The care of the Earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all our most pleasing responsibility. Wendell Berry
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17 November 2014

Hello everyone! We did it! Well, YOU did it  . . . your support helped us reach our crowd funding target to get the Seasonal Calendar printed. Yay! Thanks so much for your direct support, and for sharing the project with your people. I know some of you were checking the countdown over the last 10 hours or so, rallying a final burst of support, and I would have bitten my nails right off except I was gardening with Serena in her lovely Lauderdale patch for the crucial final hours.

Its very humbling to ask for help and receive such a warm wave of positive response. THANKYOU! Now we'll finalise the content and details of the calendar, and get it off to the printer so that its all ready for distribution in the first week of December.

You'll be able to buy extra copies if you want: we'll let you know the easiest way to do that when we have our hot little hands on actual boxes of calendars! 

In other news: we harvested our garlic last week!
Of all the things that stand out in the garden yearly cycle, garlic harvest is a key one for me. Each year I seem to plant a bit more, and a bit earlier! Although this year I planted less than previously, and I wish I had've made more space back in late March when I planted.

Because its such an important yearly event, I write about it at the same time, give or take a few weeks, every year. So, in the usual manner, I will direct you to last year's blurb about garlic HERE. It talks about how to tell when to harvest, and also talks about the curly garlic scapes that may be appearing now in garlic that is still growing. Last year's blurb also directs you to an even earlier blurb from 2009, so this thing could go all rogue recursive on me if I'm not careful!

There are many varieties of garlic, and a pretty wide window from late March to May for planting, so you really have to have a good look at what's in your patch to decide when to harvest. This year has been warm and we had some wet weather a while back, so my garlic was starting to keel over and show signs of rot a little while back. I harvested early (by my usual timing) and the size was a bit disappointing compared to previous bumper crops.
You can turn your scruffy, dirty, just-harvested garlic (see pic at left) into a picture of sexy voluptuousness (see banner pic at top) by simply peeling away the outermost intact leaf layer. This strips off the dirt, and any cracked or beginning-to-rot layers too, and is a good way to check the health and status of your harvest. Its a pleasant way to spend half an hour in the garden, stripping garlic and shaking the soil off the roots.

Of course if you're lucky enough to have harvested hundreds of heads of garlic, you might not want to do this individual inspection process. But I'd do it for up to 100 of them!
Another way to judge if your garlic is ready to be pulled is to count the leaves from the bottom of the stem upwards. If you have six leaves that have dried off, then go for it. You have to look carefully, since the lowest leaves may have broken off, and you'll only see the bases of them as a sort of collar around the stem.

Christmas is coming

Shudder. I've made a vow to SLOW DOWN this December, instead of the usual crazy speeding up. Each year I make something for my family members for Christmas. For example, a micro green growing kit, some potted basil or sunflowers, a 'ginger tea' kit containing a nice ceramic mug, a chunk of fresh ginger, and a lemon. Most of our family make things for each other - its a festival of home made goodness!

I was talking about this with lovely fimbarista Uta Green at the Sustainable Living Festival, and she said she'd love to be able to buy vouchers for FIMBY goodies for her family. "But you can!" I cried. Not really cried. I said it. But enthusiastically. 
Anyway, its true. You can create a customised present for your loved ones with a FIMBY voucher. Maybe a raised bed package, or a Garden Consultation. Or one of the rewards from the Pozible campaign, like the $60 "Instant Homesteader" where you provide 10 kg of fruit and vegies, and I'll bottle it, sauce it, jam it, dehydrate it, chutney it, pickle it, or make it into booze for you. Or a bag of rabbit poo. You know you landed in a good family when its acceptable, nay, admirable, to give bags of manure as presents!

Just give us a call to discuss your budget and your ideas, and we can come up with something that's sure to please. And the great thing is, I can email you the customised voucher, and you can print it to put in a card THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS! Talk about last minute convenience. That's if I'm looking at the computer, which I probably wont be, so cancel that bit, and contact me soon!

Clever upcycling idea

I recently met Eileen and Alan, who moved to an entrancing property at Murdunna just a few short months ago. The place is right on the water with stunning views, a beautiful established bush garden full of birds and native orchids, and also a fantastically large and well set up vegetable enclosure, chicken run, and greenhouse. 

When I visited Eileen was apologising for having piles of stuff around the living room - they haven't really unpacked yet, but have been spending their time getting the unruly gone-to-seed rocket, kale, lettuces and nasturtiums under control (the property had been vacant for many months). MY KIND OF PEOPLE!

