledge including a booklet you can buy called “Tasmanian Bush Food” for only $5!

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Okines Community Garden

45 minutes east of Hobart is a little town called Dodges Ferry, tucked in against some sweet little surf beaches. There are many great things about this stretch of coast, one of them is this place, Okines Community Garden. We happen to be holding our 2017 summer Permaculture Design Course and thought you might like a little look around…

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img_6189This garden is particularly ace due to having Gabe and Claire on board (the two groovers you can see to the left) as part-time coordinators to make things happen. Their knowledge, skill and natural flair for greatness really bring this space to life. I *always* love coming here to see the flourishing orchard, veggies, art, chooks and their community in action. Seriously, it’s rare to have such vibrance in community gardens, people always dropping in, working in the food co-op, gardening, talking. It’s good, really good.

The concept of the garden has evolved over time, but at its core it’s obvious that it holds a strong flame for community development, providing a space that people really *want* to be in.

Some of the key things they have focused on creating, or are looking to create include:

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  • a herb labyrinth
  • sale of produce via the market
  • involvement of students from the Dodges Ferry Primary School
  • cooking classes with the fresh produce
  • helping needy people in the community
  • growing native and fruit trees
  • depot for green waste
  • a mulcher for community use
  • an experimental garden to determine best plants for the area
  • workshops to teach growing techniques and crop rotation etc.

One of our past students is a Dodges Ferry local and she was raving about this garden to me. In particular their pizza oven which her family uses regularly – it’s an extension of their kitchen, their home. How cool is that.

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Next door to their cranking pizza oven is a small food co-op run by the community. I love seeing these simple set ups – it’s all you need to distribute good food to folks.

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Their labyrinth  is on the edge of a small wetland, home to a b’zillion frogs and little critters. As well as growing food, these guys are also committed to regenerating the local native plants and water systems of this area, creating a beautiful and much needed balance. An indicator of their success is their resident bandicoots and echidnas. And yes, that’s the ocean you can see in the background, a refreshing (that’s code for cold Tassie water) swimming beach a short stroll from the garden.

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Claire and Gabe are on site Mondays 9:00 am to 4 pm, Wednesdays 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm and Thursdays 10:30 am to 3 pm. Pop in, say g’day, get involved and fall in love with this wonderful space. You can also get in touch with them at dig@okinescommunityhouse.com.au.

We’re holding our summer Permaculture Design Course in the Okines community house, directly next to this great space. Students will have the option of camping on site and really soak up the space over a two week period. If you’d like to find out more info, get in touch for a yarn at hello@goodlifepermaculture.com.au or 0418 307 294.

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Stabilising Slopes With Pallets

We’ve used a large range of techniques to stablise our steep slope, you can read about some of them here, here and here. Yet another way we’ve used recycled materials to keep our slope from sliding down the hill is using timber pallets.

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We salvage these for free from the side of the road, building sites and warehouses. They’re treated with heat, so are chemical free – this means they’ll break down sooner rather than later, but before they do, you can use them in *countless* ways. If you’re searching for some yourself, look out for the “HT” stamp on the pallet as seen below.

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We had never tried this technique before and seeing as it’s a super hot and dry slope,  were unsure which plants would really thrive in such a compromising position (without heaps of pampering). Because of this, we initially planted a range of herbaceous, edible and native plants to ‘test’ which one/s would work. The winner (by far) was creeping boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium). We’re big fans of this vigorous native ground cover and have planted it in some of the hardest spots in our garden where not much else survives (except invasive grasses). One of these plants will happily cover up to two-three square metres densely which is absolute gold when you live on steep slopes. Check it out!

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You can see some of the pallet structure peeking out in the top left hand corner. Creeping boobialla puts down roots along the length of its “branches”, so while we planted each plant at the top of the bank it’s now put down roots from top to bottom.

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At the top of the bank is where the creeping boobialla meets a solid planting of garden thyme, an edible herb that is also a ground cover – we love the way they merge into one another seamlessly.

So in solidarity with all of you slope dwellers out there (it’s hard work, hey) we offer up yet another approach to working with steep, steep slopes to foster landscapes which are accessible, productive and beautiful. All power to you!

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Toggenburg Goats

I’ve just finished a week of goat sitting Matilda and Pip – two Toggenburg goats who live on the edge of Hobart. My daily trips to milk Matilda, pat Pip and lean on the gate watching them jump up onto high stuff in their paddock has got me all dreamy and desiring some of our own.

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IMG_6132Pip’s the chilled one, while Matilda (the milker) a bit more bossy – I love them both. I love that milking just one of these relatively compact animals provides more than enough milk for a small household to make their cheese, have milk on our porridge and tea/coffee plus give some away to friends.

