Kitchen Garden Guides

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Animals, just about everywhere…..

A good way to concisely put people in the picture about the place where someone lives is, I think, to ask them the question “What do people talk about most, where you live?”
While I was at the sink doing my dishes just now, I was thinking about my adventure with the cow, the one that discovered the electric fence wasn’t working and decided the grass looked greener in my garden…. and I got onto thinking about animals and what a big part of life they are here, in rural southern Tasmania.

So here’s a snapshot of a fraction of the conversations that have come my way in the last 2 years….

“How do you keep the possums out of your vegetable garden?” (Answers are too numerous to recite here but the upshot is that most methods don’t work!)
“There’s always fresh road kill, everyday…. one good thing about that is that means there’s an awful lot of wildlife in this part of the world.”
“I saw a bandicoot under the lavender bush / Tasmanian devil in the chook yard / pademelon on that same road again /quoll by my front door / wallaby and its baby by the creek / bloody neighbour’s cat stalking birds again. I wish it would kill the rats”
“Look, there’s an eagle / a family of wrens / a flock of swans, plovers, crows / a robin on the fence / parrots in the banksia / a heron walking past the window”
“Did you notice the farmer has different cows / sheep / alpacas / goats? I had a cow in my garden!”
“ Did you know you can get Cygnet milk at the bottom butcher?”
“The rats and mice are shocking this year….. they ate the wiring in Bob’s car / they ate a hole in my fridge / live in my roof / my walls / what traps do you use?”
“Are your chooks laying? Have they been moulting? Do you feed your geese anything? How do you keep the mice out of your chook food? What kind of chooks do you have?”
Make what you will of this!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Find your own piece of the jigsaw and put it in…. that’s all there is to it….

Incredible Edible Todmorden is a story I have been following since the start. In 2008, two women decided to plant some herbs in a public planter box that was full of weeds….. and so began a revolution.


Four years on and they have had another wonderful Harvest Festival, celebrating 3 spinning plates that they have invented to represent the 3 elements which, combined and spinning together, make the movement successful…. find out what they are in this lovely video sent to me by Dawn.

As I watched this, I had tears in my eyes…… this could be Cygnet; this could be us; this is what some of us are striving for….. So, that’s it, today I am taking my seedlings and I am going to plant them in the library garden, uninvited and unashamedly. I will make little signs later, to make it fun and invite participation. Growing food in the community garden is one thing, growing it in the main street of Cygnet is another. I can’t wait…..

ps when I got up this morning and opened my kitchen curtains, there was a cow wandering through my garden. Cows are very big, when they are in your garden!! Now there are hoof prints all over the lawn and the geese have decided to stay in the pond. Soon it wandered off around the pond and back across the dodgy fence in the far bottom corner of my yard. I will have to go and see the farmer!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Late Autumn in my Kitchen

The days are really short now and I so enjoy early evenings in the kitchen, surrounded by the day’s harvest, either from my own garden, the community garden, the weekly Cygnet Organic Market, the new organic grocer in the main street or from friends who have dropped in during the day.
The beauty of freshly harvested vegetables is astonishing and invigorating. Many people adore the tomato season but for me, late autumn brings such a variety of colours and tastes that I can hardly decide what to eat.
image There is the deep, rich, intricately patterned red cabbage, which, if teamed with slices of apple and slowly stewed, becomes a sensational vegetable accompaniment, even without any other ingredients.
There are freshly dug potatoes, none better in the world than those grown in Tasmania, where the perfect weather and soil produce unbeatable potatoes, in almost every back yard. I have 10kgs of kennebecs from a neighbour; fluffy white inside and with a skin that bakes crisp and full-flavoured. Many people here prefer pink eyes and Dutch creams. I squeeze open a good sized, baked kennebec and top with lashings of home made yoghurt mixed with crushed garlic and a handful each of mint and chopped spring onions. This time I sprinkled on some of my dukkah too.
As winter weather begins to set in someone comes by and gives me something I have been searching for – red capsicums with thick, meaty flesh and a flavour I have not had since leaving Adelaide 2 years ago. Why was I the lucky recipient? I shared some seeds, about a year ago, in the hope that someone would have success and all I asked in return was one red capsicum. Well, I was given 5 and treasured every mouthful; some fresh and eaten like an apple, others cooked, with no other adornments! Needless to say, the seeds sit on my mantle piece drying out….. I am determined to grow these small, pimento-style capsicums successfully myself next season.
Winter salad greens are a joy to behold and mine include the very dainty frilly mustard, self-sown miners’ lettuce, various little chicories (speckled/ broad leafed/ tall and red), French sorrel, chervil, mint, lettuces, bulls blood beetroot leaves, wild rocket, bok choy, mizuna, nasturtiums, red dock etc etc. I love salads in winter, they beautifully complement and lighten a hot meat stew or a toasted cheese sandwich. But its dark now and I didn’t take any photos!
image I came home today to find several bean pods by my back door, in a paper bag. They revealed some magnificent jewels, on opening. If ever there was a magnificent collection of vegetables, it would have to be the bean family.

