A sea of green – and bird acrobatics

I was met with a sea of green over at the allotment yesterday. We had gentle rain and it really perked everything up – so of course I got out the camera.

Silverbeet, Kale and parsley

Silverbeet, Kale and parsley

Cos lettuce

Cos lettuce

Young broccoli

Young broccoli

Lettuce from mixed pack

Lettuce from mixed pack

Dwarf bean

Dwarf bean

We grow trees and flowers over at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment to attract the birds and bees.  The birds love this particular native tree and fortunately I still had my camera at the ready.

Australian native Bottlebrush tree

Australian native Bottlebrush tree

This little bird kept me entertained for ages. I switched on the zoom lens so as not to frighten the bird away.

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Feel the serenity – a weekend at “The Castle”

I spent a weekend at The Castle and really did ‘feel the serenity’ (with apologies to anyone who has never seen the Australian movie).

I stayed with  Fairy and the Duke from Organised Castle blog who are also B&B (Bed and Breakfast) hosts.  Their home, “The Castle” is a small rural acreage near Maleny, in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland. If you click on the link to the blog you can find details about their accommodation.  I received a warm welcome and they made me very comfortable. If you decide to take the breakfast/dinner package you will enjoy lovely home cooking with a lot of the produce taken fresh from their own garden and eggs from their chickens.  I’ll be back!

Maleny is situated in the heart of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland of Queensland. Approximately 100 kilometres north of Brisbane. Rolling green hills and sub-tropical climate help make this an area that attracts tourists from all over the world.

My first stop in Maleny was a gem of a bookshop. Rosetta Books.

Bookshop

Rosetta books in Maleny

It was a cold day, it is the middle of winter after all, and as I walked in the door I was greeted with lovely warm air and the tantalising smell of freshly brewed coffee. This is their beautiful brass coffee machine. I could go no further without a cappuccino.

Beautiful coffee machine

Beautiful coffee machine

I sat at the big rustic community table and sipped my coffee before checking out the rest of this beautiful bookshop. The array of books was SO tempting and the seated areas around the shop encouraged one to linger. They had a lovely children’s area at the back of the shop – makes you want to be a kid again.

Then it was time to take a stroll up the main road and discover what else Maleny had to offer. What I like about Maleny is the fact that as well as being a tourist town it’s a thriving rural community. Walk down the high street and there is a mixture of interesting boutique shops that will draw you in; their IGA is the best I’ve ever been in with some lovely rustic dark wood shop fittings; there’s a fabulous ice cream and cheese shop where you can also get a coffee or a bite to eat and plenty of places to buy your organic produce.

After lunch over a bowl of hot soup I took the car on a scenic drive along the Blackall Ranges via the pretty town of Montville, through Flaxton which is a tiny village where you will find lovely arts and crafts and excellent devonshire teas and on to Mapleton where I stopped for a nice cup of tea and views over the beautiful rolling hills as far as the Sunshine coast.

From Mapleton I took the Obi Obi road as far as Mapleton Falls National Park and this is where I gave the camera a bit of a workout.  It was so beautiful standing there on the lookout. I cannot really capture the peace and serenity of the place, but I’ll have a go.

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I had a lovely weekend, and on the drive back to Brisbane on Monday morning I visited the strawberry farms and stalls selling local produce.  I topped the boot up with pineapples, strawberries, local honey and a great big cabbage I’ll be turning into sauerkraut.

Today it’s back to the allotment as my daughter-in-law has given me some seed potatoes. They are called Royal Blue and have purple skin and golden yellow flesh. Sounds exotic enough for my little allotment!

“Christmas in July” at the farm

We had a great workshop yesterday at Beelarong Community farm when I have my allotment. We celebrated “Christmas In July”.

It was run by Craig Arnett who is a qualified chef and a volunteer at the farm where he gives special care to our fruit trees and the food forrest. He was assisted by Judith, she has an allotment at the farm, does volunteer work in the community garden as well as being on the committee.

I snapped away.

Judith set up the Christmas theme with the tree and table decorations. She gathered the flowers for the table centre from around the farm.

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Craig set up the kitchen with the Primus stove set up on the table (you can see the blue lid) and the farm’s barbecue which you can see on the right. It has a wok burner on the side as he would be needing that for the cooking of Asian Greens.

And he gave me a smile.

Fortunately he is a better chef than I am a photographer (I meant to focus on Craig, not the garlic!)

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The menu was Twice Cooked Pork with Crushed Potato and Asian Greens followed by ‘Christmas Trees’ as a dessert, a delicious confection of light as air pastry, whipped cream and strawberries.

It was a hands-on workshop and here are a few shots taken as we prepared the food under Craig’s instruction.

