Monday, April 29, 2013

Baby, it's cold outside

NEWSPAPER has wonderful insulation properties, a fact much appreciated by the feather riot here at the Jan Juc Surf Farm.

Keeping the hens warm and comfortable during these chilly nights is an important task as it will ensure they keep up their egg production now we are into autumn's home straight.

On Sunday, the old newspaper and straw in the hen house was removed and fresh newspaper was put in to line the floor . Now summer is over, it;'s also used to line the open-floor wire section. Then, a fresh pile of hay was placed on top, causing the chooks to do delirious with delight as they bounced about, eating seeds and insects from the bale.

Ledger looking for unwary insects before fresh straw went into the chook run

Fresh straw was also strewn about their run and seeing the hens stand neck deep in some parts where they had scratched the hay into a pile was hilarious - I'd have taken a photo except I was digging itn the potato bed at the time.

Newspaper is an excellent ingredient in the recycled / sustainable garden - it's cheap, effective and when saturated with chook manure can be easily recycled through the compost bins.

Ditto the straw.

Another bargain has been a $5 paper shredder fro the op-shop.

Now all the old bills, circulars and some non-coated junk mail can be converted into composting material - much faster and more efficient than standing over the bins tearing it up by hand. The shredded paper can also b good chook house insulation if you run out of straw.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Apollo Bay Music Fesitval


Spent yesterday at the 21st Apollo Bay Music Festival and it was great.

Sunshine, mellow crowds, rocking music and a relaxed atmosphere all combined to make the best located festival on the surf coast a marvellous day out.

Now it's time to get back into the garden and hope the predicted rain comes through a bit heavier than a mist.

The weeds have sprouted up like nobody's business and the chooks are no help as they'd rather dig up soinach seedlings than attack pigweed, grass and clover. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Recycle, reclaim and feel great!

SURF COAST residents who love a recycled bargain will be thrilled with the new second-hand shop opening at the Anglesea Landfill this weekend.

Council has finally seen the light and will be selling pre-loved items hopefully at realistic prices - since the shop is manned by volunteers and they are getting the items donated, for zilch and for nothing.

See you there at 10 am!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Salty lemons

CAN you grow great lemons on the coast?

Sir Peter Cundall doesn't think so in his latest Weekly Times column.

Still I persevere.

Call me stubborn but I'm not going to let a fruit tree get the better of me.

My neighbours have a cracker which tantalises me every time I look over the fence as my citrus trees are not half as prolific. But when when I asked them about any special soil treatments or fertilisers, they seem to take the 'healthy neglect' approach.


One lemon tree which came with the property and sulked in various parts of the garden is now happily caged in the fully wired-up chook run, gets plenty of sunshine, water and ahem, chook fertiliser. The hens even like to climb the ladder next to it to occasionally roost in the branches.

The others are variously in pots and the ground.

Hopefully the little darlings will improve. The lemon and lime trees, not the chooks, they are fine.

But even if they don't my dear neighbours are happy to swap plump fruit for the feather riot's eggs.

So as long as I keep a few cackleberries I can have my lemon pacakes and eat them too.

Friday, April 19, 2013

BUZZ on bees..

BEES are critical to producing food in backyards, the bush and in agricultural communities around the country.

We need to attract them by growing plants which attract them and offer them food so they can do their job and pollinate. It's estimated over 90 per cent of plants we eat need assistance from bees.

Here's a few interesting bee items I came across today.

AN ABC report said beekeepers in Gippsland are having one of their worst seasons in 30 years.

Some bee colonies haven't produced a honey flow this season, which is at least three months behind schedule.

Commonly used pesticides pose a serious threat to bees, restricting their ability to pollinate crops.

Studies find pesticides damage brains of bees.

Native bees..

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bathing chooks

DUST baths are one of the funniest sights when you have chooks.

Hilda and Gidget have a chat while dust-bathing in the tomato bed.

Watching them lie on their backs, legs akimbo with wings outstretched to get dust into every feather, it’s hard not to laugh.

They are amazingly dexterous and resemble contortionists as they wriggle about, looking to rid themselves of mites and other insects at home in their feathers.

