An Urban Permaculture Home

A beautiful photo story of an urban home Jane Hilliard from Designful and I (Hannah) designed together and that’s just been finished!

But first a little “before” photo. The site was 97% grass with an old double car garage (which was replaced with the small house), a few raised garden beds growing rosemary and weeds, one gloriously old and special apricot tree and a couple of dead’ish fruit trees.

The clients were a grandmother, her daughter and her two teenage kids all lived together in the main house and wanted to build a small house for grandma to move into so they can all grow old *together*. They wanted no grass, a low maintenance edible and beautiful garden. You can see the design we completed for them and read their vision statement below.

.

Vision statement: “Our urban garden is productive, low maintenance and beautiful. It is where we forage for food, enjoy the view and each other’s company.”

This is what guided us throughout the design process to create this…

The central bed beneath the existing apricot tree has a baby food forest planted in it – this a multilayered, perennial plant system. This includes layers of white sage shrubs, globe artichokes, comfrey, a border of sweet alice flowers and a groundcover of prostrate rosemary. I’m looking forward to seeing it in 12 months time when it’ll be a flurry of thriving green layers!

The raised veggie beds on the left are for annual vegetables and the fence directly behind them has cable wire which the young passionfruit vines will grow up and along – soaking up the hot sun hitting the fence. On the far right are some existing rose bushes with a floral understory of mixed daisies – yes, even permaculture values flowers of all types for beauty and the bees (they need to eat too).

The bed with the steeping stones is also based off a food forest model with ground covers of mixed edible herbs, sweet alice flowers, mixed currants, native Hardenbergia vine growing up the funky vertical structure and one blueberry shrub (out of shot). The Hardenbergia will eventually create some “soft” privacy between the two homes, creating different garden spaces/rooms.

A baby native Hardenbergia

This bed leads around the west side of the house to the communal compost station shared between the two houses.

Where you’ll find this worm farm made from a recycled bath and hardwood timber.

The northern patio area (seen below) welcomes sunlight into the house and creates a warm, protected microclimate to grow grape vines up the fence line and eventually beneath the laserlite roofing. This will provide summer shade (and food) while still allowing winter sun into the space once the grape’s drop their leaves in late autumn/early winter.

Baby grapes getting ready to grow up that whole fence!

The paths are intentionally generous to allow for easy movement between the two houses and visiting grandkids to run and ride their bikes round and round and round.

The new gate cut into the side of the existing fence to access the new small house is just so special and inviting…

You walk straight into this…

The site that welcomes the residents home every day.

Me with Danny Lees and Sam (from Earth and Wood), being our best smiley selves – eating cake with one of the delightful clients to celebrate completion.

  • Special thanks to Jordan Davis for the photos.
  • If you’re looking for a skilled and friendly landscaper trained in permaculture, talk to Danny from Earth and Wood: 0468 667 633 (website coming soon).
  • For more information on the building side of things, contact Designful.
  • If you’d like to work with us to design your house and landscape, drop us a line at hello@goodlifpermaculture.com.au
4 Comments

Tagasaste (tree lucerne): Friend or Foe?

Tagasaste or tree lucerne (Cytisus proliferus), is a small evergreen tree that grows 3-6m high (depending on soil and rain) and is a popular plant for people looking to regenerate poor soils and feed livestock.  It’s indigenous to the dry volcanic slopes of the Canary Islands and was introduced to Australia some time around 1879 when seeds where sent from the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, England to the Adelaide Botanic Gardens.

Image from Pastures Australia

It has a varied reputation across Australia. While some farmers and land holders love it and swear by it for its incredible ability to grow in the shittiest of shittiest soils and provide nutritious fodder for their livestock – others dedicate their lives to removing what can become an invasive species if left unmanaged. So if you’re looking to start a lively conversation with folks who only want natives in Australia, this plant will deliver just that.

Permaculture has some baggage around spreading weeds. I’ve heard people say things like “permaculture is nothing but a strategy to spread weeds” and “permaculture gardeners are messy, they’re just propagating invasive species and they’re so lazy they let them get out of control.”

I’m sure sometimes this has been true. But I bet $5 (I’m not loaded) that when it comes to spreading invasive plants, I reckon ornamental gardeners have more to answer to than permaculture gardeners. I write this as I look out across a hillside of “native” bush which has thick understory of cotoneaster. A local who’s lived here since the 1960s told me that after the devastating 1967 fires that literally burnt most of Hobart, cotoneaster was one of the few plants that thrived in a burnt landscape, so ornamental gardeners planted it. Fast forward to now and it has firmly integrated itself into our whole peri-urban bushland – it’s become naturalised. I should know, as every day I harvest large branches of it for our goats. That and hawthorn – the other ornamental weed that’s making itself at home in local bushlands.

