The Weed Forager’s Handbook

Category Archives: Treading Lightly

The Weed Forager’s Handbook
18th October, 2018

Everything you need to know about weed foraging is contained in The Weed Forager’s Handbook – A Guide to Edible and Medicinal Weeds in Australia, by Adam Grubb and Annie Raser- Rowland. A must-have addition to your sustainable living library, the handy little tome, first published in 2012 and since reprinted numerous times, will fit snugly in your jacket pocket or backpack while you scour parks and gardens for your feed of wild food.

The five well illustrated and simply explained chapters cover the topics of weed appreciation, top 20 weeds, other useful weeds, recipes and gardening with weeds, highlighting not only the usefulness of weeds as food, medicine and soil improvers but exploring the philosophy and tradition of foraging passed down from our hunter-gatherer ancestors.

This well-thumbed edition belongs to Herbalist and Co-op worker Madison. 

Authors Raser-Rowland and Grubb are also behind The Art of Frugal Hedonism, which encourages us all to enjoy more while spending less.

Read more on weeds from Horticultural Editor of ABC Organic Gardener magazine Penny Woodward here.

 

 

10 minutes with Lis Bastian
17th October, 2018

Part of the solution

Environmental activist, teacher and The Big Fix founder, Lis Bastian, is combining permaculture and social enterprise to help mountains youth kick start sustainable careers. Learn more about Lis, solutions journalism and her passion project.

Q: What is The Big Fix and what are its aims?

A: The Big Fix Inc is a not for profit organisation that started in Blackheath in 2007 as a climate action group. We were originally called Blackheath CAN! We’ve grown to become an arts, media and community development service.

Our mission is to “Change the story” – to grow a collaborative solutions-focused culture and we do this via both show and tell. We ‘show’ by establishing projects (like Blackheath Community Farm) and ‘tell’ by supporting storytelling through a range of media services, including The Big Fix magazine, Global Solutions Digests and our template for other communities, Blackheath Local News.

Q: What is your background?

A: Previously I’ve had a range of roles in arts, community development and climate change work. As well as being an Art teacher, Education Officer at the Art Gallery of NSW and Curator of Orange Regional Gallery, I was CEO of Arts OutWest, a Climate Adaptation Officer for 17 Central NSW Councils, CEO of Varuna, Public Programs Manager for the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre and Lecturer in Operations & Environmental Management at the Blue Mountains International Hotel Management School. I also co-founded the Blue Mountains Permaculture Institute with Rowe Morrow.

Q: What are some of the positive outcomes of The Big Fix?

  • Started Blackheath Community Market and ran bulk buys for hazelnut trees and solar panels.
  • Attracted almost $100,000 of funding to Blackheath, which has employed lots of local storytellers, including young people, and helped establish the Community Farm.
  • Strengthened local community via the Community Farm and other projects.
  • Supported activities of other groups by sharing their stories.
  • Received feedback that people read our news first so that they’re not disheartened by mainstream media.
  • Helped switch businesses away from plastic straws and run a Youth Cafe.
  • Trained lots of permaculturists and permaculture teachers.
  • Created a model that can be scaled to other communities.

Q: Can you tell us about your new project to engage youth through permaculture and social enterprise?

Our most recent project is Grounded – a Youth Permaculture and Social Enterprise Project which has been funded by Blue Mountains City Council, Bendigo Bank and Sydney Water.

It emerged from an alliance of local businesses and organisations, including the Co-op, and we’re offering a free Permaculture Design Course for young people aged 16-24. The course will be quite an exciting new version of the internationally recognised PDC because it will include training to help students design land and their own social enterprise. Over the next six months, following the course, they’ll get ongoing mentorship and support to establish a local business or businesses for young people in the Blue Mountains.

Anyone interested in participating in the course can contact Lis on 0407 437 553 or email lis@thebigfix.org

 

 

Competition
17th October, 2018

Organic gardening tips

Did you know?

Attractive herb and flower hedgerows encourage diversity both above and below the soil by creating hotbeds of fungal mycelium, and providing habitat for native animals and beneficial bugs.

Tell us your top organic gardening tips to win a 2019 ABC Organic Gardener calendar and diary set.

How do you combat pests and diseases in your organic vegie patch?

Share your top tips to hello@bmfoodcoop.org.au and go into the draw to win an ABC 2019 ABC Organic Gardener calendar and diary set. Competition closes Friday October 26.

A dam good cause
17th October, 2018

Farm resilience

Local growers, Erika Watson and Hayden Druce of Epicurean Harvest, are throwing open the farm gates to future-proof their property. They took time out from farm chores to fill us in on life on the land and the hefty toll of drought.

Q: What got you into farming?

