Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Temporary permaculture for renters - 11 ideas for growing abundant food without owning land


How do you get thriving permaculture garden while you're renting?  There are particular challenges, but there's also a whole lot of great ideas for creating abundant temporary gardens and flourishing community spaces.

In our 20s, Evan and I lived in rental houses for years before we moved to Crystal Waters ecovillage.  We grew a fair bit in pots, in the yard and along the footpath, but we also became avid community gardeners and helped to organise a food box system for the other foods we needed. Our sense of permaculture gardening embraced the community - the city farm, friends places and verges (amazing macadamias and tamarinds).

Maia checking out the community garden at Maleny Neighbourhood Centre's community garden - one of the many local community gardens where I run regular free permaculture workshops. 
Not all renters move regularly of course and some landlords are happy for you to create an flourishing edible garden. My grandparents rented the same house for about 40 years. They always had a lovely vegetable garden out the back. Generally however, renters or not, people do move more often now. Almost half of the Australian population moves every 5 years. In Australia, government statistics show that people in their 20s and 30s move multiple times in that 5 year period.

So, whether you are a renter or just a regular mover, here are some ideas for you...

Mesclun Greens Pot

Create a fabulously productive salad bar in a pot. Densely seed up a pot with a mix of things like lettuce, rocket, mizuna, endive, coriander, asian greens, spinach, basil and mustard greens. As soon as the leaves grow big enough, start snipping a leaf here and there - a pot full of nutrients, colour and flavour. To keep the plants thriving, regularly water them with a natural fertiliser - diluted worm liquid is great.

Lettuces, radishes, rocket, basil, mustard greens all grow so quickly. Very soon you will be plucking fresh leaves for your salad bowl or stir-fry.

For getting things going in your temporary pot gardens, I recommend using a few bigger pots rather than lots of little pots which dry out so quickly. Using self-watering pots or mini-wicking gardens is also a benefit.  Here's a few ideas to try:



Herb Garden in a pot

In large pots you can also grow a wonderful diversity of herbs together.

Try themes - teas, asian spice, pizza pots...

  • For a nice tea - try mints and lemon balm.  
  • For an spice pot - try chilli, lemongrass, coriander, vientamese mint ...
  • For a pizza and pasta pot - grow sage, rosemary, oregano, parsley, chives, mini basil and thyme together.
Mix of basils and tomato in a large up cycled pot.  (source www.yougrowgirl.com)

Fruit tree guild in a pot

If you are in a temporary garden, it's still wonderful to be able to have fruit trees, but you most probably want to be able to take them with you when you move.

Even the smallest garden can support a dwarf fruit tree or two in a pot. So many fruit trees are now available in dwarf varieties and they do really well. However, you do need to remember that these plants are entirely dependent on you for their water and nutrients - they cannot send their roots off in search of more food and water. Plant the fruit tree in a big pot  - remember that in 2 years you'll need to trim roots and add fresh potting mix, so choose a shape of pot that you can slide the tree from.

Some good fruits plants for pots - dwarf lemon, pomegranate, acerola, finger lime, kaffir lime, jaboticaba, dwarf apple, dwarf mango, dwarf avocado (need another to cross-pollinate though), tamarillo, strawberry ... just to name a few.

You could also try a multi-grafted tree to get a few different varieties on one root stock - for example mandarin, orange and lemon.

Make sure you mulch the pots well and add complementary plants such as nasturtiums (edible leaves, flowers and seeds), herbs to repel insects, flowers to attract pollinators.

Nasturtiums add great colour. It attracts pollinators, is a living mulch and has edible flowers, leaves and seeds.

Worm farm in a pot

In the middle of a large pot, sink a mini worm farm. You can feed the worms directly and the worms take the nutrients to the plant roots for you. You can simply use a large lidded yoghurt container with holes drilled in the base. Bury it in the centre of the pot, put in a little soil, add a handful of worms then start feeding them.

Use grow bags or sacks

Fabric grow bags are an interesting lightweight and affordable alternative to pots. I have a collection of old sacks and chicken food bags that are good for this, but I have also seen grow bags for sale. These grow bags are better outside than the balcony as they seep.

