Summer in the patch

Like you, I have watched the bush fires sweeping our beautiful country. They are still burning and the crisis isn’t over. My heart is heavy for the thousands of people now displaced and homeless. I have no words for how tragic the loss of the ecosystems is in the areas affected. There are multiple places to donate money to including the country fire services, wildlife rescue, the families of those that have died or the SA government bush fire relief fund to help with the immediate crisis. The rebuild will be long and difficult for many, we need to reach out and help those affected for a very long time.

I have watched our beautiful country dry out over the last 2 decades and don’t know why basic ecological rules are being ignored. In the 90s I did formal studies in ecological restoration and the rules of nature are strong and clear. Mess with the water cycle and you get drought. Mess with the atmosphere and you get global warming. Pollute the land and you get toxic chemicals leaching into our aquifers. Pollute the seas with plastic and you interfere with the ocean currents that regulate the earths temperate. We aren’t being good custodians of the land or seas and this needs to be remedied.

I hear lots of people concerned about our environment but don’t always see corresponding action to address personal responsibility for greenhouse emissions or their broader impact on the environment. I hear lots of excuses and justifications for not acting. Just do it, big actions or little, it all adds up. We wanted to understand our household impact so we used the Australian Greenhouse Calculator. There are other calculators around too if you want to compare. While our household impact is small compared to the emissions of the US department of defence our governments either agree or not to go to war, so who we vote for matters.

Our emissions are small compared to big oil, gas and coal industries, but collectively we all use these products in our day to day lives which clearly adds up or these companies wouldn’t have such a big greenhouse impact. It pays to minimise reliance on these in day to day life. So, it doesn’t matter to me if you don’t believe the science or who you voted for. What I care about is if you want to help heal the patch you have responsibility for, whatever that may look like. There are so many areas of environmental mismanagement needing work, pick something that resonates and act on it. It’s all needed, on every level.

Some ways a regular household can quickly reduce greehouse impact is to reduce the number of flights taken. Go on local holidays instead. Change household power to renewable energy, this can be done if you are renting or own, find out what your energy retailer offers. Minimise reliance on cars and catch public transport, use a bike or walk to minimise oil usage. See if you can purchase something second hand, rather than new to minimise resources being used. If you can’t find second hand buy quality items new with a clear view to it’s end of life. We really need all people including government to be heading in the same direction to turn things around for our beautiful planet.

Agriculture and shipping food around the planet has a huge impact too. I’m passionate about local food, not just because it tastes great but also because it’s much kinder to the planet and your body to eat local food. Food that has been shipped or flown into SA has a huge carbon footprint. Some imported food gets irradiated and more generally it’s lost it’s vitality. Employment conditions in countries with cheaper labour can resemble slavery. Water is being stolen from ecosystems around the world to support big agriculture. I don’t want my shopping dollars to support that. Buying local food that’s not organic is a better option that the imported options. Even better is buying food that’s been grown organically and by farmers that are committed to building soil and regenerating the land. Or start growing some of your own. Every action counts.

In our garden this summer we’ve been experimenting with no dig gardening. It’s been fantastic for building soil, there’s been less weeds which means less time managing them and it’s clearly shown a greater capacity to hold water. Other experiments have been growing crops to see what can handle the long hot and harsh South Australian summers. So far the corn, tomatoes, zucchini and pumpkins are loving the heat. The fruit trees are having mixed results so I’ve added a blanket of compost around the base of the trees to help cool the ground more while they are still establishing and don’t have a big canopy.


We pulled out the winter cabbage and golden beetroot to make sauerkraut. The black radish went to seed and instead of pulling it out, I’ve been collecting the green seed heads and pickling them. I also dried a bunch of herbs, edible weeds, leek, onion, celery and capsicum to make homemade stock powder, the healing herbs collected from the garden and infused in local olive oil are ready now for making into soap and healing balms.