We both did horticultural science degrees at Sydney Uni. Trying to avoid being scuttled into conventional agricultural graduate employment streams we decided to take the skills we had gained and apply them in the most direct and fitting way we saw possible – growing vegetables responsibly for lovely people who appreciate them.

Q: What do you grow and who/where is your market?

A: We grow a very wide range of vegetables from eggplant, zucchini, cucumbers etc. to interesting herbs and unusual yams and things. We primarily grow for restaurants (including some pretty top-notch Sydney-based chefs) but also for a few local restaurants, grocers and co-ops in the mountains

Q: Can you describe your farming methods?

A: We grow chemical free, organic vegetables and we aim to farm regeneratively. This means taking into account the vegetable production as part of the whole farm ecosystem. The pasture, the animals and the vegetables all need to be accountable to one another, and biodiversity and ecosystem processes need to be moving forward. That is our primary aim.

Q: How has the drought affected the farm and what are the personal costs?

A: Lack of winter (and summer) rain has significantly reduced ground water flows (for bores) and also most dam water has been lost through evaporation over the period. Recent rains have been good for the pasture but have done little to top up dams or really recharge the groundwater system. Without enough stored water to operate the veggie farm we are needing to adapt in as many ways possible, but ultimately we will suffer significant losses due to restrictions in production if we do not get significant rainfall for an extended period of time.

Q: What are your plans and hopes for the future of Bula Mirri and agriculture in general in Australia?

A: We want Bula Mirri to be a productive living example of regenerative, multi-enterprise farming. We also want it to be a place for community to experience and learn and enjoy. Celebrating farming as part of culture rather than separating the two is essential to being more accountable to the land and ecosystems we farm on as well as having an enjoyable time doing it.

Erika and Hayden are throwing open the farm gates for a Farm Resilience Fundraiser on November 4. To read more about the event and purchase tickets click here.

 

Make do and mend
17th October, 2018

Repair Café Katoomba

Get set to make do and mend at the second monthly Repair Café at Junction 142, Katoomba.

The inaugural Katoomba Repair Café, held on Saturday 15th September, was a huge success according to organiser Justin Morrissey of Toolo.

“People brought 27 items along to the Repair Café and more than 80% of the items were repaired successfully,” Justin says. “That’s over 200 kg of items not destined for landfill!”

“Ten enthusiastic, skilled volunteers assisted on the day, and the fundraising sausage sizzle, tea and coffee were a real hit.”

If you’d like to volunteer your skills for this Saturday 20th October contact Toolo at Toolo.blue@gmail.com

As an incentive, volunteer repairers will receive a free year’s membership with the Co-op (valued at $35) for their first Repair Café and volunteer points for time spent at the Repair Café on subsequent dates. If volunteers are already members of the Co-op they will receive volunteer points.

 

 

Waterwise spring gardening tips
12th September, 2018

Steve Fleischmann shares his tips for waterwise spring gardening, plus book into a seedling workshop at Katoomba Community Gardens.

The cooler weather seems to be behind us as the days get warmer and I’m writing this without the heater on! However, it is easy to be fooled and plant out frost sensitive edibles, then lose the lot when we get a late frost or it snows in October.

If you haven’t done it yet, order your seeds for summer – beans, pumpkins, tomatoes, corn, zucchini, cucumber – and start planting small amounts regularly. Your gardening life is about to get really, really busy. The Co-op has a fantastic selection of organic seeds, (and we’ve just received an order of over 700 new packets!) so check them out!

Herbs & salad veg

Something to consider is planting out a lot of herbs – I’m talking flat leaved parsley, oregano, all the basils and other soft leaved herbs – and use them regularly in your cooking. If you think about it, you would probably use oregano and parsley a lot more than you use corn, so plant in a manner that allows you to eat these herbs plentifully. The flavours of handfuls of fresh oregano leaves, parsley or basil in a salad are the things that make me go back into the garden over and over again.

Likewise, pea shoots are a delicious addition to a salad. Plant three seeds to a hole and, once the plants get to over 30 cm tall, start nipping off the growing tips and using them in salads. Their flowers are also edible and delicious.

Drought-proofing your garden

One of the things I have been thinking about a lot is climate change – the long dry spells we are experiencing are playing havoc with soils, flowering times and plants’ ability to flower among a host of other subtle and not so subtle effects. For example, my Echinacea barely flowered last season and I suspect it was a mix of low precipitation and changes in soil structure due to heat and lack of moisture.

So, what to do? It’s a really, really big prime-ministerial question. And one with no easy or simple answers, but there are a few things we can do in the garden to mitigate problems. Firstly, massively increase the volume of organic matter in and on your soil. Organic matter can be compost, grass clippings, well-rotted animal manure, or weed-free mulch. Organic matter stores water where it is needed for plant growth and provides both food and habitat for the micro- and macro-organisms that are part of soil biodiversity. The sandy solids we have in the mountains seem to use up organic matter in a season without a lot of effort, so it pays to think actively about where you will get the volumes you will need (without spending a lot of money).

