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Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kermandie Falls walk

Have you heard of Kermandie Falls? We had not until a bloke in Geeveston told us about it and drew us a map because there was so much snow and debris up the Hartz road we would not be able to go there .... gosh.....

Eventually we found the start, after discovering the road we needed to go on (Ogles Road)had lost its sign! First we scrambled down to the creek and heated up an early lunch...my baked beans and Hugh’s bread. Hugh had prepared everything so beautifully for my birthday adventure.

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imageThe start of the walk was not signed but we saw a pink ribbon on a tree and headed towards it.

We followed more little pink ribbons, battled LOTS of fallen trees and the usual debris of the Tasmanian rain forest (including mud, slips, rocks, steep bits, very slippery bits and jumps across wash-aways). We came to snow and more obstacles but after a good 1.5 hours we arrived at Kermandie Falls. The sound was deafening as massive amounts of water hurtled over every surface.

 

 

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We didn't stay long as the forest there was dark and menacing, the volume of moving water almost scary, the recent debris horrendous to climb through and the walk back was going to be as slippery, cold and tricky as the walk in..... and we had food to cook on our return!

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Back at the car the sun was shining and we decided to set up our table and BBQ right there, on the road, and joy what little warmth it provided as we cooked. Hugh brought wine glasses but, knowing I don’t like wine much, instead brought kombucha! What a perfect way to revitalise ourselves.

He had prepared everything without me realising….. picked salad greens from the community garden, adding some of my favourite things like finely sliced fennel and roasted red capsicum. Out came his excellent, portable BBQ and in a few minutes we had perfectly cooked lamb cutlets. Off came the grill, on went a ring and soon we had hot chocolate to wrap our by now cold hands around.

Thanks a million, Hugh!!

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We followed Ogles Road on, until it met with what we hoped was Kermandie Road which got narrower and rockier until finally coming out somewhere at the back of Geeveston…. well worth exploring. The mountains in the south west were still a blaze of snow after the heavy falls earlier in the week and it was certainly a delight to come across snow on our walk up to Kermandie Falls today.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Getting on with “things”

I must get up and get on with things….I must light the fire / have breakfast / wash the dishes / feed the chooks then get on with things….. I must leave this phone call and get on with things …..That’s enough time spent having lunch, it is time to get on with things…..

I have caught myself saying these kinds of things recently but why is it that what I am already doing is not considered one of the “things”? Life is no longer a thing in its own right; you have to be doing more that just living these days. This attitude always surprised me when I was a young mother staying at home with my children, spending 24 hours a day living, but not doing paid work. So many people asked me what I did all day, questioning if I was bored, insinuating at times that I was lazy or not pulling my weight in society. I knew there was not a job in the world more worth while than raising your children.

It is the same now. I yearn for days of solitude to simply get out into the garden and potter about, or cook slowly in my kitchen, while everyone else seems to be going to things, participating in organised things, eating out and travelling far and wide to see other people doing things. Gardening and cooking are seen as chores which must be done quickly or by someone else so everyone can get on with “things” most of which I have no desire to do.

5-DSC_0011Lighting the fire is a thing I love. Why do we nowadays have to turn it into a chore and hurry on so we get on with real “things”? I love greeting the chooks in the morning, with a bowl of leftover dinner and some grains for them. I stand and watch them chat about it; arguing over one piece of bacon rind when there are 6 more there if they just look and one after another having their fill and moving off to have a drink of water. Why is that not a “thing” worth getting on with?

I do get a bit cranky about this at times when I try to cut the crap from banal conversations about art exhibitions I have not been to, movies I have not seen, music I know nothing about and celebrities I have never heard of. I try to move the conversation beyond the human, to frost on the broccoli in the early morning light, frozen bird baths, the movement of layers of clouds across the sky recently, ideas and philosophies  I have read about but we are from different planets; the others and me.

Mostly I do not listen to music; I prefer the sounds of the natural world around me to the sounds of humans. That makes me a freak who does not appreciate the finer “things” of life, evidently. What is finer than the sounds of the crackling of the fire, the chooks wanting breakfast, the creek gushing along after rain, birds in the garden or a breeze in the trees?

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Mostly I don’t care for art, except when it is useful. I’d rather have a bird’s nest on my mantel piece than a famous sculpture. I love baskets and fences woven from plants in people’s gardens,  I love ceramic fermenting crocks made from local clay, I love quirky, interesting furniture made from local timbers by clever artisans….. but I cannot be bothered with art for its own sake. These days you cannot go around saying you are not interested in art or music…. but when people ask me, I tell them.

