Plant seeds of pumpkins and zucchinis inside now.
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10 September 2014

Aaahhh Spring. Sun, wind, rain, blossoms. Its an exciting and fickle time. I think we can define the local seasons with more finesse than just the Spring Summer Autumn Winter labels though. For example, right now we have just entered Lemon Curd Season. The chooks are laying like beserkers, and the lemon tree is groaning under the loads of ripe fruit. I don't have a cow, but I suspect the milk yields (and hence butter) are enormous now with brand new calves popping out all over instagram. So - lemon curd it is. I gave a recipe for lemon curd in our newsletter from (by chance) exactly a year ago HEREYou can browse through the past newsletters on our website HERE. There are at least a few September editions. I try not to be too repetitive, but there are other things that get replicated, since the seasons dictate the gardening jobs. Like the one below:

Tie 'em up

Before I forget, and if its not too late - GO OUTSIDE RIGHT NOW AND TIE UP YOUR PEAS! That is, if you have peas that are tall ones growing up a trellis. They are delicate things, pea vines, and this equinoxal windy time is bad news for them. They don't twine around trellis support, eg bamboo teepees, like beans do, but hold on to skinny supports with their little tendrils (see pic at left).  That's why we give pea teepees some horizontal twine wrapping action when we set them up. And don't try to make the pea stems twine around your trellis - they'll break.
Those little pea tendrils just can't cope with a big wind load, and the pea stems bend and snap easily. 
So, if you planted climbing peas in Autumn, they are probably flowering now and maybe even producing some delectable garden snacks. Its worth carefully tying them up to their supporting framework so they dont get beaten up too badly in the next few weeks. You don't have to go full bondage style (unless you're in to that of course) just a few supporting loops is enough. Just imagine where you would hold the vines if you were standing there helping them resist the wind. Then gently tie the whole vine to the support with any old string, jute, baling twine or special soft stretchy tree tie stuff that you have. Old pantyhose are good too (although I usually cut the legs off so the neighbours are not exposed to stray gussets).

The rather rustically lovely green jute in the picture was in the tub in the back of my car. Can't remember where I got it, probably Waratah Wholesalers in south hobart down near the rivulet. They stock all sorts of useful garden supplies, also florist supplies. Worth checking out (we have no endorsement arrangement with them. I wish!).

Of course, if you have only recently planted peas you can rest easy. Spring planted peas are still small enough to escape the ravages of Spring winds. 
They are often a bit more tender than the Autumn sown ones that have grown slowly over winter, so keep an eye out for marauding slugs and snails. Bastards.

Yum yum Brocleeeeeee!

The brassica tribe (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower) are stars of the garden in late winter / early spring, and all totally delicious. I actually prefer 'sprouting' broccoli, like in the photo below, which has multiple small side shoots compared to the big sexy looking head above. This is because I prefer to eat the stems to the florets (the little bunchy green bits), and sprouting broccoli have long succulent stems and smaller bunchy floret bits. You peel the stems to reveal the delectable tender delicious inner core. You can eat the floret bits too of course, but they are a distant second in my book. To celebrate abundant broclee (thanks Joseph for the new spelling) I have two recipes for you. The first is:

Broclee and Mushroom Salad

(1) Cut up and steam/boil some broccoli till just tender, or even a bit less. Drain well.
(2) Separately, break up and saute some mushrooms in olive oil or butter or both, with a pinch of salt and a squeeze of lemon juice.
(3) Combine broccoli and mushies (and cooking juice) while still warm, toss in a handful of chopped parsley and toasted slivered almonds. Dress with a bit more olive oil and lemon juice.
The second recipe celebrates the spring green things:

Risotto Primavera (that's Italian for Spring)

  1. Finely chop a small onion (or leek) and saute gently in butter and oil until its transparent and soft.
  2. Add your rice - use arborio, or carnaroli (my fave) or vialone nano (good with fish). Stir to coat the rice with the butter/oil and 'toast' it on medium heat until the rice starts to go translucent (not brown, definitely not).
  3. Pour in half a glass of white wine, or even better, verjuice, and let it sizzle and bubble while stirring well. 
  4. Add your first ladle or two of warm chicken (or veg) stock. Keep the stock warm in a saucepan on the stove. You don't want to use a really deeply flavoured stock for this. More a 'brodo' or light broth. Nonna used to make risotto while she was boiling up an old chook, and just use some of the cooking liquid as she went along.
  5. Stir frequently and well, adding another ladle of stock whenever the rice has absorbed most of the last one. The best way to do this to to be chatting and drinking wine in the kitchen with friends while the cooking is going on.
  6. After about 10-15 minutes, start to add your green things, starting the ones that take longest to cook. You can use peas, spinach, broccoli stems (and florets if you must), early broad beans, asparagus (tips and thinly sliced stems), thinly sliced silverbeet leaves and tender kale leaves.
  7. Keep stirring, adding stock and green things, until the rice is tender but not mushy. The final texture should be soft, almost soupy but not quite.
  8. Take the risotto off the heat, and stir (energetically) in a big knob of butter and a handful or two of finely grated parmesan (only freshly grated good quality please). Also a handful of freshly chopped parsley if you like.
  9. Wait a minute or two, no more, and serve!
Important cultural note: Italians are incredibly parochial about food. If this isn't the way an italian person has shown you how to make risotto, don't panic. Just don't tell them if you make it a different way to how they showed you. Don't tell me either.

