So you wanna build an Earthship? Advice for the eager from Rachel Goldlust, founder of Earthship Australia

Developed by Michael Reynolds, renegade architect, waste re-imaginer and general cowboy, in his own words Earthship Biotecture building methods ‘use today’s rubbish in the building of tomorrow’ – converting waste materials like beer cans, tyres and beer bottles into beautiful, functional, energy efficient homes.

Michael Reynolds

Mike

It’s a construction principle with heart: bringing environmental and social consciousness together with a good dash of Gaudi-esque sass.

An Earthship in Phoenix Arizona

An Earthship in Phoenix Arizona

And it’s hit it off, with Michael’s bio pic Garbage Warrior becoming a runaway success and popular features in architecture series like Grand Designs, the league of wannabe Earthship builders is growing by the minute.

Pumped, grubby Earthshippers

Pumped, grubby Earthshippers!

Last week I helped my mate Rachel Goldlust, founder of Earthship Australia and leader of our wonderful seating circle build in August last year (see recap here and here) organise a film night in Sydney.

Rachel Goldlust

She’s on a bit of a wander around eastern Australia at the moment, promoting a doco on the experiences of Bob and Shelley, a plucky couple who decided to build an earthship home as part of their permaculture property in tropical Mid North Queensland. The community came together around them – knocking it up from vision to lock up stage in a whirlwind few months, led by the know how and enthusiasm of Rachel and fellow Taos trained designer Duuvy Jester.  

Earthship partly there

One of the helping hands, Jennifer Brownson made a film about the process, which you can either check out at an upcoming screening (contact Jen for details on  for2shine@yahoo.com) or by clicking your little mouse here.

Anyway, cutting to the chase, on the film night and thereafter, a good 20+ questions got bandied around. “Where are the Earthships?”  “How can I learn these building methods?”  “How can I find out more about projects happening in Australia” “Do Earthship tyres leach?”  (in a nutshell, the answer is no if they are protected from air, water and sunlight – i.e. inside an Earthship – even if your questioner is a persnickety engineer!).

So I trimmed them down to a top 10 and popped them in an email to Rach. Lo and behold, here are her beautiful insights on things Earthshipological.

What drew you in to Earthship Biotecture? How did you start out on this track?

I was drawn to earthships after being disgruntled with the environmental planning degree that I had just completed thinking there were ways to work within the system to have it recognise alternative designs and ideas for the ways communities should evolve.

At uni I’d been taught the best practice of social and sutainable planning, the idealism of planning theory that sought to learn from the mistakes of cities that failed in the past and come up with a more realistic cohesion of living, working, socialising and building.

I was fascinated by communities, loved going to visit communes and co-ops around Australia and overseas, had even lived in a kibbutz for a few months to try out what real egalitarian socialist communal living looked like.  Id been travelling and wanted to get more involved in practical learning skills.

Earthships just seemed to fit the trajectory I found myself on. Im not much of a gardener, Im interested in it but as a born and raised city girl that tends to wander, I found keeping a garden hasn’t been a high priority but will be when Im more settled.  Earthships seemed to combine the radical edge I was looking for from my boring-looking planning career and I moved out of working as a planner pretty quickly once I saw that there might be a niche for
me helping others to achieve their dreams of off-grid earthship living but were afraid of tackling the authorities without support.  Hence, we have just created Earthship Australia Inc as a vehicle for developing a supportive network hub for the development of Earthship Biotecture in Australia.

Which teachers and mentors have been really pivotal in helping to guide you so far?

I would say Mike Reynolds is the primary teacher, not just for his achievements and visions but for his basic attitude towards our rights as citizens to experiment, fail and ultimately use what we have at hand to follow an alternative path.  
The very premise of Biotecture is to take a good look at what we need to survive, not what we want, and design our homes, and ultimately the shape of our lives, based on those needs. We need shelter, we need power, we need water and food. Once we have invested in these things we can then put our attention and life path onto other visions, dreams, activities which evolve us, not make us feel bound to a system that will spit us out eventually.
I haven’t found a good mentor yet in the community development field who can help me decide what I want Earthship Australia to look like.  I take my guidance from others like myself who are venturing into NFP community work across a range of areas such as social integration, health, economic development, permaculture, art, and try to take advice and guidance from them in their endeavours both here and overseas.
What is your favourite project to date? The one that made you grin the widest and swagger the most?

