Before I get to the real story here let me say one thing. It’s the little wins in gardening, that often give you the greatest kick, & inspire you to do more.
From my experience, you don’t always have to be super motivated at the start, or consistent through unavoidable changes to your time. Little wins come as you try. They will develop your patience and inspire consistent effort, to try out new and bigger things in your garden. In turn, You and your garden, will become more resilient to seasonal conditions, weather, pest problems, uncooperative humans & wildlife, to name a few.
Since 1992 I’ve separated 50 kilogram extra, of pure red wriggler compost worms from my worm farms, to start other worm farms breeding in my garden. That is from no special effort, except feeding them on kitchen and garden scraps (plant based only) in enclosed vermin resistant systems I designed. For more information see My Worm Farm Design links below.
I have dug separated worm castings into my soil, probably into many hundreds of kilos by now. I wish I knew the real figure. But in my haste to improve and condition new native soil garden beds in my younger years (I’m 52 now and started this garden from scratch at 23) I didn’t record these details. But like Manuel in Fawlty Towers…’I learn Mr Fawlty..I learn.’
Currently I separate at least 20 kilos of worm castings from my worm farms, AND 3 kilos of extra worms, per year. Time required: Low…I have just 10 hours total on average per week to spend in/on my garden (I mow my lawns, sow, plant, prune, tidy, harvest, tend to all composts in that time, myself).
I will go into how I harvest, store and use worm castings in Part 2 of this post..TBA.
I will say all those kilos of worm castings I produced, though separated, contained compost worm eggs. The newly hatched compost worms have ‘lived rough’ on the sheet mulching I regularly apply on my native soil garden beds, breaking it down into …black gold. Tons of beautiful soil I could never have achieved for this large garden and didn’t have the funds to buy in. The worms and I have created this lovely topsoil together. But the garden has weathered several droughts and hot summers including last years ‘once in one hundred years ‘ drought. Many of those worms have died in the process and, my soils after all this time are definitely not perfect. So all soil continues as a work in progress.
Those that survive ‘living rough’ have spawned little descendant compost colonies dotted all over my garden – because I don’t use chemicals or manures. I have found red wrigglers and earthworms to be perfect companions. They work on breaking down surface mulch like grass & leaf clippings. The earthworms plough the deeper clay soil below. Work I wouldn’t and shouldn’t do much of, myself.
But why did I say no manures? It’s my more recent measure, and it’s hard to sustain the kind of beautiful soil organic manures give. But sadly, many manures ‘organic’ or not, may contain traces of worming medications and antibiotics used to keep animals healthy while they live in ‘regulated’ conditions. Those worming medications may kill your garden earthworms, compost worms and soil microbes. I choose not to let manures into my garden now, so problem solved. So now you see how important my worm castings and random wildlife droppings (via ecosystems I design in) are to my soil. They are chemical and medication-free because I know what foods they’ve eaten. Part 2 will have more on this.
MY WORM FARM DESIGN
In 2014 I wrote an article about how to build your own worm farm using my fully enclosed worm farm design, for permaculturenews.com.org. You’ll find that article HERE.
I also wrote an update blog post in 2019, which you’ll find HERE
I use them now as ‘tractors’ of fertility all around my garden, not just tucked in out of the way spaces like my 2014 article photograph suggests.
I hope you can use some re-purposed materials around your home to build your own. If you buy new components, these will last you many years, so are worth the money.
Please like this article. Comment below on how you are going with your worm farms and any further ideas, comments or questions on the topic you’d like to add.
Good luck with your worm farm if you decide its for you 💚
Disclaimer: Please do your own research for your own needs and context. The author assumes no responsibility for any outcomes of anyone using this well researched and documented blog post. Enjoy your worm farms.
Parsley has to be one of the most delicious and abundant herbs in a spring kitchen garden.
This morning I had no idea I’d be harvesting a large amount of parsley, or potatoes etc. A story you’ll find on my Instagram post
I decided that with most ingredients to hand, both in the garden and pantry, a Chimichurri inspired sauce was what I would make. The fresh parsley taste at this time of year is unbeatable, and this sauce features it beautifully.
The chimichurri sauce I make uses the food processor to speed things up. I’m not Armenian, and I don’t pretend that this is anywhere near the expertise of the traditional recipe. However I am constantly looking for world cuisine inspiration, and the fresh ingredients this sauce uses from the garden is delicious. I keep the finished sauce in the fridge for about a week, and use it in a number of things.