But this is not a blog about who’s a worse gardener or land holder. It’s a little dive into our relationship with plants and how we respond to the inevitable traveling of plants from one continent to another and the naturalisation that occurs after plants exist for decades, thriving in particular climates and soils.

I sit on the fence with this one. We live in urban Hobart where plants such as ornamental weeds including cotoneaster, willow, ivy, privet, and mirror bush (to name a few) are fostered in private gardens. As small-town-Hobart is also tightly hugged by bush, there are also a range of “environmental weeds” such as gorse, tagasaste and boneseed that *pop up everywhere*. I do believe that to remove all these weeds is impossible now. Their seeds are in the soil waiting for the right conditions to grow. Most, if not all – have naturalised, meaning they’re here to stay and now it’s up to us in how we respond to them.

Before we go any further, let me be very clear that I do not advocate actively introducing ornamental or environmental weeds into areas that don’t have them. For example properties neighbouring national parks, wild grasslands, pristine coastlines or vibrant water ways should be protected and maintained for the precious, unique ecosystems that they are. For these places, the Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment (DPIPWE)  promote planting native “tagasaste alternatives” to get a similar function, specifically Prickly box (Bursaria spinosa) and hop bush (Dodonaea viscosa) in dry areas and local Tasmanian native acacias for high rainfall areas.

But for urban and peri-urban areas where weeds are naturalised, wouldn’t it be interesting to look at how we can co-exist and evolve side and side? Again, I’m dead keen on maintaining native biodiversity *everywhere*. I’m just not keen on spending the rest of my life poisoning weedy plants in the name of native is best and everything else must die. 

So what do we do in our own garden? Tagasaste has popped up everywhere. We pulled out most the baby trees as we don’t need 1000 of them. However, we saved around 10 and interplanted them between our fruit and nut trees to act as nurse trees for the next 5-10 years or so. Nurse tree functions vary, in this case the tagasaste is fixing nitrogen into the soil (improving its health) and growing more quickly than the fruit and nut trees – therefore providing eventual wind protection (we have gnarly winds). As a major side bonus, they’re already providing fodder for our goats who love the fresh branches and leaves. You can see its nutritional benefits for livestock outlined below.

Comparison of tagasaste foliage with other common stock feeds

Chart from Permaculture Plants, Jeff Nugent & Juilia Boniface – sorry about the bad scan. 

Let it be know this is the only “environmental weed” we’ve actively fostered on our property. I’m always pulling out baby boneseed and gorse. We happen to have inherited an old windbreak made up on cotoneasta and pittosporum which we’ve chosen to keep due to those gnarly winds I mentioned above. Other than this, we plant only natives and fruit/nut trees and diverse shrubs.

So is tagasaste a friend or foe? I love and respect all plants and all unique ecosystems.  At the end of the day it comes down to your environmental and social context. In our case, tagasaste is a friend, but a bloody well managed one.

5 Comments

Cold Frame Gardening

Recently, we built a much anticipated, beautiful bit of infrastructure for our garden – a cold frame.

This is a welcome addition to any cool temperate garden, where we’re all constantly working on creating warm microclimates to extend our season to get tomatoes earlier and longer, reliable eggplants and abundant basil.

Cold frames can be really compact and small, so are also a great option for people who don’t have a large enough space for a hot house or polytunnel. We still have plans for a hot house one day (specifically for oranges and bulk ginger), but in the meantime we have this 7m x 1m cold frame for annual vegetables and herbs.

What did we build it from & where did we locate it?

We built it from green (fresh) hardwood timber from a lovely bloke’s bush block in Franklin (southern Tasmania) and polycarbonate sheeting.

We located it up against a north facing rock wall (south facing for folks in the northern hemisphere) so it soaks up the hot sun and acts as thermal mass, retaining the heat for longer to benefit the crops growing  in front of it.

Things to know about building with hardwood timber for garden beds

  • Eventually it will rot – but not for around 10 years (approximately).
  • If you can access it and afford it, Cypress macrocarpa timber is the most durable timber to use in the landscape. We couldn’t afford it, so are using a mixture of Eucalyptus trees.
  • To extend the timber’s lifespan, you can line the sleepers with non-toxic plastic to prevent direct contact between the timber and soil. While not shown in these photos (sorry) this is what we’ve done.
  • We’ve built the frame so the timber sleepers can be removed and replaced as needed.
  • The actual frame has separate timber pickets on each upright to stabilise the whole frame (seen in photo above right). Eventually we’ll replace these with steel star pickets – again to extend the life of the frame.
  • You could just not use timber and use bricks/stone for the edging and steel for the frame with concrete footings – all maximum durability! We’re just using what we have available to us.

