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.


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.



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.

IMG_6002Photo from April 2016

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.

IMG_6006 Photo from April 2016

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.


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.


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…


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.


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. 


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.


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 (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).


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


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.



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!


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!





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.


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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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


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.


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!


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.


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!




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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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

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Goats In The City!

Meet Shani Graham and her partner Tim Darby. Together they live in on a 1/4 acre block in Fremantle, Perth, Western Australia. Their home (and local business) is called Ecoburbia and is an urban infill development where they’ve converted their house into four self contained living unit, tripling the population density without adding to the houses footprint.

They’ve set up their home as a demonstration sustainable house, with cutting edge energy systems, water collection and dispersal systems and innovative passive solar design.They’ve designed it to be an educational opportunity and community hub, with regular tours, workshops, films and other community events.

On top of this they’ve also got chickens, goats, compost and fruit trees, plus a large shared veggie patch. Yes goats – you read that right. As a wannabe city goat keeper myself, I had a million questions for Shani and thought it only right I share the answers with you – and the cute baby goat photos… Swooon!


What type of goats do you have and why did you choose this breed?

We have two saneen goats,the mother is Little White and her daughter is Whimsy. We chose them as they’re are a great milking goat, have gentle natures and are generally pretty quiet (unless they are on heat).

How big is their permanent run?

​A​bout 50 square metres not including their stable area.

What are some of the key functions they perform for you and your property?

The goats do a few things – ​most importantly ​provide us with milk – we drink this and make cheese. They also provide a composting system for branches cut around the neighbourhood. Importantly, they’re a gret source of entertainment (and sometimes shelter) for the chickens.

​interestingly the chickens like to eat the grain in their poo – so that’s another function, plus they eat food scraps from us and many of our neighbours and friends. Lastly they are an endless source of love, entertainment and fun ​for us, just like any other pet does.

Do your neighbour’s like them?

The majority of our neighbours love them – especially when there are baby kids around!


Does your local Council approve of them?

​I am proud to say we have the only legal goat stable in Fremantle! Interestingly enough (despite what everyone says) we met all the requirements (we are on a 1/4 acre block), except distance from our neighbours. But our council was very reasonable and suggested that if we could get support from all our affected neighbours they would grant approval – which they did.

We have had goats “illegally” before. We find when applying the “beg for forgiveness don’t ask for permission”rule works quite effectively. The most important thing to do is talk to your neighbours – and offer them goat’s cheese!

What do you feed them?

They get a grain mix twice a day – this consists of lucerne chaff, special goat pellets, barley and lupins. Plus oaten hay and occasionally lucerne. They also get whatever branches are being cut down and every second day we harvest some acacia from a local roadway.


How much milk do you get from them each day when you’re milking them?

When Little White was in full production we got between 4-5 litres a day. We have been milking her for nearly two years at the moment though so she’s down to about 2 litres a day.

What type of fencing do you have for your goats?

We are really lucky,  our goats are not really escape artists so our fences are not that high (around chest height) but pretty sturdy​. Whimsy can jump out if she is scared but she doesn’t seem to do it any other time – she is really scared of umbrellas for some reason and that is the last time she jumped out​.


What would you say to someone thinking of getting goats in an urban environment?

I would recommend to have a “goat mentor” – ideally someone close by who has a small herd and is willing to support you. We have Keren Mustham from Serendipity Goats. She is an absolute legend – we call her ‘Goat Girl’.

​I can call her whenever I am worried about something and find she often knows more than the vets! If you can’t find a goat mentor, make sure you have a relationship with a good vet that knows about productive animals.​

What’s one of your favourite things about keeping goats?

​One of my favourite daily things:  Sitting in the goat pen early in the morning, drinking a cup of tea and having a warm goat cuddle up against you​.
My all time favourite moment: The honour of helping Little White birth her babies. When she was in the last stages of labour she just wanted me there. She lay moaning with her head in my lap and we went through each contraction together. She had six kids (two were still born) – unheard of for a goat. I even had to help her by assisting one out. Since then she and I have had a very special bond​.

Some extra things…

  • Goats are very clever and I have used clicker training to great effect. Little White can shake hands and Whimsy can find and touch a​ soccer​ ball on command.
  • Keeping goats is a big commitment, you can’t just spontaneously go on a weekend holiday here and there. You need to make sure someone can milk them/look after them properly. This is getting a bit tricky for us these days. So don’t just go get goats if you like to go away a lot.

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Elgaar Farm Returns!! With X-mas Hampers!!

Please excuse the amount of exclamation marks in the heading for this blog, BUT we’re excited (and relieved). You see, almost two years ago Tasmania’s only organic, family run dairy, Elgaar Farm, lost their licence due to a paperwork mishap (you can read about it here).

No one ever dreamed it would take 22 months of round the clock work from the Gretschmann family to meet new industry standards and an epic crowd funding campaign that raised over $250,000 from people like you and me to upgrade their dairy and make sure they didn’t loose their farm in the process.

We are all deeply relieved that their licence has been granted and they can get back to doing what they do best – making some of the worlds best, most ethical dairy products commercially available.



Tassie folk can expect to see Elgaar back in action at the Harvest Launceston Market on Saturdays and Hobart Farm Gate Market on Sundays by mid-late September. You can stay in the loop by joining their facebook page to here all updates.

X-mas Hampers!

To raise funds to get production rolling again, they’re offering a limited amount of pre-sale x-mas hampers full of dairy delights and other local goodies for you and your loved ones to feast on. Get in on this amazing deal HERE by September 21st to lock in the best x-mas present ever! And yes, they post all over Australia, so you don’t have to be in Tassie to get in on this greatness.


