Monday, 30 November 2015

Species extinction

Today I heard about a new International United Nations Day - Remembrance Day for Lost Species. 

A local designer, Julia Peddle, created this graphic. She attended the permaculture workshop I led today at the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre and introduced us to the Day, at 12:30 we read through the list of Australia's Recent Extinctions and tolled a bell for them. Many groups around the world were doing a similar thing - remembering the lost species from their region.

I knew that species extinction and habitat loss are huge issues, and I work consciously to preserve and renew habitat, but it still shocked me to hear the figure that three species are lost every hour - every hour!

I am marking 30 November in my diary for 2016 and will be organising an event to acknowledge the lost species and help bring more attention to this. Also to keep up to date with what is happening around the world about this project, I have connected with the Facebook group

The lost species are (some have more than one common name, or their aboriginal name included): 
  1. Southern Gastric Brooding Frog, Southern Platypus Frog;
  2. Eungella Gastric-brooding Frog, Northern Gastric Brooding Frog;
  3. Mount Glorious Day Frog, Mount Glorious Torrent Frog, Southern Day Frog;
  4. Black-backed Bittern;
  5. Norfolk Island Ground-dove;
  6. White Gallinule, Lord Howe Island Swamphen, Lord Howe Swamphen;
  7. Lord Howe Gerygone, Lord Howe Island Gerygone;
  8. Norfolk Island Starling, Norfolk Starling, Tasman Starling;
  9. Robust White-eye;
  10. Tasman Booby;
  11. Norfolk Island Kaka, Norfolk Kaka;
  12. Paradise Parrot, Beautiful Parakeet;
  13. King Island Emu;
  14. Kangaroo Island Emu;
  15. Percy Island Flying Fox, Dusky Flying Fox;
  16. Thylacine, Tasmanian wolf, Tasmanian tiger;
  17. Central hare-wallaby, pukurl-pukurl;
  18. Eastern hare-wallaby, turatt;
  19. Toolache wallaby;
  20. Crescent nailtail wallaby, wurrung;
  21. Nullabor Dwarf Bettong;
  22. Desert rat-kangaroo, oolacunta;
  23. Broad-faced potoroo;
  24. Pigfooted bandicoot, boorda;
  25. Desert bandicoot, orange-backed bandicoot, iwurra, waliya;
  26. Lesser bilby, rabbit-eared bandicoot;
  27. White-footed rabbit-rat, white-footed tree rat;
  28. Short-tailed hopping mouse;
  29. Long -tailed hopping mouse;
  30. Big-eared hopping mouse;
  31. Darling Downs hopping mouse;
  32. Blue-grey Mouse, Blue-gray Mouse;
  33. Gould’s mouse, white-footed mouse, kurn-dyne;
  34. Lake Pedder Planarian.
  35. Lake Pedder Earthworm

This list was sourced from Endangered Species International. 2009. List of Recent Extinct Species (Since 1500AD).

Making and Sharing at Christmas

Giving and sharing are such basic foundations of good community and great relationships. So easily however we slip into the consumer economy for even some basic things - especially around Christmas season. If we were to simply share our own abundance, and asked for support and assistance, it is so surprisingly easy to catalyse a gift economy.

I am running a series of free permaculture workshops at the local neighbourhood centre. Tomorrow morning is the final of the series - focussing on how to use all the wonderful produce we grow. I will be exlploring ferments, herb oils, herb vinegars, solar cooking, herb drying, the use of unusual perennial edibles. 

Last night while I was planning this session, I realised that I am very short on small jars to run this session, so I put out a midnight email to my community. Before breakfast I already had an offer of about 100 jars. Through the day more people responded too.

In the middle of the day I headed off to collect the jars. First stop was at the home of one the the elders of the community - someone I love to see, but had not caught up with for ages.  His knees are giving him some trouble so we don't meet on our morning walks. We had a great chat and caught up on each other’s news.  He was so happy that I came to collect these jars.  It doesn't feel right to him to throw them away and he was delighted to get my email and have a chance to unclutter his shed a little.

