New Hugelkultur bed- final update

It’s finished at last, the new bed is built, mulched and planted. Even the path is done. Now to wait for those yummy broccoli and Ceylon spinach plants to grow, and let’s not forget the broad beans I planted today.



Broccoli and Ceylon spinach growing madly


The dark line on the right of the picture is where the broad beans are planted


The gum leaf path over cardboard is in place.

I can’t wait until this bed is just a mass of green…it won’t take long. I also had another play with time lapse video, I did a quick video of my daughter (yes, she has pink hair this week) and I putting pig poop and mulch on our trailer bed and planting some snow peas. It is a bit far away from the action for me, I think I need a stand or something to hold the iPad at the right angle. This kind of video has a lot of potential I think, it is certainly fun to play with.

I have been dumping a good layer of pig poop on every bed I can find, covering it up with mulch and planting into a handful of potting mix in the bed to prevent too much nitrogen burn and give my plants something to get their roots into before they get into all that poopy goodness.



I also weeded, fertilised and mulched my poor little pomegranate tree while I was going.


Doesn’t she look a lot happier now.

What a relaxing and carefree day I’ve had in the garden. This is what we need to do to maintain sanity…or a close facsimile there of.


Looking for like minds…


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Just a gratuitous macro shot of rosemary flowers to brighten up the post

I have just been trolling through the internet (well…WordPress) looking for other blogs written by people like me. I was looking for inspiration and amusement (this being my regularly scheduled half-day off from life), I didn’t find any blogs written by people living the bush life with little income and not much of a clue. I guess that makes me truly unique.

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Another gratuitous macro shot…but it’s lantana flower

So, I am officially asking for recommendations for new reading material in the specific area of bush living in Australia, with not much money. If you write or read a blog about;

Organic gardening

Using what you grow

Animal care

Simple living philosophy or practicality

Fibre arts (spinning, weaving, knitting, felting)


Making do on a tight budget

Upcycling/ recycling


let me know in the comment section so I can check it out.

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Yet another macro shot, this time it’s a seed sprouting.



Making pots out of newspaper

I have been doing this on and off for a while now. Up until recently I found the pots would encourage fungus and sprout all sorts of mushroom-y things. Then I found the ‘Under the Choko Tree’ You Tube channel and watched as Nevin made pots from newspaper. It turns out I was using too much paper; the walls were too thick so they were not able to dry out enough to keep fungus at bay.


This is how I used to make my pots. See how thick the walls are.

So I bought one of those cute little pot making things and off I went. These pots are working very well…no fungus and they hold together  (which was why I made my pots thick to begin with). In fact the whole seed raising system has been working brilliantly, except that my seedling raising area was in the open and the trays kept filling up with water and drowning the seedlings. I fixed that by adding a little roof to the area which I will remove (it can just be lifted off) on less damp days.


Thinner walls and no fungus…they still get waterlogged though.

On another, but sort of related note; I have been learning how to use an iPad (for work) and have discovered that the camera on an iPad has a time-lapse setting (also a slo-mo setting, but I haven’t played with that yet), so I decided to make a time lapse clip of me making and using my little pots.

And here it is;

What do you think. Does it need to be a bit slower. I haven’t found that setting yet but I will.

Update on the new hugelkultur bed

A0F7399B-80BE-4591-9590-B2A5E47DB16EI have finally had a chance to finish the new bed; thanks to some help from my daughters and a friend. After much carrying of wood chunks, shoveling of manure and frequent stops to rest, we have planted the first half of the bed with broccoli and ceylon spinach (which I just happened to have a lot of).

The grass on the path has been smothered with cardboard and I will rake up some gum leaves to cover it with soon. The pig poop (composted) was shoveled into an old bin and lifted into the bed over the period of about a week. Spread over the pile of sticks it has made a really rich bed, even though it is still composting and so is putting out a bit of heat. The broccoli seedlings seem to appreciate the extra heat, even though they are planted into a double handful of potting mix in the hole (because I was worried about the pig poop being too hot for them).


Our big pile of pig poop


Happy little seedlings


The newspaper and cardboard path

I am loving having some new space to plant and it promises to be as easy care as the other hugelkultur beds. I guess it’s on to the next project; the trailer bed needs some TLC.

The first Hugelkultur bed is powering on. I do love this style of gardening. The rest of this post is made up of photos of my powering garden….for inspiration…mine.


Seedlings all ready to be planted out. My seedling raising area is going well this year.


A late pumpkin vine….I might be lucky


Madagascar beans on their way up some well placed sticks


A riot of productivity



The tamarillo is producing fruit….one at a time


Late corn….it’s flowering


Another Hugelkultur-like bed on the go

It has been a while since I posted…life gets in the way. I have been hard at work learning to be a ‘real’ teacher (as one of my students stated), and have had not much time for anything at home besides simple maintenance. I have managed (or we have managed, as my daughter has helped a lot) to start and gradually work on one project; a new Hugelkultur bed.

