Friday, 30 November 2007
Well here are our "babies". They are all labelled and sitting happily in pretty Op Shop dishes, beside the dining table looking out on the garden. Our collection includes spring onions, kale, coriander, fenugreek, holy basil, mustard greens, erbette silverbeet and there are more awaiting sorting.
Late yesterday afternoon I took some photos of beautiful things in the garden. This buddliea was covered in butterflies of several different varieties. They were difficult to photograph as they flittered around like butterflies !
This passionfruit rootstock is a weed but its flowers are still exquisite
The Tasmanian mountain pepper is so lush and very happy.
And next year's blood oranges are bravely forming.
This is my favourite plant because of its gorgeous scent and delicate white flowers. It is a philadelphus, or deciduous mock orange.
See more photos by clicking on the photos link.
Thursday, 29 November 2007
Yesterday I went off to gardening, as usual, and had a hot but lovely time at Lou's - pulling out and saving seeds of coriander and rocket before digging in some of Lou's beaut compost and nestling in the capsicums and lettuce seedlings. A swim in her pool, a slice of lemon cake, an excellent coffee and off home.
When I got out of the car, in my carport, next to the vegie patch I was shocked to see that everything in that area was drooping past the normal hot day limit. How could this be ? Maybe my drippers weren't working, maybe the timer hadn't come on or maybe it was just too much. All that work to get them to this stage teetered on a knife edge as I contemplated it all.
Why not give up now and rely on Tony Scarfo and mates to provide for me? Why not take 4 months off gardening and spend my leisure time in the pool or on the beach or hanging out with friends? All day I swung this way and that while those poor little plants fell further and further into death row. I just couldn't bear to look at them or water them as the worth of my life spun around inside like in a washing machine. After all, this is everything I stand for and it was like having your whole insides turned over and over and mixed with your brains to a pathetic mess.
At about 5pm I went to get the eggs from the chooks and had to wait for a nice long brown snake to cross past the front door. They are fascinating creatures, at a safe distance and behind the wire door ! The seed frame is near the chook yard and I saw those seedlings left in there were not nearly as past-it as those in the garden so I gave them a sprinkle. Heading up to the letter-box I noticed that some of the plants that were now in the shade of the boysenberry had perked up a dash - like baby birds lifting their heads in the nest for a desperate cry to mum for help. That was the trigger, I think, that projected me out of despair into a weak sort of hope and that is always a huge step. There was a glimmer of life there after all.
I put the drippers on (despite it being Wednesday!) to check if they were working. The timer seemed OK too. I had spent $200 getting this all set up and, suddenly, I regained more strength when I thought about the bloody government and how they want me to find it all too hard and stop growing things and buy food from China. How they have made me spend all this money for a truckload of plastic pipe that was no doubt made in China too when I had a much better system before. Well that put fire in the belly and I took off with the hose and watering can like a creature posessed - I will not let them (or anyone, actually) tell me what to do and I will grow my food if its the last thing I do.
I spent time apologising to my little friends in the ground and watering them by hand and promising I would be a better person from now on if they could just forgive me this once. As the shade crept all the way across I felt almost and surprisingly skippity doo so I even dug over the next patch, watered it madly with watering cans, soaked newspaper and spread that thickly on top of the dripper line, finishing off with old peastraw. In went the okra into little holes poked throught the wet paper, into the moist soil below. The feeling of moist, rich soil on my fingers made me smile. I was furious and at the same time jubilant and wondered if anyone else has come this close to packing it in this year.
You know what? If I had still been a solitary gardener, as I had been for 20 years or so before our seedsavers group started, I am not sure if the outcome would have been the same. Now, if I gave up, I would have to face all of you and that's a scary thought !!
Wednesday, 28 November 2007
Happy Pre Christmas to you all. I think you will enjoy this blog from Central Portugal.
Quinta das Abelhas
It is a small organic farm and caters for campers and WWOOFers - WWOOF Around the World.
Check out; the best bath in the world, I love the Yurt and What a tank. I don't think you will be disappointed.
Have fun in Portugal.
