Friday, 28 September 2012

A Floating Apothecary - The Herbal Barge London

I had heard things about this Herbal Barge (named Stormvogel) when I arrived in London, and was instantly curious and excited by the prospect of a floating apothecary! This is perhaps London's first Herbal Barge in over 350 years. The owner, Melissa (forgive me, I cannot find her surname anywhere) is a trained herbalist and runs consultations from her beautiful boat, as well as workshops on herbalism over the summer months. 

I had been meaning to visit this barge for quite a few weeks, when I came down with a horrible case of bronchitis. I am constantly getting bronchiole infections, and fear I do not have very strong lungs. After a tedious night of being kept awake by my own coughing, with my beautiful friend by my side trying everything she could to make me comfortable, her face contorted in worry as I was in the midst of a coughing fit which left me unable to breathe, weak, unable to even pick myself up and make a cup of much needed licorice tea, we decided in the morning that it was the perfect time to visit this wooden den of herbal medicine that floats upon the waters of the river Lea. 

I knew mostly what the problem was and mostly what herbs I needed; the night before I had used an asthma inhaler, thinking it would open my airways and I would be able to breathe, but it only dried up all of my phlem and I was left with a hoarse cough dude to bronchospasm, as the smooth muscle tissue and mucus membranes were dry and irritated.
As we stepped onto the barge a friendly voice cooed from the depths, and we proceeded out of the drizzle and into the warm and earthy cavern. It was truly amazing!

Inside was lined with delicate bottles in all shapes and sizes, all with hand drawn labels, tinctures and salves, syrups and balms, creams, ointments, bitters and even Melissa's own range of herbal Snuff for sinusitis! The kettle was brewing and bubbling on the robust yet elegant iron stove, and the herbalist offers us a cup of tea while we marvel at the surrounds and sink into the atmosphere. The rain outside beats harder as I explain what is going on with my body and am given a few syrups to try, which instantly open my throat and chest and give back some colour to my face (which may also be purely from the ambience of the little barge itself, which made me feel happier and healthier the minute I stepped on board).

A herbal syrup is then made on the spot, in front of me, while the wind wails outside and I potter around reading the labels of everything I can find and realising how much I know about herbs which I didn't think I did. The mix consists of Cramp Bark (my new herbal ally!), Lobelia, Mullien, Liquorice, Plantain, Marshmellow, Hyssop, Ground Ivy (another of my new allies!) and Ephedra. I also get a muscle oil for my back, which has Cramp Bark again, along with Lavender and Chilli. My friend buys me my medicines as a gift (which I am eternally grateful for, so sweet!) and we say our goodbyes, open our umbrellas like fennel flowered umbrels to the grey sky, and begin our decent back home, be clutching my medicines to my chest as they tinkle-tak together, the sound of healing on a dismal day in London.

If you would like to visit the Herbal Barge you can look it up on facebook (link below) and find where it is moored, facebook usually has a map telling you where the barge is at any given time.
You can also contact the herbalist herself via the website (link below) where you can find out more about consultations and courses on offer, or call (+44) 7736966197.
I recommend medicine of this ilk well beyond any prescribed by a GP, I do know there are many amazing things that doctors and modern medicine do, however I have an incessant believe in the powers of herbs and the ability they have to nourish us WHOLLY, using all their constituents to give us the strength and nutrients we need in to heal ourselves.


Sunday, 26 August 2012

Seed Saving - ensuring our survival with our own hands!

This is a 'Guide to Seed Saving, Seed Stewardship and Seed Sovereignty' distributed by the Seed Ambassadors Project, and is available online for free!
It was released in 2010, and is a practical and inspiring guide to get us started on the path of self sufficiency and emphasizing the importance of these little embryonic life forms which give us sustenance, nourishment and vitality.
Please share with whoever you can and lets start to replace our investments in fruit and vegetable seeds, rather than consumer goods, leading to a resilient and vibrant future.

Also, please refer to the 'Seed Savers Manifesto' in one of my later posts for another beautifully written and significant piece on the power of seeds and the role they have in ensuring our survival in the future.

