The first BLOG outing for 2017 was a Preserving Day on Saturday February 25th. We saw different ways of preserving fruits and vegetables . There was a demonstrations of various techniques such as jam making both on a stovetop and using a Thermomix, Vacola bottling, using a dehydrator to make “sun dried tomatoes” plus other good old fashioned cooking methods.
Cold Climate Permaculture
Saturday 22 November 2014
It may have been the hottest day of the year, but that didn’t stop the large crowd from gathering at Sue-Ann and Terry Gilmour’s property at Pozieres. The occasion was the Border Landcare Organic Group’s event for November and the topic was, somewhat ironically, “Permaculture in a Cold Climate”
Permaculture is a design system for sustainable agriculture that was developed in Tasmania in the 1970s and has now spread throughout the world. Practitioners use the principles of permaculture design to look at their land holistically with the aim of working with the ecosystem to reduce labour, improve yields and produce a healthy, sustainable property.
Terry Gilmour started by explaining how he and Sue-Ann had designed their property layout in accordance with permaculture practice and this has enabled them to plant and harvest an incredible array of fruit and nuts, both native and exotic, as well as a large productive vegetable garden and a timber plantation. The site has deliberately kept sheltered and this enables the Gilmours to grow a large number of sub-tropical species not usually seen on the Granite Belt - a large, heavily laden carob tree attracted a lot of attention.
After the talk, with parasols much in evidence, the group went on a tour of the property and saw for themselves how following the permaculture way has worked for the Gilmours. The results of clever planning and design were evident and most of the group went home thinking about how they could put some of the techniques demonstrated by the Gilmours to good use on their own properties.
Terry Gilmour leads the tour of the property
A Day With Graeme Sait - Plant, Soil and Human Health
Saturday 18 October 2014
Most people visit a winery with the aim of tasting and maybe buying a couple of bottles of wine, but not the Border Landcare Organic Group, that comes later. First on the agenda for the BLOG visit to Pyramids Road Winery was a walk out to the vineyard with Warren Smith who, together with his wife Sue Smith, have owned and run the winery for the last 15 years.
The rain drizzled on and off, but the 30 or so people who had made the trek considered it time well spent. Warren Smith has the look of a sharp dressed man with his baseball cap, extensive beard and wrap-around sunglasses, but his passion is obviously his vineyard. Warren has considered every aspect of wine production from soil to vine to bottle. The visitors were impressed by the way the vineyard was situated, cleverly using the natural slope of the land and the selection of grapes grown, including the unusual mourvèdre grape. Pyramids Road Winery may be one of the smallest on the Granite Belt, but the work involved is still considerable and this is shared between Sue and Warren except for a small amount of picking.
The winery is mainly managed along organic principles, with non-organic chemical spraying used in a careful manner and only when necessary. Pests, particularly birds and large mammals, are a problem, especially as the winery backs onto the Girraween National Park. Some members of the group were astonished at the damage caused by feral pigs.
Just after noon, the rain had intensified to drive everyone back inside to the usual excellent BLOG bring a plate to share lunch and then some took advantage of the cellar door, where Sue Smith ran a most informative tasting session, demonstrating the qualities of the wines produced.
Many locals will know Marc Newman from his days running the Mushroom Farm at Ballandean, however, since his retirement he has developed a whole new area of expertise. Marc Newman is now obsessed with studying and photographing Native Bees. Marc, together with his wife Jan, hosted the Border Landcare Organic Group meeting this month where around 50 people turned up to Marc and Jan’s property at Ballandean. Did you know there are approximately 1,500 species of Australian Native Bees, with more being discovered all the time, some right here on the Granite Belt?
Many of these are solitary bees, with only a very few forming hives and storing honey like the more well known European Honey Bee. At the moment Australia does not have the issues that honey bees are having in the rest of the world, but should that happen, and many experts predict that it’s just a matter of time; we may be reliant on our own home grown bees for pollination of our food. Marc gave a talk on the various types of bees and then the group ventured into the gardens to study a couple of stingless bee hives, and the bee “hotels” – little structures built by Marc for solitary bees to nest. The gardens, designed and maintained by Jan Newman, also attracted a lot of attention. Jan purposely uses plants that are attractive to native bees. A list of these plants, together with a link to more of Marc’s amazing photographs may be found at the Other Items page.