The birds have largely left the apricots alone this year so we have been able to get a good crop for preserving. I’ve made fruit leather, apricot jam and stewed apricots. This tree is our neighbours tree and the fruit is shared by us and another neighbour. It’s more than enough to feed us all and still give some away. Our nectarine tree finally put on a lot of fruit but I didn’t time the harvest well and lost the crop, mainly due to the heatwave spoiling the fruit and the birds and ants getting into them. There was a window of a few days where I may have been able to get a crop from it but I was away from home for a week and didn’t have time to harvest before I left. The plum tree dropped a lot of fruit in the heat and they don’t taste anywhere near as good as they have in previous years.  I’ve planted two white sapote trees and am hoping they will make it through the hot summer.


Last year the council was ripping up the concrete paths on the street and replacing with paving. I asked the digger operator to remove some of the compacted dolomite from the verge rather than add more so I could plant something on the verge. I am pretty excited about my first crop of karkalla this summer. I got these plants from Provenance nursery in Salisbury to grow them on the verge. To stop dogs weeing and pooing on them I sprinkle the verge border with ground chili and put white vinegar on the tree to stop them marking their territory. The dogs just walk straight past. Verge gardens are great, especially edibles ones but it’s not good to eat from a dog toilet. This is my solution to obtain a yield from it. Some ruby salt bush has also self seeded on the verge and I’m looking forward to seeing the verge develop over time.


One thing I miss about living in the country is the humble honesty box. So to bring some country heart into the burbs we make one of our own and whacked it out the front. Honesty boxes are where you sell your produce on the road in front of your house by leaving it out there and a spot for people to put their money. People take and pay by leaving their money. It relies on people being honest. This box will mainly have preserves rather than fresh produce. My excess fresh produce is given to friends, family or is put on a Grow free cart. The olives we collected back in Easter last year are almost ready so these will be put on the honesty box for sale in the coming weeks. I have also put seeds collected from the garden on the box too.


While I despair about the fires, water mismanagement and the broader relationship humans have with the environment I will continue to advocate for growing and eating local food, saving seed and building soil. I will appreciate all the good work and actions that people are doing around the world to honour the earth. I will have hope for our future. I will love the land I’m on and in the words of Wangari Maathai ‘I will be a hummingbird and do the best I can’. 


Hello again…happy autumn


Yikes! It’s been almost a year since my last blog entry. Lots has happened since then and I’ve been busy. Good busy. Getting jobs done that have been in the making for a long time. I’ve been concentrating on setting up some systems to help me with my local food journey in the long run. Setting up an old fashioned larder room to store food that I’ve foraged, grown and preserved. Installing a rain water tank and plumbing it into the house for drinking water, for watering the garden and most importantly for making living ferments. Town water has too many chemicals for successful ferments.

The land I’ve been walking has been a good teacher, showing me more and more of her beauty, strength and abundance. I’ve foraged carob, acorns and persimmons recently. I particularly enjoyed the autumn breakfast combo of acorn crepes and blackberries both foraged from the Adelaide hills in the picture above. This rain falling in the last few days has got me a bit excited about mushroom season starting soon. For ongoing updates on what’s in season, check out my Edible Adelaide face book page.

I made a decision a few years back to rest my veggie patch in Adelaide’s long dry summer. So now the work will begin again in the patch with the start of the rain and cooler weather. I’ve been eating loads of homemade fermented cabbage and beetroot and am looking forward to growing my own for the ferments over the coming months. Another project is getting my compost system sorted once and for all. So while this was a quick hello, I hope like me, you are all looking at ways to get more local produce into your tum and for new plants to forage. Bye for now!



The problem with plastic


Our family is taking part in Plastic Free July (PFJ). Our pledge is to attempt to not purchase any plastic at all and go completely plastic free for the month. The panic really set in last weekend on how we were actually going to do it. We all know that plastic isn’t so fantastic but it takes something more to get motivated to make the conscious effort everyday to make it a priority. I think the tipping point for us was this video taken at a really magic snorkelling spot we had been to and snorkelled there as a family. It really was quite devastating for us to see.

