The hottest month

Did you know last month was the hottest month since global records began back in 1880?


The data released by NASA confirms the world is now in a Climate Emergency.

More details at:

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Chop-and-drop mulching

It’s official – this Christmas will be a hot one! In our climate, mulching around plants and trees is not optional. It is simply an essential element to ensure their survival as well as an excellent water conservation strategy.

At this time of year our soil is super dry… especially this year. We have already experienced extreme heat during early summer as well as a substantial drop in Spring rainfalls.  For those of you who like facts and figures (and we certainly do!), our backyard records show a total of 39 mls of rain over the last 4 months compared to 55.3 mls over the same period last year and 90.8 mls in 2013. There is also a worrying drop in overall annual rainfall from 518 mls in 2013 and 479 mls in 2014 to 336 mls this year.

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Our region has also experienced several hot spells throughout November and December, recording its hottest December night in more than a century last week when it reached 33C before 4:00am. Six days of temperatures above 35 degrees Celsius were recorded this month in what our Bureau of Meteorology has described as an “unusual” and “extreme burst of heat”.

Temperatures such as these have only been recorded three times during November and December since European settlement. October was also hotter than average, shattering the city’s all-time October record by more than 5C.

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Luckily our garden produces an abundance of mulching material all year round and chop-and-drop mulching is the cheap, easy and lazy way to protect our garden soil from the heat. We just chop weeds, pruning material from trees and bushes, spent vegetables, etcetera, and drop these around our plants and trees.

summer 2015 garden 005 - CopyMulch not only conserves moisture but also protects and adds nutrients to our topsoil. As the mulch breaks down it adds organic material to the soil, improving the texture and making nutrients available.  The shade it provides decreases evaporation, and helps us stretch our water supply by keeping the soil cool.

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Often the type of mulch used simply depends on which material are easier and cheaper to access. If the ‘chop & drop’ method is not suitable for you then bailed or shredded pea straw or Lucerne are other good choices.

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Whatever material you use, tease the mulch out and fluff it up as you spread it around and always leave a gap around tree trunks to avoid collar rot and other fungal problems. Also make sure it is open enough for water to filter through to the soil below. Every now and then, pull back the mulch and check that the soil below is damp so you know the rain or water from your hose is making it through the mulch.

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Nothing is ever wasted here.We use larger tree branches and trunks to shape garden paths and provide habitat for native wildlife.  This year, my Christmas wish  is that we all ditch the phrase ‘green waste’ and replace it with ‘green resources’!

Posted in Environment, Gardening | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Australia at the Paris Climate Talks

Australia is now been called the 57th worst performing country in the world when it comes to tackling Climate Change. Here is an informative summary of where the current Australian government stands on fossil fuel subsidies.


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5 Ideas to Toss in the Trash Instead of More Stuff

Today I want to share a post from one of my favourite bloggers. Anne Marie lives in an intentional community in the San Francisco Bay Area and went (nearly) plastic-free in 2011. In this post, she talks about trashing erroneous ideas instead of valuable resources.

The Zero-Waste Chef

Downright adorable ugly potatoes from the farmer's market Downright adorable ugly potatoes from the farmer’s market

1. Perfection

Thank you to Karen from the blog Farminista’s Feast for inspiring this post. A huge amount of fruit and vegetables goes to waste simply because it fails to meet the strict cosmetic standards of grocery stores. On a post I wrote recently about ugly apples my daughter bought to make pies, Karen commented “As a culture, we have to dispose of the myth that visual ‘perfection’ be it fruit or otherwise, is highly overrated. Let’s toss that myth in the landfill instead of all the food!!!”

Hear hear!

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‘This Changes Everything’ – The Film

Naomi Klein’s book – This Changes Everything –  was published in September 2014. The book tackles the issues at the heart of Climate Change and analyses the root causes of the crisis. It is a demanding, thought-provoking read which rapidly became an international bestseller. For more info on the book see  ‘This Changes Everything’ | Sustainable in Holdfast Bay

This month sees the release of a film  inspired by the book and directed by Avi Lewis. Filmed over 211  days in nine countries and five continents over four years, it brings us up to date with the challenges posed by climate change and what we can do about it. If you have not read the book yet, this is a good opportunity to hear its message.


From depicting communities mobilising to create change to making the connection between the carbon in the air with the economic system that put it there, the film reminds us of of the key question originally posed in the book: “Can we seize the  crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better?”

Conservation Council SA is aiming to screen the film in Adelaide on the 2nd of November 2015. Ticket can be booked at: .

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September Share & Swap

On a warm and sunny Spring day we gathered in Nadja and Andrew’s garden to share & swap our garden surplus over wood oven pizzas and home-baked sweets. With  an expert pizza dough maker like Nadja,  Andrew’s skills with the wood-fired oven, and Joel’s tomato sauce providing the perfect base for various toppings picked from each other’s gardens, this lunch was memorable.