I really loved working on the Long Way Home project in Guatemala which was the first time I could use my recently learned Biotecture skills in a practical, very tight schedule
environment working with close to 60 others on a home for a poor local woman and her 5 kids.  

Working side by side with the local Guatemalans who were also learning the skills was amazing as they couldn’t believe that there were people like us willing to come across the world and play in rubbish with them and build a home together.  

Like us, these boys felt that unless you were trained and in that sort of industry you had no right to be playing with cement and wood and ending up with an amazing product you could be proud of and enjoy the process of building.  I had enough Spanish to be able to talk and joke with them while we laid bottles and rendered the ceiling with cow shit, and I loved it!

What’s really fed and nurtured you in your learning and building process?  

I have loved the bonds I have made with my Biotecture Academy class mates and others whose projects I have worked on, for whom I would drop everything to go and help them build their home if they asked, and know they would try and help me too.  

Thats a long distance form of community but one I feel very tied to and which nurtures my fears when I wonder if Im on the right path and if im good at this sort of work.  Its the relationships I have formed through Earthship work that have left me feeling the most satisfied and happy with where I am at and how I can keep learning more with these people
around me.

What has been tough?

Learning to step up and conquer my fears.  I have realised Its ok to be honest with others and myself about what I know and what I don’t and that I have to value myself and my skills if
anyone else is going to.  Staying confident is also hard when its such an experimental field and its future is unsure.

What are you currently working on?

I am looking to set up a proper board for Earthship Australia which draws in experience and relevant skills from the community which can help steer us in a growing direction.  Starting up an incorporated association can be a bit bewildering, especially since none of us have really done it before and know what is possible.  I am also working on developing a project
package for clients here in Australia for small-scale test builds on their land to see if they are willing and aware of the scale of a full Earthship house and what is involved.

Are there many Earthship projects in Australia currently?  

As far as I have researched I am aware of less than half a dozen currently in some stage of development.  Some are planned for dwellings, others for sheds or storehouses, chookships and then there’s bigger plans for full-scale global model homes which are in the process of getting council approval.  

I hope that Earthship Australia can provide a platform for sharing of knowledge across these projects so we can all learn from the processes others are going through and share resources,
labour, equipment etc in the future.

Where would you like to see yourself going with this? What kinds of building projects would you like to help bring together?  

I would love to get more into working in skill development like what we did in
Guatemala and what Biotecture is trying to do in other projects across the world in places such as Malawi, Haiti, India etc.  

Working out on Indigenous communities seems like a perfect fit for this work, particularly since housing is at such a crisis point politically and Aboriginal people are left without the self-determination to decide what they want and not really given the opportunity to try to build things that work for their communtiies, particularly out of rubbish that they have an abundance of.  

But before that happens I would like to get alot more experience across the country in different conditions and climates and build creatively with materials at hand, even across
building styles to incorporate other materials such as hemp, pozilana, papercrete etc and get to experiment with alternative materials.

What would you “no way Jose!” want to work on if you could avoid it?

In terms of building projects? Or in my life.  There’s no way I could go back and make coffee. I was a terrible barista anyways!  

I think in terms of working in this area, I thought I could work in bureacracy as I love researching and putting information together and I think I’m quite good at it.  But in reality I don’t know if I could spend 2-3 years planning a project outcome that had no real tangible on ground application but looked like a pretty idea for community development of sustainable building practices, that would really get to me.

What advice could you offer to a fellow Strayan keen to train in Earthship building methods?  
I would suggest getting involved in some of our upcoming workshops.  There’s a few of us now who are going to get trained over in the USA and coming back full of beans, and I know for myself, would love the support of others with a range of skills, backgrounds and experiences to get projects going.  
After our recent workshop in Qld and watching the evolution of the crew that got really involved in the project, just going to a full workshop for 2-3 weeks is a necessary step to see if you like living the sort of life we do when we are on a project, a bit rough, definitely challenging, and then seeing where you can go with it.  
If you want to go overseas and do the Biotecture training I’d highly recommend it but we’d also like to get support to start having that sort of training in Australia so we can build our community base here and not spend $1000s of dollars going over there.  We have the vision, the motivation and capacity to bring Earthships across Australia in the coming years and I see a big window of opportunity to join the movement.  
Earthship biotecture logo - Live free
Woohoo Rach, inspiring words.  
We wish you well with much gratitude for the lessons you have shared with us and our Biotectural farm feature, and admiration for you walking your talk (gushy gush gush gush ;).