Once the whole frame is built, we aerated the soil with a broadfork – just use a standard garden fork if that’s all you have.

After this aerating process, we put down a layer of cardboard to slow weeds coming back (they *will* come) and then a good layer of top soil around 200mm deep to match the height of the sleepers and a sprinkle of compost on top.

And then we plant!

Normally people in Tasmania plant their tomatoes after “show day”, October 25th. Traditionally this is when you can safely say there’ll be no more frost – although occasionally there’ll be a “freak” frost. This year we planted a small batch of tomatoes on September 21st. One whole month early – we have big smiles on our face in anticipation of eating tomatoes sooner rather than later. We have another batch of tomatoes we’ll plant after show day in different open air garden beds.

In another few weeks, we’ll plant basil seedlings all around these tomatoes to make use of all the available space.

Importantly, the lids can open at different heights to let small or large amounts of air in. This is important as on hot, sunny days you need to ensure that air flow is maintained, otherwise there’s the risk of fostering fungal diseases.

As we get really strong winds at our house we put a lock on each lid. One year our whole broccoli crop was literally blown out of the ground – so we take our wind-proofing pretty seriously around here. You can see our lock of choice to the right.

Eating with the seasons is a wonderful way to eat. That first tomato of the season tastes really *amazing* after 6 months of no fresh tomatoes. But this little bit of infrastructure reduces that waiting time – some might call it cheating, we just call it clever :-).

5 Comments

How To Make Bees Wax Wraps!

We’ve been using beeswax wraps for quite a while now and like them so much we decided to start making our own.  We’ve tried two approaches, the first just 100% beeswax from our beehives and the second with beeswax, pine resin and olive oil.  The wax and resin makes a  better wrap, albeit with a bit more work… Tally ho, here’s what we did.

Beeswax is harvested from our bees.  We melt the harvested wax with water then sieve through a sieve then muslin.  Let set and drain off the water, This leaves fairly clean beeswax. You can also just go buy some.

That yucky wax and cappings and occasionally dead bee turns into clean wax, ready to be grated.

Frida – getting in on the action 🙂

100% Beeswax Wrap

We experimented with simply grating beeswax on some cloth and putting it in the oven.  Simple, a beeswax wrap.

This works, however it’s as sticky as we’d like it, being unable to mould and stick to complex shapes.  That said its good enough to keep a blue cheese in a carefully colour-coded blue wrap.

The Pine Resin (rosen) Wrap

Enter the beeswax and resin wrap.  Mixing beeswax, pine resin and a bit of olive oil creates a superior wrap.  The method is fairly strait forward.

  • 5 parts beeswax
  • 5 parts rosin
  • 1 part olive oil

Pine Resin is  the sap of pine trees that is used as part of its healing process.  You can harvest your own which we tried by visiting various pine trees in the hood and scraping dried globules of wax.  It was pretty slow going for me (not that many pine trees around here) and harvested around 50 grams in an hour.  At some point, I decided to go and buy some from the art supply store for $50 for 500 grams. Enough to last us a loooong time.

The wax, resin and olive oil is is placed in a jar or saucepan in a double boiler (another saucepan of water).  It takes a few hours for the whole mass to incorporate.  The pine resin forms a toffee like texture for a while before dissolving into the wax.

Once the mixture is melted and combined it can be used immediately or stored for later, simply re-melt at a later point.

Fun Fact – beeswax and pine resin makes ….pine salve, apparently good for wounds and abrasions

The fabric.  We searched the material box and also scoured the tip-shop for nice cotton scraps (thanks to our friend Tom who works there).  We washed the cotton and dried each piece of material.

To apply the wax mixture we used a paint brush to paint onto the cotton.  Under each section of cotton we put some greaseproof paper to stop it sticking to the table.

On some materials the wax mixture did not penetrate the material.  We placed each wrap in the oven at 100 degrees C for around 5 minutes.  This let the wax mix fully into the wrap.

Afterwards we trimmed the rough edges of the wraps to clean them up a bit

How cool is this stuff.  Its tacky, its sticky, it moulds to shape and holds in place.  Oh, it smells kinda nice too, a bit like a sauna 😊  Maybe we should make some for christmas presents?

10 Comments

Broad Bean Rust

Our little broad bean crop has rust caused by the pathogen Uromyces viciae-fabae. I noticed it weeks ago and despite my best intentions, didn’t get around to treating it in its early stages.

Where does it come from? Generally from infected seed. We did introduce some new seed this year and suspect it came from here. However, it also travels on wind – so it could arrive from your neighbour’s garden. Prevention of rust includes making sure there’s good air flow in the crop, having clean seed and treating it as early as possible.

