Massive Attaque!

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.

Freedom

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!

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! 😛

Farewell

Dear folks,

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 folding soon.

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.

A lady beetle deficiency

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.

Prevention

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.

RIP

If the plant is seriously ravaged, pull out, bag and solarise for a few days in the sun. Then compost

Ticks. Dead. On contact.

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.

tick-tox-productI 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.

Paddocks that make you go “meh”

Driving along our roads I can tell who is competent at managing their paddocks, their livestock and ultimately, their immediate community. Fireweed –amongst others, is the number one indicator of such competency, or lack of. There are two dead simple ways in tackling it, for good.

Pull it

Yes, it’s a mind-numbing exercise, bent in half like if you’re working in a rice paddy, empty feedbag in hand, bending, pulling, bagging, bending, pulling, bagging…

Make a party out of it. Invite your mates. Feed them well and stock the fridge with beverages. Drive the ute in the paddock and put the music full blast. Be creative.

Don’t wait for the plant to be in full bloom. Get it when the flowers are just about to bud. Then pull it and leave it on the ground.

If you left it too long and the flowers are formed, then pull it and bag it.

If you leave that pesky plant to grow flowers and seeds, you’re only going to be successful at reducing the profitability of your paddock (and at aggravating your case with your neighbours). Your livestock won’t eat that weed and gradually, the weed will have outcompeted the nutritious grass. Your livestock with loose condition, and your land, value.

Rotational grazing

Put five cows on 5ha and let them graze at will, what do you think they’ll eat? The tasty, juicy nutritious new blades of grass of course! That grass gets knocked down then starts growing again, then gets knocked down. And grows again (but less vigorously), and again and again… Meanwhile, the bad quality grass and the weeds grow at will, undisturbed, completing their lifecycle and inoculating the land with seeds…

Reduce your livestock grazing area (that increases the stocking rate) and move your livestock to fresh new lush grazing cell once they knocked down hard the previous one…

Drive along our roads and observe nearby paddocks. Some will make you go “Meh! Horrible!”, while others will make you want to roll with glee in that lush weed-free pasture!