" About 75 percent of agricultural crop diversity is estimated to have been
lost since the beginning of the last century." p.1

Why is genetic diversity so important? 
".. erosion of diversity directly limits our ecological and social resilience and
adaptability within this changing world." p.1

If things are uniform they loose their rigidity, their strength and vitality, their ability to adapt and change with the world around them. Ecology exists as an equilibrium, a constant balance of all that has evolved to adapt to situations and surrounds, and if spokes of this web are cut then the structure can't support itself.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Vertical Pallet Garden around the Bush Bath

The backyard is a constant process.... it will NEVER ALL BE DONE! I have to constantly remind myself of this! I do, however, have some visions, and those visions are made more and more attainable with my wonderful brothers and sisters that love to get their hands in the dirt!
One of those visions is for my bush bath (which I may even do a design for tonight.... hrmmm) Right now, the design is in my head, and I will share a few of the things I have envisioned with you....
Firstly, do you know what a 'Bush Bath' is?! If not, it is one of the most incredible things ever! It is a bath that is outdoors, propped up over a fire. The bath is filled with water, the fire is lit, the cover is put on top, and you go make some dinner while you wait for your cleanliness soup to start to bubble! (well... not bubble, you don't want to cook!... make a small fire!) One of the things I will stress if you are ever going to do this is to always have a piece of wood (an old wooden chopping board is good) to sit on in case your bum gets too hot!! You do not want to burn!
Perhaps I should be doing a blog on bush baths?! We will see...
Anyway, they are amazing, as you lay in a bath that stays hot for a long time, look up at the stars and around at the trees, and heat a pot of tea on the coals! Bliss....
The bath of mine is quite RamSHacKle! It is held up by some really shoddy looking bricklaying, (the back wall rocks, and then you can see I start to get impatient) and some star pickets- but, despite its appearance, it is very sturdy indeed! As it should be in case someone chooses to have a romantic bath for two...
One of my goals is to lay chicken wire around the bricks, fill it with hay and then render it with lime and bits of broken plates- which will make it look beautiful and neat.

Another of my visions is.... was... to create a Vertical Pallet Garden, or even a few, to lean against the North wall around the bath.
Today that intention was put into actuality by myself, and three other womyn of wonder!
Lately I have been LOVING being surrounded by my sistas (and my brothers, although I do not have nearly as many male gardening folk around me) as we have been pursuing amazing projects and working on very wholesome and nourishing activities. I have been feeling a grounding and connectivity not only with these people, but with the errrrth and all its beauty. I cannot give enough praise to gardening with people!
Of course, one of those goddesses with their helping hands was Tamara, who sheds her compassion and experience where ever she goes.

As I am a complete cheap skate saving for Permaculture 

projects for Europe, we obtained pretty much everything 
for FREE!

-1 Wooden Pallet
- Mulch
- Top Soil
- Compost
- Nails
- Hammer (some people use a staple gun)
- Geofabric (or landscapers mesh, or shade cloth)
- Plants and Seeds

The only things that were paid for were the nails, the plants and the Geofabric (which is a man made synthetic breathable fabric which does not decompose... I do not know how good this stuff is for our errrth, but it fits the purpose of this garden very well).

In between various tea and lunch breaks we proceeded to:

- Cover the back and bottom of the Pallet with Geofabric, making sure to fold it over around the edges so it does not fray, and nailing it in place. This ensures that the soil will not fall out the back and the bottom when you fill it with soil to plant into. 

- Mix the Mulch, Compost and Topsoil (all courtesy of a good friend and his very giving backyard) in a wheelbarrow.
- Turn the Pallet upright and fill with the black beautiful mess that we created (with our bare hands of course!). 

- Make little holes and plant into them. We used violets, snap dragons and lawn chamomile to start with, which are things that I'm pretty sure like 'wet feet' and enjoy shady conditions, considering that the pallet faces south. 

Here are some useful links that explain making Pallet gardens in more detail:


Lemon, Ginger and Chickpea curry was made in a pumpkin baked in the oven, along with Chilli and Nutmeg spelt sourdough and salad! Mmmmmmmm Soil Soul Fuel Food!!
And Chai with cake!

Thank you to my sistrrs for helping make my aspirations and aims that much more attainable!

