Sunday, November 29, 2009

MLM goes organic :: can this work?

Not quite community-supported agriculture, but only in the US and Canada could they come up with a scheme such as this. Organic Acres, they call it "the future of gardening", is a scheme designed to give you all the pleasure of eating your own "home-grown" organic fruit and veggies whilst not having to get your hands dirty. Allow someone else to grow the veggies for you, and even have your surplus sold at the Organic Acres farmers market. The concept subscribes to all the values that I hold dear - knowing where your food comes from; eating fresh, nutritionally dense, local food; being sustainable - but, what's this about an affiliate program? The system is set up like a cross between a timeshare and a multi-level marketing scheme. Lease a plot where organic veggies are grown on your behalf. Introduce others to the scheme and receive flow-on benefits. The slick presentation certainly makes organic food look appetising to the unconverted. Read more about it here.

But the question comes up again, can "big organic" work? Is it sustainable? Does it make sense to set up a system such as this, built so strongly around a money system that is starting to fall down around our ears? Could a bartering system work better? Are there other ways of funding such an initiative? And what about actually getting our hands dirty? Perhaps it doesn't make sense to have every apartment dweller in an inner urban area experience the dirt and mud of a real farm, but it sure would do them some good to have a first-hand experience of seeing the plant or tree that grows the food they eat.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

the vexed question of which drink bottle to use

i recently saw this succinct article from the biome newsletter. it sums up some of the key points to keep in mind when selecting a drink bottle.

Which reusable bottle is best?
We are often asked this question by customers who are searching for the safest, cleanest bottle.

Our first criteria is that the company behind the brand discloses full information about who they are, what the bottle is made from, where and how it is manufactured and, importantly, independent test results on any leaching.

There should be information on the packaging and then more detail available on the brand's website. When you consider that all materials, even some stainless steel (which contains chromium and nickel) can leach substances into food or liquid, you should have absolute faith in the quality of your bottle.

We are wary of low cost bottles because the cheaper the product, the more potential for exposure to toxins. Materials, quality control, testing and reporting all cost money.
Companies often make misleading statements about their products (even though they say it is 18/8 stainless steel, how does one prove that?). Ultimately, we all have to make a judgment on who to trust.

Recommendations for choosing a bottle:
  • Reassure yourself of the quality of the bottle and reputation of the brand.
  • Choose on practical features like: the type of lid or drinking mechanism, the volume the bottle holds, whether the tops are leak-proof, will it fit your car/bike drink holder, do you need a wide mouth for easy cleaning and smoothies, how heavy is it, and are there joins/hard corners that trap germs?
  • Stainless steel or lined aluminium? This can only be a personal choice, just be sure that it is a legitimate brand with testing available on any lining. Testing shows that SIGG's BPA-free lining leaches nothing into the liquid and it is taste neutral. Some people prefer the food-grade reliability of unlined stainless steel. Klean Kanteen and Nathan use high grade 18/8 stainless steel.
And finally, how to clean your drink bottle.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Green Machine

Despite the season being nearly over, kale is still about. Zucchinis are starting to enter the scene, though the season in Victoria has barely begun.

Grapefruit continues to be available and though often thought of as breakfast fare for the health conscious, this fruit makes a creative appearance in this week’s salad. With sweeter varieties around such as the ruby grapefruit there is no longer any need to shun this fruit for it’s sour taste. I recall many a morning as a young child piling on – yes – the white sugar in an attempt to make the fruit more palatable.

High in antioxidants, recent studies show that grapefruit can lower cholestrol levels. Other studies have indicated that people who eat grapefruit have lower than average levels of insulin in the blood. High in Vitamin C, grapefruit makes a great accompaniment to spinach and kale (see this week’s recipe), helping to improve the uptake of iron from the leafy greens. And for men, know that pink grapefruit is one of the lycopene-rich foods. Lycopene is known for it’s anti-tumour properties and particularly for it’s capacity to reduce the risk of developing prostate cancer .

