Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Unexpected sweetness

This came to the reinventors as a dried out stick.  The practical reinventor (ever the optimist) stuck it it a jam jar of water on the kitchen window sill.

Sure enough, it sprouted roots, so she planted it.

And look!  It does seem to like life in the corner next to chooks and behind the plum tree.  There are three offshoots.

We wonder whether we could extract our own golden syrup or whatever from it?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Thoughts on the nature of waste

The Marmalade Cottage CWA (that's Alice, Marion, Nancy, Joan, Joyce and Shirley, all of whom have feathers and lay eggs) are getting a little particular in what they eat.

Not for them ordinary white bread!

They love green feed - cabbage, lettuce, juicy weeds, kale, broad bean pods and so on, and they're fond of the crusts and stale leftovers of our home-baked bread.  Several times a week, a reinventor detours by the crate at the back of our local greengrocer, where the scraps are left.

Usually there's a bag's worth of cabbage or celery or lettuce for the taking.  There are a number of chook owners who take advantage of this.

Next to the chook scrap crate, there's a skip.  Depending on the day, there are all sorts of extras in reach.  And this bothers the reinventors greatly.  This skip (dumpster to the Americans) contains an enormous amount of perfectly edible food.

Last night, it yielded a cob of corn, two zucchini, two parsnips and some carrots.  There are often half melons (the chooks adore those), and bread, sometimes potatoes and sweet potatoes, very often bananas.

There are two points here: this food might look slightly soiled, perhaps with a brown spot or two, but it's by no means unsafe; and putting this kind of organic matter into landfill results in emissions of methane, which is a powerful greenhouse gas.

So, by taking this food out of the skip and giving it to the chooks or eating it ourselves, we save the planet a bit more destruction, we respect the grower and we save a little money.  Sadly, stupid things like health regulations are against us here.

The practical reinventor has lost count of the number of banana cakes she's baked with bananas from the bin.

(if you're interested: cream 4 oz butter with 4 oz sugar, then stir in two eggs.  In another bowl, dissolve half a teaspoon of bicarb soda in a tablespoon of milk, then mash in two to three bananas and a dribble of vanilla extract.  Add banana mixture to sugar and butter, then sift in 8 oz self-raising flour.  Bake 45 minutes in a 180 deg C oven.  Apologies for the mix of imperial and metric measurements, it's my great-nana's recipe, and the metric conversion is messy)

If you caught the English series The People's Supermarket by chef Arthur Potts Dawson, you'd understand about the staggering amount of food that is simply thrown away.  It needn't be.  Home growers don't do this because we understand the effort and resources that go into producing food.  But if you don't produce your own food, if you've only ever bought it, it's hard to see what goes on behind the scenes and make the connection between production and consumption.

So here's a thought: have a look in the bin behind a supermarket or greengrocer and consider what you see in there in the context of world inequality.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Our sweeties

While vegetables are relatively quick, harvesting your own fruit takes patience.

Last year we got a handful of mulberries from our tree and were very pleased.

This year, the tree is more than twice its original size and covered in berries.

We're also pretty excited to see tiny flowers on the passionfruit vine that will offer the chooks shade this year.

We love plants that are dual purpose.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Not this year, but maybe next

The practical reinventor absolutely adores fresh asparagus.  It's a long term crop.  If you plant crowns, it'll take about two years before they're established enough to cope with being harvested.

If you plant seedlings, you can add an extra three years or so to that wait.

Having only ever had rented gardens, the reinventors never planted asparagus before.  Last year they put in five crowns, of which three survive. 

There are five more seedlings in the bed now along with generous shovellings of chook pen muckings-out (asparagus are heavy feeders) and a thick layer of pea straw.

Next year, we should be able to eat a spear or two.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


This is the grapevine we thought was dead.  It's looking so happy and reinvigorated, we decided to give it a challenge.  The creative reinventor has strung up wires and gently suggested the vine follow them. 

The real test with be whether we get some grapes.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Busy time in the back garden

As we've been harvesting potatoes, broadbeans, garlic, silverbeet and onions, we've been dreaming of summer veg.

That's cinnamon basil (we cheated and bought seedlings, then carefully separated them and crossed our fingers they'd survive outside of their nice, cosy greenhouse) and there are tiny tomato plants in the other pots.

At the back are some divided oregano for friends, and the other pots are seeded with cavalo nero, corn, beetroot, rosella, zucchini and pumpkins.

They're planted in a mix of our clay and the muckings-out from the chook pen.  No seed with any skerrick of life could resist bursting into green!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Digging up our dinner

Sort of experimentally, the practical reinventor had a look at the spring garden this morning.

Here's three plants' worth of potatoes - sapphire and kipfler.  The sapphire ones are purple on the inside too.

Despite the destructive efforts of the chooks and the canine apathy around gardens, this is the first of the garlic harvest.  While we know it should be plaited attractively, with the creative reinventor having broken his thumb in a motorcycle accident and the practical reinventor having done chronic nerve damage to her arms from too many years and kilometres on a motorcycle, neither of us is able. 

And we don't care that much either. 

The garlic is very heavily, erm, scented.  It's hanging up in our outside laundry, which is also pretty fragrant.  We're not sure we'll be patient enough to leave it there to dry out for long term storage.