My Chimichurri Inspired Sauce can be used as a marinade, folded through a green linguini and nut pasta, as a flavourful ingredient in a pizza base sauce, or savoury yoghurt, dips and cheeses. I’m sure you’ll think of other uses too.
The recipes I make are always based on what I have ‘to hand’. Fresh food moves directly from garden to kitchen to table where possible, in my home. So substitutions become necessary sometimes.
A traditional Chimichurri would use wine vinegar, however I use concentrated lime juice from my tree, stored in my fridge. Whereas fresh garlic is preferred for this recipe, I used dried garlic granules. You could use minced garlic or garlic paste if you have it. I used curly parsley, whereas flat parsley is traditionally used. I don’t like coriander, so I used all parsley. If you’re interested in traditional chimichurri just do an internet search using those key words.
Garden to Table
The opening pic shows all the fresh ingredients I used from my garden, which you’ll find in the recipe below. To this I added 2 tsp dried garlic granules, 1/3cup concentrated lime juice, 2/3cup extra virgin olive oil, a pinch of sea salt and a pinch of brown sugar (optional).
What I enjoy about this fridge-fixer recipe is, it involves no cooking and can be used as an ingredient in vegetarian, vegan or meat dishes.
I like to let my Chimichurri sauce ‘cure’ its flavours for a day or so before using. But you might need it in a hurry. It works either way.
Chimichurri Inspired Sauce
Makes: Approximately 1.5 cups or 1 large Jar
100 gram parsley (flat or curly)
15 gram spring onion/shallots
2 small sprigs oregano
2 very small chilli, seeds removed
2 teaspoons dried garlic granules
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/3 cup fresh lime juice
Pinch sea salt
Pinch brown sugar (optional)
Roughly chop spring onions, parsley, oregano, chilli.
Measure the olive oil and lime juice into the same measuring jug, for ease of use later
Put half the greens, chilli and garlic into the food processor, add half the lime juice & oil
Process on high till smooth.
Add the rest of the ingredients and process till smooth
Put your sauce into clean sterilised jars and store in the fridge
Use the sauce within a week
I hope you enjoy having another idea to use up your beautiful homegrown or gifted, parsley supplies.
Disclaimer… Please do your own research for your own needs and context. The author assumes no responsibility for any outcomes of anyone using this well researched and documented blog post. Enjoy making your chimichurri inspired sauce.
Back in 2014 I designed a worm farm tractor system for small spaces from readily available or up-cycled materials.
I wrote a step by step article for making my worm tractor design for permaculturenews.org and all the background information you’ll need, which you can find by clicking HERE
My design requires a garbage bin with lid (not metal-too hot for worms), a laundry basket and a bowl to fit inside. Beyond that, just the worms and your kitchen scraps.
Worm farming doesn’t have to be complicated or expensive. I have decades of experience in this and I didn’t have the budget I do now, back then.
Understandably, my design went nuts on the internet and Pinterest for a good while amongst ‘wormers’ and permaculturalists 😂 Some find the commercially available systems too expensive.
My Instagram pic shows an example of how I’m using my system 5 years on, right now.
This worm farm ‘tractor’ is one of three, feeding a cucumber and a brand new asparagus patch. The only difference is it drains directly into the garden not the bowl I included in the stand alone, or inside, design.
My experience with worm farming goes back to 1991 when part of my job as Health Information Officer was to present Living Green and Sustainability workshops/seminars to community and business groups, talks to school children who were being given a commercially available worm farm as part of the local government initiative.
Everyone can increase the fertility in their soil with things they already have on hand.
I hope this helps anyone who feels upset they don’t have the money to start improving their soil.
One of the most exciting parts of growing the beautiful ‘Golden Goddess’ Turmeric, is harvesting it!
Because turmeric root is the useful part, seeing your eventual rhizome harvest after 12 months of waiting, is very much like an ‘unboxing’.
Then of course, you need to process and preserve your turmeric.
My guess is, you already know about the amazing benefits of turmeric.
So what I’m focussing on in today’s blog is processing and preserving the rhizomes in two ways. These are not the only ways.
Pregnant or nursing mothers, children, diabetics or anyone with existing health conditions or allergies, should consult their health professional’s advice before consuming fresh or preserved turmeric.