While we were in that same part of the world we went on a full day coast walk and came across a secluded beach that had quite a lot of plastic on it. There were no tourists there and it made me wonder how sanitised the beaches are on other parts of the island to hide the plastic that gets washed up on shore. Plastic is such a ubiquitous material that it’s not really noticed until you try to avoid it or see the rubbish like that.

The problem with plastic isn’t just the mess it creates. Plastic will usually end up having one of three journeys. Most plastic isn’t recycled and ends up in landfill. The plastic gets layered and compressed with other materials and as it rains the rain filters through the landfill it collects harmful chemicals. Those leachates seep into the soil and contaminate the water table which in turn affects the plants and animals.

The second journey is via wind or water into waterways making it’s way to the ocean. The ocean has very powerful and predictable currents that keep our planet habitable. These plastics have been accumulating in the ocean, most notably in the great pacific garbage patch. There is real risk that the patch will impact the currents that transport the cool water from the poles to the warmer equatorial waters and will interrupt the earths cooling system.

Finally, a small fraction of plastic will be recycled. However, plastic always eventually fatigues and breaks. It can only get down cycled it never goes away and will either end up in landfill or the ocean eventually.  While some scrunchable plastics can be put into REDcycle bins, it’s unclear if these end up in landfill or actually do get recycled. The ABCs War on Waste put a tracker into one of those soft plastic recycling bins and unfortunately found it went to landfill.

In the lead up to PFJ I also got the family to watch Plastic Ocean on Netflix which seemed to do the trick on re-enforcing the message to the family that plastic is not so fantastic. So in the words of Maya Angelou “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better”. This is easier said than done, plastic is absolutely everywhere, but I think half the battle is making it a priority when life is so busy. So here is how our first week of plastic free july went.

Most plastic consumed in our house is via the kitchen. So on Sunday 1 July the five of us sat together and planned out our plastic free meal plan for the week. We also did some food prep and cooking for the week to make it easier.

Weekday breakfast:

  • homemade sourdough fruit toast with butter
  • toast with jam, peanut butter, honey or eggs
  • porridge or homemade muesli

Weekend breakfasts:

  • Pancakes with maple syrup
  • Arepas with abuelitos eggs and honey


  • Seasonal fruit – eg apples, mandarins, oranges
  • homemade hommus or guacamole and vegetable sticks.
  • Date and ginger cookies
  • Apple and walnut cake


  • Fish fingers with mashed potato and silverbeet
  • Spinach and ricotta ravioli with porcini sauce
  • Baked pakora with mango chutney
  • Baked lentil pasta
  • Heading out for dinner
  • Massaman curry
  • Minestrone soup


  • homemade preserved apricots with macadamia mylk custard
  • dehydrated orange slices dipped in melted chocolate
  • hot chocolate

I always grow herbs, lettuce and silverbeet in the garden as this is pretty hard to get plastic free in the shops. I also have jars of homemade preserves and jam handy, but this is easy to buy in glass jars. The porcinis I collected and dried myself and store in glass jar, I don’t think dried porcini can be purchased plastic free. Part of the panic that set in on first day of plastic free july was having some meals the kids could cook that were quick and easy mid week meals, but we found some things they could manage.

We have almost run out of toothpaste so I had a go at making my own but it was a bit of a disaster. I found all the ingredients plastic free, mixed coconut oil, calcium powder, baking powder and peppermint essential oils and it set quite hard. It felt very good on the teeth when I used it before it set, so I am going to remake it without the coconut oil and use as a tooth powder and dip the wet brush in the container to pick up the powder.

On one of the days I forgot my keep cup for my almond milk cappuccino I treat myself to at work. I just grabbed a mug and took it to the coffee shop, without skipping a beat they made me a small cappuccino and off I went. Some cafes make their own nut milks for coffee and I’m hoping this becomes the new norm so that less waste is produced by us all. We also went to out to dinner one night. I just checked out the drinks in the fridge to see which ones were plastic free before ordering and made it really clear we didn’t want straws – easy.