Additionally, it is worthwhile adding some agricultural clay or volcanic dust to your compost or soils. These have the benefit of helping to improve soil structure, preserve water and adding micro-nutrients.

Install drip irrigation and a timer. Pretty much a no-brainer. It delivers water where it is needed and at rates that are a lot more efficient than overhead spraying. Look for irrigation systems that are simple and do not have a lot of bits and pieces – the more complex the system the easier it is to break. I tend to use what is called “in-line” drippers, as they are simply pipes with holes that regulate the outflow. Installing is a bit of a job, but well worth it.

Finally, research the varieties you are planting – look for those that are proven heat lovers and have low water requirements, and save the more sensitive plantings for spring and autumn.

Want to learn how to plant seedlings for a bumper yield? Come along to our first spring gardening workshop with Steve Fleischmann at Katoomba Community Garden.

Friday September 28th 9am – 12pm. To book click here.

Milkwood – Real skills for down-to-earth living
12th September, 2018

Kick start your sustainable life with down-to-earth skills from the dynamic duo behind Milkwood permaculture.

The first book from the founders of Milkwood Permaculture, sustainability advocates Kirsten Bradley and Nick Ritar, is not only the realisation of ten years of hard-won practical know-how, it is a celebration of lifestyle. A lifestyle where time-honoured traditions of growing, cultivating, foraging and preserving food are practised with respect for the environment and enthusiasm for self-reliance.

Homemade and heartfelt, this beautiful instructional tome thoroughly explains five areas of the pair’s expertise – wild food, natural beekeeping, mushroom cultivation, tomatoes and the harvest and use of one of Australia’s least utilised resources, seaweed – providing readers with practical skills, recipes, hacks, inspiration and a glimpse into Bradley and Ritar’s own down-to-earth life.

BM Food Co-op caught up with Kirsten Bradley to find out how the book came about.

Q: You teach various courses at Milkwood Permaculture was this book a natural progression from that and what do you hope to achieve with it?

Kirsten: Yes in many ways it was, we wanted to share knowledge in a way that it can sit in your lounge-room or backyard with you, and be absorbed over time.

Q: Why did you focus on just five subjects – Tomatoes, Mushrooms, Beekeeping, Seaweed and Wild Food?

Kirsten: Well they’re ‘five of our favourite things’, so to speak, and also we didn’t want to just give a little bit of info about too many subjects, we wanted to dive in deep! So we started with five subjects that we love doing in our daily life, which are also super fascinating AND super delicious. Our next plan is to do another five subjects, and then another five…

Q: What advice would you give someone wanting to embark on a more self-sufficient life?

Kirsten: Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can! We’d recommend starting with just one small habit, and learning to do that really well. It might be keeping a worm farm, or learning to make yogurt, or learning to identify 10 local edible weeds where you live. Once you’ve got that one thing nailed, and you’re doing it regularly, in your daily life, choose one more thing. It’s amazing where you can end up.

Q: You practice what you preach – do you ever get any down time and does it ever feel too hard living a self-reliant life?

Kirsten: We don’t get a heap of down time, but on the other hand, part of our ‘weekly work’ is things like weeding, or taking the goats down the gully, or making bread. And for me, those sorts of things are what I’d want to be doing with my spare time anyway, so it works out pretty well. It can get a bit crazy in harvest season when the kitchen floor is covered in just-picked food that all needs to be bottled NOW because it’s a heatwave and otherwise it will all be mouldy by tomorrow, but still I wouldn’t have it any other way. And if you have too many pears to process, you can always share them up and down the street. It’s all good.

Q: What’s next for Milkwood – are you already planning a sequel?

Kirsten: Yes I’m bursting to write another five chapters, actually! There’s so much to share, it’s pretty exciting. And we’re so lucky to all live in a place where these skills and ideas are accessible and possible, so I do feel the best way to spend my days is sharing this knowledge so that more and more households and communities can grow and be healthy. That’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? x

Milkwood – Real skills for down-to-earth living by Kirsten Bradley & Nick Ritar

Murdoch Books, RRP $45

 

Wild Weed Workshop
12th September, 2018

You will never look at weeds in the same way again after taking part in this workshop.

Diego Bonetto is a weed forager, artist, storyteller and an expert on identifying the nutritious plants that grow under our feet that most people call ‘weeds’.

Take a walk on the wild side and discover the edible and medicinal plants that grow around us. Learn about the role weeds play in repairing and building soil. Find out how they have been used for food, craft and natural remedies. Discover ways to safely harvest from the wild and enrich your diet with vitamins and minerals.

Each participant will receive a booklet detailing 16 of the most common wild edibles of the greater Sydney region.

