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Nutrition

The art of balancing minerals, microbes and magnetism.

The Hidden Physicians- Farmers

By NutritionNo Comments

“The food farmers produce determines the health of the people”

As many of you know, Rick and I spent 3 days last week at the Sustainable Agriculture Forum, learning from Dr Arden Anderson (physician, agricultural consultant, author of Science in Agriculture, Real Medicine Real Health, Life and Energy in the Soil and more).

It was mind blowing. I’ve heard snippets of what Rick studies and implements on the farm here at Birdsong, but never delved right into it myself. When this conference came up, I knew it was time to get an education on soil health, because I need better understanding of this…and so do the people…the customers, the general public.

So, back to the title “The Hidden Physicians- Farmers.” We have such an allopathic view of health in the west. You get sick, and then you run to the doctor for a diagnosis and remedy. Some people will run to a naturopath or homeopath instead for the same…a diagnosis and remedy. And that’s ok, most of the time, but the real issue is why did you get sick in the first place? And do you think just taking some drug/supplement/remedy is going to fix everything? We’re a band-aid society, just wanting quick fixes to mask the symptoms we experience of deeper issues.

And the Agricultural industry has the same problem as a whole. Farmers are becoming increasingly powerless, as they fall into depending on chemical companies to tell them what seed to buy, what poisons to use to keep weeds away, what “supplements” to put out on their crops in order to make them grow and yield higher profits (so they think).

When illness hits, the real question is “why am I sick” rather than “what can I take to make me feel better?”

When a plant is ridden with insects, disease and failure to thrive, it’s not random. It’s not an accident. It’s a very clear sign to the gardeners and farmers that there’s a deficiency in the soil. Something is seriously lacking.

Insects do NOT have the same digestive system as humans and do NOT go seeking out food that is optimal human food. Most insects seek out free nitrogen (not joined to a carbon) and free amino acids. Simple nutrients. A plant that has failed to optimally photosynthesize, provides them with just this. If your crop has properly photosynthesized into complete proteins, insects just aren’t interested. The structure of your crop is too complex for their digestive system. If you are interested more in the way insects seek out suitable food for themselves, there’s a book “Tuning into Nature” which goes deeper into that. Insects antennae actually tune into signatures given off by plants as to whether those plants are suitable food for them or not. Ammonia in particular, gives off an amplifying signal to the bugs.

And weeds. A lot of you have probably heard weeds have a purpose. If your soil is lacking suitable nutrition for the crops you’re attempting to grow, the crops will suffer and the weeds will come in to “fix” the soil by sending deep tap roots to draw up deeper nutrients.

This is our paddock before the market garden went in. Virgin soil.

Same paddock, about a year later. Rick’s made soil amendments, put up 12% shade net, gives foliar sprays to the crops. It’s by no means “arrived” at perfection, but it’s come a LONG way!

Anyway, back to the fundamentals. Why are we sick? Why are you sick? I have a friend who gets headaches frequently, and she uses some natural remedies to heal them. It does take away the pain, but when I asked her “Have you looked into what’s causing them?” She said “No.” Like, if the remedy is working, people don’t seem to care what the cause is. But that headache or symptom is your body’s way of sending you a very clear message “something’s wrong in here!”

Your body, and everything else in this Universe, is made up of minerals and elements…all listed on the periodic table of elements. Your body does not create it’s own minerals however. You need to replenish them with food. But if your food is lacking these basic nutrients, your body will lack them too. Your body can put up with a lot of garbage…years and years of nutrient depletion, before it manifests a problem. A lot of people think they are healthy, when really they are just “pre-disease symptoms.”

Most people probably believe when they’re eating their veg that they’re getting the nutrients they need…but the majority of farms are not only failing to replenish their soil, they’re also using chemicals like glysophate which chelate whatever minerals were in the crop. Chelation is binding or inactivating. So for example, manganese is a mineral your body needs and should be in your food. But if that food also contains glysophate (which most of it does from the excessive spraying of crops with poisons) then the manganese is chelated by that gylsophate and oxidised and made unavailable to your body!

I’m going to try and keep blogging more info as time permits, but for now, just understand that sickness indicates a weakness and depletion in your body. And know that if you’re eating food containing glysophate (roundup), then you are being robbed. It will bind, inactivate and oxidise what little nutrients should have been available to your body.

