"You are what you eat, so avoid cheap, fast, easy and fake."

14 July 2015

Beautiful brassicas abound at the moment - they're the stars of the cold cold times. Can you see a spunky romanesco broccoli head featuring in the bouquet above? I couldn't resist adding it to a vase of winter flowers for a few days, before eating it!

Now about that Goddess thing

I'm not sure if you saw the Mercury newspaper's new liftout Home Magazine last Friday - I'm very delighted to be a columnist for it, and will be writing a fortnightly bit about food gardens. The bit that makes me squirm is that they (the editor, thanks Brigitte) (ironic tone) saw fit to put my photo on the front of the magazine, and label it "Our food gardener Goddess". Jeepers creepers. I have been dodging laughing comments from friends, clients and family for days. I mean, without a stylist, good lighting, makeup and costume I couldn't hope to get that Audrey Hepburn look that I was aiming for. So instead its just daggy food gardener with bad hair. None of us like photos of ourselves, right? But the silver lining is that you can see the "Kiss my artichoke" logo on the FIMBY work shirt! Here's the inside magazine spread (with another pretty daggy photo) (although the rabbit is cute):
Despite my complaining about the photos, this is a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about food gardens and getting reconnected to where food comes from, to a broad audience. Thanks so much to Uta the architect and fimbarista for being the source of this opportunity. Keep an eye out for her monthly column too. 

Each fortnight I will write about just one topic, in a bit more depth than an individual story from this newsletter. If you have ideas or things that you've particularly liked from the newsletters, please let me know. I am aiming to not just rehash things from the years of newsletter writings, but some seasonal themes might be familiar to long term newsletter readers.

I plan to keep writing the FIMBY newsletter as well, since there are some things I might want to tell you about that are just for the FIMBY family. However the newsletters might be a bit more irregular, and perhaps a bit shorter, than they have been. We'll see how a writing schedule of once per week goes.

The newspaper really like to include people photos. I have a brilliant library of photos of vegetables, but not so many people shots. So, a warning, I may be in touch with some of you to ask if I can take your photo to use in the column. Especially all you spunks, and people with photogenic kids!

For Sale

We have two matching cypressy type trees for sale (I'm not very good at non-edible horticulture). These were in the way of some new garden beds at Mona and James's place in South Hobart. Having just moved in to their new place, they are beginning to re-design the garden to be more aligned to their needs. This includes food gardens in the prime sunny spots, as opposed to cypressy things! Yay!

We have dug out and potted the trees - they are around 2m tall and seem in excellent health (although I don't really know anything much about conifers). Make an offer - we are thinking around $50 each seeing as how they're quite advanced and all. Contact Christina if you're interested and want to inspect.

More rabbit damage

We talked a bit last newsletter about how to rabbit-proof your growing areas with fine mesh wire 'skirted' along the ground. I was walking in Cascade Gardens near home recently and saw that ALL the established crab apples have been severely chewed.
Someone, maybe council workers, have put some mesh around the trees to prevent further damage, but most of them have been completely ringbarked. You can see where the bunnies have begun to chew even above the protective layer. Its hard to say if the trees will survive or not - the transport systems for water and nutrients from the soil, and sugars from the leaves, are all in the sapwood which is just below the outer bark. If just part of the trunk has this sapwood removed the tree can usually survive. But if its entirely girdled, its a bit grim. The damage has just been recently done, and very quickly, even though rabbits have been here for a while.
Perhaps the turning of the season after the winter solstice has got the sap moving up in the trees, and its made them suddenly attractive to hungry rabbits. We've been noticing a bit of bud swell already on some stone fruit like almonds, so the signs of spring movement are definitely beginning. The bunnies have been quite selective at Cascade gardens, targeting the crab apples but not other species. They've even chewed the bark off exposed roots, as in the photo below.
So: if you have trees, even quite well established ones, in an area that can be accessed by rabbits (either pet ones or wild ones) it might be worth taking a stroll and having a look to see if there is any damage happening. If there is, make sure you install protection in rabbit chewing range, or you might lose your precious trees.

Book review

I think I bought my copy of On Good Land by Michael Ableman in the USA in about 2005. Its, as the cover says, an autobiography of an urban farm in southern coastal California. Even though the setting is a long way away, and the book was written nearly 20 years ago, its still a fantastic, relevant and thought provoking read. Fairview Gardens, the farm in question, was once smack dab in the middle of a whole valley of productive farms. Nowadays its surrounded by highways, housing tracts, and shopping malls.
The book chronicles Michael's struggles, challenges and successes in maintaining an organic farm in these difficult circumstances, and eventually re-imagining the place as an education and outreach centre for Urban Agriculture. It was a real pioneer in its time, and is still going strong. Check out their inspiring website HERE. Its exciting to read about a place where the stated vision is: "We envision a sustainable world for future generations where knowing the source of food is common knowledge and being connected to nature is common practice." Yeah!

Be ruthless

Do you recognise what's in the picture above? Its the buds of a rhubarb flower stalk, just starting to get going. As the season turns towards early spring, many things get ready to flower, including rhubarb. I always break or cut off the flower stalks: you can't eat them, and if allowed to grow and unfurl, they will take energy from the plant that we'd rather have go into growing more leaves. I did read somewhere that people used to cut and cook the flower heads in this early stage as a broccoli substitute . . . but no. I wouldn't try that. Stick with the leaf stems.
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