Kitchen Garden Guides

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Gardening in public…

I know I keep going on about it, but Carol and I have done an amazing job with the Cygnet Library garden. I spent a couple of hours there on Saturday, weeding, spreading a bit of mulch, planting some new things and watering and I felt like I was 10’ tall. I am so proud of it.

Every plant was chosen for several reasons – first it had to be edible, next it had to cope with VERY shallow soil and lastly, it had to be pretty. And I am pleased to say that, so far, they all score 10/10. Another reason was…. it had to be cheap or free!

We only had a budget of $150 and we spent every cent of that on plants, fertilizer, signage etc. Now we are running on empty but the Cygnet library-goers are regularly donating to a box I put on the counter inside and that is all I now have to keep the garden up to scratch.

It is completely different gardening on a narrow strip of ground between the library and the carpark, compared to in my private acre. I really quite like seeing people constantly coming and going, cars driving in then out and every now and then someone coming over for a chat. Today a German tourist came and sat on the bench and used the free wi-fi provided by the library. We were both pleasantly surprised that it was available even though the library was closed.

A local came and said hello and I picked her a lettuce and some herbs. You see, the garden is for everyone; not much use growing herbs and food if no-one eats it. I wrote a new sign on plastic milk bottle that I put upside down on a stake. It tells you what is ready to pick and encourages everyone to join in. Right now you can pick a few broad beans, some lettuce, kale flowers, all sorts of herbs including marjoram, thyme, rosemary and Vietnamese mint plus edible flowers like marigolds.

The red cabbage is forming a heart now and the black currants are ripening well. Don’t tell anyone but I ate 2 deliciously ripe ones today. I planted out a caraway plant and lots of garlic and plain chives which will clump up and flower later in summer – autumn. I am always looking at the garden with an eye to what will be finishing soon and choosing a few more things to put in to take their place when the time comes. This is how the donations are used.

I am hoping to take this theme up and down the streets of Cygnet, wherever I can get permission to add food to a piece of ground, no matter how small. I have already asked at the Commonwealth Bank and look forward to the reply when the bank opens again!

Happy food gardening!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Water…. like it is meant to be

If you imagine Tasmania, you probably conjure up pictures of glorious forests, pristine, stony rivers edged with tree ferns and a coastline of hidden bays, far removed from the rush of most of the rest of the world.

It is hard to think of a less frantic place to spend Christmas. I set up my market stall tent by my pond and 4 of us had lunch there yesterday, cooled by a light sea breeze and surrounded by the sounds of frogs. I was the only person who knew each of the others! All residents of Australia now, the 3 of them came from different lands originally…. One South African woman, one German woman and an American man. Perfect. Paradise. No photos.

I think I live in paradise. But today I went to the core of paradise, only 10 minutes or so drive from my house. It is a long and complex story but the gist of it is that the town water supply used to be a gravity fed, mountain spring but now the water is pumped from a busy river and then treated. Some of us would prefer to gather water from a pristine river where no humans or farm animals live upstream, and such places still exist near my home in Tasmania. So we headed to a secret location today, armed with buckets and jugs.

The track was rough but manageable and when we arrived at the end we heard the sound of the rush of water cascading over some rocks into a large, deep pool. After filling our containers, we took our shoes and socks off and sat on a rock with our feet in the icy water, hoping to see a platypus. None appeared but the 10 minutes of silence filled my head with tranquillity. I didn’t take my camera but it looked like the photo below, only the river was not quite so wide.

So, I now have a few weeks’ supply of water the way humans evolved to drink it; full of minerals form the rocks and filtered by nature with no added chemicals. I will keep it stored in a large, ceramic urn (that I found at the tip shop).

How many places are there left where you can find total wilderness so close to home but also, a short walk to the shop and you can buy St. Agur cheese!?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Growing buckwheat between the vines in NZ

Managing biodiversity when growing a monoculture crop is not something every vigneron thinks of doing but there are benefits for the quality of the crop, for the farmers and for those who drink the final result.

This piece is taken from an excellent website called

Anna Flowerday

At Te Whare Ra Estate in Renwick, near Blenheim, (north east of the South Island) owners Jason and Anna Flowerday have found an innovative way to use the space between their vine rows - they've planted buckwheat.

Although a strange sight to visitors driving past the rows on the way to the cellar door, growing buckwheat on alternate vine rows had a range of benefits and was a natural way to glean optimum conditions for grapegrowing, Mrs Flowerday said.

The vine rows had about 3 metres of space between them, about 10 hectares of land.

"For us, it's a big area between the vine rows," Mrs Flowerday said.

"So it's about creating something effective for the best use of the land."

Among other species, buckwheat attracted small native wasps by the name of Dolichogenidea tasmanica, which helped get rid of the leaf roller caterpillar pest.