Kiwifruit is well known as a nutritional powerhouse of vitamin C, but did you know that it is also a great source of Vitamin E and very high in folic acid (vitamin B). A lesser known fact about kiwifruit is that, despite being a vine, it is a member of the berry family. Some 90% of the fruit is water. With twice the amount of Vitamin E of avocadoes but only 60% of the avo calories, the humble kiwifruit is good nutrient value for money. Vitamin E is important for heart health and addressing vision loss. As an anti-oxidant nutrient Vitamin E has a role to play in any chronic disease where free radicals are causing havoc. This includes cancer and other inflammatory conditions. Kiwifruit is also higher in fat content than other fruits, behaving more like an avocado than a berry when used to bind a dressing or salsa. But don’t be concerned. The fat in kiwifruit is less than 1gram per serving (equating to about 8 calories).

Most kiwifruit is cultivated in New Zealand (one of our greatest exports - apart from us fabulously creative people), however in Victoria we fortunate to have Ian and Angela of Beenak Farms growing biodynamic kiwifruit beyond the Dandenongs near Yarra Junction. Vitamin C can be lost during storage, transportation and display of fruit, so it is good to know that the kiwifruit from the Beenak Biodynamic Farm have a food mile footprint of 50kms. But make the most of it, as the season is ending now.

Grapefruit and Green Salad with Kiwifruit Salsa

If the presence of longer days and warmer weather is prompting you to think healthy thoughts, then this low-fat dressing is the perfect accompaniment for a grapefruit and greens salad. Simple, refreshing and quick to make,

2 zucchini
100-150 gm (2-3 large handfuls) spinach or kale
½ tsp Himalayan crystal salt
Juice of ½ lemon (about 20mls)
1-2 ruby or white grapefruit
7-8 cherry tomatoes

Peel and cube the grapefruit. Remove the seeds, if necessary.
Cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters.
Julienne the zucchini or put them through the spiraliser to produce zucchini spirals.
Wash and de-vein the kale, then slice into 1 cm strips. (or loosely chop the spinach) Put in a bowl with about ½ tsp Himalayan crystal salt. Gently massage salt into the kale or spinach until it becomes limp. Then add lemon juice and massage again.

Toss together the grapefruit and greens.

Kiwifruit Salsa
1 stick celery
small handful parsley (reserve a few sprigs for garnish), with stalks removed
2-3 medium kiwifruit, peeled
¼ green capsicum
pepper to taste (optional)

Blend the above ingredients into a smooth salsa. Add water as needed to reach the required consistency.

Toss through the salad until the greens are entirely coated. Add the tomatoes.
Arrange on a plate and garnish with reserved sprigs of parsley.

Makes 2 large servings (yum, lunch) or 4 side salads.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Le Cru in Epicure today

Congratulations to Le Cru on appearing in today's Epicure (The Age). I guess it would have been nice if the reviewer had an understanding of the cuisine. On the other hand, it is interesting to read how it looks to the standard restaurant reviewer.

This is typically the situation when some brave soul breaks new ground. At first no one really understands (you might even be thought a little crazy). After all, there's nothing to compare it to except the prevailing paradigm. Then an inkling of understanding slips through as the idea becomes more accepted. Finally it seems to become a part of the terrain. We only have to look at how vegetarian food is now a standard item on most menus (i mean, at least you can order a vegetarian meal and the chef won't look at you strangely).

Helena's tips for dining out on raw food.
Unless you are going to Le Cru for the evening, choose a good quality restaurant known for fine cuisine. Don't worry about prices, after all there's only so much they can charge for beautifully prepared fresh vegetables. Then, when you order, look for a fresh salad on the menu and ask for that. Check that they don't add any cheese or cooked vegetables and ask if you can have the dressing "on the side". You may want to check what is in the dressing, particularly if you are vegan as well as raw and don't want honey in your food.
If nothing on the menu is to your liking, then you can always ask if the chef could prepare you something using only fresh vegetables. You could, for example, suggest a garden salad with avocado.
If the restaurant really cares about their food they will be only too happy to explain how they prepare the dishes on the menu. A good chef will enjoy the challenge of creating a dish for your needs (though some do rile at the thought of preparing a meal with only vegetables, as this is still generally not considered a "real" meal).
It is that easy. No need to make excuses, or present a big list of what you can't eat. Just know that a good chef is more than capable of preparing a decent salad with fresh greens, and a good quality restaurant will always have a stock of fresh vegetables.
There are now a few places that also serve organic food, though in most restaurants the organic fare is limited to the meat, dairy, eggs and coffee. Funny that. Did you want chemicals in your lettuce?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Pad Thai Noodles with Spinach Curry Sauce

Spinach, known as the popeye vegetable, has been the mantra to many a growing child. Eat your spinach and you'll have muscles like popeye. And it is true. Spinach is one of the best plant sources of iron, but remember that absorption of iron from plant sources is greatly improved when combined with foods high in Vitamin C. In the Pad Thai noodles recipe below grapefruit not only gives it that smart tangy flavour, but also serves to improve the uptake of iron from the spinach.

