Monday, December 9, 2013

Social, social, social....

Christmas comes but once a year but with the amount of Christmas parties and festivities around the neighbourhood you might be forgiven for thinking that it is a December-long holiday!

Friday night saw members of the Garden and the Community Group gather to share food, frolic and play music on a balmy Summer evening. No sooner had you surveyed the food table than yet another platter of delicious comestibles were added. Cake made with eggs from the garden, Vietnamese Spring Rolls made with mint and lettuce from the garden, elderflower cordial from the elder bush in the garden and so on…

Much food, drink and conversation later, the Thukes got going, singing and playing a medley of songs from their repertoire which got quite a few up and dancing, Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong leading the way with Red joining in, plus of course the inevitable Christmas Carols with some guest singers visiting from Melbourne.

One fabulous outcome from the evening is that Ms Tagalong is proud to announce that The Source Café is going to be using available produce from the Community Garden as we provide a mixed box of veg and herbs weekly. Thanks Source for providing us with an ongoing income and keeping it about as local as you can get!

After a stunning concert at the Treehouse on Saturday night it was back to the garden on Sunday for a debrief and celebration of the coal survey doorknocking campaign which has been taking place in the suburb. A good turnout and welcome results for all those living with the coal dust! Let’s just get those politicians onboard!

And what about the actual garden, Ms Tagalong hears you ask, well it is growing abundant, verdant, luxurious with produce needing to be picked. So come for your tomatoes and cucumbers, basil and lettuce, beans and kale. It’s a bumper crop before the hot, dry weather sets in again.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

The girls are laying. The rain has fallen. Everything is right with the world.

This morning Ms Tagalong squeezed into the garden past all the verdant growth and had to let out the chickens although it wasn’t her turn. They were very vociferous, indignant even, at letting even the shortest micro-second of daylight pass without them being outside the coop.

Scrabbling to get out, the heaped through the door and fell out, racing toward a bountiful heap of scraps that some kind soul had posted over the fence.

They scratched and clucked, tossed and rummaged.

Ms Tagalong’s keen eye spotted some eggshells amongst the pickings and thought a moment of education was in need.

The chickens will eat their own eggs if they get into the habit so it is wiser not to put the halved eggshells in whole, if you take Ms Tagalong’s meaning. Best recipe is to bake them in the oven when you are baking something else on a low light and then crush them as finely as possible and chuck over the fence for them to scratch at. Hey presto, our very own grit without any expense!

p.s. if you are wondering why there is the Great Fence of China erected between the smaller and larger run it is because Ms Tagalong has sowed some green mulch seeds for the girls and our black wonder (chicken not sheep) keeps flying over and tasting the protruding seedlings. Not yet!

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Black sheep

Waiting for another walk!
Every community has a black sheep!

Probably you have heard whispers of black sheep in the family since you were knee-high!

We don’t talk about Uncle Dirk.
Don’t mention cousin Hattie and don’t even whisper whatever happened to Joe?

The shame of the black sheep. Every family of landed gentry has a wayward son or daughter who may or may not sing the nursery rhyme.

Baa, baa black sheep

Have you any wool?
Yes, sir, Yes, sir
Three bags full.

One for the master
One for the dame
And one for the little boy
Who lives down the lane.

Well, a few weeks ago the not so distant sound of bleating reached Ms Tagalong’s ears. She knows that Tighes Hill is becoming a village, not just a community but…She opened the front door to be greeted by two young garden poets and a black sheep on a lead.

‘We’re taking her for a walk,’ they said, ‘down to the park.’

‘Right,’ said Ms Tagalong, ‘she’ll like that!’

And that’s how she knows every community has a black sheep!


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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Potting Shed Poetry

Ms Tagalong had waited many moons to be able to replicate this initiative she had seen in Bridport,Dorset last year and here it was.  Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed young poets from the local Tighes Hill Primary School took part in the Community Garden Open Day.  

It was too hot for the poets to stand and recite in the gardens amongst the veggies and flowers but they stood amongst the watering cans under the pergola and spoke of bugs and butterflies, hummingbirds and bees.