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Recently a woman who has the most amazing singing voice and makes a living singing asked me what music I like. I tried to say “I love it when you sing at the market but between markets I rarely listen to music” but somehow it came out sounding like I was criticising music, because I don’t know about genres and musicians’ names.

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It is not enough to know about vegetables; evidently that is not a “thing” these days. I was excited because I had been to a restaurant with son Hugh where I had chosen a meal with 3 vegetables I was not familiar with (skirret, salsify and Portuguese cabbage). People laugh at this as if I don’t mean it, but I was as excited about this as another would be about a new piece of music they had discovered….. and no-one would laugh at that!

So, now I am sitting in bed writing this…. I doubt that blogs are “things” and that I really should get up and get on with things….

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Friday, July 31, 2015

Whole Orange Cake

This recipe is from one of my gardening friends, Lou, in 2007. I more recently made this to share at the Cygnet Community Garden on my birthday 2015.

Gluten free, dairy free

Place into a large bowl and fold together:

1 cup coarsely ground almonds

2 oranges - blended to a paste

5 eggs and 1 cup sugar - beaten until thick

1 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup rice flour

Pour into a greased and lined 23cm tin

Bake 45mins at 180, even if it looks done before.

Meanwhile make syrup:

Boil together for 3 minutes: 1/2 cup sugar, a teaspoon of grated, fresh ginger and the rind and juice of 2 oranges

When cool enough to handle remove cake from tin and place onto serving dish. Prick all over and pour over warm syrup.

Serve with lashings of yoghurt.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fast and Slow; writing and typing, gardening and thinking…

It is so frustrating, to say the least, this whole facebook thing. I love writing and I have loved reading people’s blogs for years but now we seem to be losing our blogger community because more and more people, including myself, are following others on facebook, where everyone shares what a few write, instead of everyone writing. It is like civilisation in general; slow and thoughtful is losing ground to fast and mindless. Reading a whole article has given way to “liking” a few words on a poster or a photo.

Several readers of my local newspaper gardening column have commented that they liked this month’s piece. In it I urged all winter gardeners to…..

Relax… enjoy crunchy morning frosts as you head out to feed the chooks, the cloud sitting low across the hills and mountains, the quiet, silver waterways with their boat reflections, steamy cafĂ© windows, early darkness meaning time to cook, time to enjoy company by the fire and time to read, to blog and indulge your mind.

So here I am, in bed at 6am, writing, before the sun is up to interrupt my thoughts. I have a friend who achieves more in her day than I do in a week. I seem to spend quite a bit of time leaning on my spade, so to speak, thinking. Facebook is wonderful at stretching your boundaries, offering new and exciting areas of life, science and the garden from near and far. These snippets follow me around and make me think but often mean I am not focused on what I should be doing.

It is quite ironic, this conundrum; that the fast scrolling of facebook that stimulates my mind, slows the rest of my brain and consequently I get less done. Does it matter? I love learning of new things; of all the things I enjoy, new ideas and their possibilities would probably be leader of the pack. I imagine a future when everyone embraces sustainable living and new ways of running the economy, the country, the world, that benefits humanity and the earth as a whole and is not so self-indulgent as the current system.

Grammar is tricky…. theoretically that last sentence should read….I imagine a future when everyone embraces sustainable living and new ways of running the economy, the country, the world, that benefit humanity and the earth as a whole and are not so self-indulgent as the current system. But I think there will be new ways but only one system, in the end, that takes the place of the current one so I kept the singular. There is a facebook page I like called “Grammarly” where such things are discussed.

Grammar is going the way of handwriting skills; into history. Both are necessary for communication in any era, I think. Why handwriting, you ask? Well, learning to write with a pencil brings art to the written word and is a wonderful extra means of expression. It is like a scented garden compared to a visual-only one. I look forward to the day when I can write here, instead of type, and we can know a little more of the person than just their words. Then we’d see our crossing outs, vocabulary alterations and how our handwriting changes with age, seasons, time of day, available light etc. It seems that these days the main writing I do is shopping lists, sums in my shop and notes to remind me to do things like hang out the washing, turn off the sprinkler etc.

Our Cygnet Community Garden group has taken over the recipe blog I started for a previous group in Adelaide. There we are going to put the recipes for the delicious things people cook for our shared lunch after the work on Thursdays, at the community garden. It is called Gardeners’ Gastronomy.

