Would you like to know more about Permaculture?

Hello Dear Reader,

I was asked by a reader to list the names of the books recommended by Morag Gamble from the "Introduction to Permaculture" course I did last weekend. It was held at Northey Street City Farm and was a lovely experience, it consolidated what I already knew about permaculture. As I mentioned, the most important fact that I took away from this little course was the art of composting, we have all heard of it but up until now I haven't done anything about it. I am hunting through Gumtree to find a good second hand one to start my composting adventure.

Morag Gamble, who ran the course, mentioned these three books as being very relevant, beautifully written with lovely photos and diagrams. 

Earth Users Guide to Permaculture 
by Rosemary Morrow

Front Cover

Permaculture is a way to repair and restore the Earth by analysis and design and can be practised by everyone. In this fully revised and expanded edition, Rosemary Morrow brings us up to date with our need to measure, monitor and reduce our ecological footprint. This book is a manual of practical permaculture. Included are extra chapters on seedsaving, permaculture at work, integrated pest management, and more about domestic as well as rural water usage and a non-destructive approach towards weeds and wildlife. Rob Allsop's simple and clear illustrations continue to support Rosemary's writing with their wamth and accessibility.

Smart Permaculture Design by Jenny Allen

Front Cover

This compelling book brings a new perspective to how we might look at our gardens. It focuses on the life of just one garden, dreamt up and designed by author Jenny Allen. In her quest to make a garden of pure pleasure, she followed the practices of permaculture, an organic method of gardening based on using nature's solutions to achieve abundance. This practice releases the gardener from much of the drudgery of repetitive tasks, leaving more time for relaxing and basking in the garden's fruitfulness and beauty. Using observation, planning and design as the cornerstones, she takes the reader into her garden and, with her light and quirky style and wit, she gently leads us into the principles of permaculture. Her hand-drawn plans and designs guide us and the sumptuous photographs bear witness to the unfolding dream. The smart lateral thinking that underscores permaculture can be used by anyone and for any garden. 'Smart permaculture design' show a garden can be so much more than just a collection of plants. It can feed, entertain, delight, amuse, soothe, and fascinate you. This practical and immensely thoughtful reference is also an inspirational armchair read; it will uplift you and carry you away." 

Practical Permaculture
by Jessi Bloom and Dave Boehnlein

Front Cover

The idea behind permaculture is simple: take care of the earth, and the earth will take care of you. In clear, logical steps, Practical Permaculture offers the tools you need to live a life rich in healthy food, safe housing, and renewable resources. This hardworking book covers the basic principles of permaculture, showing the entire design process from land assessment to the completed master plan, with detailed information on the plants, water, waste, energy, shelter, food, animals, and structures that make up the garden. Filled with real-life examples from all over the world, this invaluable resource will help you turn your property into a sustainable ecosystem.

Don't they all sound wonderful, I want to read them all

PS. I did not write the reviews 

Beef and Red wine casserole with Parsley and Olive Dumplings

Hello Dear Reader,

I had the absolute pleasure of attending a two day "Introduction to Permaculture" last weekend. It was held at Northy Street City Farm and lead by Morag Gamble of "Our Permaculture Life" blog.

 And, as I like to organised, dinner wise, I popped this delicious casserole in the slow cooker before I left on Sunday morning and finished it off when I got home. The little dumplings, on top, are so fluffy and light and perfect for mopping up the red wine infused gravy. It was so lovely to come home to and dinner was on the table within an hour of being home. I was a little late getting home as I missed the 4 pm bus and had to wait for the 5 pm one, but that was okay as I knew there was little to do for dinner.

When I eventually did get home, I just made the dough for the dumplings, popped the casserole in a dish and topped it with the dumpling dough and put it in the oven for 20 minutes, while that was cooking I cut up the broccolini to go with dinner and took my mother in laws dogs for a very quick walk up the road and back. We were sitting down eating by 7 o'clock and I was asleep by 8.30pm. Completely exhausted but thrilled with the weekend I had experienced.

Yet again my slow cooker came to my rescue and made dinner easy.

