Systems are part of what helps us in planning and trying to keep an even keel in the garden. Or at least minimise the damage when we get busy with other things.

Edges to the vegie beds- grass barrier formed by double rows of bricks and mulch is very easy to mow or whipper snipper up to.
Double Brick edges
and planted with oregano/ marjoram in some places as an experiement to act as a green barrier.
Double Brick edges with Oregano

Processing greenwaste & kitchen waste
Rabbits get selected greenwaste including twiggy prunings and things like couch grass and dandelion roots because they transform them into manure without the danger of spreading weeds further.
Chickens get the kitchen scraps and bulk greenwaste especially that with seeds or flowers about to seed. They eat some, kick around the other bits and mix it all with chicken manure and straw. Perfect compost making ingredients.
Silverbeet, what silverbeet?
Worm farms get some kitchen scraps – things like bulk apple cores and skins from bottling, or overgrown zucchinis that the chickens will just kick around. Rabbit manure is also a favourite ingredient to the worm farm mix.

Worms at work
- Compost area with multiple bins. We are now up to 7 I think. 4 regular ones, and 3 tumblers. The favourite tumbler is the one in this photo below.
Compost corner
Seed raising
- heat mat in laundry – don’t use this as much as I used to, since Chris started Hobart Kitchen Gardens and sells wonderfully healthy and interesting seedlings at the FarmGate Market.
- greenhouse for young plants and tomato race contenders. This greenhouse is tucked in under the back stairs and enclosed with laserlite. When we had the stairs built, this space underneath was perfect for a short person!

A few too many tomatos
- soil blockers for seed planting.
Planting 2 October

It’s all about maximising the return of investment of time and energy. For example, the compost is just outside the chook shed. The wheelbarrow can fit in the chook shed door, and the chooks kick and scratch the greenwaste and straw downhill. We can go to the greenhouse easily off the deck – so we can pick herbs in our socks if needed. When the aquaponics are up and running the growbed will be in the greenhouse, making this even better.

Aquaponics – the plan

It feels a bit odd to be writing a blog post here because I normally let Kirsty do all the Cato Garden blogging.  Last winter I started to think about an aquaponics setup.  The idea of growing our protein and the tech and science got me interested.  But there was something about the complexity of farmed fish in Tasmania which put me off and the idea of more daily work put me off as well.  Watching the Urban Permaculture DVD I was inspired again this time in a different way.  Focusing first in the idea of having water and fish in the garden and the aesthetics of that. Also instead of trying to grow fish to eat we are going to start with Goldfish.

Here is a rough plan of what we are going to do at this stage.
Aquaponics plan

1st stage.  

The 1st stage is a 150 litre fish pond with Goldfish and a small 50 litre grow bed in the our existing green house under the back stairs.  It’s a simple system where the grow bed should drain directly into the pond.  We don’t have any outdoor powerpoints so the plan is to run it off 12v.  This does make it more complex.

Ideas for later are:

  • Running it 100% off grid with a solar panel
  • Hooking up a Raspberry PI to monitor and control the system remotely
  • Automatic feeding
  • Some vertical grow beds against a north facing brick wall.  Kirsty is worried we will cook the plants during the summer.  Perfect for winter though.

We have already sorted out the bell siphon and Zac has dug the hole for the pond.  I’ve cleared Petty St’s workshop of 12v pumps and Dad being a plumber is making this a lot easier and I think he solved about half of the problems.  The downside of the 12v pump is they seem to be only able to lift the water about 90cm but that should be OK for us and they only use 1 AMP when they are running.

The photos of the building process are under the tag aquaponics and I hope to write about the process as well. The 1st process post is about the bell siphon.


Hard Rubbish scavenging

The collection was a few weeks back. Down the street a house has been sold and it is being renovated. They’d put out an old steel bath. Which we carried for a bit, then rolled up the hill with steel poles underneath. Nearly killed us, but we got it up the street (uphill of course), down the slope of the nature strip and in the gate tilted on its side. Now it is home to a worm farm.

Hard Rubbish Collection Find - Fruit netting structure
We put some broken up concrete out for collection out our back gate. Also the old stairs from the deck which were well and truly dodgy.

Then our neighbours across the road added to our pile as they’d run out of space on their front entrance. Including the frame from a swinging seat. It is now a fruit netting frame for the blueberries – it was the perfect width, and already a nice faded green colour so it disappears. And it is just right height for smacking the top of your head if you don’t watch where you are going. Nice of them to carry it across the road! They must have known…

#Sew10 update

The great thing about sewing is that you can do it after dark – when it’s too late for gardening. #Sew10 has been a great project so far – each day I’ve worked on a sewing task of some kind, and I’ve been creative about fitting it into a busy week. Yesterday morning, I made a pouch for my iPad out of some scraps of felt and lairy orange elastic.

impromptu iPad pouch
Not bad for 15 minutes work.

The previous few nights I cut out a trouser pattern and started making a ‘dummy’ pair to check for fit. The test fabric was all wrong (no drape or stretch) but through comparison with my favorite purchased pair of black pants I made some adjustments to the pattern and now have something that should work.