I did have a couple of plastic free fails. I went to the kids uniform shop and was rushed and had about 10 other things on my mind and only realised when I got in the car that I had the clothes packed in a plastic bag, doh! I had also been making macadamia mylk from macadamia nuts I’d foraged. I love it but clearly noone else in the house does. They had been tucking into a can of powdered milk that we bought for a multiday hiking trip. So they decided that they would buy b.d. farm milk again. I’m determined to work on my nut milk recipe and try and make sure it doesn’t split and stays delicious and creamy and will try and win them back on that one.  Hopefully the plastic free gods will forgive us for the plastic bag and the 2L milk container. Wish me luck for week 2!



Healing plants hidden in plain sight


All around us are healing herbs that we take for granted and in some cases actively try and remove from our gardens. Take a moment to observe and it’s likely that you’ll find some gifts waiting for you in your garden. At this time of year the mallow Malva neglecta and chickweed Stellaria media are growing strong. While these two are delicious edibles they also have healing properties for the skin. Chickweed has the ability to gently heal any skin sensitivities and eliminate growths and cysts from the body. Mallow is also known for its skin healing abilities and getting rid of blemishes and irritation.

To take advantage of these healing properties they can be made into a salve. Salves are really simple ointments made from three main ingredients – plant material, oil and beeswax. This time of year local olive oil is being pressed and it’s easy to source. Beeswax can be picked up from people selling local honey. With a skin healing salve in mind I had a look in the garden to find other plants good for the skin and found:

  • Plantain Plantago lanceolata which has antiseptic qualities and reduces skin irritations from bites and stings.
  • Comfrey Symphytum works by increasing cell production which makes wounds heal quickly.
  • Lavender has antiseptic and anti-inflammatory properties which can help to heal minor burns and bites.
  • Rosemary soothes the skin and is good for eczema and burns.

Another good ingredient to use would be Calendula flowers. These flowers can help with cuts, rashes and burns. This salve can be used for skin irritations, cuts, burns or bites and general skin repair and is applied to skin.

To make the skin healing salve:

  1. Gather clean vibrant plant material.
  2. Chop and dry overnight in a single layer on a tray to remove some of the water.
  3. Place plant material in a clean dry jar and cover with olive oil.
  4. Infuse the herbs into the oil. Infusing herbs can be done in many ways, I heated mine slowly at around 50C for about 9 hours all up over three days.
  5. Strain leaves from oil using some cloth and then place oil back in jar.
  6. Ratio to use is for each cup of oil add 80 grams of wax.
  7. Gently heat the oil and wax to combine.
  8. Once wax is melted, pour into containers for storage, wait until completely cool before putting the lid on.




Grow your own herbs and spices


I pruned this lot of oregano today as it was spreading out into another spot I have reserved for growing vegetables. It’s now in the dehydrator drying to use later. While fresh herbs are lovely in cooking, I’m going to dry some other herbs from the garden like sage, marjoram, parsley, rosemary and add some dried Adelaide hills porcini I foraged to make my own Italian dried herb mix.

Spices can also be grown in the garden. Right now coriander, dill, celery and mustard have all gone to seed in the garden. When ready some can be used to start next seasons crop and some can be used in the kitchen as spices. All through the hills at the moment wild fennel is growing and the flowers heads are bright yellow. I’ve done a post previously on how to collect the pollen. In time, the fennel flowers left of the plant then transform into fennel seeds which can also be collected and used in the kitchen.

A substitute salt flavour is Old man salt bush (Atriplex nummularia) if you have saline soils. Dry the leaves and grind into powder to use. Dry Mountain pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata) is used as a pepper flavour substitute. The history of the spice trade is pretty interesting and at times brutal. Growing your own herbs and spices is a much gentler option.

