29 May 2016

Another Winter on its way... perhaps

For many years I've taken a photo of the beautiful Crepe Myrtle in the City Garden backyard on the first day of winter (or close to it) and have compared it over the years.  Last year I took the photo but the post didn't eventuate, so this post is two years rolled into one.  The contrast is stark.  It's only this week that the leaves have become tipped with bronze, compared to last year when it was nearly over and half the leaves had fallen.

05 September 2015

Hogfest and the Backroads Trail

I've written in the past about some of the amazing farmers that I've met, and the care, ingenuity and sustainable methods that they using to produce high quality products. Lauren and Lachie at Bundarra Berkshires on the Murray definitely fall into this category.  Last weekend we had the opportunity to visit their farm for Hogfest and see first-hand how they are not only raising their animals and managing their farm, but also to check out the on-farm butchery that they have built so that Lauren can now have complete quality control over her products.  There was also time to chill out in the warm sunshine and listen to some local music. Perfect!
Curious piglets and their watchful mums
Some of the newest arrivals on the farm
The salami curing room in the butchery
Chilling out in the late afternoon sun listening to a local band...
...under the bunting and giant trees
It was also a great opportunity to explore an area that we haven't been to before and visit some of the businesses and sites along the Backroads Trail, which runs between Moama and Barham just on the NSW side of the Murray.

What a beautiful part of the world it is!  Big open, flat spaces full of flocks of cockatoos and galahs, kites hovering over the side of the road and groups of big kangaroos gathered in paddocks.  The Murray River snakes through, fringed by red gums and the little towns along the way all have interesting histories and lovely old architecture.

Our picnic lunch spot beside the Murray to eat Pacdon Park Pork Pies
A passer-by during our picnic (never miss an opportunity to include a timber boat picture!)
Restdown Wines cellar door, owned by the lovely Jo and Don, where we had
a great discussion about their organic techniques in the vineyard and the
challenges of producing elegant wines in such a harsh climate
One of the backwater areas around Gunbower Island 
A lone pelican at Gunbower Island
Koondrook Hotel

23 August 2015


Time seems to be one of those excuses that people often use for not getting into vegetable gardening, and with the Country Garden an hour drive away, time can certainly impact on my ability to tend it every week.  But I thought I'd talk about some of the aspects that make it such a low maintenance garden and therefore so manageable, even when time is of the essence.

25 July 2015

Winter Life

It often feels to me that everything stops in winter and is all grey and dreary.  But today as I walked in the front gate of the City Garden I noticed that the nuts on the mallee gum (which I think is Eucalyptus Preissiana) in the front garden are starting to "pop their lids" and will soon be in a short but full bloom.  Then I started looking around at the other plants in the garden and realised that there are flowers everywhere!  And while the fruit trees are sitting quietly dormant, there are lemons falling off the lemon tree and the feijoas that I planted a few months ago have taken off, just as the weather has hit its coldest.  So it seems there is life in winter after all, even inside, where my two orchids are just coming back into bloom  :)

20 July 2015

Green and Purple Days in the Country Garden

It's only a couple of weeks past the winter solstice, the ground is getting really wet and muddy from lots of rain and there have been regular frosts and freezing cold nights.  The garden could certainly be forgiven for not being productive at this time of year.  And yet it's flourishing, albeit in a slower, wintery way!  

And while the predominant colour is green, in the kale, silverbeet, leek, spring onion, radish, rocket and growing broad beans, snow peas and turnips, there are also lots of bursts of purple all through the garden at the moment.

18 July 2015

Making Cider

In my last blog post I wrote about one way of using lots of apples when you have a glut: make apple cider.  My friend E and I had investigated lots of recipes but most seemed very complicated and needed lots of equipment or time. 

Then I read Sally Wise's book A Year on the Farm and came across a recipe in it that seemed ridiculously simple, so we decided to give it a go (thanks E for the photos!).

01 July 2015

Slow Living Journal - March to June 2015

It was so lovely today to receive a message on my last blog post from Linda at Greenhaven, just checking in, given it's been so long since I last did a post.  Thanks for your thoughts Linda.  All is good here, just not so much slow living going on at the moment!  

I headed over to Linda's blog to check out what's been going on in her part of the world and realised it was time for the monthly wrap-up, something I haven't managed to do for many months.  It was lovely to catch up with Linda's happenings, and then I started looking at the categories... well I guess if I cheated a bit and did it for a few months instead of one I might be able to scrape something together and get back to some blogging... So thanks for re-inspiring me Linda, this list is for you!

