Kitchen Garden Guides

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


The good things just keep on coming.... and I never cease to be amazed at how blogging has become such an integral part of the lives of some of us. You see, there is a lady at bakers8 who must have been reading along with us all for a while, but at the mention of me buying a house in Tasmania, was inspired to comment, as she too moved from South Australia to Tasmania, some years ago.

image So, when I wrote "Why I don't want to be a cave man", Jan was at my door within a couple of days, with not only all the things I was finding it difficult to be without that I had written about, but a car full of other things she knew I would need! As if that was not wonderful enough, she brought me a jar of her delicious tomato relish (which is now almost half gone), jams, a bag of lemons and some leaves and fruit of her kaffir lime tree, as well as an assortment of cooking apples, tomatoes and pears!

Overwhelmed by her generosity and thoughtfulness, I completely forgot to give her the promised recipes I thought she would like and somehow we managed to go without lunch... Jan, I am so sorry!

image The next good thing has nothing to do with blogging....yet! Today on my walk into town to buy some milk I came across a neighbour weeding in her garden. Now I had hoped to meet this lady as she has a quince tree laden with quinces.... so I called out hello and she came over to the fence. After the usual greetings, I commented on a beautiful little plum tree just beyond where she was standing. She exclaimed, as if she was mad, that she has a passion for heritage fruit trees and this little beauty was in fact a crab apple called Wychwood. Well, as you can imagine we got on like a house on fire and I promised to take her a recipe Vegie Gnome gave me for pickled crab apples as this lady just hates to see fruit go to waste, and Vegie Gnome's recipe is superb.

"Where do you get your fruit trees from?" I asked and she said "Old Bob Magus, who lives just over the hill, near Woodbridge". Well, this Bob Magus has been featured in several Organic Gardener magazines and is such a character.... I cannot believe I now live only a few minutes from him and all that knowledge! I once wrote to him with a query about something... I have long forgotten what.... and he sent me back a beautiful hand written letter in reply. He brings in cuttings from fruit trees, mostly apple I think, from all over the world in an attempt to keep the old varieties going. Jilly knows such a lot about it all..... and Bob was on Gourmet Farmer a while back; you can watch it here.


Oh... Jan gave me the name of a man who sells chooks too..... now I think I will go and give him a ring and I could have chooks by Easter!

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blog links

I want to bring all the blog links over from the Hills and Plains Seedsavers blog to this one but I don't know how, short of copying every single one and there are a hundred or so of them! So, I am sorry if you are not seeing a link to your blog from mine, dear internet friends. Eventually I will do it.... does anyone know a way to copy them across?

Evidently this new facility on Blogger to customize your blog does not look good on Internet Explorer 6 or older.... so I am sorry if that's how you are seeing it..... but I have Google Chrome and it looks great here!

OK Hugh, I won't use that font you don't like. Ho hum..... back to being boring again!

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Almost every day since I arrived in Tasmania, someone has said to me "Oh, you'd get that for next to nothing in the tip shop." First Erica said it and even the man in the Mitre 10 hardware shop told me to go there! So, today I went.... but even that has a story because I stopped to turn around, thinking I had gone past the Margate Tip Shop and happened to pull off the road where a man was putting out a sign selling mushroom compost off his truck. So, forgetting all about the Tip Shop I got into talking about these wonderful bags of mushroom compost with mushrooms still growing in them but past their peak production.... and for $4.50 / big bag I bought one! Then I drove off and had to turn around again and come back and ask the man if I had passed the Tip Shop! He said yes, but there was much better and cheaper one in South Hobart..... here we both had to get out our glasses and I openned my new street directory that Mary bought for me, and soon I was off again. What a helpful man.... I also got his whole life story for my $4.50..... why does this always happen to me??

