Wednesday 31 October 2007


This morning, as usual on a Wednesday, I went to garden at one of my garden group's places. Today it was at Sally's. She has 10 acres up near Eagle on the Hill and its so beaut there. Anyway, vegetable gardening has been slowly creeping into her life for some time - so long I thought she 'd never get there ! We have made and remade areas for vegies over the past 10 years that I have been doing this and, until today, it has been something I think she has done to keep me happy, rather than for herself. A few hardy plants have survived but that's all.

A few months ago I helped her put in a drip system that runs off her spring water ( lucky her and her vegies). Suddenly, the hassles of keeping seedlings going through her busy life, disappeared and, as the fog cleared, so to speak, she saw the potential. I gave her some broccoli seedlings from Kath's seed and even I didn't believe the monsters she grew ! Her family are farmers and she has a never-ending supply of old and fresh manure, which makes wonderful compost in the heaps we garden group people help construct from time to time.

The gist of this whole thing is that today we doubled the size of her vegie garden. It took 5 of us a couple of hours to roughly weed, roughly level and roughly build up the new area with all the lovely compost (roughly dug-in, Deb!), lay some bark chips she had left over from a tree-removal as a path , and cut down a nearly dead gum tree (Sally did the climbing - she is amazing), edging it all with some old planks and sprinkling over a bit of straw from her parents' farm.

As it progressed I only really thought of the job and the stuff we were chatting about but then it was done. We all stood back and I swear a tear came to my eye and a catch in my throat as I said "that is beautiful" and we literally stood in silence for a few seconds , each with thoughts of our own. My thoughts ran along the lines - I'd love to get my hands and seeds into that / look at that soil now so full of soil-life and humus / we've done a great job / I wish it was my patch / how lucky we are to be here / and finally, I would rather have land to grow things in than anything else in the world.

I wish I had taken the camera but you can't capture that basic human need to dig in the earth or the smell of beautiful compost or the feeling of wonder that we had done something so powerful that 5 crazy women stood in silence to take it in.

(I am not the only crazy one, but I am just a tiny bit more crazy than the others!)

Halloween Trick or Treat

Tara and Niki are all dressed up for Halloween tonight.
This is the best way ever to cook pumpkin, I just slice it across the middle, scoop out the seeds for drying and seedsaving, put the top back on, rub with olive oil and bake it in a moderate oven for about an hour. Peel off the top skin. The flesh tastes delicious, just scoop out some and serve it with garlic toast, a real treat.
Nasturtium flowers and leaves are great to eat put them in salads they also are great for stopping hay fever. Niki loves to eat them, her special treat.

If you need any unusual plants or herbs it is Herb Day presented by the Herb Society of South Australia this Sunday the 4th of November. It is held at the Fullarton Park Community Centre, 411 Fullarton Road, Fullarton. 10am to 4pm. Free Admission. It is always a great day with heaps of herbs and great wholesome food available all day. Bring a friend or two and enjoy all the pleasure of growing and using herbs and spices.



An exhibition of Art and Sculpture

Open Garden and Exhibition November 10 - 11, 10am – 4.30pm Entry $5.00
Exhibition continues from November 13 – December 9
Wednesday to Sunday inclusive, 1.00 – 5.00 pm

Presented by “Patina”
Lynn Elzinga-Henry Mollie Littlejohn Mara Martin Ines Parker
Charmian Quintrell Nancy Sarre Suzie Windram

Address:1 Shurdington Road, Crafers
UBD Map 144:P9 From Crafers exit on SE Freeway take Summit Road, turn left into Pottery Dve then left into Shurdington Rd