Next stop was another lovely neighbour up the same road. I wandered through her food forest to their owner-built strawbale house of another neighbour. She had the jars ready, washed and packed at her door. Again we chatted and caught up and as a bonus we organised some spanish conversational lessons for my daughter - she is teacher and translator. 

Finally we headed to the other side of the ecovillage. Not only did this couple share with me a box of pristine bottles, but a couple of plant seedlings - a tamarind and a chilli bush. I had been wanting to catch up with them for a while to learn more about their method of making effective microorganisms (EM) from citrus and molasses - an alternative to Bokashi. I was given the full run through of the process and the promise of a bottle of EM when it is drained off next week. He is Thai and has spent a long time researching EM methods from Thailand and is going to translate it and share it. I'll start some myself soon.

Chilli and Tamarind seedlings - in Thailand the new growing tips of tamarind trees are eaten as a fresh green
I finally came home with way more jars than I had ever expected, and a huge smile from all the connections and sharings made today. Tomorrow I will pass on the gift at the neighbourhood centre with an abundance of produce and jars of herb oils for the participants to gift at Christmas.

Preparing herb oils, salad dressings and salves at the Maleny Neighbourhood Centre.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

How to make a simple ferment

Ferments are a superb addition to our diets and they are absolutely delicious - great in a salad, as a side-dish with a main meal, fabulous in a thin soup and awesome scooped straight from the jar. Fermented foods are excellent for our digestion and they boost the nutrient value of foods.

The first first vegetable ferment I learnt how to make was kim chi. Evan and I were teaching a permaculture course in the village of Shinde-ri in South Korea just a stones throw from the demilitarised zone with North Korea.  I was curious, so older village women, leaders of a local village association, invited me to join them in a big community kim chi making session. They spoke no English, and all I could say in Korean was hello (하세요 annyeonghaseyo) and thank you (감사합니다 kamsahamnida). We squated on the floor beside big tubs of cabbage, salt, chilli and spring onions and together made a huge batch of kim chi for the village. 

Kim chi is often made out of cabbage but a whole range of vegetables can be used - carrots, radishes, beets, 

Anyway, yesterday I came home to find a long white daikon radish sitting on my verandah table - the root with it’s abundance of foliage almost covered the complete table. A young local micro-famer growing Japanese vegetables at Crystal Waters dropped it off as a lovely gift. Time to make kim chi!!!

Daikon radishes (Raphanus Sativus) are huge! It is the monster of all radishes and so lovely and mild in flavour. The word daikon is directly from the Japanese 大根, literally meaning "big root”. Daikons remind me a bit of the story about the old man who couldn’t pull up the turnip, so he called for the old lady, who called the boy, who called the girl …. The long thick white daikon root goes deep down into the soil.

Because the root is so large, it really helps to break up clay soil. The famous Japanese no-till farmer, Masanobu Fukuoka, used daikons to keep the soil open and add organic matter - they have such masses of leaves. I often recommend using daikon to my permaculture students and clients wanting to simply, naturally and rapidly improve their soil. Daikons are self-seeding annuals, so once in your system, they keep coming back which is wonderful. 

I have a section in my food forest, near my dwarf citrus, that is looked after by daikons. I eat some, and leave some to improve the garden.

I eat the young leaves, the roots before they get too woody, and the seeds too. The leaf is often used as a green vegetable, the seeds are great for sprouting and have many medicinal beneifts. The roots are most commonly eaten as a pickle and to aid digestion. Diakon is really low in calories but high in Vitamin C. 

Daikon seed is said to be a powerful immune and circulation booster, to aid digestion, relieve fatigue, cleanse the blood and body. they can also clear congestion, ease migraines and soothe sore throats. They are also said to be effective against  the effexts of a rich diet - acne, diabetes, bloating, cellulite. Daikon seed oil can heal cracked dry skin. Because of the benefits it has, it is considered a superfood

I so enjoy eating the mild versatile daikon - freshly grated in a salad, chunked into a miso soup, thinly sliced into a stir fry, julienned with dips, but I think my favourite is fermented a kim chi.  

