Saturday, 27 August 2016

Three Great Uses For Dandelion Leaves - Wild Harvest this Edible Weed in Springtime

Go wild harvesting for dandelion in the cities, the suburbs, parks or out in the countryside.  They are a superb and abundant food source - actually a superfood weed.

Dandelion - a familiar plant in our everyday landscapes - typically overlooked as a source of great food and medicine.

You don’t need to go far to find dandelion greens. Stop and look around you - you can probably spot some close by. They are an abundant and attractive edible weed. Around here, they are popping up everywhere at the moment. Don’t weed them. Eat them!  

Dandelion has been consumed for thousands of years as a food but also used as a medicine to treat anaemia, scurvy, skin problems, blood disorders, and depression. 


  • Dandelion greens are rich in antioxidants which prevent free-radical damage to cells, and are high in:
  • Vitamin K (building strong bones, preventing heart disease)
  • Vitamin A (healthy teeth, bones, mucus membranes, skin and eyes)
  • Iron (essential for producing red blood cells and transferring oxygen from the lungs to your body)
  • Fibre (helps body shed waste)
  • Potassium (to help regulate heart rate and blood pressure)
  • Also vitamins C and B6, thiamin, riboflavin, calcium, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper.

Find the soft young leaves. 


  1. Eat raw dandelion leaves. Harvest them while they are still young and tender before they’ve flowered for the best taste. At other times you may prefer to blanch them in boiling water for 20 to 30 seconds to improve taste before adding them to salads or sandwiches.
  2. Make dandelion leaf pesto (add dandelion leaves to your favourite pesto recipe)
  3. Add dandelion leaves to your stir fry, quiche, soup, stews or casseroles.


Every part of this common edible weed is tasty both raw and cooked, from the roots to the flowers.
The roots make a delicious coffee alternative and medicine and the flowers are sweet and crunchy. You can eat them raw in a salad, or make a wine. 

CAUTION: Choose dandelions you know have not been sprayed with pesticides, fertilisers, or other chemicals.

More edible weed ideas coming soon!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Simple & Affordable Way to Start Seedlings for Your Kitchen Garden - DIY Soil Blocking

Spring is around the corner here and there's so many food plants I'm excited to get into the garden. Because of this,  I've been focussing a lot on seeds a lot this month.

In recent blog posts and youtube films I have been talking about using milk containers to make self-watering seed-raising pots and also explored seed-balling too. 

Here's another super way to get seeds started - soil blocks.  Last week I was delighted to see them in use at a local school garden and it reminded me to give them another go for my current seed-raising blitz.
These soil blocks are made with a commercially-made soil-blocker but you can form them with your hand too, or your own DIY set up. Image source:

Soil blocks make growing vegetables from seeds so easy and successful. I often hear people say that they don't bother growing from seed -  because it's too hard, too time consuming, too fiddly, they never have success and so on.  I think many of us relate to this, and I have felt this way in the past too. Self-watering posts, seed balls and soil blocks just make it all so much easier.

I'm going to experiment with a few simple DIY methods of soil blocking and play with a few mixes. I'll document my trials over the next weeks to let you know know how they go. Let us know too if you have some great ideas. Watch out for a little film about this on Our Permaculture Life youtube channel. I encourage you to subscribe so you get each weekly episode delivered to your inbox.

A dried soil block awaiting use at the school - simply sit this in a tray of water and allow to soak it up the moisture, it will be activated and be ready for seeding.

Why grow from seed?

