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.

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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.

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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.


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  • 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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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Cara Edwards: Farm Art Delight!

We first met Cara Edwards as one of our students on our permaculture design course back in 2013 and have been loving her gumption, talent and work ever since.  You can read about her previous urban “micro farm-like” home here which she shared with Fin. They’ve now gone country and in recent times, Cara’s put a lot of energy into her food and farm inspired *art and crafts* – so now we’re all like “get outta here!” Anyway, meet Cara, she’s tops…

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What inspires your work?

I’m super nerdy about homesteading and beautiful vegetables and building badass skills. I’m also pretty shy and introverted and don’t really have the chops to be an activist on the front lines, so I like to use art as a platform to enthusiastically yell (but not literally yell) “RIDE YOUR BIKE! KNOW YOUR FARMER! GROW YUMMY THINGS!” Otherwise I’d probably just be telling the ducks in the back paddock. I’m also really inspired by hilarious animals (mostly chickens), kids in the garden, peeking over neighborhood fences and really just anyone growing anything edible. It’s the best!

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Your work shows a lot of food and farming – are you a grower yourself?

My partner Fin and I normally grow the majority of our diet, but this year we’ve moved to a bigger patch (2 acres) and are still getting things established. We do have a pretty cranking asparagus bed though, and enough food in the ground to get us through winter – but we’ve mainly been working on infrastructure, like building our hothouse and fencing. We’ve also been fortunate enough to work for a local market gardener and he keeps us well fed on beautiful, organic produce. Thanks Golden Valley Farm!

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What’s one of your favourite creations so far?

I’m pretty fond of my farmhers, sometimes I give them a little outfit update if the season changes. I also work as a primary school garden teacher and I have a lot of girls tell me they want to grow up to be gardeners or farmers, and this is always met with a schoolyard backlash of “girls can’t be farmers!!!” Of course, I give them a high-five and a “heck yeah, of course you can!”, but I have noticed that there isn’t a lot of material showing the diversity of growers around the world. Most of the picture books floating around depict farmers as aging white men on tractors. I made the original Farmher scribble for my no.1 student who studies the edible weeds and teaches the younger kids the names of the plants while I scoff down my lunch, she’s going to grow up to be a garden extraordinaire!

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Who taught you to be so artsy?

I’m your classic art school drop out, I studied graphic design for a couple of years but became pretty disillusioned with the whole industry and left to go WWOOFing around NZ. So I have some technical skills left over from those days, but I grew up in a pretty crafty household. I’m visiting my parents this week and as I type my Mum is revamping a vintage dress and my dad is out building a new horse stable. We were always encouraged to make things, I normally chose to throw birthday parties for our family dog and measured everyone’s heads for perfectly fitting party hats. Bonnie had multiple birthdays each year, she was obviously thrilled.

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Is there anything you hope your work will inspire in people to do/think? If so, what?

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I hope it inspires a positive attitude towards community and growing and gets people thinking outside the stereotype of where and who your food comes from.

There are so many amazing, radical and humble people doing great things in this world and they should be celebrated and acknowledged… and sometimes they’re not even human, but just a really good bunch of chickens! Thanks chickens.

And thanks Cara! You’re a breath of fresh air and we love your approach to making this world awesome! You can get yourself some of Cara’s talent at her online shop HERE and follow her on instagram and facebook to keep up with her greatness.

*All photos are by Cara – she happens to be a nifty photographer too!

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Deep Winter Agrarians Gathering

This weekend just gone, around 200 farmers, gardeners, educators and advocates gathered in the very beautiful town of Gerringong (NSW) for two days and nights of talking, connecting, sharing and just generally being rad. I’ve returned home feeling *pumped* with renewed vigour and passion, here’s a little insight into this farming greatness.

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Image from Milkwood

Part of the weekend involved hanging out at the very wonderful Buena Vista Farm – a family run farm that’s like nothing else. The people are out-of-this-world lovely and generous plus the land is fertile, looking over a coast line which most Aussies would love to live next to.


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On this same patch of land, Linda Machon from Grow Farm Forage runs her independent market garden. It was all a bit dreamy. As you waltz through this space it’s easy to forget how much hard work goes into making and maintaining these food gardens. Full credit and respect to Linda for being so talented.

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James from Hobart City Farm and Sadie from Fat Pig Farm from Tassie loving on Linda’s garden.

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While the rows of veggies and flowers where super eye catching, Linda’s soil was even more glorious, this deep red gold is the stuff of dreams for growers.

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Part of the absolute joy of these types of gigs is catching up with new and old friends, like Costa and fellow Tasmanians Jono Cooper and Paulette Whitney. Apologies for the dodgy photo above, just focus on the vibe – it’s all about the vibe.

And while it was awesome to spend time with committed and passionate growers and doers, coming home to a house full of love and a garden full of food always trumps everything. This week (and beyond) I’m feeling grateful to have a patch of land to grow our own and shape according to our beliefs and lives. What more could you really ask for…

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Special thanks to Kirsten from Milkwood and Fiona and Adam from Buena Vista Farm for organising this fine event. I’m in love with all three of you!

