Winter Cropping: What to plant now (& how)

This blog and accompanying video is dedicated to folks in temperate/cool temperate climates, which is where we live. Right now it’s Autumn (late March) and we’re doing some of our last winter plantings to make sure we can eat for months to come. Here in cool temperate Tasmania we have very specific windows in which we can plant crops to make sure we can eat from our gardens all year round. If you miss the windows, you miss out on a good garden. Don’t miss the windows.

Due to covid-19, there are a lot of us at home right now and a lot of us are wondering how to secure reliable fresh food for months to come. Ideally you’d grow some of it yourself. Our latest video shows how you can do just this,  you can check it out here.

Crops to plant now for winter eating (and beyond)

DS = Direct sewing and T = transplanting

  • Carrots – DS
  • Beetroots – DS
  • Parsnip – DS
  • Broad beans – DS
  • peas – DS
  • Asian greens – DS
  • Broccoli – T
  • Kale – T
  • Cauliflower – T
  • Celery – T
  • Lettuce – T
  • Leeks – T

Other quick growing crops people can plant now FOR MOST CLIMATES can be seen on our last  video and accompanying blog we did last week here.

Are you in a warmer climate?

For people in warmer climates (i.e. subtropical) check out Robyn Francis’s planting guide.

The key thing to remember

Is that there’s always something you can be planting or doing in a  temperate or cool temperate climate – always. To help you – check out Peter Cundall’s planting guide to help you know what to plant and when for Tasmania and other temperate areas.

Good luck – have fun and just know that gardens are incredibly forgiving, so if it doesn’t work out on your first go, be sure to keep going back for another crack!

 

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Fresh Food Fast: How to grow veggies you can eat within 8 weeks!

We’re living in deeply uncertain times with covid-19 ripping through our world – everything is changing dramatically and quickly *for everyone*. When in crisis we need to look for the opportunities – stuff that can hold us up and stuff that we can control to bring us the goodness and resilience we need. Growing some of our fresh food does this and is one of the most sensible things we can do right now.

Goodbye lawn and hello edible landscapes! Here’s six different ways you can grow food for free (or very little) in your back/front yard, in your courtyard, your balcony or kitchen bench. I also made a backyard video you can watch over on YouTube SHOWING YOU these six different methods in action.

What food can you actually plant right now? (Autumn in southern hemisphere)

This list can be planted in most parts of the world now – if possible, check with your local nursery or garden group to confirm your best options. Also see planting guides here for the rest of the year here for cooler climates, here for the subtopics (zone 2) and here for other climates).  If you’re wondering what climate you live in (for Australia) see this page to help you out.

QUICK crops you can eat within 8 weeks: All can be planted as seeds, directly sowed (DS) into the soil. 

  • Radishes
  • Turnips
  • Mizuna
  • Amaranth
  • Silverbeet
  • Kale
  • Asian greens
  • Spinach
  • Lettuces
  • Rocket
  • Coriander

LONGER crops you can plant now and eat within 8 – 12 weeks: DS = Directly Sowed, T = Transplanted as seedlings

  • Carrots – DS
  • Beetroots – DS
  • Swedes – DS
  • Garlic – DS
  • Brocoli – T
  • Leeks – T
  • Cabbage – T
  • Broad beans – DS
  • Peas – DS

Where to place your garden?

If you’re gardening outside, some things to consider include…

Sun: If you’re in a cool climate, make sure you place your garden where it get full (or lots) of sun. If you’re in a warmer climate, you also need lots of good sun, but keep in mind when summer rolls around, you may need to provide some shade for it to thrive.

Water: You need to have easy access to water to irrigate the garden as needed. This can simply be a hose and tap.

Access: Make sure it’s easy to get to and monitor your garden. Ideally it’s close to your house and you can see it from one of your windows so you can peek out and check on it as needed.

Protection: If you live somewhere with wildlife pressure like us in Tasmania (i.e. possums, deer, wallabies etc), then you’ll need to fence your garden to keep them out. Keep it simple, it can be some timber/steel stakes and a roll of wire mesh or netting.

Soil preparation

BEFORE YOU PLANT ANYTHING, YOU NEED TO PREP YOUR SOIL. Sorry to shout, but it’s really important. There are many, many great methods for you can learn about, here are a few to get you growing quickly that will either cost you nothing, or very little. 

In-ground method

For folks with limited access to materials and funds, this method just requires an existing lawn, a shovel and some seeds or seedlings.

Dig the desired area of ground and weed out the grass, add a border around the bed to prevent the grass from coming in. Make sure the ground is level and plant directly into the bed.

Be prepared for some weed pressure and some grass/weeds will grow back. You’ll need to manually weed these out.

The easiest in-ground garden bed option. Simply weed out the lawn and add a border (like a moat) to stop grass coming back. 

Sheet mulching

This method is for folks with weed pressure and who can source some cardboard/newspaper and compost.

Do the above method outlined above for in-ground gardening and then add a layer of wet newspaper or cardboard over the top, making sure there’s no gaps in between the sheets.  On top of that add a 5cm later of compost. You can plant seedlings into this immediately by punching a hole through the newspaper. The cardboard layer slows weeds coming back. They’ll still come (and need manual weeding), but this gives you some breathing space.

Wet cardboard to slow weeds coming back with a thick layer of compost (or aged manure) to feed the soil. 

No-dig Gardening

For people with really poor soils (too sandy/rocky or heavy clay), no-dig gardening allows you to build up. This method requires you to bring in all the materials, so only suitable for folks where that’s actually an option. See “box gardens” below for a smaller alternative for above ground gardening.

Strawbale Gardens

Want something super easy and quick? This one’s for you. Again, you have to bring in all the materials, unless you already happen to have some bales lying around your garden.

