Autumn brewing season

May 18, 2010 by

Autumn isn’t only the time of harvesting and preserving – its also the perfect time to be brewing ales, ciders, and other things that use top-fermenting yeasts.

So here’s what has been brewed over the last month or so, and what is under way currently:

  • Extra Special Bitter ale
  • Amber ale
  • Apple cider
  • Sweet fruity mead (metheglyn)

Happy to share the recipes with anyone that’s interested.

Cider is of course the archetypal autumn brew – owing mainly to the fact that this is when the orchards yield the scrummy fruit! We paid a visit to the Kellybrook Cider Festival, held up at the Kellybrook Winery in Wonga Park. It was an awesome day consisting mainly of roast pork sandwiches, scrumpy, toffee apples, and Morris Dancing. It was also the ideal place to pick up several litres of freshly-pressed apple juice to turn into Cider.

Morris Dancing!!!

We also cracked open a bottle of the original Mead that I made 3 years ago to commemorate our Handfasting. It has certainly improved with age. I’ve learnt a lot more about the process of brewing since then, and realise there is so much more to Mead-making than just fermenting some honey and then bottling it. It needs time to age before it is bottled, and that is the process I’m taking with this batch – I’m also only making 4litres or so, so to experiment with recipes on small batches before attempting something grand like 20litres….

3-year old Mead, straight out of the bottle.

This original batch was made using a fairly typical ‘sparkling’ yeast (cuveé). Not so with this season’s batch, as the availability of specialist yeast strains is so much more prevalent; instead I am using a yeast that is commonly used for sweet wines and fruit wines. So the end result will be less ‘sparkling’ and more ‘sweet’. The adjunctives include orange and clove….

As the weather gets closer, the plan is to make another batch or two before getting into the winter (pilsener time). The focus on these will be using some of the more hybrid yeasts, that can either be treated as warm-temperature lagers or cool-temperature ales. Typical hybrid beers of this time are the Steam beers and other similar brews originating from the west coast of the US. I have a great deal of Williamette and Chinook hops to use, so these are best suited to these kinds of flavours. And of course, I have a better chance of using the climate in my favour, using some of these kinds of yeasts – I can steadily maintain brewing temperatures of 14-20°C easily here without the need of belts or heating pads – permaculture principles in practice!


Late summer

March 24, 2010 by

What an interesting season it has been.

I know everyone is gearing up for autumn, however all this humidity we’ve been having points to what is sometimes referred to as a ‘Late Summer’. It has certainly been playing havoc with some of the late harvesting produce. We are finally getting eggplants however, and the capsicum are finally fruiting.

I’ve been busy cutting stuff back in order to reveal some of the beds to the shortening sun, but also to create some solid matter for the compost.

Our beds have suffered considerably however with a terrible delivery of soil we received back in spring. It was allegedly meant to be thick, rich, humus, compost material – instead it turned out to be thin, lifeless, and incredibly hydrophobic. Watering now involves the water running across the compacted soil and spilling into the pathways. I would like to reveal where we got it from, but then that could be considered libel/slander. I certainly won’t recommend buying soil from these suppliers ever again.

So it looks like this winter may need to involve healing the beds and nourishing them back to rich life over the winter. Perhaps some sowing of winter manure crops, and layering of different materials, such as Lucerne, Sugar cane mulch, pea straw, compost, worm castings, and so on.

The beans are still going, and I’m leaving them to dry out. The Borlottis were the most successful of all the varieties.

The Jerusalem Artichokes are almost ready to start harvesting – I just wish the weather was cooler to enjoy rich soup. But perhaps we’ll be able to feast on it over the Easter break.

I picked the parsnips, and most of them were woody, as they really needed to be harvested a lot earlier. I used the smaller sweeter ones in a 5 Root soup (courtesy of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday cook book), and they were yummy.

Zucchinis are still going. The Gojis are finally fruiting. Pumpkins are swelling. And excitingly there are a couple of Chinese Bottle Gourds coming along nicely.

I’ll get the camera out and take some piccys……. coming soon.

As easy as 1 2 3

March 22, 2010 by

This is the simplest way to create a functional, attractive food garden.

If I ever build myself a new garden, this is what I will use, these gorgeous crates from The Little Veggie Patch Co.

Within minutes you can turn an ugly corner into a productive garden. It just takes a few simple steps.

