autumn, explore growing

Looking forward

You also need to look back, see where you’ve come from to make sense of the forward journey. So on my way back from the market garden,heading south  this is what I check out…..

Feels a little like structured chaos.IMG_0795.jpg

As of a few days ago, when I pause for a cuppa, looking north is a whole new adventure…..


That ply sheeting (which thankfully was sealed before the rain came) is the base layer for a whole new ecosystem. A roof to grow which if the engineering and the headspace required are anything to go by, is going to be absolutely incredible. Amongst the treasures going up, 50 m2 of no dig garden beds. An increase of 10% on the market garden ON THE ROOF.

Right now it feels like a helicopter will land any moment.

As I look up the hill and see little no dig beds, seedlings, figs trees huddling together, I have to think of far the garden has grown instead of how much work there still lies ahead. Such a humble start –  a dozen pots hugging a northern wall 6 years ago and enough grass slashed to make a human sized nest for the whole family.

At least the roof top is clear and tidy.


Brace yourself

Any reasonable sized project requires a little plotting and scheming – especially if you’re working with reclaimed materials and even more so if you’re trying out techniques you’re unfamiliar with. Like earthen floors and a turf roof.


So this little studio was the test pilot for her big sister. Start small and learn.

Soil on a roof top weighs a lot, then add water, Thermal mass is super important as our neck of the woods really heat up over summer. The original concept was as an inside outside house. Dwelling in the cosy heart, nap, quiet read, (no wifi reception was an accidental bonus) storage around the periphery so it’s possible to access from the garden.

It’s a happy space. Loads has been learnt. The earth floor only took two attempts. Drainage around the site was a major piece of the puzzle, sitting at the bottom of a hill as it does. The studio has beautiful and unplanned carving over the door, thanks to one of our lovely passionate volunteers. He saw the space and asked permission to fill it.The only first thing you see in the morning is greenery and chickens.

Many hands helped to craft this building. Many materials were gifted, but this didn’t make them any lighter to carry.  Neighbours were called in last minute to help maneuver experimental wall panels destined for landfill into place. Sometimes I like to think I have very mild superpowers, but reality set in and I’ve come to realise weightlifting isn’t one of them.

I was asked for input on the bracing (so it looked more ornamental than purely vertical), this idea was sketched. Kinda like pick up sticks, dropped. To get the beautiful finish (and shortcut to the roof for the kids). Timber was de- nailed. Planed. Measured into place. Edges were chamferred. Cut. Hidden nails. Bio oiled. Now a work of art. Can’t even remember how long just that element took, but when you’e crafting living buildings it’s all about an energy exchange.

collaboration, community

The next step

Building is one of those biggies. We may want to extend family space, create additional space, make our backyard more multi functional or all of the above.

But what a lot of us non builders don’t realise is, when you say ‘let’s build an independent turf roof covered studio’ it’s not NEARLY that easy. If only.

Once you’ve committed to a big fat hole in the ground (100t of soil excavated), then the questions really start. What are the most environmentally sensitive materials we can use that fit our location, need, budget, accessibitly, council standards,  minimal impact. So – not easy and far far far away from simple.

You may be in a flood prone area. Or bushfire prone region. Or both at the same time. Maybe there are privacy issues for your neighbours. Maybe to make your structure meet regulations, your shopping list may be limited.


the next step (building ocnstruction).jpg

BUT – there is a world of wonder and connectivity. You may end up meeting some of the more remarkable people you wouldn’t normally cross paths with. When you’re genuine and treat people like extended family, they give back. A volunteer does 6 hours of working with hardwood above head height, does the dishes and then another 2 hours because they can see how much of a passion project it is. And they’re still smiling.

The food is good at our house, but not that good! All the professionals we’ve had round have been are absolute treasures. incredible stories being woven into the fabric of this building snugged into a north facing hill.

So captured here is the independent stairs, edged in wax wood (rather than any other toxic compound) back filled with gravel for drainage. That massive concrete wall to the right – a water tank doing double time a retaining wall, being on the southern side of the build will stay lovely and cool. Sandstone retaining wall, predominantly from our backyard. Labour of love is an understatement.

Putting the icing on this cake are our glorious neighbours, because without their blessing and driveway, there is no chance of realising this dream. I think we’ll have to create a tribute wall to every single peep involved with the process, as it just goes to show what collaboration can do.

biodiversity in the garden, everyday

Wonder bowl

Ever wonder where your food comes from ? Thought about how much energy it takes ? Know the person who grew it ? Maybe the region it came from ?

Every now & again I do. It’s pretty cool to actually know a few answers to questions now & again.

So this photo was lunch today. Stir fried in 10 min and enjoyed with our new HelpX volunteer.

bowl of wonder.jpg

Left overs and backyard offerings. A tiny beetroot, corn, shallots, baby eggplant, pumpkin, radish and cucamelon within walking distance. Rice grown by Randalls – an Australian organic family farm, Chinese cabbage from our truly amazing and recently renovated Flametree Co-op (I also buy our tamari and olive oil in bulk here.)

So apart from lunch looking a little lumpy, it’s also got loads of colour, texture and energy. Eat a rainbow. try to give yourself enough time to enjoy it.

Super cool thing about hunting around locally, (see if you’ve got a local Food Is Free Table people drop and swap at in your area) is you get the flavour of independence. Sometimes things that aren’t mainstream. And most certainly foods that are in season for your region.

