Grow your own

Category Archives: Treading Lightly

Grow your own
17th January, 2019

Get set for barrow loads of inspiration on the 2019 Blue Mountains Edible Garden Trail.

It’s only a few weeks until the Edible Garden Trail 2019 kicks off across the mountains.

Over 45 gardens including back and front yards, commercial, community and school gardens will be open to the pubic to showcase the various ways we are growing food, resilience and community.

It’s a great chance to get inspired to start your own vegie patch, learn new tricks and tips, and share advice with fellow green thumbs.

Check out our website instagram and facebook page for all the information and purchase your tickets online.

Environment news

Get behind the Colong Foundation’s fight to save the wild rivers of the Blue Mountains National Park.

Give a Dam is the grassroots community campaign to stop the destruction of the Blue Mountains National Park and the over development in western Sydney from the raising of Warragamba Dam wall.

According to the Colong Foundation for Wilderness, “raising the Warragamba Dam wall is a developer-driven proposal that will make it easier to build on flood-prone land in western Sydney – against the wishes of local communities.

“Raising the dam wall would also destroy 65 kilometres of wilderness rivers and inundate 4,700 hectares of the world heritage listed Blue Mountains National Park.”

If you’d like to get involved you can attend a campaign event or volunteer training day. A special screening of a documentary made by the Colong Foundation will be held on February 16 at The Springwood Hub and February 19 at Mt Vic Flicks.

For more information go to giveadam.org.au. And don’t forget you can talk about the wild rivers campaign over a coffee with Greg Davis from Wilderness Coffee Project at the Co-op most Saturday mornings.

Reducing food waste
21st November, 2018

Dietician and mindfulness practitioner, Sallyanne Pisk, shares her tips for reducing food waste.

Eight per cent of the greenhouse gases produced internationally come from food waste. This is why reducing waste is so important. It also means that if we stopped wasting food there would be enough food to feed everyone.

Tips to reduce food related waste

Food containers

  • Use your own reusable non-plastic water bottle.This is good for the environment and your health.
  • Use your own reusable non-plastic coffee/tea mug.
  • Use your own containers. These can be used for unpackaged meat, poultry, seafood and deli items.
  • Try alternative food wraps such as silicon zip lock bags and muslin coated wax wraps.
  • Store larger quantities of food in glass or stainless-steel storage containers.
  • Recycled glass jars can be used for smaller food items such as ½ onion, tomato or lemon.
  • When storing a cut avocado, retain the peel to cover the cut section of the fruit. Then store the avocado inside an airtight container.

Shopping

  • Plan your meals for the week.
  • Buy only the quantities of perishable foods that you need for the week, based on your meal plan.
  • Make a shopping list as something in your refrigerator, freezer or pantry runs out. And only buy what is on the list!
  • Look for firm fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • In season local food is fresher and will keep longer.
  • Shop at a food co-operative or local market where food is fresh, mostly local and free of packaging.

To read the rest of this article and more great tips and advice from Sallyanne go to her blog here and catch up with Sallyanne in store on Wellness Wednesdays.

 

Grow your own
21st November, 2018

Small space gardening

Design and planting tips and tricks for maximizing your small garden from Steve Fleischmann.

Recently I have been asked about growing in small areas and growing in pots. A great question because so many people have small gardens and a few well-placed pots can help make unused corners of the garden become more productive and attractive.

Design is an important consideration here. Like many things, we don’t necessarily notice something well designed, we just enjoy its functionality. However, when something is poorly designed it can be really frustrating. Having your potted garden in a handy spot, that you both like and spend time in, means you are far more likely to water the garden, notice when plants are ready t harvest and generally enjoy the space.  Similarly, with a small garden, design it so that it draws you in – put a seat in the middle of it or plant aromatic herbs you can step on/brush past. Consider aspect and hierarchy. Most edibles need six hours of sunlight, and try to plant tall plants at the back of a bed and low sprawling ones at the front.

Map out the areas around the house that get the required sunlight and start thinking and researching what can be planted in these areas. If the sunniest spot is in the most remote/far removed area of the garden, don’t despair, plant something like oregano because it comes from rocky hillsides that are really dry, it can (usually) cope pretty well with some neglect, and it’s delicious as a fresh herb.

Pathways are also important. Ironically we tend to prefer curved pathways, but tend to walk straight from A to B. So designing a path through even the smallest of gardens can be a major design feat. Before you move a single shovel load, observe how you and others use the space. It is far easier to build to your habits than changing your habits to suit your build. Straight lines can be softened by herbs that tumble over the edge of a garden bed onto the path – making a straight line seem curved.  Furthermore, it can be good to have an “aim” at the end of a pathway – a herb and flower bed, a fruit tree in a pot, a water feature, a bench seat or something else that draws you into the garden.

From my own experience the hardest thing about growing in pots is the water issue. In Australia’s extreme heat of summer pots can dry out very quickly and that can spell disaster for many plants. A couple of solutions to this is to use saucer trays at the bottom of the pot, experience has shown me that they make all the world of difference. Another option is a wicking pot. Essentially this is a plant pot with a water reservoir in the bottom.