Orchards and Vegetable Gardens at Amiens
Saturday 22 February 2014
Inspirational and life changing are words that are very much overused these days, but are appropriate for the BLOG event held last Saturday. The Border Landcare Organic Group and visitors were treated to a look at Frank and Nancy’s amazing life at a property near Amiens. Although the couple are both around the age of 70, they have the energy and stamina of a couple of 20 year olds. How do they do it? Well, Frank kept the group spellbound for an hour or so with his philosophy on life and health. He is, as he says, “Knowledge Hungry” and this has led to what many would describe as a radical approach to food and diet. Frank readily admits that not everyone would either want to, or be able to, adopt his methods, but it works for them, with both Frank and Nancy appearing very much younger than their years and both are strangers to the doctor.
The couple grow almost all of their own food, eating only one main meal early in the day, no snacks, no processed food or sugar, but plenty of fruit and mainly raw vegetables. Food combining is practised and the calorie restricted diet is largely vegetarian but they do eat a little home grown chook and fish occasionally.
The second part of the event was a tour of the abundant gardens. Most of the work, including the irrigation, is done manually, a feat in itself considering the size of the gardens. The group was invited to sample everything and did so with gusto. The amount and variety of the produce is staggering: Over 50 varieties of apples, at least 20 different types of figs, countless citrus, grapes and also fruiting avocadoes - something rarely seen on the Granite Belt. Truly inspirational.
Many thanks to Frank and Nancy for their enthusiasm and generosity.
BLOG members listen to Frank's talk
Frank and Nancy with pistachio tree
Espaliered Fruit Trees and Fermented Bread
Saturday 23 November
A huge crowd turned up to Tom Scott and Denise Kent’s property on Eukey Road for the last Border Landcare Organic Group meeting of 2013. The event saw the best turnout of the year, to learn all about fermented sourdough bread making and espaliered apples. Part of the attraction may have been the home made pizza or possibly the organic Mallow Lamb sausages which were also on offer, proving that you can do more with a large bread making oven than just make bread.
The morning started with Tom giving a brief history of the property which has undergone many changes since first built by Dr Cilento. However, Dr Cilento would surely approve of the changes made by the couple, that all contribute to a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. Tom described in detail his bread making process and also the large bread oven which he has had built, big enough to provide around 30 loaves in one bake. The bread itself is made using an unusual technique where the flour (organic and freshly ground) is fermented before baking. Tom had baked a batch of bread that morning, and there were plenty of takers to snap up a loaf or two, with a donation for each loaf going to a charity for single mothers in Uganda.
Denise Kent then talked about her espaliered fruit trees, which are highly productive in a very short time, and also about her gardening methods. Though the minimal mulch system which she employs may not work for everyone, no-one could argue about the end result, with a garden that is not only producing top quality organic vegetables, but looks beautiful.
Tom Scott explaining bread making
Janine and Ian Jamieson proved to be the perfect hosts as the crowd was in turns entertained and educated at the Border Landcare Organic Group’s field day at Maryland at this BLOG event..
The entertainment came mainly from the wide range of livestock, from Cayuga ducks to donkeys. The children (and some of the adults) were also delighted with a young kangaroo and a tawny frog mouth chick, which are the current constant companions of Ruth from the Wildlife Carers.
After an introduction to the property from Ian, Janine told the group of their quest to provide some protection for their cattle and their herd of goats, originally bought to tidy up a previous property. After losing a number of goats to feral and not so feral dogs, a Maremma dog was bought as protection or the goats. Unfortunately the goats were not so fond of dogs by that point and the Maremma was bullied by the goats. So the Jamiesons then acquired some Alpacas as guard animals but they were also attacked by wild dogs. Finally a pair of donkeys was bought, and they have proved a success, as although they don’t actually guard the goats, the donkeys will not allow a dog in their territory. The donkeys, goats and alpacas are all now breeding, with Barney, the young donkey, the star turn.