Just as important as iron for muscular and bone strength is Vitamin K. Spinach is one of the high sources of Vitamin K, along with kale and cauliflower. As well as promoting bone health, it's main function is the control of blood clotting and it also regulates calcium levels in the blood.

Only carrots and parsley contain more beta carotene than spinach. This special nutrient is required for making Vitamin A, important for eye health and vision.

Is this enough to convince you that spinach is good? What about the fact that around 49% of calories in spinach come from proteins? It is the richest known source plant protein, providing 12% of recommended daily requirements (depending on serving size).

And no mention of spinach should be without a reference to oxalic acid. In it's inorganic form oxalic acid is known to be harmful to the body. It can cause calcium deficiency and kidney stones. However spinach, when eaten raw, contains oxalic acid in it's organic form. This has a number of benefits, including promotion of peristalsis in the gut. It combines well with calcium and aids assimilation in the digestive tract.

This recipe is a bit of fun to spice up a special occasion, but it is also a good one to make beforehand and have on hand for that busy moment when you don't have time or don't feel like preparing a meal. The sauce will keep in a jar in the fridge for up to three days.

Pad Thai Noodles with Spinach Curry Sauce

For the Noodles
Marinate 1/3 red onion in 2tbsp Nama Shoyu for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, julienne the following:
2 zucchini, small
1/2 capsicum (red or green)
the meat from 2 young thai coconuts
Chop 1 medium grapefruit into chunks, removing the pips
Combine all these ingredients in a bowl with 1 cup mung bean sprouts. Mix together well.
Fresh Thai Herbs
1/3 bunch mint, chopped
1/3 bunch coriander, chopped
1 small red chilli, seeded and chopped
Mix herbs together and reserve a small amount for garnish. Add to the noodles.

Spinach Curry Sauce
2 cups spinach
1 cup coconut water
2 medium tomatoes
3 tbsp fresh coriander
1/2 avocado
1 tbsp olive oil
1 stick celery, large
2 tsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds (i like to grind these first, then add to the mix)
fresh chilli, to taste
Combine all the above ingredients in the blender and mix to a sauce consistency.
This will make about 2 cups of sauce.

Now arrange the noodles into bowls and pour spinach curry sauce over. Garnish with herbs and serve.

Tips: If you have one, use a spiraliser or mandolin to make zucchini noodles. If you can't find fresh mint leaves, substitute with parsley. Make the sauce the day before to save time and give the flavour time to develop.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Glass or Plastic

It started with this really interesting eco-innovation - a glass driveway. An interesting way of recycling glass. What i most liked about this idea was the porous nature of the surface. We have lost so much ground water due to run-off in urban and built-up areas. Concrete and asphalt is very unforgiving and very solid.

Then Ben sent me this link to some information about glass and plastic. Thank you.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

raw for thirty days - special

If you haven't already watched this film, it is a "must see". Yes, there is a cure for diabetes and it doesn't involve complicated medical procedures or an arsenal of pills and injections. In "Raw for Thirty Days" six people with diabetes confront their inner demons and create shifts in their outer lives through simply changing what they eat. Of course it is never just one thing that contributes to life change but by changing just one thing, changes can happen in other areas.
The film features experts David Wolfe, Dr. Gabriel Cousins, Tony Robbins and many others, and is one of the most inspiring films i have ever watched. I wrote about it in an earlier post shortly after my first screening. At that point i had only been raw for six months. How different my life is now, 12 months later.
So far, i have watched this film three times, and still enjoy it. There is so much information in it and a great story. As it happens, for the next few days it is possible to buy the 2 disc DVD set "Raw for Life" at half the listed price.

