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Posts tagged ‘permaculture tasmania’

A Courtyard Transformation

Transforming rundown spaces into beautiful, productive gardens is possibly my most favourite thing to do in the whole world. On our recent Permaculture Design Course we did just that for the Reseed Centre where we held the course, creating a kitchen garden for their kitchen and a space for their outdoor dining “room”.

Before we started it looked like this…




While it had been a garden in the past, it was well overdue for a good overhaul and some careful design thinking to make sure it was resilient, hardy, edible and beautiful. Our design sketch below is what we came up with for this space. Simple, yet full of culinary and edible herbs, existing fruit trees/vines, nutrient cycling and an outdoor space for dining.


Before our PDC started, this Reseed community cleared the area, making space for us to come in and do our thing.

Our first task was to make the paths to define the area we should/shouldn’t be walking. We dug a shallow ditch for this and back-filled it with a layer of cardboard and a thick layer of woodchips to prevent unwanted plants to grow and to help build soil. The woodchips attract fungi and over time will break down, forming beautiful humus which can then be shoveled onto the garden beds and replaced with fresh woodchips – it’s a great nutrient cycling process.


We use cardboard without sticky tape and or heavy inks, you could also use newspaper – whatever is available to you. Before we lay it down, we soak it in water to make it a lot more attractive to members of the soil food web to break down. You can see Jo (below) doing a great job of this and keeping cool on a hot day – clever woman.



We made our garden as a no-dig garden, however put a bit of a twist on it and followed Morag Gamble’s recommendation to put the newspaper/cardboard layer on top of the bed rather than directly on the original soil (the bottom). This has many benefits, as she outlines below…

  • The compost layer integrates more rapidly with the existing soil.
  • Soil flora and fauna quickly get to work without the barrier in between.
  • The compost layer stays a more moist and stable temperature under the paper layer.
  • The newspaper layer prevents weeds from growing in your garden, including the unwanted seeds from your compost. (Unless you are a master composter, there will be seeds in your compost).
  • Less nutrients from the compost are evaporated and lost.
  • Roots of plants can penetrate directly into the soil so stay hydrated longer, can access minerals and have increased resilience and stability.


We had a ready supply of horse poo from a local (thanks Caroline), so used this despite it having a high grass see content. Putting the soaked cardboard on top (directly under the final mulch layer) will stop the majority of this seed popping up.

IMG_5434The poo crew (Brad, Shu, Graham & James) smashing it.


To top the whole garden off, we put a thick layer of straw on to keep moisture in and inject even more organic matter into the soil. We planted the garden pretty much straight away. To do this, we punched holes through the cardboard exactly where we wanted the plants, added a small handful of mature compost, mixed this in with the horse poo and original soil and watered it all in.

12654614_1092317510802493_3266034440946739342_nJo and Lisa planting out the seedlings

We put some simple edging of recycled bricks around the whole space to contain it and planted the gardens out with a range of herbs and beneficial plants.


Beneath the existing lemon tree we planted a border of garlic chives, a ring of clumping comfrey directly around the base of the lemon and the rest to nasturtiums, calendula and borage. A nice little guild of multi-functional plants, all useful, all beautiful.




The keyhole path creates the shape of the main herb garden, allowing easy access to all points of the garden.


We also made a worm farm seat to cycle nutrients from the kitchen and provide a bit of social infrastructure for the outdoor dining room. You can read about how we did this here.

IMG_5722Blake demonstrating the radness of the worm farm seat.


While our Permaculture Design Courses are very much focused on design and not building garden beds, this was a valuable process to take our students through. We got to explain the design we did for this space, talk through our reasoning, implement it and then enjoy the space we created. A fantastic learning process and a beautiful legacy for this group of spunks to leave behind!

Interested in doing one of our Permaculture Design Courses? Check out our next one here.


10 Things to Consider When You’re Looking For Land

If you’re looking for land, here are our top 10 things (in no particular order) we think are highly worthwhile and important to consider *before* you buy land. Do these things and we promise they’ll make your life more easy and productive.