Kim chi has been a popular food in our household ever since we first went to South Korea in about 15 years ago to teach permaculture. On our fourth visit in 2010, we took our kids along to teach a permaculture design course at the Dandelion Community near the Ghandi Ecovillage. Maia and Hugh they were just 2 and  4 years old and absolutely loved it - the culture, the language, the rural landscape, the curious burial mounds, and of course the food. They learnt how to use chopsticks to eat sticky rice and eat kim chi soup. My daughter’s favourite meal of all was white kim chi soup made from daikon radish. 

Here's how I made a super simple vegan kim chi with this gifted daikon.


  • 1 long daikon
  • 2 medium carrots
  • A big handful of fresh greens
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3 cm ginger root
  • 2 fresh red chillies
  • Water


  1. Peel and cube the daikon
  2. Peel chop and grate carrot
  3. Mix in bowl with a tablespoon of salt.
  4. Let stand for 30 minutes. While waiting....
  5. Collect greens from the garden (this time I used Kale, Comfrey, Parsley, Garlic Chives)
  6. Make a paste of garlic, ginger, chilli, onion and water - I used my food processor. I used just enough water to make a paste.
  7. After 30 minutes, rinse the daikon/carrot mix thoroughly to remove salt.
  8. In a big bowl, mix daikon/carrots with the ginger/garlic/chilli/onion paste by hand. Make sure it is well worked through.
  9. Pack into a sterilised jar avoiding air pockets being trapped in the mix. 
  10. Ensure the top of the mix is covered with with liquid - you may need to add a little extra water if necessary.
  11. Let stand for at east 24 hours, then check for your taste. 
  12. Refrigerate and consume within a couple of weeks.

Cubed daikon radish and carrot being salted to soften them and remove excess water
I gathered some greens from the garden - kale, garlic chives, welsh onion, parsley and comfrey, and also a couple of long red chillies.  Only extra things I needed was garlic, ginger and I thought it’d be nive to add some organic grated carrot to the mix.

Collect a range of greens from the garden to add into he mix
Mix the rinsed daikon/carrot mix with the leafy greens.
Pack in a jar with no air pockets and ensure the liquid comes to the top.
This jar of kim chi will not last long. I am planning to take it to a permaculture kitchen workshop I am leading at a local neighbourhood centre early this week. I expect they will eat most of it.

Postcript: They did - they loved it!!

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Community Market at the Village Green

On the first Saturday of every month (except January), the village green at Crystal Waters comes alive with a vibrant local community market.

There is live music and lots of kids action, delicious cafes, great locally grown coffee, organic wood-fired sourdough, organic fruit and veg, croissants, seedlings and herbs, local hand made arts and crafts, local preserves and honey, second-hand clothes and items, fair trade products to support charities, healing modalities and more.

I love the relaxed community vibe, the feeling that the kids are safe to go and roam, the possibilities for the kids to be creative and have their own stall, or perform music. It is such an important part of our community's way of staying connected with each other and others from the surrounding areas.

I am usually there at the Ethos Foundation stall giving out information about permaculture and nature kids programs at the village, and offering fun art/craft activities for the kids. If you come along, come and say hello.

100% mango ice cream 
Hand-made gifts 
Locally-grown organic greens 
Affordable local organic vegetables 
Amazing organic wood fired sourdough bread - cooked right here. 
Jim's gorgeous carrots - with the tops intact! The tops are so good to eat too.

Cartooning workshop at the Ethos Foundation tent

Children trying their hand at cartooning

Friday, 27 November 2015

How I shed my pregnancy kilos without trying.

In a recent post, I shared about how I create quality 'me-time' and calm spaces in the day to connect and relax. Even living a simple permaculture life, these 'breathing moments' are so incredibly important to keep me balanced and focussed in amongst the daily chaos of raising 3 young children, running a business and a foundation, and volunteering actively in my community.

Possibly one of the most important renewal times during my week is riding my bike. I just absolutely love it. I have a retro steely bicycle that was a gift from my parents when I turned 21. It was custom made for me by a small artisanal bike shop in Melbourne and it fits me like a glove. 

 My beloved Hillman - 25 years old but so quiet, smooth and light.

I feel so happy when I am riding.  It clears the cobwebs in my mind, blows away negative thoughts, detangles my body knots and connects me with the world around me. I notice subtle changes around me as a move through the landscape -  the seasons, different sounds in nature. I talk to the cows, the birds and the kangaroos I pass. 