Old potato sacks can be reused as grow bags - chicken feed bags also work.
A type of grow bag available - shopping bags also work in this way.
Not pretty - but a simple concept. If you need to buy in soil anyway, why not use the wrapping it comes in.

Potato tower

A temporary potato garden can also be made in a tower of wire netting. A potato tower is a great way to grow backyard potatoes in a small space without digging up the soil. Keep adding compost and mulch as the plants grow. When the tops die back - undo the tower and harvest the spuds.




Sprouts and Microgreens

You can have a constant source of greens all year round even if you have no garden at all. Right in your own kitchen you can have a mini desktop garden. Microgreens are the shoots of vegetables such as lettuce, beetroot, rocket, celery etc that are picked just after the first leaves have developed.  I love sprouting too - particularly mung beans, alfalfa and buckwheat.  They are so quick, easy and nutritious.



Turning your scraps into food for the soil

In a small space it is possible to set up a worm farm, compost bin or tumbler. They are compact and can move with you when you need to.  Collecting your food scraps and sprinkling it with a bokashi mix can really reduce the smell and activate your scraps for composting.  Have you considered a community compost system.  The city of Sydney even has some helpful guidelines on how to manage one.

Caloundra community gardeners separating the worm castings and collecting worms for a new worm farm

Growing on the verge

Verge gardening is growing in popularity. People are taking their gardening endeavours to the streets and claiming some public space in common areas for edible landscaping. It's a way to grow food together and build community. A nearby town, Buderim, has a great example called Urban Food Street, so does Sustainable Chippendale in downtown Sydney.

Join or form a community orchard group

Cities can be places of abundance with fruits and vegetables growing in many of the underutlilised spaces. Public parks and community gardens can become community orchards - places where people can grow, tend and share locally-produced fruit. Some cities such Seattle are actively encouraging this. Often the harvest from one backyard fruit tree can be too much for a person or family, so sharing a range of plants makes good common sense. The Urban Orchard Project in Melbourne links over 200 households to do just this.

A gorgeous community food forest Evan and I stumbled across walking about Ljubljana, Slovenia many years ago.

Join or form a community garden

If there is simply not the space or right aspect at your place, consider joining a community garden, growing on the verge or helping at a local school garden. There are so many resources to help you on the Australian City Farm and Community Garden Network website

I love gardening with other people. I learnt so much this way. Big jobs just seem to disappear amongst the laughter of working with friends in the garden. Sharing the work, sharing the produce, sharing ideas, sharing knowledge created greater abundance and a sense of amazing possibilities of what we could achieve together.

Some of the lovely participants from a recent workshop I led at the city farm - some just beginning their gardening journey. City farms and community gardens are great places to learn.

We started Northey Street City Farm over 20 years ago now - and as a small community group we not only filled a public park with herbs, vegetables, fruits and perennials - we regenerated a segment of urban stream, planted a woodlot, developed a bush tucker corridor, created a vibrant community hub that continues to thrive today with an organic farmers market, permaculture nursery and fabulous education programs. There are no fences - people can wander, smell, taste, feel, enjoy and learn from the space.  Now there is also market gardens and an allotment garden section - no fences still! Fabulous.

Our involvement in setting up the permaculture educational gardens at Northey Street City Farm inspired the way we developed our garden here at Crystal Waters - which we offer too as an educational space.

These are just a few of the many many ideas for growing food in small spaces and temporary situations. Please share your favourite temporary permaculture ideas.

Living a simple life and having a thriving edible garden helps us to live a healthy life, reduce our impact, diminish the waste we produce, scale down the debt we are in and simply connect to nature, the seasons, our community and our selves.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Live simply: 14 Ways to Save Money and Avoid Debt

Live simply, live well, get debt-free, be happy.

Voluntary simplicity is a way to work towards debt-free living. When I first heard of this concept back in the early 90s I was impressed at how this is such a positive earth-friendly way of living and have tried to live this way ever since. I'm so glad I found this approach before I launched into a career and mortgage package. Instead we have created our own work and built our own house - simply and based on the environmental and social justice ethics I value.


