Wednesday 29 April 2009


There is nothing more beautiful, to me, than what I see and feel around me, out in the garden. It sometimes takes my breath away when the sun breaks through on a grey and cloudy day, magnifying colours and textures for a few moments, just so we don't forget the wonder of the natural world. And the feel of a new yacon leaf is more exquisite than any expensive fabric.

Sometimes it is not until a vegetable is collected and cleaned up that I appreciate its beauty. I found a tiny, old, purple cabbage, squashed into the soil beneath an unruly part of the garden, its outside leaves badly eaten by something and looking sodden and rather unattractive. I worked away at tidying it up for a while then made a cut through it to see if it was OK inside....

This sunflower was blown over in the strong winds recently and looked a wet and dirty mess.... but I removed the stem, let the head dry out then brushed off the layers of dirt and found it to be almost perfectly intact.

There is not much art that I really like other than that all around us.

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As the rain began to clear, patches of blue highlighted the layers of clouds and the birds took to the skies again.... these clouds are huge but were blowing across the sky in seconds....

Tuesday 28 April 2009


image Until recently all living things on the earth were evolving. Over millions of years this has meant that life has become as diverse as an ant, a crocodile, a peanut, a sea horse, a virus, a pine tree and a human. Evolution has meant that some forms of life have survived ice ages and desertification; constantly adapting to change by natural selection and the survival of the fittest.

For the last 50,000 years or so, as humans have been evolving and changing, so have the foods we eat. Humans have also taken some seeds with them on long journeys and planted them in new lands. The new conditions have meant different characteristics have developed. Land masses have shifted and animals and plants have become separated and consequently evolved differently. All the time large gene pools have supplied enough variation to ensure that many survive and continue to evolve.

image Over the course of the 10,000 years that people have been evolving from being hunter / gatherers to farmers, thousands of varieties of plants have been domesticated. This means that people have saved the seed from plants  that produced well or tasted best or could withstand drought or pests etc in the wild or the field and sown that seed the following year. Each farmer saved his own seed but also swapped with neighbours and travellers; consciously or unconsciously keeping the gene pool diverse and evolving.

genes in the field Crop diversity can be used as a resource to mediate potential stresses of the surrounding environment. A crop population with a diverse genetic makeup may have a lower risk of being entirely lost to any particular stress, such as temperature extremes, droughts, floods, pests, and other environmental variables. Crops with different planting times and times to maturity give the farmer the option to plant and harvest crops at multiple points in the season to guard against total crop loss to environmental threats.

Presently, humans are taking the very dangerous route of attempting to control evolution, by controlling seed availability and literally stopping the evolution of major food crops. This is being done in various ways. I don't want to discuss here who is doing this and why but merely to explain how we home gardeners and consumers can help keep evolution alive. The seeds, seedlings and vegetables you buy in supermarkets are becoming so removed from being whole organisms that they are verging on artificial versions of their ancestors. Selection is made for shelf life and appearance and once this is achieved, seed production becomes fixed and no more evolution is allowed to occur. Every year the same seed with the same name produces the same crop.... as long as conditions remain the same!

Research is beginning to show how devoid of nutrition mass-produced vegetables have become and how weak the plants are when even slight changes occur in their growing conditions. Should a particular chemical ingredient become unavailable,or average temperatures change, whole crops would fail. For example, so much of agricultural fertilisers are products of oil. What happens as oil becomes more expensive and less available? Already in Australia farmers are having difficulty accessing artificial fertilisers and are struggling to find other varieties to sow with a reduced chemical input requirement because the gene pools of some grains have been allowed to dwindle and in some cases we are almost down in numbers equal to polar bears, with the fittest already extinct. There used to be thousands of varieties of rice and wheat but now agri-business has destroyed the individual seed saver's diversity and in its place has sown a limited range of varieties world wide which are always the same and never evolve.

image  The answer is to ask questions, lots of questions....Buy produce from small, local growers who can name the variety of broccoli or beans or carrots that they have for sale this week. Ask about their growing methods and their seed acquisition. Ask if they save their own seed. Ask them how they extend their seasons. A smile will break out on the face of any grower passionate about his crops and you will learn stories of families and immigration and seedsaving and world wars and manures and compost.

Grow your own vegetables and get your seed from local seedsavers exchanges or small, independent seed companies, like those in the side bar of this blog. Try growing something different and save the seeds yourself. Be part of the solution not the problem.

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Read websites such as Bioversity International and see what is being done to maintain food biodiversity in little nooks and crannies of our world. The paragraph of this piece which is in italics, and its accompanying photo, are from the section called Agricultural Ecosystems and is worth reading in more depth.

And Maggie, there'll be a test later!

Monday 27 April 2009


Most of the good folks of the HILLS AND PLAINS SEEDSAVERS GROUP met as a result of either doing Diana’s Gardening Course or being a helper or guest speaker.