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My first day of milking them saw me with this image above – an almost full bucket of milk on the ground. Trying to milk a goat and wrangle a *very* excited one year old who likes eating goat poo and trying to hug goats is hard work guys.  Milking was more peaceful when she stayed at home!

The internet tells me that there are over 300 goat breeds worldwide and the Toggenburg is considered the oldest breed that was registered sometime in the 1600s. I like them as they don’t conquer any fence (i.e. they can be contained), are fairly stocky and wonderfully natured. Our one year old daughter spent 1 second being a bit scared of them and the rest of the time trying to hug them.

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As we live on an urban block (1300m2) full of edible food, we don’t have space for our own goats. One day we’d like to be able to have goats in our neighbourhood, closer to home – perhaps shared with others. A little paddock we can walk to daily to milk and admire our goat friends. Until then I’ll be the first to put my hands up (both of them) to do any goat sitting in our neck of the woods.

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Everything I Know About Comfrey (So Far)

We get a lot of questions about comfrey and its role in the garden. It’s often toted as one of ‘must have’ plants due to its multifunctionalism, and overall we agree – this plant is unusually useful. However there’s also a fair bit of confusion about some of it characteristics, such as will it spread and take over your garden? Is it really a dynamic accumulator? Am I allowed to eat it? Doesn’t it deter fungi in the soil? So in the name of efficiency, I’m writing this blog to answer all these questions plus more.

Comfrey varieties

The first thing to get clear on is that there are *many* comfrey varieties with different characteristics. The more common ones include:

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Creeping comfrey (Symphytum grandiflorum) is also known as dwarf comfrey and as its name suggests, it will creep through the whole space that you plant it in. Therefore only plant it if this is what you want. It’s also been described as ornamental comfrey. This is the comfrey that will quickly become a “weed” in your garden, so be careful where you place it. Image from here.

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Russian comfrey (Symphytum x uplandicum) is the most popular type of comfrey for the grower, it’s a hybrid of Symphytum officinale (common comfrey) and Symphytum asperum (rough comfrey). There are two main cultivars used, Bocking 14  and Bocking 4, both were developed in the 1950s by Lawrence Hills (founder of the Henry Doubleday Research Association) and named after the place they were  developed, Bocking in the UK.

12105803_1123590424341868_7627898172855497658_nBocking 14 was apparently chosen from over 20 different varieties trialed by Hills due to having the highest yields with high potash content. Bocking 14 is sterile, so doesn’t set seed and can only be propagated by division. However it will still slowly increase in size so it’s wise to dig it up and divide it up every few years.

Bocking 4 is said to have a deeper tap root – up to 8-10 feet, while Bocking 14 is around 6 – 8 feet. It’s described as the preferred type for a farming context as it has the highest concentration of protein, is more rust resistant and is also recommended as a good fodder for livestock, including pigs and chooks. Image from our garden.

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Its reputation as a dynamic accumulator

Along with a decent list of other plants, it’s known as what’s called a dynamic accumulator. However there isn’t actual solid, scientific evidence on how effective comfrey is in this regard. There are some well written, clear articles you can read about this here and here which summarise it nicely.

My personal approach is that while the science it still out on its role as a dynamic accumulator, I still recommend this plant be included in your garden for a *range of reasons*. We use it to stablise slopes with its great root system, medicinally, as mulch in our orchard and as fresh food for our chooks.

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In our young orchard, comfrey is planted directly downhill of the trees, stabilising a steep bank, we slash the leaves and use them as mulch (image on right), cycling the nutrients back into the soil.

How to use it for my garden

Despite the science not being bullet proof, you can’t ignore the countless gardeners who swear that by adding comfrey to your garden you end up with healthier soils and crops. There are endless methods you can do this, have a read here and here for just some of them.

Comfrey’s antifungal – isn’t that bad for my soil?

I’m not sure. In our own garden we haven’t seen any evidence of this and we’re really big on encouraging fungi in our soils through strategies like using ramial woodchips. The only references I could find to its antifungal properties were in a medicinal context, rather than gardening.

Am I allowed to eat it?

No, is the short, legal answer.

In 1984 the Poisons Advisory Bureau (through the National Health and Medical Research Council) placed it on the Poisons Schedule in Australia. The Council listed comfrey as a dangerous poison, only to be available through pharmacists, by doctor’s prescription. This decision is thought to have come about due to a public scare in the late 1970s with newspaper headlines reading things like ‘Liver damage can be done by herbs’,  ‘Popular Herb is a Killer’, ‘Scientist Warns Herb is a Killer’, ‘ Health Drink Causes Cancer, says CSIRO expert’ and ‘Comfrey is a Killer’.

