Passive Solar & Summer Harvest

by | Feb 15, 2018 | Design, Garden meals, Harvests, In the Garden, In the kitchen, Our home building journey, Preserving

There is so much work being done. My motivation levels continue to be high. My energy levels rise and then fall.
This is a brilliant time of the year, summer is so bountiful I want to make the most of it. I take enormous pleasure from using ingredients growing free around me.
My aim is to grow as much as my energy levels will allow and to forage as much as time and enthusiasm will permit. I am constantly learning new skills and enriching my gastronomic experiences.
This summer is looking like this.

I have had a good garlic harvest and have found new ways to preserve it. This has been slow cooked in a rice cooker set to WARM (not cook) and after 14 days it is ready. Some of it is gummy soft and sweet, some is a little harder and will be grated into dishes.

Zucchinis are prolific as usual and my current favourite way to preserve them is to dehydrate them. In winter I can use them in soups and stir fry recipes

Every second day I am harvesting tomatoes and making passata. Well not quite passata. I have chosen to cook the tomatoes and when their skin cracks I use a stick blender to break them down. I then hot water bathe them in a pressure cooker for 15mins.

I am also dehydrating tomatoes and storing them in jars.

Some of the tomatoes are being eaten by mice, but most are just fine.

I have now bottled 40 passata bottles for winter eating.

There is lots of kale in the garden, I have grown far too much. My favourite way to prepare it however is fried with garlic, lemon, and breadcrumbs.

I have been making fruit leather with foraged plums. I use the fruit leather in little pieces in salads and as a sweet lollie during the day.

Nashi and plums cooked and also made into fruit leather.

Whole cherry plums dehydrated and then packed in salt to eat with rice in winter.

Dried plum halves for winter eating.

Drying broadbeans for next spring.

Our first true kitchen garden salad with all ingredients from the garden, basil, purple peas, tomatoes, cucumber and dried cherries from our cherry harvest in Alexandre Victoria.

Arty tomatoes from our garden.

Our first raspberry harvest.

Preserving garlic in the rice cooker set on warm.

Ahlia my thirteen year old really likes to make cakes.

My garlic harvest. These cloves were slow cooked in a fry pan until caramilised and then a little sugar was added and they were then jarred and hot water bathed. I had not wanted to add any sugar because the whole point of caramilising garlic is that it brings out the natural sugars in the garlic. But I had a great deal of garlic to do and it was taking me over an hour to do each batch. So I finally added some sugar to achieve the sweetness desired.

Foraged plums. Raw packed in fowlers jars, water yet to be added, these jars were photographed prior to hot packing with water.

Gherkins pickled and others fermented.

Yogurt made and then allowed to drain using muslin, to create a thick Labneh cheeese.

Yogurt being drained to collect the whey and to make Labneh.

The collected whey. It makes for a delcious drink , if you, like me, like sour and acidic flavours.

Harvesting yabbies for a tomato, cucumber, coppa and lemon salad.


Harvesting mulberries from a large old tree in an abandoned home in Yandoit.

Fermenting cabbage and carrot.

Dehydrating cherries from a commercial orchard.

We are improving the passive solar performance of our home by protecting our west facing walls from heat and rain. In this picture Ralf is building a wooden facade to protect the west side of our straw home.

This west facing building has also had a new wooden facade added to it to protect it from setting sun and raging rain.

Our passive solar home is also being cooled a little more each year by the addition of a garden and new trees planted.

Bee garden in our courtyard to provide food for bees and to help cool the microclimate near our home.

Echinops doing really well. I will plant more in the bee garden next year.

Native australian grass Poa labillardieri is establishing really well in the bee garden. It is not helpful to bees but it is helpful to me, as it has allowed me to be able to ‘fill the bee garden’ at low cost as the bee friendly plants are far more expensive in comparison. Once I have filled this garden with green and beaten the battle with weeds, I will plant more flowering perennials to serve our precious bees.  See you again in March dear readers.


  1. Andrew

    So good, Mara! Really inspiring and delicious to watch. What a great life.

    • Mara

      Thank yuo Andrew, I am soo grateful for the experiences I am having. Love to yuo and family.

  2. Isi

    So so lovely. Will have to come visit next year. Love the new West protective woodwall. Beautiful xxx

    • Mara

      Thank you always for your lovely words of support. Really appreciated and one day I want to travel with you to your homeland, it looks sooooo beautiful.

  3. Heidi

    Wow Mara so fantastic, Your photos and what you are doing are very inspiring. You are giving us plenty of ideas and pleasure through your sharing.

    • Mara

      Thank you heeeeaps for your words. I love to share so much, it makes life more significant for me, more rich and meaningful. I can’t wait to share our home more too through on site experiences, tours and workshops. I am having to be very patient and am learning to pace myself and to work long term. I have always been more of a sprinter than a marathon runner, but this project requires slow, incremental steps and a long term approach.

  4. Joel

    Fantastic to see your summer bounty. I love your western screen concept as well, it will be even more of a summer oasis once the vines grow and spread.

    • Mara

      Thank you heaps Joel, thank you…I have planted hops on one of the west walls and an evergreen climber (can’t remember which one). The hops will be lovely and we will use it for fermenting drinks, but being deciduous I thought I’d plant an evergreen too and hope to manage the two so that the evergreen does not overtake the hops. I have planted Virginia creeper and Muehlenbeckia complexa on the other west wall with the same intention. And I just caught up with your website! And oooohhhhh la la and wow!!! and your book!!! it is the most beautiful treasure, a clever, meanignful, enriching, positive, exciting project the book is. You have completely inspired me!!! Looooooooooooove it. And the curated found objects!!! Absolutely beautiful and precious and artful and creative and I can’t stop, next time I visit my SA friends we must come see you!!

  5. Emma bathygate

    Mara you are prolific grower and preserver big work ! Thanks for sharing love Emma

    • Mara

      Hello Emma, thank you for your words. I am really enjoyign the preserving and harvesting. Only a small quantity of the food I am preserving is from our garden. I am gleanign and harvesting from all over the place. Road side trees, friends gardens, public parks etc. I hope you are extremely well and next time I am in Madlon I shall pop in so I will send you my number so that you can send me yours. Love lots, mara


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