As you may be aware, I moved to country Victoria last December.
I'm still keeping up Brisbane Local Food because so many people are using it, and I'm proud of it, and I enjoy it, and I think it's helping the world which makes me feel good.
I apologise, though, for now being out of touch with the weather and what's going on for people in Brisbane, and having only an irrelevant experience down here to share. Still, if you'd like some irrelevant reading, you're most welcome ;)
After fourteen years of not seeing an Autumn, we went up to the Dandenong Ranges and twirled in the best Autumn leaves Melbourne has to offer.
Coffee in South Melbourne revealed terrace houses with chillis and tamarillos in the front yard :)
Tamarillo/ Tree Tomato
Also millions of people wearing black, drinking excellent, bitter, caramelised, silky coffee :)
And golden light blue sky autumn leaf days.
Back at the ranch, there's no expensive Chook Mahal for our chooks this time around. Instead we've improvised on the tank water stand.
The bike shed has become the woodshed. The other half is the chook sleeping quarters, and we constructed an adjacent day pen for them for when we go away. Usually they just roam around the garden all day.
We've fox proofed their enclosure, and apparently there are plenty around, but they haven't been sniffing around our place yet. Fingers crossed.
Our chooks will not roost in anything except a tree. I've tried so many things (including a dead tree in their pen, every size dowelling at every height). They seem happy enough to sleep in nesting boxes though, so that's what we do.
These ones are just kids' milk crates on their sides filled with hay. I also put hay on top because they like to sleep up there too. There's also plenty of hay on the floor because they like to make a nest there as well. The hay bale is in there for some wind protection and privacy. I think it helps them to feel secure. Who knows who comes and looks at them in the night?
I'm going to put some clear corrugated plastic on the door to help with the wind protection and warmth. The prevailing wind is from behind the fence, so that's OK, but it's probably still pretty drafty. I might build them a proper box structure. They don't like the boxes being upright. They really are difficult.
PinkRosie moulted weeks ago, but now Booty and Heckle have started. Booty already had a small moult. Maybe that was her Brisbane moult, and now she's doing a big Victorian moult.
This is the day pen. We just used starpickets, treated pine and lots of chicken wire, attaching it to the fence, the tank stand, and digging it under for a couple of feet to help with the fox proofing. The nesting area is completely fox proof if we close it up completely (we lined the floor as well).
There is a clear plastic roof decking thing coming out from the house over part of the day run, so there is a dry outdoor spot for when it rains. It means I can't grow plants up the wire though :( You can see where the grass stops growing, because of the roof. There was grass in the pen, but no longer! You can see we don't have a proper compost system at the moment - we're just chucking almost everything to the chooks (even if they won't eat it, it's gone within days and attracts little compost/ thrip-like insects for them to eat).
Some sort of weed vine in the bit that does get sun and rain. I should replace it with a passionfruit.
This is the chooks' favourite place to hang out during the day - under the kangaroo apple - which is in full sun and has branches all the way to the ground.
They're hard to spot, but they are in there.
They've got a day nest just next to this spot too, where I'll often find the eggs if they've decided not to use the sleeping nests.
Ah ha! There you are.
They have another nest spot in the other end of the asparagus fern bed - it took about two weeks for us to find this one! I'm scared of spiders and snakes when I put my hand in. Luckily they don't seem to be using it any more.
The vegie garden at the kids' school has some pretty things in it.
Oak leaf lettuces. Tomatoes (frosts haven't quite started yet, but the dew is getting very heavy!).
Big red silverbeet.
No brassicas at the moment. The garden is crawling with snails and harlequin bugs, and cabbage white moths take out all the brassica seedlings. It's surprising the lettuces made it. Snails love baby lettuce. I think they squeaked through before the current plague. Broad beans and peas have been planted direct and are starting to come through. We need more onion family. Seems to be missing.
I have lots of seedlings I've been growing on for them, which will fill it out when we plant them next week. I lost a lot of the brassicas to the cabbage whites :( I need to get them up out of the flight path. Or spray gunk on them. Hmmm. I shall ponder how best to deal with it. I don't fancy the gunk route, but it's a rental and I'm not mad keen on spending money/ building elaborate structures either.