So what else then? We have you some nifty Earthship resources!

To learn about Earthship Biotecture and learn more about the method at the world hub in Taos, Arizona, see:

http://www.earthship.com

To find out more about Rachel Goldlust and Earthship Australia and upcoming local Earthship Biotecture training activities see one or all of the following:

http://earthship.com/australia

https://www.facebook.com/groups/EarthshipAustralia/?ref=ts&fref=ts

http://rachelgoldlustearthshipaustralia.weebly.com/index.html

And to join Rach at her latest workshop, finishing the central QLD doco subject home visit:

https://www.facebook.com/events/446838305400343/

Earthship seating circle

Murrindindi’s famous paddock parentheses

Peace out, Murrindindi – whose frosty bodies are geed up about christening our snazzy earthship circle with a bonfire shortly!

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We are captains of industry!

Ok well sea cadets.  But anyway, we at Murrindindi are embracing our first slow steps towards  commerce.

We have a lot of silverbeet.  Silverbeet being silverbeet (a highly prolific plant with a ginormous tap root which sucks up nutrients and water from the soil like gangbusters and big broad leaves which convert sunlight in a similarly rampant fashion) we have much much much much much (to the power of something large) too much for our own consumption.

Silverbeet

Identity hidden to protect the innocent

You have silverbeet braised with butter and garlic. And you have silverbeet pie. And you have silverbeet rice in a Greek style with oregano and almonds and pine nuts. And you have silverbeet rolls (similar to cabbage rolls with a savoury filling). It’s all going pretty well really.

But then you have silverbeet for the 50th time in a row and you have a two year old temper tantrum and you don’t look at silverbeet for a couple of weeks. Too much silverbeet and too much silver beet makes Murrindindi something something!!

So there you have it, we have a lot of silverbeet.

Well we figure many people out there don’t have a similar glut. And it is really very nice. Beautiful, lemony fresh leaves and packed with goodness. Iron, zinc, vitamin c, and myriads of other minerals to boot.

I (Leash) live in Stanmore in Sydney’s inner west during the week when I come in to the city to work and study. Being an entirely pedestrian farm dweller (a feat!) I am used to getting mileage from my nanna cart, backpack and green bags.

Nanna cart

My chariot

So I have decided to push the sherpa envelope a bit more and either weekly or fortnightly schlep a pile of our silverbeet and equally numerous nasturtium flowers and leaves into the city.

Rainbow chard

Our rainbow chard bundles, all gussied up for market

This time I sold our bounty at  local Enmore organic provedore, Alfalfa House.

Alfalfa House

 

A member owned organic food co-op and shop, Alfalfa House provides inner westies with locally sourced, natural, organic, and minimally packaged foods

Including our bundles of love!

Silverbeet bundles at Alfalfa

 

There is also a sweet corner café near Stanmore train station called Molly Coddle which sells coffee, coffee, coffee, 5 different kinds of delicious hamburger, pastries, wraps and a whole wealth of other café paraphernalia, as well as having a sweet corner store with sourdough breads and produce. This will sometimes include ours.

Molly Coddle Cafe

And with a six pack of beer’s worth of extra cash in our pockets per shipment, it’s a nice reciprocal way to spread the goodness we are growing in our little operation.

So keep your eyes peeled, Murrindindi rainbow chard, nasturtium salad mix, and other treats may soon be lovingly nanna carted to a shop near you!

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The times they are a-changin

old grizzly

Old Grizzly sings it true, and we are seeing the seasons shift at long last to a cooler climate, after seeing it even stay warm enough to ring in late autumn watermelons and rockmelons  (global warming doubt anyone?!).

Watermelon

Rockmelon

Autumn is returning with its familiar shifts and senescences. Pumpkins which have grown as big as our heads and then some, and other cuties that sit about handful sized in sweet shapes and colours. The ones on the vines are waiting as the plants channel their last growth into their babes.

Zucchini leaves the building

Zucchini leaves the building

Pumpkin leaves fading and passing goodness into their young

Pumpkin leaves fading and passing goodness into their young

The others sitting happily ripening up on our rooftop in the warm sun, still 25 degrees most days apart from a few rare freezers here and there.

Roof pumpkin bounty

The new seasons plantings have begun and are starting to thrive and the bounty of summer is being turned into our compost and back into the ground and the food that we grow and love.