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We were each given a whole boiled potato to ‘crush’. This exposed the inside of the potato and gave us a larger outside area to crisp up. They were then placed in a baking tray, given a generous drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper ready for roasting in the cob oven.

The twice cooked pork had already been boiled the night before. We placed it in a roasting tin, covered with a delicious marmalade sauce, ready to be finished off with a roasting in the cob oven.

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Folk lined up ready to put the pork and potatoes in the cob oven

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Craig explains the workings of the cob oven

While meat and potatoes were cooking we took a walk around the farm to gather Bok Choi for the Asian Greens. These were stir fried with garlic and ginger in the wok. The meal was then plated up and drizzled with the special marmalade sauce, we sat down together, and it was absolutely delicious.

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We watched Craig prepare this Christmas Tree, complete with snow.

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Then it was our turn. Here is mine. The sugar syrup got sort of mixed up with the ‘snow’ and my ‘branches’ had a mind of their own. But you know what – tasted fabulous!

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To top it up, we were entertained with Christmas songs.

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It was a fun morning. So thank you to Craig and Judith, and to John who got up early to light the fire in the cob oven.

This workshop was part of the Brisbane City Council’s GOLD (Growing Older and Living Dangerously) program. If you live around the Brisbane area it’s worth checking out their website.

My sweet potatoes have done their dash

My sweet potatoes have done their dash and I dug them up this week.

Plot 24 is 50% of my allotment space, and has been taken up for nine months with sweet potatoes. That’s a big investment in land for what turned out to be such a small return.

Basically, it’s given me a good laugh – see below – and a bucketful of very ugly tubers this week when I cleared the bed, so perhaps it’s earned it’s keep. But I would like more to show for NINE months. Goodness – I produced a son (or two) in that time!.

Now THAT'S a sweet potato

Now THAT’S a sweet potato

Anyway, I really wanted to have a good dig and a fresh bit of dirt to get planting again.

This is what it looked like a few weeks ago (I forgot to take a ‘before’ photo when I started digging).

sweet potato

sweet potato

After a bit of heaving and sweating this is the result.

Lovely fresh allotment

Lovely fresh allotment

This cleared plot gives you an idea of what eight square metres looks like. This is number 24. I have another one, number 21, which is the same size (I’m standing in it to take the photo).

I’m going to have a lovely time filling that bed.

Happy gardening.

Seed saving workshop

The seed-saving workshop given by Annette McFarlane at New Farm library yesterday was two hours well spent. It’s a fascinating subject once you get into the why’s and wherefores of plant reproduction and Annette makes it all so interesting.

She started the workshop by explaining how plants produce their seeds, how they pollinate, the best time to harvest and the best way to germinate. I found this part of the workshop fascinating as she explained the reproductive organs of the plants. Some veggies self pollinate, some pollen is spread by the wind, some need the birds and the bees (takes you back to the schoolroom).

And, did you know that the brassica family are promiscuous! It’s all happening at the bottom of your garden. Wonder why you can find purple cauliflowers on the supermarket shelves? Yes folks. That cauliflower has been generous with it’s favours and cross pollination has taken place. By this time I’m on the edge of my chair.

Time for a cup of tea.

We then spent the second hour washing wet seeds, winnowing dry seeds and getting the hands-on experience in the handling and storage of seeds.

At the end of the session Annette shared a wonderful collection of seeds, cuttings and plants and we all left with a real bounty. This was also an opportunity to take along seeds you had harvested from your own garden to share. My friend Wendy had given me some “Drunken Woman” lettuce seeds a year ago and I had had real success with them. I saved the best specimen  and allowed it to go to seed which gave me a seed-head with (what looked like) hundreds of seeds. I dried them off in the garage and took them along with me yesterday.

I took a few photographs of this lettuce in my allotment last year.

I think it looks even prettier when it’s going to seed. 

Thank you Annette. It was a lovely morning. And thank you Tatiana for organising this workshop.

These workshops are put on in Brisbane libraries by Brisbane City Council and they are free. Brilliant.

Incidentally, I did show my diseased silverbeet/chard leaf to Annette and she told me it was a fungal problem so I’ll be spraying the plants with a natural fungicide and giving them a good dousing of seaweed as a tonic. That will cheer them up.

Happy gardening.

A panic in the silverbeet bed

A bit of a panic in the silverbeet bed over at the allotments yesterday.

I get my daily dose of minerals and vitamins from this amazing vegetable.  I steam it and it’s so delicious I could just stand up at the stove with a fork and eat it out of the saucepan.   (But I don’t – and don’t you try that at home either!)

Anyway, back to the allotment. I found some plants attacked by this.