It's not for me about dropping out - I definitely want to be be a connected, active and contributing member of society.

Voluntary simplicity to me is about reducing consumption, streamlining possessions, increasing community self-reliance, simplifying needs, simplifying diet and finding more space to breath, being happy and connecting with my community, my environment, my family and myself.

Getting involved in a community tree planting project.

I feel a great sense of freedom and flexibility by living simply, being conscious of my consumption and avoiding debt. I also feel a richness that cannot be defined in dollar terms.

We spent ten years building and saving, building and saving - living in simple accommodation on-site while we did. This helped so much in avoiding going into debt to build our house. (Visit my post about the house: http://our-permaculture-life.blogspot.com.au/2016/04/our-affordable-mortgage-free-eco-house.html)

By simplifying my needs I have found that I can:

  • reduce my ecological impact (less resources used) 
  • reduce my social impact (reducing pollution, factory-made stuff and supporting fair trade)
  • reduce my costs (less purchases)
  • reduce the time I need to work for money (I work part time, independently, based from home)
  • reduce my stress
  • increase the time I have to spend with my family (including time to homeschool 2 children and look after a pre-schooler)
  • increase the time I have in nature and the garden
  • increase the time I have to write and relax
  • increase the time I have to grow, make and build
  • increase the time I have to volunteer and contribute to my community

Growing hardy edible perennials like Brazilian Spinach means that, here in the subtropics, there is always food in the garden. (Read my post about growing abundance: http://our-permaculture-life.blogspot.com.au/2016/03/abundance-in-garden-simply-growing-more.html)


I choose to without debt and keep our needs simple. We've don't have a mortgage or don't use credit cards. Here are some of the things I do to live simply and keep our cost of living down...

CHILDREN'S CLOTHES
Pass on good clothes that your children have grown out of and accept bags of from friends.  Children usually grow out of clothes before they wear them out. I love getting bags of surprises from friends. The kids like the fact that it's come, for example, from their older friends - it gives it extra meaning. With three children, trading clothes provides a big saving. We also have found some excellent things in the local second-hand stores, and like to sew up our own things too.

There is a lovely little second hand shop in our ecovillage run by volunteers. Maia always finds lovely clothes and shoes there - she is wearing them here. The kids also find gifts there. For my birthday today, they found knitting needles and yarn, a new coffee mug...

Becoming an active member of your local libraries is a fabulous way to access great books and toys - and then pass them back when the kids have had a good look and play, and ready to move onto the next thing.

AVOID BIG SHOPPING CENTRES
Mostly I find that I can get just about everything I need in my local town. The popular thinking is that you need to go to big box stores for discount buying, but typically I find the prices are comparable. Also I save buy not buying spontaneous purchases I don't actually need. Every now and then I do find myself in a large shopping mall (sometimes I do community seminars in libraries embedded in these places).  I watch myself as I wander around - things catch my eye and I start feeling drawn into needing this and that. Our place is already filled with enough 'stuff' - I really do not need any more. I think I save thousands this way.

One of my favourite shops - the organic food coop in Maleny, my nearest town.

FOOD SHOP WHEN YOU ARE FULL
Have you ever gone shopping late in the afternoon when you are really hungry and come home with a whole lot of things you wish you hadn't bought. I try now to always shop when I am full and have a clear list of the things I need.  By avoiding plastic packaging as much as I can, I find this also limits the purchasing of unnecessary items.

GROW FOOD
Simply by having a small herb and vegetable garden you can save lots of money - even if it's just to grow the greens. Buying fresh bunches of herbs, dark leafy greens and salad greens can add up over a year.  With a bit more space and growing perennials, a small garden can have more food than you can possibly eat.

Community gardens are great places to learn how to grow food, or to get a plot of land if you don't have space at home.

This is my chicken house enclosed by wonderful self-seeding pumpkins - so much food. I eat the leaves, the flowers, the shoots, and the pumpkin seeds and all. Self-seeding annuals are such abundant plants that keep giving.
MAKE OR GROW GIFTS
Homemade items, hand-made cards and homegrown plants are great gift ideas that are lovely to both give and receive.

