Kitchen Garden Guides

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Juicing the garden

Helen came for lunch. It was great to see her again. I made avocado and ginger pasta, we picked herbs and a big bowl of green salad and had a good chat. After a walk around the garden we had coffee and baked lemon ricotta cheesecake. So..... what to have for dinner after all that.... maybe more of the never-ending leftover soup? Oh god, not again! Maybe a stir fry? I just couldn't get enthused about that either.

image I was standing at the sink, doing the washing up and I thought..... juice..... I feel like juice. I had a few of my Lady in the Snow 'seconds' apples that were going soft in a bucket in the laundry, I have tall, thin celery in my glasshouse, lots of densely packed carrots still in the ground in the chook yard and a beetroot and piece of fresh ginger in the fridge. Perfect... except of course it was dark and drizzling outside! But I took my basket and a torch and headed out to collect dinner.

I came back refreshed and ready to juice the garden.

First I always juice the ginger because, otherwise, the juice gets caught up in the other pulps and the flavour is somewhat diluted. Then in went a few apples, carrots and celery stalks and leaves. At this point the juice was a bit of an unappetizing colour but once I had added 1/2 a beetroot, it turned a deep, deep red. I said "Wow, look at that, Pickle!" but as usual he was asleep, upside down, in his box! I continued on until I had juiced enough to keep some for tomorrow.

image imagePouring the finished product into a glass produced a gorgeous pink froth. The flavour .... oh lalalala..... the perfect mix of sharp ginger, super sweet apples and carrots then the deep earthiness of the beetroot and finally the punch of celery leaves. Is there anything that could make you feel any better than drinking that?

Oh.... I forgot to keep some; in the end I drank it all! Well I wouldn't want to get hungry in the middle of the night and get up to have a piece of lemon ricotta cheesecake, now would I??

Friday, July 30, 2010

Using coffee grounds in compost etc


Coffee Grounds and Composting

Many folks are interested to know if and how they can use coffee grounds in their compost. Hopefully this will help answer some of those questions. The info here is just a few of the basic points. Many of the Soil forum regulars use large amounts of coffee grounds in their composting. Any specific questions you may have can usually be answered by posting a new thread on the boards.

  • First of all coffee grounds are a very good addition to your composting efforts. They would be considered a "green" or nitrogen source. C/N ratio about 20:1.

    While it is widely thought that they are acidic it has been shown that most of this acidity is removed in the brewing process. Used grounds are essentialy neutral and composting them with other materials will buffer any minor residual acidity.

    One of the forum regulars with a scientific background did some controlled chemistry experiments on the acidity question and this is what he had to say:

    "Roasted coffee is fairly acidic, but it appears that almost all of the acid is water soluble and is extracted during brewing. Used grounds have essentially neutral pH, although the coffee beverage produced is rather acidic.

    The measured pH of used coffee grounds was 6.9, with a significant amount of buffer capacity - adding the coffee to either acidic or basic solutions drove both towards neutral pH. The exact pH of used grounds will depend on the pH and alkalinity of the water used in brewing, but with any potable water, used grounds will be close to neutral pH."

  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that worms are very attracted to them so you can feel free to use them in vermiposting (worm bin) situations if you desire.
  • It is also widely held that placing coffee grounds under acid loving plants is beneficial. But as the evidence has shown, this may just be a myth since the spent grounds are neutral. You can do it or not as you wish. At best it is a good soil conditioner and will feed the worm population. If you do place grounds in this way be sure to incorporate them well into the soil.
  • The amount of grounds you would want to add to a compost pile is dependent on how many you may have available to you. If you were just using the amount that an average household might generate you should have no concerns. But some of you may have access to larger volumes and in that case you should limit the percentage to no more than 25% of the volume of the pile.
  • There are many sources for grounds. Place a can by the office coffee machine and collect those. If you make a daily stop at a diner or donut shop for your morning fix they may save their grounds for you if you leave them an empty container of some sort. You can get a simple 5 gal bucket with a lid for very little or even free in some cases. Get two and just swap them out daily.The paper filters are also easily digested by decomposer organisms so you needn't bother to remove them.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Isn't organic supposed to mean healthy?




