Fall landed on our piece of Earth. And the rain came. Lots of it.
Then we blinked and the grass turned yellow? But wait a sec… it rained. It should have gone Kaboom!!! green explosion? Nope. It’s yellow and we can even see the soil underneath.
Now I’m on all four on the lawn. I inspect, Inspecteur Clusot style. Darn! Armyworms in military formations (well, not quite), munching away the grass, marching to new land (yeeek, my gardeeeeeeen!!!!!!!), their mandibles forward, their appetite growling and insatiable.
Then came Bacillus thuringiensis (BT), a bacteria present in the gut of caterpillar that I (conveniently) bought in the form of a powder (Dipel) ready to mix in a spray bottle.
Yes, I could have made my own Dipel… It’s dead easy in fact. See recipe below. And yes, I could have let my chickens hunt them… or wild birds in fact. Don’t judge me! There are many reasons why I didn’t do any of the above…
DIY Dipel recipe:
Pick as many caterpillars as you can.
Drown them in a bucket of water.
Blitz them with a barmix or similar.
Strain and dilute in a spray bottle.
Spray over your crops/ornamentals affected by caterpillars.
I sprayed Dipel on the visible periphery of that infestation, up to 5m outward, and all inside the infested area. Now we wait. The bacteria should curb the appetite of these voracious caterpillars and then they go for a long sleep. Only to feed the soil with their decaying bodies.
What is freedom? To many, this is the state of not being enslaved or imprisoned. To others, it is to not suffer restriction of movement, action, thought or speech.
To me, freedom is the extravagant amount of food I pluck out from the ground and that I later serve for dinner to my family. Freedom is expressed when I cook with the seasons, with the harvests, not with a recipe torn from a fancy magazine. Freedom is when I consciously shut down to advertisings, trends and what the Norm expects and I don’t buy what They tell me I need.
Freedom is the underlining theme that has developed here at the farm for me. Why do I grow food? Why do I boycott some brands, many food items, and some activities (like watching TV!)? Why do I make soap, apple cider vinegar, yogurt, jams, sauerkraut and pickles. Why on earth do I darn my jeans?
It’s not that I am poor (neither am I rich). I am not a dreamer or an artist. None of that. I just revel in the pleasure of frugality. I roll in it. I squeal in delight at making do with what I have, and, guess what, I live well!
Check out the recently published book, The Art of Frugal Hedonism. It is an addictively good read that helps you reclaim your freedom. Plus, the authors are so darn well articulate and witty, a feast for the mind!
I’ve turned into a slightly obsessive-compulsive waste-warrior recently! I got very annoyed when I heard that the recyclables I duly place in my yellow bin is often stockpiled, or worse, sent to landfill across the state or dumped on private property. China stopped importing our waste and now Australia is seeing mountains of plastic, glass and electronics rise at alarming rate.
“The problems are complex but the solutions are incredibly simple.”
Let’s stop producing so much waste!
Come the crackers.
We like them. (So do you!). Topped with cheese, doused with raw honey, sprinkled with cocoa or simply dipped in guacamole… BUT, they come in a plastic shell, itself wrapped in a plastic wrapper. The waste police (me!) cracked down on the crackers and I am experimenting with homemade recipes. To make things more interesting, I am starch-free… some would even say Paleo!
Try that recipe – it is sen-sa-tional, as well as being dead-easy to make!
1 cup: Linseed/flaxseed (ground-up) 3 TBSP: Chia Seeds (whole) 3 TBSP: Sunflower seeds (whole) 1 Pinch: Salt 1 cup: Water
Mix dry + wet ingredients well.
Set aside for 30 minutes.
In batches, spread a big lump between two sheets of baking paper and roll flat (it must be wafer thin).
Then, with a butter knife, stretch a grid on the dough (this will make is easier to separate the crackers once cooked and cooled).
Bake at 170°C for 15-20 minutes or until dry/crisp.
Cool on a rack and devour.
I made my first batch with whole linseed – this is equally good. The only downside is that, unless you chew very well (which we should in fact always do), not all linseeds get to be digested and they’ll come out the other end, intact! 😛
I’d like to acknowledge you my followers, past students
and farm visitors, for giving me your support all these years. But today I have
chosen to fold Terra Permaculture and move on. I will focus my energy onto my
family, our health, our future.
