Sunday, 20 August 2017

Good Food: Good Life: My recipe for simple eggy bake straight from the garden.

'Eggy bake' is a common meal in our house and one of our all time favourites - named by the kids. Mostly it's just abundant greens from the garden and eggs from their chickens.

Eggy bake - this version with grated cheese on top from local cheesery. Typically we eat it plain. Rarely we have leftovers.

Another household favourite is pumpkin soup (veggie soup really) using all freshly harvested vegetables - pumpkin, choko, potato, herbs, turmeric, ginger, garlic chives, mustard spinach and many other veggies and greens we find.

I think our 4yo will discover one day that usually pumpkin soup is orange, not green, but both these meals are great ways to get him to enjoy lots of freshly-plucked organic greens.

Weeping rosemary hanging over the terrace wall gets plucked for most meals. 
Anyway, I started typing up a recipe for the book I am working on, The Good Life Guide, and realised that this meal was far more than the recipe could communicate. A simplicity of just listing the recipe ingredients and steps seemed somehow to diminish the inherent qualities of the food.

Tulsi leaves and seeds also end up in most salads, soups, curries and bakes.

 For me it is the rich tapestry of connections that are cultivated through this food that brings it's true quality to light - the connections with the seasons, with our local environment, with the soil, with neighbours, with friends, with each other in our family, with our play, with our home education, and our workplace.

Garlic chives and their flowers have an amazingly powerful garlic flavour.
Here is my first attempt to describe the eggy-bake process...

  1. Send the kids up to collect the eggs from the chook house we built using timber our neighbour harvested in his woodlot and a gift of reclaimed iron sheeting. We have an eclectic mix of rare breed chickens that the children look after. The eggs are all different shapes and sizes - but all have superbly orange yolks because they free range often.

  1. Wander around the garden with a handmade basket collecting a wonderful array of herbs, flowers and leafy greens (and purples). I take a leaf from this and a leaf from that so I don’t harm the plant, and can come back again day after day for more. It's a peaceful way to garden and harvest.

    I collect things like soft pumpkin leaves and shoots, sweet potato leaves and shoots, mustard spinach, any brassica flowers and soft flower stalks, many varieties of kale, welsh onion leaves, the bolting shoots from coriander/cilantro, tulsi leaves, garlic chives and garlic chive flowers, Brazilian spinach ...there’s so many things to collect, even pea leaves, bean leaves, beetroot leaves, young chia leaves, young amaranth leaves, weeds - chickweed, dandelion leaves. The more diverse the selection, the more diverse the nutrients in the food.
    The magnificent red mustard spinach is making it's way into every meal in these cooler months.
    I love this time in the garden, watching the birds, noticing things - new shoots on trees, self-seeding veggies, subtle changes and simple beauty. I think about what I can add to the garden to increase the diversity or adapt to the changing season.
    Brassica flowers are a wonderful treat. I often snack on them in the garden.

    I notice where I need to add some more compost or mulch. The compost is made from the chicken bedding, and the
    Azolla we harvested by hand from the lake. The mulch is often chop and drop materials, but we do also go and pick up some local bales of grass straw that another neighbour orders in bulk for us all to use. The kids love to ride in the trailer with the bales slowly back along the little internal road within the ecovillage with the wind in their hair, singing in the breeze,  watching for hawks and kangaroos.

    I could ask the kids to harvest the greens too because they know where all the great greens are at any moment - the garden is their playground - and sometimes I do, but I just love this time in the garden pottering for a few minutes.

There's always a surprise somewhere in the garden.

  1. Ask my children to whiz it all together in the food processor with a bit of fresh milk from the neighbour and handmade ricotta from another neighbour.

  1. Cook it in a solar cooker (for a lunchtime meal) or solar-powered electric oven (for dinner).

  1. Duck out to the garden again just before the eggy bake is ready and collect some salad greens. I like to wrap little bits of eggy bake in a leaf.
    Fresh mixed salad with self-seeding tomatoes and lots of perennial greens, edible weeds and edible flowers.

