Sunday, December 26, 2010

Chickens galore

Ms Tagalong is so ecstatic that her work colleague, alias a Secret Santa, knows her so well that her present was an Oxfam chicken! It meant a little less wrapping paper and anticipation at gift exchange time but what a difference that little chicken will make to a family in Laos!
And talking of chickens, which of course Ms Tagalong is wont to do, have you espied the chicken lady of T.H? Wait, who is that I see with a plump chicken in hand or even on shoulder? Ms Designer will need a name change if this continues! She has been nursing one of the Isa Browns with an infected eye. This little darling, having had two weeks of pampering, thinks she can roost on the back of chairs, sit on shoulders and even attend dinner parties. Ms Mova whispered in my ear that she hadn’t prepared any special chicken feed and hoped that she had eaten before she came!
Ms Tagalong hopes that you and your families, chickens notwithstanding, had a wonderful eating time over the Christmas season.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Costa, Costa what does it Costa?

Weeds, apparantly! That's what we community gardeners are. Burrowing down relentlessly, finding that little crack in the asphalt, sending down roots, determined and resolute. Unwavering in our resolve to spread the word, grow the plants and be a community. Words of wisdom from a famous garden guru, Costa, who came to our fair town last week to be part of the launching of local PlaceStories.

Ms Tagalong must slap her hand for that hubris of a rising blush at seeing the home page of this little blog up on the big screen. How wonderfully exciting. Who needs thousands of followers in cyberspace? Here it was being displayed and featured for all to see on the website. And of course, more blushes, in front of Costa! What a thrill, what a celebrity to come and give an impromptu talk on communities and what they mean. He seemed determined to come back to Newcastle and see some of these wonderful sites and by the end of the night, Ms Mova, Ms Designer, Paint Pot Pat and Ms Tagalong had developed a whole itinerary for him to visit in our wonderful community.

Perhaps he should have stayed for the Christmas spirit and the elves' visit together with the heavenly choir who performed last Friday night. What a treat, even the tone deaf Ms Tagalong sangalong.

Later in the week, welcome rain washed the ground and refreshed the plants and seedlings hopefully planted by Mr Ideasman. He is patiently waiting for beetroot and according to Ms Tagalong he will be waiting a long time. The newly acquired sowing times and moon phases show that this is not a summer planting crop! The enthusiasm, the ideas! he's not called Mr Ideasman for nothing!

So off we trot exploring pastures new for the holidays. Ms Tagalong is determined to visit some other gardens along the way, to describe them and provide photos for your delectation. She does, however beg your indulgence, as the wonderful, long-promised broadband coverage does not yet extend to all of our fair land and especially to the wonderful, wild National Park areas Ms Tagalong and Mr Ideasman intend to visit.
Be patient. And anyway all of you will be enjoying the festive season, carousing and carolling and not be looking at blogs! Don't neglect the chickens or the plants though! They will be crying out to me if hungry or wilting!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

That dratted rhubarb and garden elves!

Oh no, not again, I hear you say. Well, after Ms Tagalong's wonderful planting out of the rhubarb and Ms Mova's careful shade sail over the top, Ms Tagalong noticed in the hot chicken day afternoon that the Western sun rampaged over the garden under the sail right into rhubarb corner! One crown from the original plants at the other end of the garden next to the hopeful asparagus bed has been shooting up beautifully. So location, location, location Ms Tagalong and Mr Ideasman carefully transplanted four of the plants to their new location next to the other which is shielded from the afternoon sun and on the makeshift compost pile. Note: Watch what plants like where!

Ms Tagalong and Ms Mova were away this weekend for the working bee and breathlessly waited to see if any garden elves had crept into the garden whilst they were away and worked through the job list so beautifully written on the blackboard. Weeding and watering, tick. Mulch alongside the outer fence to increase chicken proofing, tick. Three new mulberry plants planted outside on the verge for our food forest, many ticks!
We will need to plan now what else can be planted underneath. Meanwhile the council continues to mow as long as the trees are staked.

You might be pleased to know that the salvinia has well and truly dessicated on the concrete where it was unceremoniously thrown last weekend. To replace this a fellow community gardener brought us some watercress .
Ms Tagalong thinks it is a special one but can't recall the name so if anyone can identify it from the photo please let me know. Apparantly it should soon colonise the bathtub and provide some good fodder.