Paper, Plastic or Cloth

By Nutrition4 Comments

Keeping Greens Fresher Longer

Keeping greens fresh…it can be an issue if you’re not growing them yourself, and therefore can’t pick them as you need them.

I’d been reading about cloth bags, made in Toowoomba too I think, from natural fibers that are said to keep greens fresher longer than plastic. This I had to try, especially as we’ve got a massive roll of natural linen just waiting to be converted into something creative!

Before I go any further, I will say that this experiment is not over. I’ve only tried one type of plant, and tried it in the coldest part of our fridge-the meat drawer (because the veggie drawer was full already!). To really know how effective this is, I’ll need to try other greens and in warmer areas of our fridge.

Here’s what we tested:

3 bags. One a plastic bag (with aeration holes), one a standard paper bag and one a 100% natural linen drawstring bag.

3 bunches of parsley picked at the same time and of roughly similar size and condition.

All the bags were sealed with a rubber band with the parsley inside, and placed in our meat drawer for 8 days. The meat drawer typically sits at 1.5 degrees C (I know this because Farmer Rick is also an engineer, and engineers do weird stuff like keeping thermometers in their fridge ‘just because’!!).

Today I pulled out the parsley and here’s what’s happened:

It’s a bit sad to see the parsley from the linen bag is actually the limpest and most lifeless. Bummer.

The paper bag was only slightly better.

The winner in this case was the aerated plastic bag! I’m not a plastic fan, so wasn’t thrilled with the result, but that’s how it goes in this case.

Hopefully sometime soon I’ll try again in a warmer area of the fridge, with other greens. And maybe for less than 8 days…that’s a long time to leave herbs in the fridge!

Has anyone else tried fabric bags for greens/herbs?

War On Waste Toowoomba Workshop

By NutritionNo Comments

Don’t you just love when you can visit or holiday at a location that’s still pristine? No rubbish, very few people, lots of trees and wildlife. That’s what we go for when going on holidays.

But places like that are becoming few are far between because of the excessive waste our culture produces. Many of you would have seen the ABC’s War on Waste series. And I know it’s making a difference, we have a handful of plastic-free customers at Birdsong.

But what else can you do? Simple Living Toowoomba are hosting a War On Waste Workshop in August, aimed at empowering people to make changes in the way they shop and live that will cut back on waste and give future generations a better world to live in! http://simplelivingtoowoomba.weebly.com/

Here’s the details:

War on Waste Workshop

Date: 19 August

Time: 10.00-12 noon.

Cost: $5

Where: Range Christian Fellowship, 15 Blake St, Wilsonton

What: This workshop will be full of ideas on how to reduce your waste. In the first half of the workshop we will have heaps of tips, tricks and products to help you reduce your plastic and disposable product use. Racheal will be demonstrating how easy it is to make beeswax wraps which can be used instead of Clingwrap.  This part of the workshop is really a forum where we are hoping that lots of people bring their hints on how to reduce waste. With plastic free July wrapping up you may have lots of ideas on what ‘disposable’ products can be replaced with reusable/washable ones.

The second half of the workshop will be presented by Ann from the Toowoomba Regional Council.  She will be talking about composting, worm farming and yellow bin recycling. There will also be time to ask any questions that you may have.

Bookings Required: 16 August to simplelivingtoowoomba@gmail.com

We will also have a home grown and hand made swap where you can bring up to five items that you have grown or made and then swap them for other items that are brought along. The swap will begin at 9.50am so you will need to have your items on the table by 9.45am.  

 

Hand-Harvested Carrots

By NutritionNo Comments

Have you ever seen organic carrots at $9/kg? We have, and though ours are priced lower, I can understand why some are valued so high.

Friday just gone saw Rick, myself and our eldest 3 children harvesting a twenty meter bed of rainbow mix carrots. Now how long do you think that would take 5 people, to pick, trim, wash and weigh one bed of carrots (by hand)?

Just over 3 hours I think it was. 60kg of carrots came out of that bed, and five of us were working solidly for that 3 hours to get the job done!

For years I was one of those people who didn’t want to pay more than $2/kg for carrots (broad acre carrots of course). It’s all done by machine on those farms…big diesel powered machines chugging through the crop.