All events have been cancelled and website will be
Check out those brilliant permaculture courses run by John Champagne, Purple Pear Farm, Limestone Permaculture, and last but not the least, Milkwood Permaculture.
It has been a great pleasure knowing you all, in person
or online. I wish you an abundant and
regenerative permaculture life. Farewell.
My eggplants were doing fine until we got a lot of rain and a bit of heat and then kaboom, red spider mites infestation. These tiny little arachnids, the size of a sharp pencil dot, cluster on the underside of leaves and suck the plant juices. In response, the plant develop scar tissues (brown holes and edges), and spends all its energy trying to defend itself. If left unchecked, the plant will die.
There are a few home-remedies to tackle a light infestation.
The quick fix
In a glass jar, mix 1 cup of kitchen oil with ¼ cup of dishwashing liquid – shake well and store for future use. Mix 1 to 2 tablespoon of this mixture in a 1l spray bottle and spray over and under the leaves. This will suffocate the beasts! Repeat every two days until you’re on top of the infestation. I also add seaweed extract to that solution. That gives the plant a boost.
The good practice
Add compost (homemade the better!) or worm castings at the base of the plant (don’t let it touch the stems too much). In healthy compost reside predatory mites that make a feast of red spider mites. This solution is effective when the infestation is at its infancy. Mulch well.
A long term and sustainable solution sit in Integrated Pest Management. Plant insectary plants in and around your veggie patch, such as yarrow, Sweet alyssum, Queen Anne’s Lace. Let your cilantro, parsley and dill go to seeds. The lady beetle adult feeds on nectar from these flowers, and their babies feed on garden pests including aphids and red spider mites.
If the plant is seriously ravaged, pull out, bag and solarise for a few days in the sun. Then compost
Ticks used to start coming out of winter dormancy in October/November at the farm. Now this year, I saw them crawl on us and our furry animals by the end of August!!! It must be warmer, no doubt.
I normally douse my clothes, shoes and hat in heavy duty insect repellent every time I go slay lantana in the bush and around our paddocks. Most of the time, it works, but there’s still been a few occasions where there was one latched on my neck, on my scalp, on my eyebrow, under the armpit, in between the toes, or under my watch! I get a very itchy reaction and I fear that I may get the Australian Lyme disease or worse even, red meat allergy…
I tried every method ever suggested to “safely” remove ticks…
the tweezers method
the scrape-with-a-nail method
the peppermint oil, tea tree oil and eucalyptus oil methods
the Vaseline blob method
the tick-removal gadget (only works on large ticks)
the drown-my-metho method
the die-by-flame method
the wart-off method
… all with unconvinced success, never 100% sure the tick is dead or that the head has been pulled off.
I decided to try TickTox, that new spray on the market that freezes ticks on contact. I sprayed with accuracy ticks latched onto the child, the WWOOFer, the house cow, the dog, and of course myself!
Dead. On contact!
It is so easy to operate that I can now trust the child or the husband to spray ticks dead on me now (I used to fear they would mess up with the tick so much it would inject more toxin into me!).
Let me know if you want to purchase a bottle – I’ve become the Central Coast stockist.
I am walking our micro market garden aisles, checking the organic/biodynamic goodies that I will place on our stall table at the upcoming inaugural Yarramalong Market, and I reflect on how challenging it is to grow food… and yet, how seemingly trivial it is when, as a consumer, we pick perfect looking veggies at the greengrocer.
Summer has been particularly hard here for us. It was initially predicted a wetter than average season so I planted my crop of pumpkin on higher grounds… they all perished as it turned out to be a drier than average Summer! The market garden went on standby with mostly green manure growing to protect the soil from the harsh sun and heat. I had Millet, Buckwheat and Mung Bean growing together on heavily mulched garden beds. They grew with limited irrigation and kept the soil life alive. Just before they reached flowering stage, I dug them in, let them decompose and got ready for autumn planting. You should see how fluffy the soil is with this practice! Green manure adds carbon, nitrogen, and a vast array of other nutrients. The more diverse the green manure mix, the more diverse the nutrients you put back into the soil. Everything from soil bacteria to earthworms is striving with that diet.
Now that the cool season is upon us and our tanks are full, I want to expand our gardens and grow more food!!! Instead, I’ll apply self-regulation and remember the feedback that Summer gave me.
We run four Open Farm tours as part of the Harvest Festival programme – June Long Weekend. Check out our website for details: terrapermaculture.com