Corn, as you probably know, should be picked once the tassels have turned brown and are easily taken off. Testing a few, Ms Tagalong started salivating, thinking of golden corn roasted on the barbeque with dripping butter and parsley. Tearing off the husks, she was extremely disappointed to find that only a few of the kernels had matured, not enough to eat for us but the chickens thought they were great!

Ms Tagalong was busy this morning doing domestic goddess tasks and stepped out onto the back verandah and was halted in her tracks. Dulcet tones drifted from the garden, or was it a CD played next door to get us into the season? No, it was the local choir practising for their second performance this year, Carols by Candlight in our community garden. Yet another prestigious event in our prestigious location.

Ms Mova has some chicken friends in England and they wanted our little darlings to stop being so greedy and be grateful for what they have. They sent us over this photo which Ms Mova intends to enlarge and place on the fence when they are cheeky!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Composting communities

As Ms Tagalong trundled the seventh, or was it eighth, barrowload of dessicated fig leaves and the odd shovel of moist, decaying vegetation she mused on how clever nature was and how we just don't seem to work with it.

The avenue of giant Port Jackson figs which line the street outside the community garden provide a year round supply of leaf litter to be directly placed on the garden to be turned into the soil, as a mulch or a good layer for the compost heap. Unfortunately most of them are swirled around by the wind on the tarmaced road or sluished down the drains and into the creek. What a waste! Be vigilant fellow gardeners, sweep up those leaves and turn them into black gold.

The compost heap Ms Tagalong made yesterday may not fully comply with the recommended structure but went a good way to utilise all our on site ingredients. Some of the existing mulch and horse manure and sawdust was laid down first, then the scrapings from the chicken huts,(straw and the topmost layer of earth under their boxes) leaves, wet newspaper from the bathtub, former home to the noxious salvinia, more leaves and mulch from the mulch heap on top. Reading the advice, Ms Tagalong thinks she probably should have found some more nitrogen sources but hey, you mulch and learn.

Yes, be aware and know that you are not on your own. There is a COMPOST AWARE WEEK! this was for 2008 but I challenge you to find out more and report back to the blog what you have found out. Imagine a whole street, nay a whole suburb composting together! This is what community is all about!

Or is it about brunching together. Those purists of you might not like the reporting of this community event held in a local park. But Ms Tagalong is so proud of one of our gardeners who organised it. The big brunch that is, long tables full of locals eating and sharing together. Apparantly we are going to involve produce from the garden next year more than the indirect contributions from the chickens, that is.

The chickens are being set to work and have been put into the tractor after now getting used to its presence for a few months. Yes, they were accustomed. Mr Ideasman lifted it up and Ms Tagalong popped in the chickens. Chicken number 1 looked around, scratched half-heartedly and then squeezed through the wire! Attempt 2, Ms Tagalong spied a much fatter one and popped her in. Happily we left two plump chickens scratching on the fallow bed. Half an hour later they were both loving the whole garden. Ah well, more chicken wire over the bottom of the tractor I feel.

And even more. We showed a film in the garden last night, nothing better than sitting in the gentle summer air, swatting mosquitoes, trying to concentrate on the dark dialogue in Atonement.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Frogmouths and round mouths

A hot week had us doing a rain dance out on the verge with the chickens looking on bemused. They shook their feathers and obviously had more sway because the rain has not fallen on our little patch although it seems to have swollen many rivers around us.

Cocktails in the Garden saw us watching a shadowy shape on the fence. No this was not Mr Ideasman putting up a screen but a very exciting Tawny Frogmouth sitting observing the revelries. He twisted and turned his neck and the small South African imports crept closer to see 'the owl.' Someone else thought he was a kookaburra so I think we all need to read about this special bird.

We had a second showing of The Power of Community so of course if you haven't seen it you must be in the minority!

Talking in the garden about the recently formed choral group, Mr Shedfull was heard to say, 'Did you hear us, the dulcit tones wafting over the roofs?' 'Oh' said Ms Mova, 'I thought that was the crow and the wagtail arguing again!'

