Monday, November 29, 2010

Don't you hate it when the bath feels too small?

Or when it feels like someone's rushing you out of the bathroom?

Chooks love having dust baths, and because our clay soil was staying too wet for them to have a dust bath during winter we put our largest pots full of soil in their pen with them, hoping that they would dry out more quickly and be able to serve as something of a bathtub for them. Turns out they might have preferred a few more, and something a little bigger!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Bucket of Broccoli

During our Weekends o' Weddings month our broccoli went bonkers! We were able to pick a bucket just about every night. It tasted much more floral than shop bought broccoli.

After some heartbreak at the jaws of aphids last year, this year we went for sprouting broccoli so that we could chop off any infestations without losing the whole crop. But then this year we had almost no aphids and those that did arrive were promptly eaten by ladybirds, which I think were around because we have so much parsley.

The only downside was that it went to seed very quickly, I'm not sure if it went quicker than normal broccoli or if it was just due to the wacky weather at the time.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Some updating to do

Due to popular demand (Hi Mum) I'm not going to let this blog just fade away entirely as it was threatening to do.

The past month has been an absolutely crazy month of weddings, I've spent my weekends in Newcastle, South Africa (that was work rather than wedding),the Huon Valley of Tasmania and Ballarat.

It's been wonderful to watch friends and family make such an incredible commitment to each other, each wedding has been amazing for its own reason. The Newcastle wedding had the most heartfelt, beautiful vows I can possibly imagine, the Tasmanian wedding was such a celebration of the entire lifestyle the couple have embraced together, and the Ballarat wedding was a completely accurate reflection of the couple's sense of humour - they had a giant novelty wedding certificate and their vows were hilarious.

So look for some updates starting now on our chooks, vegie garden and more.

These photos are from the Stellenbosch Botanical Gardens in Cape Town. I spent three hours there on the day when I was leaving South Africa and I took a huge number of photos. And then forced Tom and my parents to sit through a slideshow of every shot when I got home - lucky them!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Sowing seeds pays off

These carrots were a pleasant surprise. They'd been chugging along in the backyard, doing their thing, and it was only on a rainy evening when I was getting ready to make soup and kicking myself for forgetting to buy carrots that I thought it might be time to check their progress.

That large one was seriously huge! They're also not a bad metaphor for what's been going on in my life and taking me away from the blogosphere: finally, after years of study, interning, volunteering and freelancing, I've got a paid full-time job as a journalist. I'm really enjoying it, and it's nice to have some stability and routine in my life.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Meet the girls!

I'm pleased to introduce Joyce, Maud and Betty - the newest members of our sharehouse, which is living up to its nickname of The Fitzroy Farmhouse more and more each day! See their little bums sticking up in the air amongst the silverbeet?

This is Joyce, who rules the roost:

This is Maud:

And Betty refused to stay still for a photo, so she can be introduced at a later date.

It's lovely to have little companions clucking around the garden, although they do wreak havoc at times and they're not really laying very many eggs. Luckily we got them for free from a friend, and we got seven tons (!) of barley for free so it hasn't exacty been a difficult equation in terms of money spent vs eggs gained. They love banana, silverbeet, warrigal greens and porridge, but turn up their noses at silverbeet stems and pears. Definitely fussy urban chooks. We still like them though!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Weekend away

We had a really lovely weekend down at the beach recently. Isn't this pattern on seaweed amazing?

My friend Mat came down with Tom and me. He's always fantastic to hang out with because he's wonderfully friendly and positive, and he's made some inspiring choices. He and his partner Kim recently moved to Tasmania to try and live more sustainably. I really admire their choice to get out of the rat-race and work in jobs they find inspiring as part of their lifestyle. Mat does beautiful work shaping surfboards and taking photographs, you can check out some of his work at his website, Flow State.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

When I'm not living my life...

...I'm pretending to live one of these ones:

My Scandinavian Retreat - which has beautiful photos of all things Scandinavian cabin-ish, I think my favourite posts are the one where you get to see their deck cut perfectly to fit the surrounding rocks, and the one where you get a sense of how beautiful the view from their place is, even the one right from their bed!

bigBANG studio - which just makes me want to move to the desert and meet amazing people, attend parties in off-the-grid houses, get diggity-down desert style, and live in beautiful scenery. And Lily's moving to India later this year - I'm looking forward to it!

I think one of my favourite things about blogs is that you can have such an insight into someone else's life, and you can find someone, somewhere doing something you'd love to do. These blogs were each recommendations from two of my favourite other blogs, which I also wish I were living in!