Rex Maddocks ended the formal part of the day by giving a short but very educational report on the results of some scientific trials he has been running on fertilising garlic. Rex reported that a number of additives had not made any significant improvement to the bulb size when compared with the control group, but a handful of wilted comfrey leaves placed under the garlic clove on planting had increased the average bulb size by 25%. Rex speculates that this may be due to the high potassium content of the comfrey. The meeting then broke for lunch and a tour of the property.
Mark Thomas gave a comprehensive outline of the Landcare structure and Projects. Now we know how BLOG fits under the Landcare umbrella and what a very important relationship it is. It was also interesting to note that while Landcare looks after some of BLOG's administration currently at no charge, the BLOG committee could take on these roles should it decide to do so in the future.
Mark Lamb took the floor to keep us up to date on all animals ferrel. And what an interesting slant he gave on the topic. Mark was able to provide statistics on pest control as well as some health issues associated with the pests in this area. He also demonstrated the use of some common traps including trapping himself in a foot trap to show how the design held fast while minimising the pain inflicted on the animal being trapped. Mark answered an endless range of questions and eventually the organiser Mark Thomas had to thank Mr Lamb as he had more than occupied the time allocated.
We then heard from Barry Brooks who heads up a project which is revegetating a 5 acre block at Sunnyside a little to the west of Tenterfield. The project has been successful with grants and now has a fox and rabbit proof fence around the site along with a dam and much work done of weed control and tree and shrub plantings. The concept behind the project is to attract native birds, so they are trying out various environmental strategies to achieve their goal. Most exciting is the prospect that this project will hold an open day in the future to showcase the efforts of the group. A day not to miss and we look forward to hearing of this event when it happens, perhaps within 12 months.
Rex Maddocks then gave us the rundown on BLOG, highlighting recent events and the aims of the group which are to keep members informed on good health and good food and all things organic. Rex also told the group his age and that when he finally does fall off the perch he would like to be healthy enough to do so.
Members then enjoyed lunch while friendly conversation continued until around 2 pm when people said their goodbyes until our next event or committee meeting.
Around 50 people turned out to and hear how to best protect themselves and their homes in the event of fire. It was both a frightening and reassuring experience.
Ross Stacey from Queensland Fire and Rescue, gave an overview of how the various Brigades respond to bush fire emergencies. Mr Stacey also described how fire fighting technology and increased communication between the Brigades and the public have improved in recent years. The audience then watched some actual footage of fires in suburban environments, including the Canberra fires. The footage showed how quickly fire can spread and how even a well kept suburb can be devastated.
Rob Simcocks from Eukey Rural Fire Brigade then spoke about the local weather and fire conditions and the particular challenges of the area, especially with the reduction of large scale burn-offs by the farming community and the increasing number of small acreage bush blocks. Mr Simcocks recognised the need for balance and regard for biodiversity whilst doing the best to protect homes and lives.
Both speakers emphasised the need to create a fire resistant enclave around the house and ensure that there is safe and easy access for the firemen and fire trucks, not only to the house, but also on the driveway to the house and to note that fire trucks are getting bigger..
Many thanks must go to the speakers and also Keith Belford and Pete Williams of the Eukey Fire Brigade, who turned out in full uniform, for giving up even more of their free time to help the community.
Ross Stacey, Rural Fire Service Training and Support Officer
Crowd at Eukey Hall learning about fire protection
Stress Management and Chemicals in Vegetables
This Border Landcare group meeting focused on nutrition with Helen Ferrier and Anne-Marie McDonald, two of Stanthorpe’s health care professionals talking about stress and food chemicals
Helen Ferrier talked about stress management, giving practical and sensible advice for keeping mind and body healthy. The audience was then encouraged to practice a breathing relaxation technique that worked very well particularly for some who’d had an early start.