1. Water

Does the land you’re looking at have any? In urban areas, generally the answer is yes as you’ll be connected to mains, but not always. In this case you can go for rain tanks and different types of passive water harvesting including things like swales and swale pathways. There may also be opportunities to divert water from neighbouring properties and road ways (without heavy pollution). In rural areas, water is a really important consideration, especially when you plan of having animals and/or cropping systems. Look for the following things:

  • Water catchment: Even if your land comes without dams you might be able to put some in – choose land which has a good, clean water catchment to ensure successful water harvesting.
  • Dams: Land that comes with dam/s is a great asset – check to make sure they don’t leak – i.e. holds water and keep in mind that if there isn’t any already, you’ll need additional infrastructure, think pipes, pump/s and maybe tanks.
  • Rain tanks: In rural and urban areas rain tanks are a must for drinking and garden irrigation.
  • Natural springs on farms mean you have a more secure water source.
  • Bores: Have a water test done for bore water to check for things like salinity.
  • Creeks and rivers: Generally there are really strict guidelines around using water from creeks and rivers, talk to you local environment body to find out what these are. In Tasmania talk to NRM South, North, Cradle Coast or your local Council for guidance.

2. Access

It just so happens that we’re not the best people to talk about access. We bought a house and land with no driveway, it’s only legal access is a 100m staircase from the road up a *very* steep hill (around 26 degrees). Luckily we have some kind neighbours who have let us use their driveways to bring in truckloads of garden materials over the past 3 years. But it’s not ideal and we’ve been working on a solution for quite some time now which is almost at fruition (watch this space).

So make sure you have easy access, or can get some. This includes roads across all areas of your farm, ideally along boundary lines and to desirable land for grazing/cropping. For urban areas, if you can get vehicle access to your front and back garden this is ideal, it means you can get bulk materials delivered for your garden (compost, woodchips etc) easily. I’ve lived in a house where we had to push wheelie bins and barrows through the house to get into the backyard, not ideal and a bit messy – luckily the landlord didn’t mind.

3. Structures

When I think of the most useful structures (besides a house), fencing and sheds come to mind in a milli-second. If I think for one more second I would add a hot house (or glass house) to that list. Fencing in Australia is generally used to keep livestock in and native wildlife out. We have a lot of wildlife (wallabies, possum, rabbits) which will ravage the landscape and any crops you put in. Fencing can be a major expense, in some cases it may also be appropriate to have portable electric fencing to move your animals around. But if wallabies are eating all your pasture, you’ll still need to consider permanent wallaby fencing so you have some grass for your animals.

4. Aspect

Where we live in cool temperate Tasmania in the southern hemisphere, having access to sun is really important. If you live in a place with no, or limited sun over Winter, life can get a bit hard – for you and your garden. Look for a north facing aspect (that’s south for you folks in the northern hemisphere) and make this high on your priority list. And don’t be swayed by the real estate agent insisting that a south east facing property/house is just as good as north. It’s not, believe me. And yes, I’ve actually heard a real estate agent say this. Of course, if you’re in the hot tropics this isn’t such a big deal, you’ll be looking for shelter from sun and weather with landforms and vegetation – it’s all about context.

5. Vegetation

On a rural block having some established vegetation is generally a fantastic asset. Especially is it’s acting as a windbreak to buffer you from the prevailing winds and can potentially provide you with firewood and building materials. Funnily enough, in urban areas vegetation can often be a limitation as it casts shade and can dominate the soil with roots (i.e. gums). If you’re looking for a gum forest on an urban block this is no problem at all, if you’re looking for a veggie patch and orchard, you may have to consider making some strategic removals. If you are removing vegetation on a small or large area, consider the local wild life, especially the little birds who often love nesting in dense understory. You might think about clearing trees and shrubs gradually to help an easier transition take place.

6. Soils

Some people are very passionate about only working with ideal soils and that nothing else is worthwhile, however not everyone has access to the best soils due to price (it’s expensive) and geography. The good thing is that with time you can build soil. The main thing I look to avoid is soil contamination. If you’re interested in rural or urban land you can get a quick and affordable soil test done for heavy metals and suspected pesticides. Old orchards are commonly treasure chests of old pesticides such as DDT and arsenic, in urban areas lead is the common contaminant you have to deal with.

7. Property boundaries

If you can, check them before you buy the land. In Tasmania you can use The List to do this for free. More than once we’ve worked on properties doing permaculture designs where we’ve found the boundaries are incorrect. Generally it’s not a big deal, but every now and then it can a major factor that needs addressing.

