Friday, May 31, 2013

Winter gardening

TOMORROW is the first day of winter and I am keeping my fingers crossed for a sunny start to the season.

Here are the Organic Gardening magazine tips for June gardening.

When its cold, digging, weeding, planting and pruning are a great way to keep warm. As this coming week is when we put out the green waste bin full of everything I can't compost - mostly fruit tree pruning - I'll get to sharpening the secateurs too.

And there's always the fun of turning over the compost with the chooks helping out!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Woodfire warmth

TIME to stoke up the fire with collected driftwood, pine cones and branches found while rambling around Torquay.

As autumn shudders to a close, keeping my surf shack cosy means keeping the wood heater stoked up.

So every time I venture out in the Bombora (2000 station wagon) I carry an old bow-saw and cardboard box to put any windfalls into. They also supplement the red and yellow gum i buy from the local woodman.

There's something really great about burning driftwood too, with all the dried out salt making blue and green flames.

Roll on winter!

Monday, May 27, 2013


MOULTING hens look can look pretty sad as the wander around the garden, feather trailing behind them.

But its a natural occurrence in autumn.

Of all my chooks, Gidget is looking the most peaky but she still hurtles about the garden, eating unwary insects and doing her best to break into the barassica beds. 

Fiends who also keep chooks are reporting their gals are looking a little tatty as they lose feathers. You should be able to see new feather growth slowly coming through.
It's a good idea to ass garlic to the gals water and make sure they have plenty of leafy greens to eat as well as their pellets.

Moulting also accompanies a slow-down in egg production.

But as winter creeps up, they will soon settle down and get back into the swing of things.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Winter gardening the go

NEXT week it's winter as Peter Cundall notes in his latest Weekly Times column.

He notes that in the southern states it's a good time to plant broccoli and garlic.

So as along as it's not raining, I'll be out there in my gumboots and hand-knitted cable pure wool fluro orange jumper ($3 at the local op shop courtesy of someone whose grandma or aunty's fabulous knitting skills), turning over the compost and sowing some spring crops.

I'll also be harvesting some pumpkin to make soup and pumpkin risotto - yum.

Not to mention chasing the moulting chooks about and encouraging them to eat any caterpillar or aphids still handing about.

This pumpkin is now even bigger and about to turned into soup!

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Sustainable gardening

INTERESTED in getting your garden more sustainable?

Well, I'm so glad you said yes, because Sustainable Gardening Australia invites you to join them for an informal gathering and discussion evening in Melbourne on Monday June 17. During the evening a facilitator will lead a conversation around the question:
“What are the possibilities when modern communities
grow more of their own food?”
The evening will then conclude with questions addressed by a panel including:
  • Natasha Kuperman (Founder of My Home Harvest)
  • Cam Walker (Friends of the Earth)
  • Peter Huff (Urban Agriculture Facilitator, City of Yarra)
When: Monday June 17th 2013 from 7:00-9:00 pm
Where: Function Room, The Courthouse Hotel, 615 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
Transport: Tram, Train (Anstey Station), Car (Sydney Rd meter free after 6pm)
You can purchase meals and drinks at The Courthouse and there are lots of great eateries on Sydney Road.
To register for this free event go to:
Places for this event are limited so book early, and please let us know if you are then unable to attend so we can give someone else your place.

And get their excellent free newsletter Cuttings delivered to your email box each month - it's chock-full of great advice and gardening tips.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Hot Curry

ON the weekend a friend made a delicious Kashmir Curry.

It was a fantastic dish - inexpensive to cook, easy to make and very, very good to eat.

A hot meal on a cold evening by the fire warms the soul as well as the body.

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 brown onion, finely chopped
  • teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 6 black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 green chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed and roughly chopped
  • 5cm piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 x 400g cans Italian chopped tomatoes (no added herbs or spices)
  • 500g any kind of mushrooms, thickly sliced

Serve with:
  • steamed basmati rice,
  • thick plain or greek yoghurt
  • coriander leaves

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Avoid the bee blues...

UPDATE - Read the Weekly Times of May 22 re a crisis in the Victorian commercial bee industry is threatening horticulture crops worth billions of dollars. The health and numbers of bees are at disastrous levels not seen since the record drought of 1982-83

MEANWHILE, Australian gardeners need to be careful what pesticides they are using.

Please be careful what you use on your fruit, vegetables and herbs. You may have heard a brand sold by Bunnings - Yates' Confidor Hose-On Lawn pesticide - carries the warning it ''will kill bees''.
A recent report in the UK Guardian said Europe will enforce the world's first continent-wide ban on widely used insecticides alleged to cause serious harm to bees, after a European commission vote on Monday.

The suspension is a landmark victory for millions of environmental campaigners, backed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), concerned about a dramatic decline in the bee population. The vote also represents a serious setback for the chemical producers who make billions each year from the products and also UK ministers, who voted against the ban. Both had argued the ban would harm food production.
Let's be extra careful with what we use on the garden.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Chook house blues

KEEPING your chooks dry when it buckets down can be a challenge.

It's days like today when the heavens open, that I am glad I went for a hutch on stilts.

There's a good article on the Organic Gardener magazine website on this important chook architecture topic.

