Friday, July 31, 2015

Whole Orange Cake

This recipe is from one of my gardening friends, Lou, in 2007. I more recently made this to share at the Cygnet Community Garden on my birthday 2015.

Gluten free, dairy free

Place into a large bowl and fold together:

1 cup coarsely ground almonds

2 oranges - blended to a paste

5 eggs and 1 cup sugar - beaten until thick

1 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup rice flour

Pour into a greased and lined 23cm tin

Bake 45mins at 180, even if it looks done before.

Meanwhile make syrup:

Boil together for 3 minutes: 1/2 cup sugar, a teaspoon of grated, fresh ginger and the rind and juice of 2 oranges

When cool enough to handle remove cake from tin and place onto serving dish. Prick all over and pour over warm syrup.

Serve with lashings of yoghurt.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Fast and Slow; writing and typing, gardening and thinking…

It is so frustrating, to say the least, this whole facebook thing. I love writing and I have loved reading people’s blogs for years but now we seem to be losing our blogger community because more and more people, including myself, are following others on facebook, where everyone shares what a few write, instead of everyone writing. It is like civilisation in general; slow and thoughtful is losing ground to fast and mindless. Reading a whole article has given way to “liking” a few words on a poster or a photo.

Several readers of my local newspaper gardening column have commented that they liked this month’s piece. In it I urged all winter gardeners to…..

Relax… enjoy crunchy morning frosts as you head out to feed the chooks, the cloud sitting low across the hills and mountains, the quiet, silver waterways with their boat reflections, steamy café windows, early darkness meaning time to cook, time to enjoy company by the fire and time to read, to blog and indulge your mind.

So here I am, in bed at 6am, writing, before the sun is up to interrupt my thoughts. I have a friend who achieves more in her day than I do in a week. I seem to spend quite a bit of time leaning on my spade, so to speak, thinking. Facebook is wonderful at stretching your boundaries, offering new and exciting areas of life, science and the garden from near and far. These snippets follow me around and make me think but often mean I am not focused on what I should be doing.

It is quite ironic, this conundrum; that the fast scrolling of facebook that stimulates my mind, slows the rest of my brain and consequently I get less done. Does it matter? I love learning of new things; of all the things I enjoy, new ideas and their possibilities would probably be leader of the pack. I imagine a future when everyone embraces sustainable living and new ways of running the economy, the country, the world, that benefits humanity and the earth as a whole and is not so self-indulgent as the current system.

Grammar is tricky…. theoretically that last sentence should read….I imagine a future when everyone embraces sustainable living and new ways of running the economy, the country, the world, that benefit humanity and the earth as a whole and are not so self-indulgent as the current system. But I think there will be new ways but only one system, in the end, that takes the place of the current one so I kept the singular. There is a facebook page I like called “Grammarly” where such things are discussed.

Grammar is going the way of handwriting skills; into history. Both are necessary for communication in any era, I think. Why handwriting, you ask? Well, learning to write with a pencil brings art to the written word and is a wonderful extra means of expression. It is like a scented garden compared to a visual-only one. I look forward to the day when I can write here, instead of type, and we can know a little more of the person than just their words. Then we’d see our crossing outs, vocabulary alterations and how our handwriting changes with age, seasons, time of day, available light etc. It seems that these days the main writing I do is shopping lists, sums in my shop and notes to remind me to do things like hang out the washing, turn off the sprinkler etc.

Our Cygnet Community Garden group has taken over the recipe blog I started for a previous group in Adelaide. There we are going to put the recipes for the delicious things people cook for our shared lunch after the work on Thursdays, at the community garden. It is called Gardeners’ Gastronomy.

It is cold this morning and my hands are telling me it is time to get up and move, go out by the fire and warm up. I will stand, check the various containers on my mantle-piece, full of sprouts and ferments, and think a little, before launching into my day. No-one much will read this, even though it gets posted to my facebook page, because it has no photos to capture an audience.

Friday, May 8, 2015

What has happened to our expectations to grow food?

Every day at the moment governments are making announcements about budgets, taxes, welfare, childcare, big and small business incentives, superannuation, mental health, hospital spending etc etc but never, ever do they broach the subject of self-sufficiency or self-reliance as goals for Australians. It is politically incorrect to expect people to get out and grow their food, join a community garden and become skilled in relying on themselves. However, the simple act of doing this would, to a large extent, overcome many of our national woes.