Step 1. Call the wonderful people at The Little Veggie Patch Co. and order your crates. They can deliver to the exact spot.

Step 2. Place an old piece of shade cloth, weed matting or similar on bottom of the crates, the sides are already lined for you.

Step 3. Add two whole bales of straw, add compost or soil, put in your plants, water. DONE!

How easy was that 🙂

While the cat’s away…

January 31, 2010 by

We haven’t been updating our blog for some time. Mainly because we haven’t been gardening.

However, it seems that these permaculture principles work, as the following photos will attest to. We haven’t been home since the start of December, and the garden has turned into a full-blown food forest!

Never been watered.....

Whilst we had family & friends (thanks folks) coming to feed the cat, there really was no watering or attention paid to this garden. Over the summer period, they harvested plenty of food, thus ensuring continued food production. Only 1/3 of the beds were watered with weeping hose, set to timers for the allowed watering periods (2 hours twice weekly).

The under-storey of the food forest

There is a theory/practice within permaculture of the food forest; the idea being you have a forest, but where everything is edible. And just like a ‘normal’ forest, the ecology is self-sustaining and self-regulating. The structure is also forest-like, with a canopy and under-storey. Well this is what we have inadvertantly created, and with minimal human intervention over throughout this season, nature has done its own thing.

The pond completely overgrown

In actual fact, there is a micro-climate situation occurring here. On one of the warmer days during Australia Day weekend, I noticed that this dense jungle like area was humid, just like in a forest; other parts of the garden felt completely different. This area was not watered at all. I imagine this also sheltered the house from heat also.

More food jungle

This area is the highest point in the garden – its also the most lush. Amazing what you can do with mulch, quality soil-nurturing techniques, and cramming those plants in. I was concerned that I hadn’t gotten much in to the garden over the spring – how wrong I was. The only planting I managed this season was just before and just after the crazy hot spell we had mid-spring. Other than some mulching and a shipment of soil, there was no work put into  the garden at all.

Pumpkins and Tomatoes - never got watered! (can't you tell....)

This zone was completely neglected throughout the entire period. I gave all the plants here a bucket of water each just before Christmas when we dropped in going between OG and EG. There are about a dozen tomato plants and 3 pumpkins. The parsley that grew self-seeded has gone to seed also. We’ll leave it be so that more parsley can grow wild. The pumpkins were also self-seeded. This bed was essentially made from the duck-muck (straw, etc) over the winter period. It is lush, rich, and highly moist. It is also our worm factory. In there somewhere is a compost bin…. and some Belladonna has crept in there also, which of course is pulled out and disposed of carefully (it is a poisonous nightshade weed!)

Another dense food forest area

Where's the house...?... or is it an ancient Mayan ruin?

No, that’s not a dope plant – its a Mexican Marigold. This is a standard permaculture companion plant. I have also deliberately left the remaining leeks and spring onions go to seed for collection (or self-seeding). This area under the two Nectarines were also heavily planted with Swiss Chard – we’ve left that seed too. The capsicums here are only now starting to fruit.

The food forest from the driveway; note the height of sunflowers and Jerusalem Artichoke

When I turned up returning from EG, I was amazed how over-grown everything was, irrespective of being ‘neglected’ over a 6-8 week period. A friend of ours turned up one day, and rang us that night to inform us that “our garden was ruined, that no one was looking after it…” On the contrary, it looked after itself. And there has been only one casualty – my Golden Cluster hops bine that was creeping up outside the bedroom window; it was in a pot and not watered – however the rhizome should still be ok for next season, as the plant hasn’t died, but I have lost all the flowers (bugger!)

Beginning to cut back the urban jungle

I didn’t quite get it in this shot, but the lawn chamomile we planted into the nature-strip has also taken off nicely. Even the small bed in front of the fence took off nicely – there are tomatoes and cucumbers, and plenty of other plants like Evening Primrose, Chinese Jute, and Chinese Bottle Gourd, as well as the ‘good bug’ plants that attract the predator insects.

The grape vine has thankfully done the job that the passionfruit vine used to - covering the fence.

We lost one of our passionfruit vines, but the grape vine that appeared randomly last season has taken over the job of providing fence cover – unfortunately, it also appears to want to take over the whole too! Can’t wait for that pergola…..

