Juan Anton’s Food Forest

A little spanish food forest inspiration for you. I love the idea of these. So good.

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The permaculture community of Atamai

There’s a word floating around my head at the moment that I can not seem to shake off. So I’m not trying to, and instead I’m embracing it. I’m going to hold on to that word, feed it, water it and shower it in all the love and attention that it requires of me.

Community… it’s important stuff, really important.

Enjoy this little video that gives a tiny glimpse into the wonderful community and permaculture village, of Atamai in New Zealand.

“I’m surrounded by people who know more than I do about things I want to know about…I spend my days learning…continually”

Stingless Bees (native bees)

splitting a native bee hive || cityhippyfarmgirl

Last weekend I did a one day course on stingless bees (or native bees) with Tim Heard, through the wonderful Milkwood.

Tim Heard is an expert on all things native bees and along with his friend Tony Goodrich presented a course that I haven’t stopped talking about since.

Stingless Bees are amazingly wonderful and I am so looking forward to going further with this. My courtyard, local school, friends…yes, this is definitely going to happen.

Watch this space I reckon. Stingless bees, let’s do this.

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How about you? Are you doing any courses at the moment? Got any experience with bees, native or otherwise? Or would you also like to get a stingless bee hive?

Sugarbag.com for a cracking start to understanding what they are all about.

Jump across to Milkwood for more awesome courses to do.

Simple Living, Weekday Markets, Calendars, and Questions!… The Green Noticeboard

permaculture principles || cityhippyfarmgirl Simple Living- a selfish joy. Loved reading this post from Tricia at Little Eco Footprints. It prompted a wonderful dinner time discussion at our place on what was important to us all. Weekday Farmers Markets, with Milkwood- the benefits of running a shorter shopping window during the week and why we should be utilising it. (I’d love to know whether you have a weekday market in your area and whether you use it.) Have you thought about next years calendar? Permaculture Principles has a wonderful one they put out each year. I’ve just bought some, (they have big squares to write in, oh yes they do.) And for something different, I’m over at the delightfully lovely, super duper green-Ecolosophy and answering some very important questions. Questions that involve- community, food, kitchens and what on earth I did to get on Death Row!?

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I quite often come across links that I find interesting, full of things I should know about and sometimes just down right fascinating.

Feel free to link any of your own green links in the comments. Let’s build this community green noticeboard board.

the green noticeboard || cityhippyfarmgirl

Eat Local Challenge #1

eat local #1 || cityhippyfarmgirl

Eat LOCAL child version || cityhippyfarmgirl The challenge was on. My Eat Local challenge, and this was the night to be doing. A chaotic evening after a rough day. Not the best choices to start off an challenge but I was wearing it. However it was what we were eating that was more important.

The Menu

For the adults- A raw kale salad with hard boiled eggs. (rice, kale, shallots, brown onion, flat leafed parsley, corn, carrot, lime juice, olive oil, chilli and eggs.)

For the kiddo’s- A similar tamed down version, swapping the kale for lettuce. (rice, corn, lettuce, carrot, olive oil and eggs.)

Where it was from

Rice- from Randall Organic rice

Olive Oil- from Lisborne Grove, Hunter Valley

Vegetables- from Kurrawong Organics and Champion’s Mountain Organics, Mangrove Mountain

Eggs- Ed’s Eggs, Jirandali Farm- Mangrove Mountain (85km from Sydney)

Chilli- my courtyard

eat local || cityhippyfarmgirl

Over all dinner was a success. The kids were happy to eat it all and Mr Chocolate said it was all delicious. He did throw a little Caramelised Balsamic Vinegar on top of his jazz it up a bit- a company that produces 250km’s away. I didn’t, but was kicking myself three hours later for not putting a little more protein in there or fat of some sort…I was hungry!! I guess this is the tricky bit, locally produced vegetarian protein. Besides eggs, what other alternatives do I have? To find out next time.

ooooby vegetables || cityhippyfarmgirl

Tidbits

– Foodconnect- Sydney is no longer, and OOOOBY has taken over. Similar concept, and just as committed. This is from their $39 delivered veg box.

The Locavore Edition– for Australian east coast readers, there is a comprehensive guide to both NSW and Victoria so far, (with Tasmania in the nominating stage.)

eat local || cityhippyfarmgirl

How about you? Interested in taking the challenge?