Seven ex TART’S (Textile & Arts Collective in Gay’s Arcade, Adelaide) have formed a new exhibition group called “Patina”. This predominately hills based group boasts four ex directors and evolved after a social get together with the artists lamenting the lack of opportunities to produce non commercial experimental artworks. The group (Lynn Elzinga-Henry, Mollie Littlejohn, Mara Martin, Ines Parker, Charmian Quintrell, Nancy Sarre & Suzie Windram) were keen to steer clear of the traditional gallery set up in an effort to maintain a more relaxed approach to art that is in keeping with their current lives. The name ‘Patina“ was one that suggested the beautiful finish that comes with age – (not necessarily just for the art works with some of the artists well into their 3 rd or 4th decade of art practise). The result is “Up The Garden Path,“ an exhibition which will feature mainly outdoor installations but also paintings, sculptures and smaller items in the studio. The majority of pieces have been made for or from the garden.
The venue is the 2.5 acre garden and studio of Lynn Elzinga–Henry at Crafers.
The exhibition will begin Nov 10 & 11 as part of the Open Garden Scheme and then the garden and studio will be open to the public Wednesday to Sunday from 1pm –5pm until Dec 9. “Patina” is planning wonderful afternoon teas, special community pieces to be worked on, as well as a rotation of artists beavering away in the studio. Everyone is of course most welcome to drop in over the month for a look and a chance to enjoy this unique take on art, gardens and shared lives. The garden is listed in the Open garden Scheme as the Elzinga Garden


I’ve just finished bottling a batch of elderflower champagne, which you may get to taste when visiting Nirvana. Since it was drizzling I declined to go to petanque, actually I managed to falloff the ladder yesterday while pruning a oak on the driveway from a ‘willow house’ type shape to its usual ‘bat cave’ shape so the ‘tin gods’(cars) would drive through rather than around on the orchard!
I’ve also been busy making elderflower cordial.

The seeds planted one week ago (2 days before the full moon) are starting to emerge from their ‘sleep’ tiny rows of green seedlings contrast with the rich brown of the soil. It’s an exciting event, and this month we have been blessed with regular light showers that go so well with the miracle of germination and new life. So far all the lettuces are up along with chicory, miners lettuce, arugula, endive there are much more to follow like four types of carrots, various beetroot, celery, celeriac, basil, rainbow chard ,Egyptian spinach, mache, kales, spring onions, beans both climbing and bush and the last to germinate will be the parsnips In the trays the pumpkins are half up. Every thing has its time and rhythm and when I plant new things I’m keen to observe and taste these new treats.

The garden is still producing lots of greens, broad beans, purple podded peas, asparagus, strawberries are getting started, celery, red cabbage, broccoli, purple cauliflowers, parsley while others are putting their energy into producing seeds for the future.

Like the wonderful angelica.


It is pretty interesting how well things are looking in my garden despite the lack of real rain and considering the water restrictions - I have barely watered anything except new seedlings, of course, and most of the garden looks great. Down below though it is desperately dry and long, slow soaking of fruit tress is necessary to get a good crop. It is ludicrous that the, this is not about that. The secret of the success is probably the fact that, like Andrew, I covered the garden with biscuits made from 30 bales of peastraw, at great expense, back in late August. Usually I wait until October when the soil has warmed up. This year I thought it more important to save the water that was in the soil and the warming of the soil would be delayed but too bad.

Nearly all my little seedlings grown from everyone's seeds are in the garden - next to be transplanted are Cath's red and yellow capsicums - slow to germinate but growing like mad in the seed-frame so now they are about4 or 5 inches high.

I have been doing the annual replacement of the peastraw wall. All the 1 year old peastraw which is now full of worms and the bottom half rotted down to a fine, black compost, is spread around the new seedlings in the veg garden beds and then new bales put in place to remake the wall.
There is always a bit of a gap behind the bales, here and there, despite my best efforts to shape the ground behind just right for the new bale, and I fill this up with finished plants that I am removing, such as fennel fronds, weeds, any old plants with stems that are too hard to chop up and put in the compost etc. This all breaks down and gets shovelled up onto the garden next year.

I have had a wonderful little surprise when I found that some of the White Shahtoot mulberries were ripe. What a treat - such unexpected flavour and sweetness from such funny looking little white tendrils. I only planted this tree last year and it has grown like mad and produced dozens of berries this year. Those in this picture are still green because I ate all the white ones before I thought of taking a photo!

Here I have grown some potatoes that my mother gave me, in a pot as I don't want them in the garden any more.

Here are my gorgeous boys , from left, Alex , Jack (not ours but still gorgeous), Hugh and Roger. Yesterday we all went to a lovely little bohemian place near Jack's for lunch. It is rare to all be free at the same time these days so this was a treat.

Who knows what November will bring...

Tuesday 30 October 2007


OK, hold on to your seats because you might fall off, laughing ! (Probably at me!)