View the Ten Commandments of Stress Management that Helen talked about during her presentation. (PDF file)
Anne-Marie McDonald gave a talk on the cutting edge of science with a presentation on phytochemicals. These are compounds are produced by plants when under attack from insects or disease and are some of the most useful to humans when fighting or preventing disease. Examples of phytochemicals are anti-oxidants and salicin, which is the natural form of aspirin. However, the latest research indicates that if the fruit or vegetables are treated with pesticides, the pesticides interfere with the plant’s natural responses, resulting in lower amounts of phytochemicals being produced and so making the fruit or vegetable less useful when eaten by us.
During her talk, Ann-Marie discussed two very interesting articles about the effects of insect attack on the increase of phytochemicals in organically grown plants.
Organic versus Conventional grown tomatoes. Download the full article here.
Our work clearly demonstrates that tomato fruits from organic farming have indeed a smaller size and mass than fruits from conventional growing systems, but also a substantially better quality in terms of concentrations in soluble solids and phytochemicals such as vitamin C and total phenolic compounds. Until recently, the focus has been mainly on yield rather than on gustative and micronutritional quality of fresh plant products. This might be all right for staple food, but, as far as fruits and vegetables are concerned, it may be argued that gustative and micronutritional quality matter more than energy supply. Our observations suggest that, at least for fruit and vegetable production, growers should not systematically try to reduce stress to maximize yield and fruit size, but should accept a certain level of stress as that imposed by organic farming with the objective of improving certain aspects of product quality. More research is needed in the future to better understand the links between stress and oxidative stress, on one side, and oxidative stress and secondary metabolism in fruits, on the other side. Also the physiological mechanisms behind the positive effect of organic farming on fruit quality will require additional studies to be conducted.
Phytochemical phenolics in organically grown vegetables. Download the abstract here.
Mole River Nursery
Mole River Native Nursery is a hidden gem which was discovered by a number of keen local gardeners last week. Sarah and David Caldwell opened their Nursery to the Border Landcare Organic Group and visitors. The beautiful day in the scenic surrounds of the Mole River Valley contributed to the large turnout of both BLOG members and visitors.
Mole River Nursery propagates and sells thousands of frost hardy native plants each year and the day started with Sarah Caldwell giving a really informative demonstration of the cutting and seed sowing techniques that they use at the Nursery. David Caldwell then gave a demonstration of the grafting techniques used, including a graft onto a cutting which is then used as rootstock.
The Group then toured the Nursery grounds looking at the huge range of plants displayed. The Nursery has a number of large polytunnels each containing hundreds of small seedlings. There is also a polytunnel with its own fog maker for misting the seedlings and heated benches run by a wood powered furnace. Everyone was impressed, not only by the health and vigour of all the plants but the organisational abilities required to produce so many plants to order in a given timeframe.
Over forty members of the Border Landcare Organic group (BLOG) gathered in Wallangarra on Saturday to hear Dr Maarten Stapper and show their opposition to genetic modification (GM) of our foods. Saturday was a day of co-ordinated demonstration all over the globe against Monsanto for its role in spreading GM crops and encouraging the use of poisonous chemicals in agriculture.
Dr Stapper, a renowned ex-CSIRO scientist and authority on GM, was asked to speak at the Sydney gathering but he had already made a commitment to come to Stanthorpe for three events over two days. On Friday the room was filled with people at the DPI in Applethorpe to hear him speak on biological farming and how to sequester carbon in our soils to improve production. That night at ArtWorks on Davadi there was a presentation involving him and his daughter on the importance of gut flora on our health.
Saturday was another full day, with the focus this time on GM: how it works, how it might be able to help and what problems it brings. In his detailed presentation, Dr Stapper showed that the small short-term advantages to crops of herbicide and pesticide protection were far outweighed by their reduction in nutrition, long term damage to the soils and wider environment, and the huge detrimental impact on human health.