Later in the day, Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong worked diligently to curtail some of the chicken's run so that the newly acquired cape gooseberry and paw paw may stand a chance of developing some fruit. The larger banana palms have survived but the smaller ones are being pecked to within an inch of their green lives. We have such curious, inquisitive little darlings who flew up onto our barrows of manure to make sure that they didn't miss the smallest insect or worm unfortunate enough to show its wee self.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Inspiration and noxious pests!

The hill at Carrington it was not! People on bikes, children clutching blankets, dogs and overstuffed picnic hampers would make their way along the boardwalk, by the creek and up the hill, manouvering to claim a spot. We had set out chairs, provided the blankets and waited. No, we were not inundated with families wending their way but it proved to be an enjoyable experience for the takers which Mr Ideasman saw no reason could not be repeated regularly...he thought we could even change the film!

We were privileged to have a real Mr Cuba in the audience who was able to give us some valid insight onto the realities of that special period in Cuba. The Cubans obviously didn't like the 1.2 million bikes from China as he says they now nearly all use public transport. I think the fact they were old steel clunkers with no gears had a lot to do with it!

A kind reader exposed Ms Tagalong's innocence about noxious Australian weeds yesterday. I had actually noticed how quickly it proliferated but had not been diligent enough to actually look it up. So those of you who also noted the flower arrangement in the bathtub, cast your mind back to those ferny fronds. They are in fact salvinia which needs to be eradicated. You will be pleased to note, or otherwise, that it is a weed of national significance and even though we are usually welcoming to visitors from Brazil, this one will need to be shown the door! In fact this one must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed. So you with urges for waging war, gird your loins and do the deed. I think some days out in the sun on the concrete should see to it and when shrivelled and dessicated should be placed in the rubbish. I don't think we should risk composting the little darling.

We may have a larger throng this Friday for Cocktails in the Garden and might try to compete with Rank or Miramax!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

A round-up of the week's events!

Saturday morning was clear, hot and humid. Wandering in the garden after letting out the clamouring ladies, I suddenly espied a very yellow rhubarb plant, followed upon closer examination another one and several very pale sick looking lettuces. Consternation! What could have happened? Those readers who have followed my delight with our flourishing rhubarb plants will know how devastated I was feeling. As I wended my sad way home I mused on the causes and suddenly thought, that looks like poison. From flourishing plants the night before to this! What else could cause such disaster?

Later in the day, I went back and my eagle eye spotted some tell-tale signs of drooping castor oil plants at the back of the garden over the fence. Those who have visited realise that our little plot is precariously poised on a built-up bank of concrete as high as the roofs of the surrounding light industrial area. Suddenly it all became clear. Our industrial neighbour, tired of the burgeoning wonders had obviously hired someone to stand down below and spray upward onto the plants as they clung to the wall. Well of course that someone either didn't realise or didn't want to realise that the drift was going to affect a lot of the growing veggies in our garden. My worst fear was confirmed as during the working bee we extracted many sickly, yellow looking plants. My google search on round-up showed that we should not plant anything for seven days and that anything even remotely touched will take the poison systemically into the plant through the leaves into the roots. Everything dies! What a great chemical to have lurking around our neighbourhood, don't we love the companies who promote its wonder? Plants' demise may take overnight to three weeks so we still do not know the extent of our losses.

On a jollier note, as mentioned last week, our garden, with the help of an Ideasman erected tarpaulin, became a perfect wedding party venue. The sun shone very hotly and everyone was glad of the shade it cast, even if by the time the event started most of the shade had slid into the veggie garden itself!
We ate, we drank, we talked and ate a scrumptious cake which Ms Mova and Ms '2011 will be my year' made together and lovingly shaped into hearts.
Today it has rained, the tarp is becoming an additional catchment into a barrel. I am glad I am not camping! Mr Ideasman will sit drinking his tea, jumping up every now and then to slide a pole up or down to cascade the collected water. Remembrances of things to come! Is January going to be the wettest summer ever? Good for the garden as respite from the audacious heat but not good for dry bedding and food!

Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong are doing a presentation this week on a pictorial of the progress of the garden. Ms Tagalong can't remember who it is for but I'm sure all will be revealed. We have also been cajoled into dictating our stories for the PlaceStories project by Jenny Cameron of the University of Newcastle. We are very excited about Costa coming to launch this sometime in early December. So as we head towards the Christmas season come and celebrate with us, watch The Power of Community, drink some cocktails at the end of the month and sow some more seedlings! I must add that we are in receipt of a large rhubarb plant as a wedding present - and a bag of smaller ones to create a new and spectacular rhubarb patch!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Prestigious venue!

How we are moving up in the world. First a patch for vegetables, then a venue for a wedding party! Ms Tagalong's not son-in-law Mr Debonair has been looking for these wonderful venues for events all over the world. His favourite so far is the Community Garden. Well I think that's what he said, maybe he said continue to use it for gardening and don't get above yourselves. Hard of hearing these days! Decorations have begun. This morning Ms Tagalong spotted some calendulas placed artfully amongst the green of the bathtub plants, floating like Monet’s waterlilies. Some fairy lights would be lovely, any donations of solar lights gratefully received. What a delight they are as they softly grace the feathery fronds of ferns and outline ghostly twigs.

Cocktails in the garden, our regular monthly occurence is gaining a difference this month with the addition of showing a film. Outdoor cinema. Not a drive-in, a walk-in more like it. Even a drop-in centre perhaps! The first showing will be The Power Of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil an inspiring film with its focus on food growing. Mr Ideasman will aim to have the projector up and running by dusk, so bring a cushion and a comfy chair if you wish. Ms Tagalong has visions of an ice-cream vendor strolling down the aisles…any takers? Just don’t expect any remuneration! Maybe a mint plant…we have lots of that floating in buckets ready to be placed where it won’t overrun the rest of the garden.

We obviously have the best chickens in town. Have you ever heard of a swap meet? Perhaps this is an American phenomenon but not one we wish to introduce into the Community Garden! Our chickens are happy in their run and do not get out of the garden. They are laying well and seem none the worse for wear for trying out another chicken run. A note to those well meaning people who find chickens wandering around George Street, they belong to the house on the corner of the park. They are the sleek, darker looking ones. We do have one we would be happy to exchange. The poor bald looking one. Her apparant moulting seems to have turned into something else. Anyone got any ideas on this one? She seems happy but looks worse than a bedraggled rat in the rain.

On our away weekend we were meditating, meditating on all things garden as usual I took some photos of the vegetable garden. Nothing too out of the ordinary, mostly lettuces and varieties we seem to grow but a little more ordered than ours which is probably not a good thing as the slugs or pesties have more on the banquet table. Small groupings of similar plants is ok. Long beds or rows can be problematic. And of course companion planting can be the way to go. More on that next time. Oh and the prestigious marriage party celebration. Now... are we going to be Mr and Ms Ideasman or Mr and Ms Tagalong?? I know we will remain as our own individual identities. What a novel idea.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Let's connect with food

Ms Tagalong recently attended a Fair Share Festival. Did she take some of the abundant produce from the garden you may ask? No she didn't but she and Mr Ideasman came back with produce of another kind. She came back with some interesting ideas on Food Connect which certainly had us thinking that we should really be investigating some of the box services available here in Newcastle to supplement the veg we grow here in the garden. Beanstalk also had a representative there, so check them out and let's see if we can give them some business.

We also had the pleasure of meeting the two young lads who run Tree Frog Permaculture. Keen,enthusiastic and irrepresibly cute they are very interested in coming to our garden to offer a workshop offering up some of their knowledge to the local yokels. Expressions of interest are requested so that we may make it worth their while. They did say that they had plenty of friends who could come if we didn't have many people!! So come on uni students in the area unite, friends invite friends and let's generate a wonderful experience.

So how did everyone enjoy the rain? The tanks are filling and the tap is not leaking. Be frugal of course and let's hope for a good growing season. Look at those cucumbers grow! If you don't they might be exquisitely drawn by Ms Botanical who is carefully nurturing them.

Ms Tagalong will be otherwise engaged next weekend to be able to blog. I like the expression, very a propos, actually she will be unengaged. Ha ha!

Have a great couple of weeks and keep those chickens happy. One scruffy one is enough!

Monday, October 18, 2010

An ill wind...