Why are people scared? Comfrey has pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PA’s), these are regarded as potentially hepatoxic, carcinogenic, and mutagenic. PA’s are believed to have an accumulative effect in the body and may cause hepatic vein blockage and liver toxicity. In the early 2000s the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also removed comfrey products from market for this reason.

Can I feed it to my animals?

My understanding that in moderation, yes. I feed it to our chickens as part of a mixed leafy green mix and they love it. Some folks say their chickens will only eat dried or aged comfrey (so the prickliness of the leaves goes away) – if you have rough comfrey (Symphytum asperum) this may be extra important to do. If you’re unsure – do some local research, talk to some animal experts or don’t do it.

Medicinal uses

I use comfrey medicinally in two key ways – I’m sure there are many, many more, but this is what I know:

  1. Also known as “knit bone”, comfrey leaf can be made into a poultice and applied to breaks, sprains and bruises. I’ve used this my whole life and there’s a notable improvement, i.e. decrease of swelling, bruising and pain, each time I’m able to apply a comfrey poultice quickly.
  1. As outlined above, you’re not meant to ingest comfrey at all. However I grew up drinking comfrey and dandelion ‘green drink’ my mum would make us when sick –  without a doubt it helped us feel better (other ingredients included fresh apple or carrots and ginger).

I actually have a memory refusing to drink it as I knew I’d get better quicker and was trying to take as many days off school as possible. But I’m not a health professional, so please don’t take this as advice, just note that I’m still alive, healthy and that to this day I continue to eat and drink comfrey sporadically (not every day) as I want to.

Where should I plant it?

If you’d like your (non-creeping) comfrey to remain a blessing and not a curse, don’t plant it in your annual vegetable garden/s. No matter what variety you choose, the seasonal digging that you do to harvest crops and prep the bed will inevitably result in you digging into the comfrey’s root zone. Each time you chip a bit of the root off it will blossom into its own vigorous plant and eventually take over the whole veggie patch. Instead, plant it somewhere where you won’t be digging – like your orchard, a designated bed or beneath/amongst some perennial vegetables/berries.

Saying all that, I do know people who like to grow it on the edge of the annual gardens as a border to prevent grass from creeping in – this is risky business as I’ve outlined above. You could however plant comfrey on the *outside* of the annual garden which I’ve seen many times. There’s a border (i.e. timber sleeper) between it and the actual garden bed, keeping it contained while still highly accessable to chop and drop as mulch onto the garden.

How to grow it

Comfrey is dead easy to grow. In short, hack a small chunk of root off and pop it in the ground – it will grow. You can read our blog about how to do it here.

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I’m no expert on comfrey and am always interested to learn more, so please send through your own experiences and information on what works (or doesn’t work) for you.

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Growing Pepinos

Do you know about the perennial fruiting bush, pepino (Solanum muricatum) yet? It’s a beauty. It’s a shrubby climber or ground creeper originally from South America. We grow it throughout our orchard and are loving it’s fresh melon flavour and the fact it’s heaps easier to grow than melons (we live in a cool temperate climate).

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Pepinos (also known as pepino dulce) thrive in a temperate climate and are apparently quite frost sensitive. Saying that, we actually know someone south of Hobart who grows pepinos with strong frosts and occasional snow and it’s still doing really well. If you have strong frosts and still want to give it a go, I’d recommend planting it in the sunniest, most protected place in your garden ideally with some overhead coverage (vegetative or otherwise) to soften the impacts of frost.

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Being in the solanaceae family, they’re related to other fruits and vegetables including tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants and peppers. The fruits vary in size, ranging from something like a large passionfruit to 15/20cm long (like the one below). Unsurprisingly, if you have good soil health and consistent moisture you’ll end up with nice fat pepinos. FYI, like lots of food plants they prefer a neutral’ish pH.

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You know they’re ready to harvest when they turn yellow and develop some purple stripes/markings. It’s not recommended to pick them before this as they wont be as sweet. However when I have accidently knocked some off the bush, I’ve just left them on my kitchen bench to ripen over a few days and they still taste delicious – phew.

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Growing your own

Pepinos are wonderfully easy to grow and while you can grow them from seed they’re more commonly grown from cuttings.  Just take a cutting of around 10cm, leaving a small amount of leaf at the end, and place them in some soil mix with really good drainage. You can also layer them in the ground, which just means you lay one of the branches on top of the soil and bury a portion of it – this will inspire it to form roots. You can then cut it free from the original plant and move it to your desired area.

