31 Oct 2013

garden share collective: november


Welcome to another Garden Share Collective post and mini-tour around my vegie garden. I must tell you how much I look forward to these posts, sharing my progress and woes with you. It's especially lovely now that my garden is looking just right. Lately I have been standing in the backyard, surrounded by bees and blossoms and lush greenery; if the sun is out at the same time, it's a glorious time of the year. So it's wonderful to welcome you into my garden right now.

We have just had 'show day' (or, the opportunity for an extra-long four-day weekend for public servants like myself). Common wisdom is that you don't plant your tomatoes out til after show day, when (theoretically) the frosts are over for the year; show day itself this year was bitterly cold with a beautiful blanketing of snow on the mountain, so make of that what you will. However there seem to be some risk-takers around; Tino on Gardening Australia planted his tomatoes a few episodes ago, and about a fortnight ago, the tomato-planting fairy visited while I was at work and did this:

Yes, dad came over and planted four of the seedlings he had raised. Two are black krims, probably my favourite tomato variety; a mamma mia, a good reliable one, fingers crossed; and granny's throwing tomato, a new variety for us this year. All big hearty tomatoes, perfect for thick slabs on a summer sandwich, or on a plate with basil and mozzarella and a dribble of olive oil, or in the sauce pot for cooking. Hurry up, planties! I have plans for you!
Dad even put up plastic wrap to shield the plants from the damaging winds we've been experiencing this year; are they worse than previous springs, or have we just forgotten how ferocious they can be?
Where there's a tomato, there must be ... basil (mmmm, pesto). So a day or two later, I planted some basil seedlings (also from dad) inside the plastic with the tomatoes.

This is the big family experiment this year: growing basil in the ground, with the tomatoes. Mum and I usually grow our basil in pots, where they can catch optimum heat and sun (mum's, for example, is usually up against a brick wall to capture the reflected heat). In all, I have one, two ... seven plants dotted around the garden, but only two in a pot. So wish me luck. 
What I don't want in the garden is this intruder: stinging nettle. Can you believe it?!

It's the spiky dark green plant in the middle.
According to Jane on the Gardening Australia website, the presence of stinging nettle is a sign of rich fertile soil, so on the one hand I am chuffed, but on the other hand - literally - I did not enjoy my brush with a very very small plant, which left my skin puffy and itchy and hot. But I'm still unsure, incredulous even, about how it got here - I've never had nettle before, and it's not like I'm a dairy farm (Jane reliably informs me nettles grow amongst cow pats. Thanks Jane).
So one of show day's chores was to don my leather gloves and carefully pull it out. I then buried it in a section of the garden I'm not working yet, as a bit of green manure.
Here are my beetroot, in the growbag. Do you remember last time I was despairing that they had not germinated, and that perhaps I needed to re-sow? I did. And now all of the beetroot has germinated. There will be some thinning out required!

Below is a lovely pic of my dwarf broad beans, two generations. The first lot are only about 45 cms high; I had actually forgotten it was a dwarf variety, and was getting anxious over their stunted nature. But like normal broad beans, they are a very sturdy plant, and are already covered in those lovely white flowers with the black eyes. Broad beans for Christmas lunch?
This picture also reminds me that my struggle with the blackbirds continues. Every day I come home to find half my mulch covering plants or obscuring walkways and stepping stones. I wonder if the neighbours hear me mutter 'bloody blackbirds!' ? They are forgiven though because they are such beautiful warblers, and constant company around my garden.
Finally, here is a bunch of my PSB. The plants are nearing the end of their productive life (once done, I will pull them out and give them to mum's chooks, as they like cruciferous leaves); fat florets like this are getting rarer. This was the first time I grew PSB and it was a real success, so I shall definitely grow them again next year - and probably more than two plants. Mine is a small backyard vegie garden, with limited space, but I can make room for something so delicious, striking and productive.

To do this coming month? Really just maintenance: water, seasol, plant new generations of peas and beans and mixed lettuce. My garden space is pretty much taken up now, except for a couple of rows saved for those later plantings of peas and beans.
But most important thing to do: enjoy the garden.
Don't forget to see others in the Garden Share. Click on the logo in the column at right to find more green thumbs.

25 Oct 2013

on stationery

I have a stationery obsession, which is not surprising, as I am an editor; it's a recognised occupational hazard. I can't work with those standard pale yellow post-its; mine have to be vibrant colours, or sprigged with quirky prints or stamped with ironic sayings, or cut into impractical shapes.

Visiting M in Melbourne exposes me to many more retail opportunities to indulge my habit. I overdose at Kikki K, hyperventilate at the art gallery shop, and go into a blind haze of euphoria at those glorious independent stationery boutiques, especially the ones that evoke bygone European eras.  Beautifully designed notepads, cards, to do lists - I cannot and do not resist, and have the boxes and drawers full to prove it.

My latest tick is washi tape (as seen in the first photo). I don't do craft, which I believe is its primary purpose, but I do label bags of produce in the fridge:

Isn't that better? I have four rolls - now. I'm sure I'll acquire more.

Stationery fetishes can be adapted to the kitchen, as you can see. Another case in point: cupcake papers. A few years ago when cupcakes were at the height of their delirium, you needed cupcake papers, and not plain white ones, no! They need to be metallically elegant, beautifully baroque, retro-kitsch, or florally romantic. They need to be anything but plain.

One visit to M, I lost my head and came back with hundreds of the things - it was a bit of a joke by the end of my visit - but that quantity is not hard to achieve when they come in a pack of 50 (you do the maths). To ease any guilt, I split the packs with mum.