Fence pumpkinThis pumpkin began growing between the pickets – we’ve picked it, and its our first for the season, but there’s plenty more. Not sure of the variety, as the seeds were lying loose in the bottom of our seed box – here’s to random veg planting!

Admittedly there has been some rain this summer, and that probably helped alot. And the zucchinis, tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are really only now fruiting, so we didn’t miss much. However, our lovely care-takers Damon, Marinella, and my mum (thanks heaps, folks) harvested plenty while we were gone. And this is the key, because if things aren’t picked then the plant stops producing.

I’m now getting ready to sow seeds for the next season (I am determined to grow a crop of Brussel Sprouts this year!), but whilst the first step is raising seedlings, I have no idea where I’m going to plant anything, because the place is so full of food!

See what happens when humans don’t intervene – a true case of wu wei wu “action through non-action”.

Must have Gardening/Cook Books.

November 26, 2009 by

I was asked today what gardening books I would recommend ……. here they are.

One of the first gardening books I ever bought and I love it to bits.

The Best of Jackie French.

A practical guide to everything from aphids to zucchini chocolate cake.

Every year when the zucchini are in abundance, out comes this book and I cook Jackie French’s Chocolate cake recipe.

This cake is amazing ……. I never tell guests that it has zucchini until after the first taste, everyone loves this recipe and it makes wonderfully rich muffins.

Jackie’s book is a great one for people starting out with their food gardens as it covers such a wide range of plants, fruit, veggies and herbs and under each plant is a list of recipes and uses.

The only down side is no pictures …… I do love photo’s of what a plant looks like and how a recipe is visually interpreted but the way Jackie writes makes up for the lack of visual encouragement. A must have for the garden/cook book library. 4/5

One Magic Square

Grow your own food on one square metre.

Lolo Houbein

A friend lent this one to me a little while ago (M I promise I get it back to you soon:) and I read it cover to cover.

If you are someone who likes step by step instruction, then this book is for you. Lolo sets out complete metre square planting and garden maintainance guides. For the busy amoung us, you can just read the chapter you want and the references Lolo suggests.

So is your cooking passion Stir Fry, go to page 38 and follow Lolo’s how to have fresh yummy stir fry ingredients through out spring and summer.

Would a Pasta/Pizza Plot be more to your liking, then page 42 is for you.  All you need to know to grow basil and bush tomatoes, chillies and chives, capsicum and eggplant, rocket and red onions. All in just one square metre.

Lolo points out that a square metre can be in a yard on the ground or in pots on a balcony. This is a must have book for the beginner garden and a great inspiration to more developed green thumbs. 4/5

Natural Farming

Pat Coleby.

If there is one book that could change animal and people health for the better it would be Natural Farming. Pat is a Victorian woman of immense experience in animal and soil health.

Pat talks in plain english about the reason animals, people and our land is so sick and how we can fix it.

I first came across one of Pat’s books, Natural Horse Care in 2000 and I can honestly say it changed my life.

I read Natural Horse Care in an afternoon and I must say that I though Pat was a bit extreme and must have the wrong end of the stick (please forgive me Pat).

My reaction was due to Pat writing about conditions that I have seen horse’s put down for or sent to the ‘doggers’. Pat stated these conditions/issues could be fixed in just a few days or in some cases hours with some crushed mineral rock or vitamin powder.

Within a few days I had a chance to test one of her claims, a very sick baby Alpaca had collapsed with a paralyse tick, she was raced into a vet who after some convincing gave the youngster anti venom.

The treatment cost more than the worth of the Alpaca and the vet considered it’s chance of survival so slim that it wasn’t worth even trying but the owner insisted.

The youngster continued to deteriorated and the vet said she was dieing ……. I asked the vet about giving her Vitamin C as Pat Coleby suggests and promptly got told that ‘we don’t do that  witch potion stuff here!’

I could see that the little one would not make it, went outside, tracked down Pat Coleby’s number and called her. Pat set me straight and gave me the confidence to go and encourage the vet to give the vitamin C.

After a war of words, the vet gave the vitamin C, within 20 minutes (right on the time Pat told me the improvements would occur) the little Alpaca improved to the point the vet told us to take her home.

On getting home I wasn’t completely happy with the improvement I was seeing and ran back Coleby only to find out that the Vet didn’t give enough vitamin C to help the little Alpaca recover, we soon sorted that out and the little alpaca fully recovered.

