Saturday, November 13, 2010

Rain changes everything

Following on from yesterday's post... yes, the rain did come:

The swales filled,

rain drove across the cellar door,

the neighbour's excess storm water was directed around two beds,

the newly planted seeds were bedded in,

the broad beans lapped up the heavens,

and my giant eucalypt pods were painted wet, among the grasses and berries.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Companion planting

Zeph and I got up early this morning and hit the garden. There was the promise of large amounts of rain on the horizon and we still had loads of soil to move in order to finish the new beds and plant them out. We worked for an hour in the balmy morning before our companion Meg put the porridge on. After breakfast we sorted seeds into companion groups, planted them in a random dispersal method about 30cm apart, and put a plank path up the middle of the larger of the two beds before adding a thin layer of pea straw.

In the large bed we planted the following companions: cucumbers (Mexican Sour Gherkin), sweet corn (Golden Bantam), sunflowers, beans (Lazy Housewife, Snake Yard Long, Borlotti, Kidney, Yin Yang, Cherokee, Flageolot), pea (Greenfast), borage, eggplant, watermelon, pumpkin (Delicata), and zucchini.

In the smaller bed we planted: dill, corriander (Delfino), carrots (Nantes, Chantenay), onions, and leek (King Richard).

And next to this bed, potatoes, corn and broccoli are already booming in the horse manure and composted soil we built over winter.

I gave Zeph the option of staying home from school until morning tea if he wanted to keep working in the garden. He accepted and we did some more mulching and pulled up green manure to lay beside the raspberries.

Strawberries, raspberries and then fruit trees line the swales to ensure they get a steady supply of water passively throughout the summer. They fill up with rain and our bath water.

I took Zeph to school and picked up some new garden stakes and chicken wire to fence off the new beds from chooks, dog and straying soccer balls.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Last quarter moon phase, beets and Zero

We've just harvested our first beet for the season, grown in the greenhouse over winter. We grated it raw over a fresh weeds salad a few nights ago. Delicious! We know our soils are getting better when our root vegetables start kicking deep.

Speaking of soils, Meg, Zeph and I have been turning over new beds, collecting horse manure and composting throughout this last quarter of the moon cycle – traditionally a good time to attend to the soil, but not to plant. Today marks the new moon first quarter, time to get our corn and potatoes in.

And here is the newest member of the Artist as Family – Zero. Companion and household love-bundle mainly, however we hope to employ him in rabbiting duties to contribute to our feral food supply system when he's older. Catching rabbits is something his parents are extremely good at we're told.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Weed notes (as video-poem)

With this new work I think I've created another bridge between the pragmatics of our household's transition away from anthropogenic waste production, and the poetics of it.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

First workshop at Tree-Elbow

My first Eat your Garden workshop went very well. We started in the house showing the systems of waste regeneration and growing we have put in place.

And then braved the cold to talk about soil structure, composting, root and stem pruning, chooks, planting green manures, crop rotation, and so on and so forth.

I was fortunate to have six keen and happy students and Meg made a honey cake for us, which of course was a highlight.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Eat your garden

I'm taking my first workshop in our garden tomorrow called Eat Your Garden! I've prepared notes for a beginner's course in creating an ecological system in your backyard to supply your own food (based on permaculture principals). Here's the first page of notes for my students. Click for bigger.
And here's the google doc I've created for you to freely use and share. If you have any suggestions for improvement or things I've left out (suitable for a 4 hour crash course), please comment below.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Weedy recipes #1 – cooking with dock

Here is my simple dock soup recipe that I dedicate to my friends in weeds-expertise, Diego and Alexis.

1. Forage for dock, wild fennel and other wild plants such as warrigal greens.
2. Wash and cut up stems and leaves of dock, mallow, wild radish and/or mustard greens.
3. Chop up a few cloves of garlic, one onion, or if you find three-cornered garlic (onion weed) chop that up as well.
4. Place olive oil in soup pot and heat.
5. Cut a lemon in half and smell it freely.
6. Throw the garlic and onion into hottish oil.
7. Caramelise until smokey brown.
8. Throw in a few washed and cut potatoes.
9. Cook for a few mins on a high heat then pour in water.
10. Throw cut up dock and company into pot.
11. Add salt and let boil hot for 10mins or so.
12. Put heat down to simmer for an hour, and add lemon juice, wild fennel seeds or any other spices you enjoy.
13. Serve with your favourite bread.

