Monday, 15 June 2020

Of potatoes and lemons and the smell of coffee

The coffee sack potato experiment seems to be going rather well.  They've been in their sacks for a good month now.  The theory is that once the plants show leafy growth, you cover that with soil, and in doing so prompt the plant to grow another layer of tubers.

Here's the Creative Reinventor holding the sacks' sides so the soil doesn't fall out.  Two of the three sacks have reshot leaves, so it's time to fill them again.  We also decided to try the same with leeks.  No such progress yet.

You've got to admire the tenacity of plants.  This lemon tree had a nasty citrus gall wasp infestation.  It needed hard pruning twice to get rid of all the galls.  And it's done this.  Quite out of season, but it's in a sunny spot, and Perth doesn't really get cold.

Meanwhile the Practical Reinventor struggles with the black dog.  The Corona-crisis has rendered her unemployed and this is not a good state of affairs.  Thankfully the weather is mostly nice enough to cycle every day, and exercise is a saviour.

The Creative Reinventor is doing rather better.  With the pandemic forced the early closure of his first cafe, it's also brought a new landlord who's most supportive of setting up a quirky cafe.  And the rent is rather more reasonable than the original site.  There has been much fitting and sawing and painting and discussing and we're looking at opening in July. Exciting!

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Autumn growth

The sunflowers have started to bloom and the bees are befuddled, but grateful.  Well, a bit grateful.  It appears the bees have gone feral.  The Creative Reinventor went to say hello to them the other day and was stung for his trouble.  It may have been his black t-shirt, but the consensus is they've gone feral.  Fortunately he's not allergic.

Neither reinventor can deal with this disaster.  We'll have to pay a proper apiarist to do something.  Either take the hives away and requeen.  Or just take the hives away.  The hives sit in quite a large bit of back garden that is now out of bounds. 

In other news, there are lots of green tomatoes.  Of all sizes.  There's a slim possibility, if the sunny weather holds (it won't, there's rain predicted for most of next week) that they're in a sheltered enough position to ripen.  We could, of course ripen them on a windowsill with a sacrificial banana.  Or we could make green tomato chutney.  With the rip-roaring success of the ripe tomato relish, the chutney idea is winning.

Wednesday, 29 April 2020

In which we try to avoid using any cliches to explain our potato-related activities...

It's been a nice week at Marmalade Cottage.  The Creative Reinventor's business looks like it might survive the State of Emergency, and the Practical Reinventor has been doing some freelance policy wrangling.  From the garden.

Meanwhile, we are deep in planting season.
Being as we have almost unlimited access to hessian coffee sacks, we did this:

This gives the sacks are more stable bottom. Then we rolled the sides down so they stand up like this:

Then we filled them with dirt and added some seed potatoes, thus:

While Jodie supervised.  She did, at one point curl up in the middle of the sacks for a snooze, which was very cute, but didn't want to be photographed.  Who knew kelpies were shy?

The ingenious plan is to wait for leaves to appear, cover them with more dirt, rolling the sacks up to contain this, repeat, repeat until the sacks are standing full.  The potato plants, wise to this ruse, keep growing, and at each adding of dirt, grow another layer of tubers.  You can buy commercially produced gro-sacks to do this, or make a pile of tyres.  We're using what we've got.

Friday, 24 April 2020

Optimism II

You might remember the chook pen garden?

Things have progressed.

The self-sewn tomatoes have teensy fruit on them.  They're unlikely to ripen - it simply won't be warm enough for long enough, but you have to admire the spirit of the plants.
The pumpkins are about to flower, but they're all male flowers.  Regardless, they do provide rather good protection for all the leafy greens around them.

The sunflowers, also, are unlikely to flower, but this one has an interesting mutation.

Thursday, 23 April 2020


This is a dragonfruit cutting.  It sat in its pot silently for weeks.  Then it put up a shoot.  The Practical Reinventor feels like this is her spiritual plant totem.  She's not being doing well of late.  While the  coronavirus restrictions have not helped, it's the employment market that's been the problem.  Where she'd normally have a week or two off between contracts and just enjoy the time, there have been 11 contracts withdrawn from offer.  Employers are either terribly nervous, or realise that one of the employees they've just sacked could do the job instead.  Sigh.
However, there's a short, freelance contract happening, and her mood has lifted.
Hopefully this is the first step out of the mental morass.

Thursday, 9 April 2020

There were tears

While all the fun things are put on hold, and we're all confined to quarters, there's been a lovely resurgence in the skills we used to value.  Of course this isn't all good - there's been a run on vegetable seedlings and when they ran out, seeds.  Some smaller seed companies are completely overwhelmed.  The price of laying hens has skyrocketed.  One feels a little sorry for the hens going to homes where the people know nothing about looking after them.
However, Marmalade Cottage has always grown vegetables and baked bread preserved food.

First up, onions.  The Practical Reinventor is very fond of a pickled onion, so there's no excuse for years of buying them.

It'll be about a month before we know whether they're any good.  A report then.