I went on to use minerals and vitamins with all sorts of conditions and to improve general animal wellbeing both of pets and livestock.

I also used the powdered rock and dust around the garden.

Amazing woman and out of all of her books Natural Farming would be the first to read. 5/5

Now the lucky last…..

Kitchen Garden Companion

Stephanie Alexander

Now I must declare ….. I am a garden specialist for a Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program within a primary school but my exposure to Stephanie’s books happened way before my direct involvement in the program.

I first read The Cook’s Companion cover to cover after spying it in my Mother in Laws bookcase …… that was a few years ago and my MIL has had the book returned a few times but borrowed back just as quick. It is our kitchen bible or sometime fondly called ‘the brick’ referring both to its size and colour!

Even though the Cook’s Companion is fantastic, I would suggest if you had to choose between it and Stephanie’s new book, I would pick  The Kitchen Garden Companion.

Full of photo’s of wonderful produce, gardens in abundances and delicious recipes this book is one for every passionate cook or gardener.

Our family just bought it as a gift for my MIL (at least she has one of Stephanie’s books 🙂 ) and I so much would like my own copy (hint hint loved ones) 6/5

As I go through my bookcase I will let you know more Must Have books.

Until then Happy Gardening (and cooking)


PS Stay turned for a blog update Melbourne Mango, tomorrow I am assisting a group of primary school students plant a mango tree and over 45 tree and plants to create a Sub Tropical Oasis in a Melbourne school yard ….. bizarre but true!!!!!

Is your dog a Good Citizen?????

October 29, 2009 by

Some of you might know that one of my interests is in working with dogs, especially problem dogs.

What does dog behaviour have to do with urban farming? A lot if you have urban livestock or wish to walk outside your gate.

Constantly we hear of problem dog behaviour, it seems every week there is reports of horrific attacks on animals and people, particularly children.

In my experience 99% of this incidents a fully avoidable.

If you would like to understand dog behaviour and have an incite into why bad behaviour happens, check out this video …. Nothing In Life Is Free

I agree with every statement made on this six minute video from . If  every dog owner knew this information it would make our community a much better place.

When I hear owners of these problem dogs say “there were no signs” “it was the other dog/person fault of why my dog attacked”, I know that they are mistaken.

There are always signs, ALWAYS and regardless of the situation an owner should have the ability to control their own dog, even if confronted with an aggressive situation.

I would estimate 90% of dogs are an incident waiting to happen.

Our community needs to demanded that all dogs be capable of passing a test, proving that the dog has basic manners and can be a positive canine member of our society.

The American Kennel Club has a fantastic program,  Canine Good Citizen.

If this program is incorporated in to our dog registration system, incidents causing emotional and physical harm to animals and peoples would become rare and the rate of dogs ending up in pounds and shelters would dramatically reduce.


#29 Deb’s GF Ginger Beer

September 25, 2009 by

Raining, raining, raining…

Couldn’t pick a better day to stay inside and make up a brew. Plus, I really needed to get on with it, seeing as the supplies of the previous GB were running low, and the warmer months are coming on.

I stripped the recipe right back to basics, after my over-spiced previous attempt. This also takes advantage of ingredients that are easy to get a hold of:

  • 2kg organic Ginger, chopped.
  • 3x lemons (I actually used 1 standard lemon, and 2 Lemonade lemons, which are sweeter and more like a yellow, sour orange…)
  • 1kg dark brown sugar
  • 200g Dextrose (Coopers, available at any supermarket)
  • 300g Maltodextrin (aka Corn Syrup, or brew improver, also available in any supermarket. Coopers also do a Brewing Sugar, which is a mix of maltodex and dex. Not sure of the ratio, but if you were to use this, use 500g).
  • 2x cinnamon sticks
  • 2tsp Irish Moss (natural copper finings – you can usually find finings in the homebrew section of supermarkets also)
  • 4-5g Yeast Nutrient (diammonium Phosphate; use 1g per 5lt. This is something you may need to get from your local HBS. You need this if you are not using malt, as there is not enough nutrient for the yeast cells to munch on, nutrient which is normally present in malt. If you don’t need to make it gluten-free, then try using malt instead of the other sugars; it will taste more like beer with ginger however, so there is a definite taste thing happening here also.)
  • 1x packet Morgans ale dry yeast (this was left over from a kit. Other wise, I think I would strongly recommend Safale US-05).

