Thursday 31 January 2008


I read this wonderful piece in the KGI forum, by Nancy, and thought it would be useful to take into account when planning where to plant your autumn vegetables...

"Greens and onion-family members are the most shade-tolerant of vegetables. Of the onions, scallions & chives will tolerate more shade than bulbing onions. Corn Salad aka Mache, and Miner's Lettuce, would both make good salad greens. Lovage (basically a perennial celery) - Comfrey - Sorrel - Horseradish - Lemon Balm - Borage - Garlic Mustard can be an invasive weed, but if you have a taste for strong-flavored greens you might like it - Lady's Mantle - Mint - Nasturtium (a permaculture book I read said the viney type can be trained up trees) - Calendula - Sweet Cicely (licorice-flavor), Tansy.

Stinging Nettles are highly nutritious and said to be delicious steamed - cooking takes the sting out, but you'd have to gather them with gloves on. I mean to plant some when I have a shade patch free of weeds and grass - I don't want to have to weed around them!I used to have a semi-shady patch of a tuber-producing Betony (Stachys) from Peru, called Oca, but lost it a few years ago when I was going through some big changes and didn't have enough time for my garden.

However, since most of our domesticated vegetables were originally bred from species that prefer open sunny ground, you'll find more shade-lovers among wild plants. Peterson's guide to edible wild plants has nice long list of plants you might find in moist woods - I won't copy all of it. Some of them don't reproduce very fast and it would take years to cultivate a patch before it would be big enough to harvest from. Ostrich fern produces edible fiddleheads. Wood sorrel makes a nice green nibble or salad ingredient. Violets someone already mentioned. Wild ginger. Spiderwort. Wild leeks, aka ramps, are hugely popular in some parts of the country, not sure how far north they can grow. Honewort is the native cousin of the Japanese Mitsuba; I've yet to find Honewort seeds for sale but I've seen Mitsuba in some seed catalogs.

Many of the strawberry species - European alpines & musk strawberries, or native wild strawberries - prefer some shade and might do better for you than the domesticated strawberries. Wintergreen and Salal might do well for you; I'm too far south for them.On a larger scale, Redbud flowers and young leaves another salad item. Pawpaw prefers some shade, makes wonderful exotic fruit, and there are cultivars bred to produce more fruit than the species naturally tends to. Spicebush berries are a lot like Allspice; I must say that the ones I've planted have yet to produce any fruit after 4 years, and I've read that there are male and female plants so you'd need several.

Most of these, being unfamiliar, might or might not suit your taste, but I've left out of the list a lot of things that either grow too slowly to be worth cultivating unless one is very patient, or tend to be described as edible but not necessarily tasty."


I love this site, makes me want to go and plant some stuff somewhere!
Click here to view Guerrilla

Wednesday 30 January 2008


...or how to make best use of children's bedrooms when they leave home.

After a lot of hunting through "The Collage" for boxes that would fit in the drawers it looked like this...............

......and, several hours later, seeds for autumn and winter sowing are sorted.

Spring and summer seeds are on the way and will go into the next drawer.

I have a plan to make this room, which is next to the laundry, into my gardening room, by putting a door through from the laundry and putting in drying racks, a tiled floor, one of those big, solid old troughs etc etc. I haven't told Roger yet. I am sure he will be ever so pleased !?


I listened to part of an informative session on the radio one weekend recently called:

Here you can read a summary, see some photos and listen to the original broadcast. It wasn't based on edible plants but the ideas are useful to think about for all the beautiful edible aquatic plants we can grow here in SA. In a courtyard or small garden these would be a stunning way to grow water chestnuts, water spinach and a whole host of water plants I read about in "Oriental Vegetables".
This photo (above) from the article shows what you can do with pickle barrels.Bring your trailer and head out to Paramount Browns Salvage with me and we will get some cheap barrels. (They are about $20)
I cut off the bottom and use it for the aquatic plants (water cress and a few water chestnuts in this one on the left) and the top becomes a compost bin (they have excellent, easy fit lids. See right).

I have enough compost bins so this time, after cutting off the bottom, I am going to cut off the top, sloping part, place the rest of the barrel slightly into the soil and grow some things that require different soil eg Sturt Desert Peas, large succulents etc in each and have them as a feature in steep or tree-root infested areas. They should be painted to reflect some heat - maybe an Aboriginal design with the Sturt Deasert Peas would look good. (If only I was artistic - I will have to get son Hugh to help.)