Ms Tagalong didn't tag along this weekend. She missed out on a very windy 'garage sale' day and the postponement of the working bee. Apparently her absence was noted but Ms Mova said she liked it because she could take all the accolades about the garden singlehandedly. No wonder she was smirking this morning on the cycle to work! Ms Nimble Fingers had asked for no rain but she forgot to mention wind and so wind came along in huge great gusts, or gale force bursts lifting the merchandise off the tables and into people's bags. So I am not so sure that it blew no-one any good and I was not there to witness if some strange faces appeared when the direction changed!

The garden had received donations of prickly cactus of which not one sold. No succulent collectors in our suburb, then? Ebay might be the next method of raising funds for the garden.

Ms Lady with the Broom felt the absence of said artefact and managed to wield a hand mower with great eclat. There were also rumours of auditions for Pirates of the Caribbean!

So really did Ms Tagalong need to be there? It is good sometimes to feel the reins taken out of your hands and for the horse still to be galloping.

I have yet to ask whether the chickens got their legs oiled. No, I have been assured that this is not in preparation for some delicious recipe, this is for medicinal purposes to combat those pesky mites. So this is not a myth, treatment can be oiling with vaseline but oh, every two days? Keep your eyes open fellow gardeners and chicken husbanders for those nasty little bloodsuckers.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The wheel of life rolls on

My Dad didn't know much about gardening, or so my Mum claimed. I remember years ago when I was still in single figures laughing about his fixation with mulching. We all thought it was such a funny word and what did he know anyway? Well of course, it turns out, mulching is the way to go to ensure moisture is kept in and protection is gained. He was also a drastic pruner; the hacking my parents' poor lemon tree had to endure every two or three years is no-one's business.

Again, some plants really need the ruthless touch. Those of you who have noticed our kaffir lime tree on the verge will see its beautiful bronze-mauve leaves sprouting after one of our members pruned it to within an inch of its life.
I could never have the courage to do that and that is possibly why my own kaffir lime is scrawny, spindly and clinging tenaciously with some underdeveloped limes also hanging on for dear life.

It is wonderful to walk around the garden after the wet weather and see the new plants growing up in haphazard ways, taking an opportunity to sprout their carelessly cast seed. We should be able to keep all our seeds from our winter crops, radish, lettuce, spicy and mustard lettuce, rocket, coriander and broccoli. How wonderful, we just need to keep them dry and secure for next year.

Peeking out of one of the piles of horse manure was a feathery plume of asparagus I had been observing possessively. But horror of horrors today I went hot and cold when I saw it had gone! Errant chickens? Greedy locusts? Someone jumping the gun and serving one piece on toast? Ms Mova was with me, I saw her face as I said, "Oh no the asparagus has gone!" She grimaced and slowly very slowly said,"I thought it was a weed. They are not supposed to come up until next September!"

So how does asparagus grow here in Oz? Was this front runner normal? Looks like you just ignore them for a few years, just keep piling on the blood and bone, manure or seaweed and watch the fronds grow. I would like to add that there is another frond emerging, watch out for frantic weeders!

Water is filling the tanks, yeah! The taps are nearly ready for use and the blackboards and pinboard are attached and ready for notes. Blackboards and chalk, a drawer's delight, the children are relegated to drawing on the portable blackboard or of course if they have gigantic aspirations on the concrete!

The rhubarb continues to grow. I pointed the three plants out very pointedly to Ms Mova with their burgeoning leaves and stems. Rhubarb and ginger crumble grows ever nearer!
We are also the recipients of two rather dusty, shabby and possibly old broilers who are beginning to enjoy their new surroundings and scratch about in the garden.let's hope that this one soon regains a red comb!
The chickens certainly are complaining about the time change! Ms Mova and I met on her step with bedhair and sleepy eyes on Sunday morning as the ladies were complaining so loudly from their pens. "Let us out, there are only so many hours in the day for us to forage!" Lack of foraging might have caused the new girls to have scaly legs. Ms Mova reckons gentle massaging with sweet-smelling oils, well vaseline anyway, might improve this. A lovely task for the working bee!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Companion planting

We plant companionably and we plant companion plants. Now there is a mouthful for you. A recent visitor to the garden was quizzing me on the bright orange and yellow flowers putting on such a good show. Are they marigolds? Calendulas? Mmm, I'm not sure I answered but I am sure they were planted to be companions to some other plant. They might have been planted to deter some of the nasties which decide they want to eat our hard won vegetables.

