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A Delicious Bunch- Book Review

By | Farm Gate Stall | 3 Comments

A Delicious Bunch, by Linda Brennan

Growing and Cooking with Edible Flowers

We’d been asked once before if we were going to grow edible flowers…but trying to get all the vegetables going was enough work without adding another job to the list.

Then last holidays at the conference, I was chatting with an organic edible flower farmer from the Brisbane region. She thought we should grow them too. “It’s so easy” she assured me. Hmmm…

The idea still wasn’t that appealing, until recently when for my birthday, my sister gave me A Delicious Bunch, by Linda Brennan. Linda gives some basic info on how and why to grow organic edible flowers (with gorgeous photography!)…and then the bulk of the book is dedicated to showcasing some of her favourite edible flowers, how to grow them, and a recipe to try. I’ll also add that many of the recipes are plant based and gluten free. And they look worth making…you know how sometimes you get these books and think ‘who would actually make that?’ This is different, the recipes look amazing and worth trying.

After reading the book, I was sold on the idea. Rick and I discussed where we would plant this flower garden, and settled on the front corner of our property. This will also serve as an easy way to find our place if you’re coming to pick up veg for the first time “just look for the riot of colour!” So that plot is being solarised right now (non-toxic way of killing the grass before preparing the soil).

Just remember, if you’re wanting to try some edible flowers, make sure they were grown organically. Roses are a great example…from your own garden where you hopefully haven’t used any toxic sprays, then yes you can eat them. But don’t go nibbling on roses from a florist/shop. They have been treated with various nasties to repel the pests, and are not safe to eat.

One of the edible flower plants mentioned is the elderberry, which we happen to have growing prolifically around our water tank. Linda’s recipe for elder flowers is Elderflower Fizz, a fermented beverage, which we have brewing as I type. By the way, I counted 12 elderberry suckers this morning that our original 3 elderberry trees have sent out. So for people wanting to buy an elderberry plant, I’ll hopefully be potting those up within the next week.

If all goes well with this flower plot, then organic edible flowers will make a nice addition to our produce for sale.

Zanzibar- An Example of Why Soil Nutrition Matters

By | Plant Performance Experiments | One Comment

The Zanzibar that Broke the Rules

About this time last year, indoor air filtration was of great interest to me. The zanzibar was an indoor plant who’s name kept popping up in the search for ideal air cleansing indoor plants.

And here’s what I ‘learned’ about them:

They thrive on neglect

They only need watering about once a month

They only need feeding in the growing season

They like low-light, and to be kept out of sunlight

They’re incredibly slow growing

Well…Rick thought those care instructions sounded wrong. He often would look at our zanzibar and say “It needs another watering.” So it would end up getting a drink every week, sometimes multiple times a week.

He also thought it needed some fish emulsion and I gave it liquid kelp/fulvic acid too. And I did this throughout winter.

Though they say to keep it out of direct sunlight, it would get the afternoon sun through our front window. And when it rained (that doesn’t happen often!) we’d put the zanzibar outside.

See all those new shoots? It must be almost a year that I’ve had this zanzibar and I thought I took a pic when I first got it…but don’t know where that is now. Shame, because I’m sure it’s doubled in size. The plant that is supposed to be so slow growing is always growing new shoots, some of which I’ve removed and re-potted to start new zanzibar plants.

When I first got the zanzibar, I took it out of the plastic pot and bought a larger, ceramic pot (and now it’s just about outgrown that pot). I filled it with soil from Rick’s first garden plot. This soil has been remineralised and had 2 rotations of crops through it.

The zanzibar is also in our loungeroom and exposed to a lot of both classical music and Wholetones (healing frequency instrumental music).

Then, like I mentioned, it’s had feeds of organic fish emulsion and kelp…in winter. Often people are told to feed in Spring, the growth season. But I heard a great analogy from an agronomist recently contradicting that philosophy. He said that waiting to feed a plant until growth season is like waiting to properly feed a pregnant woman until she’s right about to have the baby. One of the crucial times for a woman to be in peak health is when she conceives. Certain minerals being absent at this point can result in birth defects and disease. And plants, likewise, need good nutrition when they’re ‘dormant’ throughout winter. They’re pregnant with Spring growth, and as I can see with this zanzibar that was fed throughout winter, now it’s able to thrive and bring forth abundant healthy growth, because it had decent nutrition back when it was ‘pregnant.’

This has all been so interesting to me, because we expected the plant have little growth or noticeable changes, but it’s so active! My sister bought herself a zanzibar around the same time, and hers has had some nice new shoots too, but not so many as ours. Soil nutrition matters. I wonder how many plants would perform completely beyond our expectations if they were given a decent diet?