8. Fire

Talk to your local Council and Fire authorities (Tas Fire Service) about certain guidelines you’ll need to adhere to for your patch of land. This isn’t such a major issue for people living in the city, but can be a significant one for rural folks, especially if you plan on building a new house and you’re looking at purchasing a bush block.

9. How much work is this going to be?

An important reality check. The other question to ask is along side this one is how much will this cost me/us to make it how we want it be? Sometimes people neglect these questions, leading to years of frustration and struggle. On the flip side there are ways to gather support and think beyond money, including wwoofing, helpx and your community of friends and family. It’s just important to acknowledge this as a real consideration.

Edit: Remember that you don’t necessarily need to buy a large parcel of land. Many people we’ve worked with buy large farms and then realise they don’t need that much area to grow food, keep animals etc. Smaller is often better as you can manage it more easily.

10. Connection to community

Whether you decide to live in a rural or urban area, we strongly believe that you should have easy access to community and services relevant to you. This can look like many different things for people depending on where you are and your particular needs. For example after much deliberation, we decided to live in an urban area where we weren’t car dependent and could walk or ride our bikes to work, see our friends easily and do general errands.

Obviously we sacrificed other things for this, but it’s what rang true for us and meets our needs in living a life not dependent on driving (and fossil fuels). So ask yourself, what meets your own needs for connection to community?

Notice how we haven’t mentioned views?

We know they’re nice, but we also feel that they determine people’s property choices perhaps a bit too much and take priority over the considerations we’ve listed above. A good view generally means you have no/little soil as you’re on top of a ridge line or mountain, all the good top soil is half way down the mountain on or the river/creek flats. While there are definite exceptions to this rule, this is a guiding truth to be aware of.

And of course, if there’s a house – get a building inspector to check it to make sure it want fall down on you.

As you might have already realised, it might not be possible to get all 10 points, you may need to compromise. We compromised on access and structures (we’re building a shed in the near future and have built all our fences). You need to remain flexible and realistic in the face of what opportunities arise.

So we wish you strength in the face of the gung-ho real estate agent, a level head in moments of heightened emotion (looking for land can do that to you) and perhaps a touch of luck in the stars that you find the land/house you’re looking for.

** The feature image on the home page is from some lovely design clients of ours (who chose their block quite well:-)).


Fair Food: A Book In Support Of Life

Nick Rose, founding member of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance has recently published his new book, Fair Food.

In a time when so many people are looking for ways to find their way back to a life with good food and farming at its centre, this book is for you. And for everyone else who currently thinks our food system is fine and nothing’s wrong with it – this book is also for you.

This book “tells the new story of food: how food and farming in Australia are dramatically transforming at the grassroots level towards reconnection, towards healing – of the land, of each other. It offers a compelling and coherent vision of how our future can be so much better than our present and our past, and how each of us can make a difference.”

Sounds good doesn’t it.

I had the chance to ask Nick some solid questions about what Fair Food covers, have a read below so you can get you mind ready for the book…

WWhat do you mean when you say ‘fair food’?

Fair Food is food produced, distributed and consumed in ways that are ecologically sustainable, ethically sound and socially just. Fair Food is how we make accessible and meaningful in the Australian context the global movement for food sovereignty, which was launched in the mid-1990s by leaders of the global family farmers’ movement, La Via Campesina (the Farmers Way). Food sovereignty means a democratic and participatory food system at global, national and regional levels, in which farmers and communities collectively determine the purpose and design of their food systems for their own benefit, rather than the key decisions being taken by and for the benefit of the largest multi-national agribusiness and retail corporations

Part of the description of the book states that “Australia’s food system is more than just broken: it’s killing us.” How is it killing us?

Many of the major crises and challenges we’re facing are directly or indirectly linked to the ways in which we produce, distribute and consume food. Climate change is already estimated to be causing 150,000 deaths annually, and even on conservative models of increased warming and extreme weather events, that number is expected to rise significantly.