Of course the little devils don’t choose empty plots of earth to enjoy their bath – no, they have to settle into a newly seeded bed or one where I have been heaping soil on top of growing potatoes.

Now we have finally had some rain they will use the sol under the massive but unproductive passionfruit vine and fluff their feathers there.

Sometimes they lay an egg in their dust bath after a particular vigorous session. But usually, they give themselves a shake and wander off, stretching their wings and giving little satisfied 'crawk crawk' noises as they saunter about their domain.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Pancakes please

PANCAKES are the perfect autumn and winter weekend breakfast.

After a bracing surf or cycle down the Great Ocean Road - or even a sleepy stroll to get the newspapers - siting down to pancakes made with fresh eggs from the chooks is always a great meal to start the day.

Saturday's pancakes ready to enjoy.

Versatile too.

You can add blueberries to the mix or serve them on the side.

Instead of butter, lemons and sugar or maple syrup, I'm a sucker for no-fat Greek yogurt and a handful of berries. Or a splash of real-deal maple syrap.

Here's the recipe - if you like your flapjacks on the fluffy side then add 1/2 cup more flour or if you like them more crepe-like then add a splash more milk.

This recipe makes heaps - they freeze well but I usually give any leftovers to the hens.

2 fresh eggs
3 cups milk
3/4 cup wholemeal SR flour
3/4 cup plain flour

Get out the medium sized Sunbeam mixmaster
Beat the eggs, add milk
Gently add flours
Mix until resembles cream
Let it sit for a few minutes
Cook in a pan with a little oil or butter, flip when one side is all bubbly. (If cooking for a few friends, then I'll use two pans to keep things moving.)

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Community gardens

GETTING down and dirty at your local community garden is a great way to meet people, grow food and have a great time getting your thumbs greener,

In Torquay we are fortunate to have the Danawa Community Garden which is run by some very passionate an hard working people.

Danawa recently celebrated it's 10th anniversary with a celebration at the garden. People attended who could recall when it was a large patch of grass and now with it's bountiful beds, fruit trees, structures, greenhouse and pizza oven, wow!

If you have a community garden nearby, it's well worth popping in, saying hello and getting involved.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Weekend weeding

WEEDS are everywhere thanks to the rain which has been glorious!

The recent rains have splashed the dust of the garden and reinvigorated the vegetables and herbs.

But those pesky weeds are sprouting up like leprechauns.

The fat hen weed which curiously, my chooks won't eat, for some reason preferring the broccoli's and spinach seedlings nearby.

A good reference to check out is the Weeds Australia site - it's full of great photos and good data regarding that plant you don;t want in the middle of your spinach bed.

The website allows you to choose your geographical area and provides excellent information.

If only I could get rid of the blasted fat hen which invades my garden, life would me more the bowl of cherries.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

On the verge

GROWING edible plants on the nature strip is always a chancy business - will someone steal my pumpkins or use them as a footy?

How about natives? Some councils are happy to have you greening uo the street while others seem to take pleasure in ensuring the strip stays plant-free.

When I moved in down the west coast over five years ago, I did the right thing and rang them to enquire about nature strip gardens. Go ahead I was told by council, but remember, if we need to dig the pipes or something it could be disturbed.
Tough-as-old-boots native iris will hopefully survive in the replanted verge garden

So inspired by many gardenerswho have had fun with more garden space and went for it. My plan was for a mix of natives and exotics with a focus on attracting more birds and bees to my front and rear gardens where I grow fruit and veggies.

Soon a 'captain cook' bottle brush, some tube stock of grevillias and a handsome hakea were surrounded by a dash of nasturtiums. The plants all bloomed there and soon little birds including blue wrens and New Holland honeys eaters were flitting in and out of the vegetation - until last month when the workers came through to put in a footpath.

Alas, I came home one night and found a ripped up mess - just a hakea and the bottlebrush looking worse for wear while the grevillias were upside down, roots to the air and foliage buried in the mounds of dirt.

Go figure.

So I've replanted the grevillas, hoping for a recovery but despite watering they are looking pretty shaky. They have been joined by some divided clumps of mature native iris, a 1m protea which popped up in my front garden after i took out the monster a few years back to make way for a fruiting cherry and some more nasturtium's.