Anyway to cut a very long day into edible sized pieces, I arrived at the Tip shop.... eventually. You see, these places advertise their whereabouts for hundreds of miles, signs pointing here and there but just when you get nearby, they stop! Sometimes there is a 6 road intersection 100m from the place, but you have no idea which exit to take until you have taken them all..... and so I arrived, eventually. The carpark was overflowing but there was plenty of room to spread out.... I just hoped nobody thought I was leaving my car for scrap metal. In the middle of the dusty, smelly tip I sat in the car and ate an apple from my tree, watching people bustling about inside a rickety fence, some coming back to their cars with sinks or old windows or hidden treasures in bags.

So, with a couple of hessian bags under my arm, I entered the unsigned tip shop..... and gasped.... was this heaven or what? There was some of everything, most of it not complete .....  like wheelbarrows without wheels or without barrows..... saucepans and hundreds of lids that didn't fit..... but there were treasures to be found at every turn too... and I suddenly remembered I was not there just for fun, I had a list of things to look for. So I put on my glasses and began to hunt in earnest.

The kind young man behind what was once a desk, gleefully presented me with just the perfect electric drill for any missus..... only it had no cover over the wires at the cord end! I felt mean not taking it but really, that was going a bit too far even for me. It was nearly closing time by the time I had gathered together a few things but I was fairly confident I could manage the expense because another customer told me it would all be fine.... and I believed her! I openned my bag, the young bloke looked inside and said "Is that ALL you've got?" Embarrassed by my frugal purchases from such a fine shop I admitted that yes, this was all for today. "OK, 2 bucks" he said. Well there's cheap and then there's the South Hobart Tip Shop..... about a acre of stuff just waiting to be loaded into your car.... just make sure you allow most of the day, instead of my one hour, and you'd better bring the trailer, there were some couches there that would look just fine in my lounge room!

All of this excitement made me completely forget to take any photos! Your imagination will have to suffice for now.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010


....or a cave woman.

I love camping, don't get me wrong, and I have done some pretty serious bush walks, including 2 weeks cross-country skiing, carrying everything and camping in the snow. But I always knew there was a home to come back to, where I could cook while standing up, wash in a hot shower, keep food cold in a fridge and turn on a switch to get light.

image Moving my goods and chattels to Tasmania seems to be a long process and why my things take longer than I do to get here is a mystery to me, but after 2 weeks I still only have what I brought in the car plus what I have found here.... which can be a good thing but, dear reader, there is definitely a limit! I don't want to have to do without tongs or a whisk or a cake tin or a strainer of any kind, for example. It is a bugger of a thing to turn a toasted sandwich or grate a lovely piece of fresh ginger or strain pasta without any tools. Do you know how slippery spaghetti is and how quickly it slides down the plug hole when you only have a spoon to hold it back?

My biggest mistake was bringing only one saucepan. It makes you think hard about the order of cooking when you decide to have even something as simple as spaghetti bolognese for dinner! Worse, is the dilemma of making coffee in a saucepan but also heating the milk and getting the whole thing the right temperature and strength at the end! Collecting all those tomatoes with Mary was great and we stewed half of them..... in 2 batches because of the one pan problem, and then had a mish mash of plastic containers to freeze them in, some with and some without lids and no labels. There is more produce in the garden that needs dealing with, like the 175 million apples..... but it is a daunting task with one saucepan and very few containers.

image Today is a bit cold and wet so I thought I would light the fire in the kitchen, for fun. It was lovely until suddenly I needed to move a burning log to stop it falling out onto the kitchen floor..... with no fire tools. When you are a cave man, it doesn't matter if the fire creeps a little this way or that and tending a camp fire with a good stick or two is fun but it is quite important that in my house, the fire stays in the fire place! Imagine trying to heat a whole house this way. I am glad someone invented slow combustion heaters.