By some estimates half of greenhouse gas emissions can be linked to food and agriculture, when land clearing and land use change is taken into account. Land clearing, and especially deforestation, is also a major driver of biodiversity loss and species extinction, and much of it is linked to agriculture in places like the so-called ‘green desert’ of the massive GM soy monoculture in South America’s southern cone, the Amazon in Brazil, Sumatra and Malaysia, and Cape York in Australia. Hunger and malnutrition remain a scourge at the global level, and food banks tell us that demand for emergency food relief is sharply on the rise in Australia. Obesity is now spoken of as a pandemic, with type 2 diabetes now affecting 9% of all adults in the world and directly causing 1.5 million deaths annually. Farmers in Australia experience levels of depression and suicide at more than twice the national average, a symptom of how devalued the work they do has become in our culture and society.

To put it bluntly, our collective wellbeing and future – and especially that of our children and their children – is at stake. The evidence is overwhelming that our current food system is not merely dysfunctional, it’s actively violent and destructive. Anyone who doubts that should read this photo-essay about the devastating social and environmental impacts of 20 years of uncontrolled expansion of the genetically-modified soybean monoculture in Argentina, which now occupies 47 mn acres, or 70% of all arable land in that country. It’s a devastating indictment of a system where money and short-term financial gain are prioritised above all else.


How have we got to this point where our food system is so broken?

These and many related problems are the result of a global and national food system that suffers from an excess of concentration of economic and political power in the hands of a few huge corporations across key sectors. In Australia we’re all familiar with the supermarket duopoly – Coles and Woolworths – and their increase in the grocery market share from 35% in the mid-1970s to around 70-80% today has coincided with an exodus of our farmers from the land at the rate of 7-10 per day. I and many others argue that this is no coincidence.

More generally, the broken, dysfunctional and destructive food system is itself a symptom of our culture, which values money above all else. When short-term gain is prioritised as the highest individual and social value, and becomes the over-arching goal, anything becomes possible and permissible to achieve that end. Aristotle explained this very clearly, 2500 years ago, in his treatise on the Politics of Money, where he explained the distinction between oikonomia – the social and natural resource economy, the ‘good management of the home’ – and chrematistics: the art of manipulation of wealth, property and money in order to maximise short-term monetary gain. It’s pretty obvious what our ‘economy’ has become, and the consequences are very clear for anyone who wishes to see them. This is explained quite well in this short blog piece from Gaian Economics.

I think that fundamentally the issue is that we have become disconnected and alienated from our food system – from the source of life – and so we permit all manner of things to be carried out. This is why I speak and write about food sovereignty as the ‘connected’ food system, the ‘healing’ food system.


You’ve talked to and written about farmers and urban gardeners. While drastically different scales, are both these types of growers important to our food system?

Absolutely. We need many more farmers – particularly smaller-scale, biodiverse farmers practising polycultural methods of production. They are and will continue to be our ‘food bowl’. At the same time, we need an abundance of urban gardeners. The benefits of urban agriculture are multi-dimensional, from physical, mental and psychological health and wellbeing, to community building and resilience, to skill sharing and learning, to aesthetic enhancement of the urban environment, to creating habitats for bees, insects and birds. Urban agriculture connects us with our food system, and that’s critically important for the reasons I’ve mentioned above.

And as a matter of resilience and food security, urban agriculture, when done well, can produce large amounts of food. Just ask Angelo Eliades, who yields in the order of 300kgs per year from his permaculture food forest in Preston.

What are the top things you think people can do in their own lives to help create a healthy, vibrant food system in Australia and the world?

The answer is only limited by your own imagination and creativity. The most obvious way to take back some control over the food system is to grow some of your own food – and millions of us are, more than half of all Australians, according to recent surveys.

  • Join a community garden, permaculture group or transition network. If you have kids at school, encourage the school to start a kitchen garden, and to include food literacy in the curriculum.
  • Support your local farmers market if there is one nearby.
  • Buy direct from farmers if that’s an option – and increasingly these days it is, with the internet (see for example Open Food Network).
  • Encourage your local council to adopt a food policy, and create a local food network or coalition. Inform yourself about all these issues.
  • Join the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, and help us campaign for systemic and structural change.

All of this – and much more – is needed.

Fair Food CoverWhere can people get a hold of their own copy?

The book is available at lots of independent bookstores around the country, chain bookstores like Dymocks, and in many airport bookstores. You can also get it online via Booktopia, Amazon and Dymocks.