It is cold this morning and my hands are telling me it is time to get up and move, go out by the fire and warm up. I will stand, check the various containers on my mantle-piece, full of sprouts and ferments, and think a little, before launching into my day. No-one much will read this, even though it gets posted to my facebook page, because it has no photos to capture an audience.

Friday, May 8, 2015

What has happened to our expectations to grow food?

Every day at the moment governments are making announcements about budgets, taxes, welfare, childcare, big and small business incentives, superannuation, mental health, hospital spending etc etc but never, ever do they broach the subject of self-sufficiency or self-reliance as goals for Australians. It is politically incorrect to expect people to get out and grow their food, join a community garden and become skilled in relying on themselves. However, the simple act of doing this would, to a large extent, overcome many of our national woes.

I enjoy learning about the ancient and more recent history of civilisations and their foods. Up until almost the 21st century, almost every person on earth either grew some food or had relatives that did. Stop and think about that for a moment….. your parents and / or grandparents no doubt fitted this statement and had vegetable gardens and fruit trees in the back yard. In only one or 2 generations people have started to rely on others, unknown and as far away as the other side of the world, to provide nourishment for their families. At the same time, there has been a huge increase in obesity, depression, stress-related, chemical-residue related  and diet-related illnesses.

Interestingly, growing food has become a middle-class activity, seen as something you do in your spare time, after you have bought all the accoutrements that modern-day food gardeners seem to “need” such as raised garden beds and soil (as though the soil in the ground is not good enough these days!).

I am reading a wonderful book, given to me by my fabulous neighbour, Jilly, who recently blew in, in full wet weather gear, in the midst of the coldest and wettest day this year. We sat by the fire and talked for 2 hours, sharing interesting snippets about books, gardening and life. We seem to get together only about once a year but Jilly’s amazing knowledge of plants, history and everything in between keep me inspired until our next coffee. I now look at the old lino pattern on my kitchen floor as steeped in history, instead of annoying!

The book is called “The Nature of Gardens” and is a collection of essays brought together by Peter Timms. It sounds dry and just another intellectual, middle class look at garden design etc but I assure you it is not. I recommend it to anyone who has read this far through this blog piece!!

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The first essay and my mother’s stories of life during The Depression have brought me to my laptop to write about the recent past’s expectation that you grew as much as you could and the poorer you were, the more you grew. If your job was not well paid or not permanent, you at least knew your family was going to eat well. This essay points out the interesting fact that when workers in the mines and in the coal and steel industries went on strike in Newcastle, NSW it was prolonged affair and they would not relent. This was possible because these same men all had food gardens so, even with no income, their families ate well. In fact, the free time afforded them because of the strikes meant that jobs in the garden and around the house could be done, and vegetable gardens better tended than usual. This is called resilience and is sorely lacking today.

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If I had one day to rule this country, I would insist that welfare would include assistance for you to learn to grow food and even an insistence that you join a community garden where you would gain not just hands-on know how but broaden your social circle and gain a sense of community and self resilience. I know from experience how beneficial food gardening with others is to every single person who joins a community garden. But I also know that insisting people do something is not the best way to get them to do it! People who are transient and those who have short or long term rental are given a place to base themselves by belonging to a community garden. Once you get into a community garden then, even if you move, you take with you the confidence to find another, wherever you go. It is like having an extended family; always there and ready to nourish your body and soul.

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At the Cygnet Community Garden we donate fresh vegetables weekly to the Uniting Care Food Aid in the same street as the community garden but I want to offer to walk with the recipients, one at a time, to the community garden and invite them, quietly and without preaching to them, to come along. This is my new goal….. if you have any helpful ideas of how to make this small gesture work please feel free to share them with me.

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Tuesday, March 24, 2015

It’s raining, it’s pouring, this old girl is…..

I have been waiting for a rainy day, for weeks, so that I can stay inside and deal with the autumn abundance. As much as I love being in the garden, there’s nothing that makes me happier than a day in the kitchen but I cannot bear to be inside if the weather is fine!

The morning was misty, with clouds hanging on the hills, as we rowed and chatted and enjoyed the simple pleasure of being on the water in a beautiful rowing boat we helped to build. I never cease to be thankful for the day I found my home and moved to Cygnet, literally at the bottom of the world.