Last night I started work on the first real pair – simple black ones for work. I had to stop working at 10.30pm as I had an early breakfast meeting today. I hope to finish them off by the end of the weekend, and start on something new.

#Sew10 and #Art10

The idea: Ten days, some attention each day to the chosen area. Sewing for me, Art for Robin.

Yesterday – my “warm up” day where I took up two pairs of trousers for Zac and made attempts to repair the gaping holes in his jeans.

thirtynine 25062011

Credit - ElliGill

Today for me – replacing the broken invisible zipper in a speckled grey skirt I had made many moons ago by one of the Diploma of Fashion students at TAFE. Each year, the Fashion area would put out the call for guinea pigs willing to have a student measure them, not stick pins in them, come back several times for fittings and at the end of the process receive a custom made garment for the cost of the fabric and notions. While I went through some time of not sewing, this was a wonderful treat to have someone do the hard work, and tackle projects I wouldn’t have done myself – fitted trousers anyone?

I still wear several of the pieces regularly – a couple of silk tops, the grey skirt under repair (only becauce I wore it out, not because of any defect in its construction), and there’s a dress with the cutest summerbund covered in ravens I look at and wish I could fit into still. After a while they didn’t offer the course anymore due to changing enrolments and courses. At the end of a recent year, I once got asked to come down and be measured by a series of students so they could practice taking measurements for different types of garments, and practice their client interactions and compare notes for accuracy.

Warning: Long story ahead, go make a cup of tea and come back if you really want to read my rambling… I won’t be offended.

Having to go into Spotlight in town used to drive me insane. Now that I allocate a good 15 minutes of the trip inside the doors to stand in a queue waiting to be served, its got a lot easier on my nerves. I put it down to understaffing – measuring and cutting fabric and advising on fabric, patterns and things like lining and interfacing is not quick if it is to be done well, and why they only have one register and eftpos terminal, when the cutting benches are set up for 4 staff, makes no sense to me. So buying fabric was not attractive. The start of the process was too painful.

Back in March when I went to Sydney I went to Lincraft with the aim of buying some fabric to make a garment while I was on long service leave. And the bug got me. One day in the meditation retreat I drew detailed pictures of the decorative shoulder of the shirt sitting in front of me. I spent a day in Newcastle and tried on some skirts which didn’t quite fit right, and thought “I could make that”. And made a deal with myself that I would. On my trip back through Sydney on the way home, I had an unplanned day (planned to be unplanned if that makes sense?) and headed out to Tessuti in Chatswood. Oh dear! Some gorgeous orange dotty skirt fabric, and some plain orange linen to be a highlight. And a remant of white shirt linen about 2 metres long. Not sure how that qualifies as a remnant but I’m not complaining!  I came home, made a dress and discovered the overlocker was so seized up from sitting in the cupboard it wouldn’t turn full stop. A little WD40 made it move enough to gnash its teeth together in nasty ways. It’s happier now a proper sewing machine mechanic has looked at it, twiddled its knobs, sharpened its teeth and straightened its spine.

Fast forward to the last few weeks.

The orange dotty fabric is now a skirt. I went into to Spotlight to get some interfacing and came out with blue fabric for a skirt and a  grey knit for a cowl neck top. And sat down on a Friday with terrible weather and sewed.

The little wooden table I scrounged off Freecycle ages ago has now had its top sanded and oiled and is officially the home of the sewing machine and overlocker.

You Sew Girl has to be the best sewing book I’ve come across in a while. Just a little bit biased because of my love for wide or cowl neck tops. I bought it for this top alone!

Trapeze Line Top from You Sew Girl Book

And #Sew10 commences…

Handmade hand soap

Last year I bought several bars of goats milk soap and noticed after a while it wasn’t having the same scratchy drying effect on my hands as normal soap. One of the blogs I read fairly regularly, Down to Earth, has included soap recipes from time to time. The soap was running out (we only use bar soap at the kitchen and bathroom sink) so I decided to make some. Just to see what it was like. No committment to make it ever again.

August 19th I made some soap using olive oil, coconut oil and caustic soda.

 One of the advantages from my perspective was that I could get all the ingredients from one of the larger local supermarkets. The instructions Rhonda provides are super useful and easy to follow. The only equipment I bought was a $10 stick mixer from Chickenfeed which survived the first batch. I’ll only use it for the soap so it is now stored in the laundry with other ingredients.

The caustic soda (lye) and water combo is very, very stinky – I mixed this on the deck and then moved back to the laundry once the fumes dissapated a bit. Mixing with the stick mixer took about 4 minutes to transform the warmed oils and the lye into a thick gloopy mix.

I used a shoebox lined wtih baking paper and some muffin trays as moulds to let it set. Being me, I managed to get some dirt on some bars when I went back to check it later in the day with muddy hands from the garden. After 24 hours I turned it out of the moulds and cut the large block up into soap sized pieces. I let it sit to cure for about 4 weeks and started using it. I used a sharp knife to tidy up the bars with speckles of garden dirt.