Here's hoping they take.

So it was good to see Gardening Australia's Costa's take on verge gardens.

Despite this setback, I'm all for everyone to get out and plant something that makes your heart sing, the birds and bees a bit happier and the street a greener place to be.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Compost king

SIR Peter Cundall talks about making compost today in the Weekly Times - and he makes it look so easy.

And it is...kind of.
Gidget helps me fertiliser one of our seven bins

Making compost in a cone bin I find, is a peice of cake.

A tumbling bin, less so. In fact I passed mine on to a work colleague as I had so little success. He however, has been so brilliant at making the chocolate old that his has worms blissfully at home there. In a tumbler.
Go figure, because it's beyond my ken.

Anyhow, now is the time to get into the weeding, shred newspapers, kitchen waste the chooks don't eat, along with a healthy does of their fertiliser and use it to make some great compost.

Your veggies, fruit trees and herbs will love it and their bounty will taste simply fantastic.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

On the nose

LAST Saturday on Gardening Australia, there was a good segment on the delights of growng fragrant plants...

I'm nuts about garden as, only grow fragrant roses, the more heady the better. What's better than taking the time to your fingers along the rosemary bush or mint leaves to release and enjoy their delightful aroma.

Having your nose tell you how your garden grows is just as vital - and as much fun - as using your eyes.

Trees also smell wonderful - maple leaves, oaks, plain trees and fruit trees all have their own fragrance.


Monday, April 8, 2013

Rhubarb and strawberry pie

ON Saturday night my galpal Carol made the most delicious rhubarb and strawberry freeform pie.

It was supremely yummy.

Carol used rhubarb and strawberries from her garden whixh made the pie really special.

The recipe is from Stepanie Alexander's wonderful Kitchen Garden Companion - if you have not seen a copy, run to your local library or bookshop and add it to your 'must have, use and love' cook book collection.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Dahl it up

LAST night I made an autumnal chickpea, spinach and pumpkin dahl to take to a dinner to celebrate a galpal's birthday.

It's so delicious and easy to make you forget how darn healthy it is too.

My pumpkins were not quite ready so I had to buy one,but I used corranderseeds and freshly gathered herbs. If you want to make veggie stck,simply smmer some chopped carrots and celery in a litre of ater for 20 minutes, cool then strain. 

700g butternut pumpkin, peeled, deseeded, cut into 1.5cm cubes
800ml vegetable stock or water
700g chickpeas (soak night before)
200g fresh English spinach leaves, washed, drained
260g frozen spinach
1/2 cup skinny greek yoghurt
3 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
2 tsp ground coriander seeds
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Bunch freshly picked coriander
Pita or Naan bread to serve

1. Soak chickpeas then night or early morning before (at least 8 hours), then rinse.

2. Place pumpkin and stock / water in a saucepan over high heat and boil.
Cook, covered, for 58 or 10 minutes or until tender then roughly mash.

3. Add chickpeas, frozen spinach, fresh spinach, yoghurt, garlic, all dried / ground spices and cook, stirring, over medium heat for 10 or 12 minutes - you will see it thicken up.

4. Allow to simmer for a few more minutes until it's the consistency you want.

5. Toast or heat up bread in the oven or via the grill

6. Ladle the dhal into bowls, add fresh coriander and serve with bread.

Yummy hotby the fire and it freezes well too.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Compost catch-up

YOU would think running seven compost bins on the go would mean I have constant supply of the good stuff.

Hilda, Gidget and Ledgergirl help turn over the compost

Well despite filling the mini-food rubbish bin - after the good scraps go to the chooks - and emptying it twice a week into the 'going' bin, my compost seems to be taking way too long to break down.

This is because I have been a bit lazy and not been tuning over the compost enough or adding the right balance of comfrey. In my defecne your honour, I will say work does get in the way of gardening.


So after some newspaper shredding todays plan is to get out the garden fork and release the feather riot and encourage them to get down into the bins and help them them over.

There's bound to be some worm casualties but the three bins which need their help are so full of gorgeous worms I am happy to sacrifices a few dozen to those cheeky chooks to help turn over the organic and carbon matter.