Click on this link here to purchase a copy -->

Or if you already have a copy, why not buy one for a friend or family member.

When you purchase "Simply Raw: reversing diabetes in 30 days" for this special price, in addition to the DVD set, you'll receive the following five bonuses:

* Bonus 1: Download of CD #1 and #2 from David Wolfe's "21 Days to Health Program"

* Bonus 2: "Kitchen Gadgets" 40 Minute Instructional Video by Raw Food Chef Cherie Soria of The Living Light Institute

* Bonus 3: Jennifer Cornbleet's Favorite 5 Recipes from her Book "Raw Food Made Easy"

* Bonus 4: A One Month Raw Menu Planner by Tera Warner of "The Raw Divas"

* Bonus 5: Audio Interview with Ani Phyo on How to Stay Raw While Traveling

Monday, September 21, 2009

Creamy Kale and Avocado Salad

Tis the season for kale. Often shunned because it's leathery texture can be unpalatable, and sometimes reserved for or disguised in the green smoothie.

But hey, let's celebrate kale. Try it marinated in this tasty salad and gain an appreciation for one of the most nutrient dense leafy green vegetables. Kale contains double the amount of calcium compared to broccoli or silverbeet. It is a great source of chlorophyll, iron, vitamins C & A as well as being one of the best plant sources of sulphur - the beauty mineral. Sulphur helps build strong nails, hair and supple skin.

Kale, a member of the brassica family, is a descendant of wild cabbage. It is a cool climate vegetable and the main growing season in Victoria is between Autumn & Spring. Thanks to the dedication of our local organic growers there are now several varieties available. Two popular ones are the dinosaur kale - sometimes known as Tuscan Kale - and Red Russian.

This recipe makes two medium serves or four side servings.

1 bunch dinosaur kale
1 large tomato
1 medium avocado
2 stalks of celery
2-3 tsp lemon juice (1/2 med-large lemon)
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
5gm dulse leaf (small handful)

De-vein the kale (remove the stalks) and finely chop the leaves into a bowl. Add salt and massage well until kale wilts. Add lemon juice and massage again.

Dice 1 stalk celery and the tomato. Cut dulse into small pieces. Combine celery, tomato and dulse (or nuts) into the kale. Reserve some celery leaves, dulse and tomato for garnish.

Blend avocado, remaining celery stalk and olive oil into a creamy sauce and pour over salad. Mix in well until kale is completely coated.

Arrange in salad bowl and sprinkle dulse over the salad. Garnish with celery leaves and tomato pieces.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Guide to Victorian Markets

Earlier this year i posted a story about the Community Farmers' Markets in Melbourne, a fabulous resource for inner city Melbournians who like to know where their food is grown. These markets are on every saturday (tomorrow at Abbotsford Convent) and the schedule is in the picture above.

Now this site - the Guide to Victorian Markets, casts a wider net and includes regional farmers' markets in Victoria. Of course not all of these are explicitly organic. And herein lies the next big issue on the organic agenda. Local vs organic. The two do not always go hand in hand, so if one is faced with the option, is it better to buy the organic carrots shipped from Queensland or the local carrots which are grown conventionally? Hmmm. i know which one i'd choose.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Implementing a Raw Diet

I like Susan Schenk's book Live Food Factor, but like Avril i prefer the first edition. In this online article there's a link to an interview with Susan where she discusses the specifics for going raw. There are so many ways of doing it, and so much of what the so-called "experts" say is quite similar. Here are the common themes (which are also backed up by my own experience):
  • cooked foods are addictive and can be darn hard to manage when transitioning to a raw lifestyle;
  • eating raw is not only good for your health, it is more economical and it is healthier for the planet;
  • eating organic is definitely more important no matter whether it's raw or cooked. the nutritional profile is so much higher;
  • eating less food is as important as eating more raw, vegan foods. the body uses enzymes to digest food and these enzymes are also important as building blocks for other organs in the body;
  • a living foods diet is gives you more energy, puts a spring in your step and a glow to your skin;
  • everyone is different, so depending on your type you may need to balance with either more nuts (oils) or more greens. this is individual, and it can change over time.
However, don't take my (or any expert's) word for it. Go find out for yourself. We are each individual and what may work for me, might not work for you.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

the raw food meal plan

it is always challenging when starting out on raw and live food to work out how to eat. changing the way you eat, or preparing interesting and varied meals for the whole family can be a challenge until one gets into the swing of it. my main tips are:
  1. eat seasonally
  2. eat locally
Most often we are not tuned in to the seasons and the enormous variety of fresh vegetables and fruit that are available in season in our local area. Buying in season means you are also spending less. Buying locally means you are getting the food fresher and in it's most live state. It hasn't had to travel so far.