Ingredients for Beef and Red Wine Casserole with Parsley and Olive Dumplings
Cut meat into chunks
Dust with flour
Heat oil and butter in a heavy based frypan and brown meat on both sides
Put browned meat into slow cooker bowl
Roughly cut up onion and carrots. Grate garlic 
In the same frypan you cooked the meat in, heat some more oil and butter on medium heat. Add onions, carrots and garlic and sauté for 3 to 5 minutes
Add stock, tomato paste and red wine and bring to a simmer, simmer for 5 minutes
Add veggie mixture to browned meat in the slow cooker bowl, cook for 6-8 hours on low setting, giving it a good stir every 2 to 3 hours
After you have made the dumpling dough, place casserole into serving dish
Top casserole with spoonfuls of dumpling dough
Pop into a preheated 160 C oven and cook for 20 minutes or until dumplings are golden brown

Parsley and Olive Dumplings

Ingredients for Parsley and Olive Dumplings
In a bowl, add the flour and rub in the butter. I cut it in with a butter knife. I got carried away and started to add the chopped parsley. You add the other ingredients after you rub in the butter to the flour
Now add chopped parsley, chopped olives, egg and grated cheese
Stir with knife to combine
Add enough milk to make a dough
Spoon dough onto top of casserole
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown
The dumplings are so fluffy and light and perfect for mopping up the red wine infused sauce

Ingredients for Casserole

1 kg beef chuck. cut into large chunks

2 tablespoons plain flour

Oil and butter for browning the meat

2 medium onion, roughly chopped

2 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane

2 carrots, roughly chopped

1 cup of red wine, what ever is going 

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 cups beef stock (I use Massel stock cubes)

4 sprigs fresh Thyme

Parsley and Olive Dumplings

1 cup SR flour

50 grams cold butter, cubed

1 egg

1/4 cup each of grated parmesan cheese, deseeded and chopped kalamata olives and chopped parsley

1/4 cup milk, you won't need all of it

Method for Casserole

Coat meat in flour, shake off excess, heat oil and butter and brown in a heavy based frypan. Put browned meat in the bowl of a slow cooker

In the same frypan, sauté onions, garlic and carrots, add tomato paste, red wine and stock, bring to the boil then add this red wine mixture to the meat in the slow cooker bowl

Cook for 6-8 hours on low, giving it a good stir every 2-3 hours

When the casserole is almost ready, make the dumpling dough

Place flour and butter in a bowl, rub or cut in the butter. Add parsley, olives, parmesan and egg and using a knife give it a good stir, now add enough of the milk to make a soft, sticky dough

Transfer the casserole to a serving dish and drop smallish tablespoons of dumpling dough on top of the casserole, they will expand so leave a bit of a room around each dumpling. Pop into a preheated oven (160 C) for 20 minutes or until the dumplings are plump and golden brown

Another fantastic slow cooker meal that makes you look like a super star. This dish is perfect for cold winter nights. It is hearty and full of flavour.

So, tell me, what is your favourite slow cooker meal?


Easy beef Ragu with easy oven baked polenta

Hello Dear Reader

We had this delicious, warming meal on a weeknight but I think it could be improved with some longer, slower cooking. Don't get me wrong, it was still lovely, but like all food, cooked longer, it would be richer in flavour. Because I used beef mince it cooked really quickly and is ideal as a weeknight meal alternative to Spag Bol.

Ingredients for Easy Beef Ragu
Chop onion and slice garlic
Heat butter and oil  in a heavy based frypan
Sauté onion and garlic until soft, don't let it colour
Add capsicum and zucchini
Again, sauté until veggies have softened 
Push veggies to one side of the frypan and add mince, breaking it up and browning it
Once mince is browned and almost cooked through, incorporate it into the veggies
Mix well
Add pasata and water and mix well
Finely chop the herbs
Add the olives and the herbs to the Ragu
Let bubble away for 40 minutes or longer if you have time
Once you are happy with the thickness of the sauce, add washed and drained spinach, pop a lid on the frypan and let the spinach wilt and cook
Mix cooked spinach through the Ragu
Serve with any carb of your choice, I used oven baked Polenta

500 grams lean beef mince

1 1/2 cup tomato passata

1 onion, roughly chopped

3 cloves of garlic, sliced

1 red capsicum, roughly chopped

1 zucchini, cut into chunky quarters

1/2 cup water

12 kalamata olives

A small handful of basil and parsley, finely chopped

1 bunch of spinach, washed  thoroughly, drained and roughly chopped


In a heavy based frypan, sauté the onion and garlic until softened, don't let it colour

Add capsicum and zucchini and sauté

Move veggies to one side of the frypan and add the beef mince, breaking up and cooking the mince, once cooked, incorporate the veggies and the cooked mince

Add tomato pasata, olives, herbs and the 1/2 cup of water, mix well, turn heat down to medium-low and let bubble away for 40 minutes or more if you can. Once it is thickened and reduced put in the washed and drained spinach, put lid on frypan and let the spinach wilt and cook. Stir the cooked spinach through the Ragu

I served it with oven baked Polenta, but it would be lovely with pasta or mashed potato or sweet potato

So, tell me, what is your best easy weeknight recipe, using mince?