I thought I would take advantage of the heat and cook on the fire.....hmmmm.... anyway, so in the end I just nestled a potato into a nice spot (I don't have any foil either), when, after I sat back and relaxed, a small log rolled onto the potato, making it difficult to extract without risking more trouble..... already the kitchen was filling with smoke. Consequently the potato was nicely black and crisp on one side.... I must change the batteries in the smoke alarms as they didn't notice a thing! OK, you say, so what if the potato is black? But if we were cave dwellers, this would be the best we could hope for.....I dare not imagine the worst... and my recipe books would get all dusty!

It would be nice to have a ladder or at least a chair or stool with no moving parts! Mary's husband Trevor bought me some silicone...... wonderful stuff ..... and I was getting on great guns with it until I decided to fix a join in the gutter..... without a ladder and only a very wobbly stool. I could not get high enough to see into the gutter and by the end, there was more silicone on me than along the joint I was trying to plug up. OK, OK caves have some advantages as I have never seen a cave with gutters.

image A highlight of the silicone experience, however, was the decision to stick a very large, flat shell over a prospective mouse entry point in the kitchen wall, using all the silicone on my fingers..... I think I will use shells more often as it looks very cute there. Another thing I use these big, flat fan shells for is as spoon rests; I have 2 each side of the stove..... very handy.... and much nicer to use than anything I have ever bought to do the job. Cave people who lived by the sea could have made a fortune with this idea! I found a lovely piece of slate in the garden too, ideal to sit the olive oil bottle on to stop the bench getting oily..... I guess cave women didn't have a lot of problems with bottles of oil ...... as their shelves would all have been made of stone already.

There was a horrible, crooked, cane light shade in one of the bedrooms and eventually I took it off. Holding it in my hands, I said "Turned upside down this would be a fine bowl for something." Next thing Mary had filled it with apples and it looks very chic! Deb would have been very handy in a cave, with her weaving of plant fibres, she could have had bowls of this and that all over the place!

I don't suppose cave men had the inclination to go out of the cave and trim the bushes, pick some flowers or generally tidy up the front yard, but I do, and it is frustrating that all I have is an old, very flimsy pair of plastic scissors I found in the wheel house. I really did think my stuff would be here by now.....

Although lots of us go on about the over use of energy, living green lives etc etc, I am definite when I say thank goodness for the opportunity to live in the 21st century; we have a lot to thank our ancestors for, starting with the bloke who invented the wheel, way back before the good old days, right up to now with digital technology, solar panels and coffee machines.

......The rain has cleared so it is time for yet another trip down to the big shed..... to see if I can find some fire tools or at least some cast iron bits that would do for now. I just discovered a rod with a large hook hanging in the fireplace..... now if I could find a cast iron pot to hang over the fire I would be very, very happy.... making potions and casting spells! Maybe then I would find that cauldron of words I once had at my finger tips too.


Thursday: image The first week is done and dusted and it is very hard to know where to start to set the scene.... in the garden, the house or the big shed; maybe in the glass house (in this photo) or the poly tunnel....or one of the smaller garden sheds... perhaps in the wheel house or the studio would be best.... I am as confused as you are and wander over my acre in amazement at it all.

I expected to be moving into an empty house, all my things to be delivered in a week or two.... but here is a brief list of some of the treasures I have found which have made my first week much easier and more fun than you can imagine.

  • Garden stuff - ancient pitch fork, long-handled shovel, lovely solid rake with a short, dodgy handle, child size sharp spade, gardening gloves, hose and fittings, a rusty and very old steel-wheel barrow minus the barrow, a beautiful big flat basket for picking the delicious vegetables and fruit in the garden, a large bird bath that I have planted water cress in, an extensive watering system that does not seem to connect to water.....
  •  Kitchen stuff - table, 2 wonky but usable chairs, a more imagethan a bit wonky stool, all kinds of bowls and containers, a tea pot (now clean!), heavy chopping board, some quaint old utensils yet to be identified, 2 hand made vases now filled with flowers from the garden, a huge and uniquely pretty electric kettle (photo) without any of the electric bits but will be a great water jug or vase.
  • Other stuff - very comfy imagecouch, the little computer table I am sitting at, an old fashioned spring bed base which gets my futon mattress up off the floor, a good single bed and mattress for one guest, several small cupboards, an ironing board, a mountain of chopped and stacked firewood and one of those enormous exercise balls which is maybe trying to tell me something.....