Chop the ginger (I use the bamix) and the lemons (peel & all), and stick it in a pot with lots of water and boil. I let it boil for a couple of hours. I then drained the liquid, added more water and boiled more. The idea is to get as much of the ginger flavour out of the solid as possible. Oh, and strain it – you don’t want solid dregs in your barrel! When I finished this process, I had about 5 litres of a gingery soup.

I then add the cinnamon and brought to a gentle rolling boil. Added the Irish Moss (instructions on how much to use and when to add will usually be found on the packet) – finings are optional, but they help you end up with a crystal clear brew at the end of the process. With this stuff, I needed to add 1/2 hour before the end of the boil.

I then added the sugars, stirring so as not to let any of it clump or stick to the bottom (this will burn the sugar and affect the flavour). Corn syrup (maltodextrin) is used to add more body and head to your brew. If you are making beer from grains, this is usually unnecessary, but I find it useful in GB’s, Ciders, and Meads. Its not a fermentable sugar, but will increase the original gravity of the brew.

Once this has boiled for long enough (in this instance, 1/2 hour was enough), I took the pot off the heat and let it cool. Since I will be making between 20-25lt, I will need to add cold water; thus I usually let it cool down to about 40°C (roughly equivalent temperature to what comes out of your hot water tap). Once the water is added to the desired volume, I find this usually brings the entire wort down to mid-20’s.

This is important, as yeast requires pitching at correct temperatures. Check your packet of yeast for instructions, but pitching temps for kit yeasts are usually ~24°C. Too hot will kill the yeast cells; too cold will keep them dormant. With dry yeasts you can either sprinkle them directly into your fermenting barrel, or you can make a starter. A starter for dry yeast is simple: 1 cup boiled water, cooled to pitch temp (check packet for this), and sprinkle the yeast into this and leave for 15 minutes. You’ll come back and find a paste. IMPORTANT: make sure the vessel you use, and anything that comes into contact with the yeast is properly and thoroughly sterilised!

Which brings me to the next point. Ensure your fermenting barrel, and anything that will come into contact with the brew (such as a stirring paddle/spoon) is sterilised. Supermarkets also sell this stuff. Napisan works, but requires a lot of rinsing. I will often use it for sterilising my barrels, but I also use a no-rinse product I buy from my local HBS, especially for bottles and for spraying onto stuff I’m about to use. Methylated spirits is good for constantly spraying your tools (stirring paddles, etc), as the alcohol allows it to evaporate at air temperature.

Check the gravity of your brew before pitching yeast. This is done using a hydrometer – again, something that can be bought in the homebrewing section of supermarkets, but also at your local HBS. Record the level. When your brew is finished, you will take another reading, and then this gives you an indication of alc/vol level. Gravity readings also tell you when a brew has finished fermenting, as the reading will be the same 2-3 days in a row.

This brew had an Original Gravity of 1.046

Once the brew has cooled to pitching temp, add the yeast nutrient and stir thoroughly, followed by the yeast. Then seal up your fermenting barrel, and give it a good shake. Yeast also needs oxygen to multiply, so regularly giving your GB a shake and getting lots of bubbles is a great way to help things along. Again, when using malt, this is not so necessary, as malt has everything yeast needs to do its thing.

Busy in the kitchen

September 22, 2009 by

Whilst all those lovely new season vegies are busy growing, why don’t we step into the kitchen to see what lovely delights we’ve been able to come up with…

Winter Brewing: #27 & 28 Happy Pils “B” & “C”

While the weather was cold over winter, I managed to make two batches of my Happy Pils pilsener. I used different types of hops in each of the batches. The basic recipe is as follows:

  • 1.5kg Bohemian Pilsner grain
  • 500g Munich Malt I (light)
  • 100g Carapils
  • 2kg LDME
  • ½ tab Irish Moss
  • Wyeast 2278 Bohemian Pilsener starter (425ml)

The first batch I did used “B”-saaz, which is a strain developed in New Zealand, and is rumoured to be what is used in the James Squires Pilsner. The schedule for that is as follows:

  • 30g B Saaz (AA7.8%) @ 60mins
  • 30g B Saaz @ 15mins
  • 20g B Saaz @ 5mins

The second batch used traditional Czech saaz hops, which makes this batch a Bohemian Pilsener proper:

  • 70g Czech Saaz hops pellets (AA3.6%) @ 60mins
  • 30g Czech Saaz hops pellets @ 15mins
  • 20g Czech Saaz hops pellets @ Flame-out

Both batches remain untouched in bottles as I write this, as brews made with a bottom-fermenting yeast strain require longer (and cooler) time to prime in the bottle. Permaculture principles always permeate my brewing, as I take advantage of the seasons when brewing, thus minimising my need for gadgets that need electricity – why try to brew lagers in summer, or ales in winter?!? These beers will be left until those warm summer nights when the ideal thirst-quencher after a long hot day in the garden is a cold, crisp, hoppy beer.