New kids on the block

New kids on the block

New cabbages, already pumping one month on

New cabbages, already pumping one month on

We also have a big shift in our household, with our housemates Tom and Nina, and dog Nettle moving out, and an opening to someone else to take their space.

Although this has come with a start and a bit of a shock, this move has potential to help consolidate what we are trying to do here at the farm.

Live simply, grow our food, practice self sufficiency and also share an intentional community which represents and feeds the values that we honour, like living considerately, honestly and with integrity in relationship with others.

Reaching the one year anniversary of our farm sharing experiment, we have had an amazing ride so far, with the few obligatory ups and downs one might expect, and the satisfaction of producing over 50 square metres of our own veggies, chickens and raising our own beef cattle, and sharing some absolutely magic times (including the fantastic anniversary Coq au Vin we ate last night!). We  are a bit apprehensive but also excited about who might soon come to join our changing house.

So, if you are keen on a permacultural weekender, or a permanent space to practice growing food and living simply in peace on the Sydney fringe, we have a room in our beautiful farm up for rent to a thoughtful, mature community minded single or couple.

The room is reasonably sized and part of a four bedroom homestead located in Mount Hunter, 15 minutes from Camden, 1 hour 15 from Wollongong, and 1 hour 20 from the Sydney CBD.

Pierre, formerly a disgruntled Cityrail worker, loving his new country home!

Pierre, formerly a disgruntled Cityrail worker, loving his new country home!

For more info pop us a line at murrindindifarm@gmail.com or phone 02 4654 5694.

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Meat, the newcomers

With the return of acres of lush lawn and cooling of weather, past the dry hot risk of drought, dead grass and hunger, we have cows again.

Four beautiful calves, two which you can see here looking fairly majestic against the soft almost Vaseline smeared stocking lensed morning light on dewy grass, a borderline cow pin up shot.

Cows

With this next round, we are conducting an experiment in community supported agriculture – sharing the meat raised with our friends and families.

We will tend, feed, care for and get to know our cattle, providing them with as high a quality of life as we can manage.  In around six months time, we will send them to a local abattoir where they will be humanely killed, and then sent to butcher, divided and distributed.

Come September, logistics will kick in, with boot space and ebay and gumtree rifling for well priced chest freezers at the fore.

It’s been important to balance the necessary financial logistics and momentum needed to get our beef raising project going against the danger of reducing a beautiful life to numbers.

Cow 2

We are embedded in our nature, like any other organism in the dual and interdependent cycles of consumption and degradation, reconstruction and growth. We can’t escape this, although we try, and disconnect, disengage, and sanitise the reality that we are engaging in every day. We kill things and then we eat them. Plants, fungi, bacteria, and also animals.

In terms of the environmental ethics involved, vegetarianism vs animal consumption isn’t a straightforward choice.

I was first really moved to consider this in a Human Ecology class that I took at the Australian National University years ago, led by some pretty seminal minds in the sphere of human impacts on the environment, Robert Dyball and David Dumaresq.  If you’re curious the school itself and the Society for Human Ecology are well worth a look; they are really pushing front of the pack research and commentary on environmental sustainability, with food security a key objective of a healthy integrated human relationship between self, society and our supportive ecosystems.

http://hec-forum.anu.edu.au/what_is_human_ecology.php

http://societyforhumanecology.org/

David taught us about a recent study into the environmental impacts of beef production in Australia’s majority western rangeland farming systems, comparing them with carrying out equivalent grain or vegetable production on the same area of land, which was found to be significantly more environmentally devastating, and even more detrimental to animals at large. Mike Archer’s recent article in The Conversation explores a similar line of reasoning.

See Patrick Moriarty’s rebuttal for a compelling take on the other side of the argument, however there is significant evidence that naturally farming animals as part of an integrated food growing system, such as those advocated in permaculture can be more favourable than their mass produced vegetarian protein alternatives.

Marissa Landrigan

Phoenix based Marisa Landrigan keeps a very thoughtful blog We*Meat*Again, which tackles this ethical dilemma head on.

In her mindful words:

“Eating meat is ethical because it allows the eater to face the reality of suffering head-on, so that we can choose how and where to invest our food dollars to do the most good. Suffering is an inevitable part of our food system, the unavoidable byproduct of any species trying to feed itself. The ethical dilemma of the eater, then, is not to avoid suffering altogether because that avoidance is impossible.

