We believe that the urban garden is one of the solutions in the face of rising cost of living. By applying permaculture principles in the design and lifestyle, we seek to maximize onsite resources to meet most of our needs with minimal impact on the land.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Chinese Steam buns

I love steam buns!! It’s one of my comfort foods! It’s the texture of the dough that determines the quality of the bun, at least for me. I’ve been seeking for a Chinese bun dough recipe and I think I might have it now. Three other keys for making great steam buns:

1) The ingredients have to be fine (achieved by using the food processor to cut the cabbage etc
2) Mix in ¼ cold galantine (make from boiling up chicken legs) and ¾ cold filling (mince/cabbages is preferred as it holds up well)
3) Steam in a bamboo steamer

Here’s the dough recipe to make 60 small buns:
6 cups flours
¼ cup sugar
1 packet yeast
1tbs baking powder
1¼ cups warm milk
¾ cup warm water

Mix all the ingredients together, let it rise for 2 hours and the dough is ready for making buns with filling of your choice!

Thursday, 26 June 2008

Why Raw Milk?

We drink RAW MILK these days and use it to make yogurt. Why Raw Milk?

Pasteurization destroys enzymes, diminishes vitamin content, denatures fragile milk proteins, destroys vitamins C, B12 and B6, kills beneficial bacteria, promotes pathogens and is associated with allergies, increased tooth decay, colic in infants, growth problems in children, osteoporosis, arthritis, heart disease and cancer. Calves fed pasteurized milk do poorly and many die before maturity.

Raw milk sours naturally but pasteurized milk turns putrid; processors must remove slime and pus from pasteurized milk by a process of centrifugal clarification. Inspection of dairy herds for disease is not required for pasteurized milk. Pasteurization was instituted in the 1920s to combat TB, infant diarrhea, undulant fever and other diseases caused by poor animal nutrition and dirty production methods.

But times have changed and modern stainless steel tanks, milking machines, refrigerated trucks and inspection methods make pasteurization absolutely unnecessary for public protection. And pasteurization does not always kill the bacteria for Johne’s disease suspected of causing Crohn's disease in humans with which most confinement cows are infected.

Much commercial milk is now ultra-pasteurized to get rid of heat-resistant bacteria and give it a longer shelf life. Ultra-pasteurization is a violent process that takes milk from a chilled temperature to above the boiling point in less than two seconds. (Sources are listed on www.realmilk.com.)

Do you still want to drink pasteurized milk?

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


Between Maria Garcia and Kristina Boudrezux, they worked out a recipe to make a smooth, thick yogurt using raw milk loaded with beneficial stuff for the body. It produces a high quality yogurt in glass container. Start at night, after dinner, and let it set overnight (8hrs).

1 quart raw, organic whole milk
1-8 ounce container Brown Cow whole milk yogurt, plain flavor (for the first batch)
or 3-4 tablespoons reserved yogurt from the previous batch

Keep all of your utensils very clean, making sure there is no soap residue.


  1. Heat the milk in a pan to 110°F (43°C), then remove from heat immediately.
  2. Pour the warm milk into a 1 qt glass jar, add the yogurt culture, and seal loosely with the lid. Make sure to leave about 3/4 inch of air at the top of the jar so the culture has some space to grow.
  3. Place the jar into a thermos and close. Put it on the countertop, and let it set overnight (8 hours).
  4. In the morning, remove the glass jar from the thermos and put it into the refrigerator.
  5. When you first open the yogurt jar, scoop out 3-4 tablespoons of yogurt (the "mother"), place it a container, and it in the refrigerator for later use to start your next batch.
  6. If use raw milk, it lasts up to six months in the fridge. Yogurt from pasteurized milk will last 1 week in the fridge.
Tara tried the above recipe and says it is so delicious, just like Greek yogurt. The only problem is she wants to eat it all in one sitting!!

It blew us away!!

Matthew’s parents gifted him with 2 tickets to THE TEN TENORS concert on his birthday. This is a very special treat as Matt and I just aren’t in the habit of going to such extravagant concerts. Despite our excitement, we just made it there on time. We soon settled down and the Ten Tenors came on stage. The setting was simple and minimal. The lighting and quality of sound were the props. The music was absolutely spectacular. It was light-hearted and entertaining but the quality of the singing simply blew us away. Cute boys with handsome voices have a drooling effect on me!! The 2-hour show felt like 5 minutes. I was truly sad when the concert came to an end. You can get a glimpse of their beautiful music from the mp3 at their website. Thank you, mum and dad for the most generous gift.

Don't Make Me Think

My interest in Web Design started when I started blogging a year ago. Last weekend, someone recommended a book by Steve Krug “Don’t make me think” on web usability. It’s a very light hearted reading for anyone who’s into web design or blogging.

One key principle that Steve advocates is eliminate question marks that users might have. In short, don’t make them think by making the design, links, clinks etc as OBVIOUS as possible. This is relevant to me in terms of making my blog as user friendly as possible.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Pig Keeping - Part 2

In the second round, K&D bought 2 females crosses between whites and saddlebacks. Male pigs tend to produce too much testosterone which taints the taste of the meat. Besides, the smell can be overpowering for some people.

