Archive for ‘May, 2016’

The impact of doing a Permaculture Design Course

Meet Lauren and Oberon Carter (and their three ace little people) who live in Hobart, Tasmania. Oberon is an ecologist who works in conservation, currently working with Tasmanian threatened species. He’s spent time looking at climate change and Tasmanian landscapes and working with landowners. Lauren comes from a design background and runs an online shop called Spiral Garden, selling ethical toys, gifts and homewares – plus she home educates their three children (which is a full-time job in itself). They’ve each completed a Permaculture Design Course (PDC) – Lauren with Milkwood and Oberon with us at Good Life. Today we’re talking to them about permaculture and specifically how completing a PDC has impacted their lives…

What knowledge did you have on permaculture before you did your PDC?

(Lauren) Before doing our PDCs, we had fairly limited knowledge of what Permaculture was. Oberon’s background in ecology meant he had a deep understanding of natural processes and my practical experience and long-held interest in gardening and sustainable living meant much of it made sense to us when we finally got around to doing our PDCs. We’d been reading the Designers Manual (By Bill Mollison) and talking about doing a PDC since seeing David Holmgren talk in a tent in Daylesford when we were 20 years old (around 15-20 years ago)!


How did the PDC inform your life choices – personally and professionally?

(Lauren) I had a real A-ha! moment when I did my PDC. We’d been unschooling our children for several years and found that many of the principles and ethics were aligned with how we were raising our kids. It felt like everything fell into place. And I thought I was just there for gardening!
We began working with my permaculture design for our home and our children were intrigued so I started passing information on to them. Then Oberon decided to do his PDC and had a similar A-ha! moment. We began working with permaculture as a holistic framework for homeschooling our kids and that evolved into the Seedlings Permaculture program. This is an online course we offer that focuses on permaculture for families, bringing permaculture into people’s homes around the world.
In the meantime, we’ve also been very slowly implementing our design plan for our home and, more recently, focussing on the principle “Produce No Waste”. Our home is now waste-free and we’ve written another e-course, Zero Waste Families, to share that process with other families. Our retail business is now based around permaculture principles and we’re volunteering our time to local groups such as Zero Waste Tasmania and Permaculture Tasmania.

What would you say to someone who’s thinking about doing a PDC but not sure if it’ll be useful or relevant to them?

(Lauren) Something neither of us expected was the incredible group environment at a PDC and the experience of sharing two weeks with a group of passionate and interesting people from all walks of life. One of us is an extrovert and the other a complete introvert and we both found lots of inspiration and ease within the group setting.
Without the concentrated effort of the work and conversation at the PDC, we’d most likely still be fumbling along, reading bits here and there. To really understand what permaculture’s all about, a PDC is an absolute must.

How do you think permaculture can help be the solution to some of our global challenges?

(Oberon) The ethics and principles that underpin the permaculture design system were developed in the context of an increasing awareness of climate change and global development.  With this in mind, permaculture really speaks to the heart of what is needed to solve many of our global challenges – caring more for nature, for each other, and sharing that which is surplus to our needs.
These ethics appear so simple and straightforward, and yet the behaviour of many modern societies appears contrary to them. I think big in-roads can be made if shifts are made towards more localised and closed-loop food systems, with a culture of sharing within better-connected local communities, whilst challenging the consumptive norms of today. It ain’t gonna be easy, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try! Global challenges aren’t answered in a single paragraph, but I think permaculture concepts would be a beneficial conversation starter when discussing any global problem.

How is permaculture being part of your solution to living a good life?

(Oberon) I feel that living by the ethics and principles of permaculture (or at least, being mindful of them when we aren’t quite living by them!) helps us to feel more a part of nature, rather than apart from it. It sounds cliche, but to me, this is what living the good life is about – feeling more connected to the earth and to each other.
But even more than FEELING connected, permaculture has taught us how to ACT in ways that are less harmful to the environment and each other. It’s more than feeling a certain way, its about doing a certain way.
Getting your hands in the earth, to eventually harvest your own food, to make use of what is nearby, to maintain the good stuff (e.g. biodiversity, healthy soils, water and air) whilst nourishing ourselves. To observe the big picture as well as the small, and find what works for you and your surrounds. A way of life that is founded in good science and practical logic, but which is flexible enough for us to change habits and adapt as the world changes around us!
  • You can read more about Oberon and Lauren’s journey in zero waste here
  • Our next Permaculture Design Course in this summer running from January 21 – February 3 in Southern Tasmania – it’s shaping up to be more than special.
  • All photos are taken by Oberon and Lauren.

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…



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:


  • 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.


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.


The brine ‘puddle’


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


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.



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:
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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!


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…





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:


  • 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.


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.


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.



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

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 or 0418 307 294.

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