The new Yoyo Bakery in Cygnet has some extraordinarily exquisite pastries, like this poppy seed scroll.... crisp, buttery, oh lalalala ..... divine.








But..... my lemon tart drizzled with a raspberry coulis and served warm with a splodge  of yoghurt ..... compares rather favourably. .... and improves daily..... for at least 5 days, which probably cannot be said for the scroll!!






Pickle obviously ate far too much..... and slept all afternoon.


You can find the recipe for the lemon tart here.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Death of a Blackwood

from Tasmania Times

Bob Hawkins
27.07.10 1:36 am

Image for Death of a blackwood

Cygnet people who care about the image of their township were sort of resigned to the idea that the big blackwood at the junction of Mary and Charlton streets was doomed: it was on the “footprint” of the roundabout that was to be built (with the blessing of Huon Valley Council and the approval of DIER) to accommodate the new 26-lot subdivision on the western side of Mary Street — so it had to go.

Nevertheless, it was still a shock for them to see it meet its fate on Monday morning — and the way in which its demise was executed. It wasn’t exactly a dawn demolition — a sly tactic the council used early last year in defiance of hugely burgeoning support in Franklin for its mid-20th century football club building — but it was no less shocking. In no time at all, seemingly with not a care for workplace-safety regulations, two bareheaded young men, with the help of an excavator, soon had the lovely old tree on the ground. Its branches were ripped off and the trunk was carted away.

Will its timbers find the caring hands of a woodworker, to become, perhaps, lovely kitchens, even for the houses that may be built on the Mary Street subdivision? Unlikely. The responsibility for felling the tree presumably rested with the subdivision developer, but the method of its destruction was typical of the civic philistinism that is characteristic of the Huon Valley Council.

In the pictures, you can see, to the right of the blackwood, a tall eucalypt that many members of the Cygnet community are still hoping can be saved. However, already — despite the fact that it stands on “public open space” — the ground around it has been invaded by the developer’s heavy machinery. Such action has hardly helped the health of the tree.

Locals see the eucalypt — and would have seen the blackwood — as at least some sort of barrier to the hideousness of a “suburban” style subdivision that will scar the hillside for years to come at the southern end of the township’s main commercial area. (Greater Cygnet is already littered with slow-selling subdivisions. Rarely do people go real estate hunting in Cygnet for tiny blocks or brick-veneer ugliness.)

Collision course: the eucalypt is to the right of the doomed blackwood

Who cares? The blackwood has been pushed over by the excavator onto the eucalypt that the council has promised to retain if the arborist judges it to be healthy. A branch of the eucalypt was broken and foliage was damaged by the falling blackwood. Its future, too, looks bleak.

Council, under pressure from Cygnet Township Development Committee member Pat Synge, has commissioned an assessment of the eucalypt by an independent arborist (who is believed to be associated with the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens). Synge has also got an assurance from council that if the tree is declared healthy it will be retained.

If the eucalypt gets the arborist’s OK — and it manages to survive the onslaught of the developer’s machinery, the fact that the blackwood was pushed over onto it (breaking branches), and the construction of the roundabout and the rollover kerbing that is to run alongside it — it will provide at least a part-barrier between visitors approaching the township from the south and a subdivision that Cygnet needs like the proverbial hole in the head. (I’m wondering if there may even be a hole in its bole by now.)

Cygnet is a beautiful little town with lovely buildings that warrant a declaration of the whole of its heartland as a heritage-protected area. But, bit by bit — because it is governed by a council that imposes no building standards that are even remotely empathetic with the remnant evidence of the municipality’s long colonial history — it is starting to look as ravaged by unsightly developments as towns such as Blackmans Bay, Huonville, Margate and Kingston.

I hear a rumour we are soon going to get a $150,000 replacement public toilet in the heart of Cygnet. I doubt that will reflect much empathy with its surrounds and hope the rumour isn’t true. Cygnet’s public toilet, though badly positioned, is perfectly adequate — yet so basic it is capable of resisting the worst efforts of the vandals Mayor Robert Armstrong keeps telling us are at large. He’s right on that count if the state of the streetscape “lollipop” trees are anything to go by.

