" We roast the tomatoes in a slow oven, especially the sweet orange Jaune Flammes, which are just the right size to slice in half, sprinkle with salt and thyme, and bake for several hours until they resemble cow flops (the recipe says 'shoes', if you prefer.)"
Barbara Kingsolver in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

25 January 2015

Happy new year! Its been a while since our last newsletter, and the year has already developed momentum. Hope you're enjoying your garden's bounty, and enduring the weird old weather with good humour!

My partner and I spent some time in Western Australia over Christmas, particularly to see his mum and family. We had a lovely time with all the siblings together, and Margaret (his mum) at home and feeling stronger than she has done lately. We returned to Tas for a short while then received the news that Margaret had a big stroke at home. She died in hospital the next day. So we've just returned, again, from WA and the funeral. Its sad, of course, but also in many ways a good ending for Margaret - at home, surrounded by her family, enjoying laughter and feasting together. The funeral, wake, and extended gathering at home afterwards were all fitting tributes to a remarkable woman.

In between WA trips I was busy in the garden and beginning to deal with the incredible bounty of harvest season in Tas. I've already made two batches of zucchini pickle, several big pots of zucchini soup, bottled apricots and nectarines, made rhubarb champagne and syrup, raspberry vinegar, apricot and citrus butter, dried apricots and cherries. I'm eyeing off our blood plums, and have noticed the first few falling to the ground for the chooks. So soon there will be mountains of them to process. Then the apples and pears, and tomatoes.

The start of preserving is always very exciting at first, and eventually becomes a little bit burdensome. But mostly at this time of year I'm full of gratitude for the riches of the garden, and that I have time and resources to process it all. Its so connecting - to the earth, the seasons, and generations of people before me who did the same in whatever ways were right for their times.

How have YOU bean?

(see what I did there?)
This year I finally managed to implement an idea that I've had for ages for a mixed planting of red and white-flowered scarlet runner beans. One of our lovely Fimbarista friends, Disa, tried this idea years ago at the garden entrance to her place in Lutana. I planted the different coloured variants at the base of bamboo teepees next to each other, and pressed a couple of sunflower seeds into the soil in the middle of each teepee. Now its getting glorious . . . the red and white runners are hanging out in neighbouring teepees, and the big strong 'trunks' of the sunflowers are used by the beans to climb as well.
Beans are such fun to grow. We're talking here about the 'summer' beans as opposed to broad beans, which are a different genus altogether.
Beans come in many shapes, sizes and colours. A principal difference is whether they are bush beans, or climbing beans. You can often find similar beans with both growth habits. For example, the variety Purple King is a climbing bean, while Purple Queen is a bush bean. Or the beautiful and classic round green bean, Blue Lake, comes in both bush and climbing variations. This year I'm excited to be growing a climbing butter bean (shown at left in photo above) for the first time. Its yummy, and as a climbing bean I'll get a longer harvest and more beans for the space in the garden. Bush beans give a lighter crop, but are quicker to yield from planting date. Its not too late to plant some now if you have a bit of space in the garden.

Climbing beans need a trellis. We showed a photo of Annie's clever trellis taken on October 15th (below left). I took a photo of the same trellis on December 15th (below right) that shows how vigorous the classic climbers, Scarlet Runners, can be.
As well as growth habit, we can classify beans according to how we want to eat them. For example, fresh as a green (or yellow or purple or stripey) bean, or dried when we eat the seeds inside the pods, like a borlotti or kidney bean. I'm growing some interesting drying beans this year. They are still edible as green pods, but I'm mostly leaving the beans on the bushes to mature and produce plump seeds. Then I'll harvest when they're dry, and store the seed to use in soups and side dishes later in the year. The seeds of some of these drying beans are stunningly beautiful - have a look at the front cover of the FIMBY calendar for some examples!
I bought some of the interesting varieties that I've planted this year from Inspiration Vegetable Seeds. They have an extensive catalogue, and specialise in beans. They grow their seed in Relbia, in northern tasmania, and do lots of trials to select vegies that will grow well in our conditions. Particularly tomatoes and pumpkins and other summer vegies that need to ripen fruit in a potentially short summer. Check them out! I've had a bit of correspondence with them about some 'bush' beans that turned out to be more like climbing beans - and they are warm, helpful, committed and conscientious growers and suppliers.

So next time you're thinking of planting beans, why not experiment a bit? The kids in our life love to do blind tasting tests of the different colours. So do I!

Feedback about Cherry Slug control

After our last newsletter where I talked about cherry slugs and control methods, I received this very helpful email from Nik Magnus of Woodbridge Fruit Trees:

Hi there Christina

I would really advise using "success" to treat cherry slug. You probably know it: an extract from a soil bacteria which when eaten by leaf eating critters like caterpillar and cherry slug kills them.
about $19 for a container. Easily purchased at mitre 10 etc.
It  is sprayed on. Non toxic. Only works when the critters eat more leaf, so they need to ingest it for it to work. 
It will not effect lace wing or bees or lady birds or hoverflies.
It works well, as the cherry slugs are often hiding.
I'd recommend this 1000 times over pyrethrum.
Hope this is helpful.

Thanks Nik! We're always happy to hear people's thoughts and shared experience, corrections or alternative approaches. That's the beauty of gardening - you never stop learning. (Note: this doesn't apply to Italians with regard to family recipes!)

