Tuesday Treasures – Day 28 NaBloPoMo 2017

I was absolutely thrilled today – because I had to go to work 🙂

It’s a wonderful thing to look forward so much to something that too many people consider a chore – but the crew I work with are fantastic, and this time of year is pretty awesome. We’ve got the Oak Food Garden up to a point where we’re starting to harvest a lot of food!

Today, we harvested the rest of the broad beans and they’re going to be (mostly) blanched and frozen for use by the Wednesday Cooking crew in the next few months. We also pulled our experimental garlic crop, one of the first things planted back in February and they’re now hanging inside to cure. This was grown from a head I provided – the same garlic that more or less failed for me this year. It’s given me some clues as to why mine didn’t do well this season, my soil is just that much heavier and holds a lot more moisture.

Beautiful huge heads of garlic – note the $1 coin for size reference!

Although they’re a bit late to be going in, we planted a lot of tomatoes today, that we hope we’ll make into Passata come autumn. The Wednesday Cooking group are making healthier lunch options and have been making pizza and salads. We harvested a lot of salad greens for them today, Cos lettuce, endive, tiny white celery flowers (absolutely delicious in salad!), silverbeet and red orach.

This is the first pick of the orach, which we planted fairly thickly from seedlings I raised only a couple of months ago. While we were picking, I discovered a volunteer tomato, looking very happy. I thought it might have come from someone’s lunch tomato that could’ve ended up in the bed (we’ve only reclaimed the area in recent months), but further along the row, I discovered more healthy tomatoes! Every one up against an orach plant!

Red Orach and sneaky Volunteer Tomato

Then the penny dropped.

Two years ago, my friend Sara gave me some Roma tomato seedlings she had no room for. I had a great crop and dried most of them, the seeds ending up in the worm farm. The following winter, I must have used that tray of compost in one of my wicking barrel dwarf apples – and got a bonus crop of tomatoes last summer!

I dried some of those too and would’ve put the seeds in the worm farm – I hate wasting anything. And of course, I used some worm compost in my potting mix when I grew on the orach seedlings a month or so ago. So, the interlopers will be cossetted and cared for, eventually overwhelming the orach, and I hope they crop as well as they have for me the last two years 🙂

 

 

Super Saturday – Day 25 NaBloPoMo 2017

Oh what a day!

The Superstars played a set at today’s Christmas Lunch for OAKPossability participants and I was very proud of us all. We played a selection of our favourites, that showcase people’s skills, a few festive numbers and a couple we’ve written. And ended up doing encores of audience favourites!

Playing in a band is quite a tribal thing, and it’s evident that we’ve made connections with each other that are lasting. This was particularly clear today. Two of our group, Kathryn and Sally have been away sick for a few weeks and turned up today with their families – ready, willing and able to perform. As a professional musician, I couldn’t have asked for more commitment than these people gave ❤

Me and my lovely friend Sally (aka “my gorgie one”)

Although we’re a month early, it was a lovely festive function and we had heaps of really excellent Xmas food to eat. (So much, I couldn’t eat dessert!) It was a very warm, muggy day but we finally got some brief respite with a thunderstorm and a little rain this afternoon.

All round, I think I’m a very lucky woman – I live in a lovely part of the world, I’ve clean water and good food to eat, and work that sustains me, letting me work with dedicated staff and fantastically talented participants ❤

Time to Sleep – Day 16 NaBloPoMo 2017

Well, that was a ride and a half!

I’ve just submitted an 1800 word short story and 500 word exegesis for my Speculative Fiction assignment and I feel like I could sleep for a week. Unfortunately, there isn’t time for that!

Tomorrow (Friday here in the southern hemisphere) is the day I get to play music with The Superstars at Oak Tasmania, and we’re deep into preparation for a private function we’re performing at next weekend. These men and women are simply fantastic and I’m truly blessed to be able to write and perform with them ❤

Maybe I’ll be able to post some photos next week of our performance – I always love action shots 🙂

Meanwhile, there’s lots of gardening that needs doing over the weekend, a jam session at a friend’s place to go to and lots of new movies to see. I’m particularly keen to check out the Kenneth Branagh Murder on the Orient Express, Killing of a Sacred Deer, Loving Vincent and Jungle. Let me know if you’ve seen any of these films, I always like to hear other people’s opinions 🙂

I’ll leave you with a wonderful discovery I made in the greenhouse yesterday – the first Rocoto chilli flower for the season ❤

Passing on the Passion – Day 7 NaBloPoMo 2017

Every Tuesday morning, I teach Food Gardening to folks out at Oak Tasmania. It’s one of the best jobs in the world, sharing my passion for growing fresh food with eager participants and switched-on staff. We have two worm farms that take all kitchen scraps from the building and a small vegetable bed that we’ve been working on since the start of the year, and it’s become very productive. After doing some soil tests, we realised we had to do quite a bit of work to lift the pH (it was too acidic for a lot of the vegetables we wanted to grow) and with a bit of research and effort, everyone pitched in spreading dolomite limestone, and we’ve started getting some excellent results.

