Thursday, October 20, 2011


We have had a successful  crop of Turnips-  actually "crop" is a bit of a misnomer as I had only planted a small row. This is the first time I have grown turnips so next season more of this variety will get planted. Root vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet along with plenty of "greens" and fruit.  The variety was "purple top" :

Also noticed an Oriole flash out of a large elkhorn so I suspected a nest and found this after fetching a ladder :

It was in amongst the top of this large elkhorn.  The Olive backed Oriole (Oriolus sagittatis) has such a lovely call. I have mentioned it before (in November last year).

Monday, October 17, 2011


 Tanacetum parthenium

This herb is of interest to me medically for two reasons - as a treatment for migraines and also for chronic back pain. The information following is not a treatment recommendation or endorsement and the best treatment for you may not be this herb.

It belongs to the Asteraceae (daisy) family. The name feverfew is either a corruption of featherfew referring to the plant's fine feathery leaves, or from the latin, meaning fever reducer. It has small daisy like flowers , the leaves are soft and easily crushed with a scent of a hint of camphor. In form the leaves are a little like Herb Robert and mine are about 1x2cm in size, although only recently planted, so there is no flowers and the leaf size may become larger. It comes from the Balkans area originally.

There is a long history of use of this plant with Dioscorides from about AD 65 in “De Materia Medica” recording uses for this herb probably for headaches. The parthenium part of the name possibly relates to the Greek “parthenos” meaning virgin – referring to young women using the herb for menstrual problems. An alternative explanation is from Plutarch who wrote the herb was used to treat a worker who had fallen whilst helping to build the Parthenon in Athens.

Culpepper wrote in the Middle ages that it was used for female problems and for “pains in the head”. It seems to have been used extensively throughout the ages in Europe and a similar species was also used by the Chinese for much the same medical ailments.

The active ingredients seem to be mainly a compound called Parthenolide - a sesquiterpene lactone. This group of chemicals occurs widely especially in the Asteraceae family and can be toxic, especially to grazing animals.

Medical research: (Pubmed - search term “feverfew” - number of abstracts was 254)

Abstract 1: Parthenolide and a synthetic variation had anti breast cancer effects in vitro.
The effect seemed to have been due to downregulation of messenger RNA and some cellular enzymes.

Abstract 3: The effect of Cocaine (dopamine release in the brain) was blocked by Parthenolide. Nicotine also causes release of Dopamine and thus Feverfew might be useful to help stop smoking.

Abstract 5: Another anti-cancer effect reported. This one against bladder cancer cells but was once again only an in vitro study.

Abstract 6: A double blind placebo controlled trial ( that is the best type of medical study) on feverfew and ginger for migraines. The results were about 2:1 in favour of feverfew - at 2hrs 32% feverfew patients vs 16% placebo pateints were pain free and 63%(feverfew) vs 39% (placebo) had pain reduction.

and finally :

Abstract 15: This explains the traditonal use for menstrual problems . Feverfew was shown to enhance platelet production and function.

There is lots more published medical research on Parthenolide and it broadly has anti-inflammatory, anti-pain and anti-cancer effects. Side effects eported include mouth ulcers and when an extract of the plant is used topically it can cause dermatitis (skin rash).

I think it has a role in the management of migraines – for prophylaxis and acute treatment. As to dose, I'm not sure about that, but 1-2 leaves/day would be reasonable, and like Gotu Kola, maybe don't use it every day and have a blood test after 1-2 months to check blood count (platelets), liver function and the like. The more I delve into weeds and herbs the more impressed I have become and it is really surprising how traditonal uses are often justified by current research findings. However the devil is in the details- how much to use and what side effects.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Lousiana Irises

Anne has collected several colour varieties over the years and they are flowering at present:

All bar the last are in full sun  -south facing -  behind the Granny flat - that area drains any rain from the back lawn so it tends to stay damp for longer after rain.  The last photo is a plant growing in the frog pond -  also thriving.