Growing, harvesting, preserving and using your turmeric harvest is so satisfying. I highly recommend it. I hope you enjoy using your powder and paste for the many recipes and drinks these lovely turmeric products make possible 🌸
Quick Background: Followers of my Instagram Vintagetrishgarden know that I started my little turmeric ‘plantation’ in November 2017 with one 3cm rhizome bought from an organic providore. Since then, I replanted my entire harvest of rhizomes in June 2018, to overwinter, in-situ. The turmeric broke ground in November 2018, and this May 2019, I harvested 621 gram of turmeric. If I were to buy fresh turmeric at current prices in my area it would cost $24.69 per kilo, and that is not organic–mine is. I’ve returned 300g of rhizomes to the little 1 metre x 40cm strip ‘plantation’ for this growing season, and am processing 321gram in the following ways. Next harvest – May 2020.
How I decided to preserve this turmeric harvest
Turmeric Powder for pantry storage
Fresh Turmeric Paste divided into refrigerated and frozen portions
Uses: Curry pastes, Soups, Smoothies, Teas, Golden milk and much more
Preparation after Harvest
All the turmeric rhizomes were well washed and then set to dry out a little for 1 week after harvest. Use a covered basket, which prevents dust but allows air circulation (prevents mould.) This makes the rhizomes more easily handled and retains more of the rhizome when peeled, in my experience. They shrink a little from their plumped up, ‘just harvested look’, at this stage.
Advice: Fresh turmeric stains anything it contacts, yellow. Wear disposable gloves, protect benches and wash plates and utensils soon after using them when working with it.
All small knobbly parts of the rhizomes were broken off and kept in a seperate bowl.
The now more easily peeled large sections were peeled with a hand peeler.
All unpeeled ‘small knobbles,’ and peels, were put aside for the paste recipe.
The large peeled turmeric rhizomes were sliced into 3mm width slices using a mandolin slicer with a thickness dial. (I opted for using the mandolin slicer because it keeps slices a consistent width which means drying in the dryer is more uniform, if all are the same width–which means the turmeric will powder easily.)
The turmeric slices were arranged in a single layer on two trays of my food dryer, with one empty tray on the bottom to prevent over-drying.
My food dryer has one setting–so I let the turmeric slices dry for 1.5 hours. I decided after checking at the 1.5hr mark that 30 mins more would get it to the optimal dried state for processing into powder-slices should be dry not ‘bendy’. I did swap the bottom slice tray to the top at this stage, as they tend to dry more quickly than the top trays in my dryer model. You will need to use your own judgement on this depending on what drying method you use. Since I have never used an oven to dry turmeric I am not going to give advice on it, except to say that you are trying to dry (not bake) the turmeric– so the oven would have to be set very low, and would presumably take longer than mine did in the food dryer.
The dried turmeric slices were removed from the dryer trays and put into my food processor to process into powder, on High for 3 mins, then another burst on High for 2 mins. Yes, it takes that long if you want fine powder. It would take longer again if you are grinding the dried slices using mortar and pestle.
The powder was removed from the processor and put into a glass jar for storage in my pantry. * Storage times vary for differing conditions and climates. Use your own judgement and research*
Store turmeric powder away from heat and light in the pantry.
Fresh Turmeric Paste
Fresh turmeric processed (fine or grated), black pepper, organic coconut oil, water
Equipment: Grater or food processor, stovetop, pot, whisk/spoon, spatula
The kept aside large fresh rhizome peels and unpeeled fresh ‘small knobbles’ were pulverised in my food processor. Alternatively you could grate them.
For every 3 inches of rhizome, you use 2 tablespoons of coconut oil, 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper and 1/3cup water divided. Just do your best to estimate the amount of rhizomes you have–since it’s a paste it’s a fairly ‘forgiving’ recipe, but take care with the amount of water you add, do that ‘by eye’ especially with the other half of the water in step 6.
In my case I was using the peelings and small rhizome knobbles which amounted to 7 inches of rhizome (so…the recipe amounts multiplied by 2.5). This meant I used 5 tablespoons coconut oil 2.5 tsp fresh ground black pepper and 3/4 cup water, divided.
Put all solid ingredients into a pot on the stove over medium heat–with only half the amount of water you need to add.
Using a whisk or spoon, stir all ingredients till combined over medium heat till bubbles form around the side. It may take a little time for the coconut oil to melt if your weather is cool.
Reduce heat to medium low and cook, slowly adding the remaining water until the mixture forms a paste. The coconut oil tends to slide and glide away from the side of the pot once it reaches this held-together paste.
Transfer the paste using a spatula or spoon into a glass jar or container.
