Kate Downham

gardener & author
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since Oct 14, 2018
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I'm a quiet goatherd establishing a permaculture homestead on old logging land at the edge of the wilderness.
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Recent posts by Kate Downham


Be patient.

Listen to your instincts.

There's probably people around who want to tell you that you're doing things wrong, or want to give you uncalled-for advice. They have their own experiences, but that doesn't make them experts on your baby.

Breastfeeding can sometimes be painful at first, but it gets easier after the first month.
14 hours ago
Welcome to Permies : )

We have a lot of talk about horizontal hives in our bee forum: https://permies.com/f/57/bees

I hope you'll keep us updated on your progress. I'm keen to try horizontal hives here in Tasmania where we have a similar climate to you.
3 days ago
I give this book 9 out of 10 acorns.

“Your Edible Yard” is a good introduction to permaculture for people with suburban-sized yards who want to grow food and learn about permaculture.

The book begins with an introduction about why we want to change the current agricultural system, and how we can do this through growing our own food, and supporting local farmers, along with community education and many other practical ideas.

Chapter 1 talks about the detriment of the lawn obsession. One shocking statistic about this is that lawn grass is actually the largest irrigated crop in America! It receives far more water than corn, soy, or any other crop. Thinking about this, it’s amazing to think of the possibilities if many more people with lawns transformed them into food production.

Chapter 2 is all about the process of converting your lawn to food - there may be legal things to consider before you start digging, so this is useful to know. Suggestions on how to keep neighbours happy are provided too.

Chapter 3 is all about building healthy soil with compost and worm farming. I liked this chapter a lot, as it provides a lot of detail and many ideas and designs for worm farming and composting, complete with helpful illustrations and photos.

Chapter 4 is an introduction to permaculture - the history of permaculture, permaculture ethics, and permaculture principles. Ideas are given for how to practise permaculture in your backyard, and in your community. Recommendations for further reading are also provided. I liked the pictures and information about zones and sectors in permaculture design. This chapter also includes information about preparing garden beds for permaculture food growing, including many ways to transform lawn into food growing. There’s also information about cover crops for different seasons and water conservation.

This chapter also has a step by step guide for how complete beginners can start their own gardens - it’s really good to see this information out there from a permaculture perspective. The suggestions are really budget-friendly as well.

Chapter 5 covers natural alternatives to herbicides and pesticides, including the different ways of covering the soil (and the pros and cons of each method), different types of hoes, companion planting, beneficial insects, row covers and netting, trap cropping, hand picking, and homemade organic sprays. The drawings of the beneficial insects and ‘pest’ insects are really helpful. Crop rotation information is provided that is very beginner-friendly, along with a section about encouraging pollinators by planting a garden for them. It’s also good to see information about the benefits of some weeds, especially the edible ones - photos and illustrations are provided for these, to help with identifying them, and there’s also ideas about how to use them for eating and medicine.

Chapter 6 is about choosing the right plants for your edible landscaping project, it includes information about light requirements, spacing, height, types of plants, zone hardiness, disease resistance, insect resistance, regional considerations, planting times, guild plantings and food forests. The illustrations are really helpful, especially for the guilds.

Each part of the food forest is gone into in depth. A long list (with photos) of many types of edible canopy trees is provided, with plenty of information on each one, and the same is also provided for the other layers of a food forest. There’s also a section about trees to consider for a larger property, along with one about growing mushrooms.

Chapter 7 is about edible landscape designs. It includes sample designs for many situations, including a small front yard, a backyard food forest, a formal-looking edible garden, farm-style backyard garden, edible flower garden and herb gardens. There’s lots of helpful and inspiring illustrations in this chapter.

Chapter 8 has even more edible landscape design ideas, with lots of photos from different properties. It’s good to see ideas for different garden bed edgings and pathways, trellises, and guilds.

Chapter 9 is about yard-to-table recipes. There’s recipes here for both using your tasty homegrown foods fresh for the table, or for preserving them for later on. There are many ideas of different creative ways to serve vegetables. and some tasty fruit desserts too, along with preserving recipes for canning, freezing, and fermenting. There’s also information for beginners about what preserving gear to look out for (and what it is better to find second hand, and what is best found new).

Chapter 10 is DIY herbal remedies and recipes, including herbal teas, oxymels, elderflower cordial, elderberry syrup, tinctures, elixirs, herb-infused oils and salves and sunburn relief and insect repellent sprays.

What I like the most about this book is that it provides information about many topics all in the one book, so that someone could pick this up, learn how to compost, make a food forest, grow organic annual vegetables, and have recipes for food and herbal remedies all from the one book.
Stir fry made from bacon, onion, ginger, garlic, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celery, coconut aminos, chili flakes. Served with rice and fried eggs.
I made fermented daikon and ginger today. My garden likes to grow daikons - here's a photo of a giant one that I harvested another time.

My recipe is:
1.2kg (2 1/2lbs) daikon radish, thinly sliced
100g/2" piece ginger, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons (20g) salt
-use hands to mix the salt into all the daikon. leave for 15 minutes for a brine to develop. pack into a 1 litre or 1 quart jar, squashing it down so the brine is on top.
2 1/2 cups brown rice, soaked overnight. Put in 2 litre pot with enough water to cover by around an inch. Brought to boil, then simmered for around half an hour, until the water was absorbed. Left to rest on the side of the woodstove until the stir fry BB I did was ready.
Does enamelled cast iron (e.g. le creuset) count for this BB?
Would moving a large chicken tractor/chicken dome count for this BB? Or does it need to be a larger paddock?
4 days ago
This cookbook is really coming along now. Over 60,000 words, and 200 pages now.

There's still quite a few bits that need editing, testing, photos, or proper measurements, but I'm getting it done bit by bit and it's exciting to see it taking shape.

I guess I should look for testers for the recipes that are 100% finished. This makes me a bit nervous though as it's the start of unveiling this book to the public. Friends have tested some recipes, and I have made them all many times, so they're not completely untested, it just seems like a big step to be at this stage.

I've also been looking at book design. I think 8.25x10.75" would be a good size for this book. I'm testing layout ideas and seeing if the longest recipes I have will fit in different layouts.

I'm also contemplating notes to put at the top of recipes - it might be helpful to have symbols for gluten-free, paleo-friendly - are there any other good things to have at the top of a recipe? Or allergies/diets to think of?

Do you have any ideas for cookbook design?

I am also trying to figure out what I need to include in the introduction section. I have information about kitchen gear - what I use, why I use it, and how to look after it. I also have some stuff about cooking on a wood stove, living without a fridge, and strategies for making cooking from scratch work all the time. I've also written a basic introduction to real food/traditional food, for anyone new to this.

What else do you like to see in a cookbook introduction?
1 week ago