Crack down on the crackers

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.”

Bill Mollison

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! 😛

Rewilding… for our own sake

Heatwaves this Summer came and went. Mercury reached well over 40°C on several occasion.

I know there will be more of them in the future as our climate progresses to unpredictable instability.

Meanwhile, we buy another aircon, we sip slushies and we tweet about how hot it is. Who are we kidding? Continue reading “Rewilding… for our own sake”

Letting go – accepting feedback

“Apply self regulation and accept feedback” is one of twelve permaculture principles that comes knocking at my door very often, if not every day.

It is a best friend.
It always tells the truth, sometimes brutal, unadulterated or sugar coated.
It does it with care in mind though.
It challenges me to constantly look, feel, hear, touch and smell the patterns around me and put aside the ego.
It teaches or reminds me to be vulnerable.
It slaps me in the face, sometimes.

To apply self-regulation you need to read the patterns around you, and within you.You need to be honest with yourself. You need to be reasonable. You need to be in control. You need to step back, and remove yourself from the subject that needs self-regulation. You get a better view that way. You need to not see things from a I want point of view.

To accept feedback is akin (to me) to consciously offer my face to be slapped. It is a hard process. I know that it is coming.  I know how it will feel. I brace against it. Then SLAP. (ouch).

Only then can letting go happen.

pushing details into a pattern

One boysenberryI wanted to grow berries, all sorts of berries. Strawberries, boysenberries, raspberries, loganberries, mulberries… Wanted.

Isn’t is funny (in a sad kind of way) that I never had berries in my permaculture design of this place? I had it all figured out at the time that we didn’t have the right growing conditions for it, and I also knew that I wouldn’t like to prune and train canes onto a structure, pull suckers, etc…

But… I wanted. So I will have.

And as I drooled over plant catalogues (it’s called plant porn) and salivated at the idea of homemade raspberry jams and blackberries smoothies, I went ahead and acquired all sorts of berry plants which I duly planted into the ground…. therefore working against the climatic conditions, the soil conditions, and my own dislike to prune or train berries!

This is pushing the details onto the pattern.

Permaculture design is about patterning first, then finding the details that fit the pattern. It is about observing the native patterns of one’s landscape and using biological resources appropriate for that pattern for the purpose of building shelter, growing food, producing energy, etc.

Why on earth did I go ahead  knowing that?
Well, I am only a mere mortal, with ego, wants, and dreams. I love challenges. I am stupid.

hear the feedback from our land

Caged strawberryBut today, I am giving up. Decision was made this morning after I (at last) accepted to hear the feedback from our land that we can’t grow berries here.

  1. We get blasted by sun radiations in our little valley, especially at the time when berries are growing and should give flowers and fruits. I ended up stretching a thick UV shelter above them which came at a co$t as I didn’t find a second hand one at the time.
  2. Our sandy loam soils, despite being heavily mulched and fertile, drain super easily. Irrigation is compulsory to obtain berries that are plump. We don’t irrigate. So cane berries are thin and feeble, flowers are sparse and the occasional fruit is irrelevant to making jams!
  3. Suckers pop in everywhere or canes left un-pruned manage to layer on contact with the ground (great technique for propagating them!).
  4. Wildlife comes in hordes and lash out onto the berries, not even ripe, leaving only a few to us. I celebrated this year when we had three each to eat!!!
  5. Netting cane berries is a nightmare.
  6. Building a permanent infrastructure around the berries is ludicrous – it would cost less in energy (money, materials, time, etc) to buy certified organic berries in plastic punnets (hic!) every day when they’re in season.
  7. The bellbirds, the bower birds, the cat birds, the king parrots and the fruit dove all love berries.
  8. The bush rats love berries.
  9. The ants love berries.
  10. I love berries! But I love my sanity more.

So I am giving up. I will pull all my cane berries and give them away to those with better growing conditions. Maybe that way, I’ll get to eat some.