Broombush and Scarlet Bottlebrush are flowering but any nectar flow is extremely light and beekeepers are searching for ways to keep their hives strong for the Sugar Gum in 6 weeks time.
Fortunately Sugar Gum does appear well budded and Cup Gum has also started to put out buds.Cup Gum buds take approx. 3 months to flowering so we can all hope for an extended flow from autumn into winter.
Keep these people in mind when you buy honey.
Rob, from the Rare Fruit Society, brought these fruits to eat and I have picked out the seeds:
The jaboticaba is a slow-growing bush native to southern Brazil. Its compact nature makes it an ideal backyard tree that provides large quantities of delicious, sweet fruits.
Jaboticaba has a purple-black, tough skin with a translucent flesh and is similar in texture to a grape. The fruit have an average size of 2.5 cm in diameter, but can vary from 1.5 cm to 3.5 cm depending on crop size and on the availability of water and nutrients.
Taste is sweet and slightly aromatic with a pleasant grape-like flavour.
Someone's parents who live in Warooka, on the Yorke Peninsula, grows this perenial squash.
The most important use of Cucurbita ficifolia is for its fat- and protein-rich seeds. They are used along with honey to make palanquetas, a dessert.
The second most important use is for its fruit. The immature fruit is cooked as a vegetable, while the mature fruit is sweet, and used to make confectionery and beverages, sometimes alcoholic.
The flowers, leaves and young shoots are used as greens. The vine and fruit are used for fodder.
In Chile, marmalade is often made out of "Alcayota".
There are also some Portuguese broad beans but not enough to share, this time. I will have to grow them next year and collect enought ot share, if they are good.
Bill, from Biopark Farm that we visited in June, brought all sorts of lovely stuff, some of which I will put on the share page too, but not now - I have to go to Wednesday gardening and I can't be late again because of this darn blog or I will be expelled !
Now I have put them on the Seeds to Share page, with lots of other seeds collected last week by the Wednesday gardeners. That was a pretty skippity doo day.
Tuesday, 27 November 2007
The sourdough was ready to divide up for its last rising when I remembered the Turkish breads we made on the pizza oven day at Brigitta's. So the olive bread dough became 4 different flat breads, each filled with a variety of herbs and cheeses and eggs - sort of a rustic, free-style pizza idea. Two are closed and two are open.
All were cooked in the hottest oven you can muster, for about 10 mins, until crisp and almost overdone, by normal bread standards. Here they are - Alex and I just had to taste each one so we are stuffed full and it looks like my 4 kg weight loss by Christmas is on hold for another week ! I couldn't even get a photo before we had eaten some of the first open one.
Fetta, fresh dill / mint, a little chopped tomato, a dash of chilli. The open ones also have 2 or 3 eggs, broken rather than beaten plus some tasty cheddar on top. Since the bread already had lots of chopped olives in it and is white / rye sourdough, the flavours combine well.
Monday, 26 November 2007
That was Saturday night. Tonight, Monday, we had dinner then went and picked boysenberries from our garden for dessert. Gorgeously ripe and huge and tasty...
Google has brought us together so we may as well say hello to each other!
You can tell that I am having one of those slightly crazy times, while I wait for the bread to rise and try to avoid doing housework !
THE SEED FRAME: This is an amazing water saver that I have discovered by chance. While we were away for those 2 hot weeks everything in the seed frame not just survived but grew like something from the Amazon! I put all the seedlings I could into it and covered them with the white cloth that I got from Cheap-As-Chips, before I left, and when I returned they were pushing the cloth up and their lush green leaves looked like something from another planet, compared to the rest of the garden. So, useful all year round, is the seed frame.
PLANTING TIME: Plant in the afternoon or evening. Deb suggested this to me and I recommend it to you. Cath's red capsicum seeds had produced fantastic seedlings but they were very soft and spoiled after a life in the seed frame. I wanted to get them out into the garden before all those other seedsaver people were coming on Saturday. They went into the ground on Thursday afternoon, just as they became shaded by the boysenberries, and looked unsure of themselves later that evening. However, by morning they looked like they had regained their former glory and haven't looked back.
This way you won't have to water them much more for a while.