Nasty stuff on my silver beet

Nasty stuff on my silver beet

Fortunately I’m going to a seed-saving workshop given by Annette McFarlane over at New Farm library this morning and I’ll be showing her this photograph. She will be able to identify the problem and tell me how to deal with it.

I have mentioned Annette before, she is a  teacher, garden writer, author and has been a Gardening talkback presenter on ABC 612 radio for over 20 years where she answers peoples gardening problems. Well, today she will be meeting my problem personally and in glorious technicolour thanks to modern technology – the photo’s on my iPad.

I know this is the easy way out – I did start googling about my diseased leaf but it’s a bit like those medical programs on the tele. It’s really only for folk with a strong stomach. Try it, and don’t say I havn’t warned you.

Anyway, on a brighter note. I decided to harvest every decent sized leaf in the bed. Diseased were disposed of but I still ended up with a nice big, tightly packed, bucketful.

A lovely bucket of silverbeet with a smattering of curly kale

A lovely bucket of silverbeet with a smattering of curly kale

Despite the attack, the plants looked quite strong so I gave the bed some love and care. Just a few small weeds had popped up and I removed them to the compost bin. They will live again as lovely humus. Then I took advantage of our worm farm and gave them a good dousing with diluted worm juice. That will perk them up. Remember the mantra – healthy soil, healthy plants.

And just because I can, here are a couple of flower pics taken at the allotments.

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

The bees love this blossom

The bees love this blossom

Happy gardening.

Girls just gotta have fun

It was a glorious sunny morning over at the allotments – very pleasant for the middle of winter. I joined other volunteers for the usual Wednesday morning working bee in the community garden.

The men were doing a lot of heavy work over in the food forest, wielding the chain saw, lopping trees, feeding branches through the mulcher and generally having a good time.

That left us ‘Land Girls’ to make our own fun and rolling the compost bins always ends in laughter. But it does take a lot of grunt, especially if it’s been raining as the compost inside the bins gets heavy.  But just to show that we are up to the challenge I took this photo. All happy smiling faces but they hadn’t started to push yet!

Roll out the barrel

Roll out the barrel

These bins give us wonderful compost in only eight weeks. Heather, the lady in the middle of the photograph above, takes on the responsibility of organising the filling of the bins with layers of green matter, carbon (paper), manure and rock dust.

To give you a better idea of the size of these bins here is a photo of Sue posing with one.  (I have posted about them before but that was ages ago.) We usually have five or six on the go and they all get their weekly roll.

Sue with the compost roller

Sue with the compost roller

After the rolling of the bins we moved into the community garden to harvest.  The peas are doing really well. They had grown so high that the top had flopped over. But if the framework was any higher we would have needed a box to stand on to pick them. As it was, it was a bit of a stretch. They were so sweet that not all the peas made it to the bucket.

 

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Jane, Heather and Josette, the pea pickers

This is Jane. She turned up to take photographs for a promotion her company is having (you can see her camera slung over her shoulder). She said she didn’t know anything about gardening – you don’t get off that lightly. After picking some peas with us she harvested some of the young radishes.

Jane picked some radishes

Jane with the radishes

I couldn’t resist including a couple of photographs of our youngest gardener. His mother has been bringing him since before he was born and the place wouldn’t be the same without him.

Looking after the pond

Inspecting the pond

The pond and water feature needed his attention.

Checking the fountain

Checking the water feature

Happy gardening.

I’ve made a century

I’ve made a century.  No, I’m not a cricketer, and I’m not (quite) ready for my telegram from the Queen.

But I have reached a bit of a milestone on the blog with the 100th person following it.  So thank you, not only to number 100 but all the 99 readers who went before.

I started this blog to keep a record of my allotment and my little adventures along the way. But reading your comments has made it much more interesting, and it’s lovely to think that I’m writing to someone – not just talking to myself!

Cheers.

Cheers

Happy gardening

My kitchen window sill

I’m an early bird so when I first walk into my kitchen in the morning it’s usually dark.

But I slept in this morning and the sun was well up in the sky and it struck me as I walked into the kitchen how pretty the place looked.  It’s an old kitchen and I imagine it’s the one that was in there when the unit was built but it was the harvest that I had sitting on the window sill, on the kitchen bench and on my lovely old kitchen table that pleased me.

This is how I choose to live, so I thought you might like to see these pics.

My kitchen window sill

My kitchen window sill

On the left a few tomatoes I’ve been ripening up, jar of curly parsley, a posy of herbs with a few flowers picked over at the allotments, curly and flat leafed parsley in another jar and my family sized yellow teapot which gets a big work-out when my sister-in-law visits from the UK.