Attempts to circumvent suffering often lead to dietary choices that are willfully ignorant of the part they play. For example, vegetarians who purchase boxed meat substitute products like soy burgers or chik’n nuggets are simply purchasing subsidiary brands of the same multinational corporations, such as Smithfield or Tyson, that own and operate inhumane and environmentally destructive concentrated animal feeding operations.….

….What I’ve seen of living animals on small-scale, locally-owned farms, and what I’ve learned about corporate connections, environmental degradation, and human suffering in the food system suggests that the way an animal is raised and killed for food affects much more than an individual’s eating pleasure. How the animal is raised impacts the ground on which it lives. The quality of that land impacts the farm and the farmer, and their larger community, environmentally and economically. The practices on a farm and the pricing of food affects whether a community has enough jobs, which affects whether or not members of that community will be able to afford to eat. Whether or not someone will buy an animal to eat impacts the labor conditions and pay scale of farm workers.

The question of whether or not to eat meat is not simply an animal-rights issue. It’s an environmental issue, a labor rights issue, a fair trade issue, an issue of our global community’s economic, environmental, and human progress. If our ethical goal is to live in harmony with our world, eating a hamburger doesn’t have to run counter to those ideals. It can be a way to invest in them, to practice them with every bite we take. Only by being honest about our participation in the suffering of animals can we seek to minimize it.”

This kind of healthy honesty is difficult to broach, particularly in a society which is actively avoidant of it.

We need to face the discomfort of the shadow reality that we are actually killing an animal when we eat meat. It is upsetting, and should be. It is something that people need to be brought up with and taught to consider maturely, really acknowledging this.

When I think about the typical vector of meat consumption in Australia, and in most western nations, it is shrink-wrapped, hermetically sealed and disconnected. It reminds me of a moving piece of art I saw once, featuring human faces wrapped in meat trays, to challenge how easily we can separate ourselves from the real death that leads to this product we consume.

I sadly couldn’t find an example of this to show, but there is another work which hit me for six in a similar fashion – which David Lynch developed in a collaboration with the musician Danger Mouse on Dark Night of the Soul which explores with shock and the frankness of the realities of food and loss of life (and an excellent album in its own right).

Grim Augury 1

Grim Augury 1

Confrontation with these hard realities is difficult, but it doesn’t help us to avoid this. Taking on a greater degree closeness to the process really does, because we are acting in a full awareness, with presence, and an open heart and the proper degree of respect and regard this affords. If, aware of the real, sad ramifications of meat consumption, we opt to be vegan or vegetarian – fair enough. But if presented with this hard reality we then choose to eat meat, we are aware of exactly what we are doing and can be truly motivated to ensure it is produced in an ethical and respectful manner – to make a real heartfelt connection to the provenance, the origin of the food we consume.

Unfortunately we don’t have a huge wealth of resources to call upon to guide us in navigating this territory. Few of us know how to deal with this face on, because we have been shielded from it for so long. There are a few good books and blogs out there that I’ve been engaging with that I’ve found helpful.

Michael Pollan

Michael Pollan’s Omnivore’s Dilemma has helped me to flesh out an ethical, health and quality of life focused stance on animal rearing and consumption.

www.michaelpollan.com

Meat: A Benign Extravagance by Simon Fairlie, which explores the sustainability focused attitude towards animal raising for food and sets out to evaluate its role in a thoughtful human diet.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1603583246/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&tag=trevresa-20&linkCode=as2&camp=217145&creative=399349&creativeASIN=1603583246

Sally Fallon’s inspirational and brilliant Nourishing Traditions touches on the healthy, integrated traditional nutritional role of meat.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0967089735?ie=UTF8&tag=trevresa-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0967089735

Lierre Keith’s work, The Vegetarian Myth explores the history of agriculture and the critical role of animals in a sustainable inter-connected system of food production.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Vegetarian-Myth-Justice-Sustainability/dp/1604860804/ref=pd_bxgy_b_img_y/182-1446108-1992057

Rohan Anderson

Rohan Anderson from Whole Larder Love in Melbourne has been really leading Australian discussion on taking personal responsiblity for meat raising, slaughtering and processing, in a thoughtful, ethical and mature way.

