Friday, October 22, 2010

Adios Alice

The wildflowers are blooming like I've never seen them before. Mulberries are dripping from the tree. The garden and the vegetable crisper is full of produce. The olive trees flowered for the first time.

Despite this we are moving and saying a big brave goodbye to Alice. This is a place where you feel you have to say bye to the land as well as to the many friends we have made here. Those big old bony mountains, scantly clad with Spinifex, tired old Corkwoods and rock garden hills about the town. The sandy rivers the kids have learned to call their own and the watery beaches they have enjoyed this year. We have seen the best years with loads of rain and the worst years with records low rainfall - all within the last 2 years. Ironically the best rainfall can mean the worst results in the vege garden with massive outbreaks of pests.
In Alice we have grown and shared lots of food. It is much easier to do than in a lot of other places but then again it's not the easiest place either. It is a place with its own timetable and idiosyncrasies and the occasional nasty shock. Tune into your garden and environment and you will be rewarded. Vege gardening is an intervention and being attuned to which intervention is required is they key. Make a mistake and the harsh conditions here can mean that is is a big one.

 Hopefully the many posts in this blog will serve as a resource to those who come to this town and wonder what and how they will grow food. Who knows? some other gardener might post here occasionally too. However there is a great gardening network in Alice and lots of knowledge and groups like Seedsavers can help you get a foot in the door, providing seeds, knowledge and directions to people who are interested in growing their own food.

For those interested in the adventures of a mad food gardener from Alice who has gone a long way south - Under the Chestnut tree will document this journey. Whoo hooo!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Pests and predators, nematodes and the VEGE GARDEN COMPANION!!

Despite a big party the night before, we managed to have a lovely little workshop on pests and predators in the Clarke st backyard on Sunday morning. We lingered a long time on the subject of nematodes - my place being nematode central.

pest and predators workshop in the flowery garden
 We also got to see some impressive aphid infestations (grey cabbage aphid) on my Broccoli as well as the many predators at work, which included 2 types of wasp (Chalcid wasps are the tiny ones), Hover flies and lady beetles. There were also Tachnid flies but more brightly coloured than the ones in this link. Pest life cycles in the garden were discussed and ways of manageing them. With the cabbage aphid for example, i try to slow their expansion in the garden by pulling off the first infested leaves that i see- or even  whole plants. This way i can have a longer period of picking broccoli without aphids. Eventually they take over but this is usually after I'm sick of picking the million tiny offshoots and have moved onto another vegetable - like Asparagus. Any sprays that i have tried to use make things look worse than they were with just the aphids so i haven't bothered for years.
To minimise the cabbage aphid i also try not to have any brassicas in the garden over summer - a brassica free period. By doing this I reduce the opportunities for this pest to make an early appearance in the garden the following spring. The predators however can parasitise other aphid species (i think) so they still stay around.

So much is in flower in the garden at the moment - especially the plants which are great food for predators like Hover fly and Tachnid flies. We have Thyme, Sage, Marjoram, Evening primrose (seems to flower a lot of the time), Coriander, Rocket, Broccoli, and  Parsley.

Of course the whole reason for this workshop, which i have neglected to say was the Gardens for Food workshop series. As part of the gardens for food funding we also decided to do an update of the much loved Alice Springs Vege Garden Companion. This publication is designed to fill the  gaping hole  which is a lack of easily accessible written material on gardening in the arid zone.
Well done Katrina Button for putting it together - and so beautifully! We hope that this book will allow people to garden with less mishaps and mysteries and more success and wonderful food. Look for it at Arid Lands Environment Centre, Geoff Miers Garden Solutions, Afghan Traders, Bloomin Deserts and an increasing number of other garden centres i imagine.

Now i had to include this photo of the rabbits because it sort of looks a bit like a bunny flower when they all have their heads down. They are powering through their food at the moment and the bowls are always empty when i come back from work or in the morning. BUNNIES FOR SALE - in case you were wondering.