Friday, 25 May 2012

~ The Labyrinth Garden ~ Spirals of the Divine Connection

 On Tuesday the 22nd of May, before the first Transition Sherbrooke Food Co-Op Meeting, a few of us gathered in Upwey to build a labyrinth! The wind was fierce that day, and there were only four of us, but it was perfect. Tuesdays are generally my days off, and what a way to spend a day off! Sarah and Tamara organized it, Sarah the ideas womyn and Tamara the instigator. Tamara is one hell of an instigator! Always doing amazing things for the benefit of the community- she radiates light and love from her garden goddess soul, and I am constantly in gratitude of being on this Perma Path with her!! <3

The labyrinth was formed using lots of different kinds of flour and some wheat and legumes. We decided to go with a spiral- the symbol of change, growth, the goddess, evolution.

Incense was lit in the middle of the spiral, (purchased from Resin Aromatics at the Grassroots market in Upwey). Our intention and focus was on the Divine Connection.... what a beautiful thing for attention!
We all spiraled the powdered grains around and around, and each took turns scorching the earth around it with Tamaras 'weed wand'!

After a good 3 hours or more, we each walked into the labyrinth, the entrance being near the majestic pine tree, one by one we took our slow steps to the center, and left something in the middle with our intent fueled into it. After a few breathes, we spiraled out, feeling lighter, freer, breathing easier. Tamara took my hand and we walked out of the spiral together, and hugged with tears in our eyes. There was something so magickal, so emotional, about taking that journey to the center and back out again.
This was such a nourishing day, and I hope to continue spending more of my time doing things that feel so cleansing to my soul, with people that are so beneficial to my existence. xx

Monday, 21 May 2012

Soil Soul!

I am constantly learning and evolving, and have many more questions that hopefully I will find the answers to and post on this page.

Documenting my intimate and sometimes overwhelming relationship with soil and all the information that goes with it!
This is my online Guts, digesting all the knowledge about Yummy Soil and its complex history, structure and web!

Get Your Hands Dirty!!!

The first thing I will say is: SOIL IS LIVING! You cannot see it, but each time you take a step you are standing on a complex web of creatures and critters that are all performing functions within a Soil Food Web. Most of the soil life is within the first 10 centimeters of soil, housing and harboring centipedes, springtails, ants, slugs, ladybird beetle larvae and countless bacteria and fungi. There can be up to 50 earthworms in a square foot of soil, and just a single teaspoon of healthy soil contains a billion invisible bacteria, several yards of fungal hyphae (the fungal strands underground that give rise to the fruiting bodies we know as mushrooms) and several thousand protozoa (single celled organisms that feed on bacteria). 

One integral thing when talking about the Soil Food Web is talking about exudates. Most people do not realize that the energy gained from plants through photosynthesis is actually converted into chemicals that they secrete through their roots. These chemicals are called exudates. They are carbohydrates/sugars and proteins that are excreted by the roots into the rhizosphere (the place directly outside the roots). The rhizosphere is like a central hub for soil activity, as bacteria and fungi feed off the exudates. If you think of perspiration being a humans exudate, and the surface of the skin being the rhizosphere it makes things a little easier to imagine!
Exudates actually 'wake up' and attract beneficial bacteria and fungi. There is soil life constantly competing for these root secretions, which means there is a constant mix of diverse soil organisms present within this area. Whatever the bacteria and fungi do not need to absorb as nutrients, they release as wastes, which the plants take up into their roots. This is like going to the local organic shop for our nutrients, rather than to a supermarket far away for poor quality foods. Because all this is happening in the rhizosphere, it means that nutrients become readily available when and where they are needed!
Nutrients are preserved within the bodies of soil life and released when that organism dies or waste products are produced. This process is called immobilization. It means that nutrients are immobilized inside all of the critters, bacteria and fungi.
Now you might start to realize something.... without PLANTS the soil life diminishes! If there are no plants there are no exudates and therefore there is no thriving soil life around the rhizosphere. Plants create healthy soil life! A really amazing fact is that plants can control the amount and different kinds of fungi and bacteria which are attracted to them, depending on the kinds of exudates they produce. Plants are pretty smart, they may not be able to move, but they have been around long enough to adapt and have found many ways of drawing the things they need to them instead. 