EAT SIMPLE HEALTHY FOOD
Our diet is simple, healthy and tasty - a lot of fruit, vegetables, grains, legumes, eggs and home-baked foods. We are a meat free household, except for a little from our neighbouring organic farm and I make a most things from scratch. It's actually quite quick and easy, really yummy and much cheaper.

Foraged from my garden for lunch.

EAT IN AND SHARED MEALS
We love sharing a great meal, and we love cooking up our fresh produce at home - creating interesting meals from whatever is seasonal and looking great that day.  When friends come over with a plate to share we have a great feast. Family parties are always a simple shared meal at home or a picnic in the park too.


SIMPLIFY YOUR WARDROBE
I have worked out that the clothes I wear would fit into a smallish suitcase. Anything else in my wardrobe is superfluous and I am gradually shedding it. Having a couple of basic items and that can be dressed up or down makes life much simpler. Same with shoes - I have 2 going-out pairs, a garden pair, a pair of thongs for the beach and a pair for riding my bike. That's all I need.

EXERCISE IN NATURE
Going for a striding walk or swift ride around my neighbourhood is part the way I try to keep fit, but so is gardening, chasing the kids... Also, seems a silly thing to say, but it is possible to walk and ride without having specialised fitness clothing for each activity. A simple but good bike, with simple clothing and a reasonable pair of shoes is really all that is necessary.



LOVE PRE-LOVED ITEMS
If we need something, we save up and buy it rather than borrowing money, using credit. Often this means we choose preloved items rather than new - which saves both resources and money. We have some lovely dining chairs that we found at the tip shop - a set of nice bent wood chairs that just needed a good clean.  Our car was 10 years old when we bought it. We picked one with low mileage, good service records, excellent safety features and great fuel economy - and saved ourselves over $30,000.

AVOID CREDIT CARDS
We purposefully have debit cards rather than credit cards. It's an easy limit on consumption. We need to have the money in our account before we can buy things. With all the other voluntary simplicity measures and conscious consumerism, we are able to make this work.

BE OPEN TO EXCHANGES
Everything doesn't need to be a monetary exchange - we can give and share our products, services and skills in other ways. For example, when people come to my house, they often go away with some produce or cuttings from my garden - and same happens when I visit friends. I often give talks and workshops in exchange for entry to festivals and events. In a year, this alone saves me well over $1500.

Community meet-up and produce swap at the local bakery on a Saturday morning.

HAVE A 'DAY OUT' IN YOUR GARDEN
Going out with the family can get so expensive, and it's amazing how much we use and waste to do this -   take-away food packaging, fuel etc. Particularly with little ones, it can also be quite stressful and exhausting. Having a simple unplugged 'day out' at home is so much fun - organise a picnic in the garden, a treasure hunt, games, maybe invite some friends over, make your own music, put on a show...

An afternoon of unplugged garden play with children from the neighbourhood (grandad made the swingset, the sandpit is surrounded by logs from the local woodlot and the cubby is at least 4th hand).

SHARE AND JOIN CLUBS
We recently joined a local sailing club for a very modest fee. Rather than buying our own boat, we decided to share the club's boats and windsurfers. Each of these little boats gets used so much - again, it saves resources and lots of money. It's quite liberating. On a Sunday morning we just turn up and help set up  - we don't need to take all our own gear - they even provide life jackets and a rescue service.







Friday, 22 April 2016

Re-wilding: deepening our connection with self, place and indigenous culture through local plants

My garden is filled with native bush tucker plants - edible plants that are from this place.  Understanding more about these plants is so important for creating a resilient food system, and living sustainably in Australia.

Red ash, or soap tree, is used in fishing, as soap, to treat conjunctivitis, sties and mouth ulcers, and to make a ligament

Becoming familiar with these plants has been an integral part of my re-wilding journey. Rewilding, is a growing movement about reconnecting with nature - returning to a more natural state of being in the world. It is as much about rewilding our selves as it is rewilding the landscapes we have altered.

Since I moved to this part of Australia in 1993 from Victoria, I have been trying to learn as much as I can about the native plants of this region. I have realised that by getting to know these plants, their stories too, it has helped me to feel at home here - to find a sense of belonging. Wherever we are, getting to know the local plants and animals is a way of connecting to place and culture, and understanding the web of life.

