A bit of a drought

I’ve had a bit of a blogging drought for the last couple of weeks. That is not the only drought around here as we havn’t had rain for weeks now and my gardening tool of choice is the hose pipe.

Despite the dry weather and the high temperatures (28c degrees yesterday and we are told to expect 32c degrees later in the week) everything at the allotment is coming along nicely and keeping plenty of veggies on my dinner plate – and more lettuce than I can manage to get through.  My Drunken Woman lettuce are doing really well at the moment – the size of a dinner plate.

Here is one lettuce I’m allowing to go to seed.  Looks stunning and the red tips on the leaves seems to grow more intense as it goes to seed and reaches for the sky. It’s almost up to my waist already. (That’s not saying much though – I’m not the tallest fork in the shed.)

Going to seed

Going to seed

I spent yesterday afternoon working on my bed of Royal Blue potatoes. I have already earthed them up once but the plants are growing even taller so I earthed them up again and topped them with a thick layer of straw.  I used the straw for two reasons, firstly in the hope that I might get a few more potatoes, but also because we are expecting some really hot weather and I want to protect the plants. So really the straw layer is a bit of an experiment on my part.

Earthing up is an important part of the growing process. It involves drawing mounds of soil up around the plant. This encourages more potatoes to form from the buried stems, helps to prevent blight infection and stops the tubers turning green and poisonous. If you want to learn more about it check out this link

Earthing up

Earthing up

I’m picking peas and climbing beans now.

Climbing bean

Climbing bean

I have problems with Fruit Fly when I try to grow the bigger varieties of tomato so I’ve planted this Yellow Cherry tomato from seeds given to me by Annette Macfarlane at one of her seed saving workshops.  They are fruit fly resistant so I’m looking forward to giving these a go.

You will see that I’ve also planted sweet basil around the plant which you can just see in the photo. Sweet basil and tomatoes are supposed to grow well together. They also go well together on my plate!

If you think this photo looks like it was taken with a flash, you are right. It was the last pic I took as I was leaving last night and it gets dark pretty quickly here in Brisbane – especially when you are messing about at the allotment and don’t notice the time.

IMG_3419

Yellow cherry tomato with sweet basil

At the moment I’m harvesting lettuce, Asian greens, kale, silverbeet (chard), beans, peas, carrots and more parsley than you can poke a stick at.  Did you know that you can make a pesto out of parsley, doesn’t have to be made from basil!

My allotment space is 16 square metres so I have to make every square foot earn it’s keep but I make sure that I give some space to beneficial flowers too. Gotta keep the insects happy.

I’m growing alyssum and cosmos to attract beneficial insects and fortunately I’m surrounded by nasturtiums.

IMG_3422

Alyssum for beneficial insects

I don’t have room in my allotment for a nasturtium bed as they tend to take over but fortunately we have swathes of this delightful plant all over Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment so I reap the benefit anyway. Nasturtium is a wonderful plant, it attracts beneficial insects, it’s so pretty, and you can eat both the leaves and the flowers. They make a pretty addition to any salad – they taste peppery.

IMG_3404

Nasturtium

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.

A time of abundance

This has got to be the best growing season for veggies in Brisbane. The community garden at the farm is looking fantastic and it’s a treat going over to my allotment. We are in winter now so we are not so plagued with pests which is good. The mornings are a bit nippy but we are having lovely dry sunny days.

I have been harvesting heaps of veggies over the past few weeks, in fact some have already ‘done their dash’ and today I’ve cleared the ground to plant new seedlings of silver beet and seeds of peas and beans.

But there is still plenty more to cut at in the allotment. I took these photographs this morning. It was in a funny light, shade and sunshine. But I snapped away anyway.

