Monday 29 September 2008


image After visiting Sarah, the next stop has been Ian and Sylvia's, near Bergerac, where I have been staying for the weekend. It has been just so lovely and in between eating, chatting and visiting wonderful neighbours, Ian and I have actually got some gardening done - the first since I left home nearly 2 weeks ago.

We cleared out the pumpkin patch, planted leeks and spring onion seedlings from the Villereal market, broccoli and fennel seedlings Ian has raised and enlarged the bed by another third....soon it will rival Villandry!

It seems quite unreal gardening in blogland, and seeing all the things Ian talks about on his blog, including the Saturday visit to the Villereal market and a stop in to Bernard's to buy his 2004 Monbazillac.

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image We have spent quite some time with a French couple who live just down the street and they are such fun and so kind, cooking special Perigord dishes for me for dinner at their house on Saturday night and showing me around their vegetable garden as well as a wonderful slide show of Michel's beautiful wildlife photos that Ian regularly posts on his blog.


I tried a cocktail that Michel made which Marie-Sylvie assured me was not too alcoholic..... luckily I didn't believe her!

We had so many courses I lost see Ian's post for details!....aperitifs, amazing garlic soup, delectable confit de canard, local organic vegetables, cheeses to die for etc etc and an apple pie I made for them. We had so many laughs and it was incredible and I thank them all very much.

Ian and I went early to the Villereal market and started by having coffee and croissants as of course one must when in France....very nice. The market fills a square which is surrounded by shops, and spills out onto the streets. It is just as I imagined from Ian's photos.... picturesque, down to earth, authentic, friendly and fun.

Villereal Market....

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I was so lucky to have Ian and Sylvia take me to visit another neighbour, Gabriel, who grows vegetables, fruit trees and ornamental plants and is a man with an affinity with his land, his life and the health of the body and soul. I didn't take any photos.... it just didn't seem appropriate. He speaks a broad dialect but made a real effort to speak so I could understand, which surprisingly, I mostly it was all to do with propagating and growing vegetables and fruit in his own wonderful way.... The quality of his produce was exceptional and from his vegetable patch we could see 35kms in one direction down the rolling land of the valley to Chateau Biron. and 55kms another to...... He grows a lot of tomatoes in polytunnels, and he gave us one which weighed 500g, which we are going to have for breakfast tomorrow. It was so special to listen to him telling me so much, in French, there in the south of France, and to see in his eyes his passion for all the things I too care about. Like Richard, in Singapore, Gabriel is connected and in tune with himself and all about him.

Tonight I am cooking mussel risotto for Sylvia and Ian..... starting right now!

As always, there are more photos on the link.They will have captions soon....hopefully before I go to bed tonight!

Sunday 28 September 2008


image It is sometimes quite astounding how people come to meet and after just a few minutes you can feel like you have known each other for ages. This was the case with Sarah, a woman Ian took me to meet a few days ago. She has moved to France from England and has bought a lovely little cottage with lots of space for a vegetable garden, in the French countryside. image


Sarah hasn't grown vegetables or anything much else before but now she has started a box system and provides vegetables for several other families and is building it up all the time. She has taken a leap and is now trusting her cape.....a little phrase that has become central to how I think, lately.



imageWe looked around the vegetable garden, which is bounded on one side by one of these beautiful fields of sunflowers that are around every corner in this part of France. We sat inside and ate a lunch she kindly made us with things from her garden, with the sun streaming through the windows, and the road just outside the cars went by while we were there. And anyway, in the back streets of France the roads are so narrow people just potter along, on the whole.




Sarah has found a connection and is making it work. She has removed herself from the ratrace and made a little space to absorb a more tranquil life. Like me, she has discovered slow and all the good things that come with it. We found so much in, an Australian woman travelling to see other people in the slow lane and Sarah, just doing it, out there in rural France.




Sarah belongs to Gardeners' Calendar

It was really lovely to meet you Sarah and I hope we can keep in touch.