http://wholelarderlove.com/

Feather and Bone

A great Sydney providore Feather and Bone also tackles this in an insightful way with regular talks, articles, debates and gatherings on the issue of meat provenance, led by  founder Grant Hilliard; one of Australia’s pioneering ethical butchers and meat retailers.

http://www.featherandbone.com.au/aboutus.html

http://www.featherandbone.com.au/pdf/SMH_29_March_2011.pdf

And further off abroad is the very inspiring Portland Meat Collective who have a very well integrated, compassionate perspective on all things meat.

http://www.pdxmeat.com/

Berlin Reed

Photo by Ally Picard

And fellow local Berlin Reed, formerly tagged “The Ethical Butcher” now pursuing a broader suite of food sustainability and provenance issues.

http://chefberlinreed.tumblr.com/

I’m personally looking to delve a bit over the next few months into examining histories of traditional cultures, how they integrated treatment of meat consumption into a functional society, and extant societies where this still occurs.

In a small way I’ve started this process, and I was slightly surprised to discover that taboos around the consumption of meat were quite common in traditional societies and remain that way in contemporary hunter gatherer civilisations.

It seems that the majority of taboos in place around food consumption were actually related to animals.

Meat eating wasn’t a rampant, reckless activity, but something that was checked to times of necessity, and kept in a natural balance, with a strong inherent regard for the life involved.

Cows 3

We need to come a long way in developing a proper, mature regard towards meat, but I am finding actively engaging in this journey very rewarding.

May we live and make our food rearing choices guided by love, respect and responsibility for the animals we are raising, appreciation of the bounty we have been provided and harmony with the turning seasons of life.

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Murrindindi – keeps ya fulla fa longa!

Without a lot of social, cultural or arts events happening in the sticks of South-West Sydney (i’m sure Mum would disagree but for the purposes of this blog…) we have tended towards making our own fun at home which regularly consists of a shared meal, some funky beats and a tipple from our favourite cask of DeBortoli Cab Merlot, or Ballantine’s Scotch Whisky (care of our very own south Londoner, Tom). Nina even cracked out homemade Pina Colada’s last night, complete with coconut milk and cocktail umbrella! Boy we are getting good at home catering. IMAG0214[1] Over the past year or so, i have been trying to capture the food that we eat, the hard earned stews, a product of laborious chopping and simmering and the miraculous ‘let’s chuck it all together and see what happens’ frittata feasts. The delight of slowly, but surely, cooking with more and more of our home grown vegies is now upon us and what follows is a montage of colourful, decadent and simple delights shared between 4,5,6,7,8…10people! I wanted to share this inspiring montage as I find it pretty incredible that this food seems to magically appear on our table with the help of many hands, ideas and a commitment to feeding ourselves good, wholesome homemade, ‘don’t waste anything, don’t throw that away’ tucker. I have learnt a lot from living with such creative foodies (Chris, Alicia, Nina, Tom, Alex, Greg) all delivering the goods in various ways to make our Murrindindi family full, fat and happy. We may even patent our catchphrase… MURRINDINDI! KEEPS YA FULLA FA LONGA! watch out here we come!

Greg, posing next to the (very clean)stove which is now not so clean
Just moved in! Greg, posing next to the (very clean)stove which is now not so clean
bit'o'everything burrito

bit’o’everything burrito

the fire! we can use it for everything

the fire! we can use it for everything (apologies for the poor photography ;))

some kind of chocolatey delight that Alex & Alicia took the liberty of eating out of the oven!

some kind of chocolatey delight that Alex & Alicia took the liberty of eating out of the oven!

carrot, beetroot, mint, coriander salad with greek yoghurt... deluxe

carrot, beetroot, mint, coriander, lemon juice & honey salad with greek yoghurt… deluxe (thankyou Stephanie Alexander)

'what else can we fit in there?' frittata- a chris special.

‘what else can we fit in there?’ frittata- a chris special.

Mama Stretton's Roast Chicken- another Chris fav

Mama Stretton’s Roast Chicken- another Chris fav

'i've got too many jerusalem artichokes' said Claire... Never fear we'll rub them in home-made confeit (duck fat) from French friends and roast them!

‘i’ve grown too many jerusalem artichokes’ said Claire… Never fear we’ll rub them in home-made duck confit (duck fat) from French friends and roast them!

turning it into a feast - Leon our trusty landlord.