Find me there:

  • Dooralong Produce Swap (note the new date: 3rd Sunday of the Month – Dooralong Oval – 3.30pm)
  • Permaculture Central Coast monthly talks (3rd Tuesday of the Month – Tuggerah Hall – 7pm)
  • Or contact me directly on Facebook or email

Tansy against flies

Summer brings out the flies – fruit fly, bush fly, house fly, vinegar fly, cluster fly, sand fly, horse fly, blow fly…

Flies are annoying at best, painful at worst. They lay eggs where their young will forage and soon maggots pulse and swarm in a truly disgusting sight.

I have come, though, to appreciate their place in the ecosystem…

  1. Without flies, there are no maggots.
  2. Without maggots, dead stuff rots, stinks and attracts vermin.
  3. Birds lose their food source.
  4. Nutrient cycles are interrupted.
  5. Etc..

So, we need the flies.

However, a fly buzzing in the house or around the Sunday lunch on the veranda is not welcome.

Plants come to the rescue

I grow Tansy in strategic locations around the farm. Although admittedly not as potent as as an insecticide aerosol or an electric fly zapper (isn’t it fun to chase a fly with an electric racquet?!?!?) which aim is to destroy the animal, Tansy helps us shoosh away the pesky insect. It has other useful functions too.

Tansy is a perennial herbaceous plant known for its insect-repellent attributes (deterring many non-nectar eating insects). It grows stems up to 1m. In early summer, the button-like flowers bloom and attract beneficial insects. Tansy grows in almost any kind of soils, either part-shade or full sun. In late autumn, you can cut back hard the plant to keep it a bushy form. Dry the stalks first before composting (they take roots easily).

  • In the veggie patch and the food forest, they act as companion plant and integrated pest management: it is known to repel ants, cucumber beetles, Japanese beetles, squash bugs, fruit fly, among others.
  • Around the veranda, the wind or heat disperses the insect-repelling fragrance.
  • Fresh stems hung at the doors or on window sills will repel flies.
  • Rubbed on hair or farm clothes, or crushed leaves placed inside a hat or socks will deter horse and bush flies.
  • Fresh leaves placed on the fruit basket will deter vinegar flies.
  • Cut flower stalks can be brought inside the house or used in pot-pourri.

Other useful functions

  1. Tansy increases the potassium content in the soil.
  2. Pluck the leaves to add to your compost.
  3. Make compost-tea (liquid manure) by soaking Tansy leaves in a bucket of water for a week.
  4. Tansy is attractive to honeybees.
  5. It has both medicinal and culinary uses.
  6. Dried tansy can be used in a bee smoker.


Bring your garden produce to swap with some of my tansy plants from at the next Dooralong Produce Swap (2nd Sunday of the month -8 January- along with “Music in the Park”, 2-4pm. Swap starts at 3.30pm.)



  • Tansy is toxic to some browsing/grazing animals.
  • Stems root easily – dry well before composting.

See you at one of our courses to learn more about permaculture  and how to design a truly sustainable garden!

  • Part-time Permaculture Course held on our farm in Jilliby (NSW Central Coast) – 8 August to 18 November 2017
  • Intro to Permaculture (info coming soon)

Mid Spring garden

Insect hotel for habitat and resilience

We recently hosted a small party of permaculture aficionados who came to spend a few hours with us here, share a meal, tools, skills, conversations, friendship and fun…

Kids played together, hammering nails into wood and going to and fro the sand pit, patting baby chicken and rabbits along the way, brushing against the plants in our veggie patch and orchard, harvesting flowers, sun and oxygen…

The basis of this gathering was to learn how to make an insect hotel from scratch and why we might need some in our backyards. It was also to play together and have fun.

What is an insect hotel

Insect hotel by TG
Insect hotel by TG

An insect hotel is an infrastructure that welcomes beneficial insects in a certain area of your garden, orchard or backyard, providing them shelter and a place to nest, close to their food source.

These infrastructures are made of absolutely any material you can upcycle or repurpose – wood, logs, stump, bricks, besser blocks, pipes, pallets, terracotta pots, corrugated cardboard, straw, etc.