We had a storm this afternoon with a few minutes of hail -  no damage but I bet some parts of SEQ were not so fortunate. The last time we had hail was quite a few years ago - I had just laid some of our driveway and it was pock marked much to my chagrin.

Garden Arch

Another project recently has been the construction of a Garden arch - using some wrought iron railing as the basis of the uprights. These came from our daughter's place when they were renovating and I just knew they would come in handy!
As they were only about 1.8m long I constructed a plint of rocks with concrete infill to set the old rails into an upright position. The rest of the construction was 100x38mm treated pine - uprights and plates for the roof  structure.  The roof structure was made from some recycled 75x 38mm hardwood  with pine battens to finish. Setting the roof up  was interesting - I set  the ridge board up on a couple of temporary bits of timber running between each upright and then attached each rafter (there were only 6) 
We plan on planting hoya or some other climber to grow over it.  This arch marks the start of a gravel track leading to the frog pond and down into the front part of our garden

The Fraser Island creeper (Tecomanthe hillii) is in flower in the foreground

myrtle rust

We have only had one plant affected thus far -  a Eugenia jambos or Rose Apple.
I initially carefully pruned off affected parts but it soon recurred so that plant has been taken out- fortunately it was still quite small. As we have lots of Myrtaceae plants in our garden I didn't want that one plant acting as a focus of infection.  Interestingly we have other  Eugenia jambos and they seem clear of this disease  - so far anyway.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

brocolli from aquaponics system

Apart from lots of Kale at present we have several brocolli  heads ready in some grow beds
This one is for  married daughter and her family :

Diameter is  22cm

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mt Petrie wildflowers

This time of year there are lots of different wild flowers to be seen during my walk/exercise in the Mt Petrie Koala Reserve.  This patch of bush is quite varied in the native plant species - most of which I cannot identify.  Here's one that I am reasonably confident with although the photo does not do the plant justice:

ID:  Platylobium formosum   or  flat pea

There are lots of other flowers at present and a walk through this patch of bush  is a delight.
Although I have explored this patch of bush for many years I found this old car wreck a week or so ago:

I'm not sure what variety of car/4wd it was.  

Plenty of flowers out in our yard as well:

This is Bauhina alba.  The Bauhina purpurea is also in bloom

Friday, September 16, 2011

Humpy recreation

Another garden item that I constructed recently is a "humpy".   This word is used to describe the Aboriginal dwellings in the bush and does have some negative connations. This is not my intention. I have a lot of respect for the Aboriginal people -  their land use, their art and culture and social structures.  A highlight for me a few months ago was to visit the Kimberley region to see the Bradshaw figures and Wandjina  rock art.
Construction was simply to use a sheet of concrete reinforcing steel bent into an arch to make the frame and then palm fronds, sticks, branches etc applied.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Growing plants from cuttings and Native Raspberries

At the last Tamborine Sustainable Garden Club meeting there was a presentation on growing plants from cuttings. Here is what I learned:

1. Take the cutting from the section of the plant where the colour of the stem changes and it is flexible but not "floppy".  Cut more than is required and trim later to about 100-150mm lengths.
2. Collect early in the morning and put straight into a plastic bag.
3. Cuttings will keep for a few days if stored in the fridge.
4. If wrapped in moist newspaper they can be sent by mail
5. Just below a node is the most active region for plant hormones. Don't bother with rooting compounds.
6. Mix for growing = 1/3 coarse sand, 1/3 moistened coco peat, 1/3 moistened perlite.  Use more peat in summer for extra moisture retention.
7. Container - large pot = community pot  for 10+ cuttings or use tubes.
8. Cut just below a node  and remove most leaves and reduce any large leaves.
9. Place tubes in a foam box with some ventilation  and cover with glass.
10. Mist spray leaves twice daily.
11. Cuttings take in average 6-8 weeks before rooting  - some natives a lot longer.