  2. Sometimes I go the extra bit and drizzle a salad with a homemade dressing - shaking together a little organic olive oil made just down the valley (sourced from the local organic food store), with some homemade kombucha vinegar (using a SKOBY dropped off by a neighbour, a chopped up garlic clove hand-delivered from a friend in Tasmania (traded for limes), and some herbs and spices from the garden like rosemary, oregano, thyme, or chilli, ginger and lemongrass. Even simpler, I grab a lime, lemon or grapefruit and squeeze it over the salad. Delicious just like that!

    Fresh greens, snowpeas. tomatoes, citrus and garlic

  3. Ask the children to set the table. Often they gather a little posy of edible flowers and lemon myrtle leaves and make a beautiful arrangement.
  4. Sit down together and enjoy, discussing the particular flavours and textures that we like in today’s version. You see, they are always different - and that’s the beauty of it too. 

It sounds quite complicated, but really it’s ultimately simple. All the ingredients are all just here around us, it’s seasonal, it connects us with our neighbours and friends, and our local environment,  we all help to make it happen, we all enjoy it immensely because of the heart and soul that we know has gone into every part.  And, from start to finish, cooking from scratch, it usually takes us around 30 minutes to prepare and cook as long as we keep it thin in the glass cooking trays.

Brazilian Spinach has leaves all year round for harvest.
This is slow food, but it's not slow, quite rapid actually. With three children - two of them boys with huge appetites - preparing good food quickly seems to be the best approach, as well as getting them involved in the process.

Keep in mind too that I typically garden for about 10 minutes a day to maintain this garden - not a huge commitment, but an enormous benefit to our health and to the education of my children.

Some other reasons I love this way of cooking:
  • this is community food
  • it's package free - the natural packaging of the eggs go back to the soil. The milk comes in re-used bottles.
  • it's part of nutrient cycles in the garden and is waste-free
  • it is so satisfying and just makes me smile so deeply when I sit down to share this meal

What's a simple meal you cook from scratch? 
What does it mean to you?

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Slow down and shop sustainably

What you buy, and what you don't buy, can have enormously positive impacts for people, for animals, for diversity, for the planet and local communities and economies.

Australia has a huge consumer appetite, one of the biggest of all countries. We are what the ACF calls, ecological 'bigfoots'.

That we care to make a change is important. It's what makes a difference. We can no longer turn a blind eye to the environmental impact of our consumer culture, and also the devastating impact it is having on the wellbeing of the poorest people on earth. We are all connected and what we do matters.

You can listen to my latest Simple Life Segment on ABC radio for a discussion about these issues and accessible ways to rethink we buy things - all things really! Every Tuesday night I chat with Trevor Jackson, Evening Show host, at around 9:30pm. I hope you can tune in.

It's not easy, but it's possible to find alternatives. It is empowering - taking back control of what we use in our daily lives, to meet the needs of our family and in our workplaces.

It would be great to hear where you think change can be made, and ways you've been able to make changes in your consumption patterns.

Growing and sourcing fresh seasonal food from local sustainable sources is a great way to be an ecoconsumer.

Here's a few references that I thought might be useful, just a small selection:

What other great resources do you know of and use to help you change your buying patterns?

Choose natural, sustainably grown and compostable fibres. 

Thank you to my network of supporters!

If have enjoyed my blog and youtube channel, you may like to consider becoming my patron too. I think of it like a subscription to a magazine you like - but this one is online. From $1/month, you can be part of my the Our Permaculture Life supporter network. Click here to find out more:

Subscribe to Morag Gamble's Newsletter

Sustainable Fashion: stand up for something good.

What does it take to have a sustainable wardrobe? What is fast fashion and why do we need to reconsider this trend of consumable, disposable clothes? Every single item comes with a cost. What can we do differently? What are the things you need to consider? What are the principles of sustainable fashion?

Listen in here ( to my Simple Life segment on the Evening Show: ABC Radio Queensland from 8 August where host, Trevor Jackson, and I chat about Sustainable Fashion.

Join the growing movement of people and be part of change for good.

Try these figures on for size....
  • 25% of pesticides are used in the production of non-organic clothing
  • A simple t-shirt can cost less than a cup of coffee but uses 2700L of drinking water (enough for one person/yr)
  • 95% of all clothing thrown away could have been recycled. 
  • 0ver 30% of clothes donated to charities ends up in landfill. Only 3-4% ends back in their shops. Most of it gets sent overseas.
  • 2/3rds of the clothes worn around the world are synthetic, made of petrochemicals and shedding micrplastics
  • Australians throw away enough clothes each year to completely fill an enormous football stadium twice over!

