09 December 2013


When you're on five acres and fairly ambitious, you keep starting new areas of productivity and then realise you have to maintain them to keep them working for you.  So when I'm not watering (which is a lot as its still very dry here), I'm walking around all the newer areas I've given a make-over to and doing a it of maintenance on the weeds etc.  Eventually I hope the weeds will be overtaken by the ground covers I've planted.  Now I know some weeds are edible, but I'd still rather feast on sweet potato or pumpkin - call me crazy.  So of my projects in the six months, lets look at some before and afters

22 October 2013

New entrants

A few things have aligned in recent weeks to allow some new entrants into our food chain here at Barefoot Cottage.  We've been working hard to clear and new areas of the food forest and we've been to two markets, one being the local market where they are a few store holders who breed local natives and the other being the Brisbane Organic Growers Inc (or BOGI) fair.  So we've been able to pick up a few additions and plant them out in our new areas of the food forest.
The first new face is a wonderful native elderberry or a honey bush.  After having seen many episodes of River Cottage, we are wondering if we'll be able to make elderberry wine or something similarly alcoholic from the flowers.

20 October 2013

View from the verandah

For something a little different, I've taken some shots from the verandah.  As we live in a valley, the verandah gives us a wonderful aspect through the trees and out onto the property.  As I'm mostly in the garden, I don't spend as much time enjoying those views as I'd like, but I live under the fantasy that once the food forest is more established, I'll have more time to park off.  We'll see.

This is the size of the verandah and one of the things that attracted me to the house.  Some of the trees beyond are ours and others belong to the neighbour, whose boundary fence (but not his house) is quite close, and he took a barren piece of hill and turned it into a forest of his own.
Looking out in the other direction, you can see some of the trees that the birds love to pop into for a snack. You can also catch a glimpse of the pool in the bottom right hand corner, which is quite filthy right now as we let it go over winter.

06 October 2013

Planting out

A few weeks ago I took some pics of the nursery.  Everything was thriving and so I've done a bit of planting out.  I also wanted more space to plant other seeds, so it was time, ready or not.  Firstly, the tomatoes went in.  They are a heritage breed called money maker.

30 September 2013

A few surprises

In my last post I was talking about my cardamon and how much I love it.  I had heard, probably from the wonderful Jerry Coleby Williams, that we are too far south here in Brissie for the cardamon to ever flower and give us seeds.  But guess what??
I couldn't believe it this morning when I was giving the hedge a bit of water.  It was tucked away and the cardamon is now head height so it would have been easy to miss.  Well, I may not get seeds still, but I'm pretty happy just to see the flower.

26 September 2013

Slow growing trees

I had some friends over yesterday that I knew when I was in Sydney.  They had been looking at my posts on facebook and when they were in Brisbane, wanted to come out and see what I've been up to.  As we walked around the property, we chatted about what I was trying to do and how much our food bill had gone down already.  When we got to the food forest, more for the mulberries than for anything else, my friend said "so you're here for the long haul." She was right.  The food that will be available to us in five years will be very different to what we've got now.  In the short term, its mostly the veggie patch that is feeding us, with a top up from the two citrus trees and the two mango trees that were already here when we arrived two and a half years ago.  Since then, we've put in well over a hundred trees and shrubs, none of which (except the mulberries) have given us anything to eat....yet.  But in five years, things will be completely different. We'll be able to add avocados, pecan nuts, macadamia nuts, peaches, pears, apricots, nectarine, plums, jack fruit, chocolate pudding fruit, jaboticaba, apples, chestnuts, figs and loads more citrus. But you do have to be patient.  I've also been patiently working on layering my food forest with other edible shrubs and ground covers which are faster to yield, as well as herbs and flowering plants to attract the bees.  So here are a few pics to show how things are progressing

22 September 2013

The nursery

For my birthday last month, my sister-in-law and mother-in-law gave me a box of goodies from Green Harvest (the perfect present for me).  In the box where many packets of warm season seeds and sub-tropical seeds, so I ramped up the nursery and added a few more seeds that I'd saved from last season and got to it.  Three or four weeks later, its looking fabulous

04 September 2013

Spring in the patch

I was made redundant a few weeks ago and so that has meant more time in the garden, which I'm really enjoying.  And now that we are in the dry season, its a good thing too, as the patch needs plenty of water.  Our soil is on the clay side of things and when it dries out, its not pretty.  But if you keep the water up to it, its beautiful.  So I've just come back up to the house after doing just that.  And here's how it looks