Ms Mova’s favourite from Gus:

Our little garden
Our little garden,
In Tighes Hill,
Not so big,
But not so li’l.

Stephanie showed deep thinking:

Under the wings of a kind heartYou will find a secret.
Do you want to know what secret it is?
The secret of a sparkley butterfly.

So keep your kind hearts, gardeners. 

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Massage that kale like Sven!

Massaged kale!
It was an amazing Open Day. From beauty products to wick beds, there was something for all.

‘You must massage it strongly, you know Sven-like!’ said Michelle from Embrace Family Nutrition as she demonstrated how to bully the somewhat tough kale into submission.  Having cut out the ribs and chopped it finely it was now being squeezed to within an inch of its life before the other ingredients were added.

Ms Tagalong was all ears. She had been reading how kale and quinoa were trending on Twitter!  Mmm, well maybe not but they are certainly popular at present.

And this was Michelle’s recipe as made by Sarah Britton for a delicious kale salad which everyone tasted and came back for more.

Kale Salad
1 bunch of kale, stemmed and sliced into ribbons
1 lemon, squeezed plus pinch sea salt
Cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls of grapes, cut in half
1 ripe avocado, cut into cubes
¼ cup of toasted pine seeds


¼ cup cold pressed olive oil
2 Tbls apple cider vinegar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ shallot, diced
1 Tbls poppy seeds
Pinch sea salt
1 tsp honey

1.       In a large bowl, dress kale with a bit of olive oil and a pinch or two of sea salt
2.       Massage kale with your hands until it’s deep dark green, approx 2-3 minutes (remember Sven)
3.       To make dressing , place all ingredients into a clean glass jar and shake vigorously
4.       Assemble remaining salad ingredients and dressing. Toss and serve.

5.       This can stay in fridge for a few days as is already wilted! 

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Monday, October 28, 2013

When Danny became Dan

And so it came to pass…a wise granddaughter was proven correct.

It was the unmasking, the day that Danny became Dan! Yes, the white chicken was indeed a cockerel.

Danny and Kylie had still not been sleeping with the others. 

They were being slightly more tolerated but still chased away from food, most felt sorry for them.  Mr Ideasman rumbled on about Danny chucking seed around.

‘That’s a cockerel, look he’s showing off,’ he said.

‘I’ve seen the others do that too’ said Ms Mova, ‘she’s not a rooster, I’m sure.’

Fast forward a few weeks when Ms Earth Mother and her silver children were mingling with the chickens when one who shall remain nameless rose onto tiptoes, flapped wings and crowed.

Well, that was it. A fine specimen but not for our chicken yard. Ms Mova arranged a capture and he was taken off to the chicken man at the local markets to breed happily ever after or breed happily in the ever after.

And so to our wonderful Open Day.  Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong are still congratulating themselves and reeling from the fabulous rallying around by our wonderful gardening community to provide such an entertaining and enjoyable day.

But that’s another story! 

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Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Danny and Kylie - the truth

‘Well I think that one’s a crow and that one’s a cockerel!’ Ms Mova’s granddaughter was adamant. And Ms Mova thought she had brought in two young hens! The granddaughter was gracious enough to say she would come back and give another assessment if needed.

Danny and Kylie, for so they are named, arrived on Saturday. Danny fell unceremoniously from the bottom of a broken cardboard box, not quite the planned entry. Slightly dazed, Ms Tagalong was able to pick her up and pop her with Kylie in the separate pen.

This morning they thought they were ready for the big stage and were out there trying to strut their stuff with the other ladies. They didn’t even belong in the chorus line, booed and hissed off stage they cowered in the corners behind the curtains until they were rightfully returned to the nursery pen!

Maybe in a week or so they will be ready for a short number with the others and then whisked offstage quickly until the next show. It might take a while for the main cast to accept them and certainly many moons until they can take centre stage and become the main layers in what has pretty much become an old chook’s home! Ms Tagalong should bite her tongue, though, four eggs were laid the other day. The warmth and Spring weather encouraging all things reproductive.