But at Birdsong it’s all hand harvested, and that takes time, and lots of helping hands! So at $5/kg, our 60kg of carrots from that bed are worth $300. Now, $300 divided by the 5 labourers gives you $60 per labourer, and about $20 per hour for each labourer…BUT, that doesn’t include all the time Rick spent preparing the bed for planting, sowing the seed, setting up irrigation, weeding etc. So it’s actually much less than $20 per hour per labourer. That also didn’t take into account the cost of the seeds (have you seen how expensive rainbow carrot seeds are?!), the cost of the irrigation set up, the mineral balancing (our mineral mix compost pile cost about $5000 to make for example) and the rest.

Thankfully we have lovely customers who don’t complain about the price (which is very low anyway, when you see all the work and costs associated with growing decent veg), but I just wanted to give you this little post to consider, because our culture is bombarded with cheap food. I know most people think food is too expensive, but the people saying that are generally the ones who haven’t tried growing veg themselves, or raising and butchering their own meat. Your view might change once you have. I know that after we killed, gutted and plucked 11 roosters for the freezer one day, I decided I would never again complain about the cost of store bought free range/organic chicken. It’s really not expensive at all when you know what goes into producing it!

Beef and Vegetable Recovery Soup…and care packs

By NutritionNo Comments

Compared to past winters, this has been a mild one. I can remember having 5 degree C mornings one year in particular, when Rick and I were first married (and had little furniture!) and we’d sit on a cushion at the coffee table for breakfast in the freezing cold!

But this post isn’t actually anything to do with our minimalist beginnings!

It’s more about making some healing food and getting through this flu season. We’re a pretty healthy family usually, lots of veg, sunshine, fresh air…all that. But this Autumn/Winter there has been so much seasonal illness sweeping through our household! It’s been crazy. And I’ve heard the same from a lot of other families in the Toowoomba area.

So, what can you do to help your own family and others as they rest and recover from all the bugs going around?

Being a Nourishing Traditions follower, one of the ways we recover is by eating some bone broth based soup.

I used an organic/free range leg of beef (sawn into pieces that actually fit in a stockpot!) and roasted it for an hour at 180 C. This then went into the stockpot for 48 hours of simmering with a little vinegar, rosemary, sage, garlic, onion and some greens.

You can use a chicken frame (or whole chook) but just be aware if you are making broth with chicken that it only needs up to 24 hours of simmer time.

Then I scoop out the bones, shred any meat off the bone that is overly chunky and add lots of veg. I used a lot of carrot, broccoli and cabbage in this batch (all organic).

This was all chopped into bite sized pieces and added to the broth/beef mix.

It was then heated and simmered just long enough to partially cook the veggies. If you were going to eat all the soup right away, you could simmer until the veg are all tender, but this made a BIG batch, so I didn’t want to overcook as I’ll have to reheat later and don’t want to eat mush!

Besides being helpful for healing from seasonal illness, this type of soup is so kind to your gut if you have any gastrointestinal issues. I found it very helpful when I used to have autoimmune disease. It’s also very satisfying.

And there it all is in the pot, looking vibrant!

Now, if you have a decent sized stockpot you can make liters of this soup in one hit and have it in the freezer on hand for yourself, or friends/family that are under the weather (or who just love soup :-))

One idea is to pour soup into a glass canister with a good seal and label it, then add a little packet of fresh herbs (to add to the soup when they heat it) and take it to friends/family that are ill. Just don’t stick regular glass in the freezer. It really doesn’t like it in there!

Palagonite

By NutritionNo Comments

Hawaii, Iceland and the Lockyer Valley’s Mt Sylvia…what do they have in common?

You’re probably thinking “not much!” These three areas are places that palagonite, a rare rock dust formed through the interaction of water and volcanic glass, is found. Normally it occurs where there is recent volcanic activity, but in the past 11 years has been found at Mt Sylvia! Interested in how it happens? www.mtsylviasoilconditioners.com.au/products/understanding-palagonite-video

I’m mentioning this because I know a lot of you are into gardening to some extent…and most of us have soil that needs help. It’s either too sandy, too clay ridden or too depleted of organic matter.

And that’s where palagonite can help. Palagonite has the natural ability to hold and retain water, which is great news for a lot of gardeners, but when mixed with manure and microbes it becomes a powerful growth agent for gardens. The mine at mt Sylvia has already exported their blend to Dubai, where it was able to support the growth of healthy grass in a polo center! This was desert…and then they added the palagonite/manure blend and grass grew!