By the way, their 'piles of stuff' is really a gorgeous collection of beautiful objects from Africa, collected over decades of living in Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa. I spent nearly as much time ogling the carvings and baskets as I did the vegie patch!
Anyway, I had met this couple at some gardening workshops I've recently run at the Dunalley Neighbourhood House. They claimed to be complete novices in the garden, and were coming along full of questions, just to  "learn anything and everything".

So I wasn't expecting the green thumbery that I found at Murdunna. They're brilliant! Good researchers, experimenters, and full of enthusiasm and gratitude for the wonderful setup. They've been growing stuff in the greenhouse in  up-cycled plastic bottles. Actually, tonic water bottles, and yes next time I'm visiting in the afternoon so we have a G&T to follow the visit rather than a cup of coffee!
The beauty of their bottle system is that the bottoms are already cut off, and the main cylindrical 'sleeve' section is just sitting in the bottom. There is also a slit up the side, from the bottom to nearly the top of the sleeve section. This enables transplanting with minimal disturbance to the roots of tender seedlings. 
We talked about compost making during the visit, and ways to use the chooks as primary processors in that system. We've decided to run a demonstration compost setup session in the new year at their place. Stay tuned - it'll be worth the visit!

Book Review

Here's the first of the book reviews. I selected this one because it made me smile when I looked at the cover!

"Backyard Giants - the Passionate, Heartbreaking and Glorious Quest to grow the Biggest Pumpkin Ever."

The title pretty much sums it up! I bought this years ago in Portland, Oregon, and read it on the plane home. Its brilliant: part human story, part guide to growing (huge) pumpkins. Given that the Bream Creek Show happens just down the road from our new farm, I might have to have another read!
I'm always happy to lend books to other readers, so call me if you'd like to borrow.
This is Blondie, one of our chooks. She's not as fierce as she looks. She's a bit splattered because I just gave them some milk curds. They LOVE it! If you or your neighbours have chickens, you'll never be sad when the milk goes off again! We put "off" milk in its carton on a sunny windowsill, to get REALLY chunky. Then pour it (even shake it) out for the girls, and they get a great protein snack. It doesn't stink as bad as you'd think, although make sure you're outside when you open the carton of sour milk 'junket'!

Artist, printmaker, gardener

Jennifer is an artist and gardener who grows amazing chicory at her garden and studio in Mt Nelson. She also paints giant incredible landscapes, and makes exquisite detailed and life-filled prints. I haven't seen Jennifer for a while, and received this email from her after our last newsletter:

"Dear Christina, thank you for all the stimulating newsletters....if only I had acted on your invaluable advice, I wouldn't be suffering from gardening guilt!"
She hastened to add that her excuse was the time and effort she's been putting in to her beautiful art, especially with a new print making machine. Apparatus. Thing - whatever its called.

Jennifer has recently had two "Open Studio" events so people can view her art (and oooh and aaaaaah accordingly). I haven't been able to get to those scheduled viewings, so Jennifer has kindly agreed to make a time for me and any FIMBY folks who are interested to come and have a look at her stuff. Any takers? I'm thinking one evening next week (last week in November). Please let me know if you'd be interested. I can highly recommend the art, the garden, and the charming witty intelligent and delightful artist herself!


Here's our latest Romanian recipe from Nica, this time featuring wonderful walnuts. Cozonac is a sweet bread made for special occasions (mostly Easter and Christmas) by Romanians. Nica tells the story of her youth when they used to make about 20 of these loaves, and then take them to friends along with red dyed eggs and candles at Easter time. Food rituals - love 'em!
The dough
500g white plain flour
1 teaspoon dry yeast
3 eggs, 125g butter
150g sugar, lemon zest
half a teaspoon of vanilla essence
1/4 teaspoon salt
The filling
200g ground walnuts 
2 tablespoons sultanas
1 tablespoon cocoa
2 tablespoons sugar 
hot milk 

In a small bowl mix the yeast with one tablespoon of warm milk.
Melt the butter.
Mix all the ingredients for the dough, then add milk until the dough becomes smooth and knead for at least half an hour. 
Cover the bowl and let the dough rise until doubled. 
While the dough rises, mix the ingredients for the filling and add milk until everything becomes a smooth paste.
After the dough is raised enough, make it flat with a roller pin (1-2 cm high), spread the filling on the entire surface, then roll it and put it in a long and narrow pan. Let it rise until it almost reaches the top of the pan.
Brush the top of the dough with a mixed egg yolk, then bake one hour at 160 degrees. After baking, leave it in the pan for half an hour, then remove it.
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