I believe if we begin to understand how things work in nature (ecoliteracy), we will be far more able to work with nature and live in a way that nourishes the interconnected web of life.

My knowledge of local plants was deepened today as I walked through the Maroochy Botanic Gardens with Aunty Bev Hand, a well known Gubbi Gubbi woman who lives locally. She was sharing stories about indigenous plants with participants of the Australian Association of Environmental Educators expo.


As we walked and talked she pointed out so many of the common plants around the region and told us about how they were used, how their names have become place names - Mudjimbah (place of midyims), and how they were important in traditional culture.   She also told us how each indigenous Australian is connected to a plant or an animal as custodians of that species. The symbolism in traditional culture meant that people were always connected to flora and fauna - they could not exist apart from it.

Midyim - a great little plant that has delicious berries around December.


What is written below is a little snapshot of the wisdom she shared today. I have tried my best to share on what she said correctly....

COMPANION PLANTS
We stopped first at a Bracken Fern along the side of the path which she said indicated ants - they like being around this plant - biting ants. She usually stayed away from this plant, but told us that in case someone did get bitten it's good to know that the bracken is the remedy. Break off a stem and use some of the sap from the base to rub into the bite.

Squeezing out the juice from the base of the bracken - used to treat ant bites.

This type of 'companion planting' often is found in nature - where remedies are close. I remember learning long ago that if you get scratched by a Bunya pine while you are harvesting one of the enormous cones for a feast, grab a leaf of the bleeding heart tree which usually grows nearby, and rub that into the scratches to ease the discomfort.

ROPE MAKING PLANTS
The name Aunty Bev calls the local native grass, Lomandra, is dilly. I had always heard of dilly bags for carrying things - now it makes sense! Lomandra was often used for weaving and making rope. As we walked, Bev tried to teach a few of us how to make lomandra rope. She made it look easy, but my fingers just felt clumsy. Even more so when she told us that 5 year old children were expected to know how to do this.  I have lots of Lomandra at home, I will practice and practice!

Aunty Bev Hand splitting stems of Lomandra to make rope.


Apparently, all Hibiscus plants are good for rope making too. I recently learnt that even the little rosella plant in my veggie garden is a great plant for rope making. Aunty Bev stopped at a native hibiscus plant and told us that it's good for more than rope making. You can use it to sooth stomach upsets too - eat the young leaf and fresh new flowering buds.

MOSQUITO REPELLING PLANT
I was so glad she told us about the mosquito dance where men slap tea tree branches (Leptospermum petersonii) on their back to release the scent. It was late afternoon and the mozzies were starting to come out. I grabbed a handful and rubbed it into my legs - a fabulous repellent.

Tea tree leaves have a strong citronella scent.

SPEAR MAKING
If you're looking to catch some fish, knowing about the Macaranga (Macaranga tanarius) is useful. Macaranga is a pioneer species that grows quickly and provides shade and protection for other slower species. It's branches are light, straight and flexible.  The Macaranga leaves are used for wrapping fish, and the long branches are used to make straight and lightweight spears that are good for fishing. The wood is so light that it floats together with your catch. The Macaranga is also commonly used as the bottom piece of wood in firelighting.

Large leafed Macaranga has many uses and is a great pioneer in regenerating landscapes.


SOAP MAKING
Aunty Bev grabbed a handful of soap tree (Aphitonia excelsa) leaves and mixed it with a little water to bring up a good lather.  We used to do this a Northey Street City Farm before we had taps and sinks fitted - really effective.  I knew about it's use in fishing too, but I was fascinated to learn that it is used to treat mouth ulcers as a gargle and a leaf heated on a hot rock was used to treat conjunctivitis and sties. The liquid extracted from the bark is great for making ligaments for aching muscles and sore joints - especially if blended with emu oil.

The back of the leaf is distinctly silvery and soft while the front is shiny green. Easy to pick in the bush.