I have done  30 odd cuttings of natives from my yard especially of species I want more off such as Grevillias.  I have tried to grow cuttings of natives before with limited success so I hope to have a better strike rate this time.

Here's a photo of some of our native raspberries - Rubus rosifolius. Taste wise they are ok  and the plant is growing really well.

Monday, September 12, 2011

swimming pool decommissioning- update

Here's an update on one of my most popular blog posts from 24/7/2010 ( you can easily search for it by entering "decommissioning a swimming pool" in the search box  top left). The tarp that I used had two problems - the first was rain water collecting in various parts
and needing to be squeegeed off -  a bit of a fag but I didn't mind doing it. The second was that the tarp started to deteriorate in the sun and develop tears. 
So I replaced it with 70% shade cloth -  this was a lot easier to stretch tight as well  and should also  last quite well.  This amount of shade should be enough to prevent any algal growth. Note that I have left the water in the pool -  it needs to stay in to maintain weight in the pool to prevent any hydrostatic pressure cracking or lifting the pool out of the ground. This happened to one of my poly water tanks awhile ago so I am keen to avoid anything like that. Obviously water will tend to accumulate in the pool from direct rainfall so every now and then I check the skimmer box and  if the level is too high I pump some out onto the garden. Another way would be to set up an overflow pipe from the pipework behind the skimmer box but so far I haven't done that.  I keep checking the salt level as well and when it has dropped right down by dilution from rain I can start to use it for watering the garden  and nearby fruit trees

Overall I have been really happy with the way this has stopped us needing to maintain the pool and has reduced our use of electricity.  It was quite an economic way as well although you do need to be reasonably handy.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Aquaponics : replacing diaphragms in aerator

Last year I lost some fish when an aerator failed.  I replaced the whole thing but since have learnt that it is possible to replace the part that fails in them called a diaphragm.
So yesterday I purchased the required parts and proceeded to pull an aerator to bits to have a go at replacing them. 
The aerator  I use in my systems is a brand called "Aqua One"- they have a 4 tube outlet and  I have generally been satisfied with them.  However  after 12 months of constant use the rubber diaphragms develop small tears and the amount of air pumped through the tubes into the water obviously declines or ceases
 The first step was removing 6 screws from the base  -this opened it up where the bits to be replaced became obvious.  Each arm was unclipped to access a small screw/nut holding the rubber diaphragm to it. There are four diaphragms to be replaced in the model I have.

After replacing each diaphragm reassembly was also straightforward.

After checking that it all works ok ,  I have written a date on the side so I remember when I replaced the diaphragms

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I have restocked my aquaponics systems as we were getting down on
fish. - 50  more Jade Perch and 50 more Silver Perch from the hatchery near
Beenleigh.  I have put all the large fish into the largest system and the
fingerlings  ( they are actually about 3 months old) into the other 2 systems.

Collecting lots of feijoas at present but that is about all.
Lots of purslane around at present along with Sowthistle and other
edible weeds.

Not doing much in the yard at present

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Drymaria cordata

Another interesting weed/herb is :

binomial name : Drymaria cordata
common name :  Tropical  chickweed

It is a spreading annual herb - it is around at present whereas normal chickweed is barely evident. It looks just like Stellaria media (chickweed) but has almost round opposite leaves  and much longer flower stalks:

The internet is fairly sparse on details of this weed - lots of suggestions of traditional herbal use  and use as a potherb but no real substantial reports
that I could locate.

Pubmed had only a few entries :

One indicated a useful anti-cough effect of an extract of the plant.  Codiene linctus is about the only really effective cough suppressant medically available but about 10-15% of patients are unable to tolerate codiene (it gives them stomach pains and nausea/vomiting). If that is the case it would be a useful addition to what is currently available. Pity there seems to be no clinical trials on it.
Another abstract indicated an anxiety  reducing effect and a further one indicated it had an anti-cancer effect.