Cooking from the garden

I have had a ball over the last couple of months cooking “on-the-fly” (as I like to call it). I can’t plan recipes ahead of time, and I never seem to be able to plan a menu before I go to the shops. So, I work along the ‘organic principle’ of working with what I have at hand, which not only includes what is in the garden, but what is in my fridge or pantry. At first, this idea was daunting – but then I discovered another use for Google – type in your ingredients and the word “recipe”, and up comes a diverse and wondrous variety of possible combinations of ingredients. Its then just a matter of finding something that you: a)have all the ingredients available; and b) like the sound/look/taste of!

The following is a recipe I found in this way. While I had all of the ingredients in my fridge/pantry, most of them are also found in my garden – its just that they are still in punnets or growing as seedlings still. So in a few months, I will be able to make this one again, but this time with all home-grown ingredients.

Pumpkin & Parsnip Cassoulet

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 2 lge onions, chopped
  • 500g pumpkin, diced
  • 500g parsnip, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2x cans mixed beans (I didn’t have cans, so I used a selection of dried beans, left to soak for several hours in a bowl of boiling water with some bi-carb soda. The beans I used – all growing currently – were Borlotti, Black Turtle, Red Kidney, White, and Pinto. After soaking, I measured out about 500g, and then put the rest in the freezer. I could have used Azuki, but they generally take a lot longer to soak, much like chick-peas)
  • 2x cans diced tomato (Again, come the end of summer, we should be able to provide this as fresh ingredient, given the number of seedlings we’ve got going. Just remember that you’d need a lot more than 850g if using fresh…)
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 300ml Vegetable stock (I actually used stock I had just recently made from scratch and had left over from something else. Making your own stock is easy, reeeeal easy….)
  • 2 lge sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 tbs sugar (reduces the acidity from canned tomato; maybe not necessary if you used fresh tomato)
  • 75g breadcrumbs (we use gluten-free of course. Often mixed with a bit of polente)
  • 25g parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 160-180. Heat the oil in a large pan/wok, add onions and fry for 5 min/until golden. Add pumpkin, parsnips, and garlic, and cook for a further 3 mins. Stir in beans, tomatoes, wine, stock, thyme, sugar, and plenty of seasoning (or to taste). Bring to the boil, then transfer to a large casserole dish, pressing the beans and vegetables beneath the liquid.

Sprinkle the top with breadcrumbs and grated cheese. cover, then cook for 40 mins in oven. Uncover, stir well and cook for a further 40 mins.

Serve with garlic bread and stir-fried cabbage (I used kale from the garden, equally nice!)

This recipe should serve 6.


Help with cooking

Can I just say that Stephanie Alexander’s The Cook’s Companion is a must for any kitchen-gardener. This is a handy guide to the most common ingredients found in Aussie kitchens, and details the best way to use them, including what other foods they go well with. Combine that with Google, and you are set to being your very own Masterchef!

If Firefox is your default web browser (and quite frankly if it isn’t, then it should be), then there is also a marvellous recipe search engine called GoCook which you can install as part of your toolbar.

My biggest kitchen-gardening inspiration would have to be Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall and his River Cottage venture. There is a section on seasonal recipes on the website; but I have to strongly recommend trying to get a hold of his TV shows. I believe ABC1 will be screening River Cottage Spring from this week onwards at 6pm.

But closer to home, the ABC’s The Cook and the Chef was also good to learn about seasonality in cooking. Unfortunately, the final episode was screened last week. However, it will most likely continue on ABC2 or as daytime re-runs; and I know it screens also on pay-TV’s Lifestyle Food channel. They had also released a DVD-box set that was organised according to seasons, which we have. I don’t know whether it’s still available, and chances are they’ll re-release something now that the show is no longer being produced.