Two DIY treatment options include spraying the infected plants with 1 part milk to 10 parts water – this is the same mix used on powdery mildew for zucchinis, cucumbers and other members of the cucurbit family. The second option is mixing up 2 litres of water, adding a few drops of vegetable oil (or other type of oil), a couple of drops of dishwashing liquid and 4 teaspoons of bicarb. Mix well and spray on infected plants. The bicarb soda makes the leaves alkaline which can prevent fungal spore development.

Importantly, you need to apply these treatments when its not raining heavily (or about to) so they have a chance of sticking around on the plant surface long enough to be effective.

This diagram on the left from Agriculture Victoria outlines the life cycle of the rust and really emphasises the importance of having clean seed to prevent it from recurring season after season.

We wont save any seed for planting from this crop. Instead will harvest what we can, eat the beans (fresh and dried) and make sure the plant matter is taken out of our nutrient cycling systems in our property. We’re fortunate to have a local council with a commercial composting facility – this is where we take any diseased plants as their large, hot composting eradicates any pathogens so aren’t passed on into the mature compost product. 

As our plants are predominantly being impacted at their base, I’m hoping the hundreds of flowers up top have a chance to turn into beans before too much rust spreading occurs. Fingers crossed.

We’d love to hear about any treatment options you’ve had success with – so comment below to share the goodness :-).

2 Comments

How To Rodent-Proof Your Compost Bin

If you’ve got unwanted rodents living in your compost bin a simple and effective way of keeping them out is by adding vermin mesh onto the bottom of it.

Vermin mesh (aka rodent mesh)  is made from thick wire (around 2mm) and has small squares that baby rodents can’t squeeze through. While it does start to rust after 5 years or so, it’s an effective way of composting food scraps without inviting all the rodents in your neighbourhood to move in at the same time.

Vermin mesh

The first step is to pick up some vermin mesh from your local hardware shop – we got it in a roll of 5m as we know we’ll use it for bits and pieces around our property. Some shops will sell it by the metre – just call around until you find the best place.

Roll it out, place your compost bin on top of it and cut off the right amount you need, keeping a few inches available around the whole bin.

Next up, cut the vermin mesh into a rough circle shape and then simply start folding the mesh over the edges of the compost bin.

I used my boots to help press it down firmly. It doesn’t have to be perfect – just strong enough that it grips onto the edge, which is really easy. You want to be able to take it off again (when your compost’s mature) so I made it reasonably loose.

And that’s it! So quick and easy. The only tools you need are some good wire cutters.

From here you can locate your compost bin somewhere convenient in your garden. We’ve placed ours near our chooks and goats who we feed every morning, this makes it easy for us to place food scraps in there on the same trip – effeciency plus!

You can also dig the compost bin into the soil 200mm to create another barrier to the rodents from getting in – but generally the vermin mesh is enough to do the job. 

As you can see below, we’ve got a second bin with a lid on it to store dry carbon materials. This makes it easy for us to add a small bucket of carbon with each bucket of food scraps that goes in. We also make sure we chop up our food scrasp to the size of a 20 cent coin to help them break down more quickly.

For something that take less than an hour to do, you’ll be kicking yourself you didn’t do this years ago. Happy rodent-free composting!

10 Comments

How To Make Goat’s Feta

We’re lucky enough to have a milking goat on our property – a splendid toggenburg called Gerty and her daughter Jilly Love Face (who we don’t milk). You can read about our urban goat system over here. When you have milking animals, thoughts rapidly move to….what do I do with all this milk.  For us (and most others) the answer is cheese.

I’ve (Anton) only been seriously making cheese for around 6 months and finally feel comfortable about sharing our approach to making feta – watch this space for other cheese recipes in coming months. We use raw goats milk as we believe it’s healthier and definitely tastier than anything the shop can provide. Gerty currently milks around 2 litres per day.  So over a week we drink/make yoghurt on around 5 litres and the remainder we transform into cheeses.  Currently we alternate between making a batch of feta one week and then a batch of a harder storing cheeses the next week.

Here’s how I make feta…

Clean the kitchen and get materials together

We try and clean the kitchen before starting.  This gives you access to surfaces to put stuff on, as well as reducing the chance of contamination.  The key utensils I use are a saucepan, large spoon, thermometers, measuring spoons, muslin/mesh, kettle.  I also use milk, rennet, culture, and acid sanitiser.

Clean the pot

We clean all the materials that will be touching the milk and cheese.  We use both boiling water and/or acid sanitiser.  The acid sanitiser is pretty handy because you don’t need to re-boil the kettle all the time.  It effectively kills the bugs from 2 minutes of contact.  I generally mix up around 1 litre of sanitiser (uses around 1 ml of the acid solution) and it is enough for the days cheesemaking action.  I get mine from the local homebrew store.