Book review

One of my absolute favourite fiction authors, Barbara Kingsolver, also writes fabulous non-fiction. And this one is a ripper! Animal, Vegetable, Miracle chronicles a year in the life of Barbara and her family, eating only what they could grow or source locally. It's engaging, full of information, beautifully written. I'd read it for the recipes alone, or the anecdotes shared by Barbara's daughters. A beautiful, realistic journey into food culture, and putting the kitchen at the heart of the family. Highly highly recommended!
If you're not a reader but want to see the recipes - you're in luck! There is the book website HERE which has them available for download. Organised by season. Bonus!

Isn't it lovely?

This is my first cob of painted mountain corn. Its beautiful! And, I fear, one of only a few that I'll get to harvest this year. I planted around 20 plants in the garden (the ones that grew too fast from soil blocks) and they tassled and produced cobs very early. So early that the plants were not very strongly developed, and so I'm likely to get only small cobs. But I was happy to experiment this time around. My big hopes were for the 150 or so plants down at the farm. But looks like a wallaby has got in and munched the tops off all the corn. Buggerit. 

We tend to curate our lives as displayed on social media to look the best we can make it look, and rarely share our failures, flops, mistakes or false hopes. I had visions of trays of glossy jewel-like cobs lined up for impressive photos. But don't reckon that's going to be the case this year! Oh well, there is always next year . . .
If you haven't already seen it, the PIP Australian Permaculture Magazine is a lovely new publication, about to put out edition number three.
The magazine itself comes out roughly twice a year, but there are lots of interesting updates and articles online that you can check out even if your not a subscriber. I've just started contributing to the monthly growing guide section for cool temperate information. Have a look and tell me (and the PIP folks) what you think!

FIMBY activities coming up

Ok so we better lock in some dates for some groovy garden related activities, or we'll be at Easter, looking around and scratching our heads.

1. Complete Organic Fertiliser (COF) fest

Come and measure and mix as much COF as you'd like to take home. I'll assemble all the ingredients, and we'll allocate the cost of the ingredients to each person according to how much they want to take home. I could just make the mix up and sell it as we've done before, but this way you get to be involved, and having a firm date will make me get organised!

I'm going to use the 'new' recipe featured in Steve Solomon's book "The Intelligent Gardener" which uses less dolomite lime (to limit magnesium additions) and a few special extras for specific trace elements.

Where: Christina's place
When:  Saturday 7th Feb, 12 noon

RSVPs needed for planning volumes.

2. Zook pickling party

Yes, another one. A perennial favorite! I think we've done this every year since FIMBY's germination. We provide the spices, vinegar, salt etc and some bottles, you provide zucchini and/or knife skills. There's always plenty of pickle to share!

Where: Christina's place
When:   Saturday 7th Feb, 10 am
"AHA!" the eagle-eyed amongst you cry. Those two events are on the same day. Yes, its true. And intentional. We'll chop and salt the zucchini, then divide and conquer the COF ingredients, then for anyone who wants to, we'll share a bit of lunch. After lunch I'll bottle the pickle with any stragglers who want to offer commentary over a glass of wine.

You're welcome to come to any parts of the smorgasbord of activities that suit you. No obligation to participate in the parts that don't interest you. So, that means the third activity is:

3. A social lunch for gardening chat

Where: Christina's place
When:  Saturday 7th Feb, 1pm

Bring something to share if you'd like to. There will be zucchini in many forms!
And a quick heads up for the promised garden tour of Jess and Tom's lovely South Hobart garden. We're just confirming the date, likely to be in the second half of Feb.

Stay tuned for this one, plus a future visit to Kevin's place to see his brilliant enclosure, and to Eileen and Alan's place down at Murdunna to see an amazing integrated chook and garden setup and to do some high powered but low energy input composting. Do you feel enticed? I should hope so!

Chinese preserved garlic

Here's a wonderful recipe from Fimbarista Annie in West Hobart. Its a great way to preserve the smaller heads of garlic from your home harvest. As always, I was the lucky recipient of a sample couple of jars of this product from Annie, and I can vouch for the recipe's deliciousness! Its FANTASTIC!

Note: this recipe uses vinegar to create an acid environment, and salt to help sterilise the garlic before preserving. This is important for safe food storage. It is NOT safe to preserve garlic with a high water content in oil (eg olive oil) since you can easily get nasty bugs growing which are not only stinky and horrible but will make you very sick.
  • Fresh garlic heads 
  • Sugar
  • Rice vinegar (dark or light as you like it)
  • Salt
  • Clean sterilised glass containers
  • Peel off outer skins, retain some inner layers
  • Cut off the roots of garlic, chop stems leaving about 1 cm long
  • Add 1 - 2 teaspoons of salt to enough water to cover the garlic, soak the garlic in salted water for one day and one night
  • Drain soa
  • Put garlic in sterilised jars filling as full as possible, add vinegar and sugar in a 3:1 ratio to cover the garlic.
    (Annie said she likes it sweet, so she puts in more sugar)
  • Preserve for at least a month. The longer the better.
Ha! recipes alway say that. I've tried Annie's garlic already, in salads, sandwiches and as a condiment with cold meats. Its crunchy, sweet, salty, sour and garlicky. So good already!

Can we still buy the FIMBY calendar?

Yes! The FIMBY calendar is still available, of course! Its perpetual, so you can use it like a garden diary, and it doesn't matter which month you start. Available from the FIMBY website, costs $15 plus $3 postage and handling. I'm also happy to do a deal on a box of them for community groups and schools. Gimme a call for a chat!
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