Wednesday, October 30, 2013

SPUD love

IS there anything better than baked kipfler potatoes with olive oil and thyme?

No, I though not.

Read Peter Cundall's excellent advice on growing these delicious spuds.

Grow your own potatoes

Growing spuds is easy, cost-effective and very satisfying.

A couple of years ago I grew around 60kg of potatoes - mostly dutch cream, kipfler, king Edward and nicola.

It's pretty much plant, water, set and forget with just the occasional adding of soil as the tubers grow and expand.

The results were sensational.

Do use certified seeds from a respected supplier such as Diggers.

So if you have a spare sq m or so of lawn, live dangerously and plants some potatoes. I guarantee you'll love the results.

Monday, October 28, 2013

GUYS we need to talk.

THE other day a man I know killed himself.

He's left behind a community that is devastated, shocked, confused and angry.

Devastated, because he was a truly good man, loved by many, well-liked and much respected by more and his sudden death is such a waste.

Read more at the Geelong Advertiser.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

TIP top

THERE comes a time in every gardener's life when they realise they have way too much green waster to manage.

A barrow load of bamboo roots and weeds inspected by the feather riot.

After moving from Jan Juc where the soil was mostly clay and where I needed seven compost bins simmering away in various stages of decomposing to keep my vegetable beds from going to hell in a hand basket, I'm now in Geelong with incredible soil.

So I thought, OK, three bins is more than enough.

Silly me.

After attacking my triffid-like garden abd removing weeds, ivy from smothering the sheds and giving various shrubs a much-needed haircut, my compost bins have been full for ages and the sturdy green bin full to the brim for three months.

So this morning I decided to head for the Geelong tip and get rid of several large tubs of ivy, bamboo roots, assorted weeds and bits of stick left behind when the tree guys took out the rotted gum tree.

As well I tossed in some corrugated iron off a large steel gate which was half-buried next to one of the surviving sheds and an old table for the recycle shop.

A mere $18.80 later, my garden and station wagon are empty and I feel that lovely sense of relief when you have removed rubbish from your life.

Now I just have to do a return trip to get rid of the all the concrete rubble I have dug out of the new vegetable beds.

Friday, October 25, 2013


KEEPING chooks out of the blooming vegetable beds is a never-ending story.

In an attempt to keep the little vixens out of harms way while i continue digging out the triffid-like bamboo, I've wired off the yard into several sections to herd them about and preserve plants and my sanity.
However, when i do need some lawn ripped up and new beds established, they really hoe in and do a great job.
This method also allows me to dig and use a mattock without the risk of a dear little hen getting in the way with disastrous consequences.
Here's I've recycled old platic-covered fencing wire held in place by bambook poles gleaned from the first bamboo beheading in August. Now they have dried out they are proving useful for this and growing beans and peas.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


THERE'S a new book celebrating the rise in popularity of chooks in the backyard.

From the River Cottage crew, Chicken & Eggs features an introduction by Fearnley-Whittingstall, while author Mark Diacono elaborates in 13 chapters on such topics as understanding chickens, what you will need to start, chickens for eggs versus meat, breeding and health issues.

Even though it's a UK publication  and it's always wise to check out an Australian guide, this looks like an interesting read. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Chicken bamboo

CHOOKS love bamboo - digging it up that is.
Gidget poses on a barrow load of bamboo roots surveying her kingdom

On the weekend I spent hours with a spade and mattock, attacking the roots of the vile bamboo some short-sighted person planted willy-nilly in the rear of the backyard.

It's as tenacious as all get out.

But if I want to plant climbing roses and fruit trees then I have to eradicate it.

So the chooks were fenced in to help me tear up the lawn and get the wretched stuff out. While they diced with injury a few times getting in the way of the spade, they also enjoyed a bounty of grubs and worms.

After eight or nine hours I'm about a third of the way through. Thank heavens it's now the working week so i have a few days to recover before the next attack session.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Eggsellent recipes

SOME great egg recipes on the SBS website...

Mulch away...

SPRING means warm days, cold nights, wet mornings, dry afternoons or any mix of the former.

Let's face it, with global warming and the state of world, who know what's coming?

All i can say is that along with the death, taxes, library fines and badly behaving politicians, the only other certainty is that we need to get mulching.

As usual Peter Cundall's advice is on top of the heap...

Here are the chook-proof tomatoes, bean and kale beds pre-mulch

Friday, October 11, 2013

Bees on TED

Watch this amazing TED talk on bees.

Bees pollinate a third of our food supply -- they don’t just make honey! -- but colonies have been disappearing at alarming rates in many parts of the world due to the accumulated effects of parasitic mites, viral and bacterial diseases, and exposure to pesticides and herbicides.

It is fantastic.