In the meantime, the people of Cygnet are at the beginning a half-century wait for saplings the council promises are be planted, presumably to do the job of the two trees in the picture.

With a bit of creative thinking and a sense of the aesthetic on the part of the council, a far better outcome could have been achieved with this subdivision. But aesthetics, conservation, environment, harmony? The seven men that make up the council’s controlling Huon Valley Team seem not to know the meaning of such words.

— Bob Hawkins is a Huon Valley ratepayer and an advocate for transparency in all democratic institutions. He is not a member of a political organisation.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Where are the leaders?

I was just reading something that Gavin (The Greening of Gavin) wrote on Simple, Green and Frugal and it made me realise something; something so obvious it seems stupid to even comment on it..... that we are each not on a single journey but everyone is part of the journey of everyone else.

But, it is only when you step outside, when you trip on your path, when you notice a seed germinating or a flower opening, for the first time, that you have the chance to shift your journey, to blend it with others, to grasp a thread of the web. Often, people are in such a rut that they do not ever see beyond their narrow, dusty path and develop the skin and outlook of a dinosaur to protect themselves from reality.

This is why we need true leaders; people to make waves (and policies) which change people's journeys for them, giving them no choice, because we all have a vast web joining our journeys and we can only stretch this way and that so far, before the web becomes unravelled. Sadly, for some reason, leadership these days is often confused with making money, not waves. We cannot, it seems, change those policies which will take us all along an unknown path, even if we all know that the old path ends with a cliff we must climb eventually, because big business might not be able to keep up and where would we all be without it?

Did you know 20,000kg of butter was exported from New Zealand to Australia last year? And 20,000kg butter was exported from Australia to New Zealand!! But this cannot be stopped because it provides jobs and looks good on graphs. The Chinese are buying up Tasmanian farms at an alarming rate but this cannot be stopped because it is good for the real estate industry and helps the farmers. Why is this happening? Because the farms used to be major vegetable suppliers to companies such as McCains and Coles supermarkets and even McDonalds but now the farms lie in waste because vegetables are shipped in from China, giving the Chinese money to buy up Australia!

Our journeys are all entwined..... yours, mine, 2 billion Chinese people, nearly 2 billion Indian people, hundreds of millions of Americans, British, African, Asian, Russian, South American, Middle Eastern, 22 million Australian, including the 800 residents of Cygnet, and the 500,00 other Tasmanians. There is not one true leader amongst the heads of any of these countries...  that I know of.... and that is very, very scary to me.

I am not scared of change, but I am terrified by the lack of it, when it is so necessary. I rise to challenges and have ideas for change bursting out of my head every day. I can grow nearly all my food. I can walk nearly everywhere I need to go. I can influence and help people I meet to face these changes BUT I cannot find a single world leader to admire and look up to; one who is embracing change for the opportunities it gives for new ways of doing things. So it comes down to us all to make the waves and force the change, or risk our web being destroyed and our 6 billion journeys converging at the bottom of a very big cliff.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Berries, apples, dill, beans, onions and tomatoes with cake and coffee!

Or..... 2 days in the life of a woman in paradise!

If you are wondering what has happened to the sense of community wherever it is you live, then I am telling you it has all converged on Cygnet.

On Thursdays, people are invited (by a sign on the fence) to come by and help with the permaculture food forest which is using funding from the Green Gym movement as a base. It started soon after I got here and I have been coming every week since..... that's about 4 months now.

Here's a typical scenario..... some regular type people turn up with or without tools/ children/ dogs/ friends. Celia used to be in charge but now we all kind of do what we think seems like a good idea. There's a lot of chatter, laughter and a bit of discussion as we set to and turn the compost/ weed the broad beans/ dig up the hundreds of bulbs that seem to have sprung up in every path/ sow sweet peas around the cubby house/ pat and chat with various dogs and children and sometimes even their owners/ talk about who might have brought a cake or not, to go with the tea on Liz's verandah, at the end..... etc

So, we are all into our morning when along comes a visitor..... this Thursday it was Chris. He is the local apple tree man and what he doesn't know about apples and their growing, is not worth knowing. He brought some spare apple trees he had, to donate to the garden ..... some a bit tall and lanky and some quite odd shapes but all capable of producing a great crop, with a bit of good pruning.