Try to make a little time and indulge yourself.


everyday, seasonal eating

Real food is happy food

There’s a fair amount of talk around what type of food to eat, how to eat it, when best to eat. Fresh is best, especially when it’s seasonal and if you can access relatively locally produced food – fantastic.

But like many kids ask – WHY ? My definition of real food is produce grown by people with care of the soil as their number one priority. This extends into care for their environment, care for people working with them and doing what’s right, not wasting resources but looking at the whole picture, not merely one tiny detail. It’s about nurturing and putting hard earned knowledge and skill into growing really fabulous tasty produce. Soil that is loved is nutrient dense and alive. You’ll find biodiversity above and below your feet. You can see it. You’ll tap into a life force rather than entering into commodity trading. (Which I reckon a lot of big box retailers do – they have different goals to your independent grower.)IMG_0642.jpg

I actually did this the other day – purchased a ‘commodity’ from a big box retailer for our dinner – my brain had stopped working after a particularly big day and the cogs had jammed. The packaging looked pretty and I knew the family would eat it. I  snazzed it up with home made sauce to make up for the nutrient deficit. There were clean plate rangers – but I could taste what was missing – life force. Not the end of the world I know – but I missed what I take for granted when I do put the energy in.

Food grown in season gives us what we need for that season. Who’d want to gorge themselves on watermelon in winter ? Or feel the desire to sit down to a big roast dinner when the evening temperature is 27 C?

Remember we’re living beings, not just machines requiring fuel. We need good energy, diversity, light and good water to stay vital – so does our food.

biodiversity in the garden, everyday, observe

Gardening for the Soul

Coolest thing about growing and edible garden, is you get to eat your experiments.

It’s not like doing the dishes where you have the instant gratification of clean dishes but in no time flat, hey ho! they’re dirty.

Gardening is great for the soul. Wander through an edible patch an smell the herbs as you brush by. Even just sitting on the ground outside can be considered ‘gardening’ if you’re half observing what’s going on around you. What can you hear ? What can you feel ? Noticed your breath slow a tiny bit ? Seen any pollinators ? Anyone/thing else like to eat the plants?

Not everyone has their own path of dirt (or wants one), so make the most of the local reserve/ park/ community garden. Share stories.

How else are you going to know what a baby radish tastes like unless you pluck one from the soil? Walk on the mint growing a little crazy, being the brightest of green like it’s invincible.

There are so many elements – literally – from the ground up. I confess, I’m not a scientist & never will be. But you don’t have to undertake a full analysis to appreciate what’s going on around you. The more you look, the more you see – if something is struggling, if it looks a little neglected or when your backyard wonderland is in balance.


Hectic day ? Take your shoes off and lie down outside. Breath deeply. Check out the shadow play of late afternoon light.


Instigate a no dig garden build with your neighbour. Small spaces stay manageable and easy to keep an eye on. Build a garden lasagne without breaking yourself. No heavy lifting, no heavy digging. Watch nature play right before your eyes, building soil and growing something we like to eat.

I’ve found through gardening no more mistakes, just constant learning – always a way to improve practice next time round. And patience. So much patience ! Gardens don’t happen overnight like sea monkeys or those crazy crystal postcard trees out of a packet.

But they are so worth the wait.


Look after your Love

I’ve been doing a fair bit of learning lately. Learning mostly that it’s not a good idea to try to do everything all the time and sometimes there are people and events that are bigger than you.

There I was thinking that building my own business revolving around growing nutritious food and sharing this developing knowledge was huge and really important above other stuff.

Then my Dad had a stroke. The quicker the response for a stroke victim, the better the outcome. Ideally, seeking treatment within 4 hours is ideal. Dad has a significant event and didn’t receive help until 12 hours later. No one really knew what to expect. At first we thought he may not walk again and didn’t know how damaged he may have been. So I did a fair bit of long distance driving, there were many phone calls to attempt to stay in the loop and supporting family physically closer to Dad.

For further information about strokes (these suckers impact on 1 in 6 Australians – which is more than breast cancer and more than prostate cancer), How to respond and where to look for help check out the  Stroke Foundation . Needless to say the planting and workshop schedules went out the window.

Then my husbands dad went through a major medical drama too.

Throughout all of this, my husbands workload seemed to keep expanding before my eyes and then pop the icing on the cake with an unpaid second job of being an owner builder in his remaining waking hours (and some of the ones meant for sleeping too).

Then school holidays kick in. I love holidays, but I think my work productivity drops by at least 50%. You get up a few hours earlier to harvest and deliver to take your daughter to the city for the day, as public transport was facing ‘significant delays’. Not too bad in the scheme of things – just a constant juggle to see how stretchy those hours are and how much you can cram in.IMG_0534.jpgBut you know what ? Days are long, weeks tend not to be, kids aren’t kids for too long and parents aren’t going to be around forever.

So a few balls were dropped (try – disbanded) as I realigned my priorities to make more space for love.

School went back today and I was actually disappointed to see the end of our unstructured days and super loose weeks. I guess without work, you don’t appreciate the holidays, the gifts people give you by rocking up week after week to help you build your dream business. The curious and super supportive peeps who want to see your school volunteering ideas flourish. So at bottom of the day, make sure you look after yourself, appreciate those around you and give energy where you can.

…..3 months after my Dad’s stroke, he’s now a lot stronger and there’s a few steps being taken here and there. If he hadn’t been looking after himself with good food, exercise and good company (not to mention brilliant neighbours), his story may have had a far less positive outcome.

Enjoy what you’ve got, where you’re at and drink plenty of water in the crazy heat – just like the plants do 🙂