Category Archives: Hello

December 2, 2017

Review of Cultivating Gourmet Mushroom Workshop run by Milkwood Permaculture

Ever since attending a school network meeting and becoming inspired by another Agriculture teacher, I have been intrigued by the processes involved in growing gourmet mushrooms. Over the last summer holidays I was able to successfully experiment with growing mushrooms. My experimentation went well but I felt I needed to learn more about the mushroom cultivation process before I would feel competent enough to deliver and transfer my knowledge to students. I was recommended by a number of people to do the Milkwood Permaculture Course.

I procrastinated for quite some time but I finally enrolled this November in a weekend Milkwood Permaculture Gourmet Mushroom Cultivation Workshop which was held in Sydney. Like any teacher at this time of the year I have been juggling marking, reports, burnout and students who feel as tired as I do. Enrolling in the mushroom course sounded good when I enrolled, but heading into Sydney on a Saturday morning trying to be ready for an 8:45 start was very challenging..

The course was held at a great venue in Redfern, complete with a rooftop garden made up of a food forest with an aquaponics system, herbs, vegetables and fruit trees. I would have been just as happy sitting in the garden for the day as anything else.The rooftop area was such a wonderful setting that I only was reminded I was in the city by the blaring of a siren. The amazing venue was partially created by Milkwood Permaculture’s Nick and his partner Kirsten. The garden was created via government funding, crowd funding and private donations. It is a credit to everyone involved.

Rooftop Garden, 107 Redfern Street, Redfern

Nick Ritar, one of the directors of Milkwood, was the course presenter and he was assisted another Milkwood staff member, Heather. The workshop was attended by 25 people who had travelled from Brisbane, Canberra, Jindabyne and Sydney. Half of the attendees were at the workshop hoping to learn how to grow mushrooms so that they could start their own business.Others simply had an interest in the area, while some, like me, were there to improve their knowledge base to aid in the education of students doing Agriculture. The workshop participants were a mixture  of ages and the gender breakdown was almost identical. I made the observation that permaculture was no longer attracting only the so-called ‘alternative types’  as it had in years gone by. Today people are interested in what they eat and how it is grown.

The course I attended is held 5 to 6 times a year. Over 500 people have been taught about cultivating gourmet mushrooms and the art form connected to it. The course outline broke down the workshop into 1.5 hour segments. Unlike many courses and even, I must say, staff development days, the workshop kept strictly to time without at any time feeling forced.The fact that I took seventeen pages of notes is testament to the amount and quality of the information provided during the workshop. Added to this the presenter sent a copy of all the resources used to the participants via email.

It was enthralling to investigate the science behind the growing of mushrooms and the detailed information given on the various methods of growing and cultivating home mushrooms was particularly interesting. It was great to hear Nick discuss the cost cutting methods that can be used in production as well as outlining the standard method.

The second day included presentations of various case studies given by past students who had been through the Milkwood Workshops. Many of these were inspiring and it was pleasing to see how small scale production can, in the future, lead to large scale production.

The course included a degree of hands on activities that enabled participants to put into practise their acquired knowledge. Some of these hands on activities included pasteurising bulk substrate using straw, gypsum, hydrated lime and hot water. Inoculating a log with spawn and preparing and inoculating agar. The presenters were approachable at all times and often tailored his delivery to each participant depending on that person’s individual needs and interests.

Course Presenter Nick demonstrating inoculation of logs

The venue provided an accessible location with numerous local cafes and eateries available during the lunch break.Tea and coffee was provided throughout the workshop and fresh organic fruit was also on offer during morning and afternoon tea.

We were all given a ready to grow mushroom bag, plates of already spawned agar of different varieties of mushrooms and useful tools to take away.

I walked away from the weekend feeling inspired and full of information. Within 48 hours I received an email with copies of all the presentations, links to suppliers and resources. Did I feel that the course had met my needs? Did I feel better informed and confident in the area? The answer to these questions is without doubt a resounding yes. A couple of days later the complimentary Oyster mushroom bag I was given was fruiting and I have excited students in my classes.

Oyster mushrooms starting to fruit from bag

I highly recommend this course and any other course presented by Milkwood Permaculture. The Milkwood Workshop was excellent.


May 22, 2016

Add a letterbox to your garden



My house and my gardens are a fair distance apart. I have placed an old letterbox in the garden/orchard which is central to the vegie garden. This has saved me alot of time walking back and forth to the house which means more time gardening :). Often the hardware stores have a mail box that is the last one of its kind in the specials section or of course you could find one second-hand. I had this one lying around and painted it.

So whats in the box I hear you ask?

  • Gloves
  • Stanley Knife
  • Scissors
  • Soap
  • Hose Fittings
  • Seed Tags
  • Pencil
  • Seed Planter
  • Secateurs


Since taking the pic I have also added string and a small ruler. Of course you can add whatever suits you.


I just sat the box on a post and it has been there for a few months and no creatures have moved in.


Happy Gardening.