We are such a passionate and veggie loving group of gardeners that I know you will want to be involved in this special course if you are looking to do an organic gardening course.

SO here are the details and lunch this week is homemade veggie soup, crusty bread and seasonal garden salad.


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Held at Fern Ave Community Garden

18 – 20 Fern Ave, Fullarton


Wednesdays 10am to 12 noon

(with lunch from 12noon to 1pm)

Autumn 2009 course is for 7 weeks beginning Wed 29th April to

10th June

Cost $70.00 (members Cancer Care Centre)

$90.00 (for non-members CCC)

Bookings essential

(by Friday 24th April 2009 )

Course Overview

Seeds for Health— insights to organics, permaculture & biodynamics. Sowing seeds for a home grown project

Kitchen Garden Inspirations - creating productive organic food gardens

By Design — permaculture ideas for creative Kitchen Gardens (be it a tub or a backyard!)

The Good Earth—care of the soil with organic practices. Cultivating healthy soil — healthy plants – healthy people

Compost—the most vitally important key to organic food gardening

Garden management & container growing……. making it all work!

Seeds for the Future—looking ahead - discovering the Seedsavers network

Inspirational guest speakers & a field visit included in the program

This course is open to anyone with an interest in health & organic food gardening.

Sunday 26 April 2009

Pumpkins and produce

Autumn is here and the rains have come at last, bringing to an end one of the toughest summers we’ve had here in South Australia, where water restrictions have coincided with exceptional heatwaves. But the garden has been productive, we still live in a climate where we can grow both apples and citrus together, and the autumn harvest has been bountiful.

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After I’d harvested a barrow-load of Butternut pumpkins, along came a visitor to the garden to swap stuff, and he gave me this giant Queensland Blue pumpkin, making mine look puny. We store ours in the shed (not on it, as in the old days, because of rats and possums). We put the pumpkins inside this big Perspex cylinder to keep the rats and mice out; the black plastic crate helps the cook to get up there and fish them out…

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Japanese ‘Daikon’ radish can be peeled and grated coarsely, then mixed with finely chopped onion, chives and society garlic, French sorrel and tarragon from the herb garden, juice of a lime, olive oil, lemon juice and vegetable salt. This makes a pleasant salad alongside garden greens, capsicums, tomatoes and cucumbers.

DSCN0133On our customary walk through the Piccadilly Valley in the Adelaide Hills on Easter Sunday, we found a few walnut trees growing on the footpath next to pasture land, and picked up a bagful of walnuts. The German Easter Rabbits are looking on, completely astounded by our windfall.

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Somehow the cold weather and rain lets the bush beans know that time’s up for this season, and suddenly the seedpods are ready for the seed saver to collect bean seeds for next season’s crops. ‘Strike’ bush-beans on the left, ‘Low’s Champion Bush Beans’ on the right, already harvested and ‘frozen’ overnight in the freezer to kill off the bean weevils.

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The last of the fresh cling-stone peaches were eaten last week, but the zucchinis keep coming. Were it only the other way around!

Saturday 25 April 2009


In the middle of this wild and wet weather some visitors blew in, literally. A fellow seed saving family from Albury, travelling around parts of Australia for a few months, came to talk vegetables and other seedy business. Luckily I had made a nice, big zuccini cake and a pot of coffee before they came because the power went off and stayed off until they left!

image This gorgeous little fellow looked so cute holding my gardening bag.

Together with Dad and 2 equally gorgeous sisters, he dashed out between rain storms to pick tomatoes and passionfruit and the first chestnuts, while I talked with Lou and showed her the blog.

It was lovely to meet you and your family, Lou and share some seeds and stories with you.

I think we should make a trail for seedsaving travellers, so we can contact fellow vegetable growers and see what is happening in their neck of the woods, as we explore our country. There are wine trails and cheese trails so why not vegetable garden trails?

Here in Adelaide we have such a wonderful climate for growing food and such a diversity of cultural influences that it would be nice to have a way of sharing it with other seedsavers and vegetable gardeners. If only I could be bothered, I could do something with this idea.... but I'd so much rather just be in the vegetable garden!

Can you believe this wind and rain? 92mm so far and that was before the rain gauge post blew over! I have never known wind like this in Adelaide before....and it has been going on and on for days.... wherever I go there is a tempest... or a drought!

Friday 24 April 2009


imageRain.....lots and lots of cool, fresh rain....everyone is smiling and talking of nothing else. About 50mm where I am.... and more forecast.image






So, what does a gardener do when its raining?

Cook, that's what.....


... three simple examples of home-grown food. What more could anyone want?





.... slow cooked capsicums from garden to pan to plate in 1 hour....







My mother's baby mango tree produces a perfectly ripe, 1kg mango that just fell off in my hand... no cooking required....but a lot of eating....













