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March 2023 Newsletter

Another full moon has passed. Although this week may not feel like it is cooling down, we can see around us trees whose leaves are providing a dazzling display of fireworks colours as their leaves fall to the ground. Their annual deciduous cycle commencing as the daylight hours begin to shorten and nights become longer. Prepartions in nature for hibernation are well underway while many of us human folk enjoy the weather for glorious holiday breaks or fast paced preserving to capture all the summer bounty.

Tuesday 21 March is the autumnal equinox and many believe you should have your garlic sown by this time. Some use this day to mark the true start of autumn where the sun passes the equator. The Miriwoong people call cold weather time 'Warnka-mageny', the Nyoongar people call cooler weather time 'Bjeran' and the D'harawal people (down Sydney way) call it 'Burrugin'. The local Awabakal Language and Culture program is currently developing an Awabakal seasonal calendar and I am excitedly awaiting its release. The local Worimi people teach us about the interconnectedness of all things and soon the hairy caterpillars will come down from the trees which signals the mullet are migrating.

The next Produce Share for the 3 Rivers Hinterland is this Friday 10 March, 10am at Clarence Town.

This newsletter is full. Click on the heading to go straight to those articles or make yourself a brew, sit down and get comfortable for this month's read.

If you would like to contribute to the newsletter or have a notice or event you would like to submit, please email it to

Melissa Fogarty, Blue Boat Farm (Newsletter Editor)


We are almost ready to share the whole year with you. How exciting. We have our AGM in October, another workshop planned for November and then it is Christmas party time.

11 March

Heidi's place


15 April

Purple Pear Farm



Four Acre Farm


17 June

Rainbird Farm

Bobs Farm/Medowie

15 July

Maplewood Permaculture Farm


12 August

Dianella Animal Sanctuary

Martins Creek

Message from the President

Welcome to our new members. Thank you for letting us know what topics you are interested in. I hope you will find HOGS helpful for your journey with organic gardening. This month's field day is at a suburban backyard and we have a guest speaker Amy who will talk about weeds. HOGS members include farmers, experienced gardeners, newbies. We are all learning about growing vegetables, flowers, crops and trees to organic principles. There are lots of things to read in the newsletter- permaculture principles, recipes, future events.

Mike Lorraine (President)


We are in the process of updating the growing guide on the website. Stay tuned for more in this space soon.

Sow: Alyssum, billy buttons, beetroot, bergamot, broad beans, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, calendula, carrots, cauliflower, celtuce, chives, coriander, cornflowers, echinacea, everlasting daisy, hollyhocks, kale, kohlrabi, leek, lettuce, onion, parsley, parsnip, peas, poppy. pyrethrum, radish, rocket, shallots, spinach, spring onion, swede, tansy, thyme, turnips, violas.

Other jobs to do:

  • Prune and feed your roses

  • Clean up cages and trellises from beans, tomatoes etc. Cleaning is important to remove diseases.

  • Take the ferns off the top of the your asparagus, feed and mulch

  • Remove spent plants to the compost and diseased plants to the bin or burnt

  • Water deeply veggies and trees and maintain mulch cover

  • Weed regularly and remove them before they go to seed

  • Collect fruit seed to grow next season

  • Do your budding grafts now

  • Check irrigation systems and unblock drippers

  • Plant spring such as jonquils, freesias and ranunculus

  • Start sowing winter crops

  • Prepare soil for the bare fruited trees you have on order

  • Purchase garlic bulbs and prepare soil for garlic

  • Harvest and preserve your bounty if you cannot eat or share it

  • Review what has been successful or otherwise over the spring and summer season


If you want to know more about bush regeneration and managing weeds on your plot, then make sure you register to attend this month's field day at Heidi's place in Cardiff. Heidi's property is set on 1/2 and acre with a little unfenced creek running alongside their property.

Amy Trello will be joining us to talk about the principles of bush regeneration and weed management. Amy has over 25 years experience in landscaping, natural area restoration, prescribed fire, wild fire and arboriculture. If you bring your unidentified weeds along (being mindful of seeds), she will be able to help you identify it and discuss a plan of action.