This means that when preparing a meal plan for eating raw, there is no one plan that will work. It will depend on the time of year, the stage of eating raw that you're at, and your personal type. For example, a meal plan that includes a lot of stone fruit and berries during the winter time is not necessarily optimal eating.

General guidelines to make meal preparation easy and interesting is to keep it simple and be consistent. Matt Monarch recommends consistency as the key. I tend to follow that approach too. Even though it may seem boring at first, sticking to a consistent pattern of eating (with small variations) is better healthwise in the long term. So his example meal plan consists of a couple of apples with a couple of tablespoons of nut butter, with a SMALL handful of dried fruit as lunch each day. Salad later in the day is generally 1/2 an avocado, but of nut butter with a certain amount of vegetables.

We all eat differently and a long-time raw foodist such as Matt is likely to be eating a LOT less quantity of food than most people who are maybe still high raw or eating a transitional diet.

This article, by Esme Stevens is a great place to start for pointers on putting together a raw food meal plan.
My own personal meal plan loosely follows this pattern: start in the morning with lemon juice and warm water. Then, a green juice. I then don't usually eat anything until about 11am at which point i might have something like chia, goji and bee pollen with fruit (whatever is in season). I will then have a main meal at about 2pm comprising a mixed green salad. Usually an avocado dressing (this is where i get my oils/fats) or just lemon juice. then i'll usually have a light snack around 6pm, either another green juice or small salad.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Buy Local :: Farmers' Markets In Victoria

In Victoria we are blessed with one of the best networks of farmers' markets in the country. And in the past 12 months i have watched the number of organic growers . . . grow. So many more stalls with organic and biodynamic produce. It's a veritable feast. And i am talking fresh fruit and vegetables, including some heirloom and little known varieties. One of my favourites has to be the "Grandpa's Tomato". This is a local variety grown in the family for three generations. Not listed in a catalogue anywhere, it has quite a unique flavour and texture. Somewhere between a beefsteak and a roma in shape and texture.

And if you want to know when and where the farmers' markets are, this is the most comprehensive listing i have found online. It includes inner city and regional farmers markets. You'll also find more detail about the inner city markets on this site. And this is the home of the regional farmers markets for Victoria.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

10 Steps to Going and Staying Raw

Adapted from The Raw Food Blog, this outlines one way of approaching a raw food lifestyle. This might work for most people. Myself, the journey was more about really listening to my body and going with the flow. The point at which i made a significant shift was when i made my kitchen raw. Cleared out all the cooked foods, gave away my cooking gear and started using the oven as extra bench space. I had already been eating mostly raw, but this just nudged me over that point of no return.

1. Assemble the tools you need. A blender - any blender - a juicer, a dehydrator, some jars for sprouting, and a variety of raw recipes are the minimum requirements. If you can't bring it all together at once, then start with the blender and jars.
2. Assemble your list of suppliers. Where are you going to buy your food? Are you going be mostly organic? Will you be able to source from growers' markets or a food co-op? Find a supply of sprouting seeds - at least some alfalfa, sunflower and broccoli. The wider the variety the better. We've started the Living Foods Co-operative in Melbourne to support the raw community here.
3. Read your instructions. Do you know how to sprout, how to use the juicer?
4. Plan out what you're going to do. If you decide you'd like to make angel-hair pasta from zucchini, for example, you might find having a spiral slicing machine handy. This might put you back to step 1.
5. Set a starting date and create a support crew around you. Having a support group is the greatest. Check for raw groups in your area. If you don't know any raw foodies in your area, find a raw chat group or two for support. A professional Raw Coach is ideal, if available.
Share with them what you plan to do, and the date you're going to start. You'll find yourself more successful this way, than if you "go raw secretly."
6. Stay inspired. So build a collection of books, videos, and CDs so you'll have lots of material as you go raw. This will help maintain momentum. Videos are good for motivation. There are many places online where these can be viewed, The Best of Raw Food, and YouTube are just some. There are also an increasing number of films being released. Check some of my previous blogs for these.
7. Eat consciously. Research shows that it takes 21 days for a new behaviour to become a habit. This is just as true for eating as it is for any other kind of habit. So exercise your consciousness when you are eating live foods and be aware of your attitude towards the food.