Feeding the worm farm with coffee grounds

 

Apart from learning basic horticulture skills, the participants are growing fresh vegetables for a Cooking program one of my co-workers runs on Wednesdays. So we like to test things out on Tuesdays and learn how to make things too. Most of the folks in my program don’t have gardens but they are fabulous, instinctual gardeners and really great cooks, which I believe most of us are if we’re given half a chance.

Today was stunning! We harvested our first broad beans, some celery stems, a veritable mountain of silverbeet (aka Swiss chard), Cos lettuce and one huge head of garlic. It was a little early for the garlic, but it was a good lesson for the team to learn – and we have quite a few more heads still in the ground.

Fresh bounty from our veggie patch

Together, we got a production line going, washed and prepared the silverbeet, finely chopped a few stems of celery and lightly roasted the fresh, whole garlic head and its fleshy stem in a little olive oil. While we were waiting for the garlic to cook, we opened up the luscious beans and scoffed the lot! They were so delicious and fresh!

More scraps for the worms!

Once the garlic was soft, we smashed the whole thing – head and stems – removed the thick, uncured skins, chopped the garlic finely and fried it in a little seasoned olive oil with the fine chopped celery. Finally, we threw in the roughly chopped silverbeet, covered it to sweat down for a few minutes and made sure it was all smothered in the wonderful, rich, garlic flavoured oil.

We served it in a bowl at our section’s lunch table and we could’ve made twice as much! The Cos lettuce and the rest of the celery are being used tomorrow as a salad accompaniment for a Pizza making session – which makes me wish I was out there again tomorrow!!!

Delicious food we grew and cooked ourselves

Love – Things That Grow

I’ve had a really rewarding and busy week. There’s been lots of weeding, planning out what seeds I need for spring, making loads of chicken stock for a sick friend and a dizzying amount of research into a paper I have to write about fan cultures. Above all, I’ve really been noticing how much lighter it is when I get up, and this morning (after some very cold and wet days) it was wonderful just to see kunanyi (Mt Wellington) again.

In my last post, among other things, I wrote about a project I’ve started with the Food Gardening crew at Oak Tasmania, growing Snow Peas in eggshells. Well I’m thrilled to update you all that we now have baby pea plants 😀

Everyone seems to have got involved, making sure they were carefully watered every day and it’s been a great success so far.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I hope to get them outside to harden off once they’re all up and showing a couple of leaves. Then we need to find somewhere to plant them – space is tight at the moment!

And speaking of OAK, an advance notice for Hobart/southern Tasmanian readers. I’ll be performing with The Superstars on Friday 11th August (about 3 weeks time) at a fundraiser quiz night. We’re all looking forward to it and had a fabulous rehearsal this morning 🙂 Finally, I got away from the garden and uni on Wednesday and attended the launch of Smoke One, a collection of highly commended and winning microfiction, published by Transportation Press and sponsored by Fullers Bookshop. It was a lovely, intimate event, and a selection of stories were read to a very appreciative audience. I was particularly taken with Andrew Harper’s story “Antlers” and Madeleine Habib’s harrowing but beautiful piece, “Hope Floats”.

Creating a cohesive story in such a short format is a very difficult thing to do – if you don’t believe me, try it sometime! – and I’m thrilled there’s such an international competition based in Hobart. If you’re interested in different forms of short fiction, I highly recommend this! I’m planning a quiet weekend of gardening, reading and a trip to the movies – either Spiderman – Homecoming or Baby Driver, I’m not sure yet. But wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, take care friends ❤

 

 

 

Kind Words

Last year, I was approached by a young Hobart-based writer I know, Jenna Cesar. She was planning an article for her blog concerning different approaches to community work and wanted to interview me about what I’ve been doing at Oak Tasmania.

You can read the full article here, where Jenna also talked to Jay Stevens and Eri Konishi. It’s a lovely piece and (hopefully) might encourage others to bring their unique skills to help others in their community.

Also, The Superstars are playing at MONA (Hobart’s iconic Museum of Old and New Art) this Saturday afternoon as part of an event for National Youth Week. The equally amazing Callum “Rock Star Man” is opening for us and (as you can see from the photo below) we Superstars are seriously excited!