Sadly, most people discard any fat bean pods left on their vines at the end of the season and they are missing out on a display like no other! The names of beans are quite confusing, sometimes named after the colour of the flowers, sometimes after the pods and sometimes after the mature bean seeds found inside those dry old pods you forgot to pick. Interestingly, today, the purple podded bean revealed ordinary white bean seeds while the others, which all had plain, green pods, revealed 3 very different seed colours and sizes, inside. Never count your beans before they hatch!
imageLastly in my kitchen this week are some mini muffins made with apples (from the Cygnet community garden) and orange blossom honey, my favourite honey, from a bee keeper whose bees pollinate the orange groves in South Australia. The native trees that form the basis of honey in Tasmania did not flower well this year, except for the Leatherwood, and I decided to fill the gap with this light, sweet, fragrant and lingering honey that makes me smile with delight. I have added it to the burgeoning list of South Australian things I sell at the Cygnet Market and in my little Garden Shed and Pantry business.
As the cows outside my kitchen window chew their cuds, as interested in me as I am in them and the geese merrily mow my clover paths even in the pouring rain; when the frogs croak from every corner of my garden and the chooks start laying well again; when the nights close in early and morning mists linger across the hills, I feel grateful to be alive and glad I am here at the bottom of the world, in paradise.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cygnet Deep Organic Market

imageWinter came with a vengeance on Saturday, with temperatures plummeting, rain pelting the windows and a turbulent wind turning the geese’s feathers inside out and upside down. Consequently, Sunday - calm, cold and only with occasional showers, seemed the perfect day to wander down the street to the launch of a true, organic market outside the Town Hall in Cygnet.image
Deep Organic means minimum inputs, with those being locally sourced. It means a system of growing magnificent, healthy food by encouraging plant vitality to ward off pests and diseases, in the same way that eating such food helps us ward off human diseases and ills. It does not mean buying organic fertilisers, organic sprays or any organic inputs manufactured thousands of kilometres away and shipped around the world to garden shops.

So it was no surprise that Alex, of Golden Valley Farm, sold out of vegetables before lunch time and that there was a queue of locals, waiting and chatting, for Cam’s incredible breads, croissants, vegetable rolls and baguettes.
What a time of year to begin such an enterprise, coming into winter in southern Tasmania. But Alex’s vegetables and Cam’s breads have gained a reputation this year that will bring locals and visitors out from their warm fires not just for their goodies, but for the camaraderie  that accompanies shoppers and stall holders in marketplaces worldwide.
I have shopped in markets, small and large, through bleak French winters and looked forward to every one of them; rugged up in a thick coat, scarf, hat and gloves. There is a joy to be had; some kind of ancient gene we all have I guess, which has been squashed by the supermarket claiming that making shopping a sterile experience is going to make us happier. How wrong they are! Markets have never seen the boom they are having in the 21st century.
Cygnet Deep Organic Market is looking for more stallholders. Contact Alex for more information.
Cygnet Deep Organic Market: outside the Town Hall (and hopefully soon inside too).  Every Sunday, 10am – 2pm.
It is fabulous to see. It is the future, for all of us.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Super Moon

.....which happens when a full moon coincides with the moon being at its closest to the earth.... which was  over the weekend. These photos are from

A reader picture of a little girl cradling the SuperMoon at Currumbin Beach on the Gold Coast.