Victoria Boutenko and Gabriel Cousens have written a book on the subject of eating raw and breaking that dependency on cooked foods - 12 Steps to Raw Foods. Her book covers the subject in detail, but here are her 12 Steps to Raw Food:
Step 1 - I admit that I have lost control of my addiction to cooked food and my eating is becoming unmanageable.
Step 2 - I believe that live vegan food is the most natural diet for a human being.
Step 3 - I shall gain necessary skills, learn basic raw recipes and obtain equipment to prepare live food.
Step 4 - I shall live in harmony with people who eat cooked food.
Step 5 - I shall stay away from temptations.
Step 6 - I shall create a support group.
Step 7 - I shall find alternative activities or hobbies.
Step 8 - I shall let my higher self lead my life.
Step 9 - I shall make a searching and fearless inventory of the real reasons for seeking comfort and pleasure from cooked foods.
Step 10 - I shall let my intuition help me.
Step 11 - Through clarity I will gain happiness.
Step 12 - I shall provide support to other raw fooders.

8. Part of changing diet and lifestyle is detoxifying the body. Not as a one-time detox, but instead, we should be constantly detoxing. That's where Dr. Ann Wigmore's program comes in. She taught much more than a diet. In her books and videos she lays out the procedures for a continuous healthy detox, including the foods we eat, how we combine them, the usage of colonics or enemas, the uses of wheatgrass juice, and more.
The basics are laid out in her book, Why Suffer? How I Overcame Illness and Pain Naturally.
9. Be aware, not discouraged. You're going to backslide at times, and it's normal. Don't feel like you've "failed" if you happen to go out for your favourite cooked meal. Instead, think about how well you've been doing, how much better you're eating than you used to, and how much better you're feeling since you started going raw.
10. Experiment, experiment, experiment. Knowing that I have addictions to comfort foods, I found new comfort foods. For me that's fresh blueberries, raspberries, and bananas.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

a note about citrus

after a little bit of investigation i believe i have found some useful solutions for the vexed question of how (and if) to compost citrus.
this is something i have been asked more than once. and i've had my fair share of grief seeing orange and lemon peel add to the slush i am attempting to remediate in my own bin right now. yes, it is acidic and the worms do not like it. and, according to Paul Stamet, there is no fungi that breaks down the volatile oils, which apparently are as much of a problem as is the acidity. after all, it is the orange oil that is used as the antiseptic agent in many of the "green" cleaners to cut grease and kill living things.
however, there are other uses. you can dry the peel and use it as fuel,
in this case there's even a commercial application. not only does the dried peel burn well, but it gives off a great aroma. you can freeze the peel and then compost it. apparently it breaks down much faster, and the freezer smells great. however the following three stage juice pulp composting recipe - from the Permaculture Discussion Forum - takes the cake for the most innovative solution:

Re: Composting citrus?
by Ichsani » Sun Sep 21, 2008 1:42 pm
Hi all
After my first attempts at juice pulp composting ended in rank, pongy failure
I hit upon a recipe that worked- found through lots (did I say lots?) of trial and error-

1 part pulp (citrus mainly, some vege and other fruits)
1 part coffee grounds a couple of handfuls of rich soil/old compost/ leaf litter etc
some token handfuls of lime (for later)
lots of microbes and wormies (free!)
the luck of the compost faeries (with us all)

I used a three stage process - involved, but it worked better than anything else I tried.
Stage 1:
The pulp and coffee came in garbage bags when I got them - either way, mix the pulp, coffee and those handfuls of soil in one bag (it really doesn't work without this step - the coffee has effectively been heat sterilised and the pulp doesn't have many microbes in it - cause the inside of the fruit doesn't - or shouldn't. When I mixed bags without the soil/old compost added, the coffee/pulp 'mummified' and didn't break down for yonks).
Don't add any water - just the pulp, coffee and soil/old compost innoculent.