It has also encouraged all people working as the garden is being prepared for the grand Open Day on Sunday, October 13th. Ms Mova is making a list of all prospective volunteers so sign up by email or when you see her with a clipboard!
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Monday, August 19, 2013

If life gives you lemons...

Ms Tagalong and Ms Mova have been planning a great event. No excuse for not posting but so busy...

It's not Spring yet but the flowers think it is and the flurry of activity in the garden brought on by the mild weather and the keen gardeners made Ms Tagalong happy to take part in the renewal process.

The flowers on the lemon tree seem particularly happy to be out and promise great fruit for great lemonade in the long hot Summer to come.

The bean trellis recently erected will provide shade and shelter for mini-gardeners whilst they play.

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Sunday, June 30, 2013

The famous Kew Gardens

A year ago found Ms Tagalong and Mr Ideasman in the famous London gardens of Kew.  Maybe it is the continuing wet weather which made Ms Tagalong reminisce about the day she and her family spent there.

Stunning Victorian spiral staircase and metalwork taking you up to the gallery above

Giant Lilypads 


Fan formwork! A photographer's dream!

An old man orchid!

In the orchid house

Doesn't everyone picnic in the rain? When in England....!

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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

5 ways to increase your blog readership!

5 ways to increase your blog readership!

  1. Make sure your posts have a number in the title! Short and sharp is probably better. 100 ways might just be overdoing it.
  2. Post the best photos that you can, even if they don't have anything to do with your post.
  3. Be shameless, mention Facebook, Twitter and anything else that is newsworthy on that day. By the way, Nadal was beaten in the first round of Wimbledon today.
  4. Link to other websites or blogs that might be useful.
  5. Blog regularly. Once or twice a week is recommended. But of course you might want to go on holiday or travel or something so don't worry about it then, your readers will find something else to read.
  6. If you have read this far you might be realising that Ms Tagalong's tongue is very firmly wedged against her cheek as she needed to come up with a blog for this week in very few minutes!   
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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Hugh comes down under!

Ms Tagalong only has to talk about it and the twittersphere goes viral! Well at least a few people are talking about it. It? The new River Cottage Australia coming soon to our TVs.

Such a great idea, super recipes and of course as sustainable as can be.

Ms Tagalong and Mr Ideasman were very happy last year whilst residing in Bridport to have visited the Axminster canteen and sample some of the local Devon and Dorset produce.

Last week Ms Tagalong was waxing lyrical about Hugh's Sweet Potato and Peanut Gratin. This week she has been experimenting with some of the recipes from her favourite birthday present.

Never one to miss the opportunity of using bush tucker, this salad of avocado, lettuce, spring onions, cucumbers and lily pillies drizzled with bush lemon juice was just the ticket.

Can't wait to see some of the Aussie chef Paul West's creations at River Cottage.

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Planning an Open Day

'We love our garden and we want everyone else in the community to love it too!' Ms Mova stoutly declared and Ms Tagalong had to agree.

'It can't be a well-kept secret. We need people to come, plant, dig and chat.'

'An Open Day with lots of events!'

'Let's use some skills from Timebanking. I saw an event planner on there. I bet she's got some tricks up her sleeve.'

Ms Mova fell into a reverie. Images of ideas were floating by. This is what she saw.
Cooking demonstration by Jamie Oliver

Some quality time with gardener Jamie Durie

And even a token art installation! 
Would we say no to gnomes?

What would you like to see on an Open Day in Spring?

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sweet, sweet potatoes!

Yes, we had a glut in the garden this year. A somewhat rampant sweet potato plant took over three beds, the raised pyramid and occluded the lemon tree!

It was time for it to go. Ms Mova and Ms Tagalong donned their bibs and overalls, girded their loins or something like that and set to digging and tugging.

Soon all the greenery was in two large mulching piles and the pile of sweet potatoes grew ever-increasingly larger.

'What have you made with sweet potatoes?' queried Ms Mova.

'Soup and curry,' Ms Tagalong replied.

'Mm we need to be a bit more adventurous!'

These are two recipes they would like to pass on to you.