This is a short-term, one season type of garden where you simply put a series of compost pockets (2 handfuls of compost) directly into the bale and plant your seedling immediately – plus add water. You’ll get a great crop for one season, at the end of which the bale will have started to break down. At this point you can compost the whole bale or use it as garden mulch for another section of your property.

Box Gardens

Box gardens are for those who have no access to earth and limited space, i.e. balconies and courtyards.  Styrofoam boxes can be sourced from local grocers and are small enough that they’re easy to move around. Some will need to have holes punched through the bottom for drainage, while others come with holes. It’s a good idea to add a layer of coarse woodchips or blue metal stones to increase drainage.

Growing Sprouts

If nothing else, you can grow sprouts on your kitchen bench. All you need is a jar, some whole lentils, water, and a clean bit of cheese cloth or a tea towel. You can also use a range of other pulses or seeds – lentils are are go to favourite. You can see the SIMPLE process below – thanks to The Lean Green Bean for these graphic. You can also see a video on the process from our dear friends at Milkwood  over here.

Seed Raising

If you are growing from seed, you might consider growing some crops in seed trays (or egg cartons) in a more controlled microclimate (inside near a sunny window). There are many different recipes for making seed raising mix. We make our seed raising mix with the following – you can also buy some pre-made.

  • 2 parts compost – to provide nutrients
  • 2 parts coco peat – to retain moisture (you could also used aged sawdust/fine woodchips)
  • 2 parts coarse sand – to provide drainage

Where to buy seeds?

In Australia, we use Seed Freaks, Southern Harvest and Diggers as our main ones – but there are so many more. Please post where you source your seeds in the comments below for others to read. Thanks!

The secret to good gardening?

There are a few key things that will help you succeed…

  • Water – make sure you provide adequate water. Notice if it’s been raining (or not) and do the moisture test of sticking your finger in the soil. If it comes out wet – it doesn’t need watering, if it comes out dry then you need to water. I know – so high tech.
  • Weeding – all gardens will need to be weeded at some stage. The hot tip is to weed often when they’re young as it’s 100% easier to remove them then before they become established.
  • Turning up and paying attention is one of the most important keys to successful gardening. This is where you’ll notice any problems and address them.
  • Having a crack! Just have a go, gardens are very forgiving, don’t care if you stuff up (numerous times) and want to grow. Just start where you are, use what you have and do what you can.

Good luck, have some fun with it and may it nourish you and your loved ones. Together (while apart) we can do this.

One more thing

If you reeeeaaalllly wanna chat and learn from us face-to-face (in a remote kind of way), we now offer online consultations which you can read about over here.

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Live Sauerkraut Demonstration With Sandor Katz!

The world is a big and interesting place full of uncertainty right now. Perhaps it always is – but we’re *all* just being personally impacted by it right now due to the global spread of coronavirus (covid-19). Because of this rapid spread, a lot of people are now choosing to self-isolate in their homes as a preventative measure for their own health and to help slow its spread, and we support them.

So much so, that this weekend we moved our “real-life” fermentation workshop and talk with Sandor Katz online to prevent any possible community transmission of covid-19. We were sad to do this, so much time, energy and love goes into planning these events. But we would be more sad if people got sick as a result of us not making this call. So in an effort to still deliver some Sandor fermentation greatness, we streamed a fermentation demonstration to the world via our kitchen. Thanks Sandor, you’re a gem.

You can watch it all below and find more information and resources (including his two books) at his website here. And please excuse the filming quality – it’s just me on my phone, standing in the corner of my kitchen – just focus on the content!

Live "Kraut-A-Thon" with Sandor Katz!

Posted by Good Life Permaculture on Saturday, 14 March 2020

 

 

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Propagation (& Wash) Station Design

For almost 8 years we’ve propagated most of our annual plants (and some perennials) between our sunny dining room table and random patches of grass around the garden. Often the plants I germinate in the pots left in the garden are forgotten about and I unintentionally kill them cause they’re hiding behind the giant corn patch, or the comfrey leaves grew over them. In other words it’s all been a bit random.

Not any more folks. The propagation station of my dreams is here. It’s compact, efficient and easy on the eye. AND it doubles as a wash station for us to clean any excess dirt off crops before bringing them into the kitchen. We’re feeling very pleased with ourselves.

And when the door’s are closed…

Key features include

The sink: The bench is a sink from the tip shop. This means it’s easy to clean, can be happily soaked with water most the time and is darn hardy.

The cupboard: This is where we store pre-mixed potting mix, pots/trays, watering can and a bucket to catch the water from the sink. Eventually we’ll plum it into a garden drain – but for now, it’s more than fine.

The little tray thingo: I’m in love with this $3 tray from the tip shop. This is where all the random little irrigation/hose bits will live, plus some tools I frequently need for propagating. No more losing them throughout the garden.

The shelf: Made from some steel mesh stuff (also from the tip shop), this is where pots/trays will live while growing up. We water them with a watering can and all the excess water flows through the mesh into the sink and the bucket below. Very nice and tidy.

The whole set up is beneath a clear polycarbonate roof – so plenty of sun and it’s protected from strong winds. However in the depths of winter it’s still too cold to germinate plants, so we’ll still germinate some seedlings inside on our sunny dining table and in our cold frame.

Slowly, we’re implementing our property design where little nooks like this result in efficient systems and practices becoming the norm. Goodbye random!

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Home Harvest: Host Callout!

We’re happy to announce we’re working with Eat Well Tasmania and Sustainable Living Tasmania to hold the inaugural “Home Harvest” garden tour in the Hobart municipality!  Special thanks to the City of Hobart for funding this great initiative.