So a little investigation led me to this pagewhere the flower certainly doesn't look anything like the ones in the garden. So I searched further. This site has a few more photos of different marigolds but still not one resembling the flowers in our garden.

Now move onto calendulas and see if this is what we have. Ah, the photos here look much more like what we are growing and they still have properties which control sap-sucking insect pests (such as aphids, thrips and whitefly).

I like the tips about hanging the dead flower heads to harvest more seeds for next year when I will be able to talk with much authority about the calendulas and the pests they deter.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

We plough and we scatter!

Won't be around this weekend to check on the lush growing space, otherwise known as our Community Garden, so I will muse on the goings on this week. Sunday saw Mr Ideasman scrambling over the strategically placed barbed wire affectionately guarding our own Gulag as the key was missing! I think that Ms Mova had been up early and not being quite awake had left the key in the garden. As she had beetled off down to Sydney for a family birthday gathering, we resorted to carting along two ladders and up he scaled. Ms Tagalong was glad she was there to shout out warnings as the barbed prongs threatened her upcoming nuptials!

The lushness of Spring is around the corner and seedlings are asprouting as are the weeds. A cautionary tale: please look carefully at marked seedlings before plucking out the offending weeds. We all cherish our seeds we plant and like to admire their growth and then plant them out. Sometimes people remove them by mistake and that is all part of being in a community garden but those who have marked their seeds need to be applauded and noticed!

Poor Ms Mova looked long and hard for a stevia plant and now she will be looking longer and harder because although the plant marker is there in all its multicolour plastic glory, the plant isn't! Another victim of an enthusiastic weeder perhaps?

So take care those planters amongst us, use the plastic markers or write a lolly stick with the seed name or even use the seed packet and a stick. I don't think it will be necessary to stand a moonlit guard with a bent stick but....

There are a lot of toilet rolls in the potting shed. Someone has been busy! Many seedlings have been replanted in these to be able to sell on to raise money at the garage sale in October. Wonderful, biodegradable, you just plant the whole lot! So if you are looking for a job in the garden please make sure these are kept moist at all times as they will dry out pretty quickly.

Happy planting!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Another tall story!

So the manure story goes on- we are now encouraging the growth of our youngsters by letting them shovel the lovely stuff into barrows. I swear they were taller when they finished!

I received a comment about the toxicity of rhubarb leaves and whether I was pulling people's legs about feeding them to the lovely ladies who are so happily laying these days. Well, actually it seems as though the jury is out. Doing a little research I found some conflicting advice. Considering that the chances of us having any rhubarb to make into rhubarb crumble are pretty remote, I don't think we will worry too much about it yet!

Today, our working bee day, was such a glorious day, with so much accomplished and so many happy, smiling faces and laughing children. Thank you to all the contributors and workers. They planted and watered, sawed and bashed apart, rode and ran all day. Good sleep tonight, I feel. Having planted out the fruit trees we have we are still looking for pawpaws and as many passionfruits as we can have! A mulberry would be good too. The roof is on the top tanks and now we need some rain to fill them. We estimated that we used about 100 litres of water today for watering and potting so we will have 2 months water when they are full. Someone mentioned that a wet spring is forecast which would be ideal but when has a gardener's life been easy?

So a lovely salad of mixed greens, radishes and tomatoes together with some muffins made with spinach and dill from the garden were consumed for lunch together with a disappearing stash of Mr Ideasman's Anzac biscuits! I shall have to make some more! Okay, okay they were storebought.

Community centres come in all shapes and sizes and we think our garden is a good one! With plans afoot for a movie night, a music night and a possible long table meal we are bursting with good ideas as well as good produce. Little Miss Pretty was spotted eating baby broad beans straight from the pod. She who never touches greens at home!

So for those who liked the muffins, here is the recipe link courtesy of Taste.
Sitting having a cup of tea and congratulating ourselves on a day well done we were asked for some dill by two teenage boys, Ms Tagalong, who prides herself on knowing everything gestured behind her and the dill was picked. A few minutes later they returned saying, no they thought that might be fennel. Closer inspection found the dill plant but I thought it was interesting how alike they are and what are the differences besides the smell of course. So are you wiser now? I am not sure I am and feel that I can be excused for confusing them, so perhaps Ms Tagalong doesn't know everything!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

What shall we make tonight?

