Springing into Spring

Lemon & Mint Broadbean Smash topped with an Egg

Lemon & Mint Broadbean Smash topped with an Egg

Today, we ate one of the most heart warming, and glorious fast-foods ever made with produce from our own humble garden. We made our own variation on Jamie Oliver’s home-grown broadbean smash on toast, with home-grown Meyer lemon juice & hand-picked mint, topped with an egg from our ladies. Delish! The broadbean patch almost appearing overnight from left over beans that dried and dropped in place from our patch last year, and the eggs were found in a bunch hidden under an echium/nettle patch in the girls run so it’s entirely an accidental lunch. For free!

2kgs of accidental Broad Beans!

2kgs of accidental Broad Beans!

Just last week, we clocked 2 whole years since we moved in. After taking a pic of our garden this morning, in full bloom with nasturtiums, cornflowers and alyssum planted alongside our cabbages, broccoli and herbs, it really feels like home. Not entirely finished, and probably way too much veg garden for us to handle alongside the behind-garage mini orchard and patches, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.

We’ve ripped down a gorgeous but non-productive garden, hauled away hundreds of rocks (PS if you need garden rocks, come on down, we’ve got enough to last till rapture), dug up concrete, compost bins and even a soup ladle (!?), torn down pest trees and ivy and re-built everything from scratch and brought in loads of soil for our raised beds.

Floweries and Vegies, live together in perfect harmony

Floweries and Vegies, live together in perfect harmony

We can truly appreciate why some people have lawns- they’re seemingly easy. Mow, fertilize, weed, forget. But they are super boring and taste pretty horrid. Our remaining lawn patch even has the occasional broccoli or silverbeet seedling growing right smack bang in the middle of it! For the time it takes to mow our  ever-decreasing lawns, it takes that time threefold to weed, seed, feed and water our productive garden. However, for all the work involved in keeping a vegetable patch healthy & thriving, we wouldn’t trade it for the world. Every meal we eat that we’ve helped grow seems not only to feed our appetites but also our souls. Hippy dippy stuff, I know but try it yourself & see that it’s true, its addictive, and awesome sauce. Plus it’s organic, fresher, tastier and the food miles are no more than 20 metres and we can burn the calories we’re about to scoff with more gardening! Win Win Win!

Our bees, fanning the hive & bringing back nectar

Our bees, fanning the hive & bringing back nectar

Our bees are thriving, and regularly hanging out in our garden, smooching flowers in our overgrown (to 8-9ft!) espaliered apple tree and veg patch. They also don’t really enjoy us coming right up to the hive, so we weed & take care of that area on dusk, when they’re all partied out. Next week, we start our bee-keeping course so stay tuned for some information, and possibly injury photos if we mess it up and get stung. Our families and friends are at once frightened and concerned about us keeping bees, but also shelving that thought to make way for the kgs of honey happiness that will be happening around April 2013. Did you know that bee’s spend their entire lives working to get 1/10th of a tsp of honey and most of the bees are workers, who are female! Go Ladies! Even if we get no honey, the joy we get from watching the bees forage around, communicate by dancing (!!!) and share their pollen/nectar feasts with the masses. Hooray for bees!

Happy Gardening!!

A is for August

After doing a double take of the date, I realised August is almost over!

Broad Bean Patch

Broad Bean Patch

Perhaps its such a shock since we’ve been hibernating for almost an entire winter. How did we do it? Mostly jamming on guitars, making home brew, watching conspiracy doco’s, sewing & woodworking (new gate!), and themed movie nights (you know the ol’ Japanese Samurai movie + Sukiyaki; Pulp Fiction + Kahuna Burger & $5 shake). All of a sudden, 3 months are dust!

Parsley and Coriander Patch

Parsley and Coriander Patch

Each weekend we kick up our heels and run to the garden to attack the ‘to do’ list, and lately we’ve been finding some new veg has decided they’re going to make a bolt towards the sun & evidently- onto our plates!  Meanwhile, our new herb garden is exploding with some amazing parsley & coriander but the Lemon Verbena, Sage, Mint and Marjoram have decided much like its patch owners to never grow up.

Back Veggie Patch with Dirt

Our new veggie bed has dirt!

We’ve also come a long way with our raised vegetable garden beds in recent weeks, staking the redwood sleepers into place, painting the insides with eco-creosote & the outsides with Eco Wood Oil Stain to prevent rotting, and with Bel’s dad’s help- moving some serious amounts of dirt in. Amidst the planning for our latest garden bed, we were met with a particularly malicious foe- Couch Grass, aka Bastard grass on our turf. It creeps over & under, getting into everything, its tougher than Chuck Norris’ beard.  So after abandoning our original Couch-be-gone solution of fly-kicks, a backyard screening of Dannii Minogue videos and some back-breaking weeding, we realised our attempts at removing this invasive grass were much like a Mary-Kate & Ashley tween lingerie campaign- just plain wrong. Instead, we devised a combination of methods (all organic) from the Urban Food Garden website, to avoid its return.