The first was a recommendation from Pia Jane Bijkerk, an Australian living on a houseboat in Amsterdam, the second came from Kate of for me, for you, of New York.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

New music

One pretty nifty thing about having my radio show has been that it has forced me to find half an hour of music to play each week. Yeah, that doesn't sound so hard, does it? But I'm one of those people who never remembers the names of bands and can't sing to save their life, so whenever I try to choose music to buy it involves a conversation of random words that may or may not be related to the band's name, and then a horrendously out-of-tune rendition missing almost all the words of the song I'm trying to remember the name of. Pretty painful for everyone involved. But I've been very diligent and have really enjoyed actually buying music for the first time in a long time, as well as taking recommendations from friends. The show has a bit of a rootsy, folksy, alternative country feel to it, which has been a fun genre to explore. Lots of Calexico, Sime Nugent, The Waifs, and the fantastic Dirt Music soundtrack created by Tim Winton to match the mood of his novel of the same title - cool concept eh?

One band in this genre that I'm loving at the moment is Power and Greig. A good friend is the slide guitarist extraordinaire in this band, but friendliness aside, I'm really digging their stuff! I think my favourite song (this week) is one called Dancer, but I also love De-burg Days.

I also find their 'sounds like' description from their myspace page a pretty humourously accurate description of our backyard at times (although perhaps minus the band-inspired epiphany!):
"Drinking boutique beers (or more likely cheap longnecks) in your friends backyard in the northern suburbs on a sunny afternoon. Still wearing the clothes you had on last night, talking about how you'd like to move to the country...again. You hear sunday drivers, a bird twittering, a banjo in the distance. Suddenly you realise that power & greig somehow encapsulate your prosaically humble yet poetically fascinating day to day existence in a three minute s(ingal)ong. What wonder! What beauty!"

On your bike!

I love my bike, so I couldn't resist this pendant made from recycled timber. Bought at the Rose St Artists' market. The artist is Neil Thomas.

A week or two ago I saw someone wearing a badge version of this on their jacket lapel, and I thought it would make a great gift for my brother. So that's now winging its way to Boston, and my one's staying here!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

On the wireless

G'day folks, sorry for a slight absence of late. I've been very busy taking on a fun new project - my own gardening radio show on community radio!

Get Growing is on at 9am every Saturday on the Student Youth Network (90.7FM in Melbourne and Geelong or at And hopefully I'll soon have podcasts of the show up on show's page on the SYN website as well. The show is aimed at the station's 12-25 year old audience, with an emphasis on growing vegies and making a garden when you're not a home-owner and you have a tight budget.

It's been a bit of a stressful, steep learning curve, because I only completed my four week radio training course the week before I applied for the show, and then I only had another week or so before the first episode went to air. To add to that, I'm my own producer, panellist, everything, so I push all the buttons and sit alone in a studio with no one to ask questions of when things go wrong! But there haven't been too many long pauses so far, I've had some great guests to interview, and I've had a lot of fun chattering away about what to plant and harvest, budget tips and indigenous food plants.

To answer a couple of questions left in previous comments:

EcoMILF, we planted our beetroots as seedlings in the second week of January.

Katiecrackernuts, after a bit of warrigal greens tasting experimentation I would have to say no, they don't taste like spinach. They are probably closer to silverbeet but a bit less minerally tasting. They actually almost remind me of the taste of potato, but in leafy form. Odd, I know.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Building Green

I come from a family that has more than its fair share of over-achievers. One of the most notable over-achievers is my cousin Catherine who initially trained as a solar engineer and worked on solar cars and planes for awhile before deciding she really wanted to study medicine instead. So she went to Stanford and studied medicine, then surgery. (She also had her daughter in her second year of med because, you know, it had the lightest work load). She now works in robotic surgery. I'm very proud to be related to her.

But from my point of view, her coolest project is underway at the moment. She and her husband (who is equally as smart and geeky) are building a 'green' house. But for them, throwing on a few solar panels and making sure they used insulation was never going to cut it. Oh no. They calculated the 'embodied energy' - the water and energy used to create something - of absolutely everything they built with to make sure they used the lowest energy materials. Catherine and Paul blog about their progress, but be warned it is super sciency. If you're interested but just want the summary, here's Catherine's TED talk on the topic, which has some very interesting comparisons of building materials, retrofitting compared to starting fresh, and even whether a paper towel or cloth is better to use when wiping up a spill:

For those not familiar with TED, it's an amazing resource. A regular meeting of minds, it started as a conference in the fields of Technology, Entertainment and Design. Now it extends far beyond that. It is meant to promote interesting ideas and new thinking, and thinking beyond your own field. Many of the talks are available to watch on their website. As they term it 'Riveting talks by remarkable people, free to the world'.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A Problem and Solution Side by Side

Our pak choi is getting absolutely savaged by fat little caterpillars at the moment, despite being picked over each morning.