Home Harvest is going to be a one day event on March 7th, 2020 in the Hobart municipality where productive gardens open their gates to invite the public in to have a look – best day ever right?! The main aim is that people are inspired to start (or continue) to grow their own food to increase local resilience and for all round general health and wellbeing.

Right now we’re doing a big callout to find more productive gardens in the Hobart municipality who’d like to be included. For more information, read on below…

Click here to register your garden here and we’ll be in touch shortly. Please note, applications close on January 31st.

Host Information

To be a host you need these things:

  • A productive garden! This can be tiny, small, large or massive – there are no limitations on scale and we aim to show a large range of diverse gardens of all shapes and sizes. A productive garden can include vegetables beds, orchards, animals, compost systems – or it might be a balcony garden with one herb garden. We want them all!
  • To be in the Hobart municipality. As this project is funded by the City of Hobart this is non-negotiable.
  • Up for a chat – they’ll be a lot of questions on the day and you’ll be required to show people around and explain what’s happening in your patch.
  • Available on March 7th for a set amount of hours. The hours you open your gate are negotiable and will be clearly promoted so people only come in this time.
  • Passionate about growing food in urban spaces!
  • You can be a private garden or a community space and we wholeheartedly welcome people who are renting.

Keen? click here to sign up today!

What support do you receive to do this?

  • There is a small fee to reimburse you for your time of $100.
  • We will provide you with a “Home Harvest” host sign that can be attached to your fence/gate so people know you are part of the tour and can easily find you.
  • Good Life Permaculture will organise all bookings in consultation with you so you can control how many people come and when.
  • Prior to the day we’ll drop off some free gardening resources you can hand out to visitors to help them get growing and composting.

Privacy

We respect your privacy and won’t publish your home address on our website. Instead, we’ll provide a brief profile of each garden on our website and a general location in Hobart (i.e. suburb). Once people book in to your garden, we’ll provide only those people with your address details in a private email.

Is Home Harvest free for folks?

Yes, for people wanting to come along on the day there’s no charge at all.

Click here to register your garden here and we’ll be in touch shortly. Please note, applications close on January 31st.

Home Harvest is a partnership project between Good Life Permaculture, Eat Well Tasmania, supported by Sustainable Living Tasmania and funded by the City of Hobart.

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How To Cook & Eat Globe Artichokes

Globe artichokes (Cynara scolymus)… They’re a strikingly beautiful plant to grow and, when starting out, strikingly confusing to eat. This little blog’s for all you folk wondering how to wrap your mouth around this thistle – without the thistle experience.

If you’re wondering how to grow them, you can read Peter Cundall here and Sustainable Gardening Australia over here. We’re just going to write about how to eat them.

Originating from the Mediterranean and central Asia these beauties are member of the thistle family – the edible part of the plant is the flower bud.

If you are growing them in your garden, then timing the harvest is critical to ensure you don’t end up with a mouthful of prickly thistles. You pick them when they’re quite young and undeveloped – this ensure their heart (the centre) is still soft. The image below shows a cluster of flower buds that are nice and young and good to eat.

Young artichokes ready to be picked. 

The image below shows a flower bud in my garden which is a bit too far gone – I won’t pick and eat this one as it will have already developed central prickles. Instead I’ll let it flower for the bees and for some eye candy.

A more mature artichoke which will have some prickly thistles inside.

By the way, the flowers are glorious and look something like this (not my garden, but from the internet with unknown source).

If you’re sourcing them from elsewhere than we can crack with how to eat them….

First, you need to take off the outer petals as these are quite tough – you’ll end up with a small flower bud in the middle as seen below.

Do this with all of your artichokes…

The easiest way to cook them is to pop them all in a large pot and add water.

Bring them to the boil and then simmer them until soft. They’ll look like this…

They’re now ready to eat. We make a dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and a nice vinegar and drizzle it over them or dip each one into a small bowl of dressing as you eat it. It’s delicious.

You’ll see below that once they’re cooked, you can easily pull them apart. On the left you have the heart and some of the stem (which is also delicious). On the right you have some petals – most of these are edible too – the tips will be a bit tough, just compost those.

We eat our artichokes with everything, last night I had scrambled eggs and artichokes for dinner – I’m a simple cook, Im sure you can do better!

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Four Goat Case Studies From Around Australia

We asked a few of our “goat friends” to answer some questions for us (and you) to provide more practical case studies for the world to learn from. Here you go!

Ecoburbia, Urban Fremantle, W.A

Shani and Tim

What key function/s do your goats serve on the property?

  • Our goats provide us with milk, cheese, and yogurt. They eat veggie scraps and garden refuge and also cuttings from neighbours and a local tree lopper who brings us stuff he knows they will like. Once they are finished we mulch the leftover branches and use them in the garden and compost
  • Our chickens are in the same pen as our goats and they like to scratch through the goat droppings for undigested grains. Their poo and spent oaten hay is a valuable addition to the compost.
  • Our goats are also much adored members of our household. We love them dearly. We sit and have a cup of tea in their pen every morning and that’s when they get their daily brush. They love trying to eat the tea leaves from the strainer.
  • They are also a great way to develop community.  Our sharewaste folk also bring treats for them – they will do anything for banana peels. They certainly get lots of visitors and people are free to wander into our backyard whenever they like. School finishing time is a popular time for visitors.
  • Our daily walks (down the middle of the road so no one is tempted by the roses) have meant we have met many people in our neighbourhood. There is usually someone keen to have a stroll with us and a chat as the goat’s graze. When Pumpkin was younger she used to play on the play equipment with the neighbourhood kids – she loves going up and sliding down the slide, and walking along the rope swing.
  • When we meet someone from Beaconsfield they often say “oh you’re the goat people” People seem proud of this quirky aspect in their neighbourhood.

How many goats do you have and what breed?