Global demonstration against GM becomes local – at Wallangarra
Information on Maarten Stapper from his website:
After working for 30 years as a research agronomist in four continents, Dr Maarten Stapper has turned into an advocate of biological-organic farming systems. With experience from the inside, he is a critic of GM technology and current agricultural science paradigm that both strengthen the moribund industrial agriculture as it continues to degrade soil, environment and food. Through Maarten’s research work, discussions with Landcare groups and a wide range of farmers, he has come to the belief that science must take a broader view to achieve the sustainable development of agricultural industries. To achieve this we have to look at the whole farming system – where every thing is linked to everything else. Biological agriculture leads to higher biodiversity on farms and a greatly reduced impact on catchment environments. This process can achieve a doubling of the organic carbon content of the soil, and, if practised Australia-wide, could capture most CO2 released in the country and slow climate change.
Links to Biological Farming and Healthy Soil Websites
BioLogic AgFood - Dr Maarten Stapper - http://drmaartenstapper.com.au/
Soils for Life - http://www.soilsforlife.org.au/ where you can register for 3 free weekly soil health webinars which began on 22nd May.
Soil Health Knowledge Bank - http://www.soilhealthknowledge.com.au/
Soil and Health Library - free digiitised library mainly about holistic agriculture - http://www.soilandhealth.org/
Did you know there is a global organisation, based in 70 countries, with 200 million members, representing small farmers? And that Australia is not officially part of this organisation? Samantha and Ray Palmer told an audience at the Summit Hall last Saturday all about “La Via Campesina”. The aims of the La Via Campesina organisation are to protect the rights and livelihoods of small and medium scale farmers. It is a coalition of over 148 organisations, advocating family-farm-based sustainable agriculture and was the group that first coined the term food sovereignty. Food sovereignty refers to the right to produce food on one's own territory. Pertinently, given recent events in Australia, La Via Campesina campaigns to protect agricultural land from government and corporate land grabs.
The BLOG field day held at the Stanthorpe Community Gardens was a great success, with around 40 people learning a sure fire method of making beautiful compost. Sarah Hamlyn-Harris started the workshop with a brief introduction of how the compost could be used to great effect in fruit and vegetable production then went on to give details of her scientific approach to the fine art of compost making. The heaps are made using a combination of green waste, soaked straw and manure, with added minerals and clays. Ms Hamlyn-Harris carefully monitors the temperature range of the heaps as they progress, checking the microbial action and she also sends samples away for toxicity testing to ensure that the compost is entirely safe to use in an organic garden. Some compost heaps that had been made earlier in the month were examined and they visibly demonstrated the effectiveness of the method.
There was also a discussion about compost and comfrey teas their use in the veggie garden. Talk over, some of those attending then enthusiastically joined in with the construction of a new heap, getting increasingly muddier as the heap grew higher.
The morning finished with a welcome lunch before most headed off to a hot shower.
October 27, 2012
As a backyard organic vegetable producer for over 20 years, Rex shared his secrets of how he grows healthy, nutritious, chemical free produce without the need for pesticides, herbicides, fungicides or chemical fertilisers. Rex demonstrated how to make your own organic fertiliser and tell what you need to know about minerals, microbes, mulch,compost and the dangers of manure. Plus pH testing, worm farms, compost and how he manages to produce over 11 kg of potatoes from one seed tuber using free inputs.
July 21, 2012
You can have a workforce of thousands in your farm or garden and not have to pay them a cent. What’s more, they will perform better than expensive chemicals.
Find out how to enlist an army of worms. It was being held in the Mingoola area in NSW.
Scott and Karen Bennett run a commercial worm farm, Wormgro, so are experts in the field.
They also demonstrated compost making and how they use guinea fowl for insect control. In addition we learnt how they manage their biodynamic citrus orchard and generate their own power from solar panels and a wind turbine.
On top of this there is a worm activated septic system, a hydroponic vegetable garden as well as gardens growing herbs, native and exotic plants. The farm also makes compost as well as having a hydroponic vegetable garden & a biodynamic citrus orchard.
Saturday February 25th 2012
Membership for the 2011/2012 financial year is due. The cost is still $12 per person per year. Payment can be made to Rex on Saturday or by mail. For more information on payment by mail, go to www.granitenet.com.au/groups/environment/blog. Producers please remember that to remain on the resource list you must be a financial member. Also all members should note, that to continue receiving emails regarding upcoming events, workshops, BLOG activities etc. you must be a financial member. At $12 a year it’s got to be the cheapest subscription around!