Stand up for something good. Choose clothing well ...

consider clothing 'end of life'

Choose compostable clothing (cotton, linen, silk, help, wool) or fibres that can be recovered (eg: Cradle to Cradle   I wouldn't try to compost dry-cleaned clothes as they are too toxic - mmm, probably avoid wearing them too then.

are they good to wear many times?

Unfortunately, clothing items are only worn 7 times on average before they are discarded. Select things that are durable, of high quality, and can be worn often.  Often things fall apart or start to 'pill' quite badly after just a couple of wears.

is it adjustable?

I love clothes that can be altered. This is great for kids. Make a few darts here and there on bigger sizes, then they can get more wears as they grow into it. For me, I like adjustable clothing because my shape never seems to stay the same from one week to the next and it's good to have that flexibility - this is why I love sarongs and wrap skirts.

is it mendable?

Choose things that can be fixed - fabric and styles that allow mending.

is it ethically produced?

Choose clothing that has not caused pain and suffering by the person and community that made it, nor should it harm animals in making. The fashion industry is one of the most lucrative industries, but also a most polluting and wasteful industry emitting lots of greenhouse gases. It is also a most unfair and unethical industry. You might want to take a look at the Good on You app to get the lowdown on brands of clothing

is it environmentally responsible?

Many of the poorer communities where clothes are made, know what the latest colour will be because that is the colour of their rivers due to contamination  due to unmanaged production processes. So many environmental impacts are caused by the unregulated textile industry in many parts of the world.

is it organic?

Clothing made from organic clothing is better for your skin, for the makers and for the environment. Organic clothing aims to protect soil, natural habitats and biodiversity, and increase water efficiency as well as taking chemicals out of the production cycle.

is it pre-loved?

Getting a new item of clothing doesn't mean it can't have been pre-loved. You can often find some quite wonderful pieces. Swap. Share. Join Buy Nothing Groups. Shop at charity stores.

does it support others?

Consider whether your clothes are supporting others through fair trade practices, charities...

stop and think

Do I need it?? Every single item comes with a cost. Choose to care. Ask "What impact do the clothes I'm wearing have on my health, my family's health, on planetary health and the on the people who made them?

Here's a simple checklist

  1. wear things lots
  2. renew, reuse, upcycle
  3. repurpose
  4. donate
  5. recycle - last. Only 0.1% of clothes sent to recycling come back as clothes. Disappointingly, most clothes brought to recycling centres are down-cycled, not recycled, and are used in things like insulation. 
  6. throw away - never
One of the things I love to do is sew my own clothes using retro fabrics, redesigning old clothes or sourcing organic natural textiles to work with. I've haven't yet learnt to knit or crochet well enough to make clothes but I'm in awe of those that do.  

Making your clothes is more than a 'nice' thing to do (which it is) - you can design things that really suit and create your own unique style - but you are also doing something really positive and practical through non-participation in the fast fashion industry.

read more: 

Action Aid:

Thank you to my network of supporters!

If have enjoyed my blog and youtube channel, you may like to consider becoming my patron too. I think of it like a subscription to a magazine you like - but this one is online. From $1/month, you can be part of my the Our Permaculture Life supporter network. Click here to find out more:

Subscribe to Morag Gamble's Newsletter

Monday, 14 August 2017

8 ways to use lemongrass

Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus) grows abundantly in my subtropical permaculture garden, a productive polyculture. It is such a useful multi-functional perennial.

When it's time to propagate lemongrass soon, I will make another film showing how to divide a clump and create a living swale using it. 

Before I had terraces in my vegetable garden, I used lemongrass as an edge to hold mulch and compost on the slope. It was a very effective and quick way to start a vegetable garden without a lot of cost and infrastructure.

Watch my latest YouTube clip about the many ways I use lemongrass in my permaculture garden.

Thank you to my network of supporters!