At the moment we have two goats – Whimsy (who is five) and Pumpkin (who is two). They are saanen goats. We mated Pumpkin recently with a 50% Nigerian dwarf and plan to mate Whimsy next year with a 100% Nigerian dwarf. Our goal is to breed a small goat who produces milk but is good for an urban environment.

What type of fencing do you have?

We have one metre high mesh fencing held in place with metal star pickets. They have only once jumped the fence – Pumpkin did accidentally when she got spooked by an umbrella. She was quite young and “frisky” She looked so shocked. People always comment that they will get out but they never have – I like to think they are happy in there.

Whimsy can however undo most gate latches so our gate has to be double locked with a carabiner. She can also undo bolts. Last year she went to the Royal Show, figured out how to undo her stall and then promptly undid all the other goat stalls – she loves a challenge. She watches everyone who leaves the pen and knows in an instance if the gate is not latched properly.

And once they are in the veggie garden . . . . .

How much space do they have in their paddocks/yard?

Our goat’s pen is about 70 square metres (not including their stables) They share this space with 12 chickens. They also have a space of about 30 square metres on the verge which is planted out with a fodder grass called paragrass and they graze there most days.

What do you feed them?

  • They get a grain mix of Lucerne chaff, goat pellets, barley and lupins twice a day at milking.
  • Also clean oaten hay daily (most of which they waste!) They get lots of veggie and garden scraps. When they go for a walk they always get some grazing time – weeks acacia, fennel – other interesting shrubs.
  • For a reward or a treat we feed them carob pods. We harvest and dry from a local tree every summer and that keeps us going all year.

How much time does it take to look after them per day/week?

  • Milking and feeding takes about half an hour morning and night. I don’t count our morning cuppa and brushing as care. The afternoon walk takes about an hour. So about 2 hours a day. Plus collecting feed, trimming hooves etc
  • When there are babies you tend to spend all day in there.
  • Although I walk the goats Tim and I share the milking duties and we like doing it together.
  • We have a few people in the community who can milk if we need them. Our most reliable is actually a 12 year old girl – the goats are better behaved for her than they are for us.

What type of preventative health approaches do you integrate into your animal management systems?

  • I would say my main preventative approaches would be daily observation – are they off their feed, what does their coat look like, were they a bit slow to eat their food, are they getting up when someone approaches with a treat? . . . . that sort of thing.
  • I don’t worm my goats unless they need it – I get a stool sample tested once every three months and they have never had worms
  • We are lucky because we are 15 minutes away from a university vet school that has a wonderful productive animal unit. They are also happy to do home visits for the cost of the travel. And they know our goats!

What’s been some of your key challenges in keeping goats?

We had goats “illegally” for many years but when we moved suburb we knew we would have to get permission. The council was well away we kept goats in our previous house but didn’t ever act as there were never complaints. Beg for forgiveness and all that!

When we moved here I enquired (anonymously) and was told there was no way. I approached the mayor who directed me to the head of health. The council had no policy so had to follow state legislation. Surprisingly, most of the conditions were easy to meet – 6 metres from the house, lots of sensible stable requirements . . . . . except for the fact they had to be 20 metres from any other house.

The head of health suggested if I could get support from all the houses within 20 metres  then they would look at my application. We wrote a letter outlining what their care etc would be like, and everyone signed.  . . . . . and we have the only legal goat stable in Freo. The cost has not been put up since 1982 ($27.50)  and they quite often forget to renew it.

I am proud of our council for their creative thinking in this regard. I think by proving it could be done (if illegally) it made things easier.

The main time things are tricky is when the goats are on heat – the constant crying is difficult. We have some soundproof walls we put up on their pen and they have to spend a couple of days inside. Our immediate neighbours are very tolerant.

We have had four complaints.

  1. One neighbour complained about the goats and us generally (“why don’t you f… off to the country”) provoked by one of our goats pooing on his lawn. Despite our attempts to talk to him he has written or phoned the council 16 times (they told us!) They came out to investigate the smell (one of his complaints) and I made them sniff the goat! I also letterboxed an apology note from the goats (for their poo!) to all the neighbours on our usual route. Tim asked other neighbours to write letters of support about the goats (the council has a process for complaint but not compliment) and we have not heard from them since. And luckily he has sold up and moved away (not because of us!)
  2. An ex farmer felt like our pen was too small. He complained to the mayor who suggested he contact the RSPCA which he never did. He has since moved away as well.
  3. The RSPCA came one day as someone had suggested our goat has mastitis. She had what is called a pendulous udder and it did look very swollen. She checked out the goat, had a cuddle and left. She was very annoyed as she had to drive two hours to investigate (their city based officers only deal with “city animals”
  4. Someone suggested to the council that we were selling milk. Someone reported us based on a facebook post and they came around to investigate. Of course we don’t sell milk . . . . . . We just got a letter saying “don’t sell milk” and all was good.

I get very stressed with there is something wrong with the goats – they are my babies!

Melliodora, Central Victoria (rural)

David Holmgren, Sue Dennet and Brenna Quinlan (who provided this text)

What key function/s do your goats serve on the property?

  • They debark fodder sticks, which we then put through the wood chipper, and use on pathways, in veggie bed pathways, in the deep littler chook run, and in our compost. This is a major source of carbon for our property, as we don’t tend to buy in straw or other external inputs.
  • They are also our pets, so they give us love and cuddles. They get us out down the gully where we tether them each day so they can eat blackberry, so we get daily engagement with our commons, and Su gets daily exercise and ‘goatie time’, which is important when you’re in your 70s.
  • They reduce fire hazard by eating blackberry. This is very important in Central Victoria, the most fire prone region in the world. In spring when the grass is high we fence off paddocks on neighbouring properties and have them eat and trample the grass to reduce the need for slashing.
  • They give us milk each morning. We have 3 milking girls, Pip, Willow and Chia. Because none of them have had babies in two years (and three for pip), we only get about 3 litres of milk total, and now that Chia has one teat out of action, we’re only getting 2 litres. We make cheese, yogurt and use the whey for bread making and pickles.
  • They give us manure for compost.
  • We only mate them every 3 years, so when they have baby boy goats, we get meat from them as well.