In a more local example, Bauers organic farm used palagonite in addition to some other natural goodies for the soil and gained a 50% increase in their ginger crop.

Of interest to my husband and I with our organic market garden, is the paramagnetism of palagonite. We already use blue metal in our compost brew to increase the soil paramagnetism and recently found out  palagonite has triple the paramagnetism of crusher dust/blue metal. It also improves the soil pH, microbial activity and adds many trace elements to the soil.

If you live in the Toowoomba area and want to try palagonite out, keep checking our website, where we will soon be offering this supplement for sale to home gardeners.

The link below gives you some more info about this mineral:

www.mtsylviasoilconditioners.com.au/

Customer Certified Organic

By NutritionNo Comments

I’m not sure if Rick coined the term ‘customer certified organic’ himself, or if he read it somewhere. But doesn’t it make sense? Well, maybe it depends on where you’re coming from. But if you’re thinking that food should be grown close to where it will be consumed, and that consumers may actually like to see where their food is grown, know the people that are growing it and know what condition the soil is in that this food is growing in…then you’ll understand where we’re coming from.

We get asked questions about organic certification and why we’ve opted out. For one, did you know each crop you grow needs to be certified (at a cost)? So here we are selling and growing upwards of 20 crops at a time…and those crops change each season. That’s a lot of time and finances to go on ‘proving’ we don’t use toxic chemicals on our produce!

Another reason is because although certification is great for proving there’s no toxins, it doesn’t prove a thing about the nutritional content of the produce/product. For example, John the mineral man (some of you will know who I’m talking about!), once showed me test analysis results for beef comparisons. The three tested samples were 1) Certified Organic Beef 2) Standard beef off the supermarket shelf and 3) His own beef that he grass feeds on pasture that he looks after with minerals etc.

Can you guess which sample was the most nutrient deprived? I would have been sure it was the supermarket beef…but no. The certified organic beef was the lowest in essential minerals/vitamins. His pasture fed (on nourished pasture, that is) was the highest in essential vitamins and minerals. And supermarket beef was right in the middle. Can you see what I’m getting at?

Yes, if you have chemical sensitivities then you’ll be looking for organic certified foods so you KNOW you won’t react. But what I’m talking about is the nutrient profile of your food. Organic certification is not about giving you the most nutritious food. It’s giving you assurance that you are buying food grown without toxins.

Our mission at Birdsong is to provide our customers with nutrient dense, healing foods. We want our veg to be bursting with nutritional goodness. And so far the Brix readings we’re getting are showing that we’re definitely on track!

Now the thing is, when you nourish the soil with minerals, microbes and the like and feed your plants with beautiful plant fertilisers like worm tea and ocean sourced fish emulsion…then you won’t be likely to have the kind of disease and pest issues that lead growers to use pesticides/fungicides anyway!

But the hype is all about avoiding chem sprays and not on nutritional excellence for most growers looking to attract the organic buyers it seems.

Anyway, back to topic of customer certified organic produce. We live just on the outskirts of the city where most of our buyers live. People generally collect their produce straight from the farm gate. When people come, we are happy to give them a tour of the market garden and show them what we’re doing and explain the process. I don’t believe there’s a need for official certification when anyone can check out for themselves that Birdsong is genuine. The only sprays we use here are liquid mineral/fish emulsion/worm tea follier type of sprays.

So there’s some food for thought… is your priority on nutritionally dense food, or just food that’s grown without the use of potentially toxic chemicals?

Birdsong Beginnings

By NutritionNo Comments

Our first season is just about half way through!

(Photo: ‘Hand grenade corn’ as my daughter named it. By the way, corn is now finished for the season)

Thanks to all of you who have been out here supporting us and trying out the veg. Mostly it’s been pretty impressive (you’ll get differing opinions there though, as Rick is a pessimist and I’m an optimist). I think all that’s been achieved here is incredible, but he tends to look around and see how much is still incomplete or lacking!

We’re loving eating so much seasonal organic produce, and I’m noticing the boost in my energy levels because of this. For almost 2 months I’ve been naturally waking around 3-4am almost every morning, but not getting tired throughout the day!