The minute we finished our rowing, it started to pour with rain. As usual we headed to The Lotus Eaters’ Cafe for coffee after which we all headed back to our various homes. I skipped in through the door singing with joy at finally having nothing better to do than cook and preserve and steep and brew and ferment.

Not a bad effort for one afternoon…. but I have lots of apples to box up for storage and plums to stew yet! I hope it rains solidly again soon!

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Carrot and ginger pickle begins its fermenting after a kg of carrots, a large knob of ginger and a tablespoon of salt (collected at a salt pan near the Coorong) have been pounded to release the juices.
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I add a bit of the liquid from a previous batch of fermented radishes, to the carrots.
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Then I start hand grinding 1/2 kg sprouted spelt, to make bread
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Periodic rests are important so that the stones don’t overheat the grains.
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Meanwhile I make a marinade for some pork (from a friend) I have decided to roast for dinner on this chilly afternoon. I LOVE Tommy German mustard…. so flavoursome.
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I love the view from my kitchen window. The milk from these cows can be bought at the local butcher, who lives just out of view of this photo.
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Next it is time to start dealing with some of the quinces. These first, barely ripe ones, with plenty of pectin, are destined to be quince paste.
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A box of radishes on my doorstep, from a neighbour,  means I need to do more pickling!
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sugar, covered in a bottle of Brandy will make cassis for sipping by the fire over winter.
imageI bought a huge, organic celery from the market, removed some babies from the sides, put them in water for a couple of weeks and now they are ready to plant out.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Pears, Eggs, Mulch and more

I love cool days; I can get so much done. I love where I live; it is rarely brown and dry and the creek through my garden mostly trickles and tinkles all summer long.

I had a problem with my mulcher this morning so, while I thought about how to fix it I took to the lawn mower…. then I had a bright idea, which worked and I felt very pleased with myself as the mulcher once again roared into action.

After I had reduced the whole pile of sticks and prunings to a nice heap of mulch to spread on my paths, I decided to continue my fix-it session and move the latch on the chook yard gate to a more ergonomic place. I also took out a large, spiral steel rod I have and, over and over again, screwed it into the compacted stuff in the cut-off rain water tank where I throw garden waste for the chooks. That is very satisfying as, when I pull it up, it loosens up the lovely composted waste below and puts it on top of the new stuff. The chooks have been in there with their bottoms up and beaks down, ever since, finding all the grubs and worms that have made it home since I last aerated it.

On my way inside for lunch I collected eggs, picked another armful of pears and dug up a huge, self-sown parsnip that had grown up through the debris that I had mulched. I have never had one that big in my garden before. What a great morning.

I will have been here 5 years on March 10th…. and only now am I ready to make some changes to some parts of my garden. Up until now most of it has stayed more or less the same, except the makeover I did early on to make a vegetable garden, herb garden and chook area.

After lunch my brush-cutter and I make short work of slashing the retched grass that is the curse of the Tasmanian gardener as it grows a mile a minute and forms thick clumps with hundreds of small nodules that are impossible to eliminate, if you leave it for even a few weeks. At least slashing it makes it look nice for a while!

All today’s work has been in one area; a particularly secluded spot which gets full winter sun and very little wind…. and up until now has been entirely ornamental. This was such a pretty, shady, ferny area when I came here but a couple of years ago the beautiful willow tree fell into the creek, removing all the shade. At first I was horrified and it became unkempt and ugly until I realised not what I had lost but what I had gained.

Oh lalala wait until you see what I have in mind to make it a key part of my food garden! What I discovered as I removed a temporary, chicken wire fence I constructed to let the chooks in to dig it over but to keep them from wandering further, involved tall, lush grass tangled in the whole length of the bottom of the fence…. and that the soil there, at the bottom of the slope, was fabulous. I know only too well how dry and barren the soil is just a few metres further up the slope…. so…. brain ticks…. terrace it along the contours…. with straw bales of which I have plenty…. like the slope of my vegetable garden in Adelaide.

The reason I need more food garden is that the oak tree near the chook yard has roots that have crept into some beds of my irrigated vegetable garden, turning them to dry dust, no matter how much compost and water I add. So I will have to think about what to do there…. maybe a few big pots…. or something!

Sadly there are no before and after photos to brighten up this monologue!

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I love lacto-fermented vegetables…. Here is a jar of radishes well on their way and a jar of zucchini pieces and fennel seeds being made.

 

 

 

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What a wonderful group of people come to the Cygnet Community Garden on Thursdays. I especially like the food each of them brings to share at the end of the gardening session!