Measure the milk

Its good to know how many litres of milk you are using, as this effects how much culture to add as well as how much coagulant you use.  This batch uses 11 x 750ml bottles of milk – around 8 litres.  From this 8 Litres of milk I get around 1.4 kg of Feta.  If I was making harder, pressed cheese the yield would be lower, between 800g-1kg of cheese from this much milk.

Add the culture

Cultures are used to “ripen the milk”.  Effectively it acidifies the milk and makes it ready for the effect of the coagulants. I have experimented using natural aging and pre-packaged cultures.  As a beginner cheesemakers we have had more success with the prepacked cultures but look forward to learning more about using natural cultures.  That said, we use raw milk and there is undoubtedly a lot of extra microbial action occurring, which helps on improving flavour and aging.

In this case we are adding two “dashes” of “Flora Danica” culture.  We stir it in the milk with a clean spoon.

Yes we have funny little spoons with words like “dash” and “pinch” written on them.  Handy when you are using measurements like 1/8 of a teaspoon.

Warm the milk

The milk is heated up to around 32 degrees C.  To do this, I put the saucepan in the sink and add very hot tap water to the sink (around 60 degrees C).  Over the next twenty minutes this tends to bring the milk up to around 32 degrees and reduce the temperature of the sink water as well.

Use any pot you have, it doesn’t have to be a particular type of pot. 

I keep the milk in the sink at 32 degrees for 30-60 minutes.  I add or remove hot water to the sink to keep the temperature moderated.  It helps to have two good thermometers.  I have one in the milk and one in the sink.  I can monitor the temperature difference and add the right amount of hot water.

Add the coagulant

I use calf rennet, mainly because we were given a jar of rennet to use (waste not want not).  Maybe in the future we will try some vegetarian DIY coagulants such as thistle or fig.  I carefully measure the rennet using a little 1 ml syringe and some cooled boiled water (to remove chlorine).  For the 8l of milk we use 1 ml of rennet.

The rennet/water mix is added to the milk.  I gently add the rennet and stir with a “gentle up and down motion”.  This is so the milk and rennet gets mixed, but does not maintain momentum.  This will stop the curd tearing as it forms.

Clean break

After around thirty minutes the milk starts to coagulate.  This is the classic “curds and whey”.  At a point where the curd cleaves in a sharp line is called “clean break”.  How long it takes to achieve the clean break will depend on how acidic the milk has turned and how much and fresh the rennet is.

Cut the Curd

The curd is cut into as even sized cubes as possible (around 1.5cm cubes).  This is done by cutting into strips, then columns.  Finally the knife is turned diagonally to cut sideways.  The curds are very delicate at this stage so take it slowly and gently.

Curd “strips

Curd “columns”

Curd “diagonals”

 

Rest

The curds are left to rest for around 10 minutes.  As this happens whey drains away from the curd and the curd shrinks a little.

Stir

The curds are gently stirred for around 15 minutes and rested for another 5 minutes.  Any curds that are not “cube” shape can be broken with the edge of the spoon.  I am trying to make the curds a fairly even size.  As I stir the curd it will shrink to around half of its original size.  Many hard cheeses use a similar process up to this point, however the curd is slowly heated and stirred for some time (maybe another blog)

Strain

Pour the curds and whey through a muslin mesh or a cheese cloth.  I use “grain bags” that are also used for homebrewing.  They have a tight effective weave, perfect for this job.

The curds are hung to strain for 6-10 hours.  If I am making the cheese at night I leave it overnight, and during the day I drain until just before bed.

Brine

The cheese is now cut into strips around 1 inch thick and placed in a saturated brine.

The Curd strips and then placed in a saturated brine.  A saturated brine has all the salt it can absorb in suspension.  I salt the cheese for around 4-6 hours, any exposed pieces are sprinkled with course salt.

Storing

The cheese is then transferred to a container with around 40% brine and 60% whey.  The container is stored in the fridge and pieces are removed as desired for eating – yum!  The cheese can be stored in the fridge in brine for months, although each batch lasts us around 2 weeks

Texture

The texture of the end feta is influenced by many of the steps taken along the way.  For a smoother “Danish style” feta, I stir the curd less, drain for shorter periods and salt with a less salty brine.

Want to know more?

  • We have been reading Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking by Gianclis Caldwell, Chelsea Green Publishing  (Thanks to our mate Sam Cramer for the lend).
  • We’re looking forward to reading “The Art of Natural Cheesemaking  by David Asher!
  • We have purchased materials and cultures from Teros.eco in Hobart and cheesemaking.com.au
2 Comments

A Permaculture Holiday

A couple of months back I took myself on a little holiday to central Victoria. I left my family goats and garden and went and hung out with someone else’s goats, family and garden and it was good. Where to? To Melliodora – home of David Holmgren and Sue Dennet *and* the mob from Milkwood, Nick, Kirsten and Ash.  You’ll also find permaculture illustrator, Brenna Quinlan living there in a tiny house. So yes, an unusually wonderful place to visit for a tired permaculturalist.