There are around nine different varieties available to people to grow (although I’ve only seen this one in Australia), so be sure to research what one grows best in your region.

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We eat them fresh and apparently you can eat their skin – but we don’t. You can include them in a fruit salad, on top of your morning porridge – basically treat them like a melon.

If you’re looking to create a low maintenance, productive garden, plants like pepinos are absolute gold. We’re slowly but surely growing more and more *perennial* edibles over annuals as they generally result in better soil health, high yields, less inputs and less time required from us. What’s not to love?!

Want to know more?

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Conscious Catering

We’re lucky to have a Source Community Wholefoods as our local food co-op in Hobart – it’s a beauty.

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Built on university land by students and community members, it was born as a thought around 10 years ago and has been in operation for around 6.

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The building is made from local timber, straw bales and clay light straw and the small community garden around it includes an espaliered apple orchard, pizza oven, vegetable garden and a stage for music gigs.

 

 

These days it functions as a food co-op, cafe, community garden, a meeting place and as a *kick-arse* catering enterprise, providing ethical, simple food with minimal packaging and serious yum factor. One of the key drivers for this enterprise is Lissa Villeneuve.

IMG_5931Lissa in the Source kitchen

Lissa has a long history with good food – growing it, cooking it and eating it – she’s a good one to have on your side when you need to feed many mouths.

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IMG_5941Bulk dry wholefoods at the Source food co-op

She sources wholesome fresh produce from both the food co-op and the community garden for her meals, meaning all food is generally in season, local and therefore at its best.

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IMG_5943Grapes in the Source community garden *pumping*

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IMG_5939Fresh produce sourced mostly from local farmers (bananas not included of course)…

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The “truth window” inside the co-op where you can see the straw bales and some of the pictures showing the garden design (designed by me) and evolution of the space.

As well as catering for events, Source also do a great food stall for festivals and parties….

12778721_239329023068060_6826903074164236758_oDrea and Lissa at the Koonya Garlic Festival.

We regularly book in Source Catering for some of our workshops and events. They’re our number one choice as we have complete peace of mind knowing their food will be ethical, healthy and darn tasty every time. We’re lucky to have them – you can track them down and book them in here and by emailing Lissa at produce@sourcewholefoods.org.au.

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How To Build An Earthship Retaining Wall

As we live on a steep slope we’ve had to build a lot of retaining walls in order to create functionalilty around access, water management and food production. We’ve used a range of techniques to do this including working with old car tyres to build a big earthship retaining wall directly near our house.

Earthship construction is a technique of building developed by Amercian architect, Mike Reynolds. He’s famous for using ‘rubbish’ and earth as building materials. We love his work.

We chose to build an earthship wall as we had a small budget and a lot of excess sub soil left over from our initial earth works. We also knew we could get car tyres for free from the local car yard who have to pay to get rid of them.

DSC01829Our backyard straight after the excavator had terraced it all

We hadn’t built one of these before hand, so spent some time on youtube to learn how (there are lots of clips to watch).

While it’s pretty easy, it’s also a lot of hard work. It would have been whole lot easier if we had heaps of people to help, one of these cool whakker packer tools and *dry* gravely soil instead of the wet, sticky/clay sub soil from our place. This last tip is a really big one, the guy on the youtube video we watched made it look like a walk in the park with his dry, sandy soil in New Mexico. He just kind of poured it into the tyre and patted it down, in contrast we shoveled, packed, whacked, shoveled more, had a cup break to chill out a bit and then came back and whacked more. It was a bit of a mission. But it’s a bloody strong wall and used up a lot of our excess sub soil for which we are stoked.

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Starting out, we cleared the space, tacked on some white geo-fabric to the bank (see above) to keep it from dropping crumbs and made a level pad to start laying tyres. As we were almost on bedrock, we didn’t have to lay any sand/concrete for foundations, we just leveled it off.

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As soon as you start building up from your first tyre, you have to find a way to plug the holes so the earth doesn’t just fall through. We had a whole pile of carpet tiles the previous owner had left under our house which fitted perfectly, so we used them.

We also back-filled the area directly behind the tyres with 20mm blue metal and ag pipe (not pictured) to guide excess water out of this area to a safe spot.

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And when friends came to visit like Isobel did below, they helped, thanks Isobel!

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Pound, pound, pounding…. There was a lot of this and Anton did most of it so he is forever the best.

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We went five tyres high and angled them all slightly back for structural integrity. An important thing to note is that if you go over 1 metre high you need an engineer (in our region at least) to design/approve things which can get complicated and expensive. Because of this we didn’t exceed this limit – it might look taller below, but that’s because the earth around the wall had been excavated and we the paving hadn’t been put down.