There are 23 pictures in the slideshow.Click on the link below and you will be there. If, at any time, you want to slow it down, just move your cursor and a box will pop up at the bottom allowing you to adjust the duration of each picture. In the box there is also a X which allows you to stop it and it will take you to the thumbnails, where you can choose what to do next.

Monday 29 October 2007


After several gruelling attempts I have finally finished the entry ! Its pretty wacky but I am pleased with it, considering my poor computer skills and total lack of artistic ability ! As soon as I have sent it off to Roger (Mr KGI) I will put a link to it from here.

Stay tuned.

My eyes are completely shot and I have never sat down for so long in one hit before and I will never do so again. Still, its been a lot of fun and another chance for me to write dumb stuff as well as seriously important stuff.


Sitting listening to the radio a few minutes ago, having a coffee after using every piece of my body at yoga, brings a lot of things to my mind. Firstly,a piece of music played just now which seared through my garden wanderings to the minute the phone rang, about 6 years ago, and I learned that my long-time friend had serious cancer. That piece of music is often played on the radio and in shops etc and I freeze every time, caught in the emotion of that day. I just want to say to others who are suffering with illness, my thoughts also now go to you, your friendship and enthusiasm for gardening and I hope I may be able to see you soon.

Secondly, the soil blocker....Here is an excerpt and a web address to check them out.
...... The handle is spring loaded and a gentle squeeze pushes the blocks of soil onto a board."Won't the blocks fall apart?".
No, the secret is in the potting mix which needs to be quite fibrous and very wet when you make the blocks. Gentle watering with a fine rose will not affect the blocks at all. There is a choice of inserts which leave different imprints on the top of the soil block.

Diana uses them in her course but I had never seen one before Kath lent me her's. I was sceptical, but it worked like a dream. The fact that you don't need any pot or tube and that they are so easily transplanted into pots later or into the garden is quite remarkable. They do hold together without collapsing at the same time staying separate from each other and the mixture is perfect for germination and growth. Ideally I would like one that pumps out a whole tray full at once as the only drawback (why does there always have to be one?) is that it is a bit tedious. This is easily counterbalanced by the success of it and the fact that you don't have to spend ages pricking out seedlings from a foam box where they are all growing together. Time spent up front is well worth it. There is no transplant shock and the seedlings continue on in the garden like there is no tomorrow. I used Kath's recipe that she got from Diana but I can't find it just now. I hope Kath will send it to me again so I can add it here. There is one on the website but Diana's is slightly different, I think.

Thirdly, a man sent me an email, basically saying that he has an area of about 200 sq.m. in Glen Osmond which he would like to use as a vegie patch but has little time (and probably not much experience) and would anyone like to get it going, look after it and share the produce from it ? I have some thoughts about how this could happen and if any members are interested too please ring or email me.
I would like to think that this is a way we could help people who don't want to allocate time but who can see some advantages in growing food. There is nothing more likely to put people off doing this than making a bit of an effort and seeing it all be a waste of time, money and effort because too many things go wrong and it all gets too hard. Some of us have the time, experience and energy to put into such a project....think about it, I am.

Fourthly, grey water/ rain water and "water butts."I think this English term means a surge tank, in my language - something that catches a bit of water and at the same time allows it to drain away to somewhere else, not actually providing storage for later. Bunnings is selling some converted green bins for a ridiculous price but you can just use a small tank like Cath and Rob (as in this photo of theirs) or get a pickle barrel from Paramount Brown, for $20 or so. Paramount Brown's is somewhere that scavenges like me love to go and rummage through acres of eg barrels of every shape, size, colour which are second hand and have been filled with all sorts of funny things, like the ones I got which have 'pickled onions' scrawled across one side and 'India' on the other side (if there is a 'side' to a round barrel !). I cut a couple of feet off the bottom and used the top, with lid, for a compost bin and the bottom as a tub, to set in the ground and grow my water chestnuts in. Roger is setting one up as a surge tank to tidy up my hose-through-the-hole-in-the-wire-door from the washing machine arrangement. Another will be connected to the shower. Simple and cheap and good.