Additionally, pots need to be watered. I know, I know a no-brainer really, but hey, it has to be said because we have all forgotten to water the pots and had plants die. Having a watering can or hose handy (and by handy I mean between the house and the thing that needs watering!) will mean the job is more likely to get done.

The next serious consideration is plant choice. And this is a big topic regardless of the size of your garden. Some edibles are simply not worth growing in small gardens – I’m thinking of things like corn or even tomatoes (I know some will disagree with me on this!) because they take up a lot of space, take a long time to fruit and the season is relatively short. On the other hand, a mix of lettuces, mizuna, chives and parsley in a big pot can give you cut and come again leafy greens for ages in a short period of time. Many seed companies sell Mesclun mixes and these are great for small gardens and pot growing.  A potful of parsley will provide you with far more food over a growing season than a couple of corn plants. Other veg to try in small gardens include space-saver varieties of cucumber, zucchini, melons and pumpkins.

Finally, going back to design, but with a firm eye on plant choice, think vertical space. Grow up walls, create tepees or other trellis structures. Beans, peas and other vining plants love growing up support, look great, can hide ugly parts of the garden and are really productive.

Happy growing!

Steve will be hosting a gardening workshop at the Katoomba Community Garden Friday 23rd November see event for details.

10 minutes with…The Herbiary creators
21st November, 2018

We are lucky to have some talented staff on the team at the Co-op. Relief worker and herbalist Maddison Pitt, who started in May this year, recently launched a range of herbal skin and body care products with her partner Del Woodland under the label The Herbiary. We asked Maddison to tell us a little bit about herself and the brand.

Q: What is your background and how did you come to be working at the Co-op?

A: I wanted to be a part of the Co-op as soon as I started to shop there. My background is in retail, most recently working in a community pharmacy. My partner and I joined the Co-op a few years ago and loved the ethos and focus on low environmental impact, supporting local growers and makers whilst providing needed resources for the community. After graduating from Western Herbal Medicine at the end of 2017 I wanted a workplace that was like-minded and was lucky enough to secure a position at the Co-op.

Q: What got you interested in herbalism?

A: I started to question the way we ‘do’ health. Complimentary medicine focuses on people as a whole being, an approach that resonated with me. The philosophy of herbal medicine, encompassing our physical, spiritual, and emotional health led me to study Western Herbal Medicine. I wanted to know what it meant to be a healthy and ‘well’ being.

I was particularly drawn to herbal medicine because of the connection to nature through herbs, plants, and natural materials. It was amazing to think a plant in my backyard may have the ability to heal if prepared in a certain way. The idea of making your own medicine, understanding the process of medicinal manufacturing, and using your hands to heal fascinated me.

Q: What is the ethos behind The Herbiary?

A: We wanted to take a holistic approach to our product range. To us this meant utilising the innate healing ability of herbs while operating kindly. We are committed to treading lightly, our packaging is plastic free, recycled or recyclable. Our ingredients are fairly traded, organic, animal cruelty free and vegan. Kind to your skin, the earth, people and animals.

Q: What products do you make?

A: Our herbal bath salts are currently in store at the Big Little Shop, they are magnesium and herb rich to soothe tired muscles and minds, while nourishing the skin. Our gentle exfoliating body scrubs will be available very soon along with our moisturising ‘mylk’ bath which is suitable for folks of all ages.

Q: What other services do you offer?

A: I also offer herbal medicine consultations where I can formulate personalised herbal preparations. Both Del and I have lots of projects on the go and even more ideas for 2019. You can follow our socials or head to our website to see more!

@the.herbiary

theherbiary.com.au

It’s a village out there!
21st November, 2018

The Village by Matt and Lentil

A book to make you “yearn for that deep connection to people and places close to you.”

What an amazing book! Set out in three parts (the village, the growing and of course the eating) it is a thorough bible for sustainable living.

The authors’ shared experience of villages really makes you yearn for that deep connection to people and places close to you.

I loved Matt and Lentil’s advice on growing including ideas about how anyone can grow, even if you’re renting or living in a flat. The eight steps to natural gardening are so interesting and detailed. Being a novice in the garden, I found it really useful to read a frank description of what they do and when.

The planting projects are really inspiring and seem like a doable place to start. The idea to focus on one thing first up is great. I’m particularly drawn to grow an abundance of tomatoes, zucchini and rocket as suggested! Easy to grow, abundant harvest? Yes! The sweet potato crates sound pretty straight forward too.

Just as I started reading The Village I happened upon a bunch of zucchini that had split open. Sure enough, zucchini pickle featured in the book. I have it stewing away in the cupboard and can’t wait to be cracking it open over Xmas. Waste not want not.

The smoothie chart in the recipe section looks so simple and useful. It’s unique, setting out all the different elements and options/quantities to be used to build a great smoothie every time.

The beautiful photographs throughout draw you into a gardeny world and you just want to go live there…or recreate it.

Really inspiring.

Review by Bec Tyson, Co-op sales assistant

Bec’s home-made zucchini pickles. Recipe from The Village by Matt and Lentil, Published by Plum, RRP $45.00, Photography by Shantanu Starick.

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.

 

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