Really, there are just so many good reasons to grow from seed if you can, such as:
- you have access to such greater diversity of plants and varieties
- you can use your own seed saved year after year
- you know the source of your seed
- you can support the continuation of local seed varieties 
- it's much cheaper to grow from seed

Basic Soil Block Ingredients:

  • 4 parts compost
  • 1 part worm castings (optional) for extra nutrients
  • 1 part soaked coir peat (coconut fibre) for moisture and for binding the block together
  • water

Making the Soil Mix

  1. Mix together dry ingredients. Keep some aside if you to thicken up the mix later.
  2. Mix 2 parts dry mix to 1 part water. 
  3. Try to make a consistency like sticky mud.
  4. Keep adding more water until you get the right feel. 
Depending on the mix of ingredients, the ratio will vary - so just keep checking. It will be good when, if you squeeze a handful, a few drops of water are squeezed out. If lots of water comes out, add more dry, if no water comes out - add more water.

Making the Soil Blocks

  • Make them by hand. They don't need to be cubes - they can be 5cm balls with flat bottoms - as long as they can stand on their own. Simply make an impression in the top with your finger into the block to make a hole for the seed.
  • Use a home-made blockers. You can make from a all sorts of containers such as old cans, sections of pipe, glasses....
  • There are also commercially available Soil Blocking Tools

Seeding the blocks

  • Place seeds in the holes. 
  • Keep watered - usually by flooding the tray that the blocks are sitting for a few minutes and then draining off. 
These blocks give the seedlings much more space to grow and do not have their roots disturbed by being pulled part when they are transplanted. Because the seed block is bigger than the usual seed tray, they don't dry out as much and there is more nutrients available - and therefore the seedlings are much healthier.

Easy to make, easy to sow, easy to maintain and easy to plant out.  Sounds like a wonderfully simple seed raising strategy to me.

Have you tried seed blocking? What was your best mix and best method?

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Why Do I Live A Permaculture Life...

Why do I live a simple permaculture life?
How am I debt-free? 
Why do I unschool with permaculture and what does that mean?
Why and how have I created my own work?
Why do I believe permaculture education is so important?
How was I inspired by leading ecological mentors at Schumacher College and volunteering in the Himalayas?
This podcast on The Urban Farm gives the back story as to why I live this way, why I do what I do, and what drives me.
It went to air on a couple of days ago from the the Urban Farm HQ in Phoenix, Arizona. It is 56 minutes - grab a cuppa, or put it on in the car. I hope you enjoy it.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST: Morag Gamble on Permaculture Education: Living a full life, simply and in conjunction with nature’s principles. 

I teach practical permaculture to kids ....

...high school students...
... and adults.

At home in our garden.

I was inspired to live a simple abundant life after volunteering in Ladakh, in the Himalayas in 1992 and 1995. My experience there had a profound impact on me.

For 18 years I have lived in a permaculture ecovillage with a vibrant community and beautiful natural environment.
We designed and built our home in affordable, 'buildable' modules - before this, we'd built a coffee table!

Our edible landscape surrounds the house and provides an abundance of vegetables, fruits, herbs, flowers, medicinals, mulch and habitat for a diversity of species. It's a super low maintenance system filled with self-seeding plants and perennials.

Extra information posted on the Urban Farm Website ( about the contents of this podcast:
Listen in and learn about:
  • Her path to get to where she is at based on strong ethics, environmental activism and natural health upbringing from her parents.
  • Her early teenage year with activism and being connected to nature
  • How growing up with the awareness of nuclear war potentials and oils shortages influenced her messages
  • Her father’s teachings to look for positive solutions
  • Being influenced by Fritjof Capra, author of TAO of Physics,
  • Her adventures in England that introduced her to permaculture foundations and teachings
  • Her head and heart filling up with possibilities
  • How she transformed her ideas and inspiration into the reality of her life in Australia
  • Her life on the amazing Crystal Waters village community (you need to hear all of this to believe it) with 83 households working together in a true permaculture community
  • WWOOFers that come to the village and the WWOOFing that helps teach her kids so much about the world
  • When your green you grow, when your ripe you rot
  • Her son’s homeschool project of solar powered transportation for their community
  • How she learned so much more about successful permaculture after she left the university
  • What she feels is needed to start successful polycultural systems
  • Her connected pods that create her home which expanded as her family did
  • The story of how their home was built by themselves and what that means to them
  • How she can forage for food just outside her door
  • Why she considers her home an ecological system that looks after itself 
  • Some real treats in her garden that demonstrate how many edible parts there are in any garden
  • What the biggest products that come from her garden are besides food for her family
  • What she does with the recycling depository in her carport
  • How her children are already living and speaking permaculture
  • How she is un-schooling her kids and the benefits of this method
As well as:
  • How she is learning to accept that some of her ideas have not reached their time yet
  • Why she thinks her project of Northey Street City Farm is her biggest success
  • Why feeling the pain and injustice of the earth being destroyed and cultures being dismantled actually drives her to seek out better solutions
  • Her final piece of advice is to be open and listen to learn