SOIL: Plant into very damp soil. Always thoroughly wet the soil BEFORE you plant, whether it be into the ground or into a pot. Then water in well straight away, right to the roots. Surround with mulch. This is water-wise, despite what the government says, because once you have done it and mulched, the water will be there until it is used by the plants and you won't have to re-water from a blasted watering can, trying not to drown the plants or knocking them over.
Got to go and have breakfast before 8am so I can do all those upside down things at yoga.....
Friday, 23 November 2007
Organic certification - but at what cost?
The Oxford dictionary tells us that certification is: a system of guaranteeing that certain standards/requirements have been met. The need to certify that food, the very building block of life, has not been unduly adulterated is perhaps the saddest reflection on the globalisation of agriculture. Less than one hundred years ago the notion would have seemed bizarre. Not only was so much more food produced by individuals themselves, it was both grown and sold locally in an open and transparent way by small-scale farmers and growers. Today it is these farmers, right throughout the world, that sit at the very heart of the organic movement. Indeed if it were not for their commitment the organic market would not have grown to it's current retail value, which in the UK is worth over £1Bn alone. This consumer lead, food revolution has been underpinned by the most important factor of all - public trust in food that is labelled organic or biologic. For many consumers this has become the ultimate mark of integrity. A regrettable consequence of this huge growth has been that the law, which now covers the use of the word 'organic', does not cater appropriately for the small-scale producer. Primarily due to cost and in some cases the burden of an unsuitable level of paperwork. This is clearly a distasteful irony given their unique ability it produce high quality, artisan, vital, local food which meets the public's expectations. At the Soil Association we believe passionately that organic farming should be for everyone - irrespective of size or scale. The question is how we overcome some of the challenges and fulfil our mission. During the next three years we intend to work with a number of partners, including the Slow Food Movement, on key projects to evaluate the efficacy of alternative certification systems. The essential tenets to a change in approach will be the use of peer review, self-assessment and risk based inspection. The key to the success of these projects will be critically evaluating the outcomes. If the evidence from these projects proves that alternative certification systems are just as effective at ensuring organic integrity (perhaps even more so) we can not only make changes to the way that the Soil Association delivers organic certification, but lobby for a change world wide. Most importantly of all we will be able to better embrace the small-scale farmer, grower and artisan food producer whilst retaining the public's trust.
Does Slow Food mean organic?
Slow Food is in favour of the principles behind organic agriculture, like promoting agriculture that has a low impact cc the environment and reducing pesticide use around the world. Yet Slow Food maintains that organic agriculture, when practiced on a massive and extensive scale! is very similar to conventional monoculture cropping and therefore organic certification alone should not he considered a sure sign that a product is grown sustainably. Although most of the Presidia practice organic techniques! very few are certified due to the high casts of organic certification. To become Presidia, products must be consistent with the concepts of agricultural sustainability, and beyond that, Slow Food works to guarantee that they are traditional, natural, safe, and - above all - of high taste quality. It is a goal of the Foundation far Biodiversity in the next few years to promote (and finance, where possible) the certification of Presidia products for which this certification could broaden markets or increase earnings.
Thursday, 22 November 2007
I am very grateful that I have been reminded of Thanksgiving. We in the West have so much material things to be thankful for. Although we do not celebrate this day in Australia, maybe we should have a day when we remember the hard work of others that provides us in the West with such a rich standard of living. My dream is that all people in the world would have such a quality of living. It would be wonderful if equality ruled the world, all shared the world resources fairly and lived a happy and fulfilling life.
Tuesday, 20 November 2007
Another skippity-doo day! Now I just need a trip to the chiropractor to re-align my back.
Wilson's food is all labelled with grower details so you can easily choose local stuff. Tony Scarfo sells his produce here too. The people are friendly and helpful and will try to get for things in for you, if you are looking for something in particular.
The customers even talk to each other and it is a lovely atmosphere. They keep prices to a minimum and organic things here are often of a comparable cost to good quality non-organic food elsewhere in the market. I buy lots of things I could get from Coles or other places, at Wilson's, such as Paris Creek milk and yoghurt, tinned tomatoes, oils, meat etc etc because the prices are within a few cents and I believe in supporting the local shops.