The original part of the house was evidently built in 1876, and was one of the first couple of houses in Cygnet, according to Tonia, an extraordinarily interesting woman and a previous owner, who called in the other day. She is a landscape designer and spent some years making this garden what it is today. From what she told me, the house was run down, dark and overgrown with blackberries when she bought it from a chef who had a home theatre and indoor BBQ. The garden was a flat bed of trees and weeds. She has certainly changed all that. The house is now fresh and bright and the garden is full of winding paths, interesting plantings and features. She even had the dam dug to make use of a boggy area. An inveterate scavenger, she made use of everything that came her way and I will write about some of these another time. As well as all that, she is a potter and her works pop up all over the garden.... my favourite is a jolly little gardening gnome who welcomes me, like an expectant dog, as I come out the front door......

image As I sit here now, the sunset fills the entire sky with brilliant colour while the frogs sing happily in the dam (which I am going to call the pond, from now on). I knew this was the place for me the first day I saw it but it somehow has a magical feel to it as well and tomorrow it is even going to rain!

Friday: I am not sure why I waited until it was raining before venturing to the laundromat to do my washing! But as a consequence, I have now become the Cygnet library's volunteer gardener and met a woman who wants to practice her French! What's even more exciting is that I have found excellent coffee at the Red Velvet Lounge Cafe..... even if I did have to pay for an extra shot.

These Cygnetions have not cottoned on to providing for the young, foreign tourists who walk up and down the streets looking in vain for wifi.... or even for someone who doesn't wrinkle up their nose and say "What's that?". So, at The (Wise Cook's) Garden Shed, I will be offering free wifi and I am sure the Germans and Poms I have already heard in my first week here will walk the 1/2km to be online chez moi.... Son Alex told me last night that in Oxford they even have wifi on the buses.... free of course too.

image I asked Ben, the local butcher, if there are many feral animals in Tasmania and if he ever had their meat for sale. His answer was a little inconclusive but he definitely has wallaby (cousins of the kangaroo, for the non-Australians) from a bloke at Cradoc, about 10 minutes away. I bought some and am having it tonight, Asian style, with ginger and garlic (grated on the tiniest, most gorgeous little tool, unidentifiable until I removed the rust with a nasty chemical), black bean sauce...... and a kaffir lime leaf that Mary "found" on our travels.

SundayimageThe Cygnet market was quite small today because an art exhibition was being displayed in the hall and stall holders were not set up to show their wares in the rain. BUT what the market lacked in quantity, it certainly made up for in quality.....  You may wonder why a person imageon her own could possibly want the biggest lettuce she has ever seen! And now I have it on my kitchen table, I am wondering the same thing..... but I found it as irresistible as another woman may find a diamond ring and at $2.50 it was also affordable. It is over 60cm wide and weighed in at over 3kg..... now you must admit, that this is pretty amazing. I found this sprung but very rusty weighing gadget in the shad and I haven't cleaned it up yet, but its maximum weight is 22kg..... wow.... I wonder if I will ever have something that big to hang on it !! Looks like I will be eating a lot of salads and lettuce soup this week. Please let me have any recipes that may help me to use it; I'd hate to end up feeding it to the worms.