Pretty soon about a dozen of us were gathered around as he began an impromptu pruning lesson on the new trees but also on the established trees in various parts of the garden. Next it was grafting and feeding..... until my head overflowed with information!

In the middle of all this excitement, an elderly woman had parked her gopher by the gate and was coming towards Liz and I..... her name is Janice and she nearly bought my house about 8 years ago but instead bought one 2 doors up! She had come to offer us all kinds of berry canes and cuttings and plants and seeds..... but she also wanted to listen to Chris the apple man so in she came to join the group. Next week some of us, now including Janice, are going up to Chris's to buy some of these very cheap, left over fruit trees.... So the connections are made..... I wonder who will come by next Thursday. (Stupidly I didn't take my camera but next week I will put on some photos of the progress we have made).



Friday, 10am.... a different dozen people have arrived at Frances' house for our second Home Gardeners get together. A breath-takingly beautiful 15 minute coastal drive from Cygnet is Charlotte Cove..... paradise.





I almost dare not put this on this blog because whatever meaning it is you are seeking in life, you will find it here.... warmth, sunshine, total quiet but for the gently lapping sea.... and neighbours who give to new residents a set of animal-proof frames for your vegetable garden, (see the photo) as a welcome gift.... knowing that, of course, this is part of why you have come, and that wallabies, rabbits and possums will be waiting....

Frances inspired us all with what she is achieving and how she is making the most of every single square metre of soil and sun in the most sensitive of ways.... growing vegetables, natives, fruit and flowers. I think I have found a kindred spirit. It was difficult to get good photos and I am sad I could not do better but hopefully there will be a next time!

image We sat around a table laden with goodies made by all the guests and each of us talked in turn about our gardens, about what we had brought in the way of seeds and plants (hence the title of this post!) etc and, this time, we each had a show and tell of one favourite food related book. This is a skilled, experienced and enthusiastic group where the little I know pales into insignificance. Wow, I can't wait for the next time we meet!


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Pickle Meets the Neighbours

Of course most readers of this crazy blog don't know that Popsy is now called Pickle but that is a story for another day......


Once upon a time a puppy called Pickle was doing some heavy work in the garden when some neighbours came by for a chat

So Pickle put down his tools and went over to greet them

The neighbours asked Pickle if he'd like to go to the mooovies with them...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Have you ever scratched a snail's foot?


It is getting towards snail season in the southern hemisphere and I was thinking of all those garden snails that are eaten in France. There, people make collections of them and purge them, ready to cook.... so I wondered if I might do the same. I mean, why not? I love shell fish and garden snails are just the land version of sea snails.

I was reading about it on this website and it all seemed quite sensible and do-able until I got to..... Check daily and discard any dead snails. Scratch the snail's foot to check; if it doesn't twitch, the snail is dead. Is this a joke or what?


Maybe, I thought, it was written on April Fool's Day or something...

The recipes sound delicious and very French.... maybe one of the blog readers out there, who live in France, can tell us if they regularly go about tickling snails' feet! One farmer I knew of in France said it was not necessary to purge them in water, he just hangs them in nets in the shade for a few days, as its usually done in early spring, and hoses them down from time to time.... Farming can be a gruesome business.

I really want to try this. Please tell us if you have any experience on snail preparation.

(Images from BBC Food and

Australian snail farming.... is there anything Australians don't do?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Et voilĂ !

imageSaturday is organic beef day and if you are lucky, Gerard will also have rhubarb, eggs and a few veg, but I go to his farm for the best beef around and a chat with a really great bloke, as passionate about food and health as me.

Gerard has 2 lovely little dogs, a male and a female, both Jack Russells. As I patted them and told Gerard how much I liked them and how I was on the lookout for a pup..... his eyes lit up.