Another interesting thing we noticed about the produce is that it has a longer shelf life than some of the supermarket counterparts. The beans in particular have been amazing. We’d harvested a large crate of them and the cold room still wasn’t complete, so we had to leave them inside at room temperature. I told Rick that one night at room temperature sends beans limp. But some of those beans were out for 3 days and they didn’t go limp! (By the way, we don’t sell you older produce like that, we pick fresh for orders, but I used those older beans in bone broth and other recipes at home)

The Brix reading on the beans was 6!! For beans, this is excellent. I’ve also had a few people comment on how long the beans lasted in the fridge…easily a week or more, yet supermarket beans tend to go slimy in the fridge within 3-4 days.

You may of noticed the website can be a bit difficult to use. We have played with this a lot, and yet it doesn’t always behave. Especially the product page. So we’re very sorry if you’ve tried to make a web order and struggled to make sense of it. We also have repeatedly updated the product page, and the updates don’t always go through to published status. So, in the meantime, if you want to know the latest product availability, then email me at racheal@birdsongmarketgarden.com.au

I write up a weekly product list and send out to regular customers, so if you want to be on that list, just email me and let me know.

During these easter school holidays we are open mornings as well as afternoons. As soon as school goes back we’re back to Sunday-Friday afternoon opening hours. BUT, if you really need to do a morning pickup during school term, give us a days notice with your order and try to come before 8:30am and we can manage it. I start teaching at 8:30am and it can be very disruptive to have people arrive during lessons…and Rick’s usually working in the garden mornings, so it’s just not the best time for us!

If any of you who’ve tried to veg have testimonials/comments you’d like published, let me know 🙂

Piel de Sapo- Spain’s favourite melon

By Nutrition2 Comments

‘Skin of the toad’

‘Santa Claus melon’

‘Christmas Melon’

That’s Piel de Sapo. Don’t be put off by the reference to toad skin! This is only because piel de sapo’s skin is deep green and mottley, kind of like toad skin.

A big hit in Spain, but little known in our region. I must confess I can’t remember ever seeing or hearing of one before. Looks like we’ll be seeing a lot more of them, after this weeks taste test though!

Rick found one ripe and was so impressed with the flavour he contacted me right away to say it was like a ‘honeydew sorbet.’ The children and I did the official taste test when we got home that afternoon and were suitably impressed. It’s kind of like a honeydew, but like Rick said…a bit like sorbet too. It’s sweet, but not as intensely sweet as honeydew…that sorbet type kick is has gives it something special over the other melons.

Our eldest daughter thinks it’s the best melon she’s ever tasted, and will likely be reluctant to let us sell them!

Piel de sapo is a little smaller than a honeydew too, so great for those who don’t have much spare room in the fridge or don’t have too many mouths to feed (can’t you tell it’s the mother of a large family speaking here?!). Also great for those who take one bite and then can’t help but to eat the whole melon in one sitting!

So if you’re up for trying something new, piel de sapos will be harvested and available this week!

Pinocchio Eggplant

By NutritionNo Comments

Isn’t he cute?!

I had to laugh when the morning visit to the trellis patch to collect cucumbers resulted in finding this rather odd little eggplant ready to harvest! Not sure I’ve ever seen an eggplant with a pinocchio nose before! The children were thrilled and ran to blu-tac some googly eyes on for a picture.

And while we’re on the topic of unusual vegetables, here’s our Siamese twin cucumber, harvested the same week as Pinocchio.

The “muncher” variety of cucumbers have been our favourite so far. Sweet, crisp and suitably juicy. The Poinsett cucumbers however, have been struggling with the heat and getting some bitterness. The white cucumbers have been completely bitter (also from the heat). Even peeled they weren’t salable. So our chooks have been living on a staple diet of long white cucumbers! No waste around here! Though it was a shame to have to give about 15kg a week of cucumbers to chickens.

Some people have been asking about our farm gate stall. It’s not open yet. Due to the fact the cucumbers came on early but just about nothing else is ready yet, we’ve just been selling cucumbers directly to friends. The farm gate stall SHOULD open this Autumn. And we plan to have remote eftpos facilities.

The melons and pumpkins are almost ripe. Did you know honeydew melons start to smell like a melon (uncut) when they’re ripe? and they haven’t reached that point yet. And watermelons gain a sheen, as opposed to the powdery finish they have when they’re not yet ripe. It’s driving our ever hungry 6 year old crazy to see all these melons that look the right size, but aren’t ready to eat!

See How They Grow

By NutritionOne Comment
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Well! It was a pleasant surprise this morning as I headed down to the house from the market garden, to turn back and see how everything is progressing!