Sweet potato, chilli and coconut soup – perfect for these cool winter days

1 onion - chopped
2 garlic cloves – crushed and chopped
1-3 chillies to taste – chopped finely, remove seeds or not according to heat tolerance!
2 fair sized sweet potatoes
1tsp each of garam masala, coriander, cumin or curry powder
vegetable stock
1 can coconut milk

Fry the onions in some olive oil until translucent
Add the garlic and chillies
After a few minutes add spices and stir in to mix
Add the peeled, diced sweet potatoes
Toss in the onion mixture for a few minutes
Add hot vegetable stock to cover
Bring to boil and simmer until potato is soft
Add can coconut milk and more stock if too thick
Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yoghurt and chopped coriander leaves

And thanks to one of my favourite chefs Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall from River Cottage Cafe
this layering of thinly sliced sweet potatoes laced with lime, chilli and peanut butter is wonderful.

Just love those sweet potatoes!

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Sunday, June 2, 2013

When is a garden not a garden?

SOLD - Glovers Lane Reserve
Not when it has been sold so rapidly after council deeming it not to be!

Glovers Lane Reserve is not to provide space for recreation, exercise, therapy and education, or provide a catalyst for neighbourhood and community development, or be a preserver of green space, three of the definitions of community gardens by the American Community Garden association.

Ah, Ms Tagalong thought, perhaps Australians have a different definition. Councillor Steve Edmonds certainly does. He says 'there is no garden in Glovers Lane Reserve.' And to make absolutely sure he went back three times to check!

Ms Tagalong went once. It looked like this.

And this.

Councillor McCloy might have a more liberal view, (good choice of words, Ms Tagalong!) But he said, 'I'm in favour of community gardens but not on certainly incredibly valuable land like in that location.'

There's the rub. The next morning after the vote to sell the reserve, the sold sign was up.

Apparently this is a question which has caused ructions not only in our council but overseas too.

In a landmark case in England in 2008, Lord Justice Moses said, 'The Oxford English dictionary states that a garden is an enclosed piece of ground devoted to the cultivation of flowers, fruit or vegetables.

'That definition is clearly too narrow, as the current fashion for wild gardens and meadows amply demonstrates.

'The reality is that no description will categorically establish whether a piece of land is a garden or not. It is incumbent on the fact finder to determine its use.

'It is important to look at the relationship between the owner and the land, and the history and character of the land and space.'

So, sorry Cooks Hill residents, the fact finders said you cannot have a garden to promote a sense of belonging to a community and a sentiment of wanting to give something back. Oh yes you have given the garden back, it has gone to council and so swiftly to a developer.

Maybe RESERVE has another definition too!

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Not quite an eighth wonder! The Grounds of Alexandria...

Whilst waiting for brunch!
It was a wonders of the world type of weekend. Not quite the Hanging Gardens of Babylon at the Vivid Festival or the Great Library of Alexandria but the Groundsof Alexandria!

Ms Tagalong and Mr Ideasman were exploring Sydney oohing and aahing at the spectacularly bright harbour and Opera House. Amazing lightshows aside, the cafe called the Grounds of Alexandria was just up their street so to speak!

It was busy. Very busy. So be prepared for at least an hour's wait and the arranged brunch just squeaked in before they stopped serving and changed to a lunch menu.

It's a great space; appealing to the young with a cute Kevin Bacon, although Ms Tagalong is not sure the owners of the grubbly little hands extended to pat him realised that one day he would end up on their morning BLT!
The young Kevin Bacon!

Fresh produce, free range eggs, surely not laid by the token chickens in their run, they would have had to lay non-stop to fulfil the breakfast and brunch demands of possibly 800 people. Jodi at the desk was not sure how many they had served. She rifled through the crossed out names. 'Well it's 9 pages of 20 groups per page,' she said, not confidently it must be added.

And of course there were another 800 milling around for lunch! Whilst waiting you can wander around the garden, purchase coffees, lemonade, pastries, donuts and barbequed beef. Some groups decided this was best and gave up on the waiting for a table lark and chowed down partly hidden in the green alcoves. Verdant herbs are used for the kitchen but Ms Tagalong feels that this is a more a nod to self-sufficiency than a real attempt for sustainability.