If have enjoyed my blog and youtube channel, you may like to consider becoming my patron too. I think of it like a subscription to a magazine you like - but this one is online. From $1/month, you can be part of my the Our Permaculture Life supporter network. Click here to find out more:

Subscribe to Morag Gamble's Newsletter

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Permaculture thinking skills for teenagers

Permaculture thinking and skills are what the next generation need. Mentoring young people in applied systems thinking, practical skills for resilience, and collaborative design processes is the core of my work.

My goal is to inspire, show that another way is possible, bring hope and encourage them to say "Yes - that's what I want to be part of!"

I cannot imagine anything more important that I would rather be doing.

We've had 150 students in our garden and village this week. The feedback from them, their teachers and parents has been just fantastic.

Here's my reflection (my youtube link), and I've included some comments from teachers and students below:

Here's some feedback from the teachers....

Hi Morag and Evan 
That was the most awesome camp ever! How rewarding must it be that you can finally do the whole camp with all your own achievements having a totally self sufficient education program. 
The students so enjoy your patience and passion and how you all embody the true permaculture life style. 
Thank you once again - it was awesome.

Hi Morag and Evan,  
Thank you both so much for the breadth of your lessons last week. I just loved being part of the two days with looking at the wholistic part that people play in the world. Your sustainable life, practical tips, creative problem solving task, mindfulness and putting it all in perspective the time humans have been on Earth gave such a wonderful picture to me and the students involved. Your calmness when teaching teenagers was noted and you both deserve a medal for remaining so positive.  
You inspired me, even in my very small urban plot, to start a no dig garden which I created on the weekend. Also Jottie has shown her class “The war on waste” which hopefully will add to the impact of last weeks excursion on the decisions they will make in their lives.  
I hope our paths meet again.
And direct email from students too...
Hello Morag, Evan and the kids, 
I was part of the class that attended your place last week for our geography camp.
I wanted to say a massive thank you and let you know how much I appreciate all of the effort and time you put towards teaching us about permaculture and your lives. 
I really felt I learnt something from my few days with you all and just wanted to let you know, even if a few days late. 

And a student from a few years ago just wrote to say:
Coming to your home was one of my favourite experiences at school!!

You can listen to my radio segment recorded from ABC Radio Queensland (612ABC) on Tuesday 1 August about permaculture for the next generation (click link below). The school camp group had just arrived and I was gearing up for a wonderful 3 days with them.

Perhaps you have a group of students you'd like to bring here too? We welcome all ages.

Morag's workshops coming soon


COMING SOON! Permaculture Essentials Online Course

At last, my online introduction to permaculture course is almost here. Subscribe to my newsletter to receive news and first access to this course as soon as it is released. Newsletter subscribers will receive a special offer for this program.

Thank you to my network of supporters!

If have enjoyed my blog and youtube channel, you may like to consider becoming my patron too. I think of it like a subscription to a magazine you like - but this one is online. From $1/month, you can be part of my the Our Permaculture Life supporter network. Click here to find out more:

Subscribe to Morag Gamble's Newsletter

3 simple uses for Calendula leaves

I love calendula (Calendula officinalis). I look forward to it colouring my garden every year with it's gorgeous flowers. It only stays for a while, then it gets too hot here in the subtropics. I have coloured my house walls with orange and yellow of the blooms. Their colour is so uplifting.

But, what can you do with the leaves while you are waiting for those beautiful calendula flowers to bloom?

1. Salad

I had a little nibble of the leaves today as I was gardening. They go really well mixed into a salad. 

2. Cooked Green

A common name for calendula is pot marigold, because people used to throw the the leaves in the cooking pot as a spinach alternative. Another winter green for me for when my subtropical summer leaves have retreated - sweet potatoes, Brazilian spinach ...

3. Poultice

Did you know that the leaves can also be made into a poultice? This is good for speeding up the healing of scratches and little cuts - perfect for the kids when they have a tumble in the garden.... let them know "go and grab a calendula leaf, crush it and gently rub it on".  Mine are planted close to where little Monty is learning to ride his bike.

How do you use calendula leaves?

Final workshops in Morag's garden for 2017...


Thank you to my network of supporters!

If have enjoyed my blog and youtube channel, you may like to consider becoming my patron too. I think of it like a subscription to a magazine you like - but this one is online. From $1/month, you can be part of my the Our Permaculture Life supporter network. Click here to find out more:

Subscribe to Morag Gamble's Newsletter