I want to encourage people to use gravity to water from their tanks because it is a bad idea to substitute electricity use for water use.

The idea was to put a long, thin terracotta pot (with hole sealed) into the ground, fill it with water and plant lettuce seedlings around it, banking on the porosity of the terracotta to keep the surrounding soil damp. See original post. This pot can be refilled as required from a tap on a tank, even if it only drips out using gravity.

It has been 11 days now and here are some things I have learned so far :
  1. This works.

  2. The surrounding soil is damp enough to grow vegetables up to 30cm (1 foot) from the pot. Next I am going to plant another row of greens out at the extremity of the damp zone.

  3. On hot days the water goes pretty quickly but the lettuce stay firm. (At first I covered the whole lot with shade but removed it after a few days.)

  4. It takes a while to get used to how often to fill the pot. Keeping it full all the time is not necessary if you don't need it to be wet so far out.

  5. Growing something in the pot is very attractive and means there is more food grown per area. If not growing anything in the pot then I would use a lid to reduce evaporation. I have recently put another creeping plant in the pot to reduce evaporation but, on the other hand, this will use a little bit of the water.

  6. The rate of growth of these lettuce has been at least double that of other seedlings I planted in another place at the same time, with a drip line.
  7. Having the thin drip line dripping into it once a week (that is 2 litres) is not enough to keep it full but may be enough for the lettuce - if I didn't have the water spinach in the pot.

If you have a tank this would be a great way to make use of the water without a pump.

If you are using mains water it fits in with the regulations beautifully as you are allowed to fill up a container any time you like.

I am thinking of setting up a whole line of pots connected with 13mm (or even thinner) tube and having them as the basis of watering soft summer vegetables, such as lettuce, cucumbers, even beans. It is similar to Scarecrow's wicking system and a little less labour-intensive. Also excellent in small places.

This pot was $10 from Bunnings but I would look out for something similar in discount shops or garage sales etc. The walls are very thin - I am not sure if this is necessary or not. I wanted a deepish one that was narrow at the top so it didn't use up too much space and didn't evaporate so much.


Sometimes it would be nice to be able to find something written a while ago on the blog and it is very tedious to go through everything looking for it.

So I have added a search engine which will search this blog and all "Our links". So easy to add this now - its free and even I can do it.

Just type in the box and away you go!

I have also made the "group discussion" open to anybody, not just members, like Glenys suggested as no members seem to be using it.

ps I have enrolled in a year long course with the WEA to learn Italian. Anyone want to come too?

Tuesday 29 January 2008

Wicking Beds

This photo shows 2 lots of zucchini this morning at 10.30.
The poor old ones on the left are out in the main garden...under 50% a 'normal' bed. The ones on the right are in a wicking bed under the Almond tree.

Both lots received water on Sat (our watering day). The ones on the left have already needed to have their container (for watering) turned on today (Tuesday)!

Both lots of plants are the same age...although not the same type I will admit.

It's on these hot days (36C+) and still no rain in sight that I'm glad I've experimented with these wicking beds.

Basically the beds are built over a plastic membrane layer at the base, this is raised to form a small pool of underground water, fed by a length of drainage hose, that wicks upwards to where the plant roots can use it.
As the pool dries out oxygen is drawn into the soil and when they are watered again the oxygen is forced out. Make no sense at all??
For full descriptions and photos see my blog entries here:

I'm about to re-build most of these beds to make them deeper for Autumn crops but even these shallow ones are holding water well.
I'm also going to try a box version for growing salad greens as this heat just saps all moisture from the containers.

Relishes or chutneys

I have been given a few kilograms of tart small blood plums. I have cooked some just to have for breakfast, I shall save some to eat fresh.
One year I made plum sauce but you usually do not eat much plum sauce.
So I am thinking plum chutney, something to serve with cheese and crackers or something to serve with a curry or to give as gifts.
So I invite you to post any good chutney recipes you have .
I have lots of leeks and chillies and I always adapt recipes adding my favorite spices but I would like a chutney recipe with good shelf life.
The photo above comes from a site called Musings from a Stonehead. Click on Musings from a Stonehead to view the site.