A massive high five and a big round of hugs to the Gretschmann family for being brave enough to ask for help in the face of a bureaucratic system that cripples, rather than supports small farmers. If you’re close enough to one, hug a small farmer today and if you can’t do that, be sure to support them with your hip pocket. As long as we have farms like Elgaar in the world – our food system and life in general is not only safe – it is awesome, as it should be.


  • All photos are from Elgaar Farm
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Sydney Park – A Stormwater wonderland

On our recent family trip to Sydney, Hannah co-taught a permaculture design course for Milkwood and little Frida Maria and I (Anton) visited a hundred different playgrounds and parks.  The most impressive of these was Sydney Park in St Peters just south-west of the city.  Why is it awesome? Well the place is a stormwater re-use wonderland.


IMG_20160719_104258Stormwater (ie run-off from streets and parks) often looks like the shot below.  Here, there are thousands of plastic bottles and wrappers and water that doesn’t look so great for public health and the environment.


Instead, Sydney Park uses a variety of biological methods to clean water for reuse and provides a lush and inviting play space.  So where does the water come from?  Curbs like these below.  The Sydney Council says that 78% of the catchment has hard surfaces, i.e. paving or roofs – that’s a massive catchment area…


After passing through pipes under the street they enter the Munni Street Channel.  Apparently around 43 tonnes of gross pollutants run through this channel.  When the water levels are high, water is drawn from the channel into the Sydney park Wetlands.  Before they enter the park they go through a gross pollutant trap (“gross” means big, but its probably pretty ugly as well).  This filter removes the bottles, chip packets, cigarette butts, etc etc – that we like to leave on the street.  Perhaps fortunately Frida and I didn’t manage to find this part of the park.

In permaculture, we talk about managing water in a landscape by the following principles – “slow, sink, spread, store”. This system shows all these elements.

The water is diverted into large bio-retention ponds, here the water is filtered through a living system that removes a lot of the heavy nutrient loads in the water. This park has an incredible amount of dog walking action, so I’d say there’s a good portion of dog poo (with is rich nutrient) making its way into the water.

As you can see the water is diverted through several stages of retention beds.


Here you can see the overflow from the retention ponds to the storage ponds.

IMG_20160719_104412In total there are four main ponds, each filling each other as they move downhill through the site.  The park now features thriving water life and ever-improving water quality.
IMG_20160719_104303The park also features just about every design element out of a “water sensitive urban design” book. Here instead of guttering beside a pathway, water runoff infiltrates through a rock channel and is planted out with reeds.


Casuarina trees (a classic native riverside trees in Australia) line a drainage line.

IMG_20160719_104745The park also has some great interpretive signage, so you can learn about what’s happening as you frolic though the parklands.
IMG_20160719_103050If you’re thinking Sydney park is over the top and too expensive to implement, here’s a nearby raingarden.  These are a bio remediation technique on a much smaller scale, slowing, sinking and cleaning road runoff before entering the stormwater drain.


And if you’re still wondering whether you should visit this water improvement masterpiece, here are some final images. Frida and I think yes, you should.


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Hey Pesto! Winter Greens Pesto Yum

While the winter crops come to an end and the spring crops are busy growing, one of the biggest crops coming out of the garden are around a hundred different types of green things. Coriander, rainbow chard, rocket, silverbeet, kale and the leaves from brocolli, cauliflowers (yes, you can eat them too). Plus a plethora of wild greens like dandelion, fat hen, chickweed, nettle, to name a few – they’re all delicious and nutritious.

There are a couple of ways I like to make sure I eat as many as possible – kale chips are a big winner and so is pesto. Contrary to what some people might think, you don’t need basil and pine nuts to make pesto – in our cool temperate climate, things things don’t often come in abundance. We make vegan pesto out of any greens that happen to be thriving in our garden – here’s how.

IMG_6330Rainbow chard, curly kale and coriander – a few of the greens in our pesto

Pick a range of greens from your veggie beds (or some of the edible weeds growing on the edges) chop them up nice and fine and pop them in a large bowl.


When you make pesto – garlic is your best friend, we’re firm believers that more is better. So get as much garlic as you can, chop it up roughly and add it to the same bowl as the greens. Our garlic has the vague name of Tasmanian purple garlic – we’ve got a whole bunch left over from two seasons ago and it’s only now just sprouting. Perfect for pesto.


The only other ingredients we use are olive oil, sea salt and sunflower seeds. We also use almonds or pepitas – whatever is more available at the time.


Add all the ingredients into the bowl and find a way to pulverise it – we use a bar mixer thingo which works ok. Other people use a food processor or smash it up in a mortar and pestle.

You may need to add more olive oil as you go to get the right consistency – don’t bother skimping on the oil and no, water is not a good replacement for oil – I’ve tried that and it just isn’t pesto.



I like my pesto a bit chunky and “stiff” so it holds its own shape on a spoon (see below). If you want yours more runny, add more olive oil. You’ll notice we don’t add any cheese, we’ve found that its the garlic that really gives the ‘pesto’ taste and that cheese is just a bit of ‘bling’ that you don’t need – in our humble opinion.

IMG_6344That’s it, pop it in a jar and store it in the fridge or eat it fresh. I like to eat it with carrots, on home made pasta or olive oil crackers. Right now I’m just eating it with a spoon for a late breaky, it’s darn tasty.


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