Hopefully by the end of this coming week I will have broadband and not have to stand on top of a windy hill, with my laptop on the roof of my car, to get the internet!!! And, wonder of modern wonders, my boxes, the contents of which I have not seen since early last July 2009, will find their final resting place here and I will have gardening tools, cooking equipment, cookbooks and more than a suitcase full of clothes! It will be like a birthday..... hip hip hooray!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010


When I left Mt. Osmond on Monday March 8th for my new home in Cygnet, Tasmania, there was not a cubic millimetre of space remaining in my car, so full was it of bedding, food and bits and pieces to see me through the first week or so, before the removalists arrived. Mary squeezed into the front passenger seat with the essentials for the trip at her feet, including her home made sour dough bread, butter and fetta, plus grapes and pears from her garden.

image The drive to Horsham, Victoria was mostly into torrential rain along with a constant stream of cars, campervans and huge trucks, all of whom wanted to go faster than I did..... well, when you can barely see the road and the windscreen wipers can't go any faster, it seemed to me a good idea to reduce speed! When trucks sped past in the other direction, we were totally blinded by the spray from the road, such was the down pour. When it hadn't rained for months, why oh why did it have to pour all day this day! Tuesday was almost as bad but it did, thankfully, stop raining as we approached Melbourne which was good because, even without the excuse of poor visibility, we managed to get lost twice before reaching the ferry terminal!! We watched the sun set over Melbourne as the ferry left the dock..... farewell mainland Australia.

The overnight trip to Tasmania on the ferry was wonderful and Mary and I both enjoyed the rocking of the ship caused by the large seas resulting from the gale force winds accompanying the rain we had driven through for 2 days.... but not everyone was so lucky and many passengers were bringing up the expensive dinner they had eaten while the ferry had been still sailing in the calm waters of Pt. Phillip Bay!

By 7am or so on Wednesday we were watching the sun rise as we drove off the ferry at Devonport to begin our trip to Hobart, where we were to stay with Erica and her family for the night. The air was cold and crisp, the sky was clear and the grass was green. It wasn't long before we arrived at Deloraine where I spied a bakery advertising excellent coffee and so promptly pulled over, discovering then that Mary does not usually drink coffee or tea..... but she had brought several little packages of dried herbs so all she needed was a cup of boiling water to make an infusion.... at this point I thought I had definitely been lucky that Mary wanted to come with me. As the journey continued I found that she could pull from her bottomless bag something for every occasion!

image A short walk from the bakery was a green grocer, attracting our scavenging minds with boxes of local, backyard tomatoes..... could we fit in 10kgs ? Mary said yes and walked out of the shop with one box before I had time to argue. The very small space we had made from eating our way through 2 days was more than filled with these beautiful tomatoes.

image In the bakery, a customer had told us we must visit Ross..... the first of many customers to offer us advice over the next week; a rather lovely characteristic of Tasmanians. As luck would have it, Ross appeared just as my stomach was beginning to rumble loudly for lunch. It is a quaint little town with a fabulous wool and wood centre, documenting the history of both in this area. There were bins of dozens of different wools to feel and woods too..... and I bought a Tasmanian myrtle wooden spoon. Ross deserves another visit but not only for this reason..... it has a fabulous nursery and open garden, run by a lovely lady who grows and sells and knows all about fruit trees in Tasmania. Needless to say, Mary insisted we could fit in a box of vegetables seedlings..... ok, so who was I to argue with that? But I did draw the line at buying a fruit tree!



Walking back to the car, I saw this seat, with 2 large squash just sitting there...... and then there was one!



It was great to see Erica and her family again and find that Toya, the dog whose pelvis had been cracked in a fall while I was there before, was now happy and well on the way to recovery. Mary and I left for Cygnet on Thursday morning with  bags of beans and plums from Erica's garden, and some gardening tools on loan until mine arrive. On the way down the coast we bought some mussels for dinner and 2 loaves of sourdough from a little place I discovered on a previous visit..... as well as some flour to feed the sourdough starter Deb had given me, which was beginning to look hungry!


This lovely trolley had been left behind by the previous owners and was just the thing to top off our arrival at my new home.





So, here I am, in my new paradise..... please visit me soon..... and stay tuned for the further adventures of a vegetable vagabond....

(I am posting this today from my laptop, in Hobart where I have had to go to get some jobs done. Hopefully I will have the internet installed at home early next week.)