Food Growing and Urban Permaculture video

Here’s a short video produced by William LaBarge, interviewing me about urban permaculture and growing your own food.

There’s plenty of footage of my garden filmed in early spring, so the garden is just coming into leaf at this stage.

Thanks Will for sharing this video you took while visiting Australia and dropping in to see my garden!

 

 

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Your Herb Garden Harvest – Creative Ways to Use Your Herb Bounty

Here is a guest article written by Chris McLaughlin and provided by Fix.com!

When beginner gardeners ask me which plants are hardy and forgiving, my answer is always herbs. If a busy gardener asks me which plants will thrive in near-neglect, my answer is herbs. When a foodie gardener asks about fast-growing plants that will feed both people and bees, my answer is herbs.

Herbs are the answer to many gardening questions for good reason: they’re an incredibly versatile and prolific group – almost to a fault. In fact, many herbs can be compared to cucumber plants. By the end of the summer, they’re being given away by the bushel because no one is sure what to do with them past some basic dishes. This doesn’t have to be the case for your abundant herb garden this year. We’ve got better ideas.

How to store dry herbs

 

Creative Ways to Use Garden Herbs

The most common motivation for growing harvesting herbs is to enhance dishes. However, there’s a plethora of alternative uses for your herbal bounty.

  • Herbs in dinner dishes are always welcome. But how about trying them in desserts? Fruit salad, sorbet, yogurt, cakes, and cookies, for example, will take on new life when lavender, basil, scented geranium, roses, and other edible flowers are included.
  • Herb-infused oils and vinegars make beautiful gifts.
  • Herbal butters
  • Herbal salts
  • Herbal sugars
  • Add them to jellies and syrups.
  • Put collected seeds such as lavender into a small, decorative envelope to hand out as wedding or party favors.
  • Fill a miniature manila envelope with seeds and glue it to the inside of a card for a special gardener.
  • Make lavender pillows for relaxation and scenting closets and drawers.
  • Create lavender wands to tuck into dresser drawers.
  • Some herbs make great dietary supplements for pets and livestock (be sure to research specifics first).
  • Herbs are excellent to add to nest boxes in your chicken coop.
  • Pop herbs such as lavender, rosemary, sage, scented geranium, chive, and dill flowers into your flower arrangements.
  • Use herbs in homemade soap recipes.
  • Use them in homemade sugar scrubs and bath salts.
  • Herbs such as rosemary, chamomile, and sage are perfect for making herbal hair rinses that produce natural shine.
  • Make small muslin bags filled with lavender to toss into the dryer.
  • Make an herbal wreath for your entryway for a fresh, summery scent.

 

Herbal hair rinse

 

When and How to Harvest Herbs

Whether you use them fresh or dry, there’s no hard and fast rule about when herbs should be harvested. But there are some general rules of thumb.

  1. Take into consideration the part of the plant you’re harvesting. Keep in mind that leaves aren’t the only part of herb plants that are used; flowers and seeds are useful as well.
  2. All herbs should be harvested in the early morning hours. Once the morning dew has dried, but before the heat of the day has set in, is the perfect time.
  3. Herb plants should be mature before they are harvested. If you start clipping away at the leaves and stems of a very young plant, there may not be enough of it left to sustain its life. Depending on the herb, it will need at least six weeks (usually longer) to become established and mature enough to handle a trimming.
  4. Always aim for harvesting no more than one-third of the plant at a time. Once your baby plant grows up, you can take up to one-third of it and then give it some weeks to regroup. This is a general rule, but not written in stone – there may be good reasons to harvest sooner than later (see below).
  5. There are some very good reasons for keeping specific herbs pruned on a regular basis – “bolting” is one of them. Bolting prompts a plant to suddenly flower all at once (often during high temperatures). As gardeners, we often want to keep them from blooming as long as possible, because flowers mean the end of the plant’s lifecycle. In vegetables, we encourage blooming because that’s when the fruit is produced. However, we are usually after the leaves of herbs, so we want to keep most of the blooming at bay.
  6. The best way to keep up leaf production is to pinch off anything that even resembles a flower. Many times it’s the annuals like cilantro and basil that you’ll want to keep your eye on. Harvesting them often will keep the plant in production longer. Woody, perennial herbs such as rosemary and thyme tend to flower and keep producing regardless of blooms.
  7. If you’re harvesting an herb’s flowers for their oil or flavor, you’ll want to collect them right after the flower buds appear, but before they actually open. This is the time when the oil concentration is the highest.
  8. For flowers to use in crafts, pick the blossoms after they start flowering, but before they have fully opened.
  9. If you’re collecting herb seeds, you’ll want to do so from mature plants after they produce seed heads. Wait for the seed pods to change color and begin to dry on the plant. Then, right before they burst open and scatter, carefully clip the stems off and secure a paper bag around the seed pods or heads. Hang them upside down in a cool, well-ventilated place, and as they fully dry, they will drop off into the bag.