  An illustration depicting the role goats play at Melliodora, by Brenna Quinlan

How many goats do you have and what breed?

We have three goats, which are all mixed breeds. Pip looks like a Toggenburg, and Willow is part Saanen, although she is fatter and has much shorter legs. Chia is Willow’s daughter. Willow and Pip were reject goats from Holy Goat, our local organic goat dairy.

What type of fencing do you have?

Our one hectare property is fenced against rabbits and foxes, and we divide it up with electronet into paddocks, depending on the season and the rotation with chooks and geese. We don’t ever let the goaties into the orchard because they ringbark the trees, and the one paddock containing fruit trees has electrified fencing around the trees to avoid ringbarking. Each day we take the goats out to the gully and tether them, or to a fenced off neighbour’s paddock to eat, and we bring them in with fodder each evening.

How much space do they have in their paddocks/yard?

From a whole paddock (quarter acre), to the length of their tether, which is about 4 metres. When they are in their stall at night they sometimes have about 10m squared, but sometimes we open the adjacent paddock and then they have about an eighth of an acre and the dam to wander around at night time.

What do you feed them?

At breakfast time they get the equivalent of a one litre jug each of a mix of lucern chaff and a small amount of seconds grain from a local organic supplier. They also get a slosh of vinegar and a handful of kelp seaweed to cut down on methane. Every second day they’ll get a half teaspoon of minerals too – a mix of sulphur, copper and dolomitic lime (so a teaspoon. so 1/2 a teaspoon of sulphur, 1/2 of dolomitic lime and the tiniest pinch of copper, divided between them). During the day they’ll demolish a blackberry patch, and a lot of other grasses, shrubs and wild plum trees that they’re tied up next to.

In the evening we’ll bring them a large bundle of willow or oak (summer), and blackwood or tagasaste (winter) or whatever needs pruning. The amount is equivalent to a small tree – almost to my limit of what I can drag up the hill.

How much time does it take to look after them per day/week?

About an hour to an hour and a half each morning, because taking them out is very time consuming, depending on how far away the blackberry is. Then in the evening about half an hour to cut fodder and bring them in. We share the duties – I do three days a week of animal care, which included feeding chooks and collecting the eggs, and I keep the milk on those three days. Su and Dave share duties and milk/eggs for the other four days.

What type of preventative health approaches do you integrate into your animal management systems?

We clip their nails every month or so. Their stall has a slotted floor so it’s relatively clean. We have dry spaces for them to be to avoid hoof rot. Su checks their condition to see if they need worming. We feed them a lot of diverse stuff during the day so they are healthy.

What’s been some of your key challenges in keeping goats?

  • Taking them out in the morning is a challenge, because they tend to run off in the wrong direction, and they are very stubborn. It’s much easier and less frustrating with two people, and I quite enjoy taking them out with Su and spending that time with her.
  • It’s also become more and more difficult for Dave to kill the baby goats as the years go on. Two years ago Pip adopted a boy goat from another farm when he was 2 days old, and even that was really sad when he was 6 months old and had to die. The goats grieve for their babies.
  • Our goats also retire here, so when I arrived we had Bet, who hadn’t been milked in 8 years, and was always getting her horns stuck in the fence and falling over. She died two years ago, and looking after her was very time consuming.
  • Chia had a wound on her udder and it has healed closed, so for the past two weeks we’ve been gently piercing the opening again, but it is slow and I would like to dry her off.

  

The above photo is of the blackberry slope that the goats cleared this winter. We had them there for a couple weeks, moving them a bit further each day. The canes will break down and now trees can be planted there.

Good Life Permaculture, urban Hobart

Hannah, Anton and Frida

What key function/s do your goats serve on the property?

  • Our goats provide milk daily which we turn into cheeses and yoghurt (plus fresh milk of course).
  • They help manage the weeds on our property and in the nearby state forest. We inherited certain ornamental weeds which we use as a windbreak and cut fresh fodder from them daily. We also cut and bring home weeds from the nearby state forest. The weeds we have that we feed them include Tagasaste, Catoneaster, Photinia and Mirror bush. We also grow some Acacia for them, but it’s their least favourite!

How many goats do you have and what breed?

We have toggenburg goats. While we normally have two female adults, we momentarily have four in our space, two females and twin boy goats who are still very young. Once naturally weaned, these boys will move to farms as we don’t have the space to keep them here.

What type of fencing do you have?

We have a hardwood timber post and rail and mesh fencing. Goats love to use fences (non-electric) to rub up against, so these timber frameworks are nice and strong and provide their scratch post. They’re around 1.5m high.

How much space do they have in their paddocks/yard?

Our goat’s yard is approximately 80m2 which includes their shed. We also tether them on our grass patches sporadically – but only when we can supervise them.

What do you feed them?

We buy in a mixed chaff (oat and lucern blend) and steamed/rolled barley grain. We feed them 2 litres of chaff (approx. 800g) and 600g of barley twice a day (morning and evening) for each milking goat and half that for each doe that’s not lactating. I’ll also cut fresh fodder daily for them and occasionally they get tethered on grass (when we’re home and can supervise).

How much time does it take to look after them per day/week?

I spend around 1 hour with them daily with them. This includes morning milking, feeding and cutting of fodder and then an evening feed. We only milk one goat in the morning.

What type of preventative health approaches do you integrate into your animal management systems?