I don't often swear at all (except for the odd 'bloody') and I think I will take this new incantation (is that the right word?) as my own, personal exclamation of stupification and awe. How could so many beautiful flowers appear out of nowhere ? I swear (there, you see, a use for Holy Valotta already) they weren't there 1/2 hour ago. I bought these evergreen bulbs from Diggers years and years ago and have never seen a flower before. It is wonderfully hardy to dryness because I have given up on it several times and stopped watering it on my weekly rounds and it just doesn't care. In fact, maybe that's what has got it going at last.

While we are on flowers, here is an ordinary old hollyhock that self-seeds everywhere and I leave it to do so. Well, on the weekend, while off sailing (again) I read another great book , again by Joy Larkcom, called "The Organic Salad Garden". Dull name, great book, and in there she says you can eat hollyhock flowers and cooked buds. I tried a petal just now and it was OK but I guess it would be pretty in a salad if you like. I will pick a few buds to throw in my next stir-fry and report in on that too.

While we are on self-seeding in a vague sort of way, my self-sown pumpkin and I are currently on speaking terms BUT I know that it has a plan to take over the driveway, my potting area and my whole front garden and I don't want to be the sucker I was last year when I ended up selling 98kg illegitimate pumpkins to Wilson's Organics ! I have noticed another, this time a butternut type creeping up the bean frame and I am sure they are in collusion! What should I do?

The experiment with the lettuces and the terracotta pot full of water is going well and I couldn't resist putting water spinach in the water which is growing like a wild thing.

The crimson okra are a bit like the valotta - not there one minute, then gigantic the next!


The lengths we go to in order to harvest our produce are illustrated here. I was clambering along the sill outside our upstairs windows, merrily cleaning them and feeling quite skippity doo about getting this job done when I came to the self-sown peach tree. You can see the sill on the right and the clothesline below, on the left in this photo.Well, I came to the top of it as it grows up over the clothesline - very inconvenient - and leans a little towards the sill where I was standing. From below you can't see these peaches very well but I sure could see them now and decided it was time to pick them.


It required some shoes as walking on the roof of the room below burnt my feet. It was worth it - as you can see in the photo of the basketful of delicious peaches. This tree lives only on the runoff from the top story roof as we dont have any gutters there and I never water it. It came up only 3 years ago and now look. There were lots of peaches down lower but I let the parrots have them because we have an extravagantly enormous crop of peaches this year.

Now I had better go and clean the windows on the other side - who knows what I will find there!


We just received this email from son Alex who is travelling in Europe with Jing Jing (of Flat Stanley, as well as Chinese vegetable identification fame). It seems that my yearning for going to Italy is well-placed and Alex explains ever so eloquently....

........."The next morning we woke up in the absolute idyllic Italian village of Monterosso. Early in the morning there were older men and women dotted about the beach reading newspapers, talking with friends, or just sitting. Several groups had congregated about the town square and were speaking and gesticulating vigorously in that hearty way that characterizes Italians everywhere. It seemed to be the norm that everybody would come to eat and talk together in the mornings before getting on with the day.

Monterosso is one of five small towns in a national park called Cinque Terre ("chin-kwah ter-ray", it means five worlds). There are walking tracks between the towns and on Saturday we walked from Monterosso to Vernazza, and then thought the area was so beautiful that we continued to Cornigila and then to Manorola. Cinque Terre is very steep, to the point that at least half of the walking track was a stairway. Nevertheless the locals have terraced some of the hillsides and built picturesque vineyards (I guess these predate the national park status of the area). All the villages are built on the ocean, so as we approached each one over the hills we got fantastic views of towns nestled between the rolling countryside and the vast Mediteranean Sea.

In many ways this is my favourite place so far in Europe, although Nice and Lyon come close. I thought I would never find something as simple and enjoyable as buying bread in France (the fantastic possibilities presented by a French bread shop are almost as exciting as finally eating the chosen piece) but it turns out that just saying anything in Italian, to anyone, comes close. Somehow the language compels one to adopt a hearty Italian accent, and how could anyone not enjoy saying "Buongiorno!", "Arividechi", and "No problemo!" with an Italian accent?"