My dear friend E has been continuing with her love of planting fruit trees at her country place and harvesting as much fruit as possible, both from her own trees and from gleaning on the side of the road. So there's been constant gluts of various produce as the year has gone by, and we've become adept at peeling and chopping large quantities of produce to deal with it all!  

The preserving we've done I've included below in Prepare, but the definite highlight so far has been our successful apple cider.  Slightly sweet, definitely apple-y, bubbly deliciousness. The only problem was that we didn't make enough!  We have calculated that next year we need to harvest 78kg to make enough for one bottle each per week for the year...

Let's just say that we're not going to run out of jam or chutney for quite a while thanks to the gluts :)

There are now Farmers Markets in bike-riding distance of the City Garden every Saturday morning of the month, and they are firmly entrenched in our Saturday morning ritual.  Pretty much all our food that doesn't come from the City or Country Gardens comes from these markets.  What a fabulous resource.  We are so lucky to have such great farmers dedicated to selling their produce in this way every weekend.  They must all get up ridiculously early to get to the market to set up before 8am, and I for one appreciate that enormously.    

The Country Garden has gone along reliably supplying 80-100% of our vegetables for the last few months, but now with the colder weather it's down to probably around (a not very scientifically calculated) 40%.  The last of the capsicums came out last week, and the berries have all been pruned, but there is still kale, silverbeet, beetroot, carrots, leek and some herbs.  Excitingly, the first of the purple sprouting broccoli is poking through, so should be ready to harvest shortly, and there's also broad beans, snow peas, celery, kohl rabi, turnips, parsnips and more beetroot on the way.  Two beds are sitting empty ready for potato planting come September, and we might even manage to harvest some asparagus this year.

In the City Garden, after a really successful summer/autumn crop thanks to the chickens having free  access to the garden area last year, I made the decision to pull out most of the garden bed, leaving enough space to keep us in silverbeet and a few seedlings that a permaculture friend gave me from her garden when we met up recently, and planted a hedge of feijoa trees in the rest of the space.  The reason for this is that our neighbours have a hedge on their side of the fence, but the trees stress them out as they need to be maintained, and they are clearly not natural gardeners, so I expect that as some stage in the not too distant future they will chop them all down.  This would leave us very exposed and bare, so it seems sensible to get a head-start to creating our own.  I chose feijoas as they are beautiful trees with lovely flowers and hedge well.  I don't actually like eating feijoas that much, but I'm sure that once E and I give them our glut treatment, they'll be delicious!  

One of the highlights of the last few months was a trip to NZ.  We didn't take much luggage with us as we were cycling for part of the trip (see Enjoy below) and as a result I only bought one item to take home with me: a skein of possum/silk/merino wool.  It's so soft and warm!  There's only 100g so I took a while to work out how best to use it, and in the end decided it would make a beautiful scarf because of its softness.  I took the same chevron pattern as I knitted last winter but used bigger needles so it's quite loose and hole-y.  It's about the slowest knitting project I've ever done, but come summer I should have a lovely warm scarf... ;)

I was only in Tasmania a few months ago, but we decided to go down again and discover what Hobart is like on a quiet winter weekend without any special festivals on.  What can I say?  Quiet exploration of MONA, rugging up to venture out to great bars and restaurants, Willie Smiths Apple Shed (with its collection of hundreds of heritage apple varieties), open fires and my favourite discovery: hot toddys made with great Tassie whiskey!

I'm not sure I've been enhancing much lately, but I've certainly been enhanced by my lovely next door neighbour who lives by herself, and every so often I get a phone call from her at about 5pm telling me that I have to pop in to visit on the way home after work because she's done a big cook-up and made dinner for us.  Invariably this means not just a main course but a delicious dessert as well!  I love those phone calls and it also inspires me to cook up batches of biscuits or cakes sometimes on weekends to reciprocate.  

I was going to say my trip to NZ in general, but perhaps I'll focus more on bike riding, as we did a four day ride in NZ through the Central Otago region, which was amazing, and have then kept up doing longer rides (well, long for me, not so long compared to my uncle who is riding across the US at the moment!) on weekends once we got home.  This gets us out often into the countryside, or exploring parts of the city we don't know so well.  Last weekend we did the Melbourne Roobaix, a 50km ride between sections of cobblestone laneways with about 2500 people, lots of them dressed up and with decorated bikes.  There was a treasure hunt with questions along the way, and stops for beer and free donuts.  Great fun!  But even so, no ride we've done so far has beaten riding through the quiet plateaus of Central Otago between old gold mining towns.  Magic!

I hope you've had a great month.  Don't forget to check out what others have been up to this month on Linda's page.  x