The best garlic I ever grew was made into the best garlic soup ever.... a recipe from Ian's neighbours, in France... which I will put back teeth are dipping...gggg...


Wednesday 22 April 2009




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Bob and I saving water from a burst water main up the street from where we live.

This is the 4th burst water main we have seen near us in the last 6 months.

We were walking the dogs and saw the water running down the gutters.

We were not alone with taking the water for our front gardens.

There were 3 at home Mums out with their buckets.

One mum was going in for a rest as she had been bucketing for an hour. It may have been nearly 1 1/2 hours before someone arrived to turn the main off.

Niki and Tara had fun as we walked them through the water filled gutters.

Tuesday 21 April 2009


Do you ever work away in the garden, so engrossed in the vibes and what you are doing that all of a sudden you are starving? I mean not just an inkling of hunger nor an excuse to have a rest, I mean ravenous. Glenys has 10 acres that I am looking after and I must have walked 10km up and back and up and down, this morning, getting twine and tools and hose fittings and my radio and heavens knows what else just to do a couple of simple jobs.

Once I actually started sorting out the tangle of tomato plants, pumpkin vines, cucumbers and potatoes all growing over and under each other I didn't think about anything else for a couple of hours. Then I stood up straight, slowly extracting bits of my body from the awkward angles required not to step on any plants, and getting stiffly back into the upright position. Then it hit..... hunger... and I gathered my tools and some massive potatoes I had found under the pumpkin vine and headed for the kitchen.

image I grabbed an apple and ate it so I wouldn't collapse on the floor while I put the coffee on. Then I looked at what food I had that would really satisfy this gnawing pain.... there was left over Easter egg, fruit and all sorts of healthy stuff that would not have touched the sides. And then I saw it..... a jar of super crunchy peanut paste.... just bought the other day.... perfect.

And I discovered something interesting.... peanut paste, straight off the knife, goes really well with coffee and a banana. A threesome made to satisfy the biggest hunger....

In fact, when Hugh worked as a crew member of the Duyfken sailing ship, he kept a jar of peanut paste under his pillow so that, when all hands were called in the middle of cold, wild nights in a big sea off Tasmania, he could have the strength to climb the rigging and heave on the ropes.

I am not sure that working in Glenys's garden is quite that rigorous but peanut paste sure fills the corners until lunch time!




This is one of 4 enormous potatoes I dug up today - I could hardly pick it up with one hand .... the biggest one weighed nearly 1 kilogram!







Absolutely breathtaking.... autumn colours in the Adelaide hills and all around me in this garden, every day.

Monday 20 April 2009


The phone conversation went something like this....

"Hey Mum, wanna come round to my place on the weekend?"

"Yeah, that would be nice, Hugh"

"How about Sunday"

"OK....( mother mentally re-arranging her plans....) Can I bring anything?"

" I thought we might get that new bed ready in the garden. Can you bring the wheelbarrow?"

( Mother thinking.... my car is small, the wheel barrow is enormous but hey, I am inventive...) "No problem Hugh.... I might get some seedlings from Diana too, I need some anyway"

"Cool. Thanks Mum, see you then."

Diana had a stall at the the Stirling Autumn Garden Fair on Sunday, so I went for a spin, with the wheelbarrow snuggly fitted into most of my car and various other bits and pieces tucked in around the sides. My fork and spade were there and my whole gardening bag, complete with ho-mi, labels, twine, wire and a multitude of clipping, digging, and planting tools and various screwdrivers and a multi-grip wrench as well as assorted watering system repair odds and ends. I also threw in 2 bags of compost and a loaf of bread.... well, you just never know, when you go to Hugh's!

image Here is Hugh, proud owner of a pile of dead stuff and lots of rubbish...but hey, what are mothers for? image Luckily, this mother came prepared... and got started on the demolition while Hugh did another job...
image Hugh drilled holes in this bin to make an in-situ compost maker.... only I didn't bring any worms.... well, he never said..... image
In place. The herbs are going really well in the bed we made a few months ago
imageThat looks better... but very dry so I asked Hugh to find some pipe so we could use the water from the tank... image Like his mother, Hugh is innovative.... too bad if the pipe is joined to the house..

A moment later it wasn't....
image image We made channels for the water to run in and held it all in place with the fork.... while we had a drink to cool off...
image Hugh wanted the seedlings in 10 nice neat rows so the insects could eat them faster.... sorry Hugh!
I hate rows and rules... and regulations and governments and....ok that's enough....
We put a sheet over it all to shade it for a few days.... good luck and happy gardening and eating, Hugh.

There is nothing I would rather have done that Sunday than help Hugh get started on a new bed for his vegetables. It is a sweet feeling to have given your children the desire to grow delicious food for themselves. Hugh is a fabulous cook and I am looking forward to a meal or two in the future, using some of these things we planted today.