For more details see this post here and for the nitty gritty of ‘how local is local’- well this depends entirely on you. Only you know how you and your family eat. Raise the bar just a little from what you already do. If making sure the majority of your meal includes solely food produced in your country, than make that your challenge. If you want to make it a little trickier, go for produced in the same state…trickier still within 160km.

My aim is to really know where my food is coming from for at least one meal a month, (I will be post here in the last week of the month). It sounds easy enough at this stage, but as the year progresses will it continue to?

eat local challenge || cityhippyfarmgirl

Edit– Have a peek over here at Christine’s Eat Local deliciousness

Slow Living Essentials- Eat Local #1

Slow Living Essentials- Eat Local #1

Passata Day

tomatoes||cityhippyfarmgirl When I found out Milkwood was holding a Passata Day, there was a squeal of delight, and more than a little happy hand clapping. I had long held dreams of being part of a European village tomato festival, had looked longingly looked over at Rohan’s Passata Day from last year and would have happily invited myself over to any large family that held annual passata days in their backyard (if only I knew of any.)

So when Passata Day was announced I was just a little bit happy. A promise of lunch by Three Blue Ducks, mocktails by Trolleyd, music by Sophie Loizou and all tomatoey goodness by Common2us and Old Mill Road– to be held in the back garden of an inner city community centre?

Oh yes I was going to be there, and it promised to be a good one!

passata day||cityhippyfarmgirl

trolleyd

Amazing mocktails from Trolleyd created from native and organic ingredients, all foraged or sourced locally. If you didn’t think bartending and sustainability went hand in hand, think again.tomato||cityhippyfarmgirl

Tomatoes. Real tomatoes. The kind that taste like summer and come in every funny shape and form. The red goodness came from two market garden farms- Common2us an organic community farm based in Dural and Old Mill Road BioFarm, a family run farm in Moruya.

fermented||cityhippyfarmgirl Some of my favourite conversation topics happened here. Chats on sourdough, permaculture, homebirth, cooking, photography, community and fermentation. The Passata Goddess must have been smiling above me, when she placed two of Sydney’s fermentation experts in front of me- questions answered and encouragement built on. These were a few of their beautiful fermented goodies to be tasted on the day.

 Simple beautiful food, eaten at a long table….nothing better. Nothing.

milkwood permaculture||cityhippyfarmgirl The amazing and inspiring Kirsten and Nick, the couple behind Milkwood Permaculture.

milkwood permaculture passata day||cityhippyfarmgirl

…and the wonderful finished product.

Bidding goodbye to old and new friends, with the passata bottles safely tucked away. I slowly peddled home and reflected on why today had made me so happy.

* I had got to be a part of a community event that I had always wanted to.

* I had been able to talk with people that held so many similar interests and beliefs.

* I was able to introduce two of my friends to an event that they would have otherwise not known about, (which they loved.)

* I had met a bundle of people that I knew in the virtual social media world, and had been able to (at times nervously) introduce myself.

And ultimately. Celebrated the fact that so many of my interests and ideals could come together in the one day. To organise an event such as this would taken a huge amount of time, but it was done beautifully and I can only hope there is another one for next year. This is a perfect example of what simple living can be. A community event where food and people come together. Where skills are shared, knowledge is passed on and friendships formed and added to.

Passata Day you rocked.

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For more Passata Day goodness see here.

a heaving black mass and sour cream chive scones

 cityhippyfarmgirl

cityhippyfarmgirl

I watched the heaving black mass for a minute. Shuddered a little and averted my eyes, hoping I’d imagined it as I slowly turned back.

Alas, no. There they still were, running the chive gauntlet, acting all busy like. Busy with what you say? Sucking the life out of my chives it seems.

My tiny potted permaculture garden had been doing reasonably well, condsidering all the growing conditions. At a distance everything looked pretty healthy and well tended. Up close, it was a little different though. The mint was munched, the lemon balm looked a touch fried and the chives well…were a black heaving mass. A black heaving mass of which I wanted no part of.