How to make lavender pillows

 

How to Dry Herbs

The easiest way to dry your herbs is to simply cut a handful of stalks from the plant (the longer, the better). Use a rubber band to secure the bottom of the stalks together. Rubber bands are better than string because the herbs shrink as they dry, and the rubber band will shrink with them. Label all of your herb bundles and hang them upside down in a cool, well-ventilated place for a few weeks until they dry completely.

Another drying technique is to place herb stalks into a paper bag, fold the top down, and secure it with something like a chip clip. Place the bag in the refrigerator for several days. The dehumidifying action of the refrigerator will not only dry them faster than the hanging method, but also help to retain their rich colors.

No matter which drying method you use, once the herbs are dry, you can break away the leaves from the stems and place them into airtight containers. Store your herbs in a cool and dark place.

 

Source: Fix.com gardening section

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Product Review – Shoe Sync Earthing Shoes DIY Kit by Earth Runners

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In our previous product review we looked at an excellent product, the Earth Runners Minimalist Outdoor Sandals, footwear which combines the barefoot benefits of earthing shoes with the functionality of minimalist running sandals. Much to my delight I received an invitation to review the latest product by Earth Runners, the Shoe Sync Earthing Shoes DIY Kit which allows you to convert your favourite pair of flat-soled shoes into grounding shoes which provide an electrical connection back into the earth. Why would you want to do that? Recent studies have shown that there are many health benefits from being in contact with the ground, after all that’s what your body was designed to do!

 

The Health Benefits of Grounding Footwear

Why be electrically grounded?

According to Dr Mercola in his article “Might Electron Deficiency Be an Underlying Factor in Most Chronic Disease?”  published May 05, 2013, being in contact with the earth may be critical to human health and may prevent many diseases .

Electron deficiency syndrome is a ground-breaking discovery that could be an underlying factor in all chronic disease. Industrialization and the introduction of plastics and other synthetic materials have disconnected us from the earth, which has interrupted the natural flow of electrons between the earth and you. Electron deficiency has been shown to increase inflammation in your body which is a major risk factor for disease. Bringing yourself back into contact with the earth via a process called “Earthing” can help reverse this deficiency, decreasing inflammation and reducing your risk for all of the diseases that are inflammation-based, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, arthritis, and many others.”

The article cites many sources and references which provide additional reading if you’re interested.

Grounding essentially recreates the natural electrical state of the body, and that can only be a beneficial! It’s just like all those other natural things that common sense would tell us are healthy, that researchers keep ‘discovering’ which promote good health, such as ‘superfoods’, eating fresh natural food with no artificial additives, spending time outdoors to receive exposure to a healthy amount of sunlight, getting a good night’s sleep and engaging in regular moderate exercise! Who would have thought that living more naturally could be good for you!

 

The Shoe Sync Earthing Shoes DIY Kit

The Earth Runners Minimalist Outdoor Sandals I reviewed  earlier are an amazing product, I’m quite attached to mine! I would love to be able to wear them all year round, but realistically you can’t do that with open-toed footwear. There are activities and seasons of the year where they wouldn’t be ideal.  I was delighted to hear that Earth Runners addressed that matter when they announced the Shoe Sync Earthing Shoes DIY Kit, which allows you to convert your favourite shoes into a grounding shoes. Thanks Earth Runners, problem solved!