We have an old chicken tractor made from PVC pipe (electrical conduit) and chicken wire, it is so old that it can’t be moved anymore. We decided it would make a good vegetable bed as it is covered and secure and has a decent amount of space inside.


Before we started working on the bed. The tin thing is a chicken roost.

We removed everything from the cage, leaving only a weedy, unpromising space. Then we began to gather mulching material (otherwise known as organic rubbish); we found some old rags (cotton and wool), newspaper and cardboard. We also started to gather sticks and wood for the Hugel building.

First we spread the rags, newspaper and cardboard over the grass; there wasn’t enough to cover it all so we are working in sections. Then we piled the sticks and some larger branches where we wanted the beds to be. On top of this we piled the contents of the bottom of the rabbit cage; poop and newspaper litter soaked in pee. We are in the process of collecting manure to add to the beds and a neighbor has offered to bring home some composted pig manure from her work for us (thank you L). Once the bed is piled up with sticks, manure and other compostables we will cover it all  with a layer of straw mulch and leave it to compost for a few weeks. I am looking forward to planting out another low water use bed…more broccoli, here we come.



There will be a thin path from the door to the middle of the bed, the rest will be planted out with vegetables

making little fulled knitting bags


I have been spinning a lot lately (whenever there is time), mostly from a coloured merino fleece I picked up  somewhere. The yarn is lovely and fine, but what to do with it all? So I decided to make some little knitting bags; the kind you can hang over your wrist and knit from, or stick your needles into and shove in your handbag when you realise the bus is pulling over at your stop (or is that just me?). I will spin the yarn, knit and full the bags then pop a ball of my yarn and some knitting needles into it and sell my ‘knitting starter kits’ at the markets (offering a free knitting lesson at point of purchase). I don’t know if anyone will take me up on it given the heat at the moment, but we will see.

My little bags don’t really have a pattern, it’s more of a knit-by-feel affair, but I will try to explain the process (with photos of course). First I find some spare homespun wool that I have been wanting to use for something and turn it into a neat little ball by putting it on my yarn swift and winding it off with the ball maker thing.



I then cast on some stitches, enough to make a decent square. For this bag I used 20 stitches and knitted a square base using garter stitch (knit every row). The square has to be big enough to fit a ball of wool on plus about 40% (to allow for shrinkage when fulling).


A knitted square. I just love this yarn; caramel alpaca plied with gold thread

I pick up stitches around the sides of the square, trying to pick up the same number as my cast on side. The number of stitches on each side is not really crucial to success, but it does make things neater and easier to finish.


I knit in rounds to make the sides until the bag is deep enough to hold a ball of wool, bearing in mind that fulling (or felting) makes the piece shrink, so adding about 40% to all measurements.


My bag is coming together


Now comes the tricky bit; handles. I have just discovered the Japanese knot bag design, and it suits the knitting bag design I have in mind. All I need to do is knit handles with one being shorter than the other…right?

This photo from the internet shows the design I mean

My little bag is a mini version of the one in the photo (knitted rather than cloth too), so the longer handle only needs to be long enough to loop around the wrist. I knit the handles by casting off until I reach a corner, knit some handle stitches (in this one I made them six stitches wide) then slip those stitches onto a stitch holder. Now I continue casting off until I reach the next corner. I do this all the way around until there are four sets of handle stitches (on stitch holders). Then I knit back and forward on one set of stitches using garter stitch until it is long enough to loop over to the handle stitch set beside it (that is the next set along tracing around the perimeter). I graft the handle onto the handle stitches using the three needle cast off. The other two handle stitch sets are done the same way but this handle is long enough to go over a wrist (plus 40%).


Now the knitted part of the bag is finished, it is time to full or felt it.



Fulling is easy; just throw the bag in the washing machine with some detergent (I use shampoo actually) and let it wash for a few minutes. Fibre felts at different rates, so the fulling process may be really fast (if I used Icelandic wool yarn), or it may be very slow (if I used Suffolk wool yarn), but it will felt (as long as the fibre is wool and is not super wash treated). Alpaca is a medium speed felter, so it took about 15 minutes.


The bags I have made so far in the washing machine ready to felt


The finished bbag with a ball of wool and needles inside, ready to go. As you can see the bag shrunk quite a bit.

So now it’s back to spinning more wool from that merino fleece.


Sourdough chocolate zucchini muffins


My zucchini patch

Having stated that I really don’t like to cook, I thought I would do another post on how I use left over sourdough starter. While I don’t enjoy cooking and spend a fair amount of time in the kitchen grumbling in a very unbecoming manner and wishing I was outside, I do like to eat and if I don’t make it I won’t eat. Also I hate to throw out that magic starter, it seems truly amazing to me that you can mix flour and water together and end up with bread (after a bit of neglect). I have a fair few zucchini plants busily producing the famed glut in the garden, so what better way to use up spare sourdough starter and too many zucchini than to turn them into chocolate.