The other night I had a dessert that was nothing short of total decadence. I don't know what came over me to order it because, as I love only the rich, dark, bitter chocolate made by our local Haighs, I never normally choose chocolate things when I am out as they are always disappointing in comparison...But I am in France and they take food very, very seriously...

The menu I translated loosely simply as profiteroles with mint something and a hot chocolate sauce. It was 3 small profiteroles filled with a smooth, lightly minty icecream and the whole thing smothered in a chocolate sauce that can only be described as black, it was soooo dark. What was amazing was how they got the icecream inside the profiteroles and at the same time kept the profiteroles crisp and perfect even after having hot chocolate sauce poured over them! The sauce was like Haighs chocolate, rich but not sweet, thick and  melted and concentrated and heated and poured in lashings over the profiteroles and the whole plate!

It was one of those eating experiences that leaves you thinking where you have been all your life not to have had it before!!

Saturday 27 September 2008


I haven't had access to wifi for days and I have so much to say now......and to show you....

I took a trip to the Chateau Villandry and discovered a nice little cottage with a few vegetables growing out the back.... thought I might move in.... see what you think...

image There are 9 sections, displaying 9 magnificent collections of vegetables, each colour coordinated and every plant perfect. I wonder if they would notice if I put up a tent and slept under the pear trees?
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Check the photos link for LOTS more photos...



The new search engine is really great it allows me to go back and find things so easily.

Someone said why are you going back reminiscing, well I am but I am also remembering the past and celebrating how it has lead us to where and who we are today.

The healthiest choice we can make in life is to learn to live in the moment.
Being aware of what is happening in our minds and choosing to be present to ourselves and others is a great way to live.
Contemplating our past experiences helps us move forward, maybe making different choices, trying new things and making decisions to maybe not repeat old harmful thoughts and patterns.

We do this in the garden, we think about last season, what worked, what didn't.
Then we make choices decide what new things to grow, how to care for certain plants and how we shall use them.
The garden is a great teacher, it connects us to the real world.
How great it would be if everyone on this planet was able to have a garden and grow there own food.
The garden provides so much for us.
Not only do we get good exercise, we get the best fresh food ever, we get to experience the wonders of nature, to see little miracles appear daily, we watch the seasons change before our eyes, we experience birth, life and death in the garden, we can meditate while weeding or digging, we can share our produce with others and we can just BE in the garden and enjoy it.


imageTours is a beautiful town in the Loire Valley, with narrow, quaint streets full of tiny shops displaying exquisite things like these pastries. Eat your heart out Maggie!









There is a violin maker, lots of cafes with only a few tables inside and a couple outside in the sun and a few restaurants of different cuisines, like this Japanese one, amongst other small shops. I thought it was very amusing to see a Japanese restaurant, with its menu in French! There are colourful window boxes with geraniums cascading over, naturally enhancing the white stonework of the buildings, as in the photo, below right.


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Food ....beautiful, artisan, carefully presented, forms the basis of French life and I can see I am going to have to spend a lot of time eating while I am here, in order to properly research French food.....


There are more photos in the link.


Friday 26 September 2008

Spring, Fun and Flat Stanley in Adelaide

What is it about spring that makes you want to get out side and have fun in the garden.
We are pulling out older plants, mulching with our compost, and planning where the tomatoes, basil and spring onions will go.

I have planted shiso seeds but find this wonderful versatile Asian herb is shooting up in the garden, where it had been planted last year. Last year I only used it in salads but this year it is going to appear everywhere as I have learnt more about it.
So shiso will appear in Asian soups, in stir frys, sushi and just fresh on a plate, with a bowl of steamed, maybe seasoned rice. The idea is you use the shiso leaf and wrap it around the rice, then eat it.