Chillis in Our Garden Today

The 8th Annual Hillside Herbs Chilli Festival

This will be held at Hillside Herbs - McLaren Vale (1st Left, Sand Road, McLaren Vale) on the 9th and 10th of February.
The leaflet says chilli plants, chilli products, sizzling sounds, fiery food, chilli eating, pungent pods, chilli ice cream, chilli chocolate.
Hillside Herbs are growers of quality Herbs, cottage Perennials and Sun loving Succulents
The leaflet says they are open 7 days a week from 10am till 4pm phone 83238385
I have not been there but shall be going to the Chilli Festival.
I bought a lot of chillies from them at Herb Day and they are all growing really well, I just have to work out what to do with them to get maximum flavour.

Chilli Culture

Their are 2 cuisines of the world that use chillies and spices as flavour bases for there foods, which are unlike other cuisines, where some fresh herbs or spices just enhance a dish.
Mexico and India blend a myriad of flavours together.
Mexicans use all these dried and smoked chillies in their cooking. The cuisines of the Aztec and Mayan Indians are exciting and sophisticated.
And then there is India, I heard a famous Indian chef speak about the spices of India and he said if he lived many, many lifetimes he would still only have a little knowledge about the blending of herbs and spices.
So this is where sharing comes in, we each tell what we know and what we have learnt about the growing of everything in our gardens.
And as we blog we meet more and more people from different parts of the globe and our lives become richer.

Monday 28 January 2008

Red Shiso

This is Shiso growing in our garden.
I was going to write about Shiso but found this great article and 2 great vegetarian recipes at From the Foodhoe Files.
Foodhoe Foraging is another great site to visit and tells of amazing dishes from some great restaurants. The recipes look great & food photography is fantastic.
I shall be adding these to my favorites list.
The recipes are by Eric Gowers and his book Breakaway Japanese Kitchen.
Eric has a website called The Breakaway Cook.

Saturday 26 January 2008

Chillies, Spring Onions, Zucchinis and Beans!

I have a lot of chillies growing in my garden.This year I decided to grow some milder varieties.
I have ancho, pimento, caysan, anaheim, hot wax, Thai chillies and purple tiger.
I have been thinking of using them in Mexican dishes but I found this image when I was looking for chilli images.
It is a Thai lunch special from Fremont in Seattle. A Pad Thai recipe with things like zucchini, beans and spring onions all of which we have in our gardens at the moment.
I think it looks pretty good so as I can not get to Seattle this week I shall try a vegetarian version with the Thai chillies I have growing.
Click on Brad Hole's Review in the Seattle Weekly.

Friday 25 January 2008

The Alternative Kitchen Garden Podcasts

Hi Folks
For those who haven't 'met' me yet I'm Scarecrow and live in the Mid North of SA. I've been allowed to contribute and share your blog...thank you for allowing me the chance to share some information with a 'local' (well almost) group of fellow food growers.

You've recently been given some links off my blogsite and here's another of my favourites. I've been checking the links already on here so I hope I don't double up on some, so apologies in advance if that happens!!

The Alternative Kitchen Garden Podcast page

Each week Emma Cooper from the Fluffius Muppeteus blog (which in itself is an interesting read) hosts a podcasted Garden Show.

While it is English based it's quite a novelty to be able to download these short programmes each week and listen to them in the garden or in the evenings (we don't watch TV anymore). Past podcasts are on the site for downloading.

Thursday 24 January 2008


Rain, twice in one week, is delicious. We've had a total of 21mm - nearly an inch.

Click on the photos to see it pouring down at my place.

Wednesday 23 January 2008


I have just taken and uploaded a whole of photos of my garden today, excluding the disastrous tomatoes which are in the process of rehabilitation. Please view them as a slide-show so they display full size. Here, though, is a photo of my desk, scattered with ideas, books and coffee. Just as I took the photo the screen went to sleep. I know how it feels.

Its a hottish Wednesday morning (well it was when I started writing this), gardening group doesn't start until next week and I am rather tired after a late night and early morning. This equals freedom to blog! You are welcome to read the 5 posts I have made here today.In fact, I think that, after actually doing the gardening, this is the most useful thing I now have time to do in my life. A friend of mine described me recently, after browsing the blog, as a type of beneficial spider, weaving connections between all sorts of interesting people, vegies, ideas, books, events etc

This year I hope to weave the web wider...


Maggie and I were just chatting on the phone and between us came up with the idea to donate our Johnny's Seeds prize, that we received for the Grow-off Show-off competition, to someone or some group who could put it to really good use.