Sometimes I chant afffirmations to the rhythm of the pedalling. Sometimes I make up a song and sing it out to the valley. Sometimes I sort out a challenge I have grappled with all day, or find the idea that has been alluding me - the solution just pops into my brain.  Some of my best lesson plans for workshops have been designed out on my rides.

At the moment I only ride 30 minutes 3 or 4 times a week but this seems enough. I try to weave this into our family routine, like dropping my son at school, or going to the kids' tennis class.  I ride the 10km country lane to school while Evan drives the kids. We swap and he rides home. This is a luxury of working at home together. When Evan was working full time, I found it so hard to weave in exercise time and I felt sluggish.

As an added bonus, when I started riding regularly again, I dropped 10 kgs over a couple of months without changing my diet. My body just needed to move more - and more rapidly than child pace! 

When I ride my bicycle regularly I feel fit and strong and happy
.... and able to easily lift this little man, and run around with my kids.
At 46 years old, this is important!!

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Nature Play at the River

The river is the place to be on these hot, hot afternoons - the shaded cool water trickling over the rocks provides a welcome retreat.

The kids find amazing ways to entertain themselves - exploring - inventing games - creating worlds. It's so wonderful to watch.

Evan and I cool down with the kids, then while they are involved in their explorations we find moments to explore our work plans and new ideas. Being out in the fresh air, with just the sounds of the river, the birds, and children's chatter is such a conducive space for creative thinking, new ideas and fresh perspectives.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Peacocks in my garden!

"What's that sound?" cried out my 2 year old son. "What's that?!"

If you've ever heard the sound of peacocks before, you'll know how surprisingly loud and piercing their call is.

We woke up recently to find two peacocks in our garden. We see so many birds here, but this was completely unexpected.

They are huge, majestic birds that seem to be in a realm of their own. Peacocks aren't wild, so someone must have been missing them. They stayed for 3 days, then moved to another part of the ecovillage - I could still hear them up the valley. I think they've made their way home now after visiting most people's gardens and chicken pens looking for food.

I discovered that peacocks like cherry tomatoes and grumichammas (tropical cherries)!

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Sunshine Coast Community Gardens

Community Gardens are my passion. I love seeing how communities transform dull corners of public space into the most thriving and diverse places - places for all ages and backgrounds, places for wildlife, places for community to grow and flourish.  Growing food is just one part of these gardens - growing community, healing the land and people, and creating platforms for positive social change are all happening too.

Over the past few months I have been assisting the regional community to develop a Sunshine Coast Community Garden Network, with the support of the Sunshine Coast Council and the University of the Sunshine Coast. I was actually surprised to find out how many community gardens there actually are across the region now - the estimate is over 50. The movement has really taken off!

The university did a study earlier this year to see how the community gardens are going, to find out what's working well and what issues they are facing. There were a few common challenges being faced, so based on this research, I designed a series of workshops to address the needs identified by the garden members.

The three core areas were:

  1. Building Community: In this first session at Yandina Community Garden, we spent time getting to know each other's projects, building our broader community of support. We also explored a whole range of topics including how to attract volunteers and keep them engaged, building a great community culture at the garden, making decisions well, being inclusive and transparent. 
  2. Building Soil: I have found that community gardens are typically located quite poor soil and in order to get gardens flourishing, the groups need to activate the soil life first.  This second session, held at the Moving Feast Garden at the Uni, focussed on the many ways soil health can be improved simply, safely and affordable in a community setting. 
  3. Building Resilience: The final session at Buddina Community Garden zoomed in on how to create financial sustainability in community gardens including fundraising, crowd-funding, enterprise development, memberships, educational programs, and grants, but more importantly creating a strong local social ecology that helped to meet the needs through a gift economy.  This is central to the success of most community garden projects.
The final session also explored how we wanted to move forward as a group and the Sunshine Coast Community Gardens Network was formed. We will meet quarterly to share ideas, strategies and resources. Each time we will meet at another garden to learn from their design, community processes innovations and gardening methods.  There will be an open Facebook group developed soon so everyone can see what's happening, with information too the Sunshine Coast Community Hub website.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Birds in the garden

Over one hundred and sixty birds have been identified here at Crystal Waters. Having been here now for 18 years, I am coming to understand the seasonal and migratory patterns of the species which visit us.  The birds and other wildlife, are for me, one of the highlights of living here.