There is no finer pleasure than wandering into the garden after work, looking for inspiration and fresh produce. I purchased two lovely Greek spinach and cheese pies at the Olive Tree Markets and served them with a range of lovely greenery. Curly, pale green lettuce, shiny purple lettuce, coriander and parsley, feathery mustard green, slices of the largest radish in the universe topped with the smallest tomatoes you have ever seen.

Olive Tree Markets is held at The Junction Primary School and Ms Tagalong was glad to see the productive veggie garden in the middle of the school grounds, as you can see in the photo above. She was also very jealous of the healthy rhubarb crop you can spot in the bottom left living happily in an old bathtub. If you have been paying attention, dear reader, you will know how Ms Tagalong covets a good crop of rhubarb. Mmmm rhubarb crumble and custard must be one of the best desserts ever.

Back to the garden, we are getting ready to start planting some fruit trees in the chicken run and maybe out on the verge. Waiting in readiness are a tamarillo, a Davidson Plum, a fig and a lilly pilly.

We would like some native raspberries, pawpaws, mulberries and any other luscious fruit tree anyone would like to donate. The Davidson Plum was donated by the wonderful Ngioka Centre in Nelson Bay. They have a great range of native plants for very reasonable prices, so if you are walking behind Little Beach glance up and take a look.

Glancing down instead of up last week I noticed the broadcast sowing of seeds such as radish and bokchoy have come up in a profusion of competitive seedlings. Looking for a job in the garden? These need to be transplanted out in some of those lovely manure-enriched beds. Can't wait I hear you say...well there will be plenty of other tasks next weekend to get the garden ready for the growing season, so come one come all and we may even have a treat with one of our number educating us on weeds!

For a great rhubarb crumble recipe follow this link. I can't wait until our one remaining rhubarb clump has the required ten stalks! I don't think the girls can either, apparantly they love rhubarb leaves or is that for compost? I think they love anything you give them judging by the clamour at the fence in the morning. Feeding frenzy!

Monday, August 30, 2010

More manure and other tall stories!

Well, the workshop might have been sparsely attended but our wonderful members still turn out in force for the end of month cocktails in the gardens! Beautiful Miss Didi brought her dad and her little friend brought her whole family! Welcome all you new members. Children raced around playing games as they do while the oldies ate the barbeque, drank the drink and talked and talked. Sat around the brazier some stalwarts saw midnight and the huge spring moon chart its way over the concrete hopper.

And the next day it was back to reality and more of that shovelling. How many trailers can we fill? We have spied a skip full of the gold but have been told we are third on the list to receive a skip. Just be careful of your children; if they stand in it for too long they will grow even taller.

We love the garden chairs, two more slatted wooden chairs, shabby and chic, have arrived. Watch out for that Paint Pot Pat! Purple, please. Pat - we know Mission Brown is a heritage colour, but...too much of a good thing...

Still welcoming more and more new people into the garden. Come one come all.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Spring is springing!

Mr Ideasman scratched his head and thought about what he would really, really like to do on a Sunday afternoon and lo and behold, a lightbulb moment, he couldn’t think of anything he would rather do than shovel horse****!

Yes, folks, intimations of spring are appearing everywhere, from the narcissus bulbs to the blossoms on magnolias. From the steaming piles of manure to the earlier light mornings. I am sure most of you are planning what you would like to plant in the upcoming spring. The shade house is there awaiting your seeds and seedlings!

Unfortunately spring has seen fit to send both a laptop and a desk top computer into such a spin that they are no longer working. Thoughts of being unused whilst Ms Tagalong works in the garden obviously caused a reverse SADS and they gave up the ghost. Mr Ideasman seems to think that Ms Tagalong is to blame by moving the laptop around. I ask you, what is the use of a laptop if I can’t lug it around into the garden anyway?

The upshot of this is that I am unable to upload photos this week, so very sorry. You will just have to imagine the steaming piles layered with newspaper, leaves and mulch or even better come along and see them and if there is a trailer full of manure.....start shovelling!

