A Big Pot of Organised Goodness

So as with most people our weeks are very busy. Both of us work and the kids are in full time crèche life is busy but with winter and with the sick season on its way we still like to ensure that we eat well at a decent price without breaking the world during winter.

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One of the solutions we have found is to put together a big pot of soup for the week. The kids get a good lunch at crèche and A. and I often eat leftovers from meals and lots of fruit and veg during the day so hearty soup, salad and sandwiches works well in a busy rush home and get the kids ready for bed evening.

We have a good number of soups we regularly do. One that is always a favourite is the leek and potato soup with parmesan rind. Pretty damn good, kids love it we love it but not really a great source of the mix of vegetables that promotes immune system and general health over winter (damn).

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Two others that we make regularly are pumpkin/vegetable soup and minestrone. A big pot of one of these two soups would be made most weeks for us and we would get 2 -3 nights worth of meals with sandwiches and salads from it.

Both soups are great as they use lots of in season vegetables and use what is local and are very easy to make and are both very cheap. The can be made quickly and easily even with kids running around and organising a week night .

I am lucky I have access to good veggies I grow and from my parents and farmers markets we also use cheap off cuts of meats, these tends to be a very small amount often coming from things like prosciutto rind, de skinned sausages, bacon and off cuts of ham from our local boutique smoke house vendor. So as I said even on a budget these are easy to make and generally pretty good for you.

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Easy Minestrone (big soup)


  • Meat as discussed above
  • Large onion diced
  • 3 Carrots cut into 5mm pieces
  • 3 sticks of celery cut into 5mm pieces
  • 4 -5 gloves of garlic crushed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Big handful of fresh picked parsley
  • Springs of thyme
  • 1.5 litres of stock (I typically use chicken stock)
  • Dash of white wine optional)
  • Good handful of short pasta (I tend to use wholemeal or spelt pasta but any will do)
  • ¼ of a cup of passatta sauce
  • Can of white or borlotti beans, or frozen peas or some green beans.

A lot of my soups, stews and casseroles start with a mirepoix which is a French term for a mix of the carrot, onion and celery which is sweated down in a pot with a little olive oil. The only real trick is to not turn up the heat to high and to leave the lid on when sweating the vegetables. Under no circumstances do you want to let the vegetables brown at all. I tend to leave it for around 15 minutes and about ½ way through I throw in the garlic and bay leaves and herbs. Once the base has been sweated add the stock, wine and the passatta sauce and bring to the boil then simmer for 20 – 30 minutes (good time to get the kids bathed and in their PJ’s)

After the simmer time add the pasta for another 10 minutes at a simmer then add the beans and simmer for another 5 minutes (if you use fresh green beans add them with the pasta)

Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with fresh herbs, some grated parmesan (or not) and drop of good olive oil. Freezes exceptionally well as lunches.

Pumpkin/Vegetable Soup.

This one takes a bit longer so best made on a Sunday or while making Mondays dinner and just get better as you reheat it.

For me the only difference between pumpkin and vegetable soup is that in pumpkin I use a lot more of the pumpkin where as in a vegetable soup I will use a greater mix of vegetables. The Veggie soup is great as a way touse up any leftover veggies you might have hanging around and again freezes well.


  • A piece of ham, bacon or smoked hock.
  • 2 Large onion sliced
  • 3 Carrots cut into 5mm pieces
  • 3 sticks of celery cut into 5mm pieces
  • 4 -5 gloves of garlic crushed
  • 3 bay leaves
  • Big handful of fresh picked parsley
  • 2 kg of pumpkin cubed
  • 750 grams of potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons of a good garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Salt to taste

As with the other soup above this one starts with a mirepoix which is a French term for a mix of the carrot, onion and celery which is sweated down in a pot with a little olive oil. The only real trick is to not turn up the heat to high and to leave the lid on when sweating the vegetables. Under no circumstances do you want to let the vegetables to brown at all. I tend to leave it for around 15 minutes and about ½ way through I throw in the garlic and bay leaves and herbs. Once the base has finished add the cubed pumpkin and potato add water to just cover the veg and bring to the boil. Add a good amount of salt the garam masala, pepper and turmeric. Add your piece of ham, bacon or hock and simmer till the potatoes and pumpkin are soft.

Stick blend it til your desired consistency. Serve with sour cream or yogurt. I like to add in some fried sliced chorizo on top as well .

The kids love a good cheese toastie to go with it this and I have a few ways to make it and one of our favourite is to use the Lebanese flat bread, fill with grated cheddar cheese and a little mustard, butter both sides and put in a press grill. Comes out crispy and cheese filled for the kids (and big kids) to dip into the soup.

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Happy International Permaculture Day (IPD)

I suppose I should post that I did something amazing on this day? Got my garden ready, visited some shining example of how someone has gone there already. Built something made something?

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But no it was just another day for the urban hippie family. Yesterday was my daughter’s birthday party and we had good gaggle of local kids and their parents along. They ate, drank had a good time. Kids painted and ran around the back yard eyed of ducks and chickens and the bee hives. Parents and a few relatives commented on what I was doing and suggested they would like to try some of the ideas. So from that point of view some good came out of it. But basically the best thing was local people enjoying time with local people.

So today started a little quiet with A. needing a bit of a sleep in and my plans to do something for IPD didn’t quite work out but that is ok.

I got to watch the kids doing some painting , then go to their swimming class and then the rest of the day spent visiting family up country. All in all very enjoyable day. I came back with another couple of boxes of quinces from family and really need to get bottling this week. But that is about as far as a concrete outcome I could come up with.