11 August 2013

A big weekend

We have a section of the food forest  that the swales didn't extend to, as there was a large old wattle that needed to be taken down before it fell on someone.  So Shaun took care of it, cut up most of the trunk and branches but we didn't get around to taking them all away before summer and the dreaded plague - triffid grass.  Apparently the CSIRO did some research on a variety of grass for stock feed.  As it turns out, its good for cattle but dangerous for horses.  Not only does it grow head height in a matter of week, it also grows with a 20 cm matt of roots that chocks out everything else. And our property is covered with the stuff.  We have struggled to remove it in our veggie patch area and in the end need a rotary hoe to remove it.  But some still finds its way in.  On the swales, we put in a green manure cover crop and then put down sugar cane mulch.  After a great first season of nitrogen fixing plants, the grass started to come back.  In hind sight, I should have got on top of it them.  Live and learn.  The area that we hadn't touched is not only covered in this grass, it also was now thick with lantana.  But given that its still winter, when the grass is dry and the weather conducive to hard labour, we decided to give it a crack.  Two days and two ute loads of lantana later, here's how its looking

09 August 2013

End of the season

It feels like spring is already here.  With the shortest day long past and the weather here in Queensland starting to really warm up, all our plants are springing and sprouting.  We've had 24 degree days all week and its predicted to be 26 degrees tomorrow.  Wouldn't you be fooled? So I took a little walk around to show you whats blooming.
This is the first time I've grown loofas and I've been waiting patiently as they've grown and finally dried out.  So I peeled one back to take this pick.  And I thought they were sponges and grew in the ocean!

30 June 2013

Fence it Baby!

We've been talking for a long time about fencing off the top 1.5 acres above and to the side of the house.  Its quite steep and really just suited for livestock who don't mind a bit of exercise.  Goats would love it but I don't think we'd love dragging goats out of our veggie patch once they'd climbed over the new fence, so we've decided to go for sheep instead.  There are at least three breeds that molt instead of needing to be shorn and so we'll be opting for one of those.  We'll have a small flock that will be for meat.  But before we get to all of that, there was some fencing to do.  So we called a few of our friends from the local growers gang and got to it.  There was lots of measuring, digging, eating and pounding and at the end of it all, we christened our fire pit and had a BBQ with all the families to thank them for their hard work.  It will take a few more days like this one to get it done, but the guys did an amazing job and all the big poles are in and the gate is hung.  Here's how it went. A HUGE thanks to Adrian, Jason and John!

22 June 2013

Feeding the soul

The parts so the garden that don't feed the body feed the soul.  Having said that, I probably don't give as much attention to these corners as I could.  But they are certainly coming along.  My dear friend Linda let me rummage through her rain forest garden with her to harvest a massive car load of bromeliads for my own little tropical haven.  They've made themselves at home and have been flowering, much to my delight.

21 June 2013

Another garden altogether

I recently went to Singapore to speak at the global Impact Investment Forum and added a day to the trip to go and see the amazing Gardens by the Bay.  Its relatively new and so will only get better with time, but I have to say I couldn't have been more impressed.  There are a series of gardens that represent all the cultures that make up Singapore, including the cultural, culinary and spiritual uses for all sorts of plants in each culture, and then other gardens that teach children about the wide diversity in nature.  These gardens surround a cluster of 15 story high man-made trees that have been planted out with bromeliads and the like.  They capture their own solar energy an water and at night, light up like a scene from Avatar.  Then there are two domes, one that recreates the climates of the world and a second that recreates a mountain forest.  The contents of these domes are indescribable, so best I share the images now and stop gushing....

09 June 2013

what else is growing at ours

I started a walk around the garden on a previous post so I'll take you from the veggie patch up to the swales.  On the way though, we should really pop in and see how well the bananas are doing.  We now have four circles going on either side of the driveway.  And after losing a few bunches with the February cyclone, we now have three gorgeous bunches remaining and picked our first ever bananas yesterday.  And they taste amazing!

08 June 2013

RIP Bruiser

For some unknown reason, our fabulous rooster Bruiser died on Thursday.  When I came home from work, I popped in to check on the chickens and found him curled up underneath the passion fruit vine.  There was no visible sign of trauma and he's been his usual energetic self in the morning, romancing the girls, jumping over fences....
He was a gentle fellow and I felt so sad that he wasn't with us anymore.

Today, our friends Jason and Vanessa (in fact it was Vanessa who helped us find Bruiser in the first place) lent us their Light Sussex rooster, who seems to have taken a dislike to their two year old son.  So he's on holiday with us for a while to see if the girls take a shine to him.  Strangely, they seemed quite clingy after losing Bruiser, so maybe they like having a man around the place.  We'll see.

01 June 2013

Its been too long

You may have thought I'd given up after the cyclone but I think I just got out of the habit of taking photos and blogging.  I did take some photos just over a month ago, so I guess that's the place to start to bring things up to date.  With all the rain, things have been growing well and none better than the passionfruit that's growing over the chook run. This is the one that we have given absolutely no love or attention to and yet has grown gangbusters (and there's probably a lesson in that).