Of course, I also quite enjoyed Ready, Steady, Cook – both the original British version with Ainsley Harriott, and the Australian version which screens on channel 10. The idea that a chef could be given a set of ingredients and come up with something amazing was always inspiring – especially when I used to look at a pantry full of food, and not be able to come up with anything beyond what I knew (mainly bolognese pasta, or some kind of curry).

Combine these with fresh produce out of your garden, and you have the potential to eat at home like you would in a flashy restaurant or cafe.


Spring update

September 4, 2009 by

Contrary to what the masses believe, Spring has been here for over a month now. The idea that somehow nature magically changes seasons on the September 1st is both daft and just plainly ethnocentric, reminiscent of the days when God was portrayed as a bearded, white, anglo-saxon-looking male. Obviously, someone forgot the plant world that Spring doesn’t come until September, as the following photos (taken in early August) will attend to.

Our first Duck eggs

Our first Duck eggs

Almost like clockwork, come the first week of spring, and Marbles and Bubbles laid their first eggs. Indeed, for the last 4 weeks, they have consistently laid an egg a day. Lovely! The last week however has seen production die off – possibly because of the cold? It was certainly useful for cooking, giving us a sensational ingredient to mix into mashed potato or soups to provide a rich flavour that is just divine!


Goji cuttings

Goji cuttings

We took a whole lot of cuttings off the Goji trees just as they started to shoot new growth. Hopefully, all these cuttings will strke, and we’ll have a good lot of Gojis to sell or give -away as gifts – a much sort-after plant for those in the Chinese Herbal Medicine profession.

The citrus garden

The citrus garden

The front section of the citrus garden was planted out with a bunch of new Brassica seedlings, as well as a few left-over calendula flowers. We also dug out the Dwarf Peach tree and put it into a large pot; in it’s place we planted what we thought was a Navelina Orange – which has turned out to be a Grapefruit. Let this be a lesson to those buying cheap fruit trees – there may well be a reason why they are on sale!

This patch looks like it will come together quite nicely this summer, especially since we think we have taken control of the rogue kikuyu situation….

The Brassica patch

The Brassica patch

This is the only vegie bed that has done well over the winter – albeit slowly. In here are some Kale, mini Cabbage, Silverbeet, Brussel Sprouts, Cauliflower, Red Shallots, and Swedes. The boxes have lettuce and mini Cabbage seedlings (freshly planted). This section is on the north of the house, so gets some nice sun in winter. The silverbeet was actually growing all along the front, however the possums helped themselves…. That’s a container of Snail Ale in the corner!

Rogue tomatoes

Rogue tomatoes

We’ve been getting self-seeded tomatoes coming up since late winter. This one turned up in a hanging pot which has strawberry seedlings in them.

Damned possums....

Damned possums....

This was my very successful patch of Sprouting Broccoli. As you can see however, just as it was about to fruit, the possums decided to help themselves to them – leaves and all, stripped bare. So, no broccoli this year whatsoever. That’s self-seeded cow-pea growing up behind them. This is related to Broad Bean, but is usually planted as a green manure (which it was the previous autumn-winter).

The first blossom of the year

The first blossom of the year

Almost like clock-work, every year the first week of August sees fruit trees around here go into blossom. This is the smaller of our two Nectarines.

This is quite encouraging, as this tree had a difficult first year, being planted in the wrong spot, and then transplanted. It didn’t really fruit last season – given that it is the first tree to blossom, then we expect it may fruit before its larger sibling next to it. Needless to say, the bees are loving our garden right now…

Which reminds me – watch BEE MOVIE, especially with your kids. Very funny and very relevent. Without bees, no pollenation, and no fertile plants, fruits, vegetables, flowers, etc. Therefore, no life. We need the bees, so lets encourage their presence in our suburbs, instead of looking to wipe them out with insecticides and lifeless suburban lawns.

Unexpected guests

Unexpected guests

These critters showed up on “Joy’s” Peach tree. Last year, it was the Plum tree that was attacked as it started its Spring blossom growth. Not sure if they are aphids (we always thought aphids were white), but can’t seem to identify them as anything else. Haven’t seen any ladybugs yet, but we expect them to show up any minute now…. The other day, the ducks were helping themselves to what they could reach; either way I think we have our organic pest control well under way.

The new additions to the family...

The new additions to the family...