I have sold my excess produce to them and it gets a blue label - not certified organic. I often buy backyard produce too - Angela, who runs the shop - is very cluey about who she buys from. I wish I had some photos of Wilson's - maybe I will take my camera on Friday and get a group shot.
I have put this on the 'Directory' page too
The recent announcement by the UK’s Soil Association’s (SA) Standards Board for proposed changes to ban the air freight of organic produce under its standards, is a bold step by the UK’s leading certifier, towards organic food production taking greater responsibility in curbing climate change. The group’s focus on air freight is part of its broader ongoing work to assess and reduce the life cycle impact on the climate of all organic farming and food. (1)At the same time the group recognises the negative effect this may have on the development of organic markets in low or lower-middle income countries currently responsible for 80% of air freighted organic produce to the UK. Air freighted goods will therefore be accepted under SA standards if they meet the SA’s own Ethical Trade standards or the Fairtrade Foundation’s standards.
Meanwhile SA licensees are required to develop plans for reducing any remaining dependence on air freight.The details of the proposal will be open to further consultation during 2008, and will begin to take effect from January 2009.
Although less than 1% of the total UK food miles, air freight is responsible for 11% of the CO2 emissions from UK food transport and can generate 177 times more greenhouse gas than shipping.Anna Bradley, chair of the SA’s Standards Board said:"It is neither sustainable nor responsible to encourage poorer farmers to be reliant on air freight, but we recognise that building alternative markets that offer the same social and economic benefits as organic exports will take time. Therefore, the Soil Association will be doing all it can to encourage farmers in developing countries to create and build organic markets that do not depend on air freight. "We also want the public to have clear and meaningful information about both the environmental and social impact of air freighted organic food. That’s why The Soil Association is working with the Carbon Trust and the British Standards Institute to arrive at a reliable and comprehensive system of assessing the full carbon footprint of all food.
The Standards Board will consider implementing carbon labelling within our standards for all organic goods - not just air freighted produce - when a good scheme is available."
from 'The Organic Advantage' edition 92 http://www.bfa.com.au/
Monday, 19 November 2007
I love Deb's pot and have never seen an Edelweiss plant before. I read that they are a protected plant now in some areas as so many people picked and dried all the flowers , there were no seeds left to germinate as wild flowers.
The song from the sound of music has left the Edelweiss embedded in the memories of billions of people.
A scarlet robin, more memories.
Another image I carried with me was Bret's ginkgo leaf with the sky juice. So it will probably appear again as a mental refreshment as we head into hot summer days and water restrictions.
Remember Kath's silverbeet umbrella, keep cool everyone.
Being a sucker for a new project and keen to make some pots of my own, I made a few including a bird bath. I also experimented using small shells I brought back from Smokey Bay instead of peat. I even covered an old bath to make a pond. OH what fun I had .
They have developed with age and they have been useful as pots, housing various plants
But at Herb Day I found an alpine plant, the plant that symbolizes the Alpine regions of Europe- Edelweiss.
So it has a new home in one of my hypertuta pots.
Sunday, 18 November 2007
For me this is fairly typical of this time of the year when orchard management takes over my life and every thing else get left although I’m still visit the veggies each morning & again at the end of the day to see what I’ll have for dinner. This season is even more like this since Quentin’s away and even when he gets home he can’t even go in the car for 6 weeks but the great news is he assures me he’ll be doing the cooking & all those inside jobs I avoid.
Over the past couple of weeks I’ve spent most of my time mowing; it gives you lots of thinking time as you pass up, down and along the orchard rows. I’ve thought of plenty of things to put on the blog but by the time the day finished I had ran out of steam.
As well as mowing I rake up some areas to mulch the berries. This carry tool is very useful & easy to make out of a bit of shade cloth, some old broom handles or similar. It’s excellent for weeding & if it’s wet the shade cloth allows drainage. I’ve made several and given them to friends who have found them useful especially over rough terrain where wheels don’t cope well.
Heres a view looking up our valley at present.
I’ve really enjoyed getting things done on my own the best parts have been working to my own schedule with no TV, radios, cricket or newspapers to interrupt doing what I enjoy.