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It got me thinking about the IPD. A lot of people are blogging or commenting on the things they are doing. But shouldn’t IPD be every day? Permaculture being Permanent Culture then IPD should be like any other day. Getting up and doing the little things, feeding the chickens and ducks playing with the kids, time spent with community and family discussing ideas (as I did with one of my cousins) watching and observing making small changes. Interacting with family and the local community? Spending time with my kids in the garden (after all my kids are a primary driver of why I do this stuff)

So all in all I am happy with my IPD and could not think of a better way to spend it. Don’t get me wrong the ideas people have the events they have run are great and it is obvious that such a day is more for those outside the fold rather than in and very important at this junction in time.

So for me the day is like any birthday I have had in the last 20 years or New Year’s. It is a good chance to look at what has been done and needs to be done a time to get some inspiration and some perspective.

At the end of the day (pun intended) Permaculture will know when it has succeeded in getting permaculture to the masses. When we don’t need to celebrate an IPD as it would be like celebrating a Monday.

Is barter more ethical than buy?

Is barter more ethical than buy?

It is an interesting question and perhaps a little more complex than I thought initially.

On a first look the answer is yes. Barter is good as people do not exchange funds they trade an item or  service in our case alternative medicine for some goods or services we have such as our duck eggs.

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It is a win win for those involved we get looked after and it helps to offset the feed bill for our ducks and chickens. The alternative practitioner gets the duck eggs he needs as some members of his family are allergic to chicken eggs. They are fresh guaranteed organic and better value (or so he tells me than the ones he gets through commercial elements)

Add to that our ducks have a much better life than most commercial fowl and raised in what I look at as pretty sustainable way.

Often it is what you have in excess that is swapped so it is way of ensuring that things are not wasted and are shared around to those who need it. Which is something the world can most definitely do with.

And finally as was pointed out to me this morning by friend who was staying for a few days in Melbourne with us while he attended a course.

He noted I was cleaning the duck eggs for the appointment tonight and commented that bartering makes you more accountable for what you are trading. Handing over cash is easy getting cash is easy but it can lead to devaluing of what you do or make or sell. Bartering where the direct value of a product or service you have is based on the quality vs. the quality of the thing you are getting in return makes you really look at it and make sure it is as good as you can make it. Having pride in that item or service

On the flip side you are effectively not paying your dues to society. And this is where it gets tricky. Because in reality you are not paying your taxes to the government it is to society that the taxes go through the medium of the government. We are taxed so that import things like social welfare, infrastructure and really important reforms like the NDIS (national Disability Insurance Scheme) can be payed for.

It also means that people have a job to allow them to buy goods and services that couldn’t be bartered for.

We also pay for a lot of stuff we don’t like, as an example we subsidise already wealthy companies (corporate welfare) and a governments that we often don’t really believe is worth what we are putting in.

So it is a balancing act. I think that swapping items and services is great if done on a sustainable level,

And here is the kicker it is a sustainable level we are talking about. If everyone keeps below the tax free threshold and barters the rest that sounds great for them. For society probably not so great in the medium or long term. And at the end of the day ‘you are the society’ and a sustainable society is what we should all be interested in.

Writers Block… Yep got it that is for sure.

It is not that I have not had any idea’s or even had tales and items to write about but I just cont seem to get them down in words. A couple of times a day I have a good blog in my head and then when it comes to writing it get caught up in whatever else I let myself get distracted with.

I am now just going to sit down and start writing so if it comes out as junk some days so be it you guys can always unsubscribe if it gets that bad 🙂

The last three weeks have been busy and I will write about them as I can. I went on juice diet for 15 days. The diet is a detox diet based around the fat sick and nearly dead documentary. It was a success with me feeling great at the end of the diet. Lost a good bit of weight and my liver appears to be much happier. I have done this last year and had a similarly good experience in regards to weight loss and keeping it off but also in some other health aspects. I plan to also do a vegan diet in spring to get my body working again.

The thing about this sort of radical diet is that it is not that radical. It is in the modern world but in times not so distant fasting and hunger where a part of our lives we are designed for it. And the type of fasting on vegetables is particularly good for us as is gives us a nutrient burst that for times such as spring  allow us to get our bodies functioning and on track.

I still cooked for my family and it is interesting once you are on this diet how you look at food and how our society deals with food differently.

 I eat a lot of good food (one of the reasons I need to fast, one of the reasons most people need to fast once in a while) and most of it is seasonal and cooked from scratch where possible.

The thing that strikes you is the sheer volume of food available and the amount of advertising that goes with the food. It is everywhere and very pervasive and not eating and being aware of it you almost get to step outside the subliminal side of things and see why people are packing on so much weight.

I still did my gardening, did exercise and walked to and from public for work and I didn’t feel weak at all.

Not sure if I will do this diet later in the year. Think once a year about 12 days would be optimal but I am going to do a 21 day vegan diet in spring. This is both an idea that Chinese medicine and also the paleoarchaeology types who study us from a historical point of view recomentd. For both a good amount of bitter greens and a high nutrient low calorific diet in spring helps the liver get back in shape after a winter of stored food (typically comfort foods for us now)

I did get to add in a bit of urban hippieness into the diet. Green smoothee’s of Kale, dandelion leaf, nightshade leaf, mallow leaf, cleavers, nasturtium and even a few of my precious nettles (although they are being saved for soup, gnocchi and pasta) from my back yard made the diet cheaper and easier this time and allowed me a side line of interest to help keep me going.

I am adding more weeds all the time into our diet and this is working well, the kids love them and in our societies nutrient poor energy rich foods, the weeds being the opposite makes for something we should all be eating more off.

FYI the weed walk with Adam Grubb is on for those in Melbourne in a couple of weeks time. Check out the link and attend if you can it is a great walk well worth the money and time. You will never look at a grassy field the same ever again.