I found the original recipe for these muffins here. I found a recipe for zucchini brownies while I was searching that looked good too.


Sourdough chocolate zucchini muffins (makes about 12)

3/4 cup honey

Sourdough starter

1/3 cup of vegetable oil (the original recipe calls for butter but I couldn’t find any)

2 eggs (or 4 bantam eggs in my case)

1 tablespoon of vanilla

a pinch of salt

1 1/3 cups of plain flour

1/3 cup cocoa

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 grated zucchini (it doesn’t matter too much whether it’s a big one or a little one)


Mix all the liquids together until the sourdough starter is combined then add the dry ingredients slowly until they are combined. Add the zucchini and mix through well. Spoon into muffin cases or a tray then pop into the oven at 180-200 degrees Celsius for about 20 minutes.


The wet ingredients


Mixing the wet ingredients together


The dry ingredients


Mixing the dry ingredients in


The daily zucchini harvest


One grated zucchini


The mix ready to bake


When you run out of muffin papers half way through…just make some from baking paper and keep on spooning


They came out OK


Even the ones in make-shift papers

I am sure this cooking thing is just a passing phase born from having so much produce in the garden, bear with me, it will be over soon.

Making pesto

I don’t usually post about cooking or food preparation. The reason is really simple; I’m a TERRIBLE cook. I don’t enjoy cooking and I avoid it as much as possible, but I have had a few successes in the kitchen lately and I like to document my wins so here is my latest triumph.

While I was messing around in the garden I picked a bunch of basil that is starting to flower. When you pick basil, you have to make pesto…it’s in the rule book. I didn’t have pine nuts or olive oil (or fresh garlic) but I made pesto anyway.

My modified pesto recipe

2 cups basil leaves (about)

1/2 cup rice bran oil

1/2 cup roasted macadamia nuts

2 teaspoons powdered garlic


My bunch of fresh basil


The ingredients I managed to find to make impromptu pesto


Basil, oil and garlic in the bullet blender



After the first blending of the basil and oil mix I added the macadamias


I love the texture of this pesto


It turned out really yummy

Tomato supports made from sticks

The tomatoes are getting tall, they have needed something to support (and cage) them for a long time. I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to put cages over them (which makes them hard to pick, but is quick and easy) or tie them to stakes (which is a lot of work and needs constant pruning and tying, but does allow access and looks really professional), so of course I did nothing. Until I happened to visit some friends last week; they had built a tomato support out of sticks and it looked really pretty, made picking easy and was quick and cheap to put together. I didn’t take a photo of theirs, but trust me it looks whimsical and natural. So…armed with a vague idea and some zip ties I ventured out to the garden. I  found some long sticks in the tree line around the humpy and dragged them into the garden.


This is the unruly tomatoes, busy crowding out basil and bush beans

As you can see in the photos I just stuck some sticks into the ground and zip tied yet more sticks to them to create a fairly sturdy support for the tomato plants and allow the beans some room to grow. This was so quick and easy to do I even had time to harvest some basil and make pesto before the day got too hot to work.

It doesn’t look as pretty as my friend’s version, but it will do the trick. It will hold the plant and fruit off the ground and allow air flow to lessen mould problems, it will keep the tomatoes off the beans and semi confined and it will be easy to pick fruit from the vines. What do you think?

Use gum leaves in the garden- part two

The gum leaves on the path idea seems to be working so far; my plants are still growing and the weeds on the path are mostly suppressed. I have been slowly raking up leaves from around the humpy and spreading them on the path over old newspapers and cardboard boxes. The weeds at the unfinished end of the path have grown to be the same height as the plants in the bed, but I am making progress slowly. I start by slashing the tallest weeds down with a shovel then lay newspaper over them as thickly as possible. Finally the raked up gum leaves are dumped onto the top and spread out with the shovel.


You can see where the path ends at the moment and the height of the weeds in the remaining bit of path. This photo was taken from the doorway to the garden.


This photo was taken from the other door (to the north)


A close up of where the leaves end and the weeds begin


It’s hard to tell, but there are vegetables in there; tomato, beans and basil

Despite the messy looking garden, I am still picking food from the space. The gum leaves seem to be slowing down the weeds enough for me to stay ahead of them on the path I have already covered. It isn’t really clear whether the leaves are allelopathic or not because the weeds are suppressed by being covered (no light) and having restricted water (the leaves make a water resistant mat) as well as any possible allelopathic effect.


Walking onion, basil, silver beet and zucchini from my messy garden

My seedling raising area is powering along too. Initially I didn’t cover the seedling with a sheet, but I  soon found out that wet sand, hot sun and no shade led to cooked seeds and no seedlings. Now I have an old sheet draped over the whole thing the seedlings are just jumping up.