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!