If you’re in Hobart, please come and say hi – we’d all love to meet you 😀

The Superstars L-R: Tim, Mel, Megan, me (trying to hide), Sally, Kathryn, Kellie and Ben (Photo courtesy of Chris Rule)

Meanwhile, I’ve got a ton of uni work to do so I can have the weekend off! Take care ❤

Oh Beautiful Friday!

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My life is a little bit insane at the moment, hence the lack of blogging (sorry!)

I’m as always, up to my eyeballs with uni (getting a portfolio of poetry together this time) and work has started again at Oak Tasmania. This year, I’m doing my musical things with The Superstars and we have some big plans for 2017 but I’ve also started tutoring a Food Gardening group two mornings a week. It’s been hectic!

In the space of a couple of weeks, we’ve started doing experiments with growing carrots in pots rather than in traditional garden beds, resurrected the worm farm, started a vegetable and herbs seed bank, done quite a lot of weeding, cleaned out the small greenhouse that’s on site, potted up some basil and eggplants and planted some lettuce seedlings that are already up and running 🙂

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Future salad!

Eventually, we want to grow enough to pass on to the kitchen and provide the cooking courses with fresh, clean produce to turn into salads, soups and encourage better eating among the Oak staff and participants. I’m also hoping some of the seedlings will go home with the gardeners, most of whom are very keen!

This week we spotted a very old dinghy around the back of the site and we’ve decided to appropriate it. Our plan is to bed it in securely, fill it with sheep poo and some good loam and plant it out. The drainage is good – she came with lots of holes! – and we’re thinking about an experiment with some seed potatoes we discovered to begin with. Although they’re very late, in a raised bed we should get a crop and I think we should dress it up and name the old girl something like “The Good Ship Spudalicious”. (Photos are coming!)

Meanwhile, at home it’s a bit overwhelming with nectarines just finished and plums coming in and I’ll be getting the dehydrator out this weekend to turn most of the plums into prunes for the winter months. And I did get my one apricot off the new tree! A few months ago I cheered that there was one solitary fruit and it ended up perfect and utterly delicious ❤

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The maincrop bush tomatoes (San Marzano and Principe Borghese) are just starting to size up and ripen but the Debarao are still flowering and a little behind the Polish Giant Paste that are very green but already very big! Undoubtedly, the best cropper so far has been the bush Roma’s that were an unexpected bonus. I’ve been picking them just as they’ve started to colour and I’ve got a couple of kilos off them already that I plan to bottle in the next few weeks. Everyone’s tomatoes in southern Tasmania seem a little late this summer, but while the rest of the country’s been in a devastating heat wave, Tasmania has been relatively mild and surprisingly damp this year.

Principe Borghese Tomatoes

Principe Borghese Tomatoes

Last week I picked enough perfect grape vine leaves to put in brine for making Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves)

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At least I got the year right even though it’s February now!

and this week I put up two bottles of Pickled Nectarines. This is really simple and relatively quick. All I do is put halved and pitted nectarines into sterilised jars with a cinnamon quill, a star anise and piece of dried Habanero chili in each (totally optional!) and covered them with a heavily sweetened apple cider vinegar (the ratio is 1:1) while it’s still hot. Covered with sterilised lids and put the jars through a water bath for 15 minutes, these nectarines are wonderful with ice cream as a dessert or sliced with game meats. Just leave them for a few weeks for the flavours to develop.

And Wednesday, I had a great time playing a gig at Irish Murphy’s in Salamanca. Because of everything that’s going on in my life at the moment, I haven’t been playing as many solo shows and it was so good to play some songs and catch up with lots of friends 😀

Because I’m working more, I decided to make a mega Zucchini and Ham Slice to freeze and take for lunches – it’s a great way to use up some of the zucchini and egg glut! I used 8 eggs, three grated zucchini, a 1/4 cup of flour, a few left over boiled Nicola potatoes, some cubed ham (about 2 cups) a little fresh sage, thyme, marjoram, a couple of finely sliced Cayenne chilies and a grate of nutmeg. After I’d beaten all this together, I added about 1 1/2 cups of grated Colby cheese and about 1/2 cup of grated parmesan and baked it in a greased deep pan for about 45 mins in a moderate oven. I ended up with 7 generous serves that will make work lunches a lot easier!

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But now, it’s Friday night and I’m beat! All I’m good for is watching the cricket on television and drinking cups of tea. I keep looking across at the pile of clean washing and wish it would fold itself up……..

 

 

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