And we have had kids…. Mama Cavy gave birth to four very small and very cute little guinea pigs. They’re sooooo cute…..

Right now, the cold-frame is full up with seed trays, all filled with punnets seeded with the new season’s growth:

  • Beetroot
  • Adzuki beans
  • Borlotti beans
  • Black turtle beans
  • Carrots, purple dragon
  • Tomatoes: Principe Borghese, Tigerella, Yellow Italian, and other Heirloom varieties (courtesy of Diggers)
  • Eggplant
  • Sunflowers, Russian
  • Zucchini: Lebanese and Italian Striato
  • Pumpkin: Butternut (we think)
  • Capsicum (we think)
  • Peas: golden-podded, and purple-podded
  • Broccoli (seed in punnets, as well as previous seedlings in ground)
  • Parsnip (planted in ground and in punnets)
  • Radish (planted in ground)
  • Amaranth (the leafy Greek stuff)
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Celery
  • Rosella (native Hibiscus, used for jam and champagne)
  • Potato (planted in ground)
  • Jerusalem Artichoke (planted in ground)

Now that we’re in September, there will be plenty more seeds being planted out, getting ready for a very productive and abundant summer.

Spring Time

August 30, 2009 by

It’s that time of year, you start looking at the garden, tidying up and getting your seedlings ready for the season coming.

Yesterday I planted spinach, broccoli seedlings and transplanted some bok choy that had started flowering around Joy’s Peach Tree to attracted good bugs.

Last week I did a quick light mulch of sugar cane, I love standing back after mulching as the garden look tucked in, if you know what I mean.

Today I went for a drive and I wanted to share with you some of the places I visited.

First stop was BAAG, Bulleen Art and Garden, this garden centre always inspires me, they have a huge collection of food plants, wonderful inside and outside products and a great selection of books. They have multible working displays of food gardens, including bush foods and their chook set up is a must see for anyone thinking of keeping chooks or wants ideas to make their chook pens a more interesting place.

I couldn’t help myself, I picked out a punnet of rhubarb, chamomile and a sad and sorry Indian Guava from the specials table.

Next stop was the nursery across the road from BAAG, very conventional and apart from the pretty interior decorating displays I didn’t feel the need to get my purse or my camera out, still it was nice to walk around and they had a coffee stand out the front so I had a latte to warm my hands and get the energy levels up for the next part of my journey for the day.

On to Ceres, my camera didn’t stop clicking. My first encounter of Ceres was back in the early 90’s, my daughter and I helped to plant out trees on the neglected creek bank …… I visited Ceres many time in the 90’s, my little taste of what could be, something I could aspire too, one day when I could get a little place of my own.

My focus today was in looking at the nursery (a must see), checking out the worm farm setup WOW and looking at their chook set up.

Ceres market garden

Ceres market garden

A nursery food garden, note the upturned punnet trays to protect plants.

A nursery food garden, note the upturned punnet trays to protect plants.

worm farm bath tubs off in the distance

worm farm bath tubs off in the distance

Bath Worm Farms, all draining into a bath for storage.

Bath Worm Farms, all draining into a bath for storage.

all baths are plumbed to a main pipe that drains into a bath for storage

all baths are plumbed to a main pipe that drains into a bath for storage

I love this archway, concrete reinforcement mesh bent onto star pickets.

I love this archway, concrete reinforcement mesh bent onto star pickets.

and here is a few photo’s of the chooks at Ceres.

chooks at Ceres

chooks at Ceres

Auto watering system for the chooks

Auto watering system for the chooks

From Ceres I went hunting for some gluten free food, so I headed to Fitzroy, on the way I spotted a garden on a nature strip, did a U turn and found a perfect example of community and food production …….. LOVED IT!

A great use of a nature strip

A great use of a nature strip

every street needs one

every street needs one

An Oasis on a street corner

An Oasis on a street corner

To all those who say "I would love to grow food but my soils no good" ...... no more excuses, there is no difference between the closest nature strip to the camera and the food garden, except love and attention, oh and a bit of mulch and compost!

To all those who say "I would love to grow food but my soils no good" ...... no more excuses, there is no difference between the closest nature strip to the camera and the food garden, except love and attention, oh and a bit of mulch and compost!

Please take the time to visit Cultivating Community and start a community garden in your street …… I spoke with Pete and we have decided to turn our nature strip into a community help your self food garden, stay turned for updates.