Soil Pacman!
(what eats what within the soil) 

Exudates are secreted =====> Bacteria and Fungi Feed on Exudates =====> Nematodes and Protozoa feed on Bacteria and Fungi =====> Larger critters like Centipedes and Mites feed on Nematodes and Protozoa 

The soil food web is kept healthy and pathogenic bacteria is kept at bay while everything is in a balanced relationship, competing for exudates. The fungal strands (hypae) form a mat (called mycelium) that can wrap around roots and protect plants from pathogenic fungi and bacteria. Mycorrhizal fungi establish themselves in a symbiotic relationship with plant roots, providing them with nutrients delivered straight to the site that is needed.

"Ultimately, from the plants perspective anyhow, the role of the soil food web is to cycle down nutrients until they become temporarily immobilized in the bodies of bacteria and fungi and then mineralized" - 'Teaming with Microbes' Jeff Lowenfels & Wayne Lewis 

Disturbed soils will have more bacteria than fungi. Forest soils have 10 times the amount of fungi than bacteria, as fungi can break down lignin, the substance that differentiates trees from plants and creates bark. 

...more coming soon...

The Sex Life of Plants

This is a book that I am reading at the moment that is incredible! I found it in a wonderful second hand bookstore and it includes two amazing things that I love and am in awe of: Sex and Plants!

This page is going to be used as a small summery of the book as I learn from it, filled with quotes and facts throughout my reading journey as I explore the wonderful world of plants and all the weird and wonderful ways they couple.

....Some flowers blush after sex... how sweet!

Samhain (May 1st) - The Rooster Crows and Crokes...

(Please be aware that this post contains information about killing a rooster to eat, and could upset or offend some people with particular views on such a sensitive topic. Please, if this has potential to offend you, do not read any further. This blog is to document all the learnings in my journey, death and growth all included.)
On May 1st, which is Samhain in the Southern Hemisphere (the Celtic day of the dead, the pagan festival of 'all hallows' or 'haloween') I awoke with a fresh sense of independance, freedom and vitality, despite the growing cold. Our household had been planning to take the life of one of our roosters for dinner, as one of our hens hatched a rooster a few months back and we can't have the two competing.
Now, I am not a huge fan of killing animals, but I do get a sense of gratification that I can provide for myself and others when I prepare a meal, whether it be animal or vegetable. It also helps to connect me to the earth, when I can see something living and breathing, and then hours later have it give me some nourishment to sustain my own life. It gives me a sense of appreciation. I don't want to just see meat wrapped in plastic like some lifeless product, I want to actually see what happens for myself, and do it as humanely as possible.
Being the day of the dead, this seemed fitting and allowed me to feel a deeper connection with the surest thing in life: death.
There are many tutorials online, various websites with diagrams and advice, and clips. I have helped other people kill poultry, on two occasions, but on this day I was filled with a warrior-like essence of being able to do this by myself for the first time.
I don't know if its like this for everyone, but for me some primal instinct seems to take over and I kind of understand what needs to be done.
I had three big stainless steel pots lined up, one with nothing in, one with near to boiling water and one with cold water. After catching the rooster, sitting with him for a minute and calming him, and then killing him with a sharpened knife (of which I won't go into too much detail for the light hearted) I bleed it into the empty pot, then dunked it into the hot water for a minute or so, then into the cold. This opens up the pores of the skin (and then the cold insures that the skin doesn't burn) so that the feathers are easy to pluck out.
You don't so much pluck as wipe, they will usually wipe off fairly easy, and one of the pieces of advice I can offer is to do the wing feathers first, as these will be the toughest as the skin cools and the pores become smaller.
I then took the bird into the kitchen, and with my sharp knife started the gutting process. This is actually more straight forward than I thought. I will not go into much detail, there are endless websites that will tell you how to do this, but a few things I learned along the way include: being gentle but not timid! The vent has to be cut around properly because then you will get chicken manure everywhere, which, although can be washed off, isn't the nicest thing to have happen! Also, there is only a small slice that needs to be made to fit your hand into in order to gut the animal, not a slice down the front (which is how animals such as rabbits and kangaroos are skinned). Some people may not be so bold, but I like to do the gutting with my hands... its easy to feel your way around and know all the bits you need to tug at and all the other pieces you need to leave intact. Basically, all the internal organs are taken out, and don't be shy to use a little force with this, especially when it comes to removing the esophagus and crop (the bit with all the shellgrit in it that the chickens use to 'chew' their food).
Next I cut some of the neck off (leaving the wishbone!) and stuffed the bird with cloves and oranges, warm spices to welcome the Autumn and coming winter.