We both received the KGI newsletter a day or two ago and immediately thought of the project mentioned there as one that, firstly has a direct link to KGI, secondly, needs seeds and thirdly, is run from Maine where Johnny's Seeds are situated so making the best use of the money, without wasting half on postage.

Here is the first paragraph of the newsletter..
My name is David Buchanan and I'm a KGI member as well as a member of its board. Roger has been busy building our nifty new community site the past few weeks and asked me if I'd be willing to help out by writing this month's newsletter.
Despite my love of winter in New England, this past month I traded my snow shovel for a pickax and flew from Portland, Maine to the delta grasslands of Buenos Aires, Argentina. For the past three weeks I’ve been working with two schools on the outskirts of the city to design and build kitchen gardens funded through KGI's mini-grants more

I also think that maybe we could have a project that we donate to annually, to help in its maintenance. It is all very well setting something up but it is doomed to failure if it doesn't get ongoing help. This particular project may or may not be the one for that type of commitment - I think I would prefer to help Outback Pride on a more permanent basis, as it is for indigenous Australians.


As I sit here eating my home-grown salad for lunch I realise that there is another interesting vegetable part on my plate that I have recently discovered . It is the sweet potato leaf. (Read the post below for the radish revolution too).

The book "Community Gardens" is responsible for teaching me this and I just happened to have a white sweet poato growing in my garden. So, in the middle of having my lunch I went and took a photo of it and this is it. (I had just eaten the last bit from my plate!)

Evidently some nationalities only eat the leaves and not the tubers at all. If Maggie has the time she might look it up and tell us more as mine was a library copy and I have returned it.

This is a great find as it has a gorgeous flavour and texture, very much like mache (or corn salad) only the leaves are much bigger and a better size for picking. It grows like a weed, spreading everywhere by runners, so there is always some to pick. My zuccinis (whose final size I always under-estimate when planting) have partly grown over the sweet poato plant but it seems very happy wandering along underneath and I think this would make the leaves less likely to be burnt by the heat. This could be good for people like Scarecrow in the mid-north who may not have much luck with lettuce when the weather is hot. This plant seems very hardy, even the bits that are in the full sun seem happy and the youngest tips start out brownish red so maybe this indicates heat tolerance.

So, I had a plate full of cos lettuce, sweet potato leaves, tiny radish leaves and another secret ingredient (read on). Great by itself but we had people to dinner last night and I poured a little tiny bit of dressing over this salad (peanut oil, verjuice and pepper) and the left-overs had kept so well that it was perfect for lunch today.

The other thing I have discovered this week is that okra is lovely thinly sliced in salad. I have the crimson ones (like those we saw in the Botanic Gardens last year!). I don't really feel that attracted to the slimey nature of okra so I tried a tiny piece raw because it looked so pretty sliced up on the chopping board. It doesn't have much flavour but is slightly crisp and provides something attractive and new in the salad bowl, especially with the crimson coloured skin. (I could only find a photo of a green one).
They are related to the hibiscus and the flowers are really stunning even if you don't eat any of it.
(Can you tell its a hottish day, Wednesday morning gardening isn't on until next week and I am rather tired after a late night and early morning? This equals freedom to blog! Three posts so far - maybe more...)


My new bible is the book "Oriental Vegetables - The Complete Guide for The Gardening Cook" by Joy Larkcom.

Together with "Community Gardens" they are introducing me to different uses for the plants we all know. The radish is one of these and, although my father ate little red radishes dipped in salt every day, I could never understand why. I put it down to the fact that his taste buds must be dead because he also loved bread with tomato sauce and never had a glass of beer without a pickled onion ! And that was a lot of pickled onions eaten annually - I think that single-handedly he kept the local pickling company "Spring Gully" in business! I am diverging...

I have daikon coming up again all over my garden - all year round it germinates and grows and for a few months I have cursed the day I sowed those first seeds and allowed some of them to go to seed. But I now know more about daikon and radishes in general. In short, all their parts can be eaten, and are in many parts of Asia. In fact it is the most widely grown vegetable in Japan where the leaves, stems, seed-pods and seedlings are all used, raw, cooked and pickled.
In Japan punnets of radish seedlings are available in shops much like the cress we see in the supermarkets.You can eat the whole thing, like sprouts too.The young true leaves are gorgeous in salads and I have been picking a few daily and eating them as I go about my gardening but you need to get them young before they get hairy! Larger leaves should be cooked. I now can't wait for more to come up. There are hairless varieties and I will look out for them - 'China Rose', '40 days', 'Hong vit', 'Todo', 'Sangria'. Some of these are pink stemmed which would be nice too.