Vertical garden - how's it growing?

Its cranking! The bathtub is planted with Tasmanian aquatic plants, some edible. The water is clearing up, all the plants are growing strongly. The photos below are more than a week old, so the plants would have grown since they were taken. The top layer has been leaking water out of the plant holes, so Jorgen has added some extra drainage holes in the internal 'dams' at the end of the rows. He's also put in a flow regulator valve so that on really sunny days we can slow it down (go solar power!). This week some fish (goldfish) will be introduced to their bathtub habitat.

Walking on eggshells

We're eating lots of eggs these days, what with the spring laying flush and all, and we put our broken eggshells on a tray on the bench to dry out. After a few days you can crush them with your hands, or even gently in a mortar and pestle. The resulting crushed eggs are fantastic to feed back to the chooks to help them recover important minerals. If you don't have chooks to feed, you can give some to your worms, they love them too. If you don't have worms either, you can sprinkle the crushed eggshell around newly planted seedlings (eg peas, or later pumpkins and cucumbers) to help deter slugs and snails. The soil microflora and fauna will appreciate the minerals too!

Sustainable House Day 2014

Our fimbarista / architect friends Uta and David Green have two houses on display at this years Sustainable House Day. Its a great event where home owners open their homes to the public and share the story of their sustainable house project.
Uta told me that one of their houses is an off-grid place at Ranelagh. And the other one is at Gardners Bay - apparently it has a gorgeous garden too! I'm going to go and check it out. 
The two houses are open this Sunday 14th September. If you want information about where the houses are and when they're open, have a look at the Sustainable House Day website.

If you go down in the woods today . . .

You might find some prickly bear's breeches. Otherwise known as Acanthus spinosus, or prickly oyster plant. Its more common cousin is Acanthus mollis, which has glossy smooth broad leaves and is altogether less spiny. Both plants are handsome architectural plants, but not edible. One of our talented plant propagating friends, Chloe, is looking for a piece of root from an A. spinosus so she can grow it, and asked if we could ask through the FIMBY network to try and locate some.
Chloe and her partner Helen are the brains, beauty, brawn and bright smiles behind OzEarth, a wonderful team teaching earth building techniques here in Tassie (we are lucky!). They will probably cringe at their website link here, because they have been pretty busy in the last several months moving into their new place at Nichols Rivulet,
and transforming it from dingy overshadowed pokey shed into a wonderful light space FULL of new plants, glorious plans and a bright future. Ozearth activities have taken a back seat for a while, but boy oh boy do I hope they gear it up again sometime soon so I can help and learn and sing with them again!

Anyway, if you spot any prickly bear's britches in your wanderings, let us know!

Gonna grow me some carobs!

These little beauties, my fine fimbarista friends, are carob tree seedlings. And yes, a "Ta Dah" is in order, since I grew them from seed! I was inspired while reading Louis Glowinski's great book about growing fruit in Australia (its called 'The complete book of Fruit Growing in Australia' funnily enough) and stumbled across the carob entry. The tree is a legume (nitrogen fixing), very long lived, evergreen, hardy, produces prolific quantities of yummy pods which are good human food as well as stock food. The timber is valuable for furniture and firewood. They're  not common in Tasmania, but Louis didn't seem to think there was any reason whey they wouldn't grow here. I've seen one pretty large specimen down at Woodbridge, but apparently it doesn't bear pods. It could be lonely.

We have space at our new farm to put in some experimental plantings. 
So I bought a packet of whole carob pods from the local whole food shop. Cost about $2.50. With the help of a friend and her two little girls, we chewed our way through the (leathery, sweet and yummy) pods and collected nearly 80 very hard little seeds.
Then following Louis's instructions, I put them in warm water to soak near the fire, changing the water twice a day or more for several days. As the seeds swelled up, I hoiked them out and planted them into some home made potting mix (worm castings, sand, coconut fibre). Five seeds to a pot.
Imagine my delight about a week later when the first large green seed leaves popped up. Then another set. But these first two appearances looked suspiciously like pumpkin babies. They were - from the worm castings. After pulling them out in disgust, I watched and waited . . . and yay after another week the first carob baby appeared. I've got about 18 up now, with new ones appearing every few days.

Carobs are dioecious, meaning the male and female flowers are on separate trees. Only the girls will produce pods. So assuming my babies are half boys and half girls, and assuming some of them survive transplanting next Autumn, and the wallabies don't get them all, then after 6-8 years of growing and waiting, we might have carob pods to give away! Yum!
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