Mostly beetroot and lettuce have survived. The back porch is a good spot - they grow well and don't get stressed. I pulled all the tubes out of the holders and sat them in an inch of water in these trays, out of the rain - nice and easy. I only have to water them about once every week! (because it's not very hot here, although we've been having lovely clear sunny days). The tubes are nice and long (tree tube style) so there's no harm to the roots, as they have plenty of room to grow above the waterline - they're not water-logged.
I took some root cuttings from the school mint, oregano and marjoram, and they're all taking well. This is the mint (I need to water it until that saucer fills up again!). Note the dead rhubarb :(
Why? Why does rhubarb take one look at me and leave this mortal coil? All I did was take it out of its pathetic punnet and pop it in some good potting mix. Unreasonable. A rhubarb vendetta.
The back porch is the sum of my edible endeavours at the moment - besides the orchard next door, which used to be part of the house, which has given me a fridge, cupboard and freezer full of fruit. :D
But I have my eye on a piece of grass out the front which is just asking to be a vegie garden. I planted up the other garden beds with ornamentals because I couldn't stand looking at them, but it might be time for a bit of edible action :) Soon. Will have to work out how to kill the formidable grass without poisoning the legions of local frogs first. Old carpet maybe. Or lots of wet cardboard. It won't look good, but I think i'm going to go for it. Short term pain, long term gain.
The Dr John's mini garden is still going strong. The basil is finished. We're onto the second lot of spring onions (plus I'm rotating some that were too close together and in lower layers into the top layer where they grow the fastest, so it's like a staggered harvest from one seedling punnet). I also scattered spring onion seeds and have two lots of babies coming on. The chives have been brilliant, as has the vietnamese mint. The gotu kola and parsley are very slow (too cold). The lettuces died in the mini planter, but survived in the pots. The celery is ok, but I keep picking it and it's not exactly huge. The silverbeet is booming. Boom my pretties, I wish to eat you with butter and salt and pepper.
These are also some self watering planters on the steps. We have strawberries, parsley, coriander, lettuce, silverbeet (finally rescued from the end of the seedling punnet - look at the difference between these and their sisters in the mini planter!), rocket (keeps getting hit by the cabbage moths - next door has an entire field of rocket and moths so it's probably worth waiting until the colder weather sets in and the moths disappear) , plus spring onion, lettuce and parsley seedlings. I put some dill and some carrot in as well, but I've yet to see them come up.
There's a geranium and a rosemary cutting in there as well (both doing well - I didn't want to lose the geranium because I transplanted it, it's an insurance cutting, although I'm unlikely to need it).
I need more lettuce, parsley, and rocket. I feel like rapunzel's mother. More greens!! It's amazing how much fewer greens you eat when you have to buy them. It seems so insane to pay $4 for a wilted little bunch of parsley. I go through handfuls and handfuls of greens every meal.
I'm running my sprouter non-stop. I couldn't find anyone with sourdough starter, so I made some using Nigella Lawson's recipe and baker's flour (starter under the pink teatowel). Then I left it out of the fridge, on the bench, when we went away, and it stank the house out and went way too festy, so I'll have to start again. But it was very nice bread. See Rosemary Morrow's blog (front page of BLF) on sourdough for the real deal ;)
And I'm still baking heaps and heaps of crazy pear and apple delicious-ness from the trees next door - like this pear and maple syrup tarte tatin. I even made flaky, light, buttery, homemade puff pastry using butter (all 500kg of it) from the local dairy and my giant sack of unbleached baker's flour (not organic though, pity). Not a freezer truck in sight :) And you know, actually, it was absolutely sublime.
This one is apple clafoutis. All this local cream and butter can't be good for my arteries.
We buy giant sacks (20kg) of local spuds (front counter at the local farm supplies) for $12, so as you can imagine we're eating a lot of potato as well. It's fantastic, I have to say.
Trail horse riding. Our 8 year old is doing horse riding lessons after school. She wants a dog and a pony SO MUCH. Oh dear.. I want a dog too actually. (btw Midnight seems to love it here as well).
Koala spotting, riding our bikes home from school.
I think I love this living in the country thing.
Especially when you can hop on the train and be in the big smoke in a few hours! Wear a lot of black, drink a fancy cocktail, visit the museum ;D
Watch out, am fantasising about buying a farm now.....
(let's see how we feel about it all after the dreaded Winter...)