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Join us at our AGM
3rd October, 2018

Call for Director Nominations
27th September, 2018

Call for Director Nominations

Nominations open at 9am, 27/09/18 and close at 5pm, 11/10/18

Nomination forms available in the shop

Election to be held at Annual General Meeting, Thursday 25th October 2018 at 7 pm, venue to be advised.

The roll for Members eligible to vote in the election at the AGM

closes at 5pm, 24/10/18

Renew your membership before the roll closes if you want to vote

For more information contact the returning officer, Amy, at hello@bmfoodcoop.org.au

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.

What’s for dinner?
12th September, 2018

How do you answer the dreaded question?

Dish up your dinner winners and you could win one of two cook books.

We’re trying to find some winning dinner ideas to share with Co-op members. You don’t have to provide whole recipes just let us know what your favourite, go-to meals are when hungry kids or partners ask “What’s for dinner?”

Send your answers to hello@bmfoodcoop.org.au with your contact details and you could win one of these two cookbooks.

Cauliflower is King  – 70 recipes to prove it by Leanne Kitchen, Murdoch Books, RRP $19.99

or

Stuffed! The art of the vegetable boat by Marlena Kur, Murdoch Books, RRP $32.99

Competition opens Tuesday September 18 and closes Friday October 12.

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

 

There’s nothing “fake” about our local, unprocessed honey.

A recent investigation conducted jointly by Fairfax and the ABC revealed startling evidence of “fake” or adulterated honey on Australian supermarket shelves. Of the 28 jars of “pure” honey tested by German laboratory QSI, 12 were found to be adulterated with honey substitutes.

At the Co-op all our honey is pure, unprocessed and unpasteurised. And we’re lucky enough to have local suppliers including Malfroy’s Gold and Bruce Rogers of Rylstone. Both beekeepers practise natural methods of extraction and harvest from their hives which are placed in isolated areas of western Sydney, the Blue Mountains and central western NSW.

Tim Malfroy (pictured above) of Malfroy’s Gold stated recently on social media that imported “fake” honey “has been an open secret within the industry since at least 2004”. He also thanked supporters for taking an active interest in his “vision for ethical, sustainable Warré style apiculture and locally produced, 100% pure wild honey.” Thank you Tim.

Photo: Eric Tourneret The Bee Photographer

 

Spend 10 minutes with Rosa Del Ponte of Katoomba’s Earth Recovery, Food Rescue and Mountains Soul Kitchen.

It’s mid-morning at Earth Recovery in Katoomba and Rosa Del Ponte is doing the rounds of the supermarkets rescuing food bound for landfill. It’s a challenging job feeding the poverty stricken and homeless but Rosa can’t let it get her down, there are too many people counting on her to keep on keeping on.

Q: How long have you been involved with Earth Recovery, Food Rescue and Mountains Soul Kitchen?

Rosa: I started the organisation with five friends in 2012 and Christmas of that year we launched Mountains Soul Kitchen.

Q: What prompted you to start the organisation?

Rosa: My friend Sarah and I started Soul Kitchen as a result of our final project for a TAFE course. As part of an emergency relief study we went to 27 agencies from Lithgow to Penrith to speak to them about what services they offered. We were looking for a gap to fill and found it in the Soul Kitchen. Christmas and weekends were identified as times when services were lacking so it seemed to make sense to start with a trial then.

We worked under the auspices of Blue Mountains Family Support for the first few months and then we kicked off and were able to cover our own insurance and administration. We were originally based in the Civic Centre but rent became an issue because we were only running on donations, so we did a deal with the Uniting Church and moved to Junction 142.

Q: What is your background?

Rosa: My background is in film and TV production and PR. When I moved to the mountains I got a job at Planet Ark working on the National Tree Day campaign and discovered that I really liked the not-for-profit business model. It gave me an impetus for work in community services so I did a bit of volunteering and then took up a position at Muru Mittigar [Aboriginal Cultural and Education Centre] as a business development manager. After that contract ended, I volunteered in neighbourhood centres. Providing free food for those in need was a big passion of mine and a niche that needed filling in the mountains but I couldn’t get traction anywhere, so we decided to start our own service.

Q: Where do you get food for Soul Kitchen and is it enough?

Rosa: Over the years, I’ve built face-to-face relationships with managers at local supermarkets to secure donations to Blue Mountains Food Rescue. And now that we are known in the community we get calls from other businesses also to come and collect food. We pretty well run out of food on a daily basis but we’re collecting daily and also get supplemented by Second Bite who deliver up to 1000 kilos of food every week from the Coles distribution centre in western Sydney. This lasts us a few days and is topped up by what we collect from Woolies, Coles, Aldi, the Co-op and local businesses.

Q: It sounds like a lot of food – is the need really that great?

Rosa: Yes. Absolutely. We distribute over 2000 kilos of food every week and there is very little waste. We have to sort through it and there’s the odd thing we can’t use but the vast majority of food collected is used. And if there is any waste it goes to the Community Gardens to be composted.