March 20, 2016

How to Make a Comfrey Nutrient Tube

I have an abundance of comfrey this is a great problem to have as the comfrey is suppressing the grass and weeds under my fruit trees, whilst also accessing stored nutrients with its deep roots and providing beneficial organic matter to the soil. In winter the comfrey will stop growing if exposed to frost the plant will appear to die but low and behold in summer it will be back.

After seeing Nevin Sweeney on television some time ago and recently reading Earth Garden magazine I was inspired to make a comfrey nutrient tube in order to produce a wonderful liquid fertiliser.

You will need
1 length of PVC pipe
2 end caps for the pipe
1 gate valve/tap
Electric or cordless drill
Pipe Cement
An empty wine bottle
A piece of string over 1 metre in length
A key ring or washer
Tie Wire

To make
1. Drill a hole in the centre of each cap. One cap needs to fit the tap and the other a piece of string.
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2. Push the tap through the hole.
3. Silicon around the hole.
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4. Glue the cap with the tap to the end of the pipe.

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5. Leave the other cap off to allow the pipe to air.
6. Fill a wine bottle with water.
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7. Place a key ring or washer around one end of the string.
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8. Pull the string through the hole of the cap (without the tap).
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9. Tie the string onto the top of the wine bottle.1 057
10. Wire the pipe to an accessible area.
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11. Pick comfrey leaves and insert into the pipe.
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12. Lower the wine bottle on top of the comfrey leaves.1 052
13. Place the cap onto the pipe.
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14. Open the tap in a month to check if you have any comfrey juice.
15. Dilute the juice 1 part to 20 parts water and apply around the base of plants you wish to water and give a nutrient boost.

March 13, 2016

Make your own Beeswax Food Wraps

Many people now realise it is everyones responsibility to help save the environment and be sustainable. These beeswax food wraps help limit the amount of plastic needed in the kitchen. You can use them to cover most food items. Beeswax naturally carries an antibacterial agent therefore cleaning the wraps only requires warm soapy water. The wraps mould to the heat of your hand so that you can wrap different shapes in them. They can be used to send lunches to school and store food items in the fridge. Below are two methods to make the wraps. The wraps can be cut into squares, rectangles or circles (for bowls). Today is the first day I have made these and have had instant success.

How to make using option 1

You will need
Beeswax (can be purchased form a honey supplier). I bought $7 worth and have used a quarter on 10 wraps.
Material (100% cotton fats work great)
Baking Tray
Pinking Shears (so the fabric does not fray)
An oven

1. Wash the fabric you are going to use in hot water. Allow to dry completely.
2. Turn oven on to 180 degrees celsius.
3. Using pinking shears cut out your fabric into a usable size.
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4. Cover a baking tray in foil
1 043 5. Place cut out fabric onto foil on tray. It does not matter which way is up as the wax goes straight through.1 046 6. Grate beeswax over tray.

Grating beeswax

Grating beeswax

1 048 7. Place tray and fabric in the oven for approximately 1 minute or until the wax is melted.
8. Pull tray out of oven and spread wax evenly around fabric so that you have an even coating. It may be necessary to put more wax on and place back in the oven.

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Finished Food Wrap Straight out of the oven

9. Either hang fabric on a clothesline or if it’s a hot day place in fridge.
10. Within minutes your food wraps are ready to use.
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Mould Wrap Around Food with Warmth of your Hand

Mould Wrap Around Food with Warmth of your Hand

Round Food Wrap on a Bowl

Round Food Wrap on a Bowl

How to make using Option 2.
1. Wash the fabric you are going to use in hot water. Allow to dry completely.
2. Turn oven on to 180 degrees celsius.
3. Using pinking shears cut out your fabric into a useable size.
4. Cut a portion of beeswax and place on baking tray.

Cutting Beeswax

Cutting Beeswax

5. Put in the oven until beeswax is melted. It will only take a few minutes.

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Melting Beeswax

6. Pull tray out of oven and quickly place fabric in tray and coat with the beeswax.

Fabric Straight out of the Oven

Fabric Straight out of the Oven

7. You may need to use a kitchen implement to smooth the fabric so that the beeswax covers everywhere.
8. Either hang the fabric on a clothesline or if a it’s hot day place in fridge
9. Within minutes your food wraps are ready to use.

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Happy Food Wrapping!

March 6, 2016

Build a Straw Bale Garden

In an attempt to get away from my vermin problem with the garden beds near my chicken pen and pumpkin vines claiming the area, I started a garden in our front yard. I am now on top of the vermin problem with some help, which will feature in another blog post. The easiest quickest way for me to start a garden was through a straw bale or in this case grass hay garden. I started out with just 3 bales and the garden was going so well I did an extension.

You will need
Straw Bales (can be bought at your produce store. Ensure they do not sell you oaten hay as this has seed heads on it.)
Potting Mix or Seed Raising Mix (see DIY seed raising Mix
Newspaper or Cardboard

1. Ensure any grass or weeds are mown flat.
2. Place wads of newspaper where you would like your straw bale garden to go. Ensure you make the newspaper cover a larger area than the bales will cover.
3. Sit bales of straw on their side in position on top of the newspaper. (Important that the bales are on their side so the water will run down through the straw).
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