Fair Food Week

Coordinated by the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance, to support the Peoples’ Food Plan, Australia’s Fair Food Week shines a light on our new story of food. Over the week 16-25 October 2015 — you will discover events across the country that will attract, intrigue and entertain you. Check out what’s happening and add your own event here!



The Modern Market Gardener

One of our best mates, Jonathan Cooper recently started working with Fat Pig Farm to develop and manage their market garden – it’s a great job with great people – he’s stoked. But it got me thinking about market gardening and how while it hasn’t changed, we have. Mainstream culture seems to be seeing it differently and actually valuing it like it deserves.


Farmers have always been critical to a healthy and viable society, but not always celebrated. In many countries they were traditionally called peasants (and still are), a term generally used in a negative way referring to poor or landless farmers and agricultural workers. The unsaid feeling that went with this term implied that peasants were uneducated, ignorant, and of a lower class. But it feels like this is changing as the world wakes up and realises that without happy, healthy farmers, and some argue small-scale farmers in particular – our food system will collapse.

A key game changer was, and continues to be, the establishment of La Via Campesina.


“La Via Campesina is the international movement which brings together millions of peasants, small and medium-size farmers, landless people, women farmers, indigenous people, migrants and agricultural workers from around the world. It defends small-scale sustainable agriculture as a way to promote social justice and dignity. It strongly opposes corporate driven agriculture and transnational companies that are destroying people and nature.”

Established in 1993, it’s been changing the way people think and act towards farmers ever since.


“La Via Campesina comprises about 164 local and national organizations in 73 countries from Africa, Asia, Europe and the Americas. Altogether, it represents about 200 million farmers. It is an autonomous, pluralist and multicultural movement, independent from any political, economic or other type of affiliation.”

When I was 18 (2001) I was heavily involved in all things permaculture, urban agriculture, community development and sustainability (still am). And while I lived and worked on small farms here and there it was soooo different to now. Back then I would struggle to name a handful of young people market gardening/farming. Now? Now they are everywhere. There seem to be more supported opportunities for young folks to farm. People are hiring skilled growers to farm on their private land, people without cash are leasing land to run small market gardening businesses on. Others like myself are organising with people to start up initiatives like the Hobart City Farm. And people are *loving* it, and us. People don’t look at me sideways when I tell what I do for a living/life anymore, for which I’m very grateful.

So back to Jonathan (or Jono as we know him)…..


Jono is one of the many, much loved modern market gardeners we have in Tassie. Matthew and Sadie, of Fat Pig Farm and The Gourmet Farmer fame, have hired Jono to ramp up and extend their market garden which will eventually feed into their onsite restaurant and family home. It’s a beautiful farm, full of potential which is quickly becoming reality by these two go-getters.




IMG_4524A bed of rhubarb mulched with globe artichoke leaves

Included in the space is a mixed market garden with both annuals and perennials, a to soon to be olive grove, bees, mixed orchard, chickens a giant hot house for extending the seasons and a big gathering space to allow people to come, learn and enjoy the space. And of course there are pigs on the sidelines, watching on. I have no doubt that this farm will develop into a gorgeous home and a unique experience for people coming through to have an insight into farm life, but also good life.

IMG_4526    IMG_4558


IMG_4533  IMG_4536

Fresh mounds waiting for the young olive trees to be planted within the coming weeks.

I’m forever grateful for good people and particularly *love* it when they work together as this is where the magic happens. And you can be sure there’s some magic going down on Fat Pig Farm – be sure to watch this space…



Compost Tea

Compost tea is a brown liquid which has been actively aerated, it’s produced “by extracting bacteria, fungi, protozoa and nematodes (all members of the soil foodweb) from compost.” However, compared to compost, it’s an incredibly efficient method of injecting valuable nutrients into your soil (and plant foliage) and creating and/or maintaining the soil foodweb in your soil across small or large areas of land.  Dr Elaine Ingham, founder of the Soil Foodweb Institute, is responsible for flying its flag in a major way, traveling the world educating people and working with farmers to integrate it into their land management systems.

Now, I’m no compost tea expert. Sure – I’ve completed a short course with Dr Elaine Ingham and am in love with all things compost, however this stuff’s deep and despite years of experimenting, I still consider myself a novice. What’s that saying, the more you learn – the less you know. Anyway, here’s an overview of compost tea, some recipes and insights from various folks around the globe…

What’s the difference between compost tea & plant/manure tea?

