Friday, 26 June 2015

Product Review - Dandies Marshmallows

By Chris R.

An amazing find for all those marshmallow fans out there - we were very impressed with Dandies Vegan Marshmallows. No gelatine, but with all the joy of a regular mallow.   

See for complete product ingredients and details. 

If you are unable to source Dandies locally, they are easily found online from most reputable vegan outlets and postage is reasonable for such a light weight item.

We were pleased with 'Dandies' melting capacity in hot chocolate and they toast as readily as the usual mallows when warmed over hot coals.   

While not as 'sweet' as some mallows on the market, Dandies are delicious when covered with chocolate or squashed between biscuits with jam to reinvent the much loved Wagon Wheel biscuits.

Wholewheat Lunch Wraps with Vegan Fillings

A quick and healthy lunch treat by Chris R.

- Packet of 8 wholewheat wraps (or similar grainy wrap bread)

- Filling 1:
Baby Kale
Iceberg lettuce
Fried onion pieces (Ikea brand are tasty and good value!) 
Vegan mayonnaise 
Wholegrain mustard 
Soft cheddar style soy cheese (such as Kingland) 
Cherry tomatoes, chopped

- Filling 2:
English spinach
Avocado, mashed
Marinated capsicum strips
Roma tomatoes, cut into thin wedges
Soy bacon chips
Cracked black pepper

Spread ingredients and wrap tightly.  
Cover with plastic wrap until served to remain soft and fresh.

Thursday, 18 June 2015

Vegetable Gardening in the Valley

By Chris R.

The lowlands of the Sanctuary have highly fertile soil, easy to dig and needing little improvement.  Benefitting from the annual flow of Gidgegannup Brook, they are rich and dark, excellent conditions for growing a range of fruit and vegetables.  

Chemicals are not used in the gardens at Possum Valley.  This ensures any free ranging animals or visiting fauna are not exposed to a possible poisoning.  It also ensures the food that both we and our residents consume is safe and totally organic.  With time often short, veggie patch maintenance is irregular and sometimes limited, but remains productive, enjoyable and often quite pretty. So how do you manage pests while maintaining production, with little time on hand?

Here are some key tips to a happy and healthy vegetable garden – even in the smallest of suburban lots:

- Feed the ground: Add compost, manure and mulch such as pea straw to feed soils; vegetables are hungry plants, promptly using nutrients that will need constant replenishment. 

- Mix it up: Don’t plant the same vegetable in the same place each time.  Crop rotation may minimise the build-up of pests and can counter certain soil deficiencies, which may occur from a monoculture in the same bed.  Plantings of legumes such as peas and beans will increase nitrogen in a plot, ready for nutrient-hungry species, such as tomatoes.

- Promote good bugs: Mother nature created a suite of bugs that can help pollinate plants and prey upon pest species.  Plant species in and around vegetables which will nurture the good guys.  These include a range of herbs and also annual flowers such as marigold, alyssum and lavender.

- Water well: Mulch beds well to reduce water use.  Shade plants in hot conditions with shade cloth or even a cotton sheet to reduce evaporation and prevent leaf scorching. Don’t skimp on watering vegetables when needed, but be water wise by giving them a big drink early in the day.  

- Sow often: Stagger plantings to ensure an ongoing supply of your favourite vegetables.  Make sure you allow for garden visitors in your planting regime (we have bunnies stopping by often at the silver beet patch, so additional plants are added).

- Be vigilant: Just a few minutes on a weekend can highlight problems which can jeopardise your crop.  Use finely crushed egg shells and diatomaceous earth to discourage insect pests on any plant.  Chickens will assist with pest collection, just keep an eye they don’t peck or dig at plants you wish to take.

- Plant in season: Take note of the growing seasons of different crops.  Brassica will often bolt to seed in a few short weeks if conditions are hot, while tomatoes will fail to fruit if too cold.  Minimise disappointment by growing plants compatible to seasonal conditions.

A Possum Valley Harvest.
 - Weeds: Weeding a flower lined veggie patch can be highly therapeutic.  As weeds are not sprayed at Possum Valley, they are collected often and fed out to the various birds and poultry as appropriate.  Parrots enjoy annual grasses (especially with seed heads and sandy roots attached) and thistles are relished by chickens. Be careful to learn toxic species of your area – do not feed to animals  and put in the bin to prevent recurrence in the garden.

Easy to grow species, which are relatively pest free include loose leaf lettuce, kale, Asian veggies, chillies, spring onions and silver beet.  Cherry tomatoes are much easier to grow than larger tomato types, and produce heavy crops for long periods.  Silvereyes and Red-capped Parrots enjoy the cherry tomatoes and chillies, so plant additional seedlings to share.  Excess crops, or those spoiled by our native visitors, are not wasted, rather they are collected for the roosters and peacocks who aren’t concerned by a few peck holes and excited to see the ‘seconds’ barrow arriving each weekend.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

This Sunday: Winter Solstice at FERN

Possum Valley will be celebrating winter solstice at FERN this Sunday, selling a range of delicious vegan cakes, treats and merchandise featuring beautiful animal artworks. Sales will raise much needed funds for Valley residents, to cover veterinary fees, medications and animal food.