Especially as I got a glance of the photos of the paddock before all this started. Wow! So much has happened. Ah, the many blessings of being married to a workaholic…hahaha.

It’s been a while since I posted pics of how he garden is coming along. Every week people ask how long until the crop is ready (nice to know there’s customers waiting!). Autumn. We should be ready to sell in Autumn.

Almost everything is growing rapidly and vibrantly. Carrots are the exception. We never realised that some ants have a fetish for carrot seed. Did you know that? Rick literally planted them out and then checked back in 10 minutes and see ants carting our carrot seed away! So not many of those managed to germinate.

But as for crops like melons, corn, tomato, cucumber, and pumpkin…they’re thriving!

So what you see in the above photo, is one of Rick’s massive time savers…weed mat. The veggies love the compost mix Rick made…but so do the grass and the weeds. The black mat keeps prepared beds weed free until we’re ready to plant them out. The white mat is used on some planted crops, particularly those that aren’t high density, to suppress the weeds.

We’re trialing tomatoes both ways…weed mat and without weed mat. More on that later.

The sheep are no longer allowed to roam the paddock. We usher them next door each day to graze, and have to keep them moving up there at a steady pace so they don’t nibble any bean or corn crops along the way! The gaze longingly at the pasture that’s regenerating since Rick’s compost mix was spread over it, but will have to settle for ordinary pasture for now.

You ‘d be amazed how the 12% shade netting along with Rick’s compost mix boost plant growth! It’s incredible how our struggling old paddock has transformed into this oasis of life-even with little rain.

Until next post….

Shalom, Racheal

DIY Sun Screen

By NutritionNo Comments

Have you ever wondered why when you go to buy sun screen, there’s a separate version for babies and toddlers? Why isn’t the regular version safe for them?

I notice things like this, and had the same question about toothpaste years ago. What on earth are they putting in there that’s not safe for babies?

And if it’s not safe for infants, why is it safe for adults? After looking into this, I found out both commercial sun screen and commercial toothpaste contain some toxic ingredients.

Obviously working on a market garden means we spend a lot of time in the sun, and frequently wear long sleeves, hats and sun screen. I don’t want to be transdermally absorbing nasty toxins, so started making our own sun screen. And after almost 2 years of our family (including our baby) using it, I can tell you it works!

So if you want to give this a try, here’s the recipe:

DIY SunScreen

 

To make your own natural sunscreen, you’ll need
1/2 cup good quality oil. I used macadamia, but almond or olive are good too.
1/4 cup coconut oil (SPF 4)
1/4 cup beeswax (you can find this at local markets, online, or direct from a local beekeeper)
2 Tbsp zinc oxide powder (We got ours from N-Essentials, online)
Optional: 1tsp vitamin e oil
Optional: 2 Tbsp shea butter (SPF 4-5)
Optional essential oils or vanilla extract for scent. Just avoid citrus essential oils, which don’t agree with the sunshine!
I also added about 1Tbsp calendula extract, which is great for the skin and we happened to have in the cupboard.

Method:
Get an old clean jar (old jam jar, preserving jar or the like is great) and pour in all ingredients excepting the zinc oxide powder.

Sit it in a pot of water over a medium heat on the stove.

Allow this to heat until your beeswax and shea butter (if you used it) have completely melted. You will need to stir occasionally.

Once melted, stir in your zinc powder. I’ll tell you now, this powder takes a bit of stirring to mix evenly through. And make sure you stir it again immediately before pouring the sunscreen into it’s jars.

Once well mixed you can pour the mix into jars to cool. I like to use recylcled salsa jars or recycled avon cosmetic jars. Whatever you use, make sure it seals well, because I can tell you from experience, that it’s not pretty to open up your bag or cosmetic case and find sunscreen has leaked over everything!

If you try this, let us know how you go with it.

(Almost) Gone With the Wind

By Nutrition3 Comments

What a weekend we had! Saturday is usually our day off, but the shade net over the market garden plot was still unfinished. Storms were forecast for Sunday, so we got out there and worked. Rick’s Mum got out there and helped us. Then our lovely neighbours turned up to help too.

Much was achieved.

But we still couldn’t get it finished.

Rick’s Dad stayed the night and helped Rick for half a day on Sunday, but it still wasn’t complete.

And then the storm came…but it was all wind and little to no rain…and it hurt. I’d been to visit a friend, and came home to find we’d sustained substantial damage to the framework. Agh!