EMERGENCY WATER
Cissus vines are water holders. If a stream has run dry,  cut the cissus vine and hold a cup under it. Water drains from the vine - a very useful piece of information to know.  There are grape looking fruits on the vine, but they are very bitter.

The water vine.
INDICATOR PLANTS
By getting to know plants you start to understand more about everything else around you - the soil, the microclimate, the seasons, the wildlife. Bev showed us a native ginger plant that had little chomp-like indentations out of the side of one of the leaves. This she said was an indicator that a type of solitary native bee lives within 500 metres - the bees come and collect the plant materials for their floors and doors.

The notches on this native ginger were made by bees to make their doors and floors. A good sign that local bees are closeby.

All plants and animals are part of the web of life, and are in a constant interplay with the earth. Although sometimes we forget, we are also inextricably linked. Getting to know our plants helps us to know our place and our selves - to connect or reconnect.

My deep gratitude to you for sharing Aunty Bev. I learnt so much today.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Making Peace with the Earth and Becoming Seeds of Change

 Vandana Shiva's work is a great inspiration to me, and has been since I first met her in Ladakh in 1992. This week she is speaking in Brisbane as part of the Tibetan Festival and I am taking my daughter Maia with me to hear her speak again - always so powerful and motivating. Her talk, Making Peace with the Earth, at the Powerhouse is sold out. I am also very excited to be meeting up with many of my earth activist friends who will be attending.

Evan and I most recently met with Vandana Shiva in Indonesia.

Vandana is one of the world's most prominent environmental advocates. She is an Indian scholar, environmental activist, anti-globalisation author and tireless campaigner for seed freedom - a clear and loud voice for Earth Democracy - calling for seed sovereignty, water sovereignty, food sovereignty and land sovereignty. 

To provide a place where people can come to immerse themselves deeply to learn about these ways of seeing the world, the paradigm shift needed and to gain practical skills, she has created the Earth University in India, connected to Schumacher College. She encourages us all to become activists for Earth Democracy...

"Become the seeds of change in any place in the food web which is so rich and complex - become a seedsaver, an organic farmer, an activist, a chef, a nutritionist ..."

Back in 1992, I was volunteering in the Himalayas at the Ladakh Project with Helena Norbert-Hodge of ISEC and Vandana came up to Ladakh for a week to help establish a community seed-saving project. I watched as the mothers and grandmothers of the community were so empowered by her - they mobilised their community networks and created the seed exchange network within just a few months.

Since then I have crossed paths with Vandana on many occasions - at Schumacher College in England, and more recently at the launch of Slow Food Bali's community seed saving project.

I look forward to spending the evening with Vandana surrounded by my dear earth activist friends.  Who knows what will emerge from a gathering like this.


Maia and Hugh also attended Vanadana's talk at Slow Food Bali's seed project launch.



A couple of quotes from Vandana: 

"You are not Atlas carrying the world on your shoulder. It is good to remember that the planet is carrying you."

"Living democracy grows like a tree, from the bottom up."

"In nature's economy the currency is not money, it is life."

"The time has come to reclaim the stolen harvest and celebrate the growing and giving of good food as the highest gift and the most revolutionary act."


To learn more, here is a selection of books by Vandana:
  • The Vandana Shiva Reader (2014)
  • Making Peace with the Earth (2012)
  • Soil not Oil (2007)
  • Earth Democracy (2005)
  • Stolen Harvest (2000)
  • Monoculture of the Mind (1993)



Monday, 18 April 2016

Are you a hippie?

  • Do you believe in peace and non-violence?
  • Do you care about the future of the planet and all life?
  • Do you actively simplify your life to reduce your impact and aim to be zero-waste?
  • Do you grow (some of) your own food and/or support sustainable local food producers and fair trade suppliers? 
  • Are you into permaculture, urban farming and community food systems?
  • Do you connect with your community and neighbours and do projects together for community and environmental benefit?
  • Do you wear simple clothing, possibly home-made, second-hand, or made ethically using natural fibres?
  • Could your wardrobe of clothes easily fit into a backpack - shoes included? 
  • Do you like going barefoot and connecting with nature?
  • Do you use natural personal care products and possibly even avoid wearing makeup?
  • Did you build your own eco-home, or live simply surrounded by natural materials?
  • Do you create your own flexible work based around your passions and interests with an eco-social focus?
  • Do you find ways to not let money be the key driver in your choices and decisions?
  • Do you love independent and world music, and attend music festivals?
  • Do you homeschool/unschool/worldschool, and/or immerse your kids in nature and community?
  • Do your life goals include wanting to make a positive contribution to society and to leave the world in a better state than how you found it?