And it works!


Last weekend we put in the star pickets for the fruit trees in the driveway and front gardens, and this weekend finished the job. After memories of arguing with wire in past efforts I was surprised at how easy the job with the right materials, including tensioner doohickeys.


Setting up tensioner

Having squished 8 apple and pear trees across the front fence, they most definitely needed a decent espalier, and the side fence plantings also did.


We ran a string line through the middle of the star pickets to make sure that lines were straight and this is a trick we'd repeat again.


String line to check levels

On the inside of the front fence we have wooden posts so we just attached eyelets directly into them to run the wires through.
Wire tensioning
Bending over the trees to tie down to the wire was nerve wracking after my "attack" on the nashi pear left me ubercautious. But we were very pleased to be able to follow the guidance from Woodbridge Fruit Trees and we're looking forward to enjoying the  ground work we've down this winter for many years to come.

Apple tree tied down to trellis wire

In other work:

Happy Horse Manure

  • Turned compost bins (the one-week old mix of horse manure and chook shed clearings was steaming)
  • Weeded C6 and mulched with horse manure to add more organic matter in prep for summer vegies.
  • Cleared out the rabbit cage and now have a stash of lovely compost booster.
  • Admired the leaves emerging on the blueberries and the blossom on the apricots.

Blossom on the oldest Moorpark Apricot

We're debating what to do with the front of the deck.
front of the deck
We had been thinking of putting an aquaponics system there (fresh rainbow trout anyone?) and then thought in the shade near the side fence might be better, leaving the front of the deck for a combo winter cold frame/ extra summer outdoor rabbit run. We've now come full circle and it really is the best spot for the aquaponics. And through winter we can erect a greenhouse style shelter over the aquaponics growbeds to achieve the cold frame idea. But the rabbits enjoyed their time out this weekend so much I'm wondering about more space for them to run around without having to be with them all the time.



Catch Up Post

In reverse order:

Current state of play in the garden

  • Eating more carrots. Two full circles would be a generous amount for next winter.
  • Silliest carrot so far

  • Apricot and Peach buds are swelling on the trees
  • Apricots in bud

  • Baby chicks are ready to move into the big shed but I want a fine day so they have lots of space to figure out pecking order etc
  • Jet, Salt, Pepper, Black Witch

  • Clover is growing really well – the first planting from about 3 months ago has proper clover leaves (the three together measure about a centimetre across), and the batch I planted 3-4 weeks ago is up and green.
  • Salad box gave us a week of spinach for lunches. It started noticeable growing when the day length stretched out in the past ten days.
  • We are now getting more than the magic ten hours of day light for plant growth. Shame the drizzle diffuses most of it.

This weekend:

  1. Chatted to the seedlings in the greenhouse. They say they like having the shelter from poxy late winter weather.
  2. Seeds in Soil Blocks
    Transplanted mesclun seedlings

  3. Collected two more eggs on Sunday, another hen has started laying as we got two of different colours. Finally!
  4. First eggs for late winter 2011

  5. Promised all the animals I would clean out their cages next week and added another layer of bedding on top.
  6. Dutchy and Nutmeg

  7. Hid inside out of the rain.

Last Weekend

  1. Tasted exquisite pinot at the Tasmanian Pinot Showcase in Launceston.
  2. Sprayed the back garden & driveway fruit trees with a white oil/ copper spray.
  3. Planted Chilliwack raspberries for autumn fruiting at the top of the side fence.
  4. Chilliwack raspberries on side fence

  5. Pruned and tied up the rest of the raspberries, rolled more carpet underlay through the middle as path material.

Weekend before that [ ie I think this was the weekend ...]:

Milly sunning herself on the worm farm in the greenhouse

  1. Planted 2 Mary Washington and 3 unnamed Asparagus into pots while I wait for the ground to dry out where they are going
  2. Played with Used my new soil blockers and transplanted rocket and lettuce seedlings into 5cm blocks, and planted seed in tiny ones.
  3. Soil blocks
    Mini Soil Blocker

Garlic through the garden

Garlic in C4 Garlic in C3 Garlic in C2 Garlic in C2

What CatoGardenFarm means to me

It means being able to have some of the best fruit and veg I ever expect to eat.

It means a certain security – when I was working on a contract basis and knew there would be a break in my pay over summer we planned and planted a generous vegie garden and ate so well it was luxury.

It means a connection to the earth that comes from sitting and observing, of learning the patterns as they emerge and change from season to season.

It means a place of life, a greeting from the animals as I open the back door and an invitation to spend a while with them.

It means a place I can make decisions and plans, and then work with what the weather brings.

It is a place for the whole family – each in their own way.

It means joy in seeing a seed germinate and grow into a thing of beauty.

It means a pleasure from hard physical work and a happy tiredness at the end of a long day’s labour.

It means experimentation and play and wondering ‘what would happen if…?’ and then finding out!

It means generosity and sharing as there are only so many lemons one household needs.

It means learning and patience and pleasure and excitement.

It means the world.