The Weedy One

We asked Diego Bonetto aka The Weedy One what got him into weeds.

Q: What got you interested in wild food and foraging?

Diego: Where I grew up, on a dairy farm in northern Italy, harvesting seasonal bounties is just another chore. I grew up with collecting bitter greens from the fields in springtime, summer berries and autumn mushrooms. When I moved to Australia 25 years ago I continued with the same practice of collecting gifts from nature.

Q: What are weeds useful for?

Diego: All sorts of things. “Weeds” are pioneer species, opportunistic plants with a specific ecological task: to cover soil and start the process of remediation after a disruption. It also happens that many of them are edible and/or have medicinal qualities. We can talk about co-evolution if you want, and that would explain why we have so much to answer about the proliferation of pioneer species. Weeds are good, and food.

Q: You do a lot of foraging in urban areas – how do you mitigate contamination by pesticides, animal faeces or other pollutants?

Diego: You only ever forage where you know it is clean. Even then, it is now proven that wild urban plants do not take up as much contaminant as we might expect them to. A simple vinegar wash would cleanse the plants of any dust and oils. But anyhow. I always say that the best place to forage is your own garden, so that you forage where you know how many dogs there are, who sprays what and also a bit of history of the soil.

Q: Do you have a favourite weed you like to cook with or use medicinally?

Diego: Depending on the season. At the moment I am waiting for the mulberries. In Sydney we have a lot of wild mulberries, and they are delicious.

Q: Are there any “weeds” you know of that are endemic to the Blue Mountains?

Diego: I do not think you can have an endemic weed. I guess native species that are a bit too aggressive could be golden wattle and sweet pittosporum.

There are still a few spots left so to book your ticket for the Wonderful Wild Weeds workshop click here.

Location: Upper Blue Mountains – to be confirmed

 

Can we fix it?
15th August, 2018

Can we fix it? Yes we can, with your help! Toolo, the not-for-profit Katoomba Tool Library, is calling for volunteer repairers for the new Katoomba Repair Café.

Are you a Mr or Ms Fixit? Do you have mending skills you’d like to share with the community? Then we need you at Katoomba’s Repair Café.

Toolo  and the Blue Mountains Food Co-op are launching a Repair Café at Junction 142 in Katoomba on 15th September. Repair Cafés are non-monetary shopfronts for an international sustainability movement that is all about repairing damaged or broken household items that would otherwise end up in landfill. Repair Cafés offer communities the chance to learn how to mend clothes, furniture, electrical appliances, bicycles, crockery, toys, computer equipment and more by providing tools, materials and volunteers with repair skills in all kinds of fields.

Just rewards

As incentive, volunteer repairers will receive a free years membership with the Co-op (valued at $35) for their first Repair Café and volunteer points for time spent at the Repair Café on subsequent dates. If volunteers are already members of the Co-op they will receive volunteer points.

To register your interest contact Toolo on toolo.blue@gmail.com

POSITION VACANT – Coordinator role

The Repair Café Mender Coordinator is a volunteer position whose main responsibility is to liaise directly with the volunteer menders from the community, provide them with rostered shifts, provide an orientation and safety induction, and collect and file volunteer paperwork. The Repair Café Mender Coordinator should be familiar with basic computer skills, such as Google Drive, Microsoft Word and Excel spreadsheets. This volunteer position is for approximately 8 hours per month and entitles the successful candidate to free membership of the Blue Mountains Food Co-op, valued at $35 (or volunteer points if already a member) and full membership to the Blue Mountains Tool Library valued at $99. To apply contact Toolo on toolo.blue@gmail.com.

 

 

 

Grow heirloom fruit & veg
15th August, 2018

ABC Organic Gardener Essential Guide: Heirlooms

The latest edition in the ABC Organic Gardener’s Essential Guide series celebrates the incredible world of heirlooms. From 900-year-old ‘Purple Dragon’ carrots, to apples and oranges that arrived with the First Fleet, Heirlooms shows you how to grow your own and recommends the best cultivars for your patch.

Featuring content previously published in the popular magazine plus new articles by trusted horticultural writers including Penny Woodward and Justin Russell, the ‘mook’ (a cross between a book and a magazine) includes advice and tips for growing old-fashioned fruit, veg and flowers, seed-saving, raising heritage chook and pig breeds, and even the joy of scything. Heirlooms would make a welcome addition to your gardening reference library or a great gift for a green thumb.

We have two copies to giveaway. Simply email your contact details to  hello@bmfoodcoop.org.au with Heirlooms in the subject line, and a brief description or photo of any heirloom fruit or veg you’ve grown to be eligible to win.

ABC Organic Gardener Essential Guide: Heirlooms is on sale in newsagents and from ABC Centres and abc.net.au/shop and retails for $10.99.

 

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