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Pocket City Farms

I’m currently in Sydney helping to teach a permaculture design course with Milkwood – it’s always a pleasure working with these committed legends. This week we took the students on a tour of some projects and homes we think are downright awesome – like Pocket City Farms. 

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Once a bowling green, it’s now a flourishing restaurant, playground, yoga space, food forest and market garden that’s transformed 1200m2 of grass into food.

IMG_1777Image from Pocket City Farms

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Pocket City Farms consists of a team of five and is a “new” project. New in the sense that their first crops are only 7 weeks old, but not so new in the sense that they’ve been working on bringing this dream to life for around six years – good things take time and *really* good people to see it all through.

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As someone who grew up on a city farm in Brisbane and helped get the Hobart City Farm up and running, seeing other similar projects kicking arse is more than heart warming, I’m a firm believer that this is world saving stuff. Seriously, in the face of climate change, peak oil, peak soil (yes, that’s right soil), food sovereignty and crazy politics – addressing unsustainable food production by countering it with regenerative food and community cultivation practices is where it’s at.

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Thanks Zag, Emma, Luke, Karen, Adrian and Pepe (the charming farm dog) for being dreamers and doers, for seeing the problems and being part of the solution. Meeting folks like you make me feel like everything’s going to be ok.

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You can stay in touch with the Pocket City Farms by joining their newsletter here. 

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Holistic Management Decision Making with Dan Palmer

We recently interviewed Dan Palmer from Very Edible Gardens all about holistic management decision making (HMDM) – what it is, why it works and what it’s got to do with permaculture. Read on my friends to get acquainted with this life changing framework!

What exactly is holistic management and holistic management decision making?

Holistic management (HM) 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. There are three key pieces to its practice:

  1. Clarify that thing. This thing is what you are managing or making decisions about. This could be anything. Your life as a whole, your family, a business, a project, a day. Whatever. Who is involved? What support is available?
  2. Aim that thing. This involves tuning into what the key people involved most deeply want from the thing being managed – the destination, how you’d like to navigate the path toward the destination, and what you depend on if you’ve any chance of getting there
  3. Steer that thing. Make decisions toward the desired destination, act on them, and use feedback to stay on track

It was originated by Allan Savory and is most often applied in a farming context. But it applies to anyone that makes decisions, and part of what I’m doing with my life is sharing how to use it.

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VEG directors Dan Palmer (left) and Adam Grubb (right) with Allan Savory tucked in the middle

How does it link in with permaculture?

Permaculture is weak on decision making, in that when permaculture projects fail it tends to be due to decisions with unintended personal, social or financial consequences. Holistic management is like a plugin that fills this gap and makes permaculture projects more likely to succeed. I would say that adding a liberal dash of holistic management doubles or triples the power of permaculture to affect lasting positive change in the world. I’m at the point where I can’t imagine not using holistic management in my work as a permaculture design consultant. I still think permaculture is awesome, by the way, but if you get to know any approach well enough you’ll find blind spots that some other approach can help address. This is a case of that.

How has it impacted you personally and professionally?


Soon after I learned about HM we used it to save our company (Very Edible Gardens or VEG) from near-certain failure. It was taking over our lives, stressing us out, and losing money hand-over-fist. We were incredibly close to pulling the plug. Seeing HM rapidly transform VEG into something way more sustainable, fun and profitable really got my attention. I next applied it with my wife to our family, which while not in quite as dire a position, was flailing about a bit. We have not looked back and use this tool to make all major family decisions. Next up I used it on myself to the point where it is present inside the fabric of every day for me. Lately I’m using it to sustainably manage something like ten separate projects, many of them businesses. I think you get the point – HM and my life are inseparable and I’m a lot more effective and satisfied in the world as a result.

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 Dan and Adam with team members Carey Priest and Cassie Carter

Who would benefit from learning about HMDM?

Anyone who feels that something is lacking in the way they currently make decisions. Especially if it feels like their current way of making decisions is taking them in circles or compromising how satisfying life is feeling.

What’s one (or some) of the more powerful stories you’ve heard about how HMDM has helped transform people’s lives?

I’ve heard plenty of stories of farmers who turned their farms around financially, socially and ecologically using this tool. Plenty of workshop participants have used it successfully in their life projects. But my experience of using it to transform my own failing business into a success is probably the best example I have yet experienced. If only I had thought to get a before shot!

Want to know more?

Join Dan this October 15-16 in Hobart for our Holistic Management Decision Making workshop – it’s highly likely to change your life for the better.

 

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Our Favourite Sick-Smashing Brew

I’m entering my second week of hanging out in “Sick Land” – the place where sounding intelligent is a little challenging due to the amount of snot in my head that’s slowing my brain down to an embarrassingly slow speed.  So enough chit chat – I would like to share a little sick-smashing brew with you – taught to me by my mum. When us kids were sick, she was known for making her garden medicine which usually worked. She was pretty rad that way, entrenching natural knowledge into our heads and hearts without us even noticing – thanks mum. And yes, I should have started drinking this as soon as I noticed getting sick, but I didn’t, bugger.