If you relate to more than half of the above, you possibly could have already been labelled a 'hippie'.  I reckon though, the real hippie days are long gone.

It could be said that a lot of the actions and values I've described above have been influenced by the radical hippie movement of the 60s and 70s - living and working for social change, peace, freedom and the environment -  but there have also been many other philosophies, discoveries and ideas that have contributed to this way of thinking and living over the past 40 years too.

Am I a hippie?

I relate to all of the above points, but I don't identify as a hippie (I'm too young). I particularly try to avoid the hippie tag because of the negative connotations that typically come with it - I don't smoke or drink or have never been into drugs.  I try to avoid other tags too - it becomes to easy to be parcelled up and dismissed. Tags and labels seem to close people's minds to new possibilities and interesting ideas that are worth exploring.

I know I hold a bit of fear of being labelled a hippie. Considering where I live and what I do, I am an easy target. A recent article about my way of life had the title "Earth Mother, Eco-teacher". I admit I shuddered when I first read the words 'Earth Mother' describing me. It felt like a hippie label, but when I read the article, I realised the title had been given with much respect not condescension.  I think in that moment, I let go of some of my fear and I felt encouraged that this way of life is seen as a positive aspiration.

I love my work, particularly the Nature Kids and permaculture programs I run for kids and the community.
I am not trying to drop out of society. I have my whole life been dropping into living a positive, healthy, community-connected, earth-connected way of life. This feels purposeful to me and brings me a deep sense of joy and meaning. I live in an ecovillage, grow food, teach permaculture, live simply, dress simply, homeschool my kids... Does that make me a hippie? No.  I perhaps embrace a number of hippie culture qualities - love, peace, care for the earth, care for people, living simply and ethically - but I'm just me - me in relation to my community and environment.

Relaxed and happy - barefoot in the garden spreading compost, mulching and planting.

Labels are a great way to be boxed, dismissed and/or marketed to - best if possible to be avoided! Be free, be open, live well, love life, connect and make a positive contribution.






Saturday, 16 April 2016

Healthy and Tasty High-Protein, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Dairy-Free Snack.

Here's one of my favourite snacks -  dry roasted nuts and seeds with a drizzle of organic tamari - super tasty and healthy.

If you have some friends over, it's a great treat for everyone. It's gluten free, dairy free, sugar free, vegan and superbly delicious! These nuts and seeds transform my garden salads and veggie stir-fries too - just a little sprinkle on top. I do love raw nuts and seeds, but when I make this, I so enjoy the crunch and flavour - great as a mid-afternoon energy boost too.

Dry roasted organic nuts and seeds with a drizzle of organic tamari

How to make toasted tamari nuts and seeds:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees celsius.
  2. Spread the nuts and seeds on a baking tray - not too thickly (or it will take longer)
  3. Place on top tray and dry roast for approx 10 minutes until browning and crunchy. At 5 mins, you may wish to swish them around a bit on the tray too to ensure even toasting. When they are growing, test the almonds to see if they are dry and crisp.
  4. When done, remove tray from oven and immediately drizzle a little tamari over the nuts and seeds and stir around. The heat evaporates the liquid and leaves a tasty coating on the nuts and seeds.
  5. (if you happen to splash a little too much on, just pop the tray back in the oven for a couple of minutes until the liquid evaporates)


Nuts and seeds are a healthy and filling snack, high in protein, fibre, vitamin E and lots of other nutrients and minerals. Try not to eat too many though, because they are quite high in calories. A small handful is all you need. 



Friday, 15 April 2016

16 Mighty Homegrown Teas: The Healing Powers of Your Edible Garden

My food garden is also my medicine chest. 
The fresh healthy foods eating straight from the garden bring so many health benefits, but so do the many herbs, flowers, fruits and weeds that can be used as refreshing and healing teas.

