27 August 2012

Mushroom compost

After visiting the first farm on the Sunshine Coast, we picked up some of their mushroom compost that the farmers were selling.  They grow several different types of mushrooms organically and so don't use salt on their mushroom growing medium.  The salt is the problem with a lot of mushroom compost that can be bought and you want to be quite picky with what you get and were you get it.  So it was great to see the operation ourselves and then know it was organic mushroom compost.  We filled the back of the Subaru (wishing we'd brought the ute) and took 12 bags home for our raised garden beds.

23 August 2012

Farm Tour - part 2

The second farm we saw on this weekend's farm tour was situated on 50 steep acres on the Sunshine Coast and is a full family business.  One son runs the mushroom business and the other is growing a wide variety of crops over the rolling hills.  The parents, who ran the farm for most of their lives, now concentrate on the marketing and sales side of the business, selling direct to the public at several Sunshine Coast markets as well as delivering produce to Food Connect. They are also chemical free and use organic approaches to growing food, after observing the impacts of chemicals on the soil over time.  The farm used to be a pineapple farm, but now grows a dozen different crops.  But the pineapples are still there

22 August 2012

Farm Tour

Last Saturday, we took part in a farm tour organised by the wonderful Food Connect. We visited two chemical free farms (they describe themselves as such because they are organically run but haven't become certified due to the costs) in the sunshine coast hinterland. One farm produced ginger on ten acres but was also establishing itself as a sustainable, self sustaining property so it really appealed to Shaun and I.  The farm is the childhood home of Michael, where he now lives with his partner Emma, and for the last three years they have been growing ever increasing crops of ginger.  They really seem to have it down to a fine art now and their energy and passion was absolutely infectious.  They do farm gate sales as well, so you can check them out on www.mtmellum.com.au  Here are a few pics of our afternoon there.  We started the visit with Michael giving us an overview of the process they've been following that was accompanied by this picture board.

21 August 2012

Aquaponics update

Our aquaponics system is getting established and the fish are about to have another growth spurt (we hope).  In the winter, when the water gets cold, the fish eat very little and therefore don't grow much at all.  Now that the nights are starting to warm up a little, that should change.  We are hoping that by Christmas, we'll have some jade perch ready for the plate.  And as the fish grow, so do the plants. Before we had the fish, the plants would still grow but just more slowly.  When you first establish a system, you let it cycle with just leafy greens for the first month or two before you add the fish.  But once the fish are in and growing, the plants grow faster with all the nutrients the fish release.  The lettuce we had in the second grow bed had grown so much that it was finally time to take them out and plant the next lot. They won't take long though...
The third grow bed is full of spinach and growing nicely, so we're leaving that as it is.

20 August 2012


Its only taken me about five years, but I've finally grown a straight carrot!!!  And it seems purple is my lucky colour.  Every other carrot I've ever grown looks like something you might have dug up near a nuclear accident.  I've tried all the remedies suggested online, but nothing seem to make a difference - and all I needed to do was change colours....
But check it out on the inside

17 August 2012

Is it just me?

I don't know why, but this wall gives me a lot of pleasure.  I love sandstone and the guy did such a nice job of it.  We now have three such walls on this slope, one on the driveway, one below it above the pool and this one just below that.  I also like that the walls repeat - the symmetry of them.

15 August 2012

A view from a swale

I think its time for a check in on the swales.  The trees have been growing away happily and they are starting to look a little bit serious.  I'm really looking forward to the day when its actually a food forest and I can just wander through and pick fruit and nuts (sounds idyllic but I'm sure its going to be a bit more work than that).  In the meantime, there's lots of planting, lots of watering and lots and lots of chopping and dropping.  But hopefully it will all pay off.
Here is the top swale which is mostly macadamia nut trees, but mixed in is a cherry bush, a tropical apple tree and the davidson plum in the foreground.  Then of course green manure on the ground as well as sweet potato and pumpkin.  There is still too much grass and other weeds for my liking but I'm sure someone will tell me they have uses I'm as yet unaware of, so its all OK.

13 August 2012

A busy weekend - part 2

As I was saying, there were two other things I got to this weekend, one of which I've been wanting to do for a long time.  A greenhouse.  You may remember my sad little line up of pots by the house.  They were in a shaded position for summer but in the stone cold dark on a winters day, so nothing much was growing.  I'd been looking at shadehouses but they are a little pricey and more than we could spend right now.  So I got something less grand but it will hopefully do the job for a few years.

12 August 2012

A busy weekend

I don't know where I got this spurt of energy, particularly having a series of broken nights, but this weekend was incredibly productive.  I fenced off a new enclosure for the little girls as they had eaten every bit of green in their 10x8m run.  We free range them in the afternoon but they had started wandering far afield (like onto the road), so we felt a second paddock would be the go for them.

11 August 2012

Our local growers group

We feel incredibly fortunate that even before we moved here, we were introduced to the local growers group.  This wonderful group of families are all aiming to be as self-sufficent as possible, just as we are, and they have become the core of our community here.  Our garden is full of gifts from our new friends; raspberries, arrowroot, comfrey, bananas, citrus trees, galangal, nut trees, cherries and herbs of all varieties.  Our kitchen is full of food they made from scratch with their own produce or the produce itself and our seed collection is equally full of their generosity. Its a wonderful way to live.  We share our thoughts and questions via email during the week, as the group is full of people with the most amazing knowledge.  And any of them are there is you need a hand with a big task on the property.  We hope we have returned this friendship and certainly feel this group has created a supportive community for us in an amazingly short time.  It astonishes me that the growing of healthy food builds community so deeply, but it does.

We recently celebrated the annual tradition of Christmas in July, with everyone bringing a dish or two that they had made with their own produce.  It was an astonishing feast in the beautiful garden of one of the families and the perfect way to spend a Sunday.  We had a ideal Brisbane day under the warm sun and wide blue skies.  Life's good.

10 August 2012

Bruiser is settling in

Our new Light Sussex rooster, Bruiser, is settling in nicely.  Despite being absolutely enormous, he is kind to his ladies, let's them eat before him but still shows them who's boss on the bedroom front.  We have him in a separate coop, one which is quite small so it keeps him from standing up and crowing the minute he wakes.  His previous owners said he used to sleep in the cupboard in the garage for that reason.  But he seems to like the "Sydney House" and went straight back in after his first night.

09 August 2012

Spring is in the air

I know its only August, and everyone tells me that the start of the Ekka marks a cold snap before winter finally gives over, but I'm feeling springy.  And the garden seems to be agreeing with me.  There are lots of lovely things happening there and the new chicks are laying up a storm.  Yesterday we collected 22 eggs!  You should see our fridge.  But here's what's growing

08 August 2012

Guerilla Free Ranging

We all like our chickens to free range, eating lots of lovely greens and putting the good stuff in their eggs.  Our chicks are taking this to a new level and going guerilla.
You see the long grass moving and then shaking violently until finally a chicken bursts forth from the undergrowth.  It was a bit off putting the first time, especially in snake country.