And this old favourite - once a winner (well, third, but still) at the Perth Royal Show.  Pineapple relish.  Which comes out looking like this:

And is fabulous with cheese.
And since the tomato lady up the road is still selling her wares by honesty box, some of these:

became these:

which got whizzed up into the most amazing tomato sauce.  They're in the freezer waiting for a day cool enough to justify lighting the pizza oven.
It's been a while between loaves, so we made some of this too:

All in all, it's been rather productive.

Monday, 6 April 2020

Desperate times

We had to finally close our little cafe last week.  It's been coming for a while, not just the corona-crisis, but the upcoming end of lease and the clear animosity of the landlords towards us.
That means four people out of work, and a significant portion of income lost.
The much-vaunted jobkeeper payment doesn't apply.  
Right now, we're focusing on surviving this crisis and working out how to rebuild when things improve.

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Autumn veg

The new bit of vegetable garden, the bit that was the chook shed is doing remarkably well.  The Practical Reinventor planted some species thoughtfully (potatoes, garlic, broadbeans) then added an array of seeds.  Firstly because a variety of plants produces a variety of scents and that helps to confuse and repel insect predators, and secondly because she likes a riot of species growing together, something like what happens in nature.
In this picture you can see rocket, sunflowers, assorted lettuces, kale, and probably a few others.

For perspective.  We did not plant those tomatoes and pumpkins.  They most likely won't fruit, but you have to admire their spirit!
And that is a pizza oven in the background.  Rescued by an associate from a former pizza oven, and (mostly) installed on the plinth we built something ridiculous like seven years ago.  It cooks magnificently, but takes a good three hours to heat up enough to be effective.  So we don't use it terribly much.

Monday, 30 March 2020

And in an aside...

The Practical Reinventor is active in a couple of community groups.  With the new social distancing regulations (are they regulations or directives, or what?  One wonders, but they do seem to be enforceable, even if they're not law as such) the groups can't meet. 
As well as not meeting, the groups can't really do much.  In Western Australia, the local councils have cancelled all bookings of public space, put closed signs on playgrounds, and the police will shout at groups of more that two people by drone.  It is most distressing.
So we've taken to zoom.  In the middle of tonight's zoom discussion about holding onto our sanity, the Creative Reinventor wanders past from the shower.  In his altogether.  Rather derailing the discussion.

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Time at home

With the coronavirus crisis limiting life, the reinventors spend considerable time at home.  It might be autumn officially, but today it is 37 degrees.  The garden is wilting.  The bees hum very slowly. 
Several weeks ago, lovely new neighbours asked us to look at our chook pen.  They'd cleaned up the back part of their yard to put in a shiny new shed.  Our chook pen was on an embarrassing lean over the boundary.
So we rehomed the chooks and tore it down.  Which immediately created about 12m2 of new veg garden space.
That's got potatoes, broadbeans, snow peas, sunflowers, rocket, and an assortment of other seeds and self-sown seedlings busily growing.
Jodie the Neurotic Kelpie is fascinated with the new smells.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Drama Queen

It's perfectly normal and healthy for chooks to moult once or twice a year.  They stop laying, lose some feathers, have a bit of a rest, grow them back and go back to laying.

Violet has to go further than everyone else.  Of four attempts to take this photo (she kept running away - do chooks feel embarrassment?) this was the best.  Makes you groan.

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Little tarts

Marmalade Cottage didn't have any citrus when the Reinventors moved in.

Now it has tangeloes

which make sublime marmalade, and grapefruit

which would make good marmalade, but the Practical Reinventor eats them all fresh.

Sunday, 5 June 2016


There's a fence somewhere under the ivy hedge at the front of Marmalade Cottage, or the remains of one.

What we didn't know was that it still had this.

Rather sweet vintage numbers.  Nailed on crookedly.
They suit the place.

Friday, 3 June 2016

Climate creep

It's winter in Perth, which means it's something like spring would be in Europe, a bit of rain, lots of gloriously sunny days and the garden has covered itself in green.

One of our local gardening celebrities has been talking about climate creep for a few years now, and it's pretty obvious what she means.  Our seasons really are changing.

Exhibit A: baby silverbeet.  I'd ordinarily expect to seem them a couple of months ago, but it was far too hot, or in a couple of months' time when it starts to warm up a bit.  But it's warm now, at the beginning of winter, and we have a carpet of these.

And roses.  We have lots of roses.  Mostly green waste collection passes Marmalade Cottage by - leaves get mulched and composted, branches dried off and used as kindling, and the chooks take care of most of the weeds.  But this year we pruned a few things quite hard in late April. 
The poor roses are blooming magnificently, but not drying off well at night as we are getting a bit of dew, so lots of them are rotting on their stems.

The pomegranate seems to know what to do.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Arranging and rearranging

This dresser (art deco, found in an op shop, painstaking stripped of multiple layers of ceiling white) has been our main piece of kitchen storage furniture since we moved in.  But it really doesn't hold a lot.

So it's been sold.  Which means it needs to be emptied and huffed and puffed out of the house.


This will form part of its replacement.  The other bit is much prettier!