Sunday, November 13, 2011

Food for Pattie's Daughters gives me ideas whilst at sea...

I am sitting at the little desk in my cabin on the Spirit of Tasmania Ferry, in Devonport Harbour, Tasmania. Its been a nice half-day's drive from Cygnet, in the south to Devonport in the north ... Tasmania isn't a very big island! The ferry trip is overnight to Melbourne and as I do not like the public areas of the ferry much I prefer to eat a picnic in my cabin, watch the port drift slowly out of sight before dark and then sit in bed and read or write. These cabins are the perfect way to travel and include power points for me to plug in and write a blog piece on my laptop if I am in the mood.

Sitting by the porthole which is spotted with drizzle, waiting for the ferry to leave port, I opened Pattie's book, Food for my Daughters. It is as if we were both thinking the same things at the same time because the pages I turned to (pages 34 -36) are about two of my favourite topics.... easy soil fertility and eating weeds! (By the way, the ferry is now moving.... I love it when we finally leave the land and head out into Bass Strait).

I think it was me who first told Pattie how I use the paths in my vegetable garden as in-situ compost areas. I throw onto the paths most of the weeds I pull out from the beds. From time to time I put straw or sawdust on the paths to neaten them up and cover the weeds I have discarded. Gradually this layer builds up in the paths then the worms move in, the composting process begins below the surface and by the end of winter the path has turned into a beautiful river of compost, cleverly lined up alongside your garden beds!

All you then need to do is use a spade to scoop it up onto the beds at the beginning of spring and hey presto, no compost heaps, no barrowing heavy loads of compost from distant corners of the garden, leaving more time for sowing and planting and enjoying time in the garden. (At sea now and heading towards Victoria where wild weather is forecast!).

This method is great for dry climates as, in summer, the paths become higher and level with the beds as you fill them with weeds and sawdust etc. Then it all rots down through winter, finally ending with the mounding of it all up onto the beds, allowing for good drainage through spring when the rains come.  I have seen photos of some parts of India where the paths are built higher than the beds to keep the water in and stop run-off.

What I used to find in my garden in Adelaide was that almost everything self-sowed into the paths because, I presume, of the fertility and lack of competition there. Sometimes, like Pattie, I would actually turn the path into the next year's bed, so lush and prolific were the self-sown seedlings! My Tasmanian vegetable garden is not yet at this stage and people reading this having not seen my Adelaide garden will wonder at the audacity I have in speaking of this much order being claimed about my current garden!! Well, come back in 5 years, I say, and I will show you what I mean.

Pattie then goes on to talk about the current star (in the chapter on early spring) of her garden - chickweed..... and there's a delightful story which you will have to read yourself but the gist of the thing is this.... my neighbour Jilli and I are organising another Kitchen Garden Walk and this time the theme is Foraging for Food. (It is on Dec 11th and you can register by sending me an email) and it will be followed by a BYO BBQ at my place, using some of the things we find to make some of our shared lunch..... and Pattie had a great idea.... using chickweed as an ingredient in pesto and I think it would be wonderful in tabbouli, at this time of the year when my parsley is all gone to seed!! Its touch and go if there will be any suitable chickweed by December but if not then we will make some chickweed soup the day before, instead.

I love the way reading blogs and books can take your mind to a similar place on the other side of the world and you can feel like you are having a brain-storming session together, even years after the event..... or am I just crazy?? (No need to answer that one!)

This won't be published until I reach son Hugh's house in Adelaide where I will be online again....

4 comments:

Linda Woodrow said...

I won't have chickweed here by December - it really hates the northern NSW summer heat.It's starting to disappear now, even in this cooler and wetter than usual year. I use it a fair bit in salads and in a kind of chickweed Maidanosalata, and I feed it by the barrowload to the chooks.

Kirsty @ Bowerbird Blue said...

love a lazy garden technique, it is a shame how the water drains away from beds in summer.

Pattie Baker said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Pattie Baker said...

Whoops--sorry--I had a typo. Thanks for sharing my journey with me these many years, Kate, first as life unfolded, and second, by reading my book. It is truly a small world. The Kindle version of it is now available, by the way, if folks are interested. I priced it as low as possible because I know times are tough for many folks right now and I think there is much in there of value in today's trying times.