Pant/manure tea is the age-old practice of soaking manures or a range of plants in a vessel of water where they leach their nutrients into the water.  This can include compost, beneficial plants (comfrey, borage, dandelion to name a few), fish guts and animal manures. It’s then left to ‘stew’ for up to one month in which time it becomes incredibly stinky, indicating that it’s gone anaerobic. I remember working on a farm and having to spread very mature plant tea around the market garden… No matter how many swims I had in the dam I stank for days.

In contrast, compost tea is an aerated brew which doesn’t smell bad (at all) and is usually ready between 24-48 hours depending on the weather and ingredients. The liquid is aerated through an air blower (or fish pump), or if you have no power by stirring it vigorously regularly. By getting air into the liquid, the right environment is created for diverse soil foodweb to form.

So while both provide nutrients, the compost tea also provides *life* to the soil – and that’s what we’re after.

What’s the soil food web?

It’s a complex collection of a trillion or so life forms including bacteria, protazoa, fungi, nematodes, cilliates etc. It describes the relationships between them and how they form a whole system which cycles nutrients through the layers of the soil, making them available to plants and other life forms, above and below the ground. You can read more about it here.


When you think about the type of compost tea you’d like to make, think about what crop you’re trying to grow, this will determine the ingredients you need to put into your brew. For example all annual vegetables naturally thrive in a bacteria rich environment, whereas orchards and other tree crops naturally evolve when fungi dominates. If you check out the basic ecological succession chart below you can see the stages of succession and the areas where bacteria and fungi naturally flourish.

sfw Image adapted from here

There are a hell-of-lot more complexities and overlaps going on than this chart shows, but it gives you a general sense. When making compost tea, you can tailor the tea to suit the crop you’re growing. So if you’re growing annual vegetables, make a compost tea with more bacteria and if your growing tree crops, favour the fungi. Ingredients which foster bacteria are nitrogen materials including manures and plant foliage, to attract fungi include carbon ingredients like wood chips. However, a good compost will have a healthy balance of bacteria and fungi suited for any crop. And fungi is the ultimate soil life form for any crop – in our own garden we actually put a significant amount of carbon into our annual crops by using ramial wood chips to attract fungi… I told you it was complex.

To simplify it, here are two recipes and some great resources for you to go through.

Elaine Ingham has a basic recipe on her website which is centred around having *really* good compost, and a microscope. If you’re after something a bit more approachable, Hobart market gardener, Suzi Lam, has shared her recipe with us below.



Suzi brews her  compost tea in a 20 litre bucket for up to 48 hours and dilutes it to (approx. 10:1) to water her 1/4 acre market garden. It’s important to note that you need dechlorinated water, if you’re on town water, simply leave a bucket of water out for 24 hours for the chlorine to evaporate before you make your brew.


A good looking brew in process, those bubbles are a good indicator that things are going well, the other main indicator is the smell – it should smell sweet and earth.

An important tip is to clean all the materials thoroughly after you’ve finished so there’s no ‘scum’ left on the bucket for air blower, otherwise there’s risk of contamination for the next brew. Everything needs to be clean and fresh, you can use hot water and elbow grease to clean.

Can you put too much compost tea on your garden?

No, however there’s no need to do it every week, make and apply compost tea strategically to help get a crop started or just before fruiting.


Is compost tea the answer to all soil problems?

Some people say yes, but we think no. Specifically, it does not resolve mineral imbalances, it may help – but as far we understand things, it cannot fix it. We recommend approaching soil remediation by first doing a soil test to determine the mineral/nutrient content and then using a range of methods which can include compost, compost tea and possibly (depending on scale and context) applying some minerals to help bring everything back into balance. A good book to read about using minerals and growing nutrient dense food is The Intelligent Gardener by Steve Solomon.

Other good resources


Learning The Art Of Growing

Good things happen when people come together around food, so our ‘Real Skills for Growing Food’ workshop on the weekend was particularly great, as people got to learn how to grow their own food (and eventually eat it of course).

We love these weekends, it’s a time where we can bring together some of Tasmania’s most talented growers to share their skills, passion and deep knowledge on all things productive and edible. Here’s a whirlwind tour of what went down.