Monday, 22 August 2016

Film #9: How to Make Seedballs - Create a Self-Seeding Garden and Regenerate Landscapes

Seedballs are a simple way to create a self-seeding garden and regenerate landscapes. I just made this 6 minute clip to show the fun, easy and wondrously muddy way my kids and I make them.

Here's the film link:

Seedballs are a natural way to seed a landscape and can be filled with all types of seeds - natives, pioneer species, green manures, salad greens, wildflowers .... whatever your climate, landscape and situation.

Seedballing is an ancient technique from Egypt, China and the Romans and renewed in the 1940's by the late, Masanobu Fukuoka, who is considered the founder of Natural Farming, and an inspiration for permaculture Fukuoka used seedballs extensively to rehabilitate damaged lands and practice no-till farming. 

The mix we use is:
5 parts clay
1 part compost
big handful of seed

We mix the clay and compost together with the seeds until a firm ball can be made. I try to keep the balls just bigger than a 10c piece and allow them to dry before distributing them.

The idea is that the seeds are protected inside the seedball from birds, rats and other seed-eating creatures until the rain comes and moistens the clay. The seed makes the most of this moisture and then the compost nutrients help it to continue to grow.

You can read more about seedballs on a previous posts: Muddy hands, happy hearts: seedballs for healthy soils and diversity and A Wonderfully Easy and Fun Way to Seed a Garden: Seedballing with Nature Kids

You might want to explore more about this no-till approach to farming. A good place to start are the books by Masanobu Fukuoka: 
- One Straw Revolution
- The Natural Way of Farming
- Sowing Seeds in the Desert: Natural Farming, Global Restoration, and Ultimate Food Security

Saturday, 20 August 2016

I Learned To Weave a Basket Today & Was Surprised How Much Joy I Felt.

What an unexpected delight it was experience my first weaving circle today and learn how to weave a basket from an environmental weed - Cat’s Claw.   I am hooked!  I can’t wait to go down to the river to find more weeds to make another, to experiment and refine my technique. The kids are clamouring for me to show them how too.

My 'rough basket' - first ever go at basket-weaving. This too about an hour. Just a bit of tidying left to do.

I attended an Environmental STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Mathematics) workshop today at Eumundi State School with Jon Gemmel and Janet Millington (the work they both do is amazing!).  We explored the productive permaculture food forest, heard about great ideas for integrating STEAM learning in the garden, and were updated on the global outdoor classroom movement.

In the hands-on part of the day - I chose to participate in the Ancient STEAM stream. We explored indigenous/first Australian ways to solve problems and design tools to help access abundance. The school had real tools on loan from a local Museum. We had the chance to pick up and feel the fine craftwork of a boomerang, a digging stick, a grinding stone, a fire stick, a sharpened stone and a range of woven baskets. 

With a few tips, Emma Heffernan had a group of us making baskets with aplomb. What surprised me was not how great it felt to be weaving (it did), but how once our hands got the rhythm we started to open up to each other - to talk, share, laugh and learn with a group of people we'd just met. 

Emma showing us different methods of simple basket weaving.
The power of the weaving circle I now realise is as much about making and doing and exchanging weaving strategies, as it is about slowing down, connecting with others, sharing experiences and ideas, building community, opening up and finding support, and laughing together. It was so much fun!