There are various reasons for converting different kinds of footwear to provide a grounding benefit. Winter cold is a good reason, as are shoes appropriate for different social occasions. A big one for me was footwear specific to certain recreational activities, in my case it’s tai chi.

I’ve been practising tai chi for a few years now, and in tai chi training practitioners tradition ally wear ‘kung-fu shoes’ which look like black cotton slippers with thin rubber soles, but are a bit more like a flat-soled lightweight sports shoe. It’s what Bruce Lee wears in many of his movies, so you’ve probably seen them before! Even though many long-term practitioners nowadays invest in more expensive  lightweight shoes specially designed for martial arts practice, the older style  kung-fu shoes are still popular. Training tai chi outdoors is much more enjoyable, so I wanted a suitable shoe I could wear for training that was also grounding. Converting a pair of kung-fu shoes using the Shoe Sync Earthing DIY Kit made that possible.

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Bruce Lee wearing his evening slippers? No they’re traditional ‘kung-fu shoes’!

 

Turning comfortable everyday flat-soled shoes into grounding shoes is also a practical solution for certain other ‘more technical’ activities. I’ve heard that some electronics enthusiasts working on static sensitive components, in addition to using their anti-static straps and mats, advise working barefoot to minimise the risk of damaging delicate electronics. A pair of grounding shoes would be ideal for this purpose and would be a much more comfortable way to work.

Now that we’ve covered the applications of such a product, lets look at the product itself.

This product is a DIY (do-it-yourself) kit. I must confess I’m a DIY kind of guy, I’ve been fixing, making and tinkering with things all my life, there’s a real sense of personal achievement and satisfaction that comes out of making something (that works!) When I was first contacted about the Shoe Sync Earthing Shoes DIY Kit, which allows you to convert flat-soled shoes into grounding shoes that provide an electrical connection back into the earth, I loved the idea. To be honest, I wasn’t sure how easy something like this would be to do until I saw the instructional video on the Earth Runners website.

Being an instructional writer myself, I was very impressed with the quality of the step-by-step instructions provided, both in printable form and video. I found them very clear, thorough and easy to follow. I’ve never done this type of work on footwear or used leatherwork copper rivets before, and by watching the short video once then following the printed instructions, I was able to complete the build in around 30 minutes.

 

The DIY Kit Contents

The DIT kit contains the following items which are pictured below:

  • small rivets x3
  • large rivets x3
  • washers x6
  • conductive tape x2
  • hole punch
  • rivet installer
  • cutting board
  • large clippers

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The only two things which don’t come in the kit which you will require are a hammer, and a pair of flat-soled shoes of course!

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The instructions specify the requirements for the shoes, which are listed as follows:

  • Sole thickness (stack height) must be less than 1/2" (12mm)
  • Must be able to unlace shoe to access the insole with tooling.

I must admit I didn’t quite stick to the second requirement, luckily the footwear I used had a lot of flex which allowed me to get the tools in there, but the instructions give good advice in using lace-up footwear, they’re a better choice.

 

An Overview of the Construction Steps

Earth Runners provide an excellent video, which you can watch here to see how straightforward the process is:

I decided to document my experience with a brief series of pictures with short descriptions to give people a feel for the steps involved.

  1. Remove insoles from footwear.

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  2. Mark the sole of the shoe at the K1 (Kidney 1) acupressure point as shown on the instruction sheet provided.

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  3. Punch a hole using a hammer and the provided hole punch and cutting board.

    20161103_185842

  4. Insert long copper rivers through the holes from underneath.

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  5. Stick down self-adhesive conductive tape (which has holes pre-punched) over rivets, along the sole, inside the back of shoe, and over the edge. This is actually a bit more involved that it looks, there’s a series of easy to follow steps which are clearly explained in the instructions in great detail.

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  6. Punch a hole into the other end of the conductive strip using a hammer and the provided hole punch and cutting board.

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  7. Insert short copper rivers through the holes from inside, then place the washers over the rivets.
    The washers will only go part way down as they’re designed to be force-fit onto the copper rivets.