We started the weekend in Suzi Lam’s urban market garden. This woman, I tells ya – she’s more than good, knows soils inside out and her passion for gardening and life in general is contagious.

Suzi took the students through the importance of soil health and approaches to achieve this, including making complete organic fertiliser, using ramial woodchips and making hot compost.


image2Building a compost pile with Suzi

We then moved the workshop to the Hobart City Farm which is a project very close to our hearts and hands. Here we explored propagation and seed saving with James Da Costa who’s one of the co-founders of the City Farm.


IMG_4141Sand, coco peat and compost, three key ingredients for a propagation mix.

IMGP0079Broad beans, one of the easiest seeds to save and grow.

Day two of the workshop saw local grower, Jonathon Cooper take folks through an overview in market gardening.

IMG_4147Jono showing folks a broadfork – a popular tool for any market gardener

He took everyone through the fundamentals including must have tools, the importance of good design, managing weeds, crop planning and extending your season – which can be critical in our cool temperate climate.

IMG_4173Stacey and Megan weeding the garlic patch with stirrup hoes, with the very wonderful Bridget supervising.


To finish off the weekend, Anton tool the class through a range of techniques for growing food including the biointensive method, companion planting, no-dig gardening, and planting fruit trees.



IMGP0074   IMGP0089Happy students!

Students had a go at laying out beds for crops using the biointensive method with close spacings to make the most out of the area available.


IMG_4195Planting out and watering in the no-dig garden

IMGP0020 2Megan working on the no-dig garden bed

Thanks so much to all the wonderful people who came along, we wish you a life time of growing, inside and out…


Thanks also to our special teaching team – (from left to right) Jonathon Cooper, James Da Costa, Suzi Lam and Anton Vikstrom. If you ever have the opportunity to work with, or learn from, any of these people – grab it, they’re gold.


Our next ‘Real Skills for Growing Food’ workshop will be in 2016, join our monthly newsletter to make sure you hear about it.

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Mashua: AKA Perennial Nasturtium

Nasturtiums are my favourite plant ever – one of my earliest memories is of drinking rain drops out of their leaves (cause that’s how the fairies did it) and they’ve really stuck with me ever since. As I grew older I loved the fact the you can eat the leaves, flowers and make ‘poor man capers’ out of the seed pods, plus they’re a great living mulch in the garden, attract beneficial insects and easy on the eye.

Over the years I’ve planted them in pretty much every house I’ve lived in and these days I have a giant mural of them on our bathroom wall. I even took it to the next level and requested that Anton (my now husband) sew my wedding dress so it depicted a nasturtium patch… And he did – it’s amazing, as is he. So when I found out that there’s a perennial nasturtium (called mashua) only less than a year ago – well, I got excited.

Mashua-PhotosImage from here

It’s official name is Mashua (Tropaeolum tuberosum) and it was traditionally grown in South America as a root crop. That’s right people, you can eat the leaves, flower AND TUBERS. I know, amazing.

While it is a perennial, it’s sensitive to frost and cold so will die back in winter and grow fresh plants from new tubers in spring. So late winter is the time to pull it up, subdivide all those tubers for eating and/or growing.


It grows rampantly as a climber or ground cover and the flowers and leaves are similar to the common nasturtium plant, but have their own twist.

mashua-Pilifera-plant-1024x767Image from here

IMG_3939The leaves die back as the cold sets in with winter

As this was the first time we grew the plant, we just watched to see what would happen. They spread out under our fruit trees, had a half hearted go at flowering (it was a bit cold) and then slowly started to shut down and go ‘green/brown’ as winter set in.


In recent weeks we started weeding the orchard and noticed a plethora of tubers at the base of each plant. Up until then, we didn’t realise that (a) they had such prolific tuber production and, (b) you could eat them. It was a happy day of discoveries that one. So far we’ve only tried eating them roasted (just like potatoes), sadly we weren’t in love with their taste, but will keep trying different recipes until we are.



And they’re beautiful, don’t you think? We’ve currently got a big bowl of them in our house and each friend who comes through leaves with at least one in their pocket to have a go in their own gardens. Plus we’ve sent some over to the Hobart City Farm to grow in their perennial beds. Gotta spread the love round.



