Category Archives: wildlife

A new adventure: Trees, Bees & Cheese

In November 2012, Sophie, Asher and I finalised our acquisition of just under 50 acres near Second Valley, on South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula. This comes after a number of years looking for land, weighing the merits of buying and dreaming of a regenerative, permaculture-based small farm. It’s an exciting adventure, and the process of our developing relationship with this patch of ground is now being documented at the blog Trees, Bees and Cheese. We invite you to check it out.

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5×5: Summer Rain

Online film-making community Vimeo regularly sets ‘weekend projects’ for their members. Recently they invited participants to create a 5×5 (a 25-second film made of five 5-second shots) showing aspects of a daily routine. Here’s my attempt, shot on a steamy, brooding Saturday. I realised when I came to editing that I’d been gathering the pattern of events that occur in the lead-up to a downpour, things like frenzied ant activity, gusts of wind and creatures seeking shelter, all while the sky darkens until the rain finally comes.

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An Urban Orchard – watch it online!

Getting our 2010 documentary An Urban Orchard online has been high on my list of things to do for some months now, yet I’m delighted to discover that someone else has already done it for me! The delights of the wired world! You can now watch the full film (divided into 3 parts) below (and thanks to iJohn880 for doing the hard yards!)

An Urban Orchard, Part 1/3

Part 2/3

Part 3/3

Enjoy!

 

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From Plagues to Plate: Eating locusts and grasshoppers

Grasshoppers kick back on the warrigal, Glandore Community Garden

The air around our legs clattered with the tumbling bodies of locusts, their gleaming translucent wings bursting outwards as they hop through the grass. While at our urban community garden plot grasshopper populations have been noticeably high, in the browning stubble of paddocks on the eastern side of the Adelaide Hills the numbers still indicate the population spike that comes from good rains and plenty to eat. Indeed, with the recent plague, there’s been a surge in discussion about the possibilities of eating those that feast on our farms. Walking through these farms on a Sunday afternoon, I was reminded of the description of John the Baptist, as a gentleman who “wore clothing of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey” (Mark 1:6).

While that introduction alone is enough to get John invited to headline a permaculture skillshare, the Judeo-Christian tradition has further references to hopping cuisine. Articulating the ancient Hebrew holy laws regarding food, the Old Testament book of Leviticus reminds the faithful that there are “some winged creatures that walk on all fours that you may eat, those that have jointed legs for hopping on the ground. Of these you may eat any kind of locust, katydid, cricket or grasshopper. But all other winged creatures that have four legs you are to detest” (Leviticus 11:21-23).

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On the trail

In the stringbark

In the spirit of our bioregional walking tours, Sophie and I recently set out to follow the Pioneer Women’s Trail from Beaumont to Verdun. In the words of the official promotional spiel, “The Pioneer Women’s Trail honours the early European settlers who supplied Adelaide with fresh produce at a time when most foodstuffs had to be imported into South Australia. In 1838 this British colony was barely two years old when Lutheran refugees arrived from Prussia. In the picturesque Onkaparinga River Valley, fifty-four families were the first to establish a farm village which they named Hahndorf after Captain Hahn of the Zebra. The women and girls were the first to supply Adelaide with fresh vegetables and dairy produce from the Mount Barker district. At midnight they left Hahndorf with laden baskets to walk barefoot to Adelaide 35 km distant. They carried stout sticks, fearing outlaws along the forest track.”

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Edible weeds: chickweed, mallow, sow thistle, plantain and nettle

This article is adapted from a segment Joel did on Radio Adelaide‘s Gastronaut.

Foraging for nettles, Maude Island Farm, Haida Gwaii, British Columbia, Canada

With healthy winter rains on the Adelaide Plains, neglected corners have once again been swallowed beneath a green tide. In a segment earlier this year, I presented a handful of the last edible weeds standing midway through an Adelaide summer. The cooler months bring with them a wealth of unsolicited edibles in the form of chickweed, mallows, plantain, nettles, thistles, and others. (In fact, almost all of these were the most prolific plants in the nature strip outside my house).

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How to host a worm party, (or: making a worm farm that doesn’t incinerate the little beasts every summer)

Last summer in Adelaide seemed, yet again, to reach new heights for backyard devastation. We kept our chickens in shape with plenty of shade, periodic hosings-down and ice-blocks in their water. For worm farms however, it seemed to be pure apocalypse, with the black plastic barrels transforming entire civilisations of megadriles into a foul-smelling puree as the temperature climbed above 45 degrees Celsius.

When we recently visited Nirvana Organic Farm, farmer Deb Cantrill demonstrated her snazzy, lo-fi worm farm: an inground bucket, filled with holes. I remember my pal Jeremy describing a similar contraption as a “worm party”. The bucket, buried to its rim, is filled with food scraps and soil, and wild earthworms are free to come and go through the holes as they please, digging into the treats and redistributing the wealth of their castings into the surrounding garden bed. Because the bucket is buried (and the top can be covered with a terracotta pot), when the temperature goes up, the worms can retreat to the cool beneath the surface.

Unsuspecting cheese buckets, about to be transformed

When Sophie was a cheesemonger, she managed to accumulate an enviable collection of buckets that formerly held olives and cheese. We decided to use some of these to make our own experimental worm farm, and install it in our community garden patch.

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