Archive for ‘June, 2015’

Growing & Loving Oca

Do you know oca (oxalis tuberosa) yet? It’s one of our current favourite root vegies and is commonly known as New Zealand (NZ) yam, however it’s real origins stem back to the Southern Andes. NZ seems to have a thing for adopting foods and calling them their own, think kiwi fruit which actually comes form China where it’s called the Chinese gooseberry. And just for the record feijoas, which NZ folk grow with great vengeance are actually from South America. To be fair oca was introduced to NZ way back in 1860‘ish, so it’s been around for a while on this side of the world.


As you can see above – there are quite a few varieties, some common and some you’ll probably never see in real life.

How to grow them

Generally you plant oca in Spring in cool climates, however we didn’t get ours in until mid Summer and they still worked just fine. Similar to potatoes you pop oca tubers in the ground and wait for them to stick their heads up. You can gradually mound earth around the plant (again, like potatoes) to increase the size of the tubers, or you can just let it grow and still achieve a good harvest.


Interestingly, tuber development is light-dependant. When daylight hours drop (in Winter), the tuber formation begins. We actually checked on our oca crop in late Autumn and there was nothing going on under the soil – lots of leaf, but not one little tuber was spotted. However around two months later they’ve magically appeared – it’s so crowded under each plant with stacks of tubers, it’s a pretty impressive little plant.

How do you know when to harvest?

Like potatoes, when the leaves start to die back it means the tubers are reading to be harvested. It’s good to know that oca is more perishable than potatoes, but if properly handled can be stored at room temperature for some months.


Oca crop dieing back meaning the tubers are ready to be harvested.


Remember to store the biggest, fattest, healthiest tubers for propagation for next season. You can do this in a bucket of dry sand or sawdust or in a cool dark and dry place.

We store ours in a couple of places, sure most go into one of our cool dark cupboards, but we also have a big bowl of them on our kitchen bench. Mainly so we can access theme quickly for easy eating – we find that doing this for a short period doesn’t affect them at all, i,e, they can handle of bit of sunlight… Which potatoes can’t.


How to eat them?

Well apparently the internet tells me that some people like to eat them raw – I took a bite of one and didn’t spit it out, but didn’t go back for more. I prefer to roast them (like potatoes) where they transform into a creamy, yummy thing – just try them and you’ll see what I mean.

This nifty little plant is super low maintenance, easy to grow as no pests seem to both it and can be included into your vegetable patch or food forest without any bother at all. Give it a go!

You can read more about oca over at Temperate Climate Permaculture, Greenharvest and Thompson and Morgan.


Fat Carrot Farm

A few months ago, we were driving to a new design client’s property south of Hobart and went passed a really spunky looking farm, complete with a cranking market garden, strawbale/timber house, ducks and dams. We slowed down to 10kms an hour to give it a good eyeball and were like… We so gotta meet those people. Anyway, it turns out we knew them distantly (that’s Tassie for you). Meet Stan and Briony from Fat Carrot Farm. They’re hardworking, cruisy, highly intelligent folk who have amazing attention to detail, skills to burn, good taste in music and a really good coffee machine. Our kind of people.


These guys moved here around 15 years ago, built a house, had two kids, started a market garden, built a boat while holding down their highly skilled town jobs. They’re so cool, they were growing kale 15 years ago… But no one knew what it was so it wasn’t appreciated. You’ll be happy to know they’re growing it again and people love it.


When I tracked them down, Stan stressed that it wasn’t a ‘permaculture’ farm, rather a collection of approaches was used to make this property work for them. However he also said he’s read most of the key permaculture books back to front and it shows. Things are in the right place, nutrients are cycled and stuff is cranking. In fact it’s more permaculture than some properties I’ve seen that call themselves permaculture…


Their market garden is overflowing with crops which they supply to local community group – Channel Living and sell from their farm shop throughout the week.  Being winter, a good portion of the garden is under mixed green manure crops, giving the soil some love so it can crank in spring/summer time.



IMG_3620Stan checking on his chilli plants being kept warm with a mini hot house – simple and so so effective


Some of the things that we really loved included their array of fencing to keep out the local wildlife – like this hardcore corrugated iron fence…


And this somewhat elegant floppy fence which works incredibly well…


And their house. Oh their house – we want one! It’s picture perfect, super energy efficient, uses local materials and is incredibly comfortable and beautiful. They built it on their weekends over three years, with two young kids – amazing.


And in its own special way the house is integrated into the garden.  To catch some of the troublesome black birds they set a trap of crab apples and a cage propped up on a stake. See that blue bailing twine? One end is tied to the stake and the other end is tied to their bed, meaning in the morning that can wake up check to see if any black birds are feasting on the crab apples and simply pull the bailing twine which removes the stake propping up the cage. Genius…. And very permaculture’esk.