We’re feeling a bit ‘mashua rich’ at the moment – all this loot came  from one plant.


From what we can gather, mashua generally grows in a temperate climate and, like seed potatoes you can cut each one into smaller bits, with each one becoming its own plant. If you do this, just make sure each piece has at least two eyes (the dimply depressions) on it and that you harden them off so the cut can dry out and form a callus.

Where can you get your own mashua plant?

If you’re lucky enough to be in Tasmania, visit Provenance Growers at the Hobart Farm Gate Market and they’ll sort you out. If you’re in the US, I found this fantastic mob called Cultivariable who stock it, plus a million other great, lesser known food plants.

Good articles & blogs


Fat Carrot Farm

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


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


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


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



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


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


And this somewhat elegant floppy fence which works incredibly well…


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


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


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






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


IMG_3634Our tired Frida destroying some home grown brocolli

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


Skill Swap: Cake for Permaculture

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

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

To apply, simply email us at hello@goodlifepermaculture.com.au and let us know two things:

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

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

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





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

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


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Reflections on our latest PDC with Rosemary Morrow

We’re just had a mammoth two weeks with Rosemary (Rowe) Morrow teaching our latest Permaculture Design Course. Crikey, she’s a pocket rocket, a true power house packed full of integrity and more experience and insight that you can shake a stick at! Here’s a little glimpse into what went down…


Rowe, eating yet another apple (it’s apple season right now and we’re happily drowning in them), whilst facilitating group work.

11096696_939524819415097_5710765878958701113_nMorning time looked something like this each day – a gathering to get our body and minds moving and ready for full days.

IMG_3016Tanya, working the site analysis pose

Like all of our PDCs, we focus on how to design (as opposed to how to build gardens etc). We dive deeply into the permaculture design framework and how to read landscapes effectively and accurately. Here’s Tanya, doing her thing, analysing a site for her group design project, which went on to develop like this….

IMG_3053A sector analysis – part of the main design project for the course.



Mapping out all the microclimates and space limitations

And finally, this.


One of the group’s final product, a well thought out design based on a real life client brief

While we focus 98% of our time on design theory, we do make time to get our hands dirty implementing some strategies – in this case a no-dig keyhole garden (and compost pile out of site).


Plus we had a day of fieldtrips, where we took students on a jam-packed tour to see permaculture in action on a range of scales.


Fat Carrot Farm (in Kettering) showing students their chicken tractor – Joel Salatin style, and their exquisite market garden below.


Mike from Plumplot explains their dome kiln which they make their biochar in – so clever, so beautiful.


Cara and Fin delighted us with their space efficiency and numerous worm farms in a tiny urban garden.


And Blake showed off his strawbale house he built himself, complete with solar energy, compost loo and grey water system.


This course was full of ‘moments’, special ones, where we got to witness students have light bulb learnings and people from crazy diverse backgrounds connecting deeply with one another. We feel so honoured to be part of it all in our own small way – we know how lucky we are.


One of those moments I was just talking about.  Here’s Rowe delivering her grand niece, Avalon ( a student on the course) her PDC certificate at the end of the course. How amazing is that!


Everyone. Thanks guys, you were and are a unique bunch of people FULL of goodness. We look forward to working alongside you as permacultualists well into the future to help make this world of ours nothing short of awesome.


The team. Anton, baby Frida, me (Hannah), Rowe Morrow (with a special plaque acknowledging her work in permaculture), Nick Towle and Blake Harder.

Thanks to Nick and Rowe for doing the vast bulk of teaching and for doing it beautifully and to Blake for being the raddest course coordinator ever. Having this crew on board allowed us to hang in the background, do a light smattering of teaching, be new parents plus keep the home fires burning, i.e. do lots of work on a range of other projects.

We’re really LOVING working with an ever expanding group of people on our courses and projects. It’s both great for us not trying to do everything ourselves and wonderful to learn from one another and build friendships and networks which we suspect will span our lifetime. Sometimes, amongst the slight chaos of pulling things together and our often messy kitchen we feel like we’re nailing it. Lately this feeling is inspired by collaborating with the fine folk you can see above (plus others). It’s so good to remember we’re part of something much bigger than ourselves and that by working together it’s only going to make big and good things more possible.

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