On the day we will also be planting some native species plants from Landcare.

Bring your notepads so you can create your own weed action plan for your property.

Principles in Action - Water

Each month, Will from Maplewood Permaculture will be sharing an example of permaculture principles in action from their farm. The principles are integrated concepts, illustrating how they apply several in concert when decision making.

Water is life. Limestone Permaculture legend Brett Cooper makes sure that these words are well understood by his students. We know that without water, the best of our plans will not come to fruition, so with a little consideration of the principles of permaculture, we can ensure our garden is flourishing, and able to be resilient when necessary.

Water’s components, hydrogen and oxygen are among the most abundant in the universe, and indeed water, in all its forms, can be found all around us on farms, and in backyards throughout the seasons. For the past couple of years, many of us have probably been on the side of having too much of it around, though the summer months have reminded us how quickly this precious resource dries up. The best approach, is a plan that responds to both droughts and flooding rains.

The first step in permaculture-principled water management is to observe. This can be in the form of rainfall records, roof catchment calculations, storage, recycling, identifying drainage problems, boggy spots, the list goes on, and is followed by the need to assess. To collate information, to look for patterns in the conditions, determine impact, consider your climate, and the needs of the living parts of the system. This step might well involve some learning. Building an understanding of water harvesting and management systems, from tanks, to swales, dams and pumps. From here, we can begin to interact with intention, and a sound understanding of our context, to complement our intuition. Our planning, and interaction, always begins with patterns, and moves to details. Like all patterns of energy on our property, we are trying to maximise the potential of water as it moves through the landscape. Trapping it indefinitely, or moving water on too quickly, are often examples where someone’s solution has become a problem. Instead, we try to slow, sink, spread, and store water.

The first objective is to retain water in the soil of the landscape. Slow, sink, spread. Without human intervention, water is banked in the ground - not tanks. Ideally, we create a regenerative, soil-building system that, over time, turns the property into a sponge. Think of the soil in a rainforest - and its water holding properties. At a details level, this could look like huglekultur mounds, check dams, contoured swales, tree- belts, beds deep in organic matter - all ways to slow, sink and spread water in landscapes depending on the size and setting. The role of plants is key here - a biological solution for modulating water speed and volume. The second objective is storage. Remember, naturally occurring in the ground. We can store water at the surface of our property in bird baths, ponds, and dams. Some my have access to a bore, and must consider the ecological implications of this movement of water. Commonly though, households require water to be stored in tanks for daily use. This can become critical in drought, heatwave, and bushfire conditions, though it is wise to remember that every drop tanked, is one less drop in the soil, and thus not accessible to the biology there. Water is life, but life also creates life, so we must act in harmony with both.

If you are on ‘town water’, know your supply. Understand the system, its qualities, and vulnerabilities. For many of us, the water restrictions of 2019 are still in the back of our mind. Plan for resilience, with multiple strategies for slowing, sinking, spreading, and storing water, so you are prepared for thick and thin. Every hard space is an opportunity for both water harvesting, and diversion, to be used now or later.

I would love to continue on with the beneficial role of a variety of water sources in your system, but it will have to come another day. Then there’s preferred methods - irrigation systems, hand watering, timers, and more.

To finish with a practical assignment, make a little map of the garden and note where your water access points are. How do these fit with your daily routine? Stack the advantageous location of taps with your daily movements and it’s a recipe for watering success.

Will, Maplewood Permaculture Farm, March 2023


That Herb Guy - Weeds

Each month, Mike our President will be sharing information with us about herbs.

This time it's about weeds. When I lived in the Blue Mountains my herbal friend David would walk around my backyard pointing out various plants and telling me how useful they were. They were weeds he was talking about- Fleabane, Shepherd's Purse, Dandelion. Every time I would drive up and down the Blue Mountains Coreopsis and Evening Primrose would line the Great Western Highway. We are surrounded by them but are they a curse or cure?