Weed Matting

Weed Mats over Veg Patch near the espaliered apples

Our methods included digging a trench 1.5ft deep, laying galvanized roofing iron into the trench, acting as a barrier to the garden, and also digging up the couch grass in the perimeter near the raised bed edge and sprinkling some non-invasive grass as a second barrier.
We also laid some weed-matting on our garden bed in the old chicken pen aka Cluckingham Palace in preparation for spring sowing.

Shirley scratching for worms

Shirley scratching for worms

Our chickens have been enjoying their extended run a little too much, scratching under and plotting escape since the grass is always greener metaphorically and quite literally since they’ve chain-sawed every last blade of it in their run. They’ve also helped us de-weed the back veg patch with their almighty claws and stealth scratching skills- thanks girls!

Broccoli Galore

Broccoli Goodness

Unlike our sloth-esque Broad Bean patch, our broccoli is again coming thick and fast and all at once too- our brassica patch is starting to resemble rows of Seth Rogan silhouettes. Is it a bird? a plane? Kirk Cameron? Tom Hanks? No its another Broccoli head!  Good thing we love to eat them!  Other goodies that have been popping up include: bok choy, red and green cabbages, silverbeet, onions, and radishes.

Most of our fruit trees are starting to develop lovely buds and even flowers on our espaliered Japanese Plum so with any luck we should be having a ahem.. ‘fruitful’ Summer! Looking forward to sharing our home grown goodies with our friends and family & if you’re in the neighbourhood, drop by for a cup-o-tea!

Mid-Winter Blues

Winter officially sucks. Leaving home in the dark & getting home in the dark. Not much to plant in the garden. Gardening limited to the weekends. Icey winds, frost-bitten mornings, frozen hands & faces. Even the chickens hate it, covering their eyes from the torch with their little wings when we lock them in each night. Thelma is starting to resemble Robert De Niro with her cheek mole & ‘I-just-ate-a-turd’ malicious sneer every morning when she’s ‘forced’ to jump out of bed in the dark & beat the pigeons to her breakfast.

Now that whinge-fest is out of the road, some good things that have kick-started our winter include:

  • making our first Mötley Brüe (our home brew) for this house
  • seeing the Eclipse
  • making home-grown Pumpkin Soup, Nettle SoupApple Chutney & Sourdough Bread for lovely friends & family
  • building a gate for the secret garden with recycled old fence palings
  • building raised/terraced garden beds for fruit trees and vegies along the new back fence (still in progress & yet to fill in with dirt/plants)
  • ditching the overgrown rock-filled patio garden (except the violets & lovely pink-tipped ‘Peace’ Rose which has been moved) with a plan to plant a mini kitchen garden in its place

We have also acquired a new energy-efficient fridge, new compost bin and herb garden (thanks Bel’s Mum & Dad!), a Diggers Garden Club Membership (thanks Nicki & Tom!), more fruit trees, berries, rhubarb & asparagus beds, and two walk-in mini greenhouses (thanks Craig!) for raising our seedlings in preparation for Spring! Plus to fill our seed trays we brought lots of seeds from Diggers (very slow), Cornucopia (mega fast!) and Little Miss Seedy (great heirloom variety).

At the moment we’ve planted: Broccoli, Bok Choy, Cabbage, Brussels Sprouts, Peas, Snowpeas, Onions, Leeks, Lettuce, Swede, Radishes, Carrot, Garlic, Spinach & Broad Beans.

We also have some purple sapphire potatoes to plant but are reluctant to establish where they’ll go since you can’t plant any solanaceae (tomatoes/eggplants/chilli) family plants there for a few seasons otherwise the dirt gets filled with tomato-eating zombies, apparently. We might put them in a container instead! We’ve also resolved to try and plan our plots by succession planting to avoid gluts & voids in our harvests. The next day we planted 100 snowpeas & 30 each of peas, lettuce, kale, onion & silverbeet. Dammit! Alongside driving the speed limit to Pantera & watching Home & Away without an urge to poke your eyes out- half-hearted seed planting  just can’t be done.

The next projects on the cards, apart from finishing our new terraced beds include: recycled fence-pailing herb planter boxes for the kitchen window sill, bricking a pathway up to our 2nd tier terraced bed, making a gate & steps up to the side of our old chicken run (now veg patch). We will also hopefully get our new front & side fence installed, although our fencing contractor has suffered a back injury and contacts us as often as Matthew McConaughey wears shirts.

Hurry up Spring & bring Daylight Savings Time with you!

All the leaves are brown & the sky is grey

During our first autumn in our house, we’ve had quite a few working bees and afternoon teas with Bel’s parents as they have helped us hack down and haul away the overgrown mess that was the shiny leaf and dead ivy-covered trees. So now, all but one tree (holding up our old-school clothesline) remains, we have ripped down the old paling fence and our new higher back fence has been constructed!