This year we are hoping to grow okra another versatile vegetable. I like it best slit down the middle, soaked in milk for a couple of minutes, then drained, rolled in flour and fried in a small amount of oil. But I am going to make a gumbo with it and also a south Indian curry.
I must put some coriander seed in a shady pot today and also freeze the coriander which is in the garden before it bolts to seed.

Now what to do with all the other seeds that are germinating nicely in this perfect spring weather.
It is so beautiful here today I must get outside soon.

Today I take my parent's for a drive, last week we went to Henley Beach and watched the wind and the waves but today we shall go to the Adelaide botanic gardens or to the rose garden at Urrbrae House and just sit and watch the flowers bloom and listen to the birds songs.

If you have not been to Adelaide, well let Flat Stanley take you for a guided tour of some parts of our lovely city.
It is 1 year tomorrow since Flat Stanley arrived in Adelaide from Atlanta and Foodshed Planet.

Pattie from Foodshed Planet's fun loving, creative young daughter had asked if her Flat Stanley from her school project could visit Australia. So Stanley arrived and Kate and I were very happy to show Stanley around our lovely city.

Click on to Flat Stanley to see the fun we had.

You will see some of the places we mention as well as our Adelaide Farmers Market, which is just 2 years old next week.
You will see our lovely Fern Avenue Community Garden, Warrawong Santuary and you will see the wattle, and blossoms and what's growing here at the moment when most of you will be enjoying the dappled colours of Autumn.

Wow it is only a year ago since he arrived and since new friendships were formed.

Now I am a Granny with a real life little boy to play and have fun with.
Pattie and her daughters have been riding their bikes everywhere and having all sorts of fun designing t shirts, having open gardening days with friends and painting wonderful bubble rooms.
And Kate well she is gardening her way around the planet and should appear in France soon.

So enjoy your day where ever you are.

Wednesday 24 September 2008

A Great Day

Its my birthday today, so I decided to take the day off and stay at home and reassemble my anchor windlass.  It was an excellent choice of day for a birthday as it was the most perfect day here in Adelaide - fine and sunny around 17 deg.

imageBy the time Alex and I had enjoyed a lovely breakfast of fresh eggs  from the chooks, mushrooms and organic bacon from the market all on some lovely sourdough toast from Wilsons, followed by a cup of by Alex's excellent Italian style coffee, it  was time to head off for lunch!  We went to a lovely place called Muggletons up at Hahndorf in the hills with my mother and sister where we all enjoyed another lovely meal.

No progress on the windlass yet but oh well, there is still the afternoon, or some of it at least ...

Now, I've been worried about Kate's broad bean patch right down the bottom of our block ever since she left.  I've been so busy doing all those things Kate looks after when she is here that I haven't even had a chance to look over the edge and see if they look OK, let alone go down there to check them out properly.  I also know that Kate really wanted to tie them up before she left but just hadn't got around to it.  So when we got home I told Alex I thought I would go down and checkout the broad beans and see about tying them up.  He said he would help, so off we headed with Kate's trusty garden bag and an armful of droppers and pea straw bale ties.

I am pleased to be able to report that the broad beans are looking extremely healthy and although they were certainly starting to fall over and were ready for some attention in that regard they are all now beautifully tied up and can happily continue their merry growth towards full production for Kate's return!

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Still no progress on the windlass but the day isn't over yet ...

As we walked back up to the top after admiring our handiwork, it was such a lovely afternoon that I thought "the windlass can wait a bit longer" and said to Alex, "How about a drink out here on the terrace before dinner?"  So we sat out there enjoying the view and the late afternoon light in the blossom chatting about philosophy and the ways of the world as one often finds oneself doing with Alex ... and generally having a lovely time.

While we sat there I noticed that the netting was still on the avocado tree and the new buds were starting to burst into life with the new leaves and fruit rapidly growing through the netting.  We could see that if we didn't get it off right now we were never going to get it off.  So off we both went again and managed to get it all off without damaging a single bud.

By now it was dinner time (Swordfish Pizzaola leftovers from the other night ... delicious) -- still time for the windlass after dinner.