The little insectivorous birds help me too to look after the garden too by eating the pests - I simply create the habitat for them, and in they come. I can't imagine how I would manage the press without them.  A great team effort!

Juvenile rain bird in our garden. I know when they arrive it signifies the start of the rainy season.  They were right again this year.

A king parrot friend for Hugh

Black cockatoos eating Banksia

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Art and Nature

A beautiful walk to do with the kids in the afternoon is down the river path - rock hopping, clambering over riparian tree roots, jumping across to small islands, discovering the art that people leave along the way and making some of our own. 

I was taking photos of the human made works, when I was suddenly struck more deeply by the natural colours, textures and pattens that just happen. Nature's art!

Little Monty, is always amazed and delighted by our journeys along the river.

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Taking time for myself - with my kids!

‘Me time’ had become non-existent in my life while my two eldest were toddlers, and I had come to believe that I didn’t really even need it. I suppose I also rejected the notion of ‘me-time’ as being self-indulgent, especially when there are little kids who needed my attention and focus.

Being surrounded by my family and being intimately involved with their lives is my joy. I don’t need a life separate from them, I thought. I have come to realise that in order to maintain my clarity, focus and sense of self, I need some time alone to think, time to be, time to reflect, plan, hope, wish, dream…and that this time renews my energy and perspective.

I know that to be present and focussed for my children I need to be present and focussed within my self. If I am anxious or overwhelmed, or tired and achy, this seeps through into how I interact with them through the day. I get it now - at least a little quiet time each day is vital so I can catch my breath.

I have been gradually finding ways to weave these moments into my day without anyone really noticing that's what I'm doing, and without taking me away from my children.

  • Remembering to breathe - big long, deep breaths. Breathing together with the kids when tempers are rising is great too. My 2 year old is becoming a master at calming himself with a few breaths - I'm amazed! 
  • Taking a few moments while I am harvesting in the garden to walk slowly, appreciate the beauty and observe. Sometimes I gather a little posie of flowers and herbs for the table - to bring some the garden beauty and scent inside. 
  • Remembering to stretch throughout the day - and having fun doing this with the kids on the rug. 
  • Stopping for a moment to just listen to the sounds of nature around me. Doing this with the kids too is fabulous. I ask them some focus questions ...What can we hear? What bird or insect is that? How many different bird songs can we hear? And then see what else we hear - always asking lots of open ended questions to stimulate our imagination...What do you think that truck in the distance is doing? 
  • Lying on the trampoline and watching the clouds - the kids love this too and we look for shifting shapes and faces.
Cloud watching

Friday, 20 November 2015

Working at home with children

I work from home and love it - the flexibility, my self-determination, the permaculture focus of my work, the ecovillage location surrounded by gardens and nature. Doing this with three young children does have it's challenges though. One goes to school, one is an active 2 year old and the eldest is homeschooled.

To make this situation a success, I realised I needed to redesign my work so that I have concentrated bursts of work, and that they can come along most of the time. If not, Evan is at home too so we tag team. A key element of the success of this approach is that I do much of the core planning and thinking (and the 'grunt' work) at night after everyone has gone to bed. This way I am free to be present with them of most of the days.

I realised a long time ago that to write, to think deeply and develop plans I needed more than a few interrupted moments here and there - I needed good solid hours to really get into the flow.  I carve out this time from late night hours when everyone else is asleep. In the quiet of the evening the schedules evaporate and the hours seem to extend enlessly into the night.  There I find a sense of freedom and ease where I feel I can keep working on ideas for as long as I need. Most nights of the week, I find my focus here.

Recently a friend suggested to me that it was bad for my health to constantly stay up late. She recommended that instead of going to bed at 2am, that I get to bed before 10pm and then wake up at 2 or 3am to work. I tried, but within a week I was a mess and way behind in my work.