  • Our goats came from a wonderful farm, but also came with a level of worms. My understanding is that you can never really get rid of the worm population once you have them. So we manage them.
  • We make sure they have diverse diet of fresh fodder.
  • A mineral block which they can help themselves to any time – we have “Mineral Health Essentials + Copper” from Olsson’s (that’s the brand name).
  • We cut their toenails every 6 – 8 weeks to keep their feet healthy.
  • We’re still trying to find the right worming treatment that they’ll actually eat properly. I think our goats are a bit spoiled so they often reject the herbs we mix in with their feed. They’ll literally not eat their food (or not much of it) if they think “it’s not quite right”. So we’re still experimenting with the best system for them and have tried a wide range of things. This has included conventional drenching with a product call Panacur which has a one day withholding period from drinking milk. Apparently this isn’t strong enough for most commercial herds with worms as they build up a tolerance to it quickly. We’ve used it twice in 2 years and it appears to have helped manage the situation. However we’re also still trying to train them to eat the herbs.

What’s been some of your key challenges in keeping goats?

  • Finding experts to advise on natural preventative worming approaches which work well.
  • When they’re in heat (every autumn), they can get very noisy every 3 weeks for a few days at a time. One season the youngest goat also developed advanced jumping skills and they both jumped the fence. They only did this once.
  • Finding friends who can milk and look after them while we’re away. It’s not for everyone and we generally struggle to find someone who can “do it all”. Luckily we’re happy homebodies so don’t travel too much.

You can find a bit more detail about our set up on an older goat blog from 2017 here. 

Sue Dennet milks Gerty at Good Life Permaculture while Frida shows off her chook catching skills

Twelve Trees Farm, Cygnet (rural)

Jilly Middleton (Jilly no longer keeps goats on her property, the below is from past experience)

 What key function/s do your goats serve on the property?

We had between 15-40 goats over 7 years primarily to manage gorse, blackberries and thistles. We milked some and ate goat meat. We sold live goats to eat other peoples weeds as well. we also cuddled many, many goat kids.

How many goats do you have and what breed?

We started with 15, dropped down to 9 within the first year to strengthen the herd. we didn’t breed every year, we bought some in and sold some. We had some who were worry warts and were sold to backyards where they got lots of attention. We had some who were predisposed to getting their heads stuck in ringlock, they were sold or eaten. We had some that always had triplets and would struggle to thrive. We bred for hardiness, specifically for parasite resistance, and foot health.

What type of fencing do you have?

External fences are 90cm high mesh (sheep or wallaby ringlock) with a single or double strand of electric up top, and an electric single line on an outrigger about a foot off the ground. Internal fences are many and varied. We used gallagher ‘smart fences’ which had 5 strands of electric poly wire with tread ins, and made our own temporary electric fences with steel rods and insulators to graze strategically within paddocks.

How much space do they have in their paddocks/yard?

Too much, usually! The fenced part of the property was about 80 acres. one of our challenges was maintaining a large enough herd/small enough paddocks to have significant impact on the woody weeds.

What do you feed them?

Hay – the amount depended on the length of the winter, and whether the goats were bred. We also fed them propharma mineral lick, and a monthly week of worming herbs. This varied depending on what was available on the farm and in the shops- oregano oil (3 drops/day/goat, fresh garlic, nigella seeds, pine/wormwood branches, rosemary, apple cider vinegar, kelp were long standing favourites) we’d use kelp meal and lucerne chaff to mix with supplements.

How much time does it take to look after them per day/week?

Anything from 30 minutes a week to 4 hours a day in kidding season.  For about 5 months we’d supplement their diet with hay, some weeks we’d let them into a bush paddock and pop back once a week to check them all out. we trimmed their feet every 3 months or as needed. Once, we needed to do it every 2 months and that was because we were overfeeding minerals in the Pat Coleby style.

What type of preventative health approaches do you integrate into your animal management systems?

  • Eventually we bought the best stock we could afford, bred for resilience, destocked in bad years, made sure they had adequate nutrition and didn’t push them too hard. We’d take a year off kidding if we thought they were slow to recover/we knew we would be busy with a new baby (of the human type for us)!
  • Rotational grazing for parasite management and many experiments with mineral supplementation. We started with the Pat Coleby regime; using dolomite, copper, sulfur. That was a good starting place – copper can help control internal parasites, dolomite makes the copper safer for the goat, sulfur helps to control the externals. However its a blunt tool and misses some marks. We had some goats present with possible whilte muscle disease one year and we started using the propharma supp to efficiently get a nice mix of minerals in. If it were just a few goats, I’d be more excited about finding the organic mineral sources to feed the goats.
  • Herbal worm treatment took many forms depending on ingredient availability. We would tend to use it every few weeks for a week, and at specific strategic times. After kidding for the mums, at weaning time for the kids, the first warm wet days of spring. Keeping housing clean and treated with lime after wet seasons and/or suspicion of worms.
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Life in the Face of The Climate Crisis

This past weekend I (Hannah) was invited to give a brief talk at Landcare Tasmania’s conference – an exploratory chat on land and life in the face of the climate crisis. I thought a lot about what to say and even put words on paper (a rare occurrence) – here are those words…

I get a lot of people asking me what do we need to do to respond to the climate crisis? I have two responses. The first is my practical action-based answer which is full of critical initiatives we need to crack on with right now. These include establishing local food systems, stopping mass deforestation, adopting permaculture and regenerative agriculture to manage land holistically. Embracing perennial cropping and not just annual cropping, eating less meat, practicing urban agriculture, advocating for sustainable transport solutions, not flying so much, having less kids, riding a bike, divesting our super out of funds that invest in fossil fuel, resolving inequality, protecting biodiversity, composting everything you can possibly compost, advocating for good governance from our politicians, planting trees, working with First Nation Australians towards healing, supporting renewable energy and not buying so much stuff all the time… These are just a few of the many, many things that we, as a culture, need to crack on with.