The immature seed-pods of the radish are picked while still green and are able to be easily snapped in half. They evidently have a wonderful texture and flavour, varying from mild to hot, as you would expect. Joy Larkhom says they are great raw or in stir fries and that people who don't like radishes often love the seed pods. This sounds like it would worth trying to me. Varieties best chosen for eating the pods are 'Rat's Tail Radish' (which has no large root at all) and 'Munchen Bier' (a German radish that has a huge crop of pods) but any part of any radish can be eaten.

Radishes germinate and grow very fast so they can be sown between other vegetables which have been spaced to accommodate their larger, mature size, such as broccoli. This you would do in early autumn, I would suggest. In summer they can be sown in the shade or sown in foam boxes so its easy to keep a watch on them, if you want to try eating the leaves or even just the sprouts.


Visit the site of Jackie French and wander through her thoughts and garden with her. My most special and inspiring garden book was Jackie's 'Backyard Self-Sufficiency' and I still love her straight forward approach to life and wonderful enthusiasm for growing food wherever you can. If I could I would put her up as Minister for The Environment, and watch a few things change in Australia pretty darn quickly!

...."The world needs longer showers! Showers are relaxing when you’re frazzled, stops your joints aching as you get older, and some of us get our best ideas when we shower too. The ‘4 minute shower’ campaign is great for governments who don’t want to spend money on proper water recycling and storage, but a short shower isn’t going to help the planet at all.I’m a bit suspicious of a lot of so called ‘green tips’. Badly made backyard compost can lead to global warming methane and cockroaches (The methane is the global warming culprit, not the cockroaches). And sometimes keeping your old stuff is a heck of a lot more earth friendly than buying new ‘green’ versions of cars or clothes....."

Tuesday 22 January 2008

Companion Gardener

I’ve just read Kate’s post on this . (I’m a bit behind as the conections are very slow at present)

While Quentin was recovering & I was flat out keeping up with just the grass growing I thought I needed an apprentice but we realy don’t earn enough to pay wages. Willing Workers on Organic Farms are fine but you tend to repeat the basics on short visits. Over the years I’ve had a couple of ‘once a week wwoofers’which worked well for both parties so I decided that’s what I wanted this year.

Then I got an email from someone wanting to learn more about gardening. We met today ,so I will share my skills each week to a very willing gardener. More than a skippity doo feeling!

Botanical Garden Visit

After arriving at the Botanical gardens on Sunday we found the native walk was cancelled as the guide was ill. While some dispersed to check out various parts the ones who could not really decide where to go first where greeted by Botanical Gardens Guide Kate who stepped in & we where off around the Aussie plants. I was immediately engaged as we cast our eye on a huge leaves 2-3 meters long, being the spear lily (doryanthes palmeri)

I immediately saw the potential as screens & fences. I’ll have to get one or two. These where used to make fish nets. We passed & discussed many trees including the kurrajongs family, bunya pines, ribbon gums & many more finishing with the King –the River Red Gum complete with bee hive. (Not native)

We then had a relaxed shared lunch on the lawns (For the record Kate had a carton of ice coffee)

Next we investigated the economic gardens, enjoying the herbs, gourds, trellising & discussing aspects of gardening and pipe bending!

Peter checked out the giant pumpkins & we thought we should have a growing competition where the plains would be odds on favorites to win!


I have put 2 new additions into the side bar - 'next meeting' and 'moon phases'.

I will keep the next meeting up to date, that way you don't have to look through 'dates' to find it.

The moon phases will update daily - another free thing I first saw on another blog and this morning I searched around and found it and there we go. I never know where on earth we are with the moon, without going out every night to see. I know I have the moon calendar that I bought too but having it on the blog is rather cool and then I can go to the calendar when I need to.