Native currant


At this time of year something really special happens on the coast. I have fallen in love with all the gorgeous edibles that grow over the hot summer months. Muntries, karkalla, boobialla, coastal rosemary and many others are singing a beautiful song right now. This little shrub Leucopogon parviflorus sang out to me, drawing me in to taste its sweet fruit. This one truly is a little gem. Eat when white and pearl like. Plant in sunny spot in sandy soils.

Native cherry


Native cherry Exocarpos cupressiformis is an elusive little plant. Much has been cleared because its leaves are toxic to stock. It grows as a parasite on host trees and is from the same family as quandongs. While it’s not a huge taste sensation the fruit is very much edible. Don’t eat the little seed that hangs off the fruit, the red part is edible and is ready when you tap it and it falls into your hands.

Wreath making


Wreath making has been done by many cultures for thousands of years. While the symbolism varies between individuals, for the materials it’s best to use what’s on hand and in season in the garden. This wreath made today symbolises for me the circle of life continuing throughout time. The end of the year is fast approaching with a new year soon to come. The spring growth of the grape vines have a bunch of forming grapes as a promise of the summer harvest to come. The olive leaves were used to symbolise peace with some baby olives as a promise of the autumn harvest and winter pickling to come.



Gardening is slow. Really slow. Sometimes it’s so slow I forget what I’ve planted and then discover it later. I put these radish in for a bit of a quick crop. I had expanded out the veggie patch and was thinking I needed something that would crowd out any other little plants coming through. Water well while its growing and eat soon once it’s reached a good size otherwise it gets a bit woody. Radish can be added to salads, sandwiches or baked in the oven as they come through. I also pulled up the rest and pickled them.

Pickled radish

4 bunches of radish

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons raw sugar

1 teaspoon salt

optional, 1 tablespoon peppercorns, 1 tablespoon coriander seeds

Top and tail the radish and clean well. Slice each radish in half then place the flat side down and slice into thin semicircles. Place all the radish into sterilised jars. This amount made two small jars. Add flavour of choice to the jars . I added peppercorns to one and coriander to the other.

In a small pot, add the water, vinegar, sugar and salt. Boil for a minute or two to dissolve the sugar and salt. Pour over the radish and seal the jars. Store it in the fridge.

Squash and zucchini


It’s been a heck of a long time since I’ve last grown yellow squash. These little fellas transported me back to around 16 years ago when I lived in a gorgeous old farm house on a dairy farm in Northern NSW. I had a really good composting system set up for the household scraps and collected well composted cow poo from under the cattle grate to get the veggie patch started. The vegetables were pretty darn good from that patch. I remember having some very prolific yellow squash plants and the sweetest tomatoes I’ve ever eaten in my life. I can’t remember growing squash since then. Funny how food can trigger memories.

Squash and zucchini are pretty easy to grow and versatile. You can grate them and make zucchini slice, turn them into zoodles as a pasta substitute, cut thinly and bake into chips, add to sauces, soups or curries, and grate into cakes to make them more moist. While there are lots of different ways you can cook with them, my very favourite way to cook zucchini is to grill on the barbeque. Turns out squash is just as good on the barbie. Sounds simple but it is one of those recipes where I do a little happy dance because it tastes sooo good. This little dish tastes greater than the sum of it’s parts, and in this case the parts were pretty good already. I used a flavour packed lemon foraged from a neighbourhood tree, delicious local extra virgin olive oil pressed by my friends grandparents earlier this year and squash and zucchini picked earlier that morning from my garden. A little spoon of my homemade chimichurri on top to serve and I was in heaven. Instead of using salt you can also use porcini salt.


Zucchini, cut in half lengthways

Squash, cut in 1 cm discs

Lemon, juice

Olive oil


For the amount in photo above I used the juice of half a lemon, a few tablespoons of oil and a generous pinch of salt. I then gave it a whisk in bowl and then tossed the cut squash and zucchini through to coat it well. Then I cooked it on the barbeque give or take about 5 mins on each side. You should get nice grill marks across the surface and its ready.