When the sprinklers fail… make chicory coffee

So it’s just over two years now since we’ve been here at Kupungarri. A period of time that’s gone both quickly and slowly in that way that time in a remote community does.

It’s had its challenges: a dozen snakes; 500 km shopping trips; blurred lines between work and social life. But to be honest we can’t really complain. The remoteness has provided us with both the time and reason to do a lot of work around the yard.

And work we have. Over the last 18 months we have created our own vegie patch, a banana circle, two no dig garden beds, converted to empty into wicking beds, made a garden pond and planted out a little mango grove. In total we’ve grown over 50 different edible plants with various degrees of success.

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One of the most successful transformations has been along the front fence. What for year and a half had been nothing but a patch of grass ( see photos below) was converted earlier this year into a couple of veggie beds.

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Planted out with tomatoes, pumpkin, kale, mustard green, lettuce, marigolds, chicory, dill, coriander, shingku, and carrot. The beds add a splash of colour against the dry season landscape as you can see in the background (beautiful but harsh).

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Well until last weekend they did. With school holidays upon us we headed into Broome for a weekend away. Sprinklers and timers set we were expecting to come home to the same lush garden we left.

In my rush I didn’t put one of the sprinklers on properly and it come off. Leaving us with a garden bed of wilting tomatoes and marigold and dead shrivelled chicory. It was frustrating but there’s always an upside…the chicory roots.

I’d planted them out as an experiment of sorts to help break down the soil. The ground when planted was dry and heavy with clay and chicory with their long taproots and extensive hair roots breaks through the soil and aerates it. The roots can also be used as a coffee substitute. My frustration had subsided and now I was intrigued to see how effective this experiment had been.

Come the following morning I was up early (to beat the heat) in the yard watering digging up the chicory roots.

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Some of the roots were tangle and small from not being thinned out but the impact on the soil was better than expected. I don’t have a photo of the soil before, but as you can see from below the soil is now lose and crumbly.

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With a little scrubbing, and some scissors to remove the hair roots, I was able to get a few longish roots and took them inside ready to roast in a moderate oven (180 C) for 30 minutes or so. And then I burnt them, but was able to salvaged some unburnt bits.

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I ground it up and brewed it in our stove top.

The ‘coffee’ was nutty and earthy with a slight astringent after taste. I didn’t mind it, Deirdre’s still to be convinced. A project to be perfected.



7 thoughts on “When the sprinklers fail… make chicory coffee

  1. I just read your comment on Permablitz Tasmania and decided to check out your blog. We moved to Tasmania from (Albany) W.A. back in 2007. We live in the North of the state but we are also attempting to grow a food forest and live simply from our 4 acres. Do you grow your trees etc. from seed or do you buy them? We are trying to source as much as we can through seed so that the cost is a lot lower and if needed, we can graft. Glad to see some fellow sand-gropers here in the apple isle.


    • thanks for the comment. We are ex victorians who have lived in WA so not proper sand gropers. We are only just starting so haven’t gotten to any trees yet. Got a lot of bracken to clear. I think we will probably look at buying some trees to start up as that will give us the kickstart to the garden. How successful are you with growing fruit trees from seed? Would love to learn how to graft. Haven’t tried that yet.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Grafting isn’t hard and it’s a great way to get a few different kinds of fruit etc. on a single tree. I had a lot of luck growing fruit trees from seed. I have grown avocados, macadamias, hazelnuts, chestnuts (very easy from supermarket bought nuts), all sorts of fruit (including semi-tropical that seem to be pretty hardy) and we are focusing on perennials and trees. I don’t envy you your bracken. We have blackberries, boneseed and periwinkle on our 4 acres that make life interesting. Have you guys had a really dry year down there? We have decided to change how we veggie garden next year and are going to create water wicking garden beds. No more water waste and a much more streamlined and efficient way to garden. We will be using worm towers in the beds and experimenting as we go. Permaculture is an amazingly adaptable way to customise your needs to your properties possibilities. We live on a steep slope so we are going to construct a section of sloped “roof” (just poles with corrugated iron on them) to harvest rainwater into rain barrels at the top of our large covered garden area (possums, wallabies and anything else that wants a free feed…) so that we can gravity feed it to the wicking beds. Whatever our situations throw at us, there is always an answer with permaculture. A local lady taught us how to aerial layer fruit and nut tree branches to get nursery sized fruit and nut trees for free. It was an incredibly easy technique and if you have some friends or people who are willing to share some of their branches, it might be a really excellent way to source some of your new tree stock for free. Here’s a PDF that shows you how to do it if you are interested.



      • Thanks for the link to the air layering. Once the bus is finished and we’ve settled in properly I’ll explore it some more. We probably won’t be planting anything to the spring anyway as we still have a lot of groundworks to do. Good idea about the water catchment. We’ve got a steep slope too and only one tank. When it rains it rushes down our driveway. We are looking at adding a french drain and then feeding that water into some catchment for later use. We too are doing wicking beds for our kitchen garden. We have used them before in the Kimberley and managed to have zucchini producing for close to 6 months in them. With the lack of rain it is an effective usage of limited water and works well. Just difficult to grow carrots and other deep roots as they can pierce through your membrane layer.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Our wicking beds are going to be in fridges and freezers so they will have a nice deep water reservoir, they will have plenty of room for deep rooted crops and we should be OK for carrots etc. It will also make the rats have to work harder to invade Texas ;).


      • Interesting idea the fridge. I imagine they might hamper possums a little as there is not as much for them to grip on. Will have to look up how to de-gas the fridge.


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