I noticed them, I observed them, I squished them between my fingers, I thinned the chive cluster out a little, I squirted high powered water on them. They seemed to love every second of their well tended honeymoon and bred like bloody aphids. I watched a little more, the ants below ‘farmed’ them, making sure they were ok, feeling loved and nurtured. No more, I muttered, it’s you or me… and quite frankly, well it really has to be you.

I pulled them all out, bar a few sad loners that the aphids weren’t partying on yet. My perfectly balanced permaculture pot was now looking a little unbalanced. But at least the black heaving mass was disrupted and I could once again think about eating chives without wrinkling my nose and furrowing my brow.

sour cream and chive scones

Sour cream and Chive Scones

250g sour cream

250mls water

one large handful of finely chopped chives, (optional black aphids)

1 tsp salt

whisk these ingredients together in a large bowl and then add

2.5-3 cups self raising flour (375-450g)*

mix through with a butter knife

tip out on to a lightly floured bench top and knead quickly with finger tips, pulling it together to a light dough.

Cut shapes, onto a tray and bake at 220 for approximately 20 minutes (depends on their thickness.)

A story of currant buns, mice and permaculture

currant buns- cityhippyfarmgirl

currant bunsWhen I was a little girl I used to have a poster from Autumn Story- Brambly Hedge (by Jill Barklem). I don’t know where I got it from and I don’t know where it went, but it had embedded in my mind, and was still remembered fondly as an adult. I loved that picture. Every part of it spoke to me, on a level I couldn’t explain as a kid.

Decades later as a mother now, my own children have several of these books by Jill Barklem. I knew I still loved, and was more than happy to read them whenever I was asked to. But it wasn’t until a few weeks ago when it all finally clicked.

I loved these stories, loved these pictures and was drawn in a sentimental way to the seasonal themes. Not because I wanted to be a mouse, with long held dreams of having a tail. But because they were living a life that I aspired too, (and strangely enough, seems I’ve always aspired to.) It was a kind of ‘duh’ moment, where I frowned a little, and the light inside my head clicked well and truly on.

brambly hedge

Autumn Story- Brambly Hedge

Let me try and explain…

First up a description of what the Brambly Hedge books are about, “…a community of self-sufficient mice who live together in the tranquil surroundings of the English countryside.” Self sufficiency on a community level…damnit, these mice were surely permaculturalists!

With adult eyes, I look at the beautiful pictures in these books. I see kitchens full of preserved goodies, dried seasonal foods hanging from ceilings and berries being collected to make sweet pastry lined pies. With busy tables full of bustling family members,   seasonal festivities, crafting, natural earth building, hell…they even had laden cake stand with hand made tea cosy.

brambly hedge

So many things I held dear, had interest in or aspired to, was right there…in a mouse book. It was hard not to smile and get a little bit excited when I explained it all to Mr Chocolate. By this time, I know he’s well used to odd thoughts and conversations flying from me, but even he agreed that yes, on closer look they did indeed seem to be living a life that I often speak of. With a happy heart, I suggested to my boys, that we read them, one more time before bed, and possibly again the next night. (I never know, it might in turn create a long held dream of their own to have an interest in permaculture, seasonal living…or at the very least, to grow a long tail and a pair of small pink ears.)

currant buns

So what do currant buns have to do with mice, permaculture and childhood books? Well if  I’m going to let myself get completely absorbed in the books, I should have the appropriate food on the table, don’t you think? Currant Buns seemed liked a good choice, and one that a small community of rural living little mice might also enjoy, don’t you think?

Currant Buns

300g starter

2 tsp dried yeast

150g currants

100mls hot water

300mls cream

750g (5 cups) flour

50g brown sugar

250mls water

2 tsp salt

Soak your currants in 100mls of hot water for an hour or so beforehand. Add all your ingredients together except your salt. Mix well, and leave for 40 minutes. Add salt and mix again, (I use my mixer) or knead on a lightly floured surface until well incorporated and dough is smooth. Leave to prove for a couple of hours, with a couple of knock backs in between.  Shape into rolls and place on a lined tray, allow to prove for another hour or so.

Bake at 220 for approximately 15-20 minutes.

tree of life

cumquat

When I gave birth last year here at home, there were already long held plans of what I was going to do with my placenta. I wanted to plant it, to honour it and give it the respect it deserved by planting a tree over it. My only slight problem, was that I didn’t have access to dirt, real in the ground dirt.