Brassica

Broccoli

Parsley

A row of parsley

Silverbeet

Silverbeet

Alyssum

Alyssum

Sweet basil

Sweet basil

Spinach

English spinach

Kale

Curly kale

Tatsoi

Tatsoi

Lettuce

Tatsoi and Lettuce

Brassica

Broccoli

Lettuce

Lettuce – garlic at the top of the photo

Beans

Garlic and lettuce

Beans

Bush beans

?

Row of lettuce

IMG_2849

My sweet potato bed with a patch of swede at the back

Hardly any weeding needed. Just watering and then filling my bucket with lovely fresh vegetables. Today I harvested beans, sweet potato, English spinach, kale, silver beet, beetroot and herbs parsley and basil.

Happy gardening.

A Monday morning at the allotment

It was a fine morning today at the allotment. Early mornings are a bit nippy but once the sun is up the days are really lovely at the moment. I started off with a jumper but soon hung that over my sweet-pea frame and worked in my T-shirt.

I spent quite a bit of time there yesterday watering, harvesting and drinking tea. Thank you Zu for sharing the dinky little chocolate muffins. Delicious.   Then I picked a few flowers and herbs to make a herb posy. Judith, a talented florist, put it all together for me. The big leaves are Lemon Myrtle which makes a nice tea if you add them to a cup of boiling water.

A herb posy

A herb posy

You can see the curly parsley, and the dark leaf poking up at the back is a fancy basil, not sure what it’s called.

A side view

A side view

So all that was left to do today was to give my veggies a liquid feed and get the camera out.  I fiddled about with the settings to try for some ‘artistic’ shots. I was quite pleased with some of the results as I tried to capture drops of water on the leaves. Bare in mind I took nearly a hundred, how the time flies, so there are a lot on the cutting room floor.

Lettuce, too pretty to eat

Lettuce, too pretty to eat

More pretty lettuce

More pretty lettuce

Still more pretty lettuce

Still more pretty lettuce

Some of my lush parsley

Some of my lush parsley

Beetroot

Beetroot

Sweet basil

Young silverbeet with a new row of curly parsley. I can never have too much parsley.

Staggered planting. My follow-on lettuce crop

Staggered planting. My follow-on lettuce crop

My vegetables are looking really healthy at the moment which is very satisfying.  However, I know there are some caterpillars just waiting in the wings ready to take centre stage. But for now I’ll just bask in my success.

Happy gardening.

Allotment update and workshops at Beelarong Community Farm

I have been a bit lazy with my blogging recently but there is plenty going on over at the allotment. Our best growing season in Brisbane starts in April as we have fewer bugs invading our vegetables and the sun is not so fierce. We are still in autumn here but with the drop in temperature you would think it was winter already. Dry and warm during the day but with the temperature down to 11c degrees tonight.

I have already harvested generous amounts of silver beet, and enough sweet potato, beetroot, rocket and lettuce from my allotment this season to keep me happy. I picked a good handful of curly parsley today to make a parsley sauce to go with fish for tea tonight. I just love that aroma when you chop freshly picked parsley.

I’ll take the camera over to the allotment tomorrow so I can post a few pics of my veggie plot. I meant to today but once I finished watering it was time for me to hot-foot it over to the covered area for a workshop.

I have mentioned before that we  hold workshops over at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment. Today we held one of our regular Cob Oven Cooking workshops.

Here are a few pics I took this morning. The first thing we did was to take a walk around the farm to collect vegetables and herbs for pizza toppings and root veggies and tomatoes to roast in trays, topped with a selection of freshly picked herbs and with a big glug of olive oil.  Dessert was baked apples. Delicious.

Loading the cob oven

Peter ready to load up the cob oven

Below, tomatoes, turnip, squash, aubergine, choko and herbs all picked from the community garden – food miles just a few metres.

Roasted vegies ready for the cob oven

Veggies ready for roasting in the cob oven

Another tray of delicious 'home grown' veggies

All grown in the community garden and tended by volunteers

Craig had prepared a yeast bread mix overnight. We each took a small handful of dough to prepare our own individual pizzas. The cheese and salami supplemented the veggies and herbs and we picked some of those tiny really hot chillies for the folk with an asbestos mouth.