Some herbs are garden escapes and become nuisance - Acanthus, Agapanthus, Coreopsis, Evening Primrose and Borage to name a few. Some are 'pot herbs' and are edible. A lot have medicinal uses or can tell us about the soil they are growing in.

Purslane is growing in my backyard now. Portulaca oleracea can be eaten raw in salads. It has a butter-like taste. The leaves, stalks, seeds can be eaten. The older stalks can be stir fried or put in pies.

Onion weed Allium triquetrum is the bane of my gardening life. The leaves, stalks, and flowers are edible; and have a delicate onion flavour. But I still dig them out.

Dandelion Taraxacum officinale is a very useful herb and weed. I see it sold at Bunnings and apparently there are cultivars of the wild Dandelion that were and are still grown by nurseries. It is the earthworm friend and shows they are there or are coming. It has a long use as a medicine and the name officinale tells us that it is a medicinal herb. It helps in decomposing compost heaps; it is a plant food activator and even a companion plant for your Violas and scented geraniums (pelargoniums).

Amaranthus - Amaranthus viridis indicates soil low in calcium and phosphate but high in potassium and magnesium.

Chickweed indicates a healthy slightly acid soil; rich in copper,iron, manganese and potassium.

There is more I could write about weeds so I think this will be a 2 part article. I hope you come along to our next meeting to find out more about weeds.

By Mike Lorraine (President)


Grow Your Own Mushrooms

With Kellie Wall from the Pickled Patch

Many members attended the mushroom growing workshop and there has been some wonderful photos on Facebook and lots of learning together which has been wonderful.

Members have taken their spawn home and with attention to humidity and more they have been able to not only grow but also eat their mushrooms.

And here is some of your feedback from the workshop.

"Very informative & easy to put into practice."


"Kellie was easy to talk to and gave great info. The take home kit was a great idea so people can give it a go before outlaying money for everything."

"Great session, lots of fun :)"

"Excellent event, lots of interest from many attendees, so would be good to have a follow-on event perhaps in 6-12 months." - Great idea, thank you

"A very informative workshop."

"An outstanding workshop. Well presented and the HOGS organisation was excellent. If this is the annual 'one free workshop for members' then it was very generous for those of us who came."

If you missed this workshop there will be another workshop of a different topic in November.


In Our Hands Family Farmgate

With Jacqui Purcell

7 years ago, I was a regular wage earner, employed by the black coal industry and blissfully ignorant. Life was good. But the birth of my first child saw the threads of this ignorance start to unravel and new lenses through which to view the world open up. I chose to cloth nappy her; due to a few people within my circle choosing similarly and the feel of an old-worldy tie to the generation before me. There must have been more to it than that, but it feels like that I was a completely different person back then and I can’t remember the details. But I was far from being ‘a greenie’ at the time.

This simple act for me was like stepping off a cliff. I observed how quickly the bin filled up with putrid waste every time I took a break from cloth nappies – which then opened my eyes to the overwhelming waste problem, that 8 billion people requiring single-use convivence at every turn, produce. I hung in this space for a while. Reeling in the weight of the issue and what to do. I participated in my first “Plastic Free July” and decided to quit things as simple as water bottles, shopping bags and coffee cups. Surely, I could cope a month? Well… like a weird addiction I was hooked. At the end of that month, I was on such a buzz from a little success that I just kept it going. Those things stayed out of my life for good, and every few months I would remove a little bit more waste from our habits, let it settle into a routine and then go again. We got down to about an 8L bin needing to be emptied every 2-3 weeks and our recycling bin being put out every 2-3 months. For some perspective, during this time I had two very small children (2 cloth bottoms for a while) and I was working a high demand job 3-4 days a week. I tell you this so that you feel empowered to be able to do it too. It’s all about priorities and what you choose to place importance upon. If a cleaner planet for future generations is important to you, then make a tiny step change and then just settle until you don’t even notice it anymore. Then step again. Before you know it, you’ll never need to take the bloody bins out ever again!! How good would that be?