I spent my time planting some of their crops, harvesting crops, eating crops, patting goats, reading books (luxury), drinking tea, drinking cider and admiring a range of gardens. The wonderful thing about  admiring other’s gardens it that you don’t see any of the jobs that need to be done, just the beauty that’s been created.

Here’s some of my admiring I unearthed from my phone today – forgotten amongst hundreds of work photos from client’s properties. What a beautiful reminder of a brief, but beautiful holiday. I’m putting it here to remind you all to take a break and go admire gardens (in the company of amazing humans – or not) as needed.

The red soil garden 

Ash and I had a lot of quality time in the fig tree – one for the basket, three for me. 

David and Sue’s home flanked with their zone one veggie garden.

While in the region, I dropped by Artist As Family’s home to officially meet them in the flesh (we’ve been social media friends for a while) and drink tea.

Meg, Patrick and Woody live here and are a little bit extraordinary in how thoroughly they live their ethics. Their urban block is on the edge of town and pumping with food and community, but they’re not aiming for self sufficiceny – rather, community sufficiency.  So instead of trying to produce all their practical and emotional needs themselves, they’re working on fostering a regional community that lives lightly on this planet and tightly in each other’s connections. I love them.

  

And no – I didn’t take any photos of people (except Ash)  I was too relaxed to think about that. Of course now I wish I’d lined everyone up for at least one shot as it’s so rare you get to spend time with the people you admire most. Instead I have their gardens immortalised in film – which is the next best thing.

4 Comments

How To Make Ravioli

Home made ravioli is wonderfully simple. Ignore anyone who tells you that you need fancy equipment or ingredients – seriously. They are not helping you live your best life.

This is how we make ours. 

First we make a pasta dough – read how we do this other really simple process here. 

Pasta dough is simply eggs and flour – these days we use 100% buckwheat flour. 

While the dough’s resting in the fridge we make the filling. This can be pretty much anything you like. For this batch we made the filling from roast pumpkin, goats fetta and wild greens – all from the garden.

Importantly, we whizz the ingredients all up together as this helps them bind and the whole package is less likely to fall apart.

Some people do a meat based filler, others vegan – anything will work as long as it has good moisture content and isn’t too bulky (hence whizzing it up).

Put the mixture to one side while you get the pasta dough back out of the fridge (where it’s been resting for at least 20 mins).

Roll the dough out until its around 2mm thick (or thinner if your dough can handle it). You can roll it through a pasta machine if you have one, or just roll it by hand with a rolling pin (a wine bottle also works brilliantly).

Lay the sheets of pasta out on the table and cut them into rough sections with a butter knife. They don’t have to be exact at all – in fact the roughness of the shapes is part of their beauty.

Next up, put a big teaspoon’s worth of filling onto each section as shown below.

Have a cup of water nearby so you can dip your fingers in and gently moisten the edge of the pasta around the filling – not too much otherwise it’ll desolve into a bad mess.

Then you can fold each pasta section in half and press down the edges with a fork so it binds together – and looks pretty.

Now you’re ready to cook them. Bring a big pot of water to the boil and plop them all in. They’ll automatically sink when you first put them in, once they float (after a few minutes or so), they’re ready, Strain the hot water off them and eat immediately with your favourite tomato or herb sauce.

And that’s it!

Yes, it does take a bit longer than buying instand pasta or ravioli, but the taste will ensure you never go back. Life is too short for crap food.

Leave a comment

Urban Goat Keeping

We have two female toggenburg goats, Gerty (the mum) and her daughter Jilly Love Face.

Despite having some wonderful “goat friends” locally and in other parts of the country, I still found it hard to get information on how to set up our urban system which we did in September 2017. This is the blog I wish I could have read at the time – hopefully it helps a few folks out there looking to give urban goat keeping (and milking) a go.

Our context

Our main incentive to have goats is to be able to access ethical dairy. While we have just over 3/4 of an acre, we’re less than 3kms from Hobart city, so it’s very urban all around us. Our property is incredibly steep which meant we terraced it to form some functional spaces. Our two goats live on one of these terraces. They don’t free-range across the whole property as we have extensive vegetable gardens and large orchards they would destroy, instead we tether them around the garden at key points where they can eat grass and shrubs. We also take them for little walks down the local bush track to get some exercise.

The front gate leading into the goat yard. The chickens also share this space – that’s their blue house on the left. 

What goat breeds are good for small spaces?