Leave to cool, put lid on and refrigerate. Alternatively, put paste into ice cube trays, freeze, pop ice cube portions into a container for easy access when needed.
As a guide only, this paste can usually be stored for 2 weeks in the fridge–use your own judgement. Frozen paste portions store longer.
Disclaimer… Please do your own research for your own needs and context. The author assumes no responsibility for any outcomes of anyone using this well researched and documented blog post. Enjoy making and using your turmeric powder and paste.
There’s something multiplying on my bench this time of year, as the cooler weather creeps in.
Bubbling, fermenting jars of kombucha, driven by yeast and bacteria powerhouses, are growing in number!
Now before you say ‘Look Trish I think you need to clean your bench’…
I consider these yeast and bacteria to be ‘friendlies,’ to my family’s gut-health! I’m happy to have my ‘brews’ take up more space.
Kombucha is a fermented drink made from sweetened tea, fermented by a culture known as a scoby. It has reported health benefits I encourage you to research. You might like to start with this article here on the benefits and risks.
Possible risks tend to relate to the way kombucha is prepared and stored. I’ve never had a problem in nearly three years of kombucha brewing. I think good routines and keeping the process fresh is key to success.
Scoby stands for ‘Symbiotic Culture Of Bacteria and Yeasts.’
My way to brew kombucha, below, is ‘one way’ … it allows for a constant, ready to drink, fresh supply.
A ‘constant, ready to drink, fresh supply’ can be harder to achieve than you’d think when you’re at the mercy of a biological process.
That’s why I said my bubbling jars were growing in number.
You see as the weather cools, the fermentation process slows. That means I need four of my fermenting jars on the bench now, because the brewing process takes four to five days. Here in summer, first fermentation is often just 2 days per batch. So in summer, I only need two brews on the bench.
Some methods rely on brewing a huge amount of kombucha (all ready at once) which gets wasted. Families often can’t drink it in time – so it may continue to ferment past the ‘best taste date’ and into an unhealthy mess depending on how it’s treated from there.
Respect the brewing process and do what’s needed and I’m sure it will go well.
Back to …if kombucha goes past the best taste date…short answer…it tastes like vinegar. It’s not the beautiful taste and slight natural fizz of well-brewed kombucha and won’t be, ever.
So my way is one way to produce a steady supply for my family, that usually ‘nails’ the taste test and avoids waste. Why? Because it’s fresh, chilled and ready in ‘just enough’ one litre quantities, and no batch ferments further, past that.
OK, rewind. Most batches nail the taste. When I was learning to brew, it took a little time to work out how long fermentation would take in my climate (warm to hot for most of the year.) When I get busy and don’t bottle and refrigerate the daily brew on time, it can go past the best taste for our family, but is never left as long as the vinegar stage. It has a sharper edge which we don’t prefer, so I learnt to rarely let that happen.
I brew my kombucha in 1 litre glass jars I recycled, de-labelled and sterilised, from bulk olives we used to buy.
Why jars? The first brew will see your scoby grow to fit the shape of the top of your container. No container with a narrow neck is useful. Wide neck only. You’ll understand when you try to remove the brew and scoby, later.
I made my own ‘breathable’ covers from clean new materials I already had. I secure them with simple elastic bands around the neck of the jar.
Whatever you use to cover the ferment at room temperature, please know that fermentation produces carbon dioxide gas from the yeast in the scoby. Any cover you use needs to be close-weave enough to prevent anything from getting into the ferment, but breathable enough, so that the carbon dioxide can escape. Popping or explosions can happen–which when mixed with glass is a dangerous and at the very least, messy, combination if there is no ‘breathe’.
There is a lot of information around about kombucha brewing. My best advice is to just always, always, always, ‘keep things fresh.’
You wouldn’t drink stagnant water, so never drink anything other than freshly brewed kombucha and keep your processes hygienic (no fingers/hands).
On the other hand–hygienic should never mean bleach or antibacterial dishwashing residue on jars and implements. Kind of defeats the purpose if residues mean you’re killing the organisms you want to be responsible, for the fermentation process. Boiling water with the relevant precautions is the best in my experience.
The first unavoidable step is to purchase your kombucha scoby. Make sure the source of your scoby is reputable. A few ideas–read customer reviews if you’re thinking of an online purchase, do your own research, ask your local health food or organics store for recommendations.
I purchased my scoby on-line. I only make black tea kombucha. My scoby purchase was fine for either black or green tea kombucha.