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  8. Punch down washer nearly all the way down (90% off the way) using the provided rivet installer tool.

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  9. Rivet with washer set, ready to be clipped plush with large clippers provided in the kit.

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  10. Rivet cut and hammered flat with provided cutting board underneath the back of the shoe.

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  11. Both copper rivets at the back of the shoes completed, then rivets inside shoes have washers set down 90% of way and hammered flat.

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  12. Properly set rivets are roughly flush with the sole, ever so slightly inset just below the surface of the sole so they can’t snag or catch.

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  13. Insoles are then reinserted, shoes are now ready to wear. The way it works is that  the copper rivets above the heel and the conductive strips running along the back of the shoe conduct electricity through your skin (and socks) to the copper rivet in the sole, which then conducts the electricity into the ground.
    20161103_195429

 

Testing the Shoe Sync Earthing Shoes DIY Kit

It’s fine to explain how it works in theory, but we can test it all using a multimeter to determine how well it all works.

Firstly we need to ensure that there is a good electrical connection between the copper rivets at the heel and dole of the shoe along the conductive tape.

Setting the multimeter to “Ohms”, a measure of resistance (to the flow of electricity), we see there is zero resistance, in other words, the electricity flows freely with no resistance, which is exactly what we expect if the conductive path is sound.

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Zero resistance to the flow of electricity, all conducting well indicating an excellent electrical connection.

 

The next testing step is a bit more involved. In this step we’re measuring the flow of electricity from the body into the ground. To do this, we need to connect the negative lead of the multimeter to a ground point and hold the positive lead while the multimeter is set to measure volts AC (alternating current). Sitting in front of the computer, with both feet off the ground, we see that the electric fields from the electronic equipment create a voltage in my body that is 4.22VAC higher than the ground voltage potential. That’s a lot!

20161103_202737

My body ungrounded when sitting if front of the computer is 4.22VZC above ground!

 

Since I’m not standing outside on the ground, I can artificially ground my shoe by connecting a grounded lead to the copper rivet. In this test I’m only grounding one shoe while wearing a wool/synthetic blend socks.

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When we look at the multimeter once again, we see that the voltage of my body above ground drops from 4.22VAC to 2.89VAC, that’s a significant drop of 31.5%. I’d bet I would get a far better result if I was wearing sock made of a natural fibre only such as cotton.

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My body grounded when sitting if front of the computer drops from 4.22VAC to 2.89VAC above ground.

 

Conclusion

After testing, I can definitely say that the Shoe Sync Earthing Shoes DIY Kit works, it definitely does what it claims and grounds the body of the wearer electrically, even witch socks on.

The kit is well thought out and the instructions provided are excellent. I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s moderately handy can covert a pair of their favourite shoes into grounding shoes in around thirty minutes.

I’m very happy with the result, I’m looking forwards to more outdoor tai chi training now that I can wear grounding training shoes.

Thanks to Earth Runners for another innovative product!

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My custom grounded tai chi shoes for outdoor training using the Shoe Sync Earthing Shoes DIY Kit, now I’m more ‘grounded’ in my training!

 

Would I recommend this product? The verdict – yes I highly recommend it, if you’re into grounding and earthing for health benefits, you’ll love this DIY kit, provided you have at least some basic DIY skills to install it. I’m impressed with how well the kit is put together, like the rest of Earth Runners products, a lot of through has gone into this to deliver a quality product once again.

Deep Green rating for Earth Runners Minimalist Outdoor Sandals is 5 stars!

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If you are interested in submitting a product for review, please contact us via email at deep_green@optusnet.com.au , thanks!

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Darebin Backyard Harvest Festival 2016

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This year I’m running two garden tours for the City of Darebin – for everyone who has been asking when I’m next opening my garden to the public, well, it’s that time of the year once again!

About the Festival

The festival is being held from Saturday 19 – Sunday 27 November, 2016 on weekends and early evenings during the week.