The two breeds I know that are appropriate for this type of goat keeping are toggenburgs and saanens. I’m sure there are more, I just don’t know about them.

What do we feed them?

We feed our goats four main things, rolled barley, dry pasture hay, mixed oat/lucern chaff and a range of fresh fodder.

What fresh fodder? We have a lot of weedy bushland to the south of our property that’s on Council land. We harvest weeds from here and occasionally allow them to graze there (with us). We also chop and feed them fresh prunings from our weedy windbreak (featurning Cotoneaster and Pittosporum trees).

We also tether them around our garden on a 4m chain in key areas where they can eat grass, herbs and shrubs – but not our food crops.

Plus we’re growing fodder trees for them. This includes silver wattles and tagasaste (tree lucerne) that have self sewn on our land. We tansplant the baby seedlings to where we want them to grow and will prune them over the coming years to an appropriate shape for our garden. Here’s a list of plants you can and can’t feed your goats.

Mineral supplements: We also have a mineral lick permanently available in their shed, it has 16 ingredients ranging from copper, calcium, phosphorous, bentonite, iodine, iron and more.

I also have some seaweed meal I add into their feed bucket occasionally, however if they don’t want it, they’ll somehow manage to leave most of it in the bucket.

Interestingly, goats don’t eat everything. They’re incredibly fussy eaters and I spent a sh*t load of time working out their diet for our urban context. We’re now in a good rythym, but those first few months were hard work.

Frida with Jilly who’s being tethered near a comfrey patch for her munching pleasure. 

Gerty and Jilly eating the weedy banana passionfruit vine that’s trying to eat our house!

How big is their permanent yard?

Their permanent yard is approximately 70m2 which includes their shed.

Importantly, we make sure there’s always a thick layer of woodchips and/or straw on the ground so there’s never any risk of them being on bare soil or mud.

We’ve also arranged some timber pallets and logs for them to run and jump on – goats will get board if they don’t have an obstacle course they can play on.

Isn’t that a bit small?

It would be if that’s where they spent all their time. We also walk them and tether them around our garden, so they get a lot of diversity.

What about their fencing?

We don’t have an electric fence – just standard wallaby fencing with star pickets. This has been mostly fine – with one exception when Jilly was on heat* and somehow got out. We assume she jumped the fence, but we didn’t see it happen and it hasn’t happened again – fingers crossed.

*Goats turn into lunatics when their on heat – she’s since returned to her normal, chill – but perky self.

You can see the fence to the right – it’s a bit wavy as they like to scratch their backs on it. We just need to tighten it up a bit, otherwise it’s fine. 

What’s their milking shed like?

We built the shed from recycled timber, timber flitches and other materials including relocated slabs of concrete the excavator pulled up from our garden – this forms the floor (which has straw on top). The shed has three sections;

  1. The general hang out section which includes the milking stand,
  2. The food storage section (that they can’t access), and
  3. The pen, which is  a small room we put Jilly (the younger daughter) in while we milk Gerty to stop her from jumping all over us. When she was a baby, Jilly would spend each night in this pen – read next section for how this worked.

Our goat shed plan – not to scale

While we’ve planted lots of trees all around the goat yard, there’s currently no natural shade – hence the shade sales. Over this next year I’d like to make them another shade shelter as the summer’s are so hot here. 

Two 44 gallon drums for storing feed – keeps the rodents out of it. 

Jilly with the milking stand to her right

You can see the mineral lick and hay feeder to the right of the goats

How do you milk for yourselves and still have enough milk for the baby goat?

We keep Jilly and Gerty together all day, meaning when she was still feeding, Jilly could help herself to milk as needed. Every night around 9/10pm, I’d place her in the small pen (with straw and water) so she wouldn’t drink all the milk over night. Early each morning (at sunrise) I would then milk Gerty for our own use. Directly after this, I’d let Jilly out of her pen and they’d be together for the next 16 hours of so. This worked well up until Jilly was weaned…

How did we wean Jilly, the young goat?

We didn’t. We let Gerty (her mum) make this happen. Recently (in Autumn 2018) they were both on heat, as Jilly was only 7 months old (and we want to rest Gerty) we didn’t mate them with a buck. Interestingly, once they came off heat Gerty would no longer let Jilly anywhere near her teats.

This was great for us as we really didn’t have a way of weaning Jilly in such a small space. A common way of weaning kids is to put them in a separate paddock than their mums. They can still see each other and kiss noses, but nothing else. We don’t have this option in our space – so we’re quite releaved it happened naturally.

How do you treat worms and other health issues?