My second response is more concise, yet just as critical – and could actually solve all of the issues I just rattled off above. I believe two of the most important things we can do in the face of the climate crisis is build community and foster an enthusiastic imagination.

  1. I’m going to spend my time with you today exploring these two things, starting with building community…

US congress woman, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says… “Some of best work we can do right now is building and deepening our sense of community. 

….It’s how we create bonds that add meaning to our lives, how we educate one other compassionately, and how we create real, sustainable power that serves the people, the environment, and our future…”

So what does this look like in the face of the climate crisis? It involves a million different approaches to creating and organising community where people are engaged, empowered, and ultimately mobilised into effective, meaningful action… Some examples include…

  • In South Australia, the Red Cross are rolling out a program called Climate Ready Communities to mobilise people in making changes right now to adapt to the climate crisis. This is based on a peer-to-peer approach of residents talking to other residents to build relationships across whole regions to support each other to create resilience for their land and lives with both environmental and social solutions. They’re tackling big things like how to adapt to the increasing threat of fire, drought, social isolation, mental health, food security and more. And they’re doing this over resident’s kitchen tables and in local community halls.
  • A second example is Farmers for Climate Action. This is a national movement of farmers, agricultural leaders and rural Australians working to ensure farmers are a key part of the solution to the climate crisis. Because, did you know that agriculture accounts for 13% of Australia’s emissions – so while they could be seen as part of the problem, they can actually an enormous part of the solution – if they’re supported to be.

Farmers for Climate Action work directly with farmers to recruit other farmers. Together they’re building and strengthening regional communities to be more connected, educated and activated. And importantly, they’re supporting climate solutions being implemented on farms and advocating together to influence the whole sector and the government to implement climate policies that reduce pollutions and benefit rural communities.

  • A third example is a wonderful organisation you might know of called Landcare. For over 30 years people like you have been working across agricultural and environmental initiatives that restore health to the land, water ways and to whole communities. The work that Landcare has already done in responding, and adapting to the climate crisis is extensive – however the opportunities to do more is also extensive and needed more than ever. Landcare is beautifully positioned and networked to make an increasingly deep impact – politically, socially and environmentally. I specifically believe continuing your work with communities in particular is a key way to help uplift one another so we can transform lives and landscapes to be more resilient in the face of the climate crisis.

These few examples have community at the heart of what they do, because while there can be value in a top down approach to initiating change. Bottom up, grass roots movements have proven again and again throughout history that they can be the most effective method to inspire mass change when it’s needed the most. And we need it the most right now.

  1. The second thing I’d like to flesh out with you today is the important task of fostering enthusiastic imaginations…

A fellow called John Dewey who’s a social reformer defines imagination as the ability to look at things as if they could be otherwise.

Because the fact is we need active imaginations to dream up a future that’s different to the one we’re currently on track to creating. We need innovative, creative and different thinking to the “business as usual” thinking that currently dominates our collective brain.

Because…. We can’t create what we can’t dream of. Ancient Hawaiian wisdom (Huna) said “Energy flows where attention goes”. And I can see truth in that.

In recent times, when I have conversations about the climate crisis – some environmental activists I’ve known for many years are now talking the doom and gloom talk – the “we’re all gonna die” talk. While this attitude is a valid response based on facts provided by numerous climate scientists and our current political trajectory, it is not the stuff of great imagination. It is not the attitude that will help us change this trajectory into one of hope and a thriving life for all. I for one, do not want to spend any time putting my attention into thinking we’re all going to die. Saying that, we can’t ignore the facts and pretend there’s nothing concerning happening. But I’d much prefer to use those facts to inform solution-based thinking and acting for a hopeful future and let the energy flow into helping make that happen.  But we can’t do this without dreaming big.

As author, Rob Hopkins says, “…Imagination is central to empathy, to creating better lives, to envisioning and then enacting a positive future… 

He goes on to say that

…When we  reclaim and unleash our collective imagination, we can create often rapid and dramatic change for the better…”

So basically, the future is a vast land of opportunity that our imaginations can help dream into existence.

Some of my hot tips that can help foster enthusiastic imaginations include:

  1. Stop staring at the TV so much and start staring more at trees, soil, the ocean, rocks and the sky. I have found that this has a miraculous effect of providing perspective and reminding us of our delightfully small place in the universe.
  2. Where possible, carve out time in your busy life to daydream. For me this is often at 4am when my house and the world is quiet. With a cup of tea in my hand I watch the sun rise and let the thoughts roll through my brain. Sometimes I latch on to the ones that bring interest and hope and sometimes I just try to empty my brain and let them all wash over me. When my brain is empty, I’ve found that that’s when clarity and good thinking arrives. And,
  3. My third tip for fostering imagination is – Love. Practice loving people. This includes yourself, your immediate family, friends and community. But it also includes the strangers you pass in the street each day and the person who serves you at your corner shop. We are all in this climate crisis together – love will help keep us together as we navigate our way through it.

In summary – our future is one big, fat great unknown. There’s no way of really knowing what will happen tomorrow, next week or in 2040. Despite this, we have enormous potential to create an amazing future if we fully embrace the importance of right now –  which is the only thing we actually have control over. If we live our lives meaningfully and perhaps a bit radically we can ensure that everything we do today, can help create a tomorrow that’s the product of our brilliant, hopeful imaginations and brought to life with our resilient, glorious communities. So that while we’re stepping into a future that is largely unknown, it’s one that we can all look forward to.

