isabel on our new land

isabel on our new land
Isabel under the Kurrajong on our new land

Friday, December 16, 2011

Transition Home

Well we survived the first move. After weeks of very mild weather, overcast and 25 degrees, moving day was ofcourse sunny, humid and very hot. So now we are settling in to our transition home while we wait to start building in the new year.  For a rental house it is pretty good
Stefano's "movement in steel" has pride of place

as the owners bought it to live in but they can't sell their own home so have had to rent it out while they wait for the market to improve.  We are on 6 acres here and luckily we are being eased into country life as we only need to maintain around the house and they will mow the rest of it - must take him all day. However, the kids are loving the extra space.
 While Stefano and I are being kept busy regenerating the very overgrown vegetable patch.

Division of labour means that Stefano gets to dig up the weeds and I get to spread the cow poo and plant the green manure seeds.
 Merry Christmas to all our friends and family.  Here is a photo of our Christmas tree (fake European pine tree) with the fabulous Australian eucalypts in the background.  Please send us a photo of your families at Chritsmas time so we can enjoy all the different traditions and climates.


Thursday, November 10, 2011


Well, half my hair has fallen out and the other half has turned grey but we've done it! Its been so long since we sold our last home and after this experience we won't be doing it again for a very long time (if ever).
Happily now though we can look forward properly to planning our new home - plans coming soon.
First we have to get the children to agree on which house to rent while we build - why is there always one who has to be different.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Ethical Shopping

A couple of weeks ago I was delighted to receive an email from the Pine Rivers Climate Action Network offering an ethical shopping tour of the Samford IGA. As I generally dislike grocery shopping and the never ending balancing act bewteen buying australian, trying to keep packaging down, avoiding companies with bad reputations etc, I jumped at the chance for someone to show me around my new grocery store.
Armed with "The Guide to Ethical Supermarket Shopping" we trawled the aisles and discovered all the australian companies that are now foreign owned, the Japanese company involved in funding the military opposition to the Aung San Soo Kyi and more happily the many local companies that this IGA are happy to stock. 

But what was most exciting was the discovery of a brand new store just opened that is dedicated to selling only locally grown and produced goods.  Fresh Local Provisions  (  is dedicated to buying fresh home grown produce from local people (I hope to soon be one of her suppliers) as well as basic products made in the area eg. goat milk soap, artisan bread, hopefully some of Stefano's timber products?  Luckily for me the owner and manager also lives on the same road that we are moving too so we had a great chat about water catchment and sewerage systems and other glamorous topics.  It is good tobe meeting people in the community before we even move in.

Next week Isabel and I are off the check out the local primary school - couldn't believe more coincidences; the receptionist also lives on our road, no its not the only road in the area, and used to go to New Farm State School (Isabel's current school) as a child!

Now if we can just sell the house.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

House for Sale

As the new land is nearly ready for settlement we have finally taken the plunge and put our house on the market.
So we have been busy decluttering, painting and cleaning to transform it into something we hardly recognise - check it out at

So we wouldn't have to stress about tidying up every day we went to Tasmania for the 2 weeks of school holidays while they started "the campaign".  We had a lovely time motorhoming around the apple isle (although more and more apple orchards are being replaced by vineyards) and enjoyed both the natural delights of the many national parks

Russell Falls
Freycinet from lighthouse lookout  

Royal Botanic Gardens Hobart

And all the beautiful gardens blossoming in spring

Echium on the beach

Banana in Pete's Patch - what happens when we try to plant things that just aren't meant for the climate.

Tino - I can't grow cherries in Qld and bananas aren't meant for Tasmania!

We also really enjoyed the convict and settler history and the overwhelming feeling that we had stepped back in time.  I can really recommend visiting the historical estates around the heritage highway; Clarendon which is a National Trust property, Woolmers Estate, and Brickendon where the 7th generation of the founding family are still living and farming.

Oh well.  Back to the reality of real estate agents and price negotiations.  Aaaaaaaagh!!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Don't Daisies Just Make You Happy

I just had to take some photos of all these glorious flowers, from the Asteraceae family (learnt that in plant id), in my garden.  On a sunny winter's day there is nothing better than to sit with a cup of tea and enjoy their beauty.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

I Love Winter

 Winter in Queensland sees the start of our easiest growing season. Nothing gets burnt from too much sun, the soil stays moist for longer than 30 mins and the pests and diseases seem to disappear!

To grow tomatoes wothout fear of fruit fly!!
 We are currently enjoying a bounty of beans, snowpeas, tomatoes, spinach, sliverbeet, beetroot and lemons and oranges with broccoli and cabbages not far away
Potatoes are still another 8 - 10 weeks away.

Stefano is putting the final touches to the house with the plan being to put it on the market this time next month so I should get to harvest these before we move.

The only pests we still have to contend with during winter are the ever present possums.  After checking for evidence of snails, caterpillars etc at the base of my chewed green leafy veges we determined that the possums were making their way over the outside barrier somehow (they're cleverer than they look).  So it may look like I'm growing milk cartons but I have had to resort to a direct barrier system with great success.

Don't worry the possums are not starving - the guava tree growing next to this vege plot is now leafless!  I'm willing to sacrifice it for my green leafies.

Next TAFE course is on plant identification - so I'll finally learn the names of some of those pretty but inedible shribs and trees.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Horticulture Continues

I have now become officially addicted to tuesday night horticulture classes as I'm contempleting repeating one that I have already done just because its so much fun and there is always more to learn.  For Term 1 this year we got to establish a vege garden using  traditional techniques and a no dig garden.  We were alloted 1 plot for each pair.

Our plots were planted out with a mixture of seedlings

and seeds.  My plot partner, Heather, and I won the prize for best radishes which we started harvesting after only 4 weeks from seed!