Sunday 28 October 2007

Chook Compost

Today I used the first batch of my own compost! Chris (husband) came out and saw me spreading it over the veggie patch and got all excited about it. "We made our own compost!" he exclaimed and the proceeded to ask me if it was the most satisfying thing I'd ever done. I think actually eating the produce is more satisfying but it certainly brought a sense of achievement. You can see the compost spread around one of my cucumbers in the picture on the left.
Since space is precious in our garden, I was reluctant to create a big compost patch but I need lots of compost! As a result, we've developed our own compost system to use our space as well as we can. It starts in the chook pen with everything organic added to it. This includes weeds, lawn clippings, hedge clippings, vegetable scraps, leftover dinners (but not meat or anything that looks like an egg) and of course plenty of chook poo. Here's a picture of it taken in July this year with a mountain of clover weeded from the garden. The floor of the pen is about 30cm below the level of the ground around it. (I also put a wire floor under the pen and sewed it to the walls to keep rodents out.)

The chooks do most of the turning and mixing for me as they sort through it for their choice of the veggie scraps and weeds. We still need to do some turning and I've also added a bale of pea straw because it seemed too wet and was going slimy. Soon after adding the pea straw, we moved the compost into a black bin and left it for 6 weeks to decompose further. After the 6 weeks, it's ready to use.

Here's what it looks like today. The chooks are out roaming the garden but they'll be back at night. I'll turn it and add some straw if needed this afternoon. Then I'll leave it for a week without adding any more to the pen (except chook poo which I can't stop). After that, it will be ready to move to the black bin and the cycle will continue.

Friday 26 October 2007

My neighbours

I was pruning the potato vine that grows on our fence when I discovered my 2 very young new neighbours.

They didn't make a sound so I had no idea they were there and they were lucky to survive my pruning!


Its a funny thing how this blog is so often on my mind. At the market this morning I thought about how little variety of local fruit there is this time of the year - stored apples and pears, oranges and not much else yet. Then I felt a blog post coming on and here I am, in the middle of this gorgeous day when I should be outside, in here writing about preserving. Such is life.

All those peaches, plums and apricots from my mother's trees and figs, nectarines etc from my brother's garden have sat in the cupboard, bottled, until fairly recently because we have been making our way through frozen red currants and blackberries, my mother's navel oranges and lots of other citrus from my garden and the Riverland as well as cheap, organic and local apples from Wilson's. Now there is a rush on eating them.

In the market I saw excruciatingly expensive and, no doubt tasteless, apricots, nectarines and mangoes all from far away and a rosy glow inside me reminded me of my secret bounty, ever diminishing however, at home. This is a short list of what Vacola has meant for us, not just in taste, health and filling up hungry boys but in memories of picking them - with my mother - clambering in under the bird nets and reaching up to get the best fruit which is always just out of reach, discovering another clump of ripe peaches, previously hidden under leaves and then smelling them all the way home in the car, carting them in to the kitchen and packing them away - like a jar of yesterday, preserved for the future.

Peaches in fruit juice
Pears in citrus sauce
Nectarines in white wine syrup
Figs in white wine syrup
Apricots in fruit juice
Stewed Plums in own juice

Then there are the jams: apricot, strawberry,plum, fig, cumquat marmalade, quince jelly, orange marmalade, grapefruit marmalade and maybe some others

Chutney - peach and date

Olives - 2 different ones this year

Plum sauce, tomato sauce and usually buckets and buckets of pasta sauce or just tomatoes.

Probably other stuff I have forgotten about because its all gone now.

I am not trying to say how great I am but how grateful I am for all time I have and the chances I have been given to live this way. But that's another story...

Belgian endive

I found this very interesting info on the KGI site

Thursday 25 October 2007

Star Seedlings

Seedsavers Oct 2007 015 What can be better than a group of passionate organic seedsaving gardeners getting together to share the plants and seedlings they have grown for each other. We also shared our stories of what was happening in our gardens, how to cook different vege's and plan our next farm visit. It was so great to see you all and share a little of what is happening in your worlds. Julie's excited about doing Deb's poultry course this weekend, Mary's hatching chicks, Chook excited about butterfly gardening, Kath showed us how to make newspaper seedling containers, Viv showed us her broad beans & we talked about wormwood pest spray. Connecting, sharing and community, yesterday was a great time, see you all soon. Click on Photos in links to see more.

Tuesday 23 October 2007

Fennel and Purple Congo Potatoes Help!

Okay I know I am not Italian but what do I do with large fennel bulbs? Last year we sliced them and had them as a salad. This year I left them grow larger and have made an Italian style tomato sauce with them in but it is not fantastic. What do you do with them?