The sheep manure will be trucked to the property of Rob and Trish McCosker at Severnlea.
All BLOG members may collect it by the ute, trailer or bag-load, for a small fee to cover the cost of trucking.
You need to telephone Rob first. His number and the charges will be circulated once the manure is available.
The deal is that anyone who comes out to work can have as much manure as they can carry home on the day free of charge.
When: 8.30am Saturday 3 September 2011
What to bring: shovel, wheelbarrow, gloves, eye protection, dust masks (don't worry if you don't have one, I will be bringing a box of them), clothes that can get very dirty, smoko, lunch, and drinking water.
At last month’s gathering of the Border Landcare Organic Group (BLOG) about fifty members and interested visitors learned from Tom Dunn about the various techniques of grafting, both on to old trees in the ground and young bare root stock. Participants were able to select from a variety of apple species, practice their skills and take home their prized new fruit trees to plant.
Tom also led an informative paddock walk around his fascinating, diverse orchard.
Also, BLOG has been given a 1000 litre container of microbes to be distributed for free. The container will be at Tom’s place on the day. If you want some, bring along a container on the day.
Saturday July 30th
Esme will have the pizza oven fired up and will supply the dough as well as the tomato base. There will only be time, due to the number of people etc., to sample some delicious wood-fired pizza so BLOG members should bring their favourite pizza toppings to share but also other food to share for either morning tea or lunch. A wood oven will be available for heating up food and to boil water.
The very successful Bring & Buy stall will be in operation so please remember to bring along any excess produce, plants etc.
Annual subscriptions ($12 per person) are now due. Payment details can be found at www.granitenet.com.au/groups/environment/blog or see Rex at the field day.
The venue will be The Summit Hall, The Summit.
For further information on biodynamics please go to www.biodynamics.net.au.
There was also a seed swap. Please see below for hints on seed collection/preparation.
He used role plays to help participants understand the processes going on in the soil, the different impact of chemical and biological fertilisers, and how the soil food web works.
He also showed people how to assess the advantages and disadvantages of products they encounter so they can be used successfully.
David has university qualifications in agriculture as well as many years of experience in organic and biological farming. He has recently been working as a consultant conducting biological fertiliser trials and farmer training across eastern Australia.
After lunch, people watched as builder Shawn Palmer demonstrated the rammed earth process by constructing a wall. In fact, many participants took the opportunity to try their hand as builders.
Thanks to our host for the day, Helen Petrie.
During morning tea, a white board was available to write up any ‘chook related’ questions for Michael to answer. Michael’s talk gave those present a fascinating insight into the world of chooks. His vast experience enabled him to answer every one of the multitude of questions people posed and his infectious enthusiasm captivated even those who had reservations about our feathered friends.
The Bring and Buy stall will be held, so if you have any excess fruit/veg. or seedlings, jams etc. please bring them along.
Bushfoods & Summer break party
Terry will talk to us about bush foods and this will be followed by a walk around the property.
Morning tea will be at 10am (QLD time) and Terry’s talk will start at 11am(QLD time). Lunch will be about 12.30pm (QLD time). Please bring either morning tea or lunch to share. Also, don’t forget to bring a hat, a chair, a personal water bottle as well as a cup, plate and cutlery. There is a special reminder to bring your own cup in order to reduce the amount of washing up at the end of the day.
As this is the last BLOG activity for the year, there will be a white board available to enable people to write up suggestions for next year’s field days.
The Bring & Buy stall will be in operation, so if you have any excess plants, seedlings, vegetables, jams etc., please bring them along as the proceeds will go to a charitable organization connected to healthy food production. These items usually sell as soon as they hit the table!
Farm scale Compost - Hugh Lovel Field Day.
8.30am Qld time, 9.30am NSW time
Joe Olley, a local beekeeper, will talk to us about beekeeping.
View the website on www.mallow.net.au/
- a treasure hunt
- planting their own bean plant to take home
- bubble blowing
- making a 'no-dig' garden
- learn about dowsing
- how to make weed and manure teas
- see a bokashi bin in action