Murrindindi’s founder Leon, turning our harvest into a feast. A glut of cucumbers, beetroot, lettuce & home baked bread

'soon you'll be able to make this with all your own vegies' (Sept 2012) AND NOW WE CAN! eggplant & zucz with shop bought haloumi.

‘soon you’ll be able to make this with all your own vegies’ (Sept 2012) AND NOW WE CAN! eggplant & zucz with shop bought haloumi.

red bean vegie burgers. YUM

red bean vegie burgers. YUM

and then for our next trick... we learnt how to make cheeeeese! Palak Paneer with homegrown Silverbeet and home-made paneer-ish

and for our next trick… we learnt how to make cheeeeese! Palak Paneer with homegrown Silverbeet and home-made paneer-ish, with a side of home grown cauliflower.

did i mention the vegies are as big as my head?

did i mention the vegies are as big as my head?

got any old fruit? i'll make it into the most amazing cake you've ever seen! thanks leasha x

got any old fruit? i’ll make it into the most amazing cake you’ve ever seen! thanks leasha x

even the scraps for the chooks look pretty fantastic

even the scraps for the chooks look pretty fantastic

and here's something we prepared earlier

and here’s something we prepared earlier

so if you’re ever stuck in a rut and don’t know what to cook, move in with 5,6 or 7 friends, get rid of your TV, grow some vegies and see what happens… but don’t forget to say thankyou.

Prayer for the Great Family

Gratitude to Mother Earth, sailing through night and day-

and to her soil: rich, rare, and sweet

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Plants, the sun-facing light-changing leaf

and fine root-hairs, standing still through wind

and rain; their dance is in the flowing spiral grain

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Air, bearing the soaring Swift and the silent

Owl at dawn. Breath of our song

clear spirit breeze

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Wild Beings, our brothers, teaching secrets,

freedoms, and ways; who share with us their milk;

self-complete, brave, and aware

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to Water: clouds, lakes, rivers, glaciers; 

holding or releasing; streaming through all our bodies salty seas

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Sun: blinding pulsing light through

trunks of trees, through mists, warming caves where

bears and snakes sleep- he who wakes us –

in our minds so be it.

Gratitude to the Great Sky

who holds billions of stars – and goes yet beyond that-

beyond all powers, and thoughts

and yet is within us-

Grandfather Space.

The Mind is his Wife.

so be it.

– Gary Snyder, after a Mohawk prayer, in ‘The Sacred Balance’ by David Suzuki & Amanda McConnell.

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Veggies are the new weeds

Walking out our back door the other day I looked down to put on my farm boots then very near squealed in delight.

Naturalised veg - Tatsoi on the left and rocket on the right

Naturalised veg – Tatsoi on the left and rocket on the right

Young lettuce in the lawn

Young lettuce in the lawn

Tatsoi, rocket, lettuce oh my!

And this cute zucchini guy.

Zucchini plant in lawn

So less than one year of veggie growing has already begun to build up the seed bank of herbs and vegetables to the point where they have started to germinate themselves.  The consistent foot traffic in and out of the house has allowed the nifty human vector of seed distribution to bring us a very convenient lazy nursery!

This is a natural feature of many established vegetable gardens, and a concept that is laid out simply and articulately in the video below by Kirsten Bradley of the amazing Milkwood filming Jude Fanton from the amazing SeedSavers network. Superlative, superlative.

For the curious, here is more detail from Iowa (home of soil seed bank rich prairie country!) plant ecologist Thomas Rosburg.

Seed banks tend to build up especially well in gardens which don’t involve any tilling or significant disturbance of the soil structure apart from the natural excavation of adventurous roots, worms, macrofauna, etc.  When soil is overturned at all, as well as leaching most of its key nutrients like carbon, phosophorus and nitrogen into the atmosphere in a manner of hours, days or weeks (carbon and nitrogen go up in the form of the highly greenhouse effective C02 and methane respectively – mind this global warming haters!) it disturbs the natural seed bank leaving it open to predation, oxidation, premature germination due to transient rainfall and the general ravages of the elements.

With a good soil structure preservation and lots of raised mulchy spaces for seeds to sit safe, dry and ungerminated until they’re in a sweet spot, a no dig veggie growing model really helps to sustain the seed bank for the longer run.

Leaving you free to pop up delightfully surprising tomato after zucchini after rocket here and there and then move them to their ideal garden homes.