As luck would have it, he had advertised 4 puppies just today! Well, I hesitated for 5 seconds before asking to see them; scared to death that I would buy one, right there and then.

image I am a sucker for dogs. As a child my mother always kept 5 dogs on the go; as one got old she would be reading dog books and planning to buy the next puppy. I loved every single one of them. This is the first time in my life I have not had dogs. Well, as you can imagine, the Jack Russell puppies were all gorgeous but the only one to trot out of his basket and come straight up to me was of course the one I bought!



imageSo it happened ........ that on Friday I had my trailer connector fixed and came home with 2 ducks; on Saturday I bought organic beef and came home with a puppy. Et voilà, it happened, just like that.

At the moment his name is.... (laugh as much as you like)..... Et voilà. Oddly enough, he likes the name and cocks his head on one side then runs up to me, wagging his tail. Tomorrow I will take photos of dog and ducks..... if I get time!


image Well it is now Monday and the ducks had flown away 5 minutes after letting them out, yesterday. I could not bear to keep them in the wheelhouse any longer; they looked so sad.

The puppy is gorgeous and pops up on my knee, pops into his basket,  pops up just about everywhere I go and even popped onto my gardening bag for a sleep..... so I changed his name to Popsy! Oh dear! I am terrible with dog names.

Please think of a better one and let me know!

Friday, July 2, 2010

It's been a lovely week.....

Life is very, very different here to life in Adelaide. I have written about it before and every now and then something happens which makes me feel like I am in a wonderful movie; that it cannot be real. I loved Adelaide, with its population of over a million, don't misunderstand me, but here in Cygnet the population is around 800..... Let me highlight a few key experiences.

I walk maybe 1km on the footpath to the supermarket. The sounds I hear and things I see include cars, sometimes trucks, cows, a horse, a couple of dogs and people, often an elderly woman and her shopping trolley, kids en route walking to and from school, a couple of meandering creeks, the tidal estuary of the bay and the sailing boats on moorings off past the bird sanctuary, frogs, many different birds, a playground, a walking track and a foot bridge, chooks in the food forest, the community garden full of real food and then the line of shops, cafes, bank, library, pretty little park and the post office.

I arrive at the supermarket happy, invigorated from the chilly air, reminded that I need to pick some herbs from the community garden on my way back home, and usually having spoken to at least one person I know who is in an equally relaxed frame of mind. Contrast this with going to a supermarket in any city!

On one such walk last week I saw a mulcher for sale. It was perfect. I spoke to the man who was selling it. A few days later I went back and said I'd buy it if he put some lugs on the side to hold bags..... so it was agreed. I never once mentioned my name. When I went back to pay for it, he said he'd bring it around to my home later if I liked. I began to tell him where I lived but he said he knew and now he knew my name too. That's what happens when the population of 800 becomes 801.

Today I took my car to have the connection to my new trailer changed to a Tasmanian one. I had to walk home and then walk back again later to get my car. Its the same route, only about twice as far or maybe more. The bloke who fixes cars is up another street, turn left at the dirt road past the school then wind gently along to the last house opposite the horses and the ducks by the pond. There's no sign. There never is here! You just have to know.

Next to his garage are his wife's chooks, which I was admiring while he was on the phone. She came out and we had a chat and she took me to the inner sanctum, where every increasing numbers of ever increasingly special, sophisticated, pure-bred beauties live in grassy chook palaces! Happier little creatures I have never seen..... then we came to a pair of ducks in a little home of their own. This next part of the story you just won't believe but its such a typical example of life here....

Mechanic fixes cars. Across the road lives his horse and in a pond in the horse paddock live some wild ducks. Man takes horse some treats every day or so. Ducks come and join in. Ducks love horse food. Ducks get very friendly. Ducks begin to follow man back to garage and help him fix the cars.... well they do pooh everywhere and more and more ducks come to the garage. Soon man is spending more time shooing away ducks (by cracking a whip!) than fixing cars. So he catches some ducks and gives them to customers to take away to new homes. I come along on such a day.... he takes me on a walk to see all the ducks by the pond.... and now I have 2 friendly, pretty ducks, a pair; he always tries to keep pairs together. Would I like him to come and help me get the ducks out of the car, he asks. He gives me his home phone number in case I need help. Wife waves good bye to me. Now we are friends.

I come home to find a box of old grain bags for the mulcher on my verandah. There's only one person who knows I need bags for those lugs. Nice.