Two woven circles tied together with vine. Add an odd number of spines. Weave back and forth, pulling it closer.
My kids have claimed this as the egg basket. I can't wait to show them how to do it. 

Friday, 19 August 2016

Grow Your Own Healthy Salad Garden - Simple, Diverse, Abundant

My favourite simple lunch is the one I just pick before eating from my little salad garden beside my verandah. In this space I grow a diversity of plants for a deliciously diverse salad.  I love to forage to see what's looking good each day and able to spare a few more leaves.

Growing local food is actually one of the ways I exercise my activism streak - this lunch has no food miles, no chemicals, no GMOs, local seeds, it supports diversity, has lower water needs, is soil regenerative (you know what I mean). I love the way the kids will graze on the salad too and help me harvest. I'm not only cultivating food, I think I'm cultivating young activists too.

The types of plants growing in there now in this winter garden are: many types of lettuce, rocket/arugula, coriander/cilantro, green mustard spinach, red mustard spinach, frilly mustard spinach, sacred basil, sorrel, cherry tomato, parsley, snow peas, garlic chives, fennel, carrots, Brazilian spinach, English Spinach, Welsh onions, ruby chard, curly kale, Mexican tarragon and broccoli - and more....

I plant more lettuces every couple of weeks so that I always have young tender leaves. I like them the best.

Mix of open hearted lettuces - just a leaf or two off each every day.
My instinct is that a diet of diverse plants, which all accumulate different vitamins and minerals in their leaves, has got to be a good thing. I just walk around picking a leaf of this and a leaf of that - and the salad tastes AMAZING!  I toss in a few legumes, and possibly some olives or fetta cheese , or tahini, sunflower seeds, cubed tofu and toasted sesame seeds...mmmm! Oh, and a slurp of apple cider vinegar.

I use the leaves and flowers of the garlic chives (Society Garlic)
Even in a series of small pots, you can grow so much salad -  using those self-watering milk bottle pots I mentioned last time is a super simple way to get started. There are just so many places we can grow things, even if we don't have our own gardens - community garden ... on the verge... at school .... at work ... balcony ... rooftop ... courtyard .... windowbox ....?

Where do you grow your salad garden?
What is your favourite salad mix?

Brazilian spinach is an abundant perennial
Sacred basil - not only food and flavour, but habitat too.
If you live in the region, come and explore my garden with me during my Permaculture Life series of practical workshops - particularly The Simple and Abundant Garden session if you're into the gardening side of things.

Registration and More Information

Sunday, 14 August 2016

How To Make Your Own Self-Watering Pot: Film #8

Check out my new 5 minute film on my Our Permaculture Life YouTube Chanel -  How to Make your Own Self-Watering Pot  (or watch the embedded link at the end of this post)

It's so easy to make self-watering pots from used milk bottles. They are free and make propagating seeds a breeze. 

Not only do they keep your little seedlings hydrated much longer, by cultivating your own seedlings, you can choose from a much wider selection of food varieties and contribute to the protection of seed diversity.

This is how to do it. (For more details, watch the film.)

All you need is a milk bottle, scissors, sand, compost/potting mix, seeds and water.

Cut in half the bottle and put in an overflow hole in the base to prevent plants from flooding.

Put a few centimetres of sand in the bottom of the base.

Turn the top upside down and press into the base. 

Fill with compost or good potting mix.

Make impressions in the soil for the seeds. Cover the seeds with soil.
Gently water the seeds in until the water comes out of the overflow.
Make sure to label the seeds.

Film #8: How to Make Self-Watering Pots by Morag Gamble

Learn with Morag in her garden:

If you enjoyed this film and like a hands-on approach to learning, I invite you to join me in my garden at the Permaculture Life Workshop over the next couple of months.

Click here for information and registration for October 29: The Simple and Abundant Garden