My edible lanscape wraps around the house - food, spices, teas and natural remedies always at hand.
Two of my favourite garden teas are Rosella and Lemon Myrtle, and Lemongrass and Peppermint. I love their colours, aroma and taste. Uplifting, refreshing and cleansing. 
Maia and Hugh enjoying a cup of iced rosella tea.

As I walk through my garden, I realise there is just so much more to be known and understood about each and every plant. My garden is a constant source of wonder and inspiration for inquiry.
Here is a small selection of teas that can be made from plants in a permaculture garden, and a brief listing of just some of the benefits they can bring.  There are of course so many more healing herbs, flowers, fruits and roots - and so many more benefits from these plants...


Chamomile Chamomile tea aids to reduce stress and helps digestion. It aids peaceful sleep and reduces the problems of insomnia.
Chamomile
Chickweed – while sometimes considered a nuisance by gardeners, it can be eaten like spinach, and makes a nice salve. As a tea, it is useful for bronchitis, coughs, colds, hoarseness and inflammation.
Chickweed
Dandelion – a natural diuretic and digestive aid, rich in potassium, an excellent source of vitamin A, and protects against iron-deficiency. Dandelion tea is made from leaves and flowers.
Dandelion
Elderberry –  Useful herbal tea for headaches in colds, and a blood purifier.
Elderberry
Ginger – so many benefits - an amazing plant. Ginger tea, amongst other things helps with digestion and circulation, relieves nausea and restores appetite. Also good for morning sickness and motion sickness.
Ginger root
Gota Kola - provides support for healthy memory function, energises the central nervous system and rebuilds energy reserves, helps to combat stress and depression, has a positive effect on the circulatory system, is a mild diuretic and speeds the healing of wounds.
Gota kola
Lavender – relaxes and helps people sleep and feel calm. The dried purple, white and pink coloured flowers are used. It helps to reduce respiratory issues, cough, asthma, bronchitis and body temperature - used for treating fever.
Lavender
Lemon Balm –  A tea of lemon balm also induces perspiration when trying to break a fever. The tea is used to reduce stress, calm nerves, and to lower insomnia and anxiety. It increases the capacity of our memory and refreshes our mood. It lowers the problems of stomach, digestive system and flatulence.
Lemon Balm
 Lemon Myrtle - many benefits - said to relieve muscle cramps and spasms, rheumatism, headaches and fevers. The anti-oxidants in citral help boost the immune system. It is an refreshing and calming tea.
Lemon Myrtle - an Australian native tree.
Lemon grass – purifies the whole body. Helps digestion, cleanses and detoxifies, and relieves arthritis.
Lemongrass cut for tea
Peppermint - a soothing tea - reduces the problems of vomiting, motion sickness and nausea. It strengthens the immune system and gives the body protection against mild coughs, mild asthma. It also helps to clear congestion, and reliece mild aches and pains, as well as supress appetite.
Peppermint
Rosella  Tea is made from dried hibiscus flowers. High in vitamin C. It helps to reduce hypertension, cholesterol and blood pressure. The presence of anti-oxidants in rosella tea gives protection against cell-damaging free radicals. 
Rosella bush 
Strawberry leaves – the dried leaves make a great tea that is a tonic and tones up the body’s intestines and appetite. It cleanses the stomach and is good for eczema and to prevent night sweats.
Strawberry leaf
Tarragon - The health benefits of tarragon tea include its ability to relieve depression and anxiety. It helps relax the nerves and regulates the circulatory system. It also helps relieve fatigue, and induces a feeling of well being.
Mexican tarragon
Tulsi - known for its rich antioxidant and adaptogenic properties that are known to promote wellness by building the body’s immune system, reducing stress, and promoting mental clarity.
Tulsi tea - also a bee attractor.
Thyme – an expectorant and disinfectant, and known for its antifungal properties. Valuable in whooping cough, asthma and and lung troubles. A good remedy for bowel gas and cramps in stomach. Can also relieve headaches.

Thyme