These are the plots after only 8 weeks.  After years of TAFE students improving the soil here and weeks of rain we really had a bounty to harvest.  Three weeks after this photo was taken, and after our holidays, some students were picking button squash the size of soup bowls. This term I'm studying weeds, pests and diseases so we've spent more time in the classroom but its been fun looking at diseases and pests under the microscope.  No doubt I'll soon be wandering the garden with magnifying glass hanging around my neck, ever ready to see if it's mites, bacteria or fungi that are attacking my plants.  Is there an Integrated Pest Management strategy for possums and rats?!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


While we were enjoying a peaceful family holiday on Fraser Island, the developers finally started work subdividing the land.
This is a view from the rear of our piece of land.  We are now able to see the full boundary of where our land stretches.  Stefano now claims that it looks too small!  It looks a complete mess with trees bulldozed down and mounds of soil piled everywhere. 
From the front you can see where they've plonked their site van under our lovely kurrajong tree and all the heavy diggers are parked all over.  This mess was in stark contrast to the inland lakes of Fraser Is.

The kids thoroughly enjoyed driving along the beach in our new 4WD
which has come in very handy now when visiting our piece of land

Monday, February 21, 2011

Waiting for Autumn

While most gardeners in Australia enjoy the sun and warmth of summer in order to expand their growing possibilities, here in Queensland we continue to experiment with more tropical vegetables such as kang kong, maluchia, and snake beans.  All of which grow well in abundant rainfall and intense heat - its just a pity I don't know how to cook them!  Consequently my garden has become quite barren as the plagues of caterpillars and grasshoppers have enjoyed the bok choy, the zucchini has been donated to the chooks after the continual rain prevented any pollination (I'm not that keen to brave torrential rain early in the morning to hand pollinate) and fungal diseases took over, and the corn fed the local wildlife population before me.
So I'm letting the pumpkins take over while I prepare the other beds with compost and manure to supplement the excellent work of my ageing chickens.
The malaise of summer means that I have many jobs to catchup on, once the heat abates, to get back on top of the weeds and pests.  Luckily this term's organic horticulture class at TAFE covers just that.  We have started off studying soils and learning how to do various simple soil tests to determine makeup (sandy, loamy, clay etc), drainage, ph, and compaction.
This soil particle analysis shows the sand and silt and a little clay that have settled at the bottom.  The fact that the water has remained cloudy after 8 hours shows a high level of organic and mineral matter in the soil which means good nutrient holding capacity - which is just as well as this comes from my vege garden!

The other event which has prompted me out of my heat induced lethargy was a very enjoyable propogating morning spent with some past gardening students.  I find I'm much more productive if I can chat, eat cake and drink tea while I'm working.  As it was just before the full moon we planted seeds and took herb cuttings for our own gardens but also to help regenerate the Graceville Community Garden which was inundated in the recent floods

Watching seedlings emerge never fails to lift my spirits and renthuse me with the hope of new beginnings and continual growth.  Roll on Autumn!!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Well I think it's time to inject a little manlyness into the permaculture equation. Yes this is big boy permaculture now, not that amby pamby frollicking barefoot amongst the zone 3 food forest stuff! This is about the smell of diesel, digging big holes with big machines, and getting down and dirty!
2.5 hours south of Brisbane, adjacent to the northern NSW village of The Channon is Zaytuna Farm - home of the Permaculture Research Institute of Australia (, and demonstration site for all things permaculture. There I spent five days at the feet of the permaculture guru - Geoff Lawton - to learn the secrets of permaculture earthworks. Nice chap.
I am now equipped with the knowledge to excavate dams and swales, and control water to bring moisture and nutrients back into the soil. What power! I hope to use it wisely on our land soon. Can't wait to get diggin!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Flood in Brisbane

The street outside our house Thursday January 13 2011 8.45am

January 12, 2011 dawned as a bright sunny day after the weeks of torrential rain, but it was an eerie feeling that pervaded as people waited anxiously for the waters to rise, not knowing how high they would come or what streets they would really reach.  The street where we still live in New Farm is a fair distance from the Brisbane River that snakes around the suburb but even though they have increased the size of the storm water drains 3 times since we have lived here, water was starting to bubble up the grates by 11am.  We spent the morning moving everything from downstairs to upstairs and after harrassment from parents and brother we abandoned ship to the safety of Paul's house.  When Stef returned an hour later the water was already spilling onto the footpath.  We spent an anxious night away waiting for the river to peak at 4am to know exactly how far into our property the river would creep.  Our neighbour who elected to stay put kept us informed over the phone of the rapid rise of the flood waters.
Although the water did reach our house and start to seep in downstairs, compared to many in Queensland, we have been very lucky.  Below are some photos we took 4 hours after the water had started to recede.

Waters already receding - Stef with our new dual cab ute - bought to be useful on our new land but already put into action when I got bogged at Woodford Folk Festival, forging our way through after Christmas to Bargara Beach on the coast from flooded Bundaberg, and now making our way around the streets of Brisbane.

Our neighbour's yard still a pool many hours later

Our backyard is probably only 30cm higher than the neighbours but it meant our chickens stayed dry while enjoying the worm bounty brought by the rain

Stefano made a quick attempt to mop up what water did come in.  Thankfully the inside of the house is free of the sticky mud that now lines the street, footpath and the front garden.

Now we just have to wait for it to dry out a bit to asses which walls and floorboards are beyond just cleaning and need replacing.

I'd like to extend a huge thankyou to all those friends and family members who phoned, texted or emailed to check on our wellbeing.  It was heartwarming to realise just how many people are there to help and support us if we should need it. 

Now roll on the high ground of Samsonvale!  How are we going to survive the wait!!