We haven’t photographed it yet, but it was disheartening, for Rick especially, to head up the paddock and discover several poles dangerously bent, and several more completely snapped at the welds. Wow.

All those hours in the summer heat building this structure, and then comes damage that will add many more hours of sweating it out to get it repaired and complete. Our seedlings await transplanting!

But, I must say we’re thankful that was the only damage, and hope that those who lost the roofs of their homes or had their cars squashed by branches on the weekend in that same storm are doing ok. At least our damage was nowhere near our home or our children!

And I’m also thankful for all the help we’ve had. So many people have freely given their time to help with this project! We’ve been the recipients of much kindness, and I thank you all who have showed up to help, especially when it has freed me up to be with the children. Some days when Rick has needed me out there have been hard to juggle when there’s also 6 children to look after.

Until next post…

The Not so Secret Life of Chickens

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Fresh pastured eggs. That’s what I have to keep reminding myself, when I find a chook in the house…again! As cute as they can be, I get pretty tired of chooks letting themselves in the house just about every time a child leaves the door open! Especially chooks that have eaten way too many fallen mulberries…enough said!

Pictured is Aaliyah’s hen, Lightning. She’s decided that Micah’s clothes drawer is a great secluded place to lay her daily egg. We try to prevent this, but on more than one occasion have found her, egg already laid, in his drawer!

Lightning also thinks it’s cool to rest in my still-need-to-plant box!

And then there’s the light sussex rooster, who I don’t think we’ve named. He came to us because his owners found him a little too effective, if you know what I mean. Anyway, testosterone is running high at Birdsong, and this rooster has decided to prove his manliness, he needs to fight with our ram. I’m only sorry I haven’t caught it on video yet, because it’s hilarious watching this little rooster and our ram charging at each other for no apparent reason! Right before impact, the rooster jumps up over the rams head and avoids the collision.

But here I am making it sound like all we do here is watch the chickens…no, we also have the occasional snake to deal with.

Yes, Micah is holding an eastern brown snake.

Yes, it’s dead.

No, we didn’t kill it. There I was watering the garden one morning and noticed an up-side-down snake under one of the trees. After Rick’s examination of it,he decided it must have been run over and then thrown in our yard. I can’t imagine why someone would get out of their car to chuck a dead snake in our front yard, but who knows?

On the market gardening side of things, Rick has been preparing a crop plan and rotation plan. It’s a big deal. The better organised he is at the start, the smoother the growing season will go. This crop plan will tell him what will be planted where and for how long. Which plants go in each bed next, and it also makes sure we’re not planting crops that have adverse affects on each other too close to each other.

Today Rick was excited to get the cold room process (for harvested crops) started. He’s been reviewing the options and keeping an eye out for something suitable for a long time. And now today he found someone selling cold room panels (because they’d bought the wrong colour, so were clearing them out) and has got that organised.

Not much has happened with the garden this week however, as Rick’s had some engineering work in between everything else. Though with waking so early, I’ve had the chance to keep chipping away at our bee/insect attracting garden and pond area. Every week a few new plants go in and green up that little patch of earth. And that’s this week at Birdsong!

The Insectary

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Ever heard of an insectary? They seem to be gaining in popularity as people relearn the importance of having a balance of beneficial insects in their gardens and vegetable plots.

It can be something relatively simple, like some old blocks of timber with holes drilled within for beneficial predatory insects to build their homes in…or it can be a little oasis like we’re working at here at Birdsong.

So everything thrives when there is balance. If you grow only one crop, you attract a lot of the same pests. And have no home for a lot of the most natural and effective predators for those pests.

If you spray your crops with insecticides, you’re also losing out by killing off both good and bad mini beasts. For example, the USA apparently has a “Pollination task Force” now and are trying to rehabilitate about 7 million acres of land to encourage bees…this is because their overuse of roundup has made most of the bees diet toxic. So the bees get sick, suffer more hive illnesses like AFB and die. Then who pollinates the crops?

The idea behind the pond and ‘oasis’ or ‘insectary’ at Birdsong is to provide a haven for insects, especially those that prey on pests. We’re wanting to feed the bees a great variety of nectar and pollen, provide foliage for insects to live (and therefore work for us, by keeping a balance in the garden), and this pond/water is providing a drink for these insects, and a breeding place for frogs too. I’m sure most of humans plight with insects is because we go way overboard trying to control and profiteer at the expense of a natural balance.