The SuperMoon appears behind the Temple of Poseidon in Cape Sounion, south east of Athens, Greece.
A readers picture of the SuperMoon over the beaches of Surfers Paradise, Queensland.
The moon rises over Cultus Mountain in Skagit County, Washington State.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Preserving garlic

It happens every year; your garlic sprouts and you face somewhere between 1 and 6 months without fresh garlic (unless you buy chemically treated stuff from another country...and I don't) or you can do it like my friend Deb.

Last year I put all my eggs in one basket and relied on our 1,000 garlic cloves planted at the community garden. They grew big and fat and were close to being ready to dig (and making us some money for some jobs we needed to do), when along came more rain than anyone expected and, yes, the garlic patch was flooded and most of the garlic rotted off before we could rescue it.

Ever since, I have had to buy it at the Cygnet market or beg it from friends. Now some of  that is starting to sprout because, of course, most people I know had that same rain as did the community garden so most of the local garlic heads split open prematurely, making them likely to sprout early.

This means I am going to have a seriously long stretch without fresh garlic this year (we are planting our community garden garlic on higher ground this time AND I have planted some in my own garden!). Since I have paid for what I do have, I am not going to waste a single clove!

Funny how things come along.... on Tuesday I went to a friend's house for a Chinese cooking lesson and there in her lounge room was a bowl full of bulbs with long, green shoots and looking so beautiful I thought it was a lovely piece of living art. She is Chinese and explained that in China this is what you do with sprouting garlic; you let it sprout and all winter you cut the shoots for your cooking. Soooo simple, soooo sensible; soooo beautiful.

Somehow mine does not look as perfect as hers, and of course the shoots on mine have hardly started growing, compared to hers. I am hopeless at art! But you get the idea. You only have to keep a tiny bit of water in the bowl, for the roots to grow into. The food for the growth is all in the bulb.

It never rains but it pours.... and I happened across a pickled garlic recipe recently too. I loved pickled garlic when I was in France, where it was available everywhere but I had not been able to find a recipe quite like the French one until now. It also is so simple....

Drop all the unpeeled cloves into boiling water for no more than a minute, to loosen the skins. Drain and cool enough to handle, then peel. Heat 1 cup of apple cider vinegar in a pan with a good pinch of saffron and a tablespoon of sugar. Boil for a couple of minutes. Put the garlic cloves into jars with some fennel seeds, peppercorns and a bay leaf. Pour over the hot vinegar to cover the garlic and seal. That's it..... Bon appetit!

So now we can all have garlic all year round, thanks to the Chinese and the French..... Why did it take me 53 years to find this out??

..... and talk about floods and raining,.... today my tiny, trickling creek turned into a white water river and was literally about 5cms away from flooding my driveway and foot bridge.....

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


There are so many thing to be excited about! First of all is that my laptop is kind of back in order after a big overhaul.

Next is the world wide web of blogs and websites, where you can read about people and gardens and food, you can help feed the poor in Africa, Haiti and Australia, you can learn about preserving walled kitchen gardens in England, weaving fences in the Adelaide Hills and growing ginseng and salmon in northern Tasmania.  And, along the way, you can collect all the links and share them on facebook or google+. Learning, connecting, giving and sharing have never been so easy.

I felt totally naked and isolated while my laptop was out of order. Living at the bottom of the world is fabulous and I love all the people I meet and things I do but the internet puts the whole world at my fingertips....

..... even  the world in 1792....

I have found a coin in my garden.... dated 1792.... and my neighbour Jilli has been researching who could have dropped it there..... and we have a possible answer.... which I am going to write a story about.....