Q: How is the food distributed?

Rosa: Volunteers sort and pack boxes ready to be collected for distribution points and we also encourage individuals to come and pick what they need. We try not to be too officious and to give people a little bit of choice. It’s really important for people to know that it’s open, and it’s free. All we need is a first name and how many people you’re collecting for just so we can keep records of how much food we are distributing. For example, on any given day we know that if we’ve had 70 individuals visit, picking up for a mixture of families, couples and single households, we can add up how many people are being fed.

Distribution points are growing too. Community groups like the Anglicare Op-shop in Wentworth Falls and North Katoomba Community Hub collect food to distribute, and that means we can operate up and down the mountain – from Catholic Care Springwood up to Blackheath. We’ve recently heard that Mount Victoria school could do with some help so it’s just a matter of finding a volunteer who is willing to take that task on.

Q: How bad is homelessness in the mountains?

Rosa: Homelessness is more of a problem in spring and summer because it’s only the really tough who survive sleeping rough up here in the colder months. The lack of affordable single persons’ accommodation will be the next hit that we see in the mountains because the rental market is already pretty unaffordable if you’re on Centrelink benefits. I’m already seeing people not being able to get into housing – they can’t get rent assistance because Centrelink say they can’t afford the rent but what do they do – stay homeless? It’s a vicious cycle that nobody seems to think about.

Q: How can the community help?

Rosa: We want to spread the word about Soul Kitchen and Earth Recovery because I’m sure there are still people out there struggling who don’t know what we do. Almost daily, we get people saying “I didn’t know this place was here” and at least once a week somebody bursts into tears because they are overwhelmed with gratitude. And we always welcome volunteers.

Q: How can local businesses help?

Rosa: Any businesses that want to be involved can freeze meals at the end of the day and we can do a weekly collection. Then the food can be given as a meal to someone who is homeless or in temporary accommodation.

Q: When does Soul Kitchen operate?

Rosa: Soul Kitchen cooks lunch every Sunday and once a week we prepare meals that are frozen so people can take them home or heat them up here. It means people are getting a nutritious home-cooked meal and not something that’s been manufactured. I think that’s really important, especially when people are coping with financial stress, are homeless, or are living in temporary accommodation.

Q: How do you raise funds for Earth Recovery and Soul Kitchen?

Rosa: We’ve received a few grants over the years and a lot of community support. All the facilities are undergoing renovation and Rotary have been amazing. We have fundraising gigs at Junction 142 and we’re hoping to raise enough money to finish the upgrade of the Food Rescue Kitchen and complete work on the homeless facility at the rear of Junction 142.

For more information or to get involved go to earthrecovery.org.au

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

 

Eco-friendly spring cleaning

Ditch harsh chemical cleaning products in your home for these local, eco-friendly substitutes.

After the birth of her son, Archie (Archimedes), Natalie Beak was drawn to a simpler way of life. The freelance art director and television production designer had just made a tree change to the mountains and begun listening to The Slow Home podcast by local mountain’s mum Brooke McAlary. “Brooke spoke about simplifying cleaning products and habits, and I soon realised that we really didn’t need 15 different bottles of chemicals in the home,” Natalie explains.

“I started reading everything I could about natural living and slowing down, notably Rhonda Hetzel’s Down the Earth, Rebecca Sullivan’s The Art of the Natural Home and The Art of Frugal Hedonism by Annie Raser-Rowland and Adam Grubb.” This reading coupled with lots of internet research and even more making and testing, formed the background to a new business idea that was bubbling away in Natalie’s mind.

“Making eco-friendly cleaning products for my own family was one thing, but I wanted to share the idea that natural and simple is best,” she says. “Unless we work in high-risk environments where disease control is paramount, we don’t need to be using harsh chemicals in the home. The basics of vinegar, water and essential oils are really all you need to keep a clean and family-friendly home!” And so, Archimedes and Me was born.

Since then Natalie’s home-made chemical-free cleaning and personal care product range has increased to include kitchen and bathroom and general cleaners, salt scrubs, a magnesium bath soak and even a birthing blend.

Here she shares one of her basic recipes.

All-Purpose Kitchen Spray

In a 500ml spray bottle combine:

3/4 cup of vinegar

35 drops of essential oils (citrus oils like wild orange or lemon are great for dissolving grease, eucalyptus and lemon myrtle have amazing antibacterial properties, and clove is a fabulous mould buster)

Fill the rest of the bottle with distilled or purified water and shake.

NB: This spray is not recommended for natural stone due to the acidic nature of the vinegar and oils but is fantastic for timber or laminate surfaces, floors and cupboards.

For more fantastic eco-friendly cleaning and personal care products come along to the Co-op Thursday 20th September at 11am to Meet the Maker – Natalie Beak of Archimedes and Me.

What’s on in September
4th September, 2018

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