Our broccoli crop has come and gone, while our tomatoes and pumpkins (10 this summer!) have been ripped out and been replaced with two crops of brassicas (bok choy, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts), alliums (onions, garlic, leeks) with some random spinach, turnip, swede & carrot plantings in between, and a crop of peas and snow peas. We have had a few dramas with our little cluckers, including Thelma and Louise tunnelling out of their new pen, absconding to the neighbours backyard, eating their grass, scratching up their garden and somehow avoiding being eaten by their dog!  Hopefully their new fortified ‘Fort Knox’ pen with a run down the back of the house will keep them happy through the winter months. We are getting the impression that they dislike the frosty dark mornings as much as us since the egg laying frequency has dropped off in the bitter cold snap we’ve had throughout May (Update: the girls had started laying in the tiny space underneath the water tank stand- the things they do for privacy!).

The lovely previous owners who built our home in the 70’s also had an immense affection for concreting rocks into garden borders and we’ve had a few days of hard yakka smashing them up with a crowbar and carting them away. Probably should’ve bought some shares in Lion Nathan, as we’re putting away our fair share of James Squires in the process. We are aiming in the next month to replace the concrete & rocks with raised garden beds with hardwood sleepers around the perimeter of our backyard, 2-3 metres deep so we can plant a vegie bed in front of our fruit trees. Probably should’ve bought shares in Bunnings too since we are down there almost every weekend, mostly to eat sausages and ask directions from the overly descriptive & articulate sales assistant at the Waurn Ponds store -‘You’re looking for bolts? Well, simply trace your steps back to aisle 5 and venture downwards. When you reach the midpoint of the aisle, just before the crescendo of the first segment of shelves, cast your eyes to the hinges that lay around 1-2 feet from your waist, append your gaze further yonder and whilst spinning your torso approximately 180 degrees, you shall envisage said bolts that you are pursuing amidst your quest in this vast store’.  What a total dude!

Our deciduous fruit trees are losing their leaves, and our established pears, nectarines and apples are getting a trimming back and fertilizing to help them repair for spring. We are hoping that this will increase the harvest and fruit quality, especially for our pear which is a bit diseased and produced no fruit suitable for eating this summer. We have just bought two more mandarin trees to extend our winter fruit harvest with early (Imperial), mid (Emperor) and late (Ellendale) fruiting varieties, and will probably be snagging some strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus to plant in perennial beds over winter. After having a crack at making Quince Jam (such lovely flavour and fragrance!), one of us may or may not be trying to convince the other that a quince tree may be the next necessity in our ever expanding collection of fruit trees! You know what they say, go hard or go home … which I never really understood, since if you go hard, you probably will still go home after, so its not really such a polarized ultimatum of dualistic options, is it?

Until next time- keep it real… unless you’re referring to fur or Bert Newtons hair.

Welcome to the Jungle!

Welcome to our Bloggy Blog about trying to be ‘green’ and eat organic goodness on our 904 m2 plot-o-land amongst our humble suburban home, Vegie Garden, Fruit Trees and Gallinas (Hens) !!

Backyard of our house

Our backyard in its original state

We have started this blog with a view to keep track of our ‘green’ garden makeover progress, as its harder to lose a blog post than a scrap of paper!   Oh yeah.. the ‘we’ part… consists of  husband and wife team- Bel & Craig, born in Country Victoria, moved to lovely Melbourne for work/Uni then moved back to Geelong to “live the quiet life” (to quote Rambo).

After hosting a rocking eco-friendly wedding (featured on Offbeat Bride), we decided to buy a house on a big block in a quiet court in The ‘burbs, as it was so excellently depicted in the movie of the same title starring Tom Hanks and Corey Feldman. Turns out its almost identical, people mowing their pristine yards every 2nd day, someone else’s dog crapping in our yard, except for no Klopeks or Feldmans as yet.

Our shed-side garden bed, after removal 100s of Agapanthus & Oleanders

We had barely walked up the drive before being greeted by our wonderful & friendly neighbours, and after cartwheeling through our new abode, we were met with a lovely letter and box of chocolates from the previous elderly owner who had built the house! Super nice! When we finally got to the backyard, we were so excited to have so much space to work with (including a water tank, gorgeous soil and a secret garden at the back of the shed!), and were greeted with much work to be done.  Overgrown Echiums covered in bees and 3-ft high stinging nettles, 100’s of Agapanthus (harder to dig up than Gary Buseys career), Geraniums, Ivy and Couch grass creeping 6 ft high amongst trees overhanging neighbouring properties were just some of the things we had to contend with.

Nonetheless, it was ours!

Within a week, we had hacked down the chaos in the secret garden and planted our first crop of pumpkins/zucchinis, tomatoes/eggplants and some basil. We also signed up to get a 1.5 kW solar panel system installed and within our first month, we had some cheeky Chickens at their new home.

We had also started a new compost heap, and dug up the previous owners compost bin so we now have two compost bins! Upon our first visit to turn the compost, a flipping huge redback made its presence aware, and from then onwards, our efforts of putting scraps in the compost bin looked like Muggsy Bogues making a 3 pointer shot.

More updates to come soon!