Also, here's a simple dock vegetable dish:

Clean stems and leaves and cook in boiling water for several minutes. Strain off water, drizzle a little lemon and add pine nuts. Toss and serve. Yum!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Chook Tractors

Oil-free cultivation and conditioning of soil for a relocalised food supply and happy chickens.

To assist the chooks I turn over the sodden clay with a shovel and let the girls do their thing. They gently break up the sticky particles while manuring the ground at the same time. Once each area of compacted clay is conditioned then the cultivation area becomes a no-dig garden where we just add manures (green and brown) and compost to the top layer.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Weeds and Swales

I've been employing two helpful, completely free strategies this winter – digging more swales and eating more weeds and wild plants.

Foraging for over 50% of our greens this winter is joyous and has become a daily ritual; walking Zephyr to school; teaching him about edible weeds and bush tucker; 'nibbling' to experiment and learn together. I estimate that between 60-70% of the autonomous flora, or what others call 'spontaneous flora', is edible in these parts. Probably a fairly universal percentage.

Similarly, harvesting winter rains passively, without having to pay for expensive synthetic storage systems (tanks, pipes, valves, etc) is a wonderful and easy thing to set up. There's a little toil in the digging of the swales on contour, but this work is deeply rewarding, especially when the swales fill up with beautiful rain, which then slowly and deeply absorbs into the soil, ready for summer's use and the bounty that follows that we haven't had to irrigate.

All the very best things in life are uncapitalised.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Edible weeds

I thought I'd share my notes and pictures with you from a recent edible weeds course I took with community friend, Alexis Pitsopoulos. Alexis is incredibly knowledgeable and is a great teacher. Most of these weeds are pretty universal, especially in cool to temperate climates.

This is not such a great pic of a dandelion, however it is important to note the flower is on a single stem. The leaves look very similar to hawksbeard (see below). The root can be used for coffee or as a vegetable. The leaves in salad. Wine from the flowers.

Dandelion (taraxacum)

We have loads of sheep sorrel in our garden. I cursed it until I tried eating the leaves. Now it's a best friend. Great in salads or soup. Normally grows in the garden where the soil is a tad acid.

Sheep sorrel (rumex)

Often feared as they are confused with deadly nightshade, but this black nightshade is very good eating. Cook leaves as a vegetable. Berries are good raw or cooked.

Black nightshade (solanum nigrim)

Mainly used as a medicinal plant although groundsel can be eaten too. Leaves cooked as a vegetable. The young leaves have been used in salad, though inadvisable since the plant is a cumulative toxin. It is often used as a poultice and is said to be useful in treating sickness of the stomach, whilst a weak infusion is used as a simple and easy purgative. NB I fried some falafel and added some groundsel leaf, stem and flower heads right at the end. I threw in a pinch of salt. Amazing result! In fact I preferred the groundsel quickly fried to the falafel.

Groundsel (senecio vulgaris)

Known as soursob, shamrock, wood sorrel or oxalis the leaves, flowers and roots can be added to salads. Oxalis contains Oxalic Acid, so should be eaten in moderation. The flowers are delicious.

Wood sorrel (oxalis)

This bitter wild lettuce is like cos. Eat young leaves raw, older leaves in soup/smoothies.

Wild lettuce (lactuca)

Wild roses or briars make ripe rosehips in the winter well after the petals have dropped. You can add ripe rosehips to stews and soups. Boil and strain to make a sauce. Boil to make a health giving tea. Rose hip tea is refreshing, pleasantly tart and contains vitamins A, B, C, E and K, pectin and organic acids. Besides battling colds, the nutrient rich tea boosts your health in other ways as well; it helps strengthen the body's resistance to infection, reinforces digestive function, combats all kinds of illness with fever, flushes out the kidneys and urinary tract and relieves mild rheumatic pain.

Wild rosehips (rosa)

The leaves of storksbill can be cooked as vegetable, but the entire plant is edible with a flavor similar to parsley if picked young.

Storksbill (erodium)

A primitive sage, lyreleaf sage or wild sage is not medicinal, but the fruit can be eaten. Apparently it makes a good incense.

Wild sage (salvia lyrata)

You can soak fumitory in cold water and wash face as a tonic and cleanser.