To me, the morning hours seemed limited, adding an element of stress into my moments of peace. And my two year old son heard me get up and kept calling for me, and even got up to play with me a few times. You can imagine how productive those mornings were! The frustration trickled into my day and my interactions with everyone in the family - not healthy. So after a weeklong failed experiment, I returned to my usual pattern - feeling completely jetlagged from turning my day upside down.

I've just recovered and now and I'm back in my routine of late night focus - and feeling fantastic, energetic, creative and satisfied. I can manage these four hours of quality time in the evening by taking a nap with the kids when they are going to bed. I read and snooze with them for an hour or two then get up, have a cuppa and stretch a bit. By 10pm, I am refreshed and ready to go again.

Using these night-time hours enables me to be more focussed on my children’s needs during the day, and give me the focus and time to run a small business and small charity, and write. With a good diet, clean environment, low stress and positive attitude it’s a balance that I have found works for me.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Made in Australia

With our recent jam-making activities, as a homeschooling project for Maia we took a look at where and how other commercial jams are made.

Like so many of the foods sold in Australian supermarkets, most jams are made overseas from fruits from around the world. It is almost impossible to know when, where or how the food is grown or produced, the conditions of the workers, the impact of the faming system on the land, water and community. 

What we do know is that there is enormous ecological footprint in shipping goods around the world and that foods grown non-organically have greater impacts on the health and well-being of our bodies and the environment. 

With the renewed popularity of backyard growing and fruit trees, learning how to preserve is a great skill. It is particularty useful to help deal with the seasonal gluts and reduce food waste and dependence on imported products. It seems crazy to let good fruit fall and rot, then later go and buy jam from imported fruits.

When I buy food at the shops, I am conscious of choosing local and Australian produce and read all the labels. Labels however can be a little ambiguous - take the Made in Australia label for example....  Choice Magazine gives this description of the sourcing labels:

  • Made in Australia means the product must be substantially “transformed” in Australia – it must have undergone a fundamental change in form, appearance or nature, such that the product existing after the change is new and different from the product beforehand – with at least 50% of production costs incurred here.
  • Made in Australia from imported and local ingredients means the product was processed in Australia (see "Made in Australia" above) – although the majority of the ingredients are imported.
  • Made in Australia from local and imported ingredients means the product was processed in Australia (see "Made in Australia" above) and there is more locally sourced ingredients than imported ones. 
So let's get this clear. A jar of jam labelled  'Made in Australia', does not necessarily mean that the ingredients were sourced in Australia, it just means that at least half of the cost of making the jam was incurred in Australia.  If you want at least half local fruit, you need to buy 'Made in Australia from local and important ingredients'. If you want all Australian fruit, you need to look for the 100% Australian Fruit labels.

Fortunately new labelling will come in soon, giving us a clear graphical representation of food origins by mid 2016 to help us make our purchasing decisions. However, the better option is to buy locally-made or make your own using local produce - this in my opinion is by far the best choice.

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Simple home-made jam

My daughter made some delicious Jaboticaba jam recently.

I can't bring myself to by jam at the shops, but when I see it at a local stall made from fresh local produce my kids can twist my arm. It's better still when the kids help to make it at home from our own surplus fruit or fruit from neighbours. The flavour is so much fuller, and I feel happier that I know where the fruit is from, who has grown it and what else has gone into the cooking pot.

Jam is definitely considered a 'treat' food in our house - not a staple. And most mass-manufactured jams I would consider to be more in the 'junk food' category. Typically too jams are full of imported fruits and I want to support local sustainable farmers.

The inspiration for jam-making came a young friend came to our Nature Kids program carrying bags and bags of Jaboticaba. Her tree was laden with fruit at home with way more than her family could consume. She said it was growing at the end of her grey water system so was particularly productive.

She gave away as much as she could to everyone at the Organic Animal Farm visit, but she still had so much left. We took it home and my daughter led the jaboticaba jam making session with a little help from Dad - her first attempt at independently doing it.

The first batch ended up a bit runny, great for cordial. We made icy poles that everyone enjoyed at the end of the hot day. The second batch, with less water added, worked perfectly - a great consistency. Perfect for some morning toast...

Yes, the jam was absolutely devoured!
Our homemade jam can be used for more than just a spread. We will use it to flavour desserts, to sweeten a cake, or add as a flavour in yoghurt or smoothie.