Their farm shop is flanked with vegies, seed saving, a much loved pizza oven and cute signs courtesy of a previous wwoofer.






Finally, they have beer coasters as their business cards. We love them for that.


IMG_3634Our tired Frida destroying some home grown brocolli

When you’re in the early days of your ‘journey’ in setting up a home like we are, it’s bloody heartening and refreshing to meet people who have already done the hard yards in setting up a cranking property. We came home inspired and with the reminder that we’ll get there, everything’s going to work out and that yes, it takes years. Healthy reminders indeed.


Save Elgaar Farm

Here in Tasmania, our favourite organic, super ethical, award winning dairy, Elgaar Farm is in trouble and need our help.  For almost one year they’ve had to shut up shop to upgrade their facilities to appease new regulations. This has meant no production for that whole time, meaning no income. Having taken much more time than initially hoped they’re now drained of resources and need our help to get back up and running. Right now they’re running a crowd funding campaign to raise $100,000 in the next week and $250,000 by June 30th to complete upgrading their facilities to new requirements and get back into business. It’s a lot of money, which is why we need to get lots of hands helping.

We cannot afford to lose Elgaar. And so we have become “cow buddies”… What’s a cow buddy you ask?

The cow buddy is one of the many options available for Elgaar’s crowd funding campaign to get them back into business. Simply put, we pay money to Elgaar and secure a cow as our own special buddy. However the cow buddy option is actually a loan to Elgaar Farm, meaning we get our money back in three years, plus interest paid in cheese and other treats.  Sounds heaps better than money in the bank to us!

Hana the heifer for blog

Hanah, our new and much loved cow buddy. We are in love with her and with the idea of her being able to get back into business!


Right now, and since July 2014, Elgaar’s cows are being milked every day and the milk poured down the drain.  They’re in a predicament where they need money to operate, but need to operate to get money. Hence the reach out to their community for help.

Joe and Antonia outside the Elgaar factory

Antonia and Joe Gretschmann, owners of Elgaar

Being a cow buddy does something awesome.  It provides instant capital for them to invest in improving their plant and production facilities, and gives them the leg up they need to start producing again. Of course if you can’t afford this option there are other perks you can buy through their crowd funding to offer your support like delicious wheels of cheese. And if you’re totally loaded, you have the amazing power that you could also cut straight to the chase and buy them a new pasteuriser – please do that.


The world is in desperate need of farms like Elgaar, they are a farm unique and far above the rest in many ways.   If they close down forever, think about what you might lose…

A farm that;

  •  Employs 300 year old traditions to produce unique products in Tasmania.
  • Is a family farm with three generations living and working onsite, plus employ members of the local community.
  • Is a business committed to zero waste, who run a national return and reuse program with their jars and bottles (this should be mandatory rather than utterly unique).
  • Allows cows to “retire” on site, the calves have extended time with their mothers and calves are not sent off to slaughter.
  • Value adds, creating over 30 products from a single herd.
  • Is certified organic, committed to regenerative agriculture.

Simply put, a farm that makes the best, most ethical dairy produce that you can buy.

This cannot happen on our watch. So our friends…

  • If you have $1000 sitting in a bank account get that money out and become a cow buddy *now*.
  • If you only have $50 bucks, log onto the Elgaar crowdfunding site and choose from a range of ‘perks’ you can purchase *now*.
  • If your uncle has a cheese habit, get him buying there wheels *now*.
  • Like, share and spread the message  *now*.

You can like them on Facebook and please visit their crowd funding page to make sure we get these legends back in action.

If you’d like to get in touch with Elgaar

Admire their heritage cheese and milk factory in all its glory

The Elgaar Factory



Skill Swap: Cake for Permaculture

We want more people to do and live permaculture – that’s why we do what we do. However we recognise that some folks don’t have extra cash to get skilled up on workshops. So we’re making one space available on our Introduction to Permaculture (running on June 13-14 in Hobart) course to help folks get started on living the good life.

However we want to do a skill swap, cake for permaculture. We usually make cakes for student’s morning and afternoon tea breaks, but we thought we could make an exchange with someone who otherwise would not be able to attend. The deal is you make four cakes (two for each day) and we give you a spot on our Introduction to Permaculture course.

To apply, simply email us at and let us know two things:

1) Why you’re the best person for this spot, and

2) What type of cakes you’ll make – they don’t have to be super fancy by the way, just simple and wholesome treats.

To get you inspired, here are some recent cakes from our courses (and the internet)…





Ok, so those last two are probably taking things too far, but aren’t they beautiful! Please share far and wide so it reaches the person it needs to, and so we get cakes :-).

** You can see all information for this course here.


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