Also today we made sorrel and purple congo potato soup , it was okay but nothing special. We have had them steamed with butter and they are okay but there must be some way to make them delicious!

Monday 22 October 2007


Yippee ! she cried as she whizzed down the road in her trusty hatchback with a load of freshly picked greens....

Even after a stinker of a day the day before, the vegie garden looked bright and happy at 7am as she skipped, a little bleary-eyed, out into the world of green, wrestling with 5 boxes of various shapes and sizes in which to place the promised spinachy things for Wilson's. The husband, in his 'jarmies, was summoned to come and take a photo of the full boxes and the smiling gardener. Each box contained a different set of ingredients that would have made even the most fastidious chef rub his hands with glee. There was dark green silver beet, light green spinach, beetroot tops, coloured chard, baby spinach and finally Joy's cos lettuce leaves.

The most interesting part of the whole expedition happened in the street near Wilson's, where she unloaded all the boxes, now full of the glistening greens, and stood wondering how she was going to get them to the shop. Wandering along the footpath were a smartly dressed man and an attractive woman and one might say they looked relaxed and not at all like they were bustling off to work (by now it was 8.30am). The gardener had an idea and cheekily asked the two passers-by if they would like to buy some spinach, expecting a raised eyebrow and a quiet rebuff. The man looked at the boxes bursting with dewy greens and said yes, proceding to ask questions and finger the leaves in an appreciative way. After hearing the vegetables were all organic, the woman said she would be back with some bags. Wondering if her gorgeous greens would be a wilted mess by the end of a long working day, the gardener asked if the couple would be able to refrigerate them ASAP. The friendly man, who had introduced himself as Albert, smiled and pointed out that the gardener had indeed parked her car right outside their apartment and they were heading there now after eating breakfast at a nearby cafe. Not only did they take 2 full boxes of stuff but they said that if ever the gardener had any more things from her garden to please contact them at their abode and they would happily buy it all.

So, 3 boxes of goodies were duly delivered to Wilson's and collected into bunches. There they were, looking very happy when the gardener left with cash in each pocket. An excellent outcome and a fun time. This gardener is, however, glad she doesn't have to do this for a living but, my goodness, she didn't expect to be selling her greens to Albert Bensimon. I am glad he found them 'Simply Irresistible' !!

"From Earth to Plate"

This was the title of a guided walk around the Adelaide Botanic Gardens which we went on last Saturday. It was great, our guide Helena showed us all sorts of parts of edible trees, plants and herbs. We go for walks to the gardens all the time but next time I go I shall be stopping to read the plant and tree labels. Did you know there is a very old pecan nut tree, an old cinnamon tree, an old cassia tree and a whole row of very healthy cardamon plants growing in the gardens? One of the best things to do in Adelaide is go for a stroll around the gardens, check out their link as next week there is a pram stroll for new parents! I think the volunteer guides at the gardens do an amazing job in sharing their knowledge of the "living treasures" in the gardens.

There are guided walks daily, there are may changes in the gardens and of course every plant is also changing daily. Why do anything else but visit a garden.!

Botanic Gardens Walk 018 Botanic Gardens Walk 035 Botanic Gardens Walk 049

Sunday 21 October 2007


Oh dear. It is not so clear in my mind now about NZ being
' Nirvana'. I have spent quite some time during this bloody awful day dreaming about this French idea. You have to just read this first page of 'French Gardening' to imagine actually living in a place like this

Every page is pulling me there. After all, it would be more fun in France, surely, and Roger could have his boat in the Mediterranean....

Friday 19 October 2007

Buildings dressed in Leaves

When I checked out the French vertical garden it reminded me of the 'urban forest' that was growing across the road from where I was staying in Nice. Actually the house,part of what you see on the right also had pines growing on balconeys and roof but was not quite as advanced.
When I got my photos out I thought you'd like to see a few others.

Unlike around here, where people always express concerns that plants damage houses,French houses have all manner of vegetation growing on them on . These are some places I stayed. It was early November.

This is a garden at the Goetheanum(main building in background) main HQ for Steiner studies in Dornach, Switzerland.

For Kate. A few cold frames at the Goetheanum

A community bread oven near Brioude. Sylvie is hoping to restore it.

Finally a woven fence- if you want to know how to do this, Then on Nov 11th , 'weaving a bit of magic' at Nirvana Farm see calendar for details.