The pigs were fed on food waste collected from K’s workplace. However, K&D still had to travel 20kms everyday just to feed to the pigs. This incurred quite a bit of fuel money and carbon footprints. Fencing was still quite a problem as it just wasn’t strong enough to keep them in. So, the recurring theme is BUILD STRONG FENCING.

Finally, those girls were sent to the works mid last week.

At the weekend, K&D processed 2 kgs worth of pig liver into pate. The carcasses need to be hung for a week to before processing. This process will mature the meat which improves the texture and flavors.

K&D have decided not to keep any more pigs for the time being until they’re living on their acres, which shouldn’t be too far off.

D feeling all sentimental wrote a tribute to those pigs:

Poor girls must have passed to Pigs by now! Pigs Paradise must look like a large jungle of freshly planted trees to dig out and chew young leaves of, big buckets of noodle curries to roll in and lots of human made things to destroy happily.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Plant Propagation

Agribusiness Training is commencing a course in Plant Propagation next month, i.e. July (in Palmerston North). It’s a course that is taught over one year so that all seasonal propagation activities can be undertaken. If you’re a NZ citizen or NZ permanent Resident, the course fee is $150 for the entire course.

Apart from all the knowledge you'll acquire, you'll also receive:
-A fully functional propagation unit, including watering systems and temperature gauges to keep at home
-Home visits from the tutor for one-on-one tuition
-Field-trips to view commercial nursery production units and other areas of gardening interest in your region, where available

All in all a fabulous course for any garden enthusiasts. I’ll be enrolling for this course, and hopefully more urban permies will join me as well.

If you are interested, go to http://www.agribusiness.ac.nz/ for more information. Clink on the picture to enlarge the timetable.

Wednesday, 11 June 2008

Keeping Pigs- Part 1

More than a year ago, a good friend and her husband decided to begin their journey of self-sufficiency. Karine and David (K&D) started their adventure in their urban backyard with 2 kune kune piglets that D bought off TradeMe. It was all very refreshing and fun. The piglets were so cute. The piglets grew and grew and grew. Soon, challenges started to surface.

The kune kunes were great experts in digging the ground over. The downside was, those grounds weren't in the plan for vegs beds. It got muddy in wet weather and was only accessible by gumboots

As the pigs got bigger and stronger, the fence wasn't strong enough to keep them in anymore. It wasn't uncommon for the pigs to wonder out of the backyard to the neighboring properties or found wondering along a residential street. It is a funny thought, but not so funny for K&D. A stern advice from K: NO 1 RULE: BUILD A SERIOUS FENCE

K&D suddenly found themselves engaging in a steep learning curve when it was time to move the piggies to a friend's property before their overseas trip. The pigs didn't like to be pushed nor forced to move; it needed to be persuaded or guided with food, preferably with an empty bellies, K&D discovered. Also, when the pigs were under stress, it responded to nature's calls more readily. Consequently, their transporting trailer was completely stunk out covered in you know what!!

Not long after K&D got back from their overseas trip, the pigs were sent to the works. Unfortunately, there was nearly as much fat, if not more than meat. Nevertheless K&D still spent a few evenings transforming the meat into lovely pates, sausages, salamis and chorizos. The lesson learnt: kune kune pigs aren't exactly the best for serious meat production.

K&D enjoyed the experience so much that they bought two more piglets to replace the belated kune kune pigs. The pigs are now being housed at K&D's acres 10kms from their urban dwelling. This is where the story begins...

Monday, 9 June 2008

June's Urban Permies meeting

The meeting fell on a cold and wet winter afternoon. Judith did a short presentation on the ram earth house that she visited in the Kapiti at the soil and earth meeting.

Next, we talked about closing the loop in the permaculture garden, in the sense of preserving excess vegetables from the home garden for a later date.

In earlier times, people knew how to preserve vegetables for long periods without the use of freezers or canning machines. This was done through the process of lacto-Fermentation. Lactic acid is a natural preservative that inhibits putrefying bacterial. Starches and sugars in vegetables and fruits are converted into lactic acid by the many species of lactic-acid-producing bacteria (read more about this at this link).

We made Korean sauerkraut (kimchi) with an organic cabbage that I bought from the local organic shop – cabbages in the garden aren’t ready yet!! This is the first time I’m trialing with purple cabbage and with whey. The cutting and bounding and bottling came up to less than an hour. It will take about 4- 5 weeks before it’s ready. The flavor gets better over time. But in my household, a bottle doesn’t last more than a week. We’ll be able to do some sauerkraut tasting at the next meeting – exciting.  Overall, we had a lovely time despite the wet and cold weather.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Whole Grain Bread (Breadmaker)

Matt loves bread and he can finish a loaf of vogel bread in one sitting, and that is pretty expensive to maintain! Fortunately, my good friend, Tara came to the rescue with a whole grain bread recipe that comes pretty close to achieving the same texture as vogel bread.

This recipe uses breadmaker cups & spoons for all measurements.

Cover 1 ¼ cups kibbled wheat with water and soak overnight. Drain in a sieve for a few minutes.  This should give about 2 cups softened wheat grains.

Place the following ingredients in a breadmaker:
2 ½ tsp breadmaker yeast blend
2 1/2  cups wholemeal flour
2Tbs gluten flour
2 Tbs cream
1 ½ tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
2 Tbs butter or oil
300 ml water

Add the drained wheat, and use a standard white loaf baking programme of about 4 hours (the wholemeal programme seems to make the bread too dry).