The technique, adopted from what began as a research project nearby at Seresin Estate, allowed them to avoid using chemicals on the vines, Mrs Flowerday said.

"It's about looking for a natural solution to a problem."

Other plant species did a similar job to the flowering buckwheat. However, buckwheat had increased the abundance and longevity of the wasps, it had a short sowing to flowering time, could be managed to produce flowers over the entire grape-growing season, was relatively cheap, and could be killed by frost, which prevented it from becoming a weed.

Buckwheat also attracted a number of other beneficial species including hover flies, lacewings, and ladybirds.

Mr Flowerday said biodiversity and working with the environment naturally was key to maintaining a good vineyard.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Somewhere over the rainbow….and other snippets


imageThat little green house across the cow paddock from me is definitely basking in gold, at the end of the rainbow…. image
….and it came down in my gum trees; can you see it? It was a glorious sight, after the rain.
The Dover Bay Mussels people were at the market as usual. You can’t beat $5 / kg!! So we had mussels for dinner….
….wonderfully delicious and easy after my hectic Cygnet Market stall.
My stall takes up most of the Town Hall stage now and I have a love / hate relationship with it!
Photos taken during a quiet moment but often the whole stage is full of people! 
imageUnpacking deliveries at home, repackaging bulk stuff and then packing for the market is a never ending job. I still enjoy opening the boxes though! image
Some of the goodies….
I must admit that I do make bloody good sourdough bread! Left is wholemeal wheat and right is spelt and quinoa…..
Then there’s all the garden produce. This was a scrumptious meal of freshly picked broad beans, leeks, garlic and herbs (all from my garden) on sourdough toast.

At The End Of The Rainbow

© Kathy Lesley

After a terrible rainstorm
In the sky, I saw a rainbow.
All the bright, beautiful colors made me feel so warm
As they dipped down so low.

I thought back to that legend of old
Sitting on my grandfather's knee.
"At the end of the rainbow is a pot of gold,"
He would say to me.

Every time I would see a rainbow
In that big, beautiful sky so bold
I would cross my fingers and make a vow,
"I would be the one to find that pot of gold."

So one day I bid my family and friends good-bye
As I started on my journey, following that rainbow.
I walked away quickly, knowing if I lingered I would cry.
I left to find that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

But as I travelled so far and so long,
I could not find the end of that elusive rainbow.
Feeling very sad, I began to hear a song;
A song from my childhood so sweet and low.

By the song I was sold.
No more did I need to roam.
In all that time I was searching for that pot of gold,
It was with my family and friends, at home.

Source: At The End Of The Rainbow, Home Poem

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Re-inventing the art of sock making, in Tasmania

I have seen Mongrel Socks in a local shop in Cygnet but had no idea about the story behind them until now…... I bought some for my mother last winter and she LOVES them.

A couple of pre-World War Two era knitting machines, a cappuccino steamer and some experimentation can make a business.

imageHelen and Laurie Timms used to sell woollen socks in Hobart that had been made in Launceston at the Tamar Knitting Mills.

When that factory closed down, rather than buy socks from interstate, the Timms decided to have a go with making the socks themselves to sell.

To do this, the Timms needed some knitting machines. So they bought two old models from the Tamar Knitting Mills.

"We got friendly with the manager and we used to sell the socks they made on the machines," says Laurie.

The Timms bought two of the machines, one made in 1927 and one in 1930.

"Took us two years to get the second one going and it turned out to be a very simple small part," says Laurie.

imageThe machines chug away in the Timms' shed in Cambridge now, making a pair of socks in 10 minutes, producing the socks a string, like sausages.

When they took the machines the Timms knew nothing about making the socks.

"We thought 'How hard could it be?' and it was really, really hard," says Helen.

The socks they make are made with pure wool with some nylon in the heel to make them long wearing, but other than that the socks are pretty much just the same as when the machines were new, close to 100 years ago.

Once the socks are knitted, there's a bit of sewing around the toes and the socks are steamed, to shrink the wool so the socks don't shrink when you buy them and wash them.

The steaming is done by hand, using a coffee machine they bought in Hobart.

The name of the Timms' company, Mongrel Socks, has come to have two meanings.

"The name for the product came about because of the nature of the multicoloured knit, so it's a real mixture, a mongrel," explains Helen.

"But actually it has turned out to be much more descriptive of the machinery. It's given us merry hell."

Despite the problems the Timms had in the first two years, and the fact that replacement parts have to be improvised or custom made, they have no plans to modernise the machinery.

There's little point, explains Laurie, as the newer machines work in rather than same way anyway, only using computer programs and perhaps working a little faster.

But the Timms don't plan to mass produce their mongrel socks.

"Tasmania can't compete on mass produced items, so we really have to target niches," says Helen.

It did take the Timms a bit of searching to be able to find a Tasmanian wool supplier, becase all the best wool was sold overseas before local producers could get it.