Jaboticabas have a very unusual growing habit - the flowers and fruit form on the main stems, not at the ends of the branches. You need to peer deep inside the bush to see what's happening. It's wonderful treat to see all the dark globes of sweetness plumping up on the trunk. They start as small green balls and reach 2-3 cm diameter.

Jabooticaba is a strange and delicious fruit that grows abundantly on the trunk.

A Jaboticaba tree makes a great hedge, or plant in a more formal garden as their leaves are shiny, small and dense. It's slow to get started, but once established it's a great fruiter - setting fruit a few times a year.

I planted our two Jaboticaba trees long our entrance pathway. This way, I can dive in and take a look when I am on my way home and grab a bagful. It's good to know when they are coming on and get ready to beat the birds who also think they are quite the treat!

Our own Jaboticaba tree (Plinia cauliflora) is now bulging with so much fruit, I know what is going to happen to the surplus!

Maia's Jaboticaba Jam recipe:


  • Fill 1 litre container with jaboticaba fruit
  • .5 litre water
  • .5 kg sugar


  1. Boil the jaboticaba.
  2. When fruit softens, use masher to crush the fruit. 
  3. Add sugar, bring back to boil and simmer for approx 1 hour - until it sets on a cold plate.
  4. Pour into sterilised jars and seal.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Young entrepreneurs

I am so proud of my children. Their imagination and willingness to give things a go makes my heart sing with joy. I love it especially when they join forces and create something together - when their ideas bounce off each other and they work together.

While Maia was busy hosting her great guinea-pig show at a recent Crystal Waters market, Hugh was at the 'front-of-tent' selling organic Curly Apples for a dollar with his school mate - 'the springiest you will get'!

No-one could pass up the offer of a springy, curly organic apple prepared fresh on the spot by keen young lads. Parents were happy to supply their kids with this healthy snack to eat while they enjoyed the guinea-pig fashion parade.

I wonder what they will come up with for the next big market. We have markets here on the first Saturday of each month. 

Monday, 16 November 2015

Upcycling old clothes for pets

Last year I attended a fantastic seminar by Joel Salatin, the American farmer renown for his innovative Polyface Farm - a diverse community-connected small scale family farm which has become successful because he is doing things differently.

One of the key inspirations I took away from his presentation was a comment he made about how his children all started their own enterprises as part of the farm when they were around 8-10 years old. 

I raced home and told my 9 and 7 year old all about the talk and about Joel's children.  Within an hour both Maia and Hugh had come up with their own business names, projects and plans. I was absolutely amazed at how this real-life eco-entrepreneurial opportunity sparked such a creative buzz, and continues to do so.

Hugh started Hugh's Bike Shed.  He now fixes 'squeaky breaks, clunky gears, flat tyres' and generally services and cleans people's bicycles.  He has a steady flow of customers from around the neighbourhood. He is also receiving donations of bikes that he can restore and hire out to visitors to the ecovillage.  His next project is the restoration of a tandem bike which will be great fun.

Maia started Southern Cross Guinea Pigs and has already designed her own website and business card. She designs and makes guinea pig clothing out of old clothes and organises guinea pig fashion shows at the local market - they have been so popular with kids and adults alike. A modest entry fee raises significant pocket money, and she is now trying to breed guinea pigs for sale. Another part of her plan is to make guinea pig herbal supplements and ointments from our garden.  Already she has made comfrey superfood and comfrey salve. 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Nature inspired art and play

My local waterhole in the upper Mary Valley is often where I find art and nature connect.  I never know what to expect in nature's gallery. It's always a delight for both me and my children.

Anonymous neighbourhood artists leave their inspired works for the next river swimmers to enjoy.

Interspersed among these creations are other naturally created 'installations'  - a woven root, a cluster of fallen leaves, a rock pattern.

My children design their own worlds on the water's edge - shaping bays and harbours and playing with the flow.  The beauty for them is in the movement and dynamic nature of the space, and the seemingly endless supply of things to create with. They leave these 'worlds' for other children to discover and play with, and for the river to reclaim.

It is so easy to spend hours in exploration, discovery and happy creative play here.