But suddenly I remembered what it was I really needed to stay home for today ... I need to open all that mail that has been piling up ever since Kate left and pay a few bills before something gets turned off ... so off into the study.  Just a quick check of blog land I think to myself ... and here I still am after reading all about Kitchen Gardening in France and Olives and Artichokes, posting to Hills and Plains Seedsavers all about my own adventures in the garden!

What a great day of food and gardening I've had ... I think I'm starting to get it!

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Discovering the Veggie Garden - by Torchlight

Since Kate headed off on her big Vegetable Vagabond adventure I've been left in charge of the vegetable garden!  Kate is so incredibly knowledgeable and experienced at vegetable gardening, especially compared to me who knows almost nothing, that I am somewhat daunted by this responsibility.  Not only do I want to make sure everything is in good shape for when she returns, but I also want to make good use of all the produce the garden provides and not let it go to waste while Kate isn't here ... and that's what I can see is going to be the biggest challenge.  There is just so much out there!

When Kate is here she harvests all the produce and does the cooking.  It's not that I dislike these things but just that I always seem to be busy on other things (work tends to get in the way) and we have fallen into our roles over the years ... and Kate is just so amazingly GOOD at it all.  But, now Kate isn't here and its all up to me -- and Alex until he heads off to Oxford very soon.  So, here is my big chance!

One hard thing I am finding is that its dark by the time I get home!  This makes it very tricky to pick things from the garden, especially when you have as little idea as I do just what exactly all those different things in the garden are and are not at all sure which is bok choi, asian greens or broccoli leaves!

imageBeing a good engineer, I made a rough plan of the garden as Kate was explaining where everything was and what to do.  I am quite sure Kate thought this was just another one of those "engineer" things she feels is totally unnecessary and just slows everything down but has learnt to tolerate over the years.  But, believe me, this is a godsend and I would be lost without it.  Used in conjunction with Wikipedia, its amazing what you can find in Kate's veggie garden by torchlight!

Tonight, Alex and I cooked up a big stir fry.  When I got home, I headed off into the garden with my trusty torch and plan.  By the time I returned with basket full of promising looking candidates - bok choi, kale, fennel, asian greens, broccoli leaves, spring onions and asparagus -- Alex had the wok, some kangaroo pieces and a selection of tasty looking oils and sauces all ready to go.  We cooked it all up and it was absolutely delicious.

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(The broccoli leaves were actually a mistake.  I mistook them for the bok choi at first.  Don't tell Kate.  I'm hoping they will grow back by the time she gets back and she won't notice!)

Search Engine- for our blog- a new toy to play with!

I just realized a search engine has been added to this blog and it works beautifully.

Now you can read all about Cath's capsicum's growing at Kate's or find my article about the bee attracting plant -Agastache Foeniculum ( anise hyssop), chillies, our visits to Nirvana or The Adelaide Botanic Gardens.

WOW it is so cool, thank you Alex or Kate who ever added this.

No longer will our words and images disappear into blog land and take ages to find.

So if you are a new reader of our blog go back in time and see how much fun and learning and sharing we have experienced together.


Oxford is known as a university town but I would call it the town of bike riders.Same goes for Iffley. I have only ever seen more people riding bikes in Asia! The tiny front entrance of every house seems to display at least one and often several bikes.....every street is lined with people on bikes and the path by the river today was a constant stream of families on bikes. It is beautiful. There is not a weight problem in Oxford because of all the bike riding and Alex is going to fit right in as he loves to ride his bike everywhere.

Iffley, in autumn is the town of berries! Everywhere there are berries. I saw a man picking some blackberries but I hadn't realised the significance at the imagetime so have no photo.image image























Iffley has some people who are into the whole local, food-growing, organic thing.....

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Oxford and Iffley, in particular, are stunningly picturesque.....

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Check out the rest of the photos that I have been updating daily......Oxford....