But they've currently got a local wool supplier, producing certified Tasmanian, non-mulesed merino wool, adding to the Tasmanian nicheness of the socks and small business.

Interview with Helen and Laurie Timms by Jo Spargo, featured on Your Afternoon.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Raw Milk…. a heart-wrenching look at why people want it

Watch the first bit and, if you don’t want to watch all 41 minutes then skip to 33 minutes and watch to the end.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

In case you don’t have a garden….

but you have a can….. and no can opener…. this could be VERY useful next time you go camping!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Favourite Food Page

Although I have only put 5 entries on my Favourite Food page at the top of this blog so far, they truly do epitomise what excites me, with food. As soon as I step out the back door I am in my vegetable garden. My clothes line has just enough room to swing and is surrounded by vegetable garden on all sides. To get to the chook yard I walk through it. To get to my green house or little tool shed or the back gate requires walking one of the vegetable garden paths. If you are just starting out growing food, I would highly recommend this set-up!

Not having to deliberately go to the vegetable garden means I see it every day. I can pick things at their most perfect or notice if something is getting damaged by snails, is becoming overgrown by something else or is drying out or about to go to seed.

It is often those unplanned pickings, fresh from the garden, that end up being sensational on the plate. There is no need for additional flavourings when food is grown and eaten like this. I find it hard to explain because if you have never done it, you will just think it sounds a ridiculous claim.

To me there is a lot more to food than just a few seconds of taste.

  • There is the experience of growing, picking and preparing it, that swills around in my head.
  • To me the enjoyment of feeling its goodness equals or even exceeds the taste, while I am getting it ready to eat.
  • Then there is the actual effect it has on my body and mind, sometimes lasting for hours….. all a bit hippy-sounding? I just love tuning my food and body. After all, this is what all other creatures and most other humans instinctively do but we western humans have to learn by listening to our inner workings and trying to understand what they are saying!

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Spring Garden Glory

While I have been working on my vegetable and herb gardens, the rest of my acre has magically looked after itself…. apart from some mowing!

I know this is the most ridiculous thing to say! Gardens are nature and nature always looks after itself but the thing is that the majority of my garden was here when I arrived and all I do is revel in its glory and no time is more glorious here in southern Tasmania than spring.

imageYesterday I was walking though the herb garden when I was caught by the beauty of the late afternoon light on the purple sage. Earlier I had noticed lady birds all over it too so I abandoned whatever I was on my way to do, went inside and got my camera.

Rather than choose some photos to share here, I have uploaded an album for you, to play your own slide show, as they look so inviting at full screen size. These photos are simply the capture of the best of my garden on the day. If anyone should think that a photo or two are worthy of downloading and using, I would be most delighted to share with you.

You will find the album here. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Saturday…. a long drive….to Hastings…..a short walk through the forest……. swimming in a thermal pool, in a rain forest …..then racing in our bathers through the cold, torrential rain to a magnificent, stone shelter, complete with fires raging in 2 huge fireplaces where we huddled in the warmth, wrapped in beach towels….. followed by scones and coffee.































We also took a tour down into the caves….. which was wonderful….















Friday, October 11, 2013

Seasonal Cygnet and the Library Garden Open Day

Today, in persistent rain, 40 people turned out with coats and umbrellas to help celebrate the completion of Stage 1 of the Cygnet Library Garden Project….. At last, after more than 3 years of pestering, it is finally happening! Hip hip hooray!!


Moreover, this tiny snippet of a garden, measuring about 12m x 0.5m plus a bit more around the corner, has inspired a community art project and brought donations of time and energy from the Port Cygnet Men’s Shed, Cygnet Glass, Corey at Treemendous, the local CWA (Country Women’s Assoc.), Woodbridge Fruit Trees, and more.

A picture tells a thousand words….

Catherine and Carol sorting out last minute plans for the day, in the library carpark, in the rain.
That’s me addressing all the well-wishes.
Catherine made this compostable piece from flour, water and seaweed
There it is…. the thing that has brought so much joy to every library goer recently
Carol showing people around the back of the library where we will begin stage 2
Catherine collected wishes from every school child and attached them to the bricks of the library walls and walkways
Catherine, our lovely community artist, talking about her contribution in the form of wishes
Carol enthusing everyone with ideas for the rest of the outdoor space around the library
One of the lovely librarians, Heather, brings the visitors together and explains what has been going on these last few months.
Our tiny library is part of a wonderful, state-wide system with a fabulous website allowing access to an online registry of all books and material available to borrow.

My next idea is to take this first stage and repeat it up and down the main street, then through all the streets of Cygnet. Wherever there is a little piece of land, I would like to fill it with suitable, edible plants, flowers and herbs, turning Cygnet into a Seasonal Smorgasbord for everyone to use and enjoy.