But while this type of green is getting stripped to its very skeleton, right in front of it another is thriving and bug-free:

Warrigal greens.

I was intending to plant these in the front yard and let them slowly replace the lawn, but I chickened out, which is just as well because at our first rental inspection last week the property manage told us the owner is incredibly attached to his garden and wouldn't take kindly to the lawn being torn up. So instead these were plonked down on the edge for easy access and they seem to be loving life! They're an indigenous plant that is used just like spinach.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Working from home... sometimes wonderful. Like when your lunch is silverbeet fresh from the garden with mushrooms, olives, cannellini beans and a squeeze of lemon juice on sourdough toast:


... sometimes messes with your head. I spent so long staring at our lettuces during my morning coffee that I started to see ballet dancers.

Started to look a bit like this:

(except my lettuces have their arms folded around their shoulders, not stretched out in front)


Started to look a bit like the male lead here:

(except my lettuce is being more dramatic and yearning and is bending at the waist)

...and it sometimes leaves you to be the person left at home to discover that the two mysteries of our household

- where has the brush for the dust pan gone?

- why does our weird laundry/annexe room smell so disgusting?

can be answered in one fell swoop:

Because the brush fell down some odd, until-now-unknown open drain hole behind a cupboard and caught anything from any of our household sinks in the last month or two in its bristles. It was foul.

Ballet photographs by Andrew Bossi.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Beautiful Beets

We pulled the first of our beetroot this week. Glorious ruby red and bright pink globes, destined for greatness in a starring role in Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion recipe for beetroot, avocado, walnut and pink grapefruit (and lettuce) salad.

It was one of the dishes served up last week at a big dinner for friends that made me so proud of our garden. We all sat around on those (previously posted) benches drinking mojitos with lots of fresh mint from the garden before eating a tasty meal which used garden produce in every course. Far too much was eaten and drunk and a merry time was had by all.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Elspeth Thompson

It's an odd thing this blogging. You make connections with some people, with others you just feel involved in their lives because you read about them daily, others may be involved in your life without you knowing it. And so it's a confusing emotion when a blogger whose work you always read is no longer going to be there. I loved reading Elspeth Thompson's blog. It took my breath away to have her husband Frank's post announcing her death appear in my reader. And yet we'd never met, I'd never even commented on her blog despite reading it so avidly. Any death is hard to categorise emotionally, but it's even harder when you feel grief but also that you have no right to that grief. It's all so very strange. Because part of blogging makes you feel so much closer to people around the world, and then another part of it makes you feel so very far away.

Elspeth Thompson's obituary in the Telegraph.

She will no doubt be missed by those who knew her, but she will also be missed by those like me, who didn't.

Flower and Garden Show

I've never been to the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show (or MIFGS, as the cool kids call it) because it costs a lot of money to go and I suspected that it wasn't really my type of gardening. But suspecting and knowing are two different things, and I always consider going, and this year the landscape design company my housemate works for had an entry, so last weekend I figured now was as good a time as any to see what it's all about.

Money. That's what it's all about. Apart from the part that was about almost all the gardens looking pretty much the same, the use of the same plants over and over and most notably the same colours over and over. I did get to look at lots of pretty succulents, which I loved. But I couldn't understand why people were paying a few dollars just for a cutting when you can get them for free from friends, parks, the bits that fall off onto the pavement outside people's houses, etc. It all seemed so soulless, and even when I did see a really cool plant I found I wanted to buy it from one of the three local nurseries I frequent and support them instead of a vendor I'll never see again.

So now I know. That's not my type of gardening. But it was interesting to see I suppose, if only to be grateful that my garden is built with a lot more love and a lot less steel blue paint, lime green cushioning, and that particular brown that popped up in every single design. And of course, a lot less money.

This weekend should be an entirely different experience as we're heading off rockclimbing at the Grampians - should be fun!

Coming soon

I've just started seeing previews for The Pacific on Channel 7. Which I imagine is exciting if you loved Band of Brothers, the previous series by Steven Spieldberg. I, however, never saw it.

But it's also exciting if your house was filmed for it! Much of the filming of one story thread took place in our old neighbourhood and in particular in the house next door. In one exterior shot a soldier suitor plucks a rose from the garden next door to the house he is visiting. From this (gorgeously set-dressed) front garden, in fact.