My Secret Obsession

Hello Dear Reader,

Now before you read any further, I am totally fine with this obsession and, no I don't need and intervention, thanks anyway. My secret obsession is...collecting really good glass jars. I just can't walk past a good glass jar, large or small!

 Now for as long as I remember I have collected glass jars, I am quite fussy though, the label needs to be one that I can remove easily and there can be no smell attached to the jar, either in the jar itself or the lid. Ideally the jar needs to have a wide mouth and be cylindrical in shape for easy filling and cleaning. I have collected a few fancy shaped ones but find I don't use these as they are not practical.
My collection of glass jars at the moment, some bought, but most collected from op shops and recycled glass jars we have bought with produce in,  such as Dijon mustard and Pasta sauce. 
All my dry produce are kept in clear glass jars or containers
Some lids just won't let go of an odour, even after several washed in the Dishwasher, so these odorous ones are kept for pickles and chutneys. I have two wonderful, proper clip lock, sealing jars, that once had Anchovies in them, it is amazing to me that that smell didn't linger! I use these jars for my home made peanut butter as it is the perfect size and shape.

This old Anchovy jar is now a Peanut Butter jar, no lingering odour, thank heavens
So, tell me, is it just me? Does anyone else have this kind of obsession?


This weeks 5 Frugal things on a Friday OR 4 Frugal things and 1 really, really not, frugal thing on a Friday

Hello Dear Reader,

Okay, lets get the really, really NOT frugal thing over with first. I did an Introduction to Permaculture at Northy Street City Farm, on the weekend (not the un-frugal thing) and on the Sunday they have Queensland's largest organic open air market in their car park. I thought I would have a really quick look through the fruit and veg before the course started.

Now, this market is huge and I only got a glimpse of it, it looked really interesting and I am sure there would have been more than the one fruit and veggie market to maybe compare prices. Anyway I knew I wanted some red paw paws, as the ones we have been buying for the last two week at ALDI have been woeful (going off before they even ripen, so, going off, but still green = YUK)

 I quickly selected 2 smallish Red Paw Paws and 5 Mandarins (I was so excited to see the puffy skin variety as these are usually super sweet and juicy) all the time being jostled along by people carrying armloads, baskets and shopping trollies full of beautiful fresh produce.

There were probably 5 checkouts with very quick and efficient attendants tallying up the fruit and veg   for all the patrons, when it was my turn, the amount the lovely girl stated, almost made me fall over. "Thats $19.70" I said to her in my stupor "it's lucky I have just enough" I wasn't kidding, I only had a $20 note in my wallet. Now normally I don't carry any money, at all, but hubby had kindly put in $20.00 the day before as I was travelling into Brisbane both days for the course.

The price for the produce is clearly marked but I guess in my rush I didn't mentally tally up the produce. I felt like a complete idiot. Now I am not saying that organic produce isn't amazing, its just an amazing price. I understand that to produce a certified organic product costs big mega bucks, but I thought what I paid was outrageous. I don't know how people could afford to buy huge quantities of this organic fruit and veg, good on them if they can justify it, I can't. So there you have it, 1 un-frugal thing, now on with the Frugal stuff

The Red Paw Paws had better be amazing, they are still ripening, the mandarins have been quite dry, which is so disappointing

1. Line dried all the washing. The days are getting much shorter and the cold moist air is starting to come on about 4.30 to 5pm. So as long as the washing is off by then, I have very dry clothes

2. Made a loaf of light rye bread

3. I participated in a 2 day Introduction to Permaculture at Northy Street City Farm. I think that sustainable gardening and being frugal go hand in hand. I so enjoyed this course and I learned so much. It was lead by Morag Gamble, she is living and breathing a Permaculture life and you can find her blog here. Morag has been involved with this garden (Northy Street City Farm) since its inception, 20 years ago.

All the trellis supports are made from bamboo which is grown at the farm
All the veggies and herbs are grown in raised garden beds for ease of planting and picking

The gardens are so lovely and well set out, there is a grassed area where families gather on the weekend. It's a wonderful playground for kids

More raised garden beds
Making a wicking bed, the next day we planted seed potato's and lettuce seedlings. The lettuce will be well and truly finished by the time the potato's are ready to be picked

Making  a worm farm out of a broccoli box

Morag and I 
4. Made a cake to take to work for "Australia's biggest morning tea" raising money for Cancer Council Australia. I made my Almond, Cinnamon and Walnut Cake the recipe is here.

So, tell me, what were you frugal or free accomplishments this week?
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