"Don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in Winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous."

21st June 2016

The shortest day today. Welcome to the Winter Solstice, where we turn towards the light and start to imagine Spring! Probably my favorite day of the year. It seems to have come around alarmingly quickly this time though!

My broad bean babies have been reaching for the light. I've planted them in probably the shadiest spot in the garden this year, and they're looking a bit spindly. So I've just nipped out the tops of them, to encourage bushy growth. There's a bit more discussion about this, and a picture, in our newsletter from 2013 HERE.

Medlar magic

Tilly, the Pruning Queen and fellow ag science student from our ancient uni days, recently gave me a box of beautiful medlars to do something with. If you aren't familiar with medlars, they're an interesting fruit related to quinces, that look sort of like a cross between rose hips and apples. The banner picture above shows them in all their "bletted" glory. Bletting is the term for letting them ripen in a cool place off the tree, until they are soft and squishy and edible raw.
Although they look a bit (a LOT) unappetising, the brown flesh is soft and sweet with a texture sort of like a date. They have four large seeds in them, and the 'rose' bit at the end needs to be cut off. The french call these fruit "cul-de-chien" which means "dog's bum", and its reasonably accurate, although not endearing!
Anyway, as well as eating them with a spoon, medlars make a wonderful jelly that can be enjoyed on toast. The great thing about a fruit jelly is usually the minimal chopping and peeling required. For medlar jelly, just wash the fruit, then drop them in a pot and cover with water. With this batch I added an apple and a quince that happened to be lying about, chopped up skin and seeds and all, and put them in too.
Bring the pot slowly to the boil, then simmer until everything is soft. This might only be 20 minutes with just medlars, but I simmered this batch a bit longer because of the quince in it.
Then strain the whole lot through a colander or sieve lined with a few layers of cheesecloth or clean chuxes. Don't press down on the pulp, or you'll get a cloudy jelly rather than a beautiful clear result. Let the pulp drain for at least a few hours, or overnight in the fridge. Then measure the volume of syrup you've collected.
Pour the syrup into a saucepan, and add about half the volume of sugar. You can add more or less sugar to taste. Bring to the boil slowly, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. Then simmer until it reaches jell point. You can test this by putting a saucer in the fridge, then putting a teaspon of jelly mixture on the saucer. If in a few minutes, the surface of the dollop wrinkles when you push your finger into it, the jelly should set ok. If not, just keep simmering a bit longer and try again.

The batch I made didn't set first time (I always seem to make jelly when I have to go out . .. and end up bottling it a bit too soon!) so I reboiled it the next day. I saved some as a thick syrup though, and use it like cordial with soda water. Its delish!

Tilly, my medlar donor, also gave me a jar of her most incredibly excellent medlar chutney. The best chutney I've ever tasted. Its a bit fiddly to make, since you have to get the seeds and the dog's bum bit out, but worth the effort. Mmmm magic medlars!

Good lookin' lupins

Do you remember our friend and fimbarista Sue's Tuscan-style garden that we featured in our January 2016 newsletter HERE to inspire and enthuse you all? Well, Sue is very sensibly in Italy, Tuscany to be precise, at the moment. She contacted me after the green manure story in our last newsletter, and asked if we could plant something suitable for her in the dormant vegie bed. To feed the soil, and have something growing to compete with any weeds and seeds growing from the mulch she laid down before leaving. And, importantly, to look pretty while doing so!
Blue lupins are the answer, available as seed, in bulk pretty cheaply. They will germinate even in cold soil, albeit a bit slowly, and sown thickly can crowd out other weeds. Then in Spring, they can be chopped and pulled and dropped to provide a surface mulch to plant through, or dug into the top layers of soil to provide good organic matter for the soil organisms. To maximise the nitrogen content in the root nodules, and in the whole plant, they really should be chopped up before they set flowers. They'll break down more quickly then too. But a few stray plants left around the edges to flower will please the bees, and the eye!
It was a simple 20 minute excercise to fluff up the existing mulch and deal with a bit of the grassy growth that was starting in the straw. Then broadcast some handfuls of lupin seeds. Give the mulch another fluff to settle the seeds down. The already damp soil, and further rain, took care of watering. Easy peasy, job done!

Plenty of parsley

This is what you get if you let a parsley plant go to seed: hundreds if not thousands of baby parsley plants everywhere. They really seem to like coming up in cracks and gravel pathways. Fortunately there are also hundreds growing in a small area of soft garden soil, and I'll be digging those little babies out shortly and transplanting them to the edges of some other beds, to grow on into a good parsley forest.

This self-seeding strategy is how I keep up a supply of coriander, lettuce, and silverbeet too. And we've probably all had the struggle of what to do with too many self sown tomatoes in summer time. And sunflowers - they will pop up as soon as the soil warms up. They're always welcome!

Of course, self seeding is exactly what the weeds do too if we let them flower and set seed. My poor neglected garden has had a summer and autumn of little attention, so the weed seed load in the soil will be boosted by the whole crop that has just grown. Never mind . . . my garden has always been very weedy anyway! And there's plenty of parsley in amongst it all.

Don't forget: Biochar workshop at Wielangta Farm

We've had a bunch of bookings, but there's plenty of room for more!
Come along to learn what the 'biochar revolution' is all about!

Sunday 3rd July, 10.30am - 2.30pm
We'll make some biochar in a pit kiln, and cook lunch while we're at it.
$20 per person / family, includes lunch and a FIMBY calendar to take home.

Come for the learning about biochar,
or for the fireside scene,
or for the lunch (a winter feast it will be),
or for a sticky beak at what we've been doing at the farm,
or for the social occasion (hanging out and chatting with avid gardeners!).

Download a handy flyer to hand around to friends or stick on the fridge if you like!

Email Christina to book your place and get directions to the farm.
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