They can be made into a simple structure which you hang in a tree, such as a large bamboo pole cut to size and filled with sticks or bark… or it could be an elaborate structure requiring wood work, tools and a construction mind-set!

What motivates us here at Valley’s End is to ‘make things with what we have’…  and for these things to be functional and pretty too.

We scavenged sticks and bark from our farm driveway and old fence paling from a council clean up pile. Jaz brought pine cones, Andrew cordless drill and other tools and Di large bamboo poles.

Functions of an insect hotel

  • Mini insect hotel to hang out in the garden - by Isa
    Mini insect hotel to hang out in the garden – by Isa

    Increase biodiversity

  • Integrated Pest Management
  • Habitat: nest, hibernation shelter
  • Pollination
  • Education
  • Fun project for kids (and grown-up!)
  • Upcycled garden art

Insects it will attract

  • Parasitic insects
  • Solitary bees and wasps
  • Decomposers

Diversity of materials for a diversity of insect species, functions and beauty
Diversity of materials for a diversity of insect species, functions and beauty

Beetles  – Bark laid onto each others
Centipede  – Decaying wood
Earwigs – Bundle of dry grass or straw
Hoverfly – Hollow stems
Lacewing – Rolled corrugated cardboard
Ladybugs – Twigs, hollow stems, leaf litter
Native bees – Hollow wood, empty coconut
Slaters – Decaying wood
Solitary bees – Hollow stems, pipes, bricks (with holes), bamboo
Solitary wasps – Hollow stems, pipes, bricks (with holes), bamboo
Spiders – Any dry nook and cranny

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Making laundry soap to reduce waste

We have been very lucky here to host Isa from Brazil who taught us and our PDC students how to make basic laundry-type soap from used cooking oil.

Used oil (cooking oil) is not easily disposable. You can compost it with lots of wood chips. I suppose you can give it to your chooks in small amount, and pigs perhaps. You can burn it in your converted diesel car, truck or tractor but that requires very large quantities.

So in reality, we don’t quite know what to do with it.

(There is always the option to burn that in oil candles but realistically, who does that anymore?)

Permaculture principle to Create no Waste is fully demonstrated in soap making as we transform a waste product into a useful product.

I’d like to share Isa’s recipe and process below.

I will share her recipe of cosmetic-type soap -Castille Soap-  in a future post, and this one uses olive oil, clean, pure, un-used olive oil.


  • 3kg used cooking oil (we used food-grade linseed oil which edibility had expired)
  • 900gr cold water
  • 408gr caustic soda (sodium hydroxide, minimum of purity 97%).


  • Stick blender
  • A (plastic, or glass, or stainless steel) bowl to measure liquids
  • A (plastic, or glass, or stainless steel) bowl to mix the liquids
  • A kitchen scale
  • A piece of clean pantyhose, to separate solid particles from the oil
  • A plastic spatula or a plastic spoon

For your safety, please wear:

  • protective goggles
  • protective gloves
  • a mask
  • an apron
  • closed shoes
  • Do note make the mixture inside the house (with doors and windows closed).
  • Do not mix with children and pets around.
  • Do not use aluminum utensils.

How to make:

  1. Separate the solid particles from the used oil using the pantyhose.
  2. Place the oil in a plastic bowl.
  3. In another container place the cold water, then add the soda (not the other way around – danger!).
  4. Dissolve the soda in the water thoroughly and wait about five minutes. This becomes lye water.
  5. Add the lye water to the oil.
  6. Then blend with the stick blender, for about three minute or until the consistency of the mixture looks like jam (or mango purée!).
  7. Put this mixture into a mold, which can be made of plastic, wood or silicon, but never use aluminum!.
  8. Let the mixture turns into the soap in a place with constant temperature.
  9. After one or two days (depending on the weather) you can cut the soap.
  10. Cure these pieces of soap for, at least, four weeks before using them.


Thank you Isa for teaching us your skills! See you soon!