Monday 21 January 2008


You should read this little item in one of my favourite links France - Paris . It starts like this....
"In France, the holiday decorations stay up until the end of January. While Denis commented a bit snidely that it's so people feel as if they're getting their money's worth out of them, I think it's because the holidays aren't really over until January is too. After all, two very important holiday traditions continue right up to the end of the month. The first is the galette des rois. Neither cookie, cake, nor tart, this confection--we'll translate it as the "cake of the kings"--is offered by nearly all French bakeries throughout the month of January. It marks Epiphany, now officially January 6, when the three kings visited the Christ child...."
Our son Alex is in France at the moment so I hope he enjoys this tradition.


Can you believe that it will be 4 months since we last got together at Fern Ave Community Garden, by the time the Feb meeting comes around. Here are the details but first, who organises this with the Fern Ave people? Maybe Cath or Kath ? Anyway someone (not me) needs to do it ASAP. Please let me know when its all OK and I will send out a reminder email to members.

Wednesday February 20th, 1.30 pm (members only)

Bring seeds, plants, something for me to eat (!), produce and any ideas for places to visit and things to do for 2008.
****If you can, take a look at Johnny's seeds because we have US$100 to spend !Bring a list of your choices and we will decide what to get.***


I have sent an email replying to a bloke's request, through this blog, to help him start a vegetable garden. This person will be the first of many, I hope, that I can help personally to take charge of their eating and begin to enjoy the rewards that we gardeners already know, that come with picking something from your own garden. Pattie has called it becoming a "Companion Gardener" and I like this name. I am a one-on-one type person and I can't believe my luck that someone has come to me for help just when I was thinking how am I going to find someone without using up my gardening time. I hope he gets back to me soon and we can start getting the worms working and building up the soil so we can plant in autumn.

A couple of nights ago I sat amongst a group of people I didn't know, at a friend's place for dinner. The hosts and most of the guests worked together at the Waite Campus . Anyway, they do agricultural experiments and stuff and talked a lot about work. I sat there quietly (yes, I can be very quiet, you may be surprised to know!) thinking of Pattie's challenge and realising this was a place to start. Nobody asked me what I did for at least 3 hours - not unusual, I find, and I didn't offer as there is always this feeling I have that I am less of a person in the eyes of such people, because I don't have a career. (I, however, see this quite differently!) My young neighbour at the table didn't noticeably gasp with horror when I replied to her question about what I do, with "I grow vegetables". I had thought about what my answer would be if anyone thought to ask me and I decided to get right on with "the challenge" !

We talked for quite a while, she was so lovely, and I gave her the blog address (maybe she will read this too) and then my neighbour on the other side, who had heard the odd word about gardening, asked me about her garden, or lack of, and I thought this would be my chance, as she had once tried to grow spinach. We spent ages talking and she became so excited about the whole thing. However, she lives too far away from me for me to become her "companion gardener" but maybe I should have given her my phone number. Anyway I didn't . How far are you prepared to go to help someone start a new garden? 5 minutes drive, 10 ? 20 ? I would go 5, or better still, in walking distance. It's one thing to start helping someone, it's quite another to keep it up for some months or longer and, for that, it needs to be convenient. Luckily and by great coincidence, the bloke who sent the email to me is only 5 minutes away!

Add new gardeners to the Victory Garden Drive list at!

Sunday 20 January 2008

Computer Recycling

The Unley Computer Share Project is a local initiative. Unwanted computers are collected and volunteer technicians prepare the computers for re-use.
These computers are provided free if you need a computer.
For further information
phone 8272 5881, or


Scarecrow sent me this link in an email. This must be the place to end all searches for what I would call paradise....(for those with good legs!)

"Mas du Diable is a very special place, set into the North East foothills of the CĂ©vennes mountains, in the Languedoc region of Southern France. Perched high up in a mountain crevice looking out over the valley with mountains as far as the eye can see."

They are a part of:
Association Kokopelli which is involved in the protection of biodiversity and in the production and distribution of biodynamic and organic seeds.

Saturday 19 January 2008


from the shack....

Everyone who knows me (which is few) or reads this this blog (which is more, I hope) realises I am devoted to home-grown vegetables, local and organic ingredients and treading lightly on the earth in all aspects of our lives.
However, I must confess to a few anomalies and here declare my enjoyment of a few processed goods containing more than 1 ingredient (sorry Pattie!). All are, thankfully, at least made in Australia, some are icons of Adelaide, even. Christmas and summer seem to expose all of them at once and that is why I have thought of them now, as I sit here with 1 in my hand and 1 on the table in front of me! (If you can't be naughty when you are on holidays, it's a sad world).