The ingredients

These ingredients will be very familiar to a lot of you – ginger, lemon, thyme, sage, garlic and chilli.  I would have also like to include some fresh tumeric, but I don’t have any at the moment. In terms of how much you need of each item it’s really up to you, but I highly recommend you put heaps of everything in there to make it *strong*.

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The method

Cut and smash up the ingredients to help get the flavour and magical healing powers out of them. I use my mortar and pestle the smash up the garlic and ginger until it’s nice and juicy.

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Put it all in a pot of water and bring it to the boil, then let it simmer until the aroma fills your house and even your blocked nose can smell strong wafts of garlic. This should take a minimum of 30 minutes.

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I’ll keep this brew on the stove for at least a couple of days, adding more water and fresh ingredients as I need them – the longer it brews, the stronger (and more effective) it will get.

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It’s going to taste really strong, i.e. it might make your face scrunch up. But that’s a sign it’s good for you and also that you should add honey.
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Curl up on the couch and drink, and keep drinking it a few times a day. Your snot should start dissolving and clear thinking and energy should return shortly :-).

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Cough cough, splutter – that’s enough for me today. Here’s to good health!

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Permaculture Design Course Full Scholarship Available!!

As always, in the spirit of fair share – we’re offering *one full scholarship* to a special someone for our summer Permaculture Design Course (PDC) that’s running from Jan 21 – Feb 3, 2017 in southern Tasmania. Yeah!

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This includes full catering and two weeks of deep permaculture design learning with an amazingly experienced and passionate teaching team (accomodation is free camping on site (byo gear)). You can read all about the course, see the schedule and more here. 

This PDC is being lead by Hannah Moloney with *special* guest, Nick Ritar form Milkwood plus highly talented and skilled local guest teachers.

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We give plenty of time for folks to apply for this scholarship and will be accepting applicants up until December 1st, 2016.

To apply, simply email Hannah at hello@goodlifepermaculture.com.au addressing the following three points.

  1. A little bit about your background (100-200 words).
  2. You need to not be able to financially afford this course, we prioritise giving these places to people who genuinely cannot find the funds to access this educational experience.
  3. How this new knowledge and experience will benefit you *and* your community/work place and/or project.

Please share this far and wide so it gets to the people who need it most – thanks!

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How To Dry Cure Olives In 3 Weeks

Once upon a time I lived in Adelaide where olive trees grow like weeds. Every winter we’d go foraging and preserve a good stash for eating. One year the very awesome Annemarie Brookman from the Food Forest taught me how to dry cure olives and I’ve never looked back. It’s infinitely easier and just as tasty as pickling, in short it’s life changing – here’s how we do it.

You’ll need

  • Salt: All recipes we’ve ever seen specify using non-iodized salt, we use coarse rock salt – but I don’t think it actually matters.
  • Olives: Only use black, fully ripe olives for this method. For 10kg of olives, you’ll need approximately 5kg of salt.
  • A bucket: To put the olives and salt in. We use 10 or 20 litre “food grade” buckets.

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Step 1

Pick your olives! Choose only the blackest and leave the green ones on the tree to ripen or use them for pickling. Give them a good wash in fresh water to get any dirt/bird poo off them.

Step 2

Get comfy as this step takes a while. You need to break the flesh of each and every olive so it can absorb the salt. If you don’t do this step then it will not work and you’ll cry. Most people recommend using a knife to put a slice in each olive, however we use a fork and prick each olive a few times. This is soooo much quicker than using a knife, plus you can watch a movie at the same time without fear of stabbing yourself.

FYI – your fingers will turn a black/purple colour from the olive juices which will take a few days to fade.

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Step 3

Once all your olives are nicely punctured, pack them in a jar or bucket with salt. We add the olives gradually, mixing in the salt as we go to ensure it’s spread evenly. We then put a thicker layer on top knowing that it will sink down with gravity.

Once you’ve done this, either pop a lid on top or some cheesecloth to keep the bugs out and leave it to start doing its thing

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Step 4

Check on your olives every few days, they should be literally swimming in their own liquid within one week as seen below. This is a good sign. Strain the liquid off and keep going for another two’ish weeks.

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IMG_6278The excess liquid we strained off our olives after one week in salt. 

Even after only one week you’ll see the olives have shrivelled up considerably, if you want to, you can stat taste testing them now – just wash one in fresh water and taste away to see how they’re evolving.

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Step 5

Once the liquid has been strained off, make sure the original salt is mixed in evenly and let it continue to do its thing. Some people add in fresh salt at this stage if some of the salt was lost in the straining process.

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Step 6

After three -four weeks your olives should be ready. To test, wash some in fresh water and taste them. Once you’re happy with the taste, rinse the whole lot in fresh water. From here you can either let them dry on some cloth towels and store in a jar or, put them in jars of olive oil with rosemary and garlic – the choice is yours. They’ll taste awesome either way.

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What finished dry cured olives look like. Image from here

That’s it folks, you’ll never be scared of preserving olives again!

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