I enjoy learning about the ancient and more recent history of civilisations and their foods. Up until almost the 21st century, almost every person on earth either grew some food or had relatives that did. Stop and think about that for a moment….. your parents and / or grandparents no doubt fitted this statement and had vegetable gardens and fruit trees in the back yard. In only one or 2 generations people have started to rely on others, unknown and as far away as the other side of the world, to provide nourishment for their families. At the same time, there has been a huge increase in obesity, depression, stress-related, chemical-residue related  and diet-related illnesses.

Interestingly, growing food has become a middle-class activity, seen as something you do in your spare time, after you have bought all the accoutrements that modern-day food gardeners seem to “need” such as raised garden beds and soil (as though the soil in the ground is not good enough these days!).

I am reading a wonderful book, given to me by my fabulous neighbour, Jilly, who recently blew in, in full wet weather gear, in the midst of the coldest and wettest day this year. We sat by the fire and talked for 2 hours, sharing interesting snippets about books, gardening and life. We seem to get together only about once a year but Jilly’s amazing knowledge of plants, history and everything in between keep me inspired until our next coffee. I now look at the old lino pattern on my kitchen floor as steeped in history, instead of annoying!

The book is called “The Nature of Gardens” and is a collection of essays brought together by Peter Timms. It sounds dry and just another intellectual, middle class look at garden design etc but I assure you it is not. I recommend it to anyone who has read this far through this blog piece!!


The first essay and my mother’s stories of life during The Depression have brought me to my laptop to write about the recent past’s expectation that you grew as much as you could and the poorer you were, the more you grew. If your job was not well paid or not permanent, you at least knew your family was going to eat well. This essay points out the interesting fact that when workers in the mines and in the coal and steel industries went on strike in Newcastle, NSW it was prolonged affair and they would not relent. This was possible because these same men all had food gardens so, even with no income, their families ate well. In fact, the free time afforded them because of the strikes meant that jobs in the garden and around the house could be done, and vegetable gardens better tended than usual. This is called resilience and is sorely lacking today.


If I had one day to rule this country, I would insist that welfare would include assistance for you to learn to grow food and even an insistence that you join a community garden where you would gain not just hands-on know how but broaden your social circle and gain a sense of community and self resilience. I know from experience how beneficial food gardening with others is to every single person who joins a community garden. But I also know that insisting people do something is not the best way to get them to do it! People who are transient and those who have short or long term rental are given a place to base themselves by belonging to a community garden. Once you get into a community garden then, even if you move, you take with you the confidence to find another, wherever you go. It is like having an extended family; always there and ready to nourish your body and soul.


At the Cygnet Community Garden we donate fresh vegetables weekly to the Uniting Care Food Aid in the same street as the community garden but I want to offer to walk with the recipients, one at a time, to the community garden and invite them, quietly and without preaching to them, to come along. This is my new goal….. if you have any helpful ideas of how to make this small gesture work please feel free to share them with me.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

It’s raining, it’s pouring, this old girl is…..

I have been waiting for a rainy day, for weeks, so that I can stay inside and deal with the autumn abundance. As much as I love being in the garden, there’s nothing that makes me happier than a day in the kitchen but I cannot bear to be inside if the weather is fine!

The morning was misty, with clouds hanging on the hills, as we rowed and chatted and enjoyed the simple pleasure of being on the water in a beautiful rowing boat we helped to build. I never cease to be thankful for the day I found my home and moved to Cygnet, literally at the bottom of the world.

The minute we finished our rowing, it started to pour with rain. As usual we headed to The Lotus Eaters’ Cafe for coffee after which we all headed back to our various homes. I skipped in through the door singing with joy at finally having nothing better to do than cook and preserve and steep and brew and ferment.

Not a bad effort for one afternoon…. but I have lots of apples to box up for storage and plums to stew yet! I hope it rains solidly again soon!

Carrot and ginger pickle begins its fermenting after a kg of carrots, a large knob of ginger and a tablespoon of salt (collected at a salt pan near the Coorong) have been pounded to release the juices.
I add a bit of the liquid from a previous batch of fermented radishes, to the carrots.
Then I start hand grinding 1/2 kg sprouted spelt, to make bread
imageI think of it as upper body exercise as I use right arm, then left, then stand one way then another!
Periodic rests are important so that the stones don’t overheat the grains.
Meanwhile I make a marinade for some pork (from a friend) I have decided to roast for dinner on this chilly afternoon. I LOVE Tommy German mustard…. so flavoursome.
I love the view from my kitchen window. The milk from these cows can be bought at the local butcher, who lives just out of view of this photo.
Next it is time to start dealing with some of the quinces. These first, barely ripe ones, with plenty of pectin, are destined to be quince paste.
A box of radishes on my doorstep, from a neighbour,  means I need to do more pickling!
imageHalf a kg of blackcurrants from the community garden and 10 blackcurrant leaves + a bit of
sugar, covered in a bottle of Brandy will make cassis for sipping by the fire over winter.
imageI bought a huge, organic celery from the market, removed some babies from the sides, put them in water for a couple of weeks and now they are ready to plant out.