First and by far the the leader is Farmers Union Iced Coffee. Totally South Australian and, as the ads have been telling us for at least 20 years, "It's Farmers Union Iced Coffee or it's nothing". Here is Hugh on top of Mt Hotham with one of them that we took all the way from home. Moreover, its the 375ml carton I must have - not the 600ml (1pint) - irrespective of those specials at petrol stations. I won't be lured into being greedy and I won't share! I want my own, in cardboard, without a straw (unless I'm driving). This I am drinking now.

Second, Haigh's dark chocolate - not milk, not blend only dark. A true Adelaide icon - the only chocolate made in Australia from the cocoa bean - ie they do all the processing there on Greenhill Road at the factory.Favourites of mine are the dark chocolate coated almonds, the apricot chocolates and the peppermint crunch slab. At Christmas I buy us all some each - no-one has to share and mine are on the table in front of me now. (I couldn't get a photo off the web - all copyright !)

Third, Ambra Limoncello - a sharp, strong lemon liqueur made in Adelaide from SA lemons. I don't like wine much at all. At the end of a hot day, watching the sunset while sitting outside the shack, sipping Limoncello poured over ice is so good I am surprised there isn't a law against it. 2 glasses is perfect (of course it depends on the size of the glasses!), 3 is OK on a slow sunset day. (Have you noticed that sometimes the sun slips down ever so fast and at other times it goes so slow I think it doesn't want to end the day?) Maybe that is too much Limoncello...

Fourth, Dick Smith's Super Crunchy Peanut Paste. Sure you can make it or buy it unsalted, organic etc but when I dig a knife deep into this jar, pull out a big, juicy dollop and put the whole lot in my mouth I get all the salt, sugar and fat in one delicious mouthful ! This is great when I don't want to stop gardening to have lunch or I forget to have breakfast before I go out. A couple of dollops of this keeps me going for hours and Dick Smith is a great Aussie bloke. When son Hugh was sailing 4 hours on 4 hours off for weeks at a time, this peanut paste kept him energised between meals. In fact he kept a jar under his pillow! Roger is the only one in the family not to enjoy this secret snack.
That's it. Not that bad but it had to be said. Try as I might I can't think of much else that I must confess to .


I had this idea when I was at the shack and I am putting it into practise today. You see, terracotta is porous and I always seal my terracotta pots before I put plants in them, so I thought they would be a useful receptacle for storing water and letting it seep slowly into the soil, especially for use with rainwater tanks where I want to encourage people not to install a pump. So I bought a long thin one, about the height of my little dog (about 30cm, the pot not the dog) and I bunged up the hole with a 20c piece (just for fun - it's an investment) glued in with silicone.

I put some water in later and I could see it begin to seep out the sides almost immediately. See the darker colour at the bottom.

Then I dug a hole in the ground - that's when I found the worms - and, eventually, put the pot in it and filled the pot with water.

I filled firmly around the pot with good soil mixed with a handful of wet coir block (excellent for holding water) and laid my dripper line over so it will get water once a week when this dripperline comes on. It is a dryer spot here as it is the end point of the dripper system so it will be interesting to test this plan in such a tough spot.

I then planted some lettuce seedlings all around the pot and watered them in well. I would have put the soil up to the lip of the pot or dug the hole deeper but a) I got down to the rock below and couldn't go any deeper and b) I didn't have any more soil available. Then I put some mulch around, all the while trying to think what I could use for a lid...ah yes "The Collage" (see article below). So off I went...

Of course - some of that packaging foam would be ideal. I cut out a piece with a stanley knife, making a groove for the tube to fit through, put a rock on top and there we go.
Another option is to put water plants in the pots eg water spinach (kang kong) or other edible things that would be happy in such a long thin pot (water chestnuts need something wider). I will do this next.
The idea is to use several of these, linked by a tube to the rain water tank or tap. They will happily fill using gravity alone. You wouldn't have a dripper system to worry about - unlike my set-up - and you wouldn't be using electricity to water your garden. I will see how well they work in the next few weeks. Please leave a comment if you have some fine-tuning or questions.