Fumitory (fumaria)

Young leaves of acanthus can be eaten. The flowers and fruits (cheeses) can be cooked as vegetable.
Acanthus (acantha)

Sow thistles are bitter but very nutritional. All aerial parts can be eaten. Young leaves in salad; cooked greens.

Sow thistle (sonchus)

Slightly slimy mallows are soothing medicinally. Roots can make a healthy tonic tea. Young leaves can be eaten raw; flowers and fruits (cheeses) can be cooked as vegetables.

Mallow (malva)

Wild fennel (apiaceae)

Flatweed (hypochaeris radicata)

Dock weed (rumex)

Hawksbeard (crepis)

Milkweed (silybum adans)

Wild radish (raphanus raphanistrum)

Plantains can be be used for salads and soups, but only very young leaves. Also have medicinal properties.
Plantain (plantago)

As you can see, I still have to complete my notes, and I will add to them over time, especially notes on application (cooking) of weeds.

And these are two that should never be eaten:

Hemlock (conium) – highly poisonous

Privet berries – poisonous

Foraging for winter meals

We have been eating a considerable amount of wild food that we have foraged close to home. I don't think there is a more pleasurable way to gather food than to slowly walk through the bush, arriving at the lake, throwing in a fishing line, collecting edible weeds and walking back through the town, scouring the ground, returning home with bags of greens and other gems.

Here's a dish we put together for tonight's dinner consisting of double boiled wild radish leaves blended with our potatoes, parsley, spring onion, eggs and garlic to make beautiful vegetarian patties which I served up with my green tomato chutney.

Apart from the salt, pepper and olive oil everything was either foraged or grown at home. The salt comes from desalination processes near the Murray River and the oil comes from an organic farm 10 minutes from here. The pepper is the only ingredient we don't know the origins of.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Garden and forest foraging

We've been extending our local winter food base by eating local edible weeds. A friend of ours, Alexis, takes an edible weeds and wild food workshop at our local neighbourhood centre. We took his course last weekend and have been harvesting food this week we never thought we'd be eating.

It is so exciting to find new food plants in abundance that have taken no effort to produce and are highly nutritious. This new food supply is so beautifully radical and is collected and foraged with so much pleasure. It's more 'do-nothing farming' than we imagined was possible.

The primitive is alive and well in us and the skills we've lost are profound, we're realising. Yes! We are reclaiming a public food commons. Uncapitalised food is go!

Here's a recipe for a Greek-style horta dish adapted from one of Alexis' recipes:

Wild horta served with potato and leek soup from our garden.

Rinse under running water: foraged hawksbeard, wild fennel seeds, chickweed, water cress, spear thistle, garden kale and flatweed and boil for 10 minutes. Rinse again under cold water and again boil in salty water for another 10 minutes. This removes much of the bitterness.

Rinse again and mould into a ball, squeezing out excess water. Cut across the ball into slices. Throw into a bowl and drizzle olive oil and lemon or lime. Crush some fresh garlic and throw into a hot dry pan. Heat for several minutes, while tossing.

Sprinkle wild fennel seeds and throw back into the bowl and serve warm as a side dish to the soup. We ended up throwing ours in with the soup. It was delicious, however I was so exhausted after our afternoon walk that I didn't think to take a final pic. We were happy to have yet another gorgeous meal 100% gathered within walking distance of our home.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Food Forest

We've been pretty busy of late designing a public food forest in Sydney.

Follow this community-garden-as-public-artwork here.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A greenhouse built with reclaimed materials

Frost season is nearly upon us. So cladding the greenhouse has been a priority. However not wanting to rack up my hardware account or buy new materials, I've been patiently waiting for an alternative to arrive.

Then, a few days ago, Zeph and I were asked to demolish the front laserlight wall of a friend's workshop, as he needs to expand the space. We lucked in big time as Pete gave us the very useful and strong laserlight, along with the hardwood framing material that we'll use for another project. Thanks Pete! Today I was able to clad, or rather semi-clad, the greenhouse.

A few nights ago we thought we were going to have the first frost and I placed the laser light and some salvaged plastic from the building site next door over as much of the pumpkin patch as I could.

Just a few more weeks and we'll have a wonderful harvest, but a heavy frost now will end it all. So on cold, clear and still nights (like this one) I need to set the alarm and get up and hose down the frost before the sun burns the leaves and ends the months of growth for nothing.

After I finished installing the laser light I planted celery, pak choy, mini cauliflower, leek and cabbage underneath.