And this is the first shoot that I re-potted. It’s now grown a new shoot too 🙂

A Fowl Experiment

By | The Balance | 4 Comments

“Three duck eggs? That’s it?! But there’s about 11 ducks in there!”

I’d bought all these extra ducks for eggs, and some days I’d had 7 or 8 eggs in a day, but never consistently, and I’d purposefully bought a breed of duck that’s known for outlaying chickens. So what was the problem?

We soak their grain for at least 24 hours before their feed, give them table scraps and market garden scraps…and sometimes even some milk kefir (which they love). And I was pretty sure it wasn’t a predator nicking off with the eggs.

After the Sustainable Agriculture Conference, one of the bullet points I’d jotted down was that we should start sourcing organic feed for our animals. The primary focus of the lectures was on human health, but it became pretty clear that feeding animals with roundup contaminated produce is dangerous too.

We found certified organic lucerne for the sheep during the drought (which turned out to be the same price as the regular lucerne we’d bought before that!), and eventually I took the plunge and bought organic chicken feed too. I’d been holding off, as it’s far more costly than even the special duck formula that we sometimes bought.

At the same time as starting the organic poultry feed, I started picking a fresh tub of produce for the chooks/ducks each morning. Especially after all the rain and hail, we had lots of lettuce that wasn’t suitable for sale, but was perfect for the birds. We have about 30 birds, so maybe table scraps weren’t enough, even though they free range in a paddock.

2 days later, that’s all it took to see a difference. I had 7 duck eggs that day. And 7 the next, and the next…and then 8, then 9. Plus all the chook eggs. It’s been about 10 days now, and I’m still getting 7-9 duck eggs a day, plus chook eggs.

I’m sure the organic chicken feed has helped, but the real difference, in my opinion, is the fresh produce every morning. I made sure there was variety in the tub too, by using kale, chard, mesclun, and cabbage greens on top of the lettuce.

And every day, they polish off just about everything! It’s usually a bit of chard that gets left, if anything.

I say all this, because if you can see results in fowl health after only 2 days, by ramping up their fresh chem-free vegetable intake, what do you think it will do for human health? For your health?

I’d love to hear of anyone’s experiences with incorporating more fresh produce in their diet. 🙂

Hopefully I’ll be able to report back down the track on this Fowl Experiment, because the next change I’m looking for is in the birds feathers. Some of the chooks have bald patches which I want to see cleared up!

Zucchini Chocolate Cake…with Walnuts

By | Recipes | No Comments

Zucchini…it’s prolific! It seems like one day you’ll have a few tiny zucchini forming, and within the next day or two you go back to the patch and they’re almost 1kg each!

We’ve been having zucchini in a lot of meals lately, but I thought it was time to try zucchini chocolate cake. This is a recipe I adapted from a less healthy version.

2 cups plain flour (we used biodynamic stoneground flour)

300g coconut sugar

65g cacao powder (we sell this)

2 tsp bicarb soda

1/2tsp salt

1tsp ground cinnamon

4 eggs (we used duck eggs)

350ml macadamia oil (we sell this)

100g chopped walnuts (we sell this)

500g grated zucchini (you already know we sell these!)

Turn your oven to 180 C (fan forced) and prepare your cake tin or muffin tray.

In a large bowl, mix all your dry ingredients.

Now add the eggs and oil and mix in well.

Lightly mix in the zucchini and walnuts until evenly distributed

Bake for about 55 minutes.

Hide from your children 🙂

When cool we iced it with a chocolate Vienna cream icing…not so healthy…but it was organic sugar, so at least there was no roundup in there (sugar cane is sometimes sprayed with roundup as a desiccant after harvest).

This is a really moist cake, and I love the touch of crunch provided by the walnuts.

Simple Living Toowoomba’s Gift Workshop

By | The Balance | No Comments

Simple Living Toowoomba are hosting a free workshop as their final get together for 2017.

Details are: Christmas Workshops and Secret Santa

Furoshiki cloth wrapping, DIY flavoured salts and simple gift wrapping.

Where? Range Christian Fellowship, 13-15 Blake ST, Wilsonton, 4350

When? Saturday November 18th, 10am-midday

There will also be a few small stalls with produce and gifts for sale.

Please bring a plate to share for morning tea, and RSVP to Margy at simplelivingtoowoomba@gmail.com

If you would like to participate in the secret santa, bring a homemade/homegrown gift to the value of $5.

Note: Image is for illustrative purposes only, and is not an actual example of Furoshiki wrapping!