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Pears, Eggs, Mulch and more

I love cool days; I can get so much done. I love where I live; it is rarely brown and dry and the creek through my garden mostly trickles and tinkles all summer long.

I had a problem with my mulcher this morning so, while I thought about how to fix it I took to the lawn mower…. then I had a bright idea, which worked and I felt very pleased with myself as the mulcher once again roared into action.

After I had reduced the whole pile of sticks and prunings to a nice heap of mulch to spread on my paths, I decided to continue my fix-it session and move the latch on the chook yard gate to a more ergonomic place. I also took out a large, spiral steel rod I have and, over and over again, screwed it into the compacted stuff in the cut-off rain water tank where I throw garden waste for the chooks. That is very satisfying as, when I pull it up, it loosens up the lovely composted waste below and puts it on top of the new stuff. The chooks have been in there with their bottoms up and beaks down, ever since, finding all the grubs and worms that have made it home since I last aerated it.

On my way inside for lunch I collected eggs, picked another armful of pears and dug up a huge, self-sown parsnip that had grown up through the debris that I had mulched. I have never had one that big in my garden before. What a great morning.

I will have been here 5 years on March 10th…. and only now am I ready to make some changes to some parts of my garden. Up until now most of it has stayed more or less the same, except the makeover I did early on to make a vegetable garden, herb garden and chook area.

After lunch my brush-cutter and I make short work of slashing the retched grass that is the curse of the Tasmanian gardener as it grows a mile a minute and forms thick clumps with hundreds of small nodules that are impossible to eliminate, if you leave it for even a few weeks. At least slashing it makes it look nice for a while!

All today’s work has been in one area; a particularly secluded spot which gets full winter sun and very little wind…. and up until now has been entirely ornamental. This was such a pretty, shady, ferny area when I came here but a couple of years ago the beautiful willow tree fell into the creek, removing all the shade. At first I was horrified and it became unkempt and ugly until I realised not what I had lost but what I had gained.

Oh lalala wait until you see what I have in mind to make it a key part of my food garden! What I discovered as I removed a temporary, chicken wire fence I constructed to let the chooks in to dig it over but to keep them from wandering further, involved tall, lush grass tangled in the whole length of the bottom of the fence…. and that the soil there, at the bottom of the slope, was fabulous. I know only too well how dry and barren the soil is just a few metres further up the slope…. so…. brain ticks…. terrace it along the contours…. with straw bales of which I have plenty…. like the slope of my vegetable garden in Adelaide.

The reason I need more food garden is that the oak tree near the chook yard has roots that have crept into some beds of my irrigated vegetable garden, turning them to dry dust, no matter how much compost and water I add. So I will have to think about what to do there…. maybe a few big pots…. or something!

Sadly there are no before and after photos to brighten up this monologue!




I love lacto-fermented vegetables…. Here is a jar of radishes well on their way and a jar of zucchini pieces and fennel seeds being made.






What a wonderful group of people come to the Cygnet Community Garden on Thursdays. I especially like the food each of them brings to share at the end of the gardening session!

Monday, February 16, 2015

It is darn easy being green, you know.

It’s a funny thing but I never cease to be surprised and delighted by self-sown vegetables popping up just at the time when I am thinking I really must sow some. Today I weeded an unruly and neglected patch, leaving various things that are setting seeds. I long for an empty bed to rake to a fine tilth and sow with nice neat rows of something, like I see on TV, but I never get one because of all the things I let go to seed and the things I see germinating. At the community garden, however, I am a bit more ruthless!

It is quite windy lately and pleasantly warm so I sprinkled a fine layer of mulch over the weeded area, after thoroughly wetting the soil and adding some blood and bone, just to help along the tiny red cabbage and leek seedlings emerging here and there. I expect lettuce will appear soon and maybe some kind of Asian leafy green; frilly mustard I hope.

In September I planted out some garlic that I bought from a local market gardener who told me that this hard neck garlic, planted late like this, is what keeps him in garlic for months after the rest have finished. Well they are still growing well and I am eating the scapes some of them have produced. I look forward to multiplying this variety to more than the 6 cloves I managed to plant last September.