Police Station, Fire Station, Health Centre, Banks, Shops and Cafes etc etc…. building on the momentum of the library garden and that of the local schools who have embraced food gardening in a big way already.

Seed Freedom Fortnight

October 2nd – 16th is when the world of thinking eaters join forces to proclaim their right to grow and eat food from seeds that have been saved and sown by farmers and gardeners for thousands of years, not from seeds that are genetically manufactured by large petrochemical companies and must be bought annually by farmers.

You can read about Seed Freedom here. And you can see on this map the actions being taken all over the world for this incredibly important issue. This link will take you to the online map where you will find all the details of these actions by hovering your mouse over the pin. If you know of others, you can add them to the map.


Currently Tasmania is GM free and profits from this in its sales of clean, green foods to countries in Europe and Asia. Let’s keep it that way!

GM free Tas poster

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Aesthetics of Food Gardening

When you get taken away from the things that you believe, something comes along to reconnect you. It happens over and over to me.

I used to worry that my garden wasn’t tidy enough for visiting garden groups. We all see tidy gardens on TV gardening shows. We see vegetables grown in neat rows, in boxed beds with no weeds, rotated and fertilised religiously. We see freshly mown home orchards and we see pretty chooks in amazing coops and yards, laying eggs in clean straw.

If this makes you feel good then you are very different to me. I want to ask the owners of these gardens question like -

  • how come you ever get a whole bed clear at one time? In my garden things are never all finished at once.
  • why aren’t there any seed heads in your garden? Why do you buy seeds when actually the second crop of every plant is seeds for next year?
  • do you kill things in your garden? How? Why?
  • where are the seats for sitting and enjoying your food garden?

So now I focus more on what my garden does offer, not what it doesn’t. I have reconnected with the aesthetics of food gardening by being the rebel that I always have been but forgotten about whilst  settling into a new place!

So, when my SeedSaveUs group hosted the Hobart Food Garden Group, in my garden on the weekend I had a ball showing them my lazy gardener methods of producing food aesthetically. They were a fabulously enthusiastic bunch but I was so busy answering questions that I hardly had a moment to take photos while Lenny was out!

There’s me, inviting them to dig up my garden!


At the end of the day what I gained is the joy I always feel when sharing. I started this session with an offer; “I grow more than enough food in my garden so if there is something you would like, for whatever reason, please ask and I will share it with you.” One man grabbed my arm and looked into my eyes, smiling…. I didn’t quite mean THAT kind of sharing!

People were shy to start with but soon we had a production line going as I dug bundles of self-sown miners’ lettuce and happy recipients wrapped them in wet newspaper for the drive home. They all hoped to get the plants to shed their seeds in their gardens and come up next autumn, as mine have done.

One man spotted my wonderful leeks which grow from little bulbils that form at the base of any leeks left unpicked. These will all grow into new leeks next year. I dug him a bunch to transplant. And so it went on.

I had put 2 trestles in the garden for people to put any seeds or plants etc that they brought to share and the tables were laden to overflowing. Gardeners are a generous lot. Also laden were the morning tea share tables. One of our seedsaver members had not just brought home-made rolls, but had grown the pigs and made the speck, the relish and all the salad greens that went into them.

So, why am I so happy about my garden? Well, because it is a garden; not a series of boxed, orderly beds that I must tend and control. It has flowers and seed heads. It has self-sown almost everything, in every stage of their life cycles. It feels wonderful to be in it, watching the ecology that has evolved from scratch in the 3 or so years I have been here. It is aesthetically pleasing and calming but also exciting.

 I can take my coffee outside and sit amongst my food.

While I sit there I get inspired about dinner, I talk to the chooks on the other side of the fence, I can see the apple tree blossoming, the broad bean pods starting to grow and marvel at all the life in the air and below the ground that lives in balance in such a diverse system, producing my food with very little effort from me.

Life is good. Make it pretty too. Save seeds and it will save your back, your wallet and your children’s future!

Tomato seedlings getting an airing on a warm day
Coffee corner amongst pots of herbs, under the oak tree,  looking out across the veg garden
Remind me again what is not beautiful about vegetables going to seed?
Self sown salad patch with edible native violas too. Nature is amazing when left alone to do her thing!
This year I have the best fennel since I came here, from an unruly, permanent patch I had considered removing! Patience is key in this business.
Self sown marigolds dotted about
The chooks waiting for breakfast… Most of them lay ok still. Currently getting 2 – 5 eggs / day which is way too many anyway!
The best soil in my garden but a bit shady in winter. Lined both sides with raspberries. Hoops for intermittent lace curtain protection from cabbage moths / bandicoots or loose chooks!
Birds love this bird bath amongst the artichokes, even in winter.
Native stinging nettles amongst the miners lettuce. Used in soups, tarts and a liquid tonic for plants.