Useful things popping up everywhere are a pretty standard fixture in a home garden – with common weeds like the adaptogen and healing promoter herb gotu kola amongst a cast of hundreds of fantastic plants that follow us humans around through our best established seed bank.

Weeds are the old weeds - Gotu kola, also in the grass

Weeds are the old weeds – Gotu kola, also in the grass

Other highlights lately:

Growing a luscious lawn back. It had been dead and gone for a few months care of a poorly timed #1 haircut which was a tad scary as it got to its brownest just before fire season and cinder risk really hit. Anyway we know better now care of a lot of fire training over the summer and after many sprinkler sessions and a good spot o precipitation she is right as rain!

The green green grass of home

The green green grass of home

Ripening our first ears of corn, a source of “kid at christmas” scale excitement.

Corn plants

Corn ear

Will be ready to go in a week or so, and can’t wait to be snacking on that business. BBQ*, succotash**, and fritters will be getting a work out.

Hanging with the chookie babes.

Girls scratchin around

One of our beautiful bantams. Such lovely patterning

One of our beautiful bantams. Such lovely patterning

Home grown eggs, a returning feature of the Murrindindi stomach!

Chook excitingly getting to business

Chook excitingly getting to business

Eggs

And the finished result

Baking tasty bread.

Bread

Enjoying the last few weeks of zukes and their flowers for the year.

Zucchini flowers

Dill, fresh and ready to spruce up polish dumplings, silverbeet and pickles!

Dill! And a spot of coriander

Dill! And a spot of coriander

A visit from a dear friend with a very cute pet. Hello world, meet Pedro. Prepare to be dazzled by his charms.


Nyam nyam nyam

Love Murrindindi

* Put a few teaspoons of butter inside the husks along the length of the cob and bbq straight on the griddle. Open up at table to much fanfare and sprinkle on combo of chilli, paprika, salt and pepper. Maybe a squeeze of lime.

**Butter. Add 1 tbsp at least! Sunflower seeds, pepitas, kasha, seaweed amazing but entirely negotiable. Butter, no. Any old chilli will do – especially pre-roasted. Add coriander and lime juice at the end for best taste.

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Que sera sera and chickens!!!

Gorgeous moody looking dawn shot as one might expect in a new year blog

Gorgeous moody looking dawn shot as one might expect in a new year blog

Well now that we’ve finished with the silly season and we’re clean out of apocalypses, bar mis-calculation of asteroid travel parameters we have a whole new year to live.

Possibly coming from a higher place of consciousness (see Daniel or Reba or Alex below).

Alex brought a projector to our new years shin dig

Alex brought a projector to our new years shin dig

And our lovely mate Roxana and her photographic skills helped turn it into a temple

And our lovely mate Roxana and her photographic skills helped turn it into a temple

Definitely with a few more grey hairs and a tad wisened by experience.

So what will it bring? What do we want to draw out of it? Give to it? What would we like to continue? How would we like it to bring shifts in the way we live?

In a completely uncharacteristic* moment of navel gazing Greg and I were discussing this and he suggested a beautiful exercise to help frame 2013 – drawing.  Creatively visualising the coming year.

It made for a great contemplative afternoon, full of many childhood throwbacks and lots of wandering out on limbs, waiting for the hook to weave all of your threads together.

The road to where?

The road to where?

There were a few common trends. We all want to bring more balance and focus into our lives. There are also many parts, complimentary, filling a complete human experience that need integration and juggling. Friends, family, care, causes, recreation time. Positive transformation. Sheer fabulousness.

The threads to weave

The threads to weave

One exciting shift ringing in the new year is that many of us (me – Leash, Greg, Nina, Chris) will be expanding our horizons studying in 2013.

Getting geed up to start postgrad study of fungi, becoming a proper-like mycologist :D

Getting geed up to start postgrad study of fungi, becoming a proper-like mycologist 😀

Another is the vastly safety improved chicken shed, and it’s shiny new residents!

Having a peck around

Having a peck around

It’s reinforced with corrugated steel 3 feet deep, held in place by heavy concrete blocks which we will be concreting into a solid intractable mass on the weekend.

Getting settled in

Getting settled in

Looking forward to getting to know the girls, spoiling them silly with tid bits and returning to the regular rhythms of chook husbandry.

Keeping the momentum of our project slowly turning on and on, with vision, increasing clarity and knowledge and patience.

Acres of possibility

Acres of possibility

Remembering of course to have fun!

*sarcasm

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