This is the first time the nashi and the Bramley have produced fruit and what a picture they are!  I love an espalier because they are so easy to maintain and pick and look so gorgeous. The nashi are a lovely yellow colour, very juicy and a nice change from all the soft fruits this time of the year.

The Bramley is an enormous apple which turns to a delicious mush inside, when baked whole (as I did tonight). I can only eat half of one at a time! These photos are deceiving!


What a lovely day in the garden and another tomorrow, I hope.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Paleo was great 100,000 years ago but…..

Home grown kale, home-smoked trout and an egg.

It is interesting how popular the Paleo diet has become recently. Based on the idea of our gut being attuned to eating the diet of the hunters and gatherers in early human history, it embraces meat and vegetables whilst restricting certain fruits and omitting dairy and grains. In theory this seems a plausible, natural way for many to regain the health they have lost due to over-consumption of modern, processed foods.

However, meat today is a far cry from the meat of our early ancestors, where all animals were wild and diversity of the diet would have included everything from lizards and small mammals to kangaroos (in Australia) and deer etc. Fossicking and fishing in pristine waters would have brought shellfish, crabs, cockles and wild fish, all free from heavy metals and other contaminants.

All parts of the animals were eaten and nothing wasted as who knew when the next animal would be caught. Organs, brains flesh would be shared with the tribe; your share being determined by status, age and sex. Never would there have been unlimited amounts of meat and never would you have eaten one cut of one animal, over and over, for years, as people seem to do today with steak or chicken breast or fillets of a favourite fish. Bones were made into broths, the marrow being prized for its rich mineral content.

Vegetables and fruit were foraged and therefore always seasonal. Plant food was not always abundant but it was always organic, fresh, natural and not bred for high yield or anything else. Grains and seeds were picked by hand from fields of diversity, not by mechanical harvesters on super-farms stretching as far as the eye can see. Thus they were also seasonal and vastly reduced in abundance compared to today.

It is impossible and ridiculous to think that anyone could regain that diet. Our seas and air and soil are degrading faster than ever. Supermarket meat is factory grown and processed, very limited in range and not seasonal. Rarely do people eat organs or make real broths or venture outside their favourite cuts of meat. Show me where to buy lizards and snakes and other wild animals!

Vegetables, even wonderful, organic, home grown ones, are produced from seeds developed after hundreds of years of selecting varieties for shape, size, colour or taste but never for nutrient value or for wildness. And they are far better than those filled with chemicals which people are eating on a Paleo diet, thinking they are copying their wild ancestors.

Food is abundant and most people have no idea of its seasonality or how hard it would be to eat only what you can gather from the wild. There would certainly be no obesity if you only ate what you grew or foraged; the exercise of growing and collecting it would see to that!

Home grown lunch... Freshly picked salad + wild greens dip

My philosophy is to eat local, seasonal food and eat as much diversity as I can without overeating anything. I eat no fresh food at all from a supermarket. I either grow it or buy it from someone who does. I eat a huge diversity of home grown vegetables. I eat wallaby killed nearby and meat raised by friends and I eat all parts of the animal. I eat local fish and shellfish but, surprisingly for an island, it is hard to get fish from a fisherman….. it all goes to restaurants and to other parts of the world because of Tasmania’s clean, green image. I eat organic, Australian-grown grains and seeds but I eat them irregularly, unprocessed and in small amounts, trying to use as many different grains and seeds as I can. I ferment a lot of stuff, including milk (in its most original state). I eat cheeses cut from a round and never ever processed cheese in blocks. I grow and eat a lot of sprouts; red and green lentils, chickpeas, fenugreek and mung beans are my favourites.

(Wild weeds and leaves pesto dip recipe… as in photo above.)

Hugh and Hugsli at the Showgrounds Farmers Market, AdelaideMy big food-mile weaknesses are organic bananas and the odd mango from Queensland, coffee from East Timor, certain cheeses from France and Pellegrino mineral water from Italy (even though mineral water is produced here in Cygnet!). I also love treats from son Hugh, of Hughsli, in Adelaide whose mueslis, chocolates, carrot kasundi, crème brulee, sprouted dips and everything else are made with his local farmers market ingredients and with a passion for the seasonal, local and best quality.

Life is good. It can never be like it was 100,000 years ago or most of us would have died by now. Eat less, think long and deep and don’t be swayed from a healthy lifestyle because of fads.




Rowing our skiff, The Swan, to Hobart in the Parade of Sails at The Wooden Boat Festival recently…. what a wonderful day and wonderful way to stay healthy and happy!