That apart, the atmosphere is buzzing, the food good and the service brusque and efficient.

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Not a Facebook party!

Keeping warm!

It wasn't a real Facebook party. You know, one of those that when you announce it on Facebook it goes viral. We didn't need beefy, sunglassed security at the gate asking ,'Do you know these people?' or 'What's your relationship to Ms Mova?'

In fact it was a quiet affair of about 20 people. Wait, did Ms Tagalong say 'quiet?' Quiet it wasn't. The
The choirmaster up to his old tricks!
ukeleles were strumming, the people singing and what better song to begin with for the departing local choirmaster and his lovely voice companion but the old Abba classic,Thank you for the Music.

Miss Smiles had been round the day before rehearsing with Mr Ideasman.
'The chorus is great,' she said, 'but you don't want to know about the rest of the song.' She mentioned something about dumb blondes or words to that effect so Ms Tagalong had to agree the chorus would probably be best.

In fact it might have been better to have just kept to this song for when Ms Mova's brother lent his baritone? to his favourite song, Blue Moon, the audience laughed wildly.

The pizza oven was ablazing. The 44 gallon drum was ablazing too to keep all warm on this cold Autumn night. Red read out a poem she had penned for the occasion to oohs and aahs and tears in the eye. George ate a whole pizza base when no-one was looking. Not a gluttonous invitee but an attending labrador! 

Conversation never ceased between the old and the new, the remaining and the departing.

'I'm sure someone replaces our young chickens with old ones,' Ms Mova confided. A conspiracy theory ensued.

'Not a velvet underground, but a feathered one,' quipped Ms Tagalong.

'I think it's a cocktail one. Remember the cockerel with the chopped tail dropped over the fence last year? Just so we didn't notice he was an interloper. I think the crowing at four am was a bit of a giveaway!'
Our youngest gardener!

All giggled, laughed and drank champagne. Anyone would think we were glad to say goodbye to these dear friends and stalwart gardeners who have turned up through thick and thin. Even if the lovely companion couldn't remember whether she had come on her bicycle or not! We thank them again for all their support and wish them well in community gardens new down Melbourne way.

All the gardeners are sorry to lose you both but it was a great excuse for a garden party, just not a Facebook party!

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Glean, gleaner and gleaning

Midgimberries and cherry guava
'Gleaner, Gleaner,' the skinny barefoot boys would call as they dodged the cars at the traffic lights. Another world, another time and they weren't shouting at Ms Tagalong for celebrating the joys of gleaning produce but selling The Gleaner the daily Jamaican newspaper. So what's the difference, gleaning bits of news or bits of fruit and produce?

So who goes gleaning? And what does it really mean? The Oxford dictionary states that the historical meaning is to gather (leftover grain) after a harvest:(as noun gleaning)the conditions of farm workers in the 1890s made gleaning essential. Ms Tagalong feels that the conditions of people in the 21st century may make it a necessity again.

So much food, so much wastage. Where do we start? Look around your neighbourhood. There's a macadamia tree dropping its little packages of protein right under your feet. There's a citrus tree and over there a mulberry tree. And is that an olive tree littering the street with olives ready for curing?

Up the mid-North coast there was bush tucker everywhere, midgimberries, cherry guavas, native grapes to name a few that Ms Tagalong spotted, popped into a bag and sampled later. Speckled midgimberries with their slightly aniseed taste were great fresh on her bowl of muesli. Cherry guavas, halved and scooped out with a spoon were a great morning snack.

Davidson plums with their smoky bloom don't taste so good straight off the tree but try stewing them with brown sugar for a wonderful tart taste. Perhaps even use Kylie Kwong's recipe and serve them with duck (not locally caught on Throsby Creek!) 

So Ms Tagalong thinks perhaps we need a tree register of our neighbourhood, a plan of fruit and nuts which usually go begging, mouldering or smashing. Supplement the lovely fresh herbs and plants you get from your community garden with some of these little wonders! 
Salad courtesy of Northbank Community Garden

It's great to have some feedback, so please leave me some comments.