For those of you who follow this religiously from afar you will probably be unable to attend our famous Cocktails in the Garden this Friday night but we will be thinking of you as we relax and unwind after a long and strenuous week.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Work, work, work

I suppose you could say we had a quiet working bee. No raucous barbeque, no profanities during the high installation of the remaining roofing for water collection. Frog spawn was placed carefully in the bathtub. In fact, everyone planted, dug, swept, pruned and hauled mulch with great restraint. Well nearly everyone, two young interlopers thought the garden might be a good locale to sip on cider and watch the others working. You just can't get good help these days!

Curious and willing children pounded oyster shells into grit for the chickens. A lean-to was made to shelter chicken food. Ms Sweeper had the garden looking smart and tidy until a little fixer tried out the hole digger, its inaugural outing, just to see how far he could dig and dropped the soil out onto the pristine concrete! What's a garden without a little soil? Paint Pot Pat brought some wonderfully painted boards as plant markers. Pick these; seeds; seed plant do not pick and so on just to guide the multitudes visiting the garden.

So the first workshop was held. The guest speaker arrived. The chicken leaflets, printed surreptiously at work, were ready to be distributed. The sun was shining. But where were the attendants? It was a pity that our wonderful people on the chicken roster were not able to attend and ensure they are caring properly for our ladies.

So are we imposing our ideas on the gardeners? Are they telling us they don't want any workshops? Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong will have to reconsider their ideas. We will perhaps try one more with the next working bee and request RSVPs beforehand. That said, it was a beautiful weekend weatherwise and people may have had lots of other things to do.

Isn't nature wonderful? Primary schoolchildren at the Botanical Gardens in Sydney were chasing around spying flora and fauna at the start of Science Week. A duck paddling in a pond was observed by one to be 'a dusty moron'! Mr Ideasman and I laughed out loud and I don't think I will ever look at a dusky moorhen the same and neither will her friends and family as the comment appeared on national TV!

So how are we doing in the community? A lovely story reached my ears this week. Two young primary girls came down to feed the chickens but became intrigued with the amount of produce they might be able to put on their own plates. Back home they went for a container and proudly collected, washed and ate a collection of lettuce leaves, sugar snap peas, radishes and tiny tomatoes. Roll on the appreciation for low food miles!

Friday, August 6, 2010

We are growing!

Ideasman was amazed at all the new visitors who wandered into the garden last week. New residents to the area, lonesome schoolchildren, sons and daughters of community members, couples interested in fresh vegetables, organic produce and the community spirit. Well, we have plenty of that here!

We have plans too, plans for the next year of the garden. Naked calendars for fundraising are so passe, but I must admit, Ms Mova and I shook around the idea, canvassed the gardeners and thought of some lovely prospects but dismissed it for some other outstanding, original idea. Just what that is, I am not sure, necessity being the mother of invention or whatever.. We are in the process of arranging a series of workshops to coincide with the working bees. Tricky planning! You must come to the workshop and oh there just happens to be a working bee on the same day! I mustn't malign our wonderful membership; we have a very willing cohort of gardeners turning up on those days. I am sure you have read about our working bee exploits over the year and can attest to how much we have accomplished. So we are thinking of a chicken workshop (rest easy Ms NimbleFingers, we are not showing you how to ring chickens necks, pluck them or cook them) but how to ensure that they keep laying. I am glad to report that one or two of the new ladies seems to be beginning to perform. But that was said in a whisper, just in case they hear and decide not to!

Ideas so far are workshops on herbs, weed identification and maybe a series of workshops from the wonderful treefrog permaculture group working locally. Let us know what you think but I can feel my teaching hat is firmly on and it's time for education folks!

Paint Pot Pat has been busy too. The wooden table looking very much the worse for wear has been transformed, dipped into cinammon chocolate, very smart. Mr Ideasman has fixed the bottom piping to the three water tanks, beautifully flowing from one to tother and we have a tap at the end! Ms Tagalong has to get a move on and chase up the promised reticulation system from our lovely local sponsors who won't get named until it is installed!! I saw a small sink in our pile of stuff to work with and thought how good to install that off the top tanks as a hand washer when working. Careful, Mr Ideasman, Ms Tagalong might become Ms Ideaswoman. Oh, I forgot, that is happening soon isn't it?