Herbs and flowers from the allotment

A posy from the allotment

Here is a close up of my herb posy. curly parsley, flat leafed parsley, rosemary, nasturtium and a few sprigs of flowers. I have mentioned in previous posts that we grow flowers over at the farm to attract the bees and beneficial insects. Hopefully these few sprigs won’t be missed too much.

Here is a bit of a ‘still life’ with my curly parsley and trusty yellow teapot, but I thought you might also be interested to check out the view through the window. Palm trees – and the lovely old wooden Queenslander house across the road to the right of the photo.

'Still life'

‘Still life’

I’m on a bit of a roll now I’ve got the camera out …….

Ready to make a pasta sauce

Ready to make a pasta sauce

The tomatoes are ripe enough so I’ve moved them over to the stove ready to make a pasta sauce with the onion, red capsicum and the freshly picked sweet basil from over at the allotment.

Yoghurt

Yoghurt

I made a litre of Easiyo yoghurt overnight, it’s ready now to put in the fridge. I thought I’d show you this photo because you can see my lovely old pine table. It was a sad old table when I first bought it, covered in old linoleum which was nailed down. Once I had removed the lino and given the table a bit of a sanding down it revealed the lovely old green streaks in the pine wood.

I don’t have much bench space in the kitchen so I use this table in the old fashioned way before we had fitted kitchens. I do all my food prepping and baking on this table and I wouldn’t part with it.

Just a couple more pics ..

Lemons from Maria and Peter's tree

Lemons from Maria and Peter’s tree

I still have a few of these huge lemons left from the bag that Maria and Peter bought over last week. They are the juiciest I’ve ever come across. Maria and I used some of them last week in our marmalade and I’ve been juicing them since then. I managed to fill one ice tray with the juice from just one of these lemons.

lime and passion fruit from the farm

lime and passion fruit from the farm

“Ok, so it’s just a bowl of fruit” I hear you say. Not just any bowl of fruit, the lime is grown in Beelarong’s fruit forest and the passionfruit (black with a little stork in the picture) is from Leona’s passionfruit vine over at the farm.

So there you have it. I reckon with the food sitting in my kitchen I have just about covered every vitamin from A-Z.

Anybody knowing the Brisbane climate would realise that I can only have food out like this during the winter months. In the summer, apart from the tomatoes, everything lives in the fridge.

(Just a note for people who have only recently started to follow this blog. You might hear me talk about ‘the farm’, ‘the allotment’ and ‘Beelarong’. They are all one and the same thing really. My allotment is part of Beelarong Community Farm.)

Nigel, have you noticed I’ve managed to complete a blog post without mentioning a choko!

Happy gardening.

Create your own herb garden

This morning I went to a workshop at Annerley Library “Create your own herb garden”. This workshop is part of the What’s on at Brisbane City Council Libraries program.

It was a great opportunity to create our own mixed potted herb garden to take home and enjoy.  The workshop was presented by ABC Radio gardening presenter, Annette McFarlane.

Annette is a great educator and I’ve attended lots of her gardening workshops in libraries around Brisbane. It was attending my first workshop with her that set me on my path towards renting my allotment and growing my own vegetables.

Today was an opportunity to learn more about herbs. Growing your own herbs has got to be one of the best gardening investments you can make. So often I find that a recipe will call for one, or perhaps two, fresh herbs and if you have to buy a bunch from the supermarket or fruitier you can part with $3 each with no problem. You might only want a sprig or two and you are left with the rest sitting in the crisper at the bottom of the refrigerator.  Good enough reason to plant a few of your favourite herbs. If you don’t have a garden – they do well in pots, as was demonstrated at this morning’s workshop.

The first hour was spent indoors as Annette took us through the ins and outs of herb growing answering our questions as she went. We then moved outdoors where morning tea was served – and then onto the practical part when we were able to get ‘down and dirty’ planting up our herb garden.

Everything was set out on tables and under Annette’s instruction we mixed the potting mix, fertiliser and coir peat before planting up our chosen herbs into the troughs provided.

I learned so much. Here are a few pics.

Annette is explaining how to “possum proof” our herbs using a fine net.

Annette McFarlane

Annette McFarlane

This is my trough of herbs. I chose the herbs that enjoy a more mediterranean climate and are happy growing together; oregano, rosemary and garlic chives. We tested the potting mix prior to planting the herbs and found the pH was a bit low.  The white powder you can see is a sprinkling of garden lime to raise the pH.

My trough of herbs

My trough of herbs

And here is the result – a herb garden to take home. All I have to do now is make sure I take that JEAN label off before I go to the shops!

A happy gardener

My herb garden

Thank you Annette. It was great fun and I learned heaps.

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