Odds on this plant has lots of anti-oxidants  such as beta-carotene
but actual nutritional analysis was not evident. Also odds on it
would have the usual herb benefits of lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar and possibly anti-inflammatory effects as well. However this is speculation on my part as I was unable to locate any good scientific studies.

 Here's a photo of a Meadow Argus (Junonia villida) butterfly from our recent Stanthorpe trip. These have been around our yard also at times.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Garden - general

We are starting to pick feijoas again - good crop this year although the 2 trees have developed a lean after all the wet weather.

Collected this produce yesterday morning:

 The feijoas even though they are green are still ripe to eat -  when ripe they fall off the tree.  This variety of  Tamarillo don't seem to develop a deep red colour when ripe but they are still nice eating.  We are still picking cherry gauvas although they are nearly finished. The Babaco fruit fell off after a storm the other night - probably won't ripen enough to eat. Also 1 duck egg and 1  chook egg from the 2 new chickens -  quite small so far as they have only just started laying.

Weeds being eaten regularly at present as potherbs : Purslane , Sowthistle, Cobbler's pegs,  Amaranth, Galinsoga , Warrigal greens.  Usually  I go around and  pick a bit of this and that and then it is boiled for a short period.

Here's a nice photo of some Eastern Grey Kangaroos that were feeding
outside the  B&B we stayed in at Stanthorpe recently

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Amaranthus viridus

Another edible weed that is common on our property  in the summer months:

binomial name:  Amaranthus  viridus
common name :  Green Amaranth

The give away is the distinctive seed spikes holding a multitude of seeds
ready to be dispersed.  The leaves are a dull green on top and a bit paler
underneath -about  7cm x 9cm in size .  The plant grows to about 1m high here.

The leaves and young stems can be used as a potherb in place of silverbeet
or spinach - indeed it was considered superior to spinach in early colonial days.  The seeds are also edible when ripe with a nutty taste.

 It is used as a vegetable (potherb) in India, Africa and Greece : in a study of  Greek migrants  in Melbourne in 2002 it was one of the weeds (along with dandelion, purslane and sowthistle) being added by them to their salads on a regular basis. This group of migrants exhibit less cancer and heart disease than those eating a traditional Australian diet.

Other nutritional content :  betacarotene,  some minerals such as
Ca, P04, Mg and Mn  but it was difficult to get actual figures.

Traditionally in  Indian/Nepalese cultures it has been used in relieving the pain of childbirth. A Pubmed search however did not find any supporting scientific studies confirming this. However it really would be of no  surprise
as so many of these weed species seem to have such effect.

 Here's also an Aeosops fable mentioning Amaranth:

AN AMARANTH planted in a garden near a Rose Tree, thus addressed it: "What a lovely flower is the Rose, a favorite alike with Gods and with men. I envy you your beauty and your perfume." The Rose replied, "I indeed, dear Amaranth, flourish but for a brief season! If no cruel hand pluck me from my stem, yet I must perish by an early doom. But thou art immortal and dost never fade, but bloomest for ever in renewed youth."

Monday, February 21, 2011

Sacromento burr

posted for id by BCC  weeds office:

Yellow weed

Academic work has been a priority the past month -  2 literature reviews for
publishing and a study protocol completed - thus I have not been doing much else.  Also I'm booked to do 2 garden club "edible weeds" talks and another on "The Paleolithic diet" next month so that has needed some revision as well. Anyway - enough excuses.

binomial name :   Galinsoga parviflora
common name : yellow weed,  potato weed,   or gallant soldier

This weed occurs at the foot of some aquaponic grow beds, in the orchard and also in a vegetable garden.  There are small yellow daisy like flowers and soft leaves about 4-6cm long. It is quite prolific and we have largely ignored it until recently when we have started to harvest it and use it as a potherb.
Taste wise it is bland and seems to lack any bitterness.