Here’s what’s happened so far…Rick dug a 10 meter trench with the excavator in the middle of our paddock. An area that will be central to the market garden and all the little guys that live in there.

We leveled it out, lined it with pond lining felt, then with pond liner and filled her up.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been bartering with a local lady to build up our bee attracting and edible plants around this pond. We give her vegies, she gives us lots of goodies like garlic chives, feverfew, holy basil, thyme and watercress to plant in and around the pond.

We’ve also planted some native trees to add varying levels to the insectary.

It’s early days at the moment, but with time (and rain!) we hope to see this area become a lush and inviting oasis for insects and frogs. And aesthetically pleasing to the human viewers too 🙂

The Bee Friendly Garden

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That’s what we’re aiming for here- a bee friendly garden. It’s also the name of the latest book I’m reading (a present from my mum to Rick for his birthday, but he’s not getting much of a chance to read it yet…I’m immersed!).

So originally we were just looking at what plants we should be buying and planting to attract and feed our bees (who are fast becoming like pets…pets you don’t bother trying to cuddle, that is!).

Rick’s rather proud of his bees 🙂

But as I read into Doug Purdie’s “A Bee Friendly Garden” I started to learn and consider so much more than just what species we should be planting for the bees.

By the way, Doug’s book is gorgeous! It’s so beautifully presented and overflowing with lovely photos…looks more like a book that should be adorning a coffee table rather than informing people about bees.

Doug is a rooftop gardener in Sydney, which I think is very innovative. Why not transform the bleak concrete rooftop into a garden and help the bees survive and thrive in the urban world?

We think of bees of providers of our honey supply, and pollinators of our plants. But I didn’t realise just how pivotal the pollination via bees is to the formation of strong, sweet and correctly formed fruit. You know when you see an apple that’s lop-sided? Well improper pollination causes that. I don’t know if it’s the only cause, but there you go!

The there’s the weeds. We as a culture consider them pests and opt instead for manicured lawns. But most of us (myself included) have probably never stopped to consider the environmental effect of destroying all the weeds and not allowing areas to go to seed. I realise there’s various prickly weeds that are not desirable for letting loose…but things like English Plantain (pictured above) are one of the nutritious weeds on the planet. Far better for you than most greens you’re buying for your salads from the shops…or even the farmers markets. And left alone, it produces a flower that I’ve seen the bees visiting for nectar. So many weeds are like this. They are part of a healthy bees varied diet, if they can find them. But in city areas especially, where long grass and weeds are considered an eyesore, the bees are really missing out.

Pictured above is wild cabbage, another very nutritious weed, that produces yellow flowers for the bees to easily find and feed from.

In all honesty though, we do mow down weeds and all in our house yard (especially in snake season!). But the paddock is very much wild weeds.

Like humans, bees need a varied diet to remain healthy. I’m no expert, but presume some of the bee/hive pests and illnesses like AFB are a result of a lack of variation in the bees diet.

Australia is one of the best countries in the world for honey production and has little in the way of diseases that other beekeepers around the world have to fight with. But we still need to be careful. What do you think it does to the bees when their flowers in a field of crops have been sprayed with roundup or other such toxic chemicals? Or when bees are trying to find clover in a sports field, but it’s been sprayed or mowed down too, therefore robbing them of that food source. Doug mentions in his book that one Sydney suburb was especially targeting clover for poisoning on their sports fields, because they thought the risk of someone getting stung and having a severe allergic reaction was too high! Sounds like people are getting a bit too precious! But it’s those same people who are losing out, because if the bees die out in their area, so does their ability to grow food in that area.

What are we doing about all this? Well, at Birdsong, our bees are presently enjoying the varied feed from our house garden plot and the many natives in the scrub on our neighbours properties. They’re also got weeds that have gone to flower in the paddock, and gums on our block. We’ve built a pond in the paddock that we’re gradually planting edible bee friendly plants around as an insect haven (to attract other beneficial insects). I’ll have to post a picture of that soon. The pond itself is pretty much done, and I’ve been bartering veges for plants over the past few weeks, to get it landscaped!

Even if you never want to keep bees yourself, The bee Friendly Garden is a great book to get you started on the path to awareness and action to help our bees and preserve our societies ability to produce quality produce for a long time to come.