During the waste reduction journey, I also needed to cope with dietary changes for our family, as a conventional western diet was making my 2-year-old daughter very unwell. I had to start reading the back of food packets and I was appalled at the number of ingredients in seemingly innocent food items that I didn’t recognise. I was spending hours standing in supermarket aisles researching these things on my phone. This is not how food should be!! How did it get like this? How have so many of us not even noticed? I challenge you! Pick up almost ANY supermarket item and tell me what is in it. If your brain doesn’t recognise it as food, then your gut doesn’t either.

So… I started becoming a lot more involved in making food from scratch. Not just to remove the ingredient in question from our diets but to try and remove so much of the other junk. In this regard I must lay down tremendous accolades to have been raised by a mother that is an AMAZING cook. This placed me in a can-do kind of position. Things like making pasta and mayonnaise from scratch didn’t seem so out of reach because I had watched her do it on an almost daily basis in my childhood kitchen. In hindsight I don’t know how she raised 4 children very close in age, cooked meals from scratch (often for many more than 4 children) and worked. But she did. Millions of women before her did. And you can do it too. Again, it’s all about priorities.

Now… being involved in cloth nappying, waste reduction & homesteading circles doesn’t leave a lot of space to continue to be ignorant about the big stuff. It’s only a matter of time before the personal growth morphs into other topics. The waste issue is a challenge, but Climate Change is a “Wicked Problem”. One that is so complex, that we don’t know how to solve it. One that could well be the end of humanity. There are many causes, and it will take many, many solutions. We don’t know what they are yet. But we do know that it’s almost too late to start any of them. Suddenly it felt like the foundation I had built my life upon, my career, my social circles, my children’s future – was crumbling from underneath me. I was then at a crossroads. I could either live the rest of my life hiding under the bed with a bottle of gin, or I could go out and try to make the world a better place (and keep the gin – of course). To be honest there’s still days that are very dark, but I also have the view that there isn’t really any other option; but to fight.

Which brings me to now. I have completed an Advanced Permaculture Design Certificate and quit my reliance on a regular wage. My focus is now on spending every second I have to make the world a better place, revitalising the 8-acres upon which we are raising our family, importing waste streams to save them from landfill, supporting my acquaintances in making their own journeys toward a lower impact life and to create resilience in as many aspects of the community as possible so that we are able to navigate our way through the uncertain and challenging future ahead.

By changing my habits, I hope that this example ripples out into the community. Ripples grow bigger as more and more people start to see a different way, then make gradual changes to their own habits. Perhaps one day the momentum of everyone’s ripples will turn into a wave! Come and ride it with me.

You will find a plethora of fresh and preserved goods and produce as well as hand made and upcycled items at the farmgate. 13a Giles St, Seaham. Open 7 days.


Soil Sisters - Coffee and Compost First Saturday of the Month, 10am Three Sista's Cafe, John St, Singleton Casual chats about soil, gardening and more.

Permaculture at the Pub First Thursday of every month Casual dining and chats with other like minded folks

A Day on the Farm - Purple Pear Farm 26 March 9.30am Anambah

​Sourdough Bread Baking Course

26 March 10.30am


​Introduction to Permaculture Course 22-23 April 9.00am Stroud Road

​Composting and Soil Health

29 April 10.00am


​Produce Share - 3 Rivers Hinterland (Lower Hunter NSW)

10 March 10.00am Clarence Town

26 March 10.00am Seaham

7 April 10.00am Medowie

Non-monetary based share


Salmon Curry with tomato-coconut samba

This recipe is one of those which make you feel like you are in a romance with your plate and spoon. Deliciously warming and light at the same time. Serves 6


2½ tbs coconut oil

4 stems curry leaves

2 tsp black mustard seeds

1½ small red onions, thinly sliced

2 tbs finely grated ginger

2 long green chillies, seeded, thinly sliced (optional)

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 tsp ground turmeric

2 tsp garam masala

½ tsp chilli powder (optional)

400g can coconut milk

4 roma tomatoes, quartered

4 (about 120g each) salmon portions

125g red Perino tomatoes, halved

150g green beans, trimmed

1 lime, juiced

Steamed basmati rice, to serve

Tomato-coconut sambal

125g red Perino tomatoes, finely chopped ½ small red onion, finely chopped 2 tbs shredded coconut

1 lime, juiced

Pinch of chilli powder (optional)


1. Heat the oil in a large deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the curry leaf stems and cook for 1 min or until crisp. Transfer half the curry leaf stems to a plate lined with paper towel.