Pubmed search was really interesting:           (search term : Galinsoga)

abstract 5 :  2 compounds described - one with  antioxidant activity  and the second had inhibition of alpha reductase .  This enzyme converts complex carbohydrates to simple ones for absorption from the gut. This means galinsoga would be useful in diabetes in reducing blood sugar after a meal. A similar drug already used like this is Acarbose that works the same way by blocking this enzyme pathway.

abstract 6: this is a bit hard to assess as the detail is not really given but reading between the lines it seems as if Galinsoga as used traditionally is useful as a healing agent for wounds. One would need the complete journal article to confirm this though.

abstract 7: another really interesting report that an extract of Galinsoga blocks ACE ( angiotensin converting enzyme). Thus this is another blood pressure reducing weed. 

Nutritional content: 41kcal/100gm   4gm protein   small amounts  Ca, P04, Na, Mn and modest Mg( 681)  It also has modest anti-oxidant activity .
It certainly is not as good for us as Purslane or Sowthistle but is nonetheless another useful edible weed.

(ref : Journal of Food Composition and Analysis Volume 20, Issue 5, August 2007, Pages 430-435)

This is actually quite a good article to purchase as it details the nutritional content of quite a few of the weeds
I did not find any warnings on this plant in my searches regarding oxalic acid
levels or other adverse chemicals present.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

Austral Ellipsidion cockroach

Our grand-daughter spotted this beautiful cockroach this morning sitting on the leaf of a dahlia bush :

binomial name : Ellipsidion australe
common name : Austral  ellipsidion

It is a last stage instar - ie last step on the way to becoming an adult.

This is one of many native cockroaches -  the pest cockroaches are all introduced and this unfortunately has given this type of beetle a bad name.

The spider lillies are in full bloom again:

And one of the new chooks became a carpet python meal overnight :

That was about an $18.00 main course meal for this native "friend" !
-I only bought it last week.  It has been replaced with two more today and I will make sure to lock them in a snake proof enclosure from now on.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Scribbly Gum

Yesterday, late afternoon during the Australia Day street party, this Scribbly Gum was highlighted by the late afternoon sun-  it shone like a beacon with the white colour of the trunk. This tree is probably over 100 years old -  there were some really massive Scribbly Gums on the 2 properties at the end of the street but unfortunately some have gone now.

Eucalyptus  racemosa:   scribbly gum

It is a tree to 20m on deep sandy soils usually on coastal lowlands. We have several on our property, nowhere near as large as this one.  The scribbles on the trunk are from moth larvae.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Giant Valanga

This morning whilst weeding a front garden bed  this grasshopper was

It is a native grasshopper  called a  Giant Valanga
Link to the usual info site:

It is off to become chook food after the photography session

On our letterbox there has been a paper wasp nest growing. This morning we took down some insect spray to kill the wasps and remove the nest. They have a nasty sting when disturbed and being on the letterbox was not

They are the common paper wasp  - Polistes sp  (probably humilis)

Link about these :

Also not garden related:

Mary's cat called Astro.  He is about 3 months old now.

Australia Day here today -  there is the usual street party later on  this afternoon- hopefully it stays fine and no thunderstorm develops.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Magpie Moth

Spotted this moth on the back lawn this afternoon:

Magpie Moth - Nyctemera secundiana:

I initially thoughtt it was a small Common Crow butterfly but soon  realised it was a moth by the way it held the wings at rest.  The food for this species
is the weed Thickhead  or Crassocephalum crepidiodes of which we have a lot.