Of course if they drop a bit of fertilizer into the mix, that would be a bonus.

Friday, April 5, 2013

To market to market

Tomorrow the Golden Plains Farmer's Market at Bannockurn will be on so for those of you in the area it's a good chance to rock along and get some fresh veggies, fruit and other foods and chat with the people who grow and make the provisions.

Farmers markets are also a critical way food producers can gauge their markets - so if you love a brand of local cheese, meat, jam, cakes or bread, they offer a great opportunity to speak with the maker and give your feedback.

I love wandering around the stalls and looking at the different ways these clever people have used their produce to create delicious foods.
It's amazing what you can find.
At the Daylesford Market last month, I discovered a fantastic peanut butter with no added anything! Now I have gone from someone who preferred jam to an addict of Darryl's Peanut Butter - yum!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Rainbows of Chard

DASH to the library or newstand as the new issue of Organic Gardener is about to appear.

My interest in this particular issue is all about chard.

Not the white wine, but rainbow chard, the extrovert sister of silver beet and long considered the poster girl for the heritage vegetable movement.

I love it in a risotto and the New York Times has an interesting recipe for chickpea and chard soup.

This weekend I'll be pulling out the last f the cherry tomatoes, getting the chooks to turn the soil over and then preparing for another planting of spinach, silverbeet and rainbow chard.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bring on Autumn's chill

AUTUMN is so cool.

Summer has been great, but I'm ready for this lovely cooler weather...

After a long, hard, hot few months, these cooler autumn days are a huge relief and joy.

Sultry days and hot, sticky nights have their place, but crisp mornings, sunny afternoons and cool evenings mean goodbye sweltering in T-shirts and hello jumpers, log fires and warming soup.

Read more..

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Good Garlic

PLANTING garlic is very satisfying, very easy and now is the time to get moving with this delightful aromatic bulb.

You can use good-sized corms from your last harvest or purchase organic garlic from a number of suppliers. A friend has even used shop-bought Australian-grown garlic, pulled apart the cloves and planted them with good results.

Isn't garlic gorgeous!

Plant the tops of the bulbs just below the soil surface, with the pointy end upwards and the flatter or root end should be pointing down.
I plant mine around 10 cm apart, in rows about 30 cm apart.

Simply leave them and they are ready to harvest late next spring  or early summer depending on your climate. The redoubtable Peter Cundall has some excellent tips here.

Then use them for this delicious recipe for mushrooms with lemon and garlic from the always reliable Gourmet Farmer, Mathew Evans.

It's also good to plant around roses to control aphids and other pests.

As well as being delicious (I reckon nearly everything bar porridge tastes better with garlic and I'm working on this), it's also great for your chooks.
A piece of crushed garlic in their fresh water will help them combat any intestinal parasite problems the girls may have and so far I've not noticed any taste seeping into the eggs they lay.
The dried stems and leaves of the garlic plant after harvesting can also be strewn in their coop to deter fleas and other insects.

And for us, many health benefits can be enjoyed from garlic - including lower blood pressure. Repelling vampires? The jury is still out.

Meanwhile, growing garlic is so easy everyone should have a few bulbs in their garden.

More information about this 'fragrant rose' as garlic is also known can be found at the Australian Garlic Industry Association (AGIA) website.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Autumn in your patch

THOSE stalwart folk at Sustainable Gardening Australia are at it again - this time with heaps of good ideas for getting our veggie beds all sorted.

But although my veggie garden needs some attention - and more rain, I concentrated on the front non-food garden today.

Not a lover of chocolate, after breakfast I spent Easter Sunday weeding and replanting the front nature strip garden after it was decimated by the local council when they constructed the (unwanted) footpath in our street.

Good old native iris - it divides easily and is a great plant, enjoy and neglect options and produces lovely flowers.

Thankfully, while the poor old grevillias were upended roots to sky (they have been replanted but it's not looking good), the bottle brush and hakea survived. So this afternoon I divided and planted out loads of native iris which if grows a smidgen as well as it has in the front garden, will soon grow nice and bushy and keep any weeds out.

Hopefully we will see some rain tonight and the grevillias will recover, thrive and survive.