The bags can't be so full else they'll tear. After mixing twist the bag shut so there's little air and turn over so its doesn't come undone - you can stack up several bags this way. Leave in a shady spot for at least a few weeks (no sun, not even a bit - another lesson learnt).

Stage 2:
When you have enough to make a pile (mine were ~1/2 cubic metre) slice open the bags - they'll be a little whiffy but only slightly. Its not a 'knock you over' kind of pong. The coffee bits look more 'fluffy' and the pulp looks pretty much the same but the smell is 'different' to when it went in ..... don't put it on plants 'to finish off in the garden' at this stage - it'll kill seedlings and such as there is a bit of alcohol produced.

Make the pile as big as you can comfortably turn (or use one of those tumbler things for bigger jobs). I did mine in compost bays open onto the ground (this helps for stage 3).

For each bag you add, chunk in a handful of lime (its nowhere near enough lime to neutralise the acidity of the citric acid 'in theory' BUT the theory strictly only holds for an acid and an alkali by themselves....and can't account for the diversity of molecules that make up the pulp and coffee, the wonders of life, microbial succession and all that guff.
Mix the pile around and sprinkle with water - moist not sodden is the aim.
You can add some leaves or straw at this point to make the finished compost less dense but try without first then adapt the mix how you see fit next time.

Fork it around a few times a week, sprinkle with water to keep it moist. It'll get HOT after each forking. This went for about 4 weeks depending on the season and the number of times I turned it. When the pulp doesn't look like pulp any more and it doesn't really get hot after turning, its time for:

Stage 3:
Either move to a finishing bay or leave in the same spot to 'finish' out of the sun. No more forking just let the worms move in. This stage takes about 4 - 8 weeks depending on the season - shorter if its warm. It also helps to cover the pile with hessian, old felt, leaves or something to keep it humid. Leave it alone except for a bit of water now and again.

That's it.

This made perhaps the best compost I have ever produced. Rich, very dark, very sticky and very very dense. It smelt wonderfully earthy and was so densely humusy that I reckon you could have modelled figurines out of it. My 1/2 cubic metre piles became about 20 buckets worth each - less than a 1/3 of the original size.

I had to cut it 70:30 (crappy sandy soil: compost) to use it. Other, more crumbly composts I grow straight into no problem - but not this one. I tried higher amounts of this compost in pots but it dried very hard and shrunk by about 1/3 and would only wet up if submerged in a bucket - hardcore compost!

If leaves, straw etc are added at stage 2 the compost comes out more fluffy and only needs a 50:50 cut.

Out of my own curiosity I tested the pH through the stages - end of stage 1 pH ~ 4, end of stage 2 pH ~ 6-7, end of stage 3 pH about 7-9. More often it was about pH 8. After cutting with (formerly) crappy sandy soil pH was ~7. Perfect.

Like everybody else here - I would rather all that organic matter goes to making us more gardens!!!!! (rather than going to landfill to make methane to warm our toes).

Monday, January 5, 2009

building a compost bin

i'm going to replace the old green plastic one with something that actually works. the unfortunate problem with the plastic bins is they don't aerate very well. once the anaerobic activity gets going it interferes with the breakdown and the organic matter starts to rot instead of composting. the other thing that can happen is not enough moisture, or too much heat. this can affect the breakdown process and the microbial action.

so the answer is to build a bin with wooden slats, have gaps between the boards to allow air to circulate and turn the compost as and when needed. a good compost that is breaking down well does NOT smell. if anything it has that rich sweet smell of live soil, and worms abound in plenty.
a lid is good though to keep vermin out, and for aesthetics.

these are some designs i am considering. placed a WANTED post on Freecycle tonight and have managed to locate some old pallets for the timber.

Vasili on SBS has detailed instructions for building a wooden compost pallet bin, including a video clip.

This three-bin structure is the rolls royce of compost bins, complete with detailed instructions and photographs. Even management students from Bucknell University can build one so it can't be that hard.

And this is my favourite, the twin bin, portable and compact. The instructions are clearly laid out, step-by-step with photos.

Watch this space as i begin to construct my own variation and combination to fit the space where the plastic bin sits.