Our garden has now dried out enough to get serious again - on the weekend
 we weeded the vegetable garden ready for some more plantings.  Also we
planted a new Meyer Lemon  and a grapefruit variety called Honnef's Surprise. The latter is similar to the Poorman's Orange -  a New Zealand grapefruit variety that we like but couldn't get here. Both citrus have been planted well above ground level to get better drainage. This was done by using 4 bales of sugar cane mulch to retain a barrow load of soil and compost :

Anne pruned the Tropical Peach as well.  Some other fruit trees were staked up as they leaned too much after the prolonged rain.   Figs are in full swing
-jam was made today as the quantity is too much to eat fresh.  Yard  long beans from one of the aquaponics growbeds continue to be picked every 2 days . The ants are getting into it though and need to be hosed off -  they are spreading/feeding aphids that seem to like this plant but hosing works well enough.
The trees that fell over during the heavy rain/flods I had cut off about 1 m from the ground and stood up-so far the Moringa has sprouted and has one Kauri and one Papaya.  Just shows it is worth doing this especially for small to medium sized trees that are worth trying to save.  Long term  I wonder though how good the root structure will be.  
 We also bought 2 more chooks on the weekend (Australorps). These are for the enclosure where the ducks live. It was getting overgrown with weeds  and hopefully they will clean it up.

Heavily into academic work for the next few months so will be out in the garden less.


Friday, January 14, 2011


Finally the weather is ok enough to start moving around the garden. The ground is still very sodden with ponds of water in quite a few spots but the flowing water seems to have stopped for now.
We were looking today at places we could establish better drainage to try and stop water running directly down the property. This will involve using the bobcat I have access to and create contour based structures of furrows and mounds.  There is no way that will be happening though for a while yet as it would be a recipe for making a huge mess.

The fig tree is loaded with fruit - we picked several today  and lots more coming on. It surprises me that the fruit fly, possums and birds don't get into this fruit :

Also the Bunya tree up the back has dropped this year's nuts -  there are only 5 this year. These will be stacked in a dry spot for a couple of weeks until I get around to splitting them open to extract the edible nuts that are inside the large outer structure that is also called a nut - it gets a bit confusing!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Brisbane Flood

We went to have a look at the flooding today (without getting in the way)
Mt Gravatt did not really provide much of a view and even the  Gateway bridge was a waste of time. The solid bridge sides prevent any real view of the river. Bulimba was better:

The river is way wider than usual and a very muddy brown colour. There was an anchored yacht nearby that was obviously bow down into the water- the anchor chain length must have been too short for the  river depth.  One street we tried to go down was blocked off.
Another fine day here largely with one or two showers so far. Lots of dragonflies around and spotted another Orchard Swallowtail butterfly. Anne took some shots of it flying around and  managed this one :

It is not identifiable from the photo but it is a nice "action" shot.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Small green banded blue butterfly

Yesterday morning whilst having breakfast in the usual spot - the verandah -  this small butterfly was hanging around:

binomial name :   Psychonotis caelius
common name : Small green banded blue

The photograph doesn't display the  bright blue colour of the top side of the wings.  Host plant is the Red Ash or Soap wood ( Alphitonia excelsa).  This tree grows well here and seedlings appear regularly.  I leave them if they are in a reasonable spot.

Regarding our floods : Damage so far : 2 kauri trees fallen over,  1 Moringa fallen over 3 Papaya fallen over, about 30 drowned plants including some native olives that were doing really well, and a variegated pohutukawa that wasn't cheap to buy at the nursery. Some of the small Lomandras I planted also seem to have rotted.   Fortunately we are well out of harms way and will not be affected any further but it is still disturbing to see so much destruction and loss of life in SE Queensland. I hope it is not a sign of things to come with climate change.  On a brighter note -  a beautiful fine day today (so far!)
The only produce we are harvesting at the moment is yard long beans from the aquaponics system :

They are about 400mm long  and we pick a handful every 2-3 days

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly

Whilst I have posted about this before, we spotted this butterfly in our yard a few days ago :

I am fairly sure it is a female Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly . It was a bit ragged looking so must have been on its last legs. The host plant is citrus so I must check for caterpillars from it in a few days.

Also spotted this colourful spider in a simple web in the rose garden. I have been unable to identify it unfortunately.