Protect Your Scoby
Remember the scoby is alive. If you put it in boiling water you will kill most if not all of the organisms, even if you realise what you’ve done and quickly get it out.
Only put your scoby in room temperature tea solutions.
The scoby and a bubbling kombucha ferment
Equipment used to strain the fermented kombucha into a bottle for cooling
Step 1: Make your Tea Base
For the one litre jars I use, I need to use the following quantities:
Sterilise your jar using boiling water-fresh (boiled from a jug is fine).
Add 4 tablespoons high quality black loose leaf tea, or 4 teabags.
Then add 1/2 cup of raw sugar.
(Yes sugar is needed for the scoby to use for fermentation food–most sugar will be gone by the end of fermentation, but if you don’t sugar-feed your scoby, it will die)
Three-quarters fill the litre jar to the top with boiling water from the jug.
Stir using a long stirrer (I use a long wooden handled, vintage metal spatula).
Set aside tea solution to brew and cool to room temperature.
Only when tea solution is room temperature–strain the tea solution into a clean sterilised one litre jar.
Using tongs, put your scoby into the strained, room temperature tea solution.
Cover with your breathable cover. Let the fermentation process begin!
You can put it on a bench out of light or in a cupboard.
The fermentation process shows it’s happening, with bubbles!
Leave your brew for 4–6 days. It may take longer or shorter where you live.
Step 2: Halt Fermentation
This is simple to do. Just remove the tea solution from the scoby.
The hard bit is knowing when to do this. Too early or too late will affect taste.
If I’m unsure, I take a clean teaspoon and taste-test some of the brew. Don’t dip the spoon back in! Your germs are not welcome.
My method is to use a strainer and funnel to mostly strain the litre jar brew contents into two brown glass bottles (see photo for equipment).
I leave the scoby and bottom inch of kombucha brew (often clouded with the yeast particles, don’t worry, it settles) in the glass jar.
This will be the basis of the next brew.
Into the fridge: Since I don’t do a second ferment for adding flavours, I put the bottles into the refrigerator at this stage and that is it. Some like to add ginger, juices or fruit flavours at this stage, so they would allow those flavours to ‘ferment in’ over a short time, then strain and bottle for refrigeration.
When the kombucha in the brown bottles is chilled, we drink it! Usually within two days. Then we are on to the next batch, which by that stage is chilled!
Step 3: Start your next brew
Using the left over inch of the previous kombucha brew, and the scoby, repeat Steps 1 through 3.
Freshening, Multiplying and storing your Scoby
There are differing opinions on this topic. Some people allow their scoby to get exceptionally thick. But I like my scoby thin, young and effective! A fresh, recently born scoby, is what I want fermenting my kombucha.
You will see your scoby increase in thickness. Once the older, bottom scoby layer can be separated off (using tongs, not hands–yes its fiddly) then if you use my method above, just separate it off by pulling the two apart. You can discard the old bottom section of scoby into your compost bin or worm farm–they love it. If the older part is still young and fresh looking, you could use it as the starter scoby in another brew jar.
I have four brew jars going at present because brewing is taking at least four days. To have enough kombucha to drink in the fridge each day, I must bottle and renew the next brew in line, each day. I freshen each scoby as needed, for each brew, when I do this.
But I’ve only ever bought one scoby at the start, three years ago.
If you want to keep a young, fresh scoby alive, but don’t want to use it yet–put it in a ‘scoby hotel.’ A scoby hotel is just one of your brewing jars with a couple of inches of kombucha brew in the bottom and the scoby placed in it. Put a breathable cover on it and put the whole thing in the fridge. This will stop or drastically reduce it fermenting until you’re ready to use it. Make sure it’s fresh, and brought to room temperature before using it in a brew.
I hope this information has been helpful. Your needs may be completely different to my family’s needs, so I encourage you to do your own research. There is so much information out there, and your scoby (from a reputable source) should come with plenty of information, or a website to consult. Learning to brew kombucha is something you get better at, the more you do it. Don’t give up if your first efforts aren’t great. Learn the tastes and flavours you prefer in your kombucha, and adjust your routine and system to suit.
I think that once you have found the routine, tastes and flavours that suit you, brewing kombucha will be a joy, not a nerve-wracking job. Happy kombucha brewing!
PS I’m going to do some separate blog posts about kefir and apple cider vinegar ferments.
Disclaimer… Please do your own research for your own needs and context. The author assumes no responsibility for any outcomes of anyone using this well researched and documented blog post. Enjoy making and drinking your kombucha.