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Rodent-proof Chicken Feeder

Here in peri urban Hobart we have to stay on top of managing rodents and birds getting into our chicken’s feed. Over the years we’ve tried lots of different designs and none of them have worked as well as we needed.

Enter this beauty. While trawling the world wide web I stumbled across this design on youtube for an automatic feeder. People – it actually really works and does everything it promises to do. It’s bird proof, weather proof and rodent proof –  basically all our chicken feeding dreams coming true at once.

The basic premise is that the bucket is full of grain. A hole has been drilled into the bottom and a “ toggle” (aka an eye bolt with a chunk of wood attached) is installed which the chooks peck to access the grain – only a few grains at a time. This means they peck once, then quickly eat all the grain off the ground before doing another peck to get more grain – ensuring no excess grain is left out on the ground for rodents and birds.

One chook pecking the toggle which releases a small amount of grain. The other chooks have their heads down, eating off the ground. 

This is an automatic feeder which means you don’t have to tend them everyday (as long as they have access to fresh water). This means you can go away for the weekend or just improve efficiency in your garden tasks.

Oh, and it’s dead easy to make – here’s how…

Ingredients

  • One bucket with a handle and lid. I recommend either a 20 litre or 10 litre bucket so it can hold a decent amount of grain.
  • One eye bolt – we’ve used a 5mm one.
  • A chunk of wood.

Method

  • Using a 16mm drill bit – drill a hole into the bottom of the bucket. This size of the hole will vary depending on what type of grain you have. We have mixed grain with chunky sunflowers included – so our holes quite generous. If you’re not sure, start with a small hole and gradually make it bigger until you hit the sweet spot.
  • Drill a 5mm holes into the chunk of wood.
  • Poke the eye bolt through, with the eye on the inside of the bucket.
  • Screw the eye bolt into the chunk of wood – which I call “the toggle”.

Our mixed grain has different sizes in there so we’ve made our hole quite big to make sure they can all get through. 

The 16mm holes in the bottom of the bucket

The toggle (chunk of wood) with a 5mm hole drilled into it and the 6mm eye bolt. 

Poke the eye bolt through the hole with the eye on the inside of the bucket. 

Screw the toggle onto the other end of the eye bolt so it hangs as seen above. 

That’s it! Only three bits of materials to make the chook feeder of your dreams.

That’s it. Told you it was easy. Next up you can hang it in your chook run. Make sure you hang it from a chain or a steel rod so rodents can’t crawl along it to access the bucket.

Special thanks to Anton for making me a gorgeous spiral rod using the campfire as his forge. 

The other hot tip is to make sure it’s not too close to the ground that rodents could jump up to hit the toggle to release the grain.

And don’t worry about the chooks working it out. They’re very clever when it comes to food, and will have orientated themselves to it within one day.

This has been a game changer for us. The flocks of sparrows (small birds) are no more and I’m feeling cautiously optimistic the rodents that live in our neighbouring bushland wont find this one.

The feeding station, nestled between our worm farm (on the right-  an old bath in a timber frame) and the branch prunings from our goats which will be turned into woodchips or biochar. 

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Salvia Leucantha: Pruning & Propagating

The Salvia family is a beautiful one. We’re slowly but surely planting a large range of them in our garden. My current favourite is the Mexican bush sage (Salvia Leucantha) – I love it for its vibrant purple flowers which come in autumn and winter, exactly when we need them (it gets a bit grey here around then). Every so often we’ll seen a brave bumble or honey bee feeding off them in this time of the year when most other garden flowers are sleeping – so its everyone’s friend.

We’ve planted them at the base of a row of native Hop bushes (Dodonaea viscosa) which will eventually be hedged tight, with all the prunings being fed to our goats.

How to prune

In order to keep this glorious colour and fresh looking foliage coming back again and again, you need to prune them *hard* once a year. All you need to do is cut all the one year old growth to the ground once you see their flowers dying and fresh, new shoots coming out of the base.

The flowers start to fade towards the end of winter – this is the time to prune them. 

A fresh shoot (white stem) next to an older shoot (purple stem)

If you look to the base of the plant, you’ll see new shoots popping up next to the older shoots as seen above. Simply cut all the old shoots off at ground level. Because I wait for the shoots to come, I never have any bare ground. Below you can see a freshly pruned shrub in the foreground and an older one about to be pruned in the background.

Edit: A very helpful person on social media pointed out that they wait until there’s no risk of frost happening in their region before cutting the old growth out. So might not cut it until mid/late spring. We have a warm(er) microclimate in Hobart, close to the ocean, so don’t have serious frost issues. 

How to propagate from cuttings

You’ll be left with *a lot* of vegetation. Instead of just throwing this in the compost or chook run, you can make many, many cuttings from it to grow more plants. Because you can never have too many Salvias.

To propagate salvia from cuttings, cut a piece of the hardwood from the old wood with 4 – 5 nodes showing. Nodes are the part of a plant stem from which leaves or roots emerge, often forming a slight swelling. Make sure you have a node near the bottom of the stem.

Strip all the leaves from stems. As you can see below, I’ll often leave one small leaf at the top to help photosynthesise. But if any of the leaves start to wilt and die, nip them off and don’t worry, the cutting will still strike :-).

A cutting with a small leaf left on the top and 7 nodes. 

You can then plant up to 5 cuttings in each pot. Once they start setting roots in the warmth of spring you can move them up into their own pots to grow nice and big before eventually putting them into the garden.

For this batch I made the potting mix out of 40% compost (for nutrients) and 60% coco peat (to hold onto moisture) as this is all I had available. Usually you’d also put some sand in there for good drainage – but these are hardy cuttings that don’t need pampering.

And that’s it. I now have 65 Salvia Leucantha cuttings which will grow into vigorous bushes of glory.  And no, that’s not too many – I will happily home them all throughout our garden.

 

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