I have to say that I was filled with a sense of pride and satisfaction when I sat down to my meal that night, and fed 3 other people too. There is something nourishing about seeing food from the yard on your plate.
I now know that whenever we get too many roosters I can make a wonderful dinner.
I honor the lifeforce which I took in order to sustain my own life, and although part of me battles with my conscious thought of the animal having no choice in the matter, I do thank our wonderful rooster, Midnight, for the sustenance it provided us, and also the experience it gave me. <3

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Transition Sherbrooke Food Co-Op

I recently became the volunteer Coordinator for the Transition Sherbrooke Food Co-Operative!
The first meeting will be held on TUES 22ND MAY 2012, Check out the flyer below for more details.

Please fill out the survey to have a say in your community!


Amazing local produce guide for Mount Alexander:
I have a vision of a group of us starting something like this for the hills! Then the food co-op could work off the guide.

The Food Co-Op Shop

Regulator of Co-operatives in Victoria:

Registrar of Co-operatives
Consumer Affairs Victoria
PO Box 4567
Melbourne, VIC, 3001

Co-operatives ACT 1996$FILE/96-084a.pdf

The Food Co-Op Shop 'Rules'
This is an excellent guide as a reference for all the processes of decision making, membership, finances and legalities.

Small Landholder series: 'Competing against the big guys'

Many ideas brewing!

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Perma Blitz Kalorama, Saturday the 14th April 2012


Saturday 14th April, 2012
Host: Claire Coutts
Lead Designer: Taj Scicluna
Co-Designers: Heather Elliot and Bridie Mckavanagh

I used this client for my Design Drawing Assignment, second semester of the Permaculture Diploma 2011 at Eltham College.
The assignment had to be completed by December, and some of the planning wasn't exactly finished, so the design differs a little from the clients needs.
There were a few things from the design which we decided to focus on, and although I was named lead designer and tried to give what I could to the role, I really felt that everyone put in their fair share in the process.
The two key aspects which we focused on for the day were the herb garden out the front, south facing outside the kitchen window, and the fox and hawk proof chicken run out the back, north facing on a slope.

After a lot of designing, planning, meetings and de-briefings- we finally arrived on the sunny day at 8am, ready to start with our 15 volunteers at 10am.
We started a little late, waiting for some stragglers, first with a brief introduction of who we were, where we were from and a little permaculture background. This was followed by each individual leading the group through their favourite stretch, then there was a quick run through of the process for the day before splitting into two groups to help with the two activities for the day.
Bridie and I facilitated the Chicken Run with about 7-8 volunteers, while Heather facilitated the herb terrace with about 6-7 volunteers.
Both the projects collectively cost less than $100, as the materials were mostly salvaged by Claire herself (who is excellent in the arts of scrounging and recycling!).
The input and feedback we received from people was incredible, although if I could personally do anything different next time it would be to plan the construction of a structure a little better before the actual day! I am getting better at using presision and measurements instead of the "oh that will do, its creative!" attitude! We had a few technical difficulties with the roof of the structure, as we used UPVC pipe (which was basically the only thing we brought) so it doesn't bend in the sun (much like black polypipe does, which can cause the structure to bend out of shape and not last as long). This is a lot less malleable, and we could only get it in 6m lengths on the day- attaching the UPVC to the star picketts and then using wire mesh and chicken wire for the walls and roof, their would have been a lot of height to the structure and not enough width.
We didn't get to start the roof on the day, as the chicken run was quite a big job, but agreed to buy some elbows and another length of UPVC to attach the roof, to gain more width and less height in the future.
A trench was dug around the area of the chicken run, about 10cm deep, for the hard galvanized wire to fit into. This wire reached a height of 2m, same as the star pickets. Then a shallower trench, about 5cm deep, was dug around the chicken run, about 50cm wide. Chicken wire was then tied to the galvanized wire fence, and dug into the shallow trench and covered over. This works on the principle that foxes coming up close to the fence will try and dig underneath to get to the chickens, only to discover the chicken wire underneath. The foxes will not usually dig 60cm out from the fence to see where the wire stops!
The whole group was very co-operative and enthusiastic, and I have to say my favourite thing about the chicken run is the gate post made of a eucalyptus tree branch, which makes the whole thing look a little more creative and rustic.