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September S&S 2015 006 - CopyOn our swap table this month we found leafy greens, root vegetables, seedlings & herbs, home-made preserves and backyard eggs.There was also plenty of time to enjoy the garden and learn from all its smart design ideas.

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This productive garden, created around permaculture principles,  produces an abundance of seasonal fruits and vegetables all year long. Since the garden is on the small side, vertical growing has been used to increase growing space.

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The verge side of the front fence grows a variety of herbs and colourful sweet peas attract pollinators.

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September S&S 2015 017 - CopySimple wire structures, their edges softened with grapevine clippings,  act as a wind break for a young plants and trees and support climbing plants and vegetables.

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Another simple, organic wind-break and re-cycling idea! These branch clippings and folded newspapers would also work well as a shade structure for small plants.

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Quick-growing, shallow-rooted vegetables such as lettuces can be easily be grown under summer fruiting trees, making good use of both space and water resources.

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‘Beauty surrounds us, but usually we need to be walking in a garden to know it.’ Rumi

If you are looking for more information about how to create a permaculture garden, I cannot recommend too highly Nadja’s blog – a treasure trove of terrific permaculture garden design tips and information!

Posted in Community, Food, Gardening, Share and Swap | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Hungry Season

Towards the end of winter we all long for the warmth and sunshine of Spring.  But early Spring can be a lean time in the kitchen garden. That is why this period was traditionally referred to as ‘the hungry season’. Green vegetables are bolting and stores of potatoes, onions and root vegetables are running low. Spring vegetables have only just been sown and won’t be ready to harvest for several months.

Nowadays most of us don’t notice because supermarkets do such a great job of supplying us with cheap and abundant ‘fresh’ produce all year round. Yet, depending on where we live and the local climate,  this produce is often imported and holds a high carbon footprint.

So what are we eating this month and how do we maintain and enhance productivity and variety in the garden and on the plate? Let’s begin with fruit.

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Despite enjoying our fruit preserves daily throughout winter we still have over 30 jars of last summer’s fruit  left in our pantry.Throughout summer we preserve  over 100 jars of  fruits – mostly plums, apricots and peaches. During the autumn months we put away apples, pears and feijoas, and make jams, pickles  and chutneys. The fruit comes from the surplus grown in our own and our neighbours’ gardens as well as local farmers’ markets.

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The orange tree in the backyard provides kilos of fresh oranges for us and the neighbourhood throughout the winter months. It remains productive until early Spring. At this time of year though our oranges become very precious and we have to stop sharing them to extend our eating season.

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Throughout Autumn the apple tree produced kilos of Granny Smiths – a good keeping apple which can be picked and stored for several months in a cool, dark place. These stored apples are now beginning to soften so this week I stewed and froze the lot in glass jars. Another variety of fruit to enjoy over ‘the hungry season’.

Ok, so we are not going to miss out on fruits. But what about protein and fresh vegetable?

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The vine of Madagascar beans is now barren of leaves but there are still plenty of dry pods to pick. The beans can be eaten fresh, straight from the pod or dried and stored. A good source of protein, one plant produces more than enough for a small household all year round.

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Our pantry is still well stocked with  jars of beans collected and dried over winter along with jars of preserved tomatoes from last summer.

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Supplementary protein at this time of year can also come from young nettles. Their season can be extended by regularly cutting them back before they can go to seed. They are a healthy additive to soups and also good mixed with other cooked greens Just remember to handle with gloves until cooked!

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All the large broccoli heads have been picked by now but there are still plenty of tender side shoots and the young broccoli leaves are also delicious steamed. Amongst the broccoli plants  a variety of  lettuces and silver-beet plants are still growing.

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Other fresh vegetables growing in the backyard at this time of year include spring onions, kale, warrigal greens (a native spinach) and perpetual native celery. The trick is to leave the plants alone and only harvest the leaves. Asparagus shoots are now making their entrance – a welcome new addition to salads and side vegetables.

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Fresh herbs are a staple growing all year round. They provide added flavour and variety as well as nutritional and medicinal value.

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And let’s not forget sprouts. Crunchy, healthy and so easy to grow. All these need is plenty of light and a little water. Another good source of protein, fresh or lightly cooked.

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Neighbourhood Share & Swaps and local farmers’ markets selling seasonal produce are also good ways of increasing the variety of fresh food at this time of year. By adding pantry staples such as lentils, chickpeas, rice, pasta and eggs, daily meals can remain healthy, nutritious and enjoyable.

 What do you grow and eat during  ‘the hungry season’?

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