Marla Spivak, University of Minnesota professor of entomology and 2010 MacArthur Fellow, tries as much as possible to think like bees in her work to protect them. They’re “highly social and complex” creatures, she says, which fuels her interest and her research.

Spivak has developed a strain of bees, the Minnesota Hygienic line, that can detect when pupae are infected and kick them out of the nest, saving the rest of the hive. Now, Spivak is studying how bees collect propolis, or tree resins, in their hives to keep out dirt and microbes.

She is also analyzing how flowers’ decline due to herbicides, pesticides and crop monoculture affect bees’ numbers and diversity. Spivak has been stung by thousands of bees in the course of her work.


CROP rotation is critical to growing healthy food.

In an old basket in my garden shed is a tattered back issue of Gardening Australia magazine permanently open to the an article on rotating garden beds.

Torn, smudged with soil and looking more than a little weathered, this back issue is my mantra when it comes to planting a new garden.

I've made notes about what I have planted and where so I can be sure to not plant the same species there next season.

Six bed are the ideal but now I am in a downsized garden this time round rather than having eight beds spread out over 100sq m, I'm going for smaller beds placed in the best area for sunshine - all wired off to keep the feather riot out.

This is my tomato bed and at the
rear I have planted broad beans
Keeping a garden diary is fascinating and prevents you make mistakes. 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Eggs ain't eggs


Whites so firm they half meringue without the mixmaster.

A taste so complex yet simple, you have to be there. Sponges so light they practically float off the plate. Creamy, scrambled eggs and cakes with an extra dimension of deliciousness. 

Yep, I'm talking about home-grown eggs. Or should i say home-harvested?

Whatever the name, these eggs are sensational.

I know I'm biased but the people whom I pass on some of my extra cackleberries say the same.

My flock of five girls (Hilda, Layne, Gidget, Ledger and Laura) average four to five eggs a day and they reflect their mostly free-range lifestyle. I let them out ta dawn and shut them back up around 7.30am before i head off to work.

Arriving home around 5.45pm, they are again released to wander across the lawn and encouraged to turn over land which will be another veggie bed come the weekend. 

They are fed lots of food scraps, oodles of fresh greens and have access to clean, cool water on top of their usual pellets. They are loved and have their own fox-proof hutch and fully enclosed run my friends refer to as Cluckingham Palace. And they are so worth it.

Hilda and her posse are a wonderful  mixture of bug-eaters, fertilisers and magic producers. I says magic because their eggs are fantastic. 

Nothing beats your own eggs and my feather riot, rescue chooks all, are up there with the best.

If you have room and you don't need much, consider getting a couple of hens and you'll be amazed at how your cooking and your garden is transformed.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013


THE hens have been busy, laying some whopper eggs.
Many of these have turned out to be double-yolkers, which is always a nice surprise! People have asked me what i feed them to get these bonus-filled eggs.
Layne's egg on the left compared to Hilda's whopper on the right.

However, I am attributing these big cackleberries to all the free-ranging the feather riot have been enjoying, particularly the digging up of various unwary plants around the garden.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Dig it

DIGGING in a new vegetable bed or three is so satisfying.
On the weekend I finally planted out some vegetables including three varieties of tomato - Tommy Toe, Rouge de Marmalade and Burke's Backyard best - kale, climbing beans, basil and broad beans.
Preparing the beds took longer than I thought as previous owners have dumped bricks, stones, china, plaster and all manner of rubbish in the yard and sifting and removing the junk form the soil was a job and a half.
Luckily I managed to get this all finished just as the rain started.
Roll on summer!
Here I have put in paths using some of the old pavers I found stacked
under some grass clippings.
Rouge de Marmalade planted in front of the beans which will grow and hide the back fence.
To the right are some jacaranda trees and an old fuchsia whose days are numbered as I have to dig out the surrounding running-bamboo.
The hens commence digging up the lawn for my new tomato garden.

Friday, October 4, 2013

October planting

WHAT to plant in October?

There is just so much choice the mind boggles.

Apart form tomatoes I'll also be sowing legumes such as climbing beans, bush beans, runner beans, beetroot and carrot.

The only real challenge will be too keep the hens out of the beds.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

You say tomato...

IT'S the big debate.

Far bigger than Cats versus Hawthorn, Ford versus Holden or Anzac biscuits with or without coconut.

Well, almost bigger than the Anzac debate.

But I digress - hen do you plant your tomatoes?

Some vow that Caulfield Cup day is the go, while others decree that AFL Grand Final Day is the go.

Peter Cundall has some excellent advice in his latest Weekly Times column and Diggers if you are after heirloom varieties, check out the Diggers website.

A friend at work has planted some heirloom seeds and given me a plant - we don't know what variety it is so it will be exciting to find out when it finally fruits!