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Posts from the ‘Design’ category

Vote For Gardening Australia!

Hello Dear Friends,

I have two bits of exciting news to share with you, which can be summed up with Costa’s (host of Gardening Australia) gorgeous smile below…

  1. After being a guest presenter on Gardening Australia since 2019, I recently became an official permanent member of their team. Oh the joy!!! This is very exciting to be part of such a stellar team and show, bringing joy and gardening skills to many.
  2. In other news, Gardening Australia has been nominated for a Logie award – Woohoo! All we need now is your vote to win! If you love gardening (who doesn’t)and the life and love it brings , vote for us here by 7:30pm, June 19th.  Thanks so much in advance!

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The Hot Box

When it comes to energy efficient hacks, the humble hot box is as simple as it gets.

The hot box is exactly what it sounds like, and is how you can cook quite a lot of your food after being initially heated on the stove for a short time. But why bother?

Australian households are responsible for around 20% of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions – quite significant. And while we desperately need big industry and government to lead the way in slashing emissions, we can still do our bit in our own context as well. Including in your kitchen.

Source – Your Home

To get hot boxing, bring your dish of choice to the boil – this could be rice, veggie stew, anything. Once it’s boiled, turn off the heat and place it in an insulated box where it will continue to cook in its own heat. You can then walk away and go about your own business until you’re ready to eat! I love this method as (a) you’ll never burn rice again and (b) it saves you time and (c) reduces the amount of energy you use. So many wins!

You can see a basic diagram I’ve drawn (from my book) on how it works below and can also watch the full process over here on your Good Life For All youtube series. Enjoy!


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Winter Property Tour

Today I’m launching a new series of weekly Youtube videos. I’m calling this series Good Life For All as I’m really keen to help share practical skills for building home and community resilience towards a climate safe and just future. Because while we have an incredibly abundant and good life – I’m much more interested in helping everyone have their own version of a good life.

So every Monday morning I’ll drop a new video with me showing you a skill in our garden, community or kitchen to help you live a good life, anywhere, anytime.

This first video is a winter property tour so you can get a sense of where we are and what we’re doing. There’s still so much to do on our property – but it’s already punching above its weight, providing us (and our loved ones) with food and deep joy.

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The Good Life: How To Grow A Better World – My book!

Some exciting news!

I wrote a book, it’s arriving in bookstores on August 31st and is now available for pre-order here. 

The Good Life: How To Grow A Better World is all about how to live a good life in the face of the climate emergency. 

From growing your own food to composting, building a rocket stove to car sharing, this book is centred around showing people how living an ordinary life can make an extraordinary contribution to countering the climate emergency. Whether you have a large farm, a half-acre, a backyard, a tiny balcony or no balcony at all, there are tips and tricks to suit everyone.

I also want to say that writing this book was an incredible experience for me. It’s been a steep learning curve (to say the least) and also an exercise in vulnerability and backing myself. In a world which doesn’t always foster either of those things, I’m equal parts stoked and terrified to stretch myself – all to help grow a better world *for all*.

If you’d like to hear about events happening related to the book launch – join our monthly newsletter here.

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Home Harvest Edible Garden Tour

Earlier this year we partnered with the City of Hobart our local Council, Eat Well Tasmania and Sustainable Living Tasmania to run our second Home Harvest edible garden tour around Hobart.

Thirteen gardens opened their gates and welcomed in over a 1000 people across the day (in a covid safe way) to look, learn and leave inspired to do something similar for their own contexts.

Excitingly, part of the project included having local filmmaker Anna Cadden put together a short video to show others some stunning gardens (and gardeners) and why we worked hard to make it happen. My other hope is that some of you folks go “oh I could organise something like that in my own community” – because you can – all you need is a handful of enthusiastic gardeners willing to open their gates :-).

So watch on and get excited about doing your own version of this in your neighbourhood!

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International Compost Week

Howdy Folks,

Just popping in with a little heads up this it’s currently International Compost Week! Running from May 2 – 8th, it’s a time to tune into what’s happening with you, food waste and composting. Maybe it’s not going so well for you right now (we’ve all been there), but friends it doesn’t have to be so. Composting can be a glorious activity – god for you and the planet…

How’s it good for the planet?

Once food waste ends up in landfill it rots and becomes anaerobic, which transforms the organic matter in the food into methane and carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, methane is 25 times more harmful to our atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

In Australia alone food waste is responsible for the following every year.

  • $20 billion is lost to the economy through food waste.
  • Up to 25 percent of all vegetables produced don’t leave the farm—31 percent of carrots that don’t leave the farm equate to a cost of $60 million.
  • The total cost of agricultural food losses to farmers is $2.84 billion.
  • Households throw away 3.1 million tonnes of edible food, that’s close to 17,000 grounded 747 jumbo jets.
  • Food waste costs to households vary from $2,200 to $3,800.[i]
  • 35% of the average household bin is food waste.[ii]

It’s all a little bit shit and bad. But the good news is this is one of the easiest things we can change in our home and garden spaces. Check out the resources below to help you along the way.

Free Compost Resources

  • Our little compost book: A while back I wrote a compost book for the City of Hobart which has since been picked up by the neighbouring Kingborough Council. It’s jam packed full of info to get you started or keep you going on your compost journey – you can download it here.
  • Our food waste video: Last year I made this video (amongst others) to help people activate their landscapes and turn their kitchen waste into garden gold – check it out here! 

No matter where you are there’s almost always a compost solution for everyone. Just do a little bit of learning and have a crack – the Earth thanks you in advance!