02 March 2013

Gum tree meets chook house

During the recent cyclone, we heard a massive boom that sounded surprisingly like a bomb going off.  I  ran onto the balcony and saw that the large gum tree near the new chook house had come down. The worrying thing was that we knew our 20 girls would have been hiding in and under the chook house, trying to stay out of the rain and wind.  So we bolted down there and the entire run was hidden under branches and leaves.  Unbelievably, the girls all staggered out safely, looking a little dazed but unharmed.  We set to, moving the branches to one side until the larger ones were left that would need a chainsaw.  It was still pouring with rain and the wind was howling and we didn't want to leave the girls in that run as the other trees could also come down, so despite all the efforts to separate the layers from the meat chickens, we moved all the chooks in together.  It was a tight squeeze and Bruiser seemed a bit put out with so many women around, but no major fights ensued and we knew they would be safe there.

These are pics of the damage after we'd done most of the cleanup, but you'll get the idea.
 Good thing Shaun did such a great job on the construction of this chook house!!

23 February 2013

Pictures at last

Apologies for the long delay.  Its been a time of cleaning up, replanting and then business at work, and also a time of lots more rain, so not great conditions for photo taking.  But here is an overview of the cyclone, taken a few days after once the water had largely receded, but was none still flowing.  A large river of water was flowing through the property above, collecting all the forest debris with it and dumping it all on our fence line

29 January 2013

A Cyclone Comes to Town

The cyclone has been and gone and we are feeling a little battered. The power has just come back on after days without it.  We haven't had a chance to upload the photos as yet, so I'll post those shortly.  It's been a dizzy ride but fortunately the house only suffered a leak in the roof and some flowing underneath.  The property took a pounding though.  And sadly we lost the fish in the aquaponics system. Shaun had a small back up generator but it couldn't keep going for more than a day.  I'm off to the airport now and will blog properly when I'm back from the year's first work trip.   I hope you are all safe and sound.

16 January 2013

Two worm farms and a watermelon

Firstly, I have to do a little bragging.  The largest of our watermelons that I've been photographing finally matured and was ready to harvest.  I'd been checking the spoon for a while and I was glad to see that it had finally browned off.  The main reason being that if this puppy grew any bigger, I wouldn't be able to pick it up!  So here she is, all 15.5 kgs of her
Its like having a massive dinosaur egg on the kitchen table.  Now we've done the official photos, its time to cut it up and have the taste test.  I'll let you know....

13 January 2013

A Christmas present finds a home

We'd been discussing a name for the property since we bought it almost two years ago.  So now its official
Shaun hung it on the wall, just outside the front door, as you come up the driveway.  I love it

12 January 2013

Today's harvest

Despite all the heat and not much really going on in the garden except survival, we are still harvesting.  Here is a glimpse of what we've got going on
When I was down doing a water this morning, I filled up my T-shirt front (which is what you do when you forget your basket, and you can flash a pale belly to the neighbours - very attractive) with the ripe green zebras.  For whatever reason, the rats have been leaving them alone of late and so a number are now growing large and ripening on the vine.  Yesterday, this dish was full to overflowing with tomatoes from the last week or so, so I decided to make passata. Its a bit weird, being green and all, but I'll let you know how it tastes in pasta after tonight

10 January 2013

One day at a time

With the heatwave well and truly in our neck of the woods at the moment, there's little going on beyond watering and mulching (and watering and mulching).  So far so good though, as we haven't lost anything.  In fact, it seems as if the watermelons are up for a bit of heat as they continue to grow regardless.  And grow they do

06 January 2013

Aquaponics goes troppo

A few months back we took out the massive Green Zebra tomato plant (keeping in mind we have about 10 plants now yielding in the veggie patch) to make room for some new plantings.  Then it looked like this, as the new seedlings were taking root.

04 January 2013

Summer projects part 3

Since we were in mulching heaven, we just decided to keep going.  You might remember the stairs that go from the house to the pool, through the little tropical garden.  But at the bottom of the stairs is a pathway along the pool fence that is weedy and horrible.  I've weeded it in the past and used those weeds to try and mulch the path to keep future weeds down.  That didn't really work, so we've now tried this instead.

03 January 2013

Summer projects part 2

We've really been putting in the hours (early morning and late afternoon, given the heat) to make the most of the holidays.  I'm sure once the property is more established we'll go back to taking holidays like normal people.  But in the meantime, here's another project we've been working on.

02 January 2013

At last!

We've been waiting, watering and watching and finally, our first bananas have emerged.  I know its not very exciting if you've had bananas for years, but these are our first.
And while I was doing a happy dance about this one, I noticed a second one too!