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The next step involved plugging the holes with subsoil, the best approach was to simple form balls of sticky soil and peg it (throw it really hard) into the gaps and then pat it in to make sure it’s all bedded down.

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After that, we wrapped the whole wall in chicken wire, this is what the external renders ‘hangs on’ to and helps create a smooth, level surface.

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This is where I should have some photos of the concrete render layers we did (there were two), except I accidently deleted them all, so you’ll have to use your imagination.

We chose concrete render instead of earth for two reasons, the first being this wall is in the coldest, dampest area of of whole property so it needs to be able to handle long months of never seeing the sun and being constantly wet. The second reason is that we’re not overly experienced with earth building, so took the conservative approach.

Recently we (as in, Anton) did the paving around this area using recycled bricks being pulled up from our local town square. This was the final job to do before we painted the wall to look all fancy. So now it looks like this, which we love.

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Note the drainage holes at the base of the wall. In additional to all the 20mm blue metal and ag pipe that’s behind the wall these are also necessary as you *never* want any water building up behind a retaining wall.

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One end of the wall has these nifty little steps leading up to our food gardens (not pictured).

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The downside of these nifty stairs is that our little Frida Maria loves climbing them, when you’re not looking she’ll be up there in 2 seconds having a great time. Which is good and all, it’s just that the potential of falling onto the hard bricks below is a little too un-relaxing for us. So a little gate may be in order.

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We’re looking at doing some more retaining walls this year for another part of block, and while we love this wall – we’re considering using earth *bags* this time round to save our backs :-).

We’d love to see more people using recycled materials to build with inside and outside of homes. The amount of ‘rubbish’ in our world is mind boggling and when we look closer at so called rubbish, you’ll notice that most of it could actually be re-purposed into a valuable resource. The possibilities are endless – it’s just needs you/us to pull our socks up and get creative!

Earthship Resources & Networks

These days there are many precedents earthship houses around the world including Australia, including:

*Just a quick note, car tyres can have some leaching of chemicals which we wouldn’t personally be comfortable putting near food gardens. So this wall isn’t near our growing beds. Everything downhill from it (the leaching will move with gravity) is all brick paving and house, so we’re happy.

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Jean-Martin Fortier: Market Gardener Masterclass

We’ve just hosted Jean-Martin Fortier for a flying visit to Hobart to teach a packed out Market Gardening Masterclass. It was such a treat to have him here *and* to have a full room of some of Tasmania’s finest, most dedicated growers and wanna be growers.

With his wife, Maude-Hélène Desroches, Jean-Martin runs Les Jardins de la Grelinette, an internationally recognized 10-acre micro-farm in Quebec, Canada. With only 1½ acres cultivated in permanent beds, the farm grosses more than $100 000 per acre with operating margins of about 60 per cent, enough to financially sustain his family. The focus at la Grelinette has been to grow better, not bigger, in order to optimize the cropping system, making it more lucrative and viable in the process.

Here’s a little look around this special day…

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We held this workshop across the road from the Hobart City Farm, which meant we could pop over, play with their very awesome tool collection and have a sticky beak at a young, small market garden which is largely base on Jean-Martin’s book, The Market Gardener.

IMG_5885The wonderful group of people getting introduced to some of the unique tools living at the Farm.

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IMG_5888Wouter from Seven Springs Farm trying out the stirrup hoe

IMG_5891Bridget from the Hobart City Farm showing how to work the tilther  – a tool that only works the top inch of the bed to prep it for the next crop. 

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Using similar methods to Jean-Martin, the Hobart City Farm are growing 150 tomato plants in their hot house in a space which would normally grow less than half that.

IMG_5898James from the Hobart City Farm doing a demonstration with the greens harvester

One of the tools on show was the quick cut greens harvester, specifically designed to harvest young greens exceptionally fast and efficiently while still maintaining quality. It’s pretty cool.

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It’s not often we get the opportunity to meet the people we look up, so when we do – we’re super grateful and even more so when you find out they’re as cool as you hoped they’d be. Thanks for visiting our little island Jean-Martin and for injecting some of your experience, passion and good vibes into our community of growers – the ripple affects will be long and many.

4 Jean-Martin, squished between the Hobart City Farm team and me (Hannah) – I’m actually involved in both the Farm and Good Life Permaculture – which is nice and confusing, but mostly just nice. Image from Hobart City Farm. 

Cool things to check out

  • You can check out more tools for the market gardener here.
  • You can see more of everything on The Market Gardener’s website here.
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