They tore up all the weeds in our front patch and put pots of box hedges around the edges, fake mondo grass along the front, and pots and pots of roses.

To make such a dense screen of roses in the front they took tall standard roses and leaned them up against the fence in between shorter pots of roses. There was also plenty of fake ivy woven around the place - even though we've moved house it still haunts me, I found what I hope is a final plastic leaf when repotting something the other day.

It was a week of mayhem in our neighbourhood.

And when it was all done, and the front garden was left bare and empty of weeds...
I started a vegie patch.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Cold frame

And further to our bench-building carpentry efforts:
A cold frame.

Not wanting to waste the last scraps of floorboards or an old window found in an alcove full of junk at the last place, we built a cold frame for raising seedlings. While we don't need to keep our seedling safe from frost very often, we do struggle to keep them moist enough in baking heat, and this has helped with that. Currently it has marigold and bok choi seedlings to replace the ones that kept getting savaged by bugs when planted directly, and nasturtiums.

The construction of this was full of confused conversation about why the other person kept holding it upside down until we realised we were visualising very different interpretations of our verbally agreed upon plan. So it has an odd tilt in one part, but it still works a-okay.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Serendipitous Bench-building

For years a bench mouldered in the garden at our last house. It had gross cushions which sat on some dodgy chipboard that rested precariously on the frame and occasionally someone fell through. So Tom and I decided to use the frame to make a proper bench with a seat of old fence palings we had lying around. But then, the day before our chosen bench-building day, someone ripped up their floorboards and put them in a skip a few doors down from our place. Excellent! Nice, more solid wood for the seat. Things were looking good. And then they got even better. As Tom cycled home from uni, he spotted a bench frame out on the street for a hard rubbish collection.

And that's how we came to have two lovely, so-close-to-matching benches for our backyard.
I'll just sit back and wait for the requests to come flooding in from home magazines wanting to photograph our outdoor setting. Maybe they'll also want to know about my sculptural choice of watering cans spread around the garden in the photo on the left.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Pot o' potatoes

I have always been skeptical about claims by gardening book authors that potatoes are so easy, you can just plant them in a pot and almost forget about them until it's time to harvest. Often these authors are based in the northern hemisphere, and as our pot of potatoes baked on concrete through an Australian summer, I couldn't help doubting their claims. Finally I was sick of wondering, so this week (perhaps a little too early) I tipped out the pot to see if anything had happened.


We got nearly a kilo of potatoes from one big pot. I'm not sure it's enough to really bother doing again in our garden, but interesting and satisfying nonetheless.

Quite a suitable post for around St Patrick's day really.


This week I received my degree at a graduation ceremony, and while that piece of paper is a pretty swell piece of paper to have, I'm also excited about my Nanna's graduation gift.

My father's family is from the Shetland Islands, a tiny cluster of islands to the far north of Scotland. Plenty of fine things come from this part of the world: Shetland ponies, Shetland sheepdogs, Fair Isle Knitting, my family. Off the coast of the Shetland mainland is Foula.

In 1914, the Oceanic was wrecked just off Foula. It had at one time been the biggest ship in the world and was made in the same shipyard as the Titanic with similarly luxurious fittings. The dangerous waters that had been the Oceanic's downfall also hampered any salvage efforts until 1973, when advances in equipment made diving feasible.

At that time two divers, Alec Crawford and Simon Martin, managed to recover some of the valuable metals used in the engine rooms, including copper from the generators. Shetland Silvercraft (now known as Shetland Jewellery) crafted the metal into pieces linked to the story.

(See the island's silhouette?)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sustainable meal

It was pretty nifty to be able to look at our dinner the other night and realise how much of it was from the garden.

Lots of salad leaves, some of our cucumber bounty and tomatoes. And then the piece de resistance - silverbeet tart from Stephanie Alexander's Kitchen Garden Companion, which I was given for Christmas.

(It looks better when she photographs it!)
I've already used this book so many times; it's brilliant to be able to look up whatever you have a glut of in the garden and make something different and I'm enjoying browsing as I'm choosing what to plant.

And to accompany it, a bottle of Re-Wine, which I wrote about last year!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Kooky Cuces

Is Cuces how you would spell a cucumber abbreviation? But quite seriously, our cucumbers are amazing. I've never grown them before, and they keep surprising us. You just think there are a whole heap of leaves covering some ugly trellis and fence,

but then, whammo! A huge cucumber.

Sometimes they're so good at hiding that they get a bit out of hand. And now they're starting to try and make a break for it.

One of them even tried to peer around the corner of the barbecue this morning.