Now in its sixth year, Darebin’s ever popular Backyard Harvest Festival is presented by Darebin City Council in partnership with Darebin Ethnic Communities Council. The November festival celebrates Spring planting, inspiring home gardeners of all ages, skill levels and cultural backgrounds to sow their favourite herbs, vegetables and fruit for the summer harvest.
There is also an Autumn Backyard Harvest festival held as part of the Homemade Food and Wine Festival each May.

This festival is all about local residents sharing skills and knowledge on growing fresh food at home. Many families and cultural groups have been cultivating abundant food gardens in Darebin for years, and this festival showcases and celebrates their achievements.

Previous festival goers have said they made new gardening friends and felt very inspired to give food gardening a go. They loved the cross-generational, cross cultural sharing of gardening and food preparation skills.

There are 16 different home gardens and 7 workshops in this years program, covering everything from water efficient gardens, fruit tree grafting, to keeping chooks and quails.

For the detailed program and to register go to:

Cost of events: Darebin council is charging – $10 regular, $5 concession, entry for children is free

 

If you want to see my garden as part of this festival, I will be running the following events:

 

Angelo’s Fertile Food Forest

Angelo is a sustainable gardening and permaculture presenter, trainer and writer and passionate food forest advocate. His garden won a Darebin Sustainability Award in 2012, and was featured in the prestigious Open Gardens Australia event in 2014 and 2015. Angelo’s high density food forest garden produces a huge diversity of food – stone fruits, berries, herbs and vegetables. What appears to be a verdant tumble of vegetation is actually strategic placement to create synergistic relationships and enhance the microclimate and growing conditions for each plant. This is also an effective pest control technique resulting in a wonderfully abundant organic garden.

Wednesday 23 November
6pm – 7pm
Private Garden in Preston (address provided on booking)
$10 / $5 Concession (children free)
Tickets: www.darebin.vic.gov.au/backyardharvest

 

Food Forests with Angelo Eliades

Passionate food forest advocate Angelo Eliades from Deep Green Permaculture will demonstrate how a conventional backyard has been transformed into a thriving, productive biodiverse demonstration permaculture food forest garden with over 30 fruit trees, dozens of berries, multitudes of medicinal herbs as well as plenty of exotic edibles from around the world and native bush food plants too.

Sunday 27 November
3.45pm – 4.45pm
Private Garden in Preston (address provided on booking)
$10 / $5 Concession (children free)
Tickets: www.darebin.vic.gov.au/backyardharvest

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Understanding Urban Agriculture – Part 3, Calculating the Food Production Potential of a City

Community vegetable garden

I’ve just written the third part to my Urban agriculture series of articles for Permaculture Research Institute -  Understanding Urban Agriculture – Part 3, Calculating the Food Production Potential of a City

This third article categorizes and analyses the different types of obstacles to urban agriculture, then questions the concept of resource limits to urban agriculture in a modern city by going through the exercise of calculating the food growing potential of the city of Melbourne, Australia. The results are very interesting to say the least…

In the first article Understanding Urban Agriculture – Part 1, The Present State in Historical Context we looked at the history of localized agriculture and the journey to our present state.

The second article Understanding Urban Agriculture – Part 2, Productivity, Potential and Possibilities examined real-life urban agriculture productivity figures and showed how urban agriculture is working currently worldwide  and how productive it really is.

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Understanding Urban Agriculture – Part 2, Productivity, Potential and Possibilities

NYC-Urban-Farm_thumb2

I’ve just written the second part to my Urban agriculture article for Permaculture Research Institute -  Understanding Urban Agriculture – Part 2, Productivity, Potential and Possibilities

In the first article we looked at the history of localized agriculture and the journey to our present state. This second article examines real-life urban agriculture productivity figures and shows how urban agriculture is working currently worldwide  and how productive it really is!

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Understanding Urban Agriculture – Part 1, The Present State in Historical Context

NYC-Urban-Farm

I’ve just written a new article for Permaculture Research Institute -  Understanding Urban Agriculture – Part 1, The Present State in Historical Context , which  discusses the history of localized agriculture and the journey to our present state.

This is the first part of a two part article. The second part (coming soon) will look at real-life urban agriculture productivity figures and show how urban agriculture is working currently worldwide  and how productive it really is!

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