Heather designed an amazing terraced herb garden for the front yard, which was similar in concept to a food spiral. The garden was terraced, with a U-shaped trench dug around the whole herb garden, which was filled with mulch. This acted like a bit of a swale, where water coming down the slope could gather and soak into the terraced beds with the herbs in them. The drier more Mediterranean herbs were placed at the top, receiving less water and more sun (after a few of the existing trees were cut down), while the more water loving herbs were placed at the bottom terrace, where they could get a good soak in the shade. The terrace walls were made using dry stone walling, which looked fantastic! 

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

New Zealand Food Bill and Natural Health Products Bill

This is a page I am using to compile as much information about these as possible, trying to find out all the details, when the dates are that they are to be passed, if the consiquences of them being passed are actually as dire as most people think etc.
There is a lot of SIFTING that needs to be done, so feel free to use this page as a basis for your own research regarding these issues.
I may also try and put some info up about the current state of America with certain similar Bills.... bare with me, I can only fit so much in my brain at a time!

The New Zealand Food Bill
Government bill 160-2
The New Zealand Food Safety Authority
Q & A page

The Permaculture Research Institute of Australia
'New Zealands 160-2 Food Bill- An Oppurtunity!' - a community initiative to raise awareness about the NZ food bill


New Zealand Natural Health Products Bill
Government Bill 324-1

NZ Food Security
Use the Natural Health Products Bill to Counter the Food Bill

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Manifesto on the Future of Seeds

'The International Commission on the Future of Food and Agriculture' has published this manifesto free for us to download. This is an important read for all those concerned with our future and the need for food security and seed saving.

Download here:

Through Dr.Vandana Shiva's website, an incredible woman who is fighting for our food rights.

Monday, 27 February 2012

Dynamic Groups with Robin Clayfield


As of Monday 20th Feb I started the 'Dynamic Groups' 6 day workshop with Robin Clayfield at Eltham College, as part of my Permaculture Diploma.
This unit is all about community and facilitation, which means I am in my element!
This is more of a little Revision for me, but I will hopefully keep adding things that I recall. 
If you want more detail on these amazing processes you can buy Robin's book 'Teaching Permaculture Creatively' from her directly. This is an amazing resource, and although some of the processes and games may look a little child like, they work so well! I didn't even realize I was learning so much in such a short time. This workshop was incredibly inspirational, and has given me so many tools to work with, and increased my self confidence immensely!

Summery of Games and Proccesses:
Brain Exercises:
*Mind Maps (group input, Brain bubble)
*Visualization (check in, self awareness, relaxation, grounding, meditation)
*Cross Crawling (shoulder shoulder group game, wobbley archer, nose and ears)
*Body Buttons (Massage, Jeff Hodgus book)
*Creative thinking (Card games, storytelling, problem solving, quiz's)

 Check ins:
*One word to describe Mental, Physical Emotional state
*Throw Ball in a circle and say: Name, emotion, goal, etc.
*Pick something from nature to describe your feeling
*Act out your emotion or state
*Exaggerate your emotional state with a facial expression
*Describe yourself as a tree
*Passion page

*Massage in group
*Stiff leg/muscle game
*Ear and eye massage

 Trust Games:

Grouping Processes:
*Numbers, Symbols or something from Nature
*Line up
*3 Noises
*Divide room in half
*Random interests
*Card games

*First persons gaze

*Have you ever?/Are you going to?
*Ear and Eye massage
*Dance and Movement
*Cross crawling

*Day, Month year
*Paper-slip timeline
*Ball throw recall
*Walk backwards through day
*Mind Maps

Tuesday, 14 February 2012


Design for Kalorama Permablitz
Designed by Taj Scicluna