[i] https://www.environment.gov.au/system/files/resources/4683826b-5d9f-4e65-9344-a900060915b1/files/national-food-waste-strategy.pdf

[ii] https://www.ozharvest.org/what-we-do/environment-facts/#:~:text=In%20Australia%3A&text=Over%205%20million%20tonnes%20of,household%20bin%20is%20food%20waste.

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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!


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…


  • 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.


  • 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. 

Edit: We’ve since switched to feeding them chicken pellets (crushed up grain) as the chooks eventually worked out how to “mine” the grain mix to only eat their favourite bits and leave the rest on the ground for the birds. The pellets have been working for us really well as they’re all the same size and look. 

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. 


Dirty Hands Composting Cooperative

Recently I interviewed Tom Crawford from the Dirty Hands Composting Cooperative about exactly why he spends so much of his time harvesting food scraps from the urban landscape. Based at the Hobart City Farm, this enterprise is helping to turn a problem into a nutrient-dense solution!

What is Dirty Hands?

“Dirty Hands is a cooperative based business that collects food scraps from cafes and restaurants around nipaluna/Hobart and processes it into compost. We operate in collaboration with a few community gardens and provide compost in return for their use of space.”

Who’s involved and what are their roles?

“Currently we have three people involved in the business. Tom is the founder who started through a Hobart City Council grant in 2016. Gabriela has been involved for the past year and helped Tom evolve the business into a financially sustainable operation. We also have Marissa who has been helping with collections and processing for the past three months. All three are involved in the weekly collection and processing of food scraps into compost.”

Tom Crawford and Gabriela O’Leary – photo by the ABC.

When did you start?

“In May 2016 the idea of a community composting hub was first submitted to Hobart City Council when applying for a grant with the support of Hobart City Farm and Source Community Wholefoods. As of August 2016 the grant was successful. The first collection began in November 2016, and continued ever since. And after over two years of running a free service to businesses, the operations have managed to transition to a fully paid service for the past six months.”

Just wanted to pipe in here and say that this is such an achievement! Making these types of projects financially viable and sustainable is always a bit tricky – so Tom and co are doing an amazing job in this regard. 

What are you looking to achieve?

“The main aims of the business are to reduce waste to landfill; utilise the resources of organic materials and returning it to the soil; and creating employment with a social and environmental focus. Building community awareness around waste reduction through composting is also a big focus.”

Is it hard work to set up and manage?

“The work is at times challenging but rewarding due to the aims being achieved. The collection can be frustrating due to logistics of organising buckets and “tetrising” the buckets into the vehicle, and getting stuck in traffic is less than ideal. The composting is a physical job but satisfying when you get to see the amazing final product: rich dark compost. Cleaning buckets can also be a job that lacks inspiration, but it is part of the bigger picture, and we’re sure that the customers appreciate it.

One of the hardest things for us to do was switching from a free service to paid as paying extra to do the right thing doesn’t always work out. It can be really challenging for businesses as composting is an added pressure for the hospitality sector. But we have a fantastic group of businesses that we work with, and we are always keen for more to join.”

Some of the many food scrap buckets!

What’s your favourite thing about running Dirty Hands?

“We love that the business is set up on cooperative principles, meaning that we all have an equal say in what goes on, as well as equal pay. We also really appreciate working with Hobart City Farm and gaining all of their insights. And WORMS!!! Worms are the most incredible animals, turning food-scraps into gold! The worms have made our operations so much easier due to less physical turning of the compost.

An example of just one of the large worm farms that are built from rodent-proof corrugated iron

What’s your hope for the future?

“We hope to continue building our operation, evolving with the changes and hopefully reach the point where we can transition to an actual cooperative business that can provide a quality composting service to a larger community of people and businesses, whilst staying true to our aims and getting our hands dirty!”

See more about this project here…

Learn how to compost at home…

*All images are provided by Dirty Hands, ABC or The Mercury Newspaper. 

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Do Cold Frames Actually Work?

The short answer is yes – but let me elaborate….

We built a cold frame in late 2018 to create a warmer micro-climate to grow early season tomatoes and eggplants with ease. You can see below how we built it here.

Some of you have asked how it’s gone in its first season. Very good thanks – it went (and is still going) very, very good. Below is some evidence of this.

We ended up harvesting/eating tomatoes 6 weeks earlier which is the best treat ever and eggplants?  In the past growing eggplants usually involves a bit of pampering to make sure they have enough warmth – but this season I’ve only paid them attention when harvesting bowls of them. That’s a nice turn around.

The only minor downside is that this cold frame ended up being a bit short for the eggplants (the tomato plants were a bush (short) variety so didn’t have this issue). But as this only became an issue later in the season (when it’s warmer) we have simply left the lid notched up as you can see above.

Prolific fairy tale eggplants

Likewise with basil – we have much pesto in our fridge and freezer and fresh basil on everything. Abundance!

The cold frame is now slowly coming to a natural end. Over winter we’ll grow a mixed green manure crop to rest and feed the soil so it can get ready to do it all again next year.

In addition to the cold frame, we planted 12 tomato plants (in normal outside beds) which are still pumping away. There’s been so much pumping we’ve almost filled our pantry shelves. And that’s what we call winning!

Usually we’d buy some tomatoes to preserve in our fowler vacola jars – but not this year. This year it’s 100% toms from our garden (plus other fruits and veggies). A maturing garden and gardener (with more skills) is the most beautiful thing.