My images of planting a tree, that would one day be metres and metres tall, providing shade and perhaps some sort of food that my grown up children could eat from, would have to be slightly deviated from. (We live in a rented apartment, with a small shared courtyard.) There were no substitute backyards to choose from for us and I wasn’t convinced some guerilla gardening placenta style in our local park would work with long term results.

So with that in mind, we kept it frozen in an ice cream container until the right day came along.

Finally the time felt right. A large pot was bought and filled, ready to take in the precious cargo. I still hadn’t quite decided on what plant was going to go in, but I was ready to make the first step in honouring our placenta. After some whispered personal words, and a few fascinated pokes, prods and careful watching from the little people. I covered it with soil. Loosely covering the top of the pot with another pot, so no neighbouring dogs would try to investigate. I could then let the placenta gently break down before having something planted over it.

One month went by, and it had completely broken down. Every little part of it. You would never have known what was once there. Magic.

Now I just had to decide what to go over the top?

I narrowed it down to a citrus or an olive tree. Something that could handle being in a pot and wouldn’t mind the somewhat brief sunlight that my little courtyard could offer it.  I talked with Nick from Milkwood to see what he suggested and a cumquat came up. I felt a bit mean initially, as I was the only who actually liked them. But I did like them, actually I loved them, and maybe one day this little girl would love them too. What sold me completely was standing before the ‘Australian Cumquat’ in the nursery and seeing the sign say, “hardy” and “well suited to pots”. I think this was our plant.

chocolate mint

I have had a few strange looks from people when I’ve mention what we did. However, now  the idea of just tossing the placenta in a bin or incinerator sounds far more ridiculous and less than respectful to me. Our ‘Australian Cumquat’ has been planted, and along with it some companion plants along side it, (trying to think along permaculture lines.)

allysum

mint and lemon balm

Chocolate Mint, chives, and alyssums for keeping moisture in, (instead of using mulch and being useful at the same time.) Plants chosen for being edible or encouraging of bees, hopefully not going to compete for too much root space and fragrant enough to deter pests. Two pots either side of this now also have regular mint and lemon balm. On the other side rosemary- which also flowers, encouraging bees and has a pest deterring fragrance. Above the cumquat on the fence line, more sweet scented alyssum.

I’m hoping I’ve got it right and these plants will all be happy where they are. At the very least, I’ve now got a tiny once concrete corner that is already bringing joy. Just knowing that in our tiny backyard space, our plants are doing what that precious placenta first set out to do, bringing life.

A tree of life.

cityhippyfarmgirl

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If you are thinking about planting your own tree of life, some sites that might be helpful.

Birth to Earth

Tips for planting a placenta fruit tree.

How about you? Are there any particular cultural customs that you observe? Have you planted a placenta?

milkwood

cityhippyfarmgirl

milkwood

The night before I started, I’d questioned myself a little. Why was I doing this course when we still lived in a small flat in a very busy city? Wasn’t this the sort of course that you did when you had access to land or at the very least, had a small back yard?

The next day, listening just ten minutes in to Nick Ritar from Milkwood speaking, I knew I had made the right decision. This was definitely the course for me. It was one of those moments where I had felt simultaneously like laughing and crying at the same time….that’s how right it felt.

I had signed up to do the Introduction to Permaculture weekend course, and have come away from it utterly renewed and inspired…totally inspired. (Just quietly, I think my brain exploded a little that weekend.)

My dreams of living elsewhere in a far less big city fashion, have been whole heartedly renewed. However I’ve also been totally inspired to do more where I am, in this very moment as well. Living by permaculture principles is totally workable in an inner urban environment, not only workable…it should be compulsory. Can you imagine if permaculture was a subject taught in all city schools along with reading and maths? A subject that was just naturally incorporated into our learning curriculum? Changes people, massive changes, and I can’t see how it would be anything but overwhelmingly positive.

So what am I going to do with my newly permaculture exploded brain?

I am going to run with it. I’m going to start with some teeny tiny changes that are going to make an impact on the way my family and I live, and then I’m going to hopefully branch out a little and slowly shake things up.

I’ve got dreams again and I’m not afraid to use them.

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For more info see 

Milkwood