With one of those every day or two and a salad bed that looks like this:

we're eating plenty of garden food right now!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The Prom

It's funny how such a short word, prom, can have so many different connotations around the world. In the states you'd be talking about a high school dance if you said 'I went to the prom'; in England, someone might think you had mispoken and meant The Proms. In Victoria, you mean Wilson's Promontory, the national park on the southern tip of mainland Australia.

I hadn't visited in years, but we recently spent a few days walking there with friends, and it really is beautiful. Rich orange lichens grow on pink-toned granite, thick temperate rainforest edges the walking track, and when the sun is out the sea is a brilliant blue.

These were taken at Sealer's Cove just before dusk. Post walking and swimming, pre boulder scrambling and dinner on a boulder on the beach.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

And I'm Back in the Game!

(Every time I say that phrase in my head, which is actually surprisingly often, I imagine Joseph Gordon Levitt in 10 Things I Hate About You saying it. So now that you're inside my head, let's begin.)

Sorry for the long absence, full-time work + full-time study makes you really busy, and things don't get to calm down much when you then have two weeks in which to do all of your assessment for the semester and then - because your landlords' son wants to move into your home - pack up all of your stuff (and your boyfriend's stuff because he's still studying for an exam that will make or break his postgrad studies) and move it to your parents' house in about one million trips across town in a car the size of a roller skate. Things don't really get any calmer when you have to co-ordinate the final parts of your move and signing a new lease from across the Tasman.

But it's all over now, and WE HAVE A HUGE NEW VEGIE PATCH!!!! It faces north, it doesn't have a dense mat of tree roots that regrows as fast as it can be dug out, it doesn't have a big shady tree covering it for most of the day. Sure, there's still plenty of that landlord favourite wall-to-wall concrete, but there's also plenty of lovely rich soil bursting with worms, and I'm absolutely loving having things actually grow for once.

I'll get onto garden and life related things in the next post, but for now, let me re-introduce myself by way of a quiz which I completed months and months ago but never posted: (I've updated some of the answers though)

I was tagged a few weeks ago (now many months ago) by Pepper Stitches, who has a great crafty blog with lots of fun links and stories - you should go and check it out!
I was meant to answer some questions, the original list can be found over at Seeds and Stitches, but like most others I've just answered a few from the list. I'm meant to tag others but I'm a bit shy when it comes to things like that so I don't think I will this time.

What is your current obsession?
Planting vegies that might actually grow, and the furniture, painting and pottery in the Mad Men offices.

Image via Shelterrific

What would you eat for your last meal?
Too much. I'd then probably vomit out my nose as I infamously did in a friend's front garden when her lovely Lebanese mother fed me lovely Lebanese food until I pretty much did burst. Spaghetti bolognaise, lentil and hamhock soup, chocolate and wonderful fresh fruit and vegies would undoubtedly feature on the menu of a last meal.

What was the last thing you bought?
Some radish seeds, a bunch of terracotta pots and some potting mix. I actually went out shopping for clothes, which I hate doing, got depressed by my own lack of trendiness and style, so retreated to the nursery instead, where I figure I get far better bang for my buck in terms of money outlay-happiness experienced.

What are you listening to right now?
My housemate playing guitar in the next room. When I'm listening to my choice of music, it's Teddy Thompson's latest album for brisk strolling, The Beach Boys for doing the dishes, The McGarrigle Sisters for rainy afternoons in the kitchen, Catatonia when I'm at my desk.

What is your favorite ice cream flavor?
Always chocolate.

What is your favorite colour?
Green. It's beyond ridiculous how much green is in my wardrobe!

What is your dream job?
A journalist. Which is what I already do. But a proper, full-time journalist. Who gets more money.

What are you going to do after this?
Finish some job applications, plant some rocket seeds and then see a friend's gig.

What is your favorite smell?
I really love the smell of wet tomato plants, daphne, jasmine, earl grey tea, and clean bedding dried on a sunny day.

What are you most proud of?
Changing to become more like the person I want to be. And changing who I choose to have around me as part of that journey.

How many times do you press the snooze button before you get up?
I have been known to press it for up to two hours. I understand that this is both shameful and foolish. It probably won't stop me from doing it again though.

It's good to be back folks. I'm probably meant to tag some people, but I'm a bit shy about stuff like that. Although I was incredibly stoked to be tagged, so it seems mean to not tag anyone. I'll definitely tag someone next time I'm tagged for something and I'm back in the swing of blogging and commenting (although I've absolutely been reading plenty of blogs, I've just been very quiet for awhile)