The Fremantle Environmental Resource Network is a hub of sustainability.... there will be workshops, including raw food with Karen, family friendly activities, environmental and cruelty free stalls, lots of vegan food and goodies as well as some stellar entertainment on the music stages. Bring friends and family and join the fun!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Fire in the Valley

By Chris R & Mark H.

Fire at Possum Valley is an ever present threat throughout the warmer months.  Over 15 acres of the property is covered in thick jarrah forest, providing homes and food for both local wildlife and those in care. Whilst privileged to have this resource literally on the doorstep, with it comes the responsibility of ensuring animals at the Sanctuary are safe should a fire eventuate.

'Burning off' to prevent bushfire threat.
Managing the risk of fire is a priority throughout the year.  With summer comes the cleaning and stockpiling of carriers and cages and the servicing of trailers and floats, ready to house and move residents in an evacuation.  Such an evacuation would need time and is only possible with sufficient warning.  Special care needs to be taken to minimize animal stress during a potential evacuation, keeping them cool, quiet and calm.

Clearing around aviaries, enclosures and paddocks is undertaken annually to minimise radiant heat if a fire takes hold.  Huge piles of material are burnt throughout the winter months to reduce fire risk.  While the Sanctuary favours native plantings, flammable trees such as eucalypts, overhanging aviaries and lining paddocks, are pruned or replaced with introduced, non-flammable species including poplars, maples and fruit trees.  An article on ‘fire-safe’ plantings will feature this Spring.

Areas around the buildings are cleared and re-planted.
Reticulation, set on a timer, is run around and above all animal enclosures. Throughout the summer months, it doubles to cool animals and keep the environment damp should a fire approach.  A specially designed woven cloth shipped from Queensland covers enclosures, providing shade while also protecting from embers that may catch alight.  Possums in pre-release care are provided with bags within their nest boxes, allowing them to be easily scooped and brought to safety from their pre-release aviaries in an emergency.  Nets are located with the bird aviaries in readiness for their capture.  Birds are very sensitive to smoke, with their delicate lungs at risk of smoke inhalation, so evacuation for our avian friends is at the top of the evacuation list.

Aviary with fire retardant woven cloth.
Long grass is mowed or selectively grazed and paddocks are consciously overgrazed on the approach of summer to ensure large animals have safe refuge from ground fire.  Whilst hooves appear quite tough, the soft pads which they cover can suffer badly from even small grass fires and hot ground.  It is important that paddock animals have clear room to move in a fire, so on high fire danger days, animal locations are strategically planned to ensure this requirement is met.  

In addition to property preparation, a fire trailer and fire unit are on site throughout the year, assisting in controlled burning and also in fire response should it be required.  A buffer strip protecting the house and animal accommodation is burnt annually during the burning season or following approval for a permit to burn. Care is taken not to injure native wildlife during controlled burns, with leaf litter checked for bobtails and other native neighbours while setting alight these areas.

'Burning off' on a cool evening.
Lastly, a detailed fire response plan is printed each year, ensuring all animals are accounted for in emergency.  Where possible, animals would ideally be evacuated to safety with any threat of fire, with the above preparations being implemented only in the case of a sudden fire when time is limited. 

Monday, 15 June 2015

Recipe: Vegan Cheezy Pasta Bake

Recipe made by Chris R.

This 'cheezy' pasta bake contains no animal products but is as creamy and easy to prepare.  Add vegetables of your choice in season.

-1 packet of tri-colour or wholemeal pasta
-1 cup of prepared 'Leahey Garden's' Cheese Sauce, prepared with soy milk 
-1 cup broccoli florets
-1 cup chopped zucchini
-1 cup fresh English spinach
-1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic
-1/4 cup vegan bacon bits ('Kinda' brand bacon or similar)
-1/2 cup of Bed and Broccoli Parmesan
-cracked black pepper to taste

-Cook pasta and lightly steam broccoli.   
-Mix pasta with broccoli, spinach and zucchini in a baking dish.
-Prepare the cheese sauce, adding in garlic and pepper.  Pour over pasta and vegetable mix, mixing gently to cover all ingredients.
 -Sprinkle over vegan bacon, followed by Parmesan.
-Bake at 180C for 20 minutes, cover with foil if edges browning.
-Great with a green salad and chips.

Saturday, 13 June 2015

What's on the Menu?

By Chris R.

The residents of Possum Valley have diverse and specific dietary requirements.  Much time is spent ensuring fresh, tasty and nutritious foods are provided to all in care on a daily basis.

This image shows a typical evening in the kitchen preparing the evening meal for brush-tails being rehabilitated for release.  A range of fruit and vegetables are included, many of which are grown pesticide-free in the orchard and vegetable patch at the Sanctuary.  In winter, citrus and apples feature strongly on the possum menu, while summertime brings treats of frozen peas and corn kernels and local stone fruit.

To supplement their fruit and vegetable treats, all possums are provided with fresh browse of local foliage and flowers.  These are essential in the pre-release stage of care to ensure they are familiar with natural food sources upon release.  Grevillea, eucalypts, hakea and wattles are planted throughout the gardens to provide these tasty and essential morsels each day, while also keeping the local birds very happy.