Cluckingham Palace sits about 35cm above the ground,
allowing for circulaiton when it's hot, somewhere shady to relax in summer and for
water to drain past inth the yard behind when it pours. 
It may be great weather for sucks, but hens hate having wet feet even more than we do.
By raising the hutch off the ground you'll avoid lots of problems. Just make sure it is rodent and fox proof.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pumpkin chutney

WHILE scrunching up papers to light the wood heater the other night, the Australian's weekend magazine fell out of the pile and landed open on David Herbert's always interesting recipe page.

As I tossed in the pine cones, I noticed an intriguing recipe for pumpkin chutney.


As my pumpkins look ready, I shall pull on my wellies and scramble about the veggie beds tomorrow, tapping on their thick hides for one that sounds hollow.

Hopefully the results will resemble this...

But even if they don't, I'm sure they will taste amazing.

Herbert is akin the Matthew Evans, Jill Dupleix and Stephanie Alexander - you know that their recipes will also ways turns out delish - even if my humble efforts don't good as wonderful, they always resemble the photo!

You can't ask for more than that.

Thursday, May 16, 2013


Check out the excellent Weekly Times article on adding nutrients to your soil.

Despite the wonderful rain, I'll be in my wellies and sou'wester and the chap will be similarly attired this weekend, as we work as getting the garden beds in shape.

As Sir Peter Cundall writer, minerals are the food of plants. Some are required in relatively large quantities while only tiny amounts of others, called nutrients, are needed.

I know it's cold outside, but it's a great time get out and enjoy the garden before the winter chills really hit and the soil becomes too cold and hard to dig.

If the rain ever stops, I'll be in the garden this weekend...

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Hens escapades

THIS morning while attempting to drag out with a metal rake the eggs the chooks had laid under the hutch, a couple of cheeky chooks made a run for it.

Out the open chock run door they skipped, chortling with glee as they headed off to the spinach seedlings with all kinds of greedy visions flashing through their minds.

However, some timely intervention by the chap with a few pellets soon had them corralled back where they belonged.

While all this drama was going on, I was pulling out those beautiful eggs, but only six.

The gals normally produce four or five a day, so only six for three days worth means either they are holding out (going off the lay) or hiding the cackleberries.


So this weekend I'll be doing a thorough hutch and run tidy to look for hidden treasures while the hens free-range.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Permaculture evening on May 17

A PERMACULTURE informaiton night on May 17 should be in your diary.
Permaculture offers a low energy, resource friendly, high yield approach to designing landscapes for people to provide food, energy, shelter, and other needs.
Torquy's Danawa Community Graden is partnering with the Surf Coast Energy Group to present an evening with internationally recognised permaculture teacher Rick Coleman.
According to the informaiton rpovided, Rick has been teaching permaculture for 20 years and is a skilled consultant for aid agencies such as World Vision Australian and Community Aid Abroad (Oxfam). He will be discussing his recent projects in Mongolia and Rwanda. In environments of political unrest, a volatile economy and inconsistent rainfall, he believes it is important to build resilience through creating greater food, water and income security.
Come along to Rick's presentation on Friday 17 May 7pm at the Senior Citizens Centre, Price Street, Torquay. $5 entry at door

Monday, May 6, 2013


THE pumpkins are looking more and more like footballs as they lie in the garden beds growing bigger and bigger.

So large in fact, he hens simply walk around them now as they are too big to step over.

This year there are Queensland blue, Jap and a heritage variety are sprawled about and I can't wait to make roast pumpkin soup with blue cheese garnish. 

Pumpkinsare amazing to grow - the seed is so small and the results fantastic!

This year I used seeds from the 2012 crop and it's been great to see them pop up all over.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Water for drinking

EVEN  through winter hens can easily get dehydrated.

It's important to remember to check their drinking bowls are clean and get topped up as needed.

This mourning the feather riot ran out of the hutch like Moss Trooper at the grand national, heading not for the food bowls but for the water dish.

Each day or so give your chooks water containers a good scrub out and add a crushed garlic clove as this will help the hens digesting and does not seem to add any taint to their eggs.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Leek & Potato Soup

Woke up at 5 am today and my first thought was soup, hot soup, leek and potato soup.

It's a very simple recipe and takes no time at all.

Instead of cream swirled on top, I like a dollop of greek yogurt and some scattered corriander or thyme.

Served with fresh garlic toast, it's going to be a yummy lunch by the fire on such a cold, autumn day.

Leek & Potato Soup

4 Leeks - chopped
5 big spuds - cubed
2 carrots - cubed
1 brown onion - chopped
4 cloves garlic - squashed and chopped
1 bay leaf
4 sprigs thyme
Olive oil


Add a glug of olive oil to 40g butter in a pot

Add all vegetables and garlic to low heat

Sweat veggies with lid on - about 10 minutes - you can tell when the leeks look transparent. Be careful not to use too high a heat or they will burn.

Remove lid, add bay and thyme and just cover veggies with water

Simmer with lid off until spuds are tender

Puree (I use an old vitamiser) then season to taste with salt and pepper

Serve hot with garlicy-toast - mmmmm!

                                         Leek & Potato soup ready to enjoy