These two goats came off an organic goat farm where they were treated with herbs, minerals and good pasture/food. When they arrived, Jilly was just two days old and in perfect helath, while Gerty was a bit run down from being pregnant and living through a rough winter on pasture. She had a small section of staff on her udder which was spreading, was a bit under weight and had signs of worms. This is what we did…

Staff: After doing an enormous amount of research, spending too much time on goat forums and trying every natural remedy we could, we ended up treating her with zinc cream and lavender oil which our good friend and naturopath, Thea Webb, actually recommended. Within hours this treatment started working – to my absolute relief!

Weight: You can actually buy a product called “weight gain” for livestock, it’s a rich mix of high protein grains you add into your chaff mix. For unknown reasons Gerty would eat around it and not consume any. In small amounts (no more than .6kgs per day per goat) oats and barley are highly effective options as well. I initally ended up spending a bit too much money of organic oats (I panicked) and eventually learned rolled barley is a fraction of the price and just as effective. These days I mix in a small amount of barley (rolled) in with their chaff each morning and night.

Worms: I ended up getting a vet out to check out Gerty as her poo which was forming big clumps instead of small pellets and her eyelids were a pale pink when they should be a vibrant pink colour – both potential symptoms of worms. The vet tested her poo which showed she had small levels of barber pole worm – blood sucking parasites that cause anemia and even death. While they had previously been treated only with essential oils, minerals and fresh pasture, I chose to drench Gerty this one time (at least) as I was sooo out of my depth and wanted to get her back to top health asap. It worked really well and I’m relieved we went down that track. She started putting on weight easily, was a lot more perky and generally “happier”.

These days I’m on a preventative treatment program with worms. Every month I add organic oregano oil mixed with some water into their feed for one week on and one week off – I repeat this for two cycles. So far this appears to be working well. I’m still on a steep learning curve with goat health, so watch this space for more preventative approaches.

How economical is having a milking goat compared to just buying dairy products?

Buying organic, ethical dairy from farms we believe in isn’t overly cheap – and neither should it be. We would easily spend around $50 per week on milk, yoghurt and some cheese.

Buying food for our two goats for one month is roughly around $150, so a bit cheaper than buying organic, ethical dairy*. However we (happily) spend between 30 minutes – 1 hour a day with our goats, so it takes a lot of time – as they should. If we were to price our time in looking after them, then it isn’t economical at all.

But I don’t believe economics should be the only way to measure whether something’s worthwhile doing. Conventional dairy is cheap because it has nasty practices that have negative impacts on the environment and disastrous ramifications for animal wellbeing.

*Update – August 2018: We’ve now stopped buying in feed bales as they weren’t eating them. Instead they have a chaff/barley mix and fresh fodder (tree branches and grass). This has bought the monthly feeding fee down to approximately $70. 

Should everyone keep goats if they want ethical dairy?

No. I don’t think everyone should run out and get dairy goats as it’s not for the faint hearted. They’re very real, big, beautiful animals that need a lot of attention. I think for most people, they should just spend a bit more and buy organic, ethical dairy – in Tasmania, that’s Elgaar Dairy.  We chose to have goats for a few reasons;

  1. I couldn’t think of a more ethical way to access dairy. On this micro level – our goats get a lot of attention and care. 
  2. We work from home, this means we can really invest in our landscape and the animals that live here. 
  3. I love goats and want to spend a lot of time with them. They’re not just milk suppliers for us – they’re wonderful, caring, smart animals to hang out with – better company than a lot of humans.

A few other things

  • We only milk once a day – in the morning.  Currently we’re getting around 2 litres each morning – this will slow down over winter.
  • With the milk we get we make yoghurt, feta cheese, halloumi cheese and ricotta. Update – Aug 2018- Anton’s now also making hard Tomme cheese and blue cheeses.
  • We feed our goats an oat/lucerne/barley mix twice a day for breaky and dinner.
  • Every 6 – 8 weeks we clip their hooves, it’s such an awkward, hard job that’s our least favourite thing to do (just a little heads up for you).
  • Now Jilly is almost adult size, walking them takes two people as if they get spooked by a car – they can *really* run. They’re stronger than me.
  • If you have small kids of the human type, watch them around the goats. Our goats like to head but our 3 year old Frida as she’s smaller than them (and really loud).
  • You can never have just one goat – you have to have at least two, otherwise they can get depressed (seriously). And no, having chickens or other types of animals doesn’t replace the company of another goat – it has to be another goat.
  • Unlike the goat milk you buy from the shop, fresh goat milk doesn’t taste “goaty” at all. It’s quite sweet, clean and darn tasty. The goaty taste comes after around 5 days (ish), it’s not a bad thing at all – but I personally don’t like it very much.
  • Will we have goats forever? It’s highly possible, but we’re very realistic about it all. If our goats obviously weren’t happy and needed a different context we’d give it to them, i.e. find a farm for them to live on. We only want a wonderful life for them.

Want to know more?

27 Comments