2. Add mustard seeds to the pan. Cook, stirring, for 1 min or until aromatic. Add the onion, ginger, sliced chilli, if using, and garlic and cook, stirring, for 5 mins or until onion is tender. Add the turmeric, garam masala and chilli powder, if using, and cook, stirring, for 30 secs or until aromatic. Add the coconut milk and 200ml water and stir to combine. Season. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 mins or until sauce thickens slightly.

3. Meanwhile, to make tomato-coconut sambal, combine the tomato, onion, coconut, lime juice and chilli powder, if using, in a medium bowl. Season.

4. Add the roma tomatoes to the curry mixture and simmer for 5 mins or until the tomato softens slightly. Add the salmon and Perino tomatoes. Cover and cook for 3 mins. Add beans and cook, covered, for a further 3 mins or until salmon is just cooked through and beans are just tender. Stir in the lime juice.

5. Divide rice and curry among serving bowls. Top with reserved curry leaf stems and tomato-coconut sambal.

Recipe from the February Coles Magazine Page 10


Farmgates, Markets and Consumer Support Agriculture (CSA)

Paterson Farm Gate

Saturday mornings from 8am 4-8 Count Street, Paterson for CSA membership information

In Our Hands Family Farm Gate

Open everyday

13a Giles Street, Seaham @inourhandsfamilyfarm

Earth Market Maitland

First and Third Thursday mornings of the month Maitland City Mall @earthmarketmaitland

Raymond Terrace Farmers Markets Second and Fourth Thursday mornings of the month Raymond Terrace Rectory @farmersmarketraymondterrace

​Rainbird Farm and CSA

3-6pm Thursdays

3327 Nelson Bay Road, Bobs Farm


​The Good Growers CSA

229 Gelnarvon Rd, Lorno

CSA Shop open Monday 3pm to Wednesday 7am



Community Gardens are a great opportunity to talk to the gardeners about what makes their community garden special and to get your hands dirty.

  • LARGS Tuesdays 9:30AM - 1:30PM Please contact Evelyn on 0419492016 for the address and more information

  • MEDOWIE Wednesdays 9:30AM - 12:30PM 6 Waropara Road Medowie, within the Medowie Baptist Church grounds, behind the Church building

  • MEREWETHER 1st Thursday 5PM-7PM 3rd Sunday 8AM - 10AM Townson Oval/Mitchell Park, Merewether

  • MUSWELLBROOK Sundays 9-11am Penguin Community Garden Wilkinson Avenue, Muswellbrook

  • NEWCASTLE 1st Sunday of the month 9AM - 2PM Fig Tree Community Garden 20 Albert Street, Newcastle

  • SINGLETON 1st & 3rd Sunday of each month Singleton Community Garden 42 Bathurst St, Singleton

  • WARATAH/MAYFIELD Wednesday mornings Hunter Multicultural Community Garden 2A Platt St, Waratah

If you are part of a community garden, meet up or event then please send us a message so we can share with the Hunter Valley community. Find your local community garden here


Current Committee Members

President - Mike Lorraine

Vice President - Nestor Gutierrez

General Secretary - Gerda Maeder

Treasurer - Tracey Evans

Public Officer - Barbara Nudd

Membership Officer - Melissa Fogarty

Agenda and Minutes Secretary - Karen Miller

Newsletter Editor - Melissa Fogarty

Event Coordinator - Tracey Evans

Website Manager - Bec Evans

Social Media & Publicity - Chiala Hernandez

Tea & Coffee - Jennifer Richards


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