An individual pizza ready for the oven

An individual pizza ready for the oven

The cob oven smoking and ready to go.

The cob oven smoking and ready to go

The cob oven smoking and ready to go

Another workshop next Saturday

I have cut and pasted  these details below from the Beelarong website.

Preserving your fruit and/or vegetables

When: Sat, 1 June, 09:30 – 11:30
Where: Beelarong Community Farm, cnr of York and Beverley Streets, Morningside.
Description: Come to the farm and learn how to preserve your fruit and/or vegetables. Depending on what is in season you’ll be collecting the produce from the farm to make either chutney, jam or relish. Cost is $4. To book please call Beelarong Community Farm on 0401 168 657
Happy gardening.

Preserve your harvest

At some stage most veggie growers have to deal with the question – how do you deal with the surplus?

I have just 16 square metres and I STILL get a surplus. This is great really, gives me chance to share with others (who don’t mind odd-shaped veggies or ‘lacey’ green leaves) and some left over to preserve.

I’ve done well at the allotment this weekend.

Another good picking of cucumbers to pickle.  Plus a nice bunch of sweet basil for a little jar of pesto.

I have already posted about my cucumber “Bread and Butter “pickles here and here at the end of November. (If those three cucumber plants keep going at this rate I’ll be drowning in these pickles!)

So in today’s post I’ll concentrate on the pesto. I started with a bunch of Sweet Basil but I also had a surplus of parsley which I decided to mix with the basil.  The basil had been going to seed giving it a much stronger flavour so I was quite happy to add the milder tasting parsley to boost the quantity of herbs required for the recipe.

I assembled the simple ingredients for this recipe. You will see that the recipe also requires parmesan cheese but I add the parmesan just before I use the pesto.  I read somewhere that the pesto keeps a bit longer if you do that.

Pesto ingredients with garlic

Pesto ingredients with home grown basil, parsley and garlic

And here is the result of my labours of the morning, three jars of pickles and one little pot of pesto. The joy of this is the fact that I produced so many of the ingredients myself (with Mother Nature of course).

What I didn’t mention is that I have a small red pepper plant growing on my balcony and I also added the peppers to the cucumber and onions in the pickle but they are obliterated by the labels. Nothing is wasted in this house.

I will store my little jar of pesto in the fridge as we are at the height of summer here in Brisbane. I plan to use it within the week, spread over a slice of crusty bread, drizzled over sliced tomato and mixed through a nice bowl of pasta with a good grating of cheese.

The result of my labours

The result of my labours. The little pot of pesto on the left.

Happy gardening.

“Mr DeMille, I’m ready for my close up”

I couldn’t resist this quote from Sunset Boulevard.

I have been wanting to take macro photos at the allotment for some time now. I use the camera on my iPhone 4S and splashed out the other day to buy a 3-in-one photo lens. The lens is quite small and clips on to the corner of the phone.

New 3-in-one lens

I am still learning and my hand tends to wobble as I try to zoom in, you need to get really close to the subject, and of course being a leaf or a flower they will Not Stay Still.  Anyway, this is my first attempt which I would like to share with you.

This tiny mauve flower is on my garlic chive and is 7mm across. The garlic chives have been flowering for weeks now and I think they are so pretty.

Flower on Garlic Chives

Flowering Garlic Chive

This is my thyme plant with the shot taken at the tip of a stem which is 6mm across. I see the beauty of the leaf at such close quarters.

Thyme

Here are a couple of shots of the developing flower on my sweet basil plant, taken from the side and from the end of the stalk.

Sweet Basil starting to flower

Sweet Basil at the tip of the developing flower head.

The lens also allows me to take wide-angle and fish-eye. Could be fun trying them out.

Jerry Coleby-Williams

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