It's a shame sometimes to throw them away once you've eaten the cake, and I do get sad when a particularly lovely design is finished. But then, that's life for a cupcake paper. Use it once; that's it.

Writing lists - be it the weekend to do list or the grocery list - is never done on the back of a recycled envelope in my house. Not when there are specialist tools available!

Something like this makes walking around the grocery aisles and picking up toilet paper and rolled oats almost a joy. And what did William Morris say about making the beautiful practical, and the practical beautiful? There you go, his words of wisdom proven by a shopping list. Though I'm not sure that is what he had in mind.

Now, having moved on from the buzz of cupcakes papers and having enough post-its to last a very long time, I seem to have settled into paper napkins.

Yes, I'm aware some of these packets are still unopened... Pretty printed things; mostly, I noticed when taking this photo, I'm veering towards kitchenalia or colourful florals, some so delicately sweet they are almost perfumed. There's a design for every mood, meal and cup of tea. All to be used for wiping your hands and mouth, then crumpled up and thrown away. I'm sure they can't even be recycled once they have foodstuff on them.

And here is the quandary, the delicious little pickle that any fellow stationery obsessive will recognise: a beautiful shopping list, lovely napkin or just plain pretty stretch of tape is a thing of joy, but such a fleeting, impermanent one. To use it and bring colour and quirk to the most ordinary of daily tasks is such stationery's purpose in life. It is not meant to be forever. Use it up and you'll run out and never see it again. You could stockpile it and lock it away, but that negates the reason you got it; it's not the good crystal or heirloom silver, afterall. Or you could use cloth napkins, but you'd be using the same ones over and over, risking familiarity and boredom; plus you'd have to launder and iron them, and that's work. Or you could use an app on your smart-thingy, but would that elicit the same feeling as crossing off accomplishments from a colourful, well-designed piece of paper?

15 Oct 2013

vegie slice

My al desko lunch

My first vegie slice in months, and the perfect lunch solution in so many ways.

First and foremost, it's easy to make when I come home from a weekend at mum and dad's - when I'm unpacking bags of mulch, bunches of flowers, icecream containers of seedlings, maybe a carton of eggs and a cooler bag of carrots and pumpkin.

A vegie slice is forgiving, and will usually gladly help you clean out your fridge of those neglected ingredients. Like the chunks of pumpkin I roasted with garlic and fresh garden sage, ready for a midweek tangle of spaghetti, but ... I forgot about.

Finally, a vegie slice is a wonderful way to pack lots of nutritious vegies into one convenient dish. Four vegies should be a minimum, don't you think? This one had those still-bright-orange pumpkin chunks (one), some diced red capsicum (two), a finely chopped onion (does a basic like onion count?), some corn kernels from the depths of mum's freezer (three. Or four), and finally - silverbeet. Lots and lots of verdant silverbeet, whizzed up in my food processor (complete with tender stalks) to produce a juicy green mulch. Okay, so it looked a little like lawn clippings. But look at the colour in the pic above! I was very pleased with the greeny-greeness produced by whizzing it up so finely.

So there's my lunch for this week, a delicious mix of fresh and salvaged vege, held together with a slurp of milk, sour cream and six little bantam eggs, and topped with some crunchy panko crumbs.

What are you having for lunch this week?

6 Oct 2013

spring garden ramble


I thought as we were poking about the vegie garden, you might like to have a look at the rest of my garden? Because spring has arrived - save the occassional frosty cold snap - and colour is re-emerging in my garden.

Actually let's stay in the back yard for a moment and admire my banksia rose, climbing over the back fence and gradually providing a screen from the neighbours and a magical sense of enclosure:

It's glorious right now, its lemony yellow blossoms a lovely backdrop to the vegie patch. I actually do not like yellow flowers (they remind me too much of weeds), but these delicate clouds are more than acceptable.

Closer to these house are these coral-red kalanchoes. They too go dormant over the winter but are really starting to glow right now. The spot I have this and another pot hanging from catches the late afternoon sun, which seems to make them really happy - this is the lushest this pot of colour has ever been. The other pot is hanging over a clump of pale lilac bluebells, and the contrast is delightful - and it reminds me of just how much I love and need colour, no matter what combination (for work this week I was required to wear a black shirt, which sucked the life out of me and made me feel drab and depressed. On Friday I rebelled and wore my hot pink cardigan with multi-coloured sequined spots and my brightest pink lipstick, and instantly felt like me again).

Before we head up to the front, let's detour inside and have a look at my potted orchids. They are on the kitchen table at the moment while I'm waiting for some roofing renovations to occur, but a benefit of this indoor hiatus is seeing their soft pastel prettiness everytime I go into the kitchen. I am smugly pleased to report that my orchids are apparently lusher than mum's; I don't get to claim those victories often!

So back outside and into the front. I try to accept that my garden is like an English garden over winter - it just shuts down. There is only so much green I can look at, so I am always happy when everything starts to pop back to life and wave its colourful vibrant flags. Dark pink boronia (with its heady fragrance), variegated pinks of the weigela tree, the desert-hot red and look-at-me orange of various gazanias, lush velvety reds of wallflowers, the pinks and lilacs and corals of the pelagoniums and stocks and sweet williams and ornamental kale and other pretties.

There is still much to happen - I'm waiting patiently for my two young lilac trees to reveal themselves fully, and the various penstamon cuttings show no sign yet of doing anything colourful. The petunia and lobelia seedlings are steadily growing, but are still a few weeks off buds and blooms. The next couple of months hold such promise.