There has been a bit of an undercurrent to my posts of late - the party was our going away party, and there was a lawn sale before that. The house is sold  (unlike the bunnies - yet) and we are a-movin. Going to be with my apple trees on our farm down in Vic. My blogging will also migrate over to Under the Chestnut tree as the family starts another gardening adventure on a much bigger patch of land.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Big bountiful spring and Olive flowers

Our cool spring came to and an end in the last couple of days and we have now had quite a few days above 30 degrees in a row. An early visit to the garden plot was in order this weekend to keep on top of the bounty of maturing winter crops.

Today we picked Beetroot, Carrots, Fennel, Peas, Zucchini (first ones!) and Cabbage at the garden plot while we continue to pick Asparagus, Broccoli, greens and Cape gooseberries at home.
The weeds between the garden beds are really growing well and today i picked a lot of them and used them to mulch between the french beans and beetroot. We should be able to pick some French beans next week.
The snake beans we planted earlier in the month are not doing well - the cold weather must have knocked them back. They do love the heat.
We also picked wildflowers - glorious wildflowers outside the garden, along the roadsides, all over the place. Lots of yellows' and purples'.
Children in Ptilotus

more Ptilotus

Oh yes. Musn't forget about the Olive tree. One of it's branches has burst into flower. I think it's toying with me.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Change of diet

Tropical fruits and coconuts this week for me, thanks to my visit to the Cocos Islands  where i have travelled to advise on food gardens and some revegetation work on a couple of Islands.
I was treated to wonderful poly cultures thanks to the Cocus Malay people on home island. People living among their food plants and all plants in the garden with a purpose.
This Lime tree is shading sheds and vehicles as well as providing fruit.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Experimental Kimchi

This weeks experimental Kimchi includes Fennel bulbs, Diakon radish, Raddicio, Parsley, Shallot, Garlic, Chinese cabbage, Carrots and Ginger. I am enjoying my first batch of Kimchi quite a lot so i thought I'd make another batch with some Fennel and see how it turned out.

I know i said that bee eaters mean spring but i now think that Orange Blossoms mean spring 2 weeks later.
The next batch of baby rabbits are about ready to make an appearance from out of the burrow.
The cabbages at the garden plots are growing in leaps and bounds as are the Beetroot. The Beetroot are doing quite well with the bit of liquid fertiliser they  were given by mistake.
The Sno peas are in full production and are big and juicy. When i saved the seed from them last years i made a separate selection of large pods and it seems to have paid off.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Bee eaters mean spring!

I'm a bit later in breaking this news but the Bee-eaters have arrived for the summer and so have the Sacred Kingfishers. These birds stay around for the whole of summer and their calls fill the air - especially in the evening when the Bee-eaters are tring to settle down to sleep. Although these are the reliable migrants we also have Trillers, Songlarks, Chats, budgies and cockatiels when the seasons are good - like now. There is also quite a commotion among bird circles as the Princess Parrot is making an appearance in different places.
We have had more rain in the last couple of days and there is more predicted next week, so these birds will just keep on breeding.

We have been enjoying the greenery this year and have been on some lovely short walks with the kids.
there was even a very cheeky Dingo catching fish!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Food overload - preserving notches up a gear

There is just so much to eat at the moment. Broccoli coming out of our ears, cabbages, cauliflower, peas, Chinese cabbages, fennel, and Asparagus just about to explode out of the ground. Luckily this August has not turned on the heat - apart from the odd day otherwise things would be growing twice as fast. This August has been a couple of degrees below average due to the rain and cloudiness.

Sauerkraut, Fennel and Parsnips

So what preserving have we done this weekend?
Made my first batch of Kimchee (thanks to Mr H for telling me that is was quite ok to leave out chilli)
Made another big jar of sauerkraut
blanched and froze cauliflower
Made pumpkin chutney (the wifey).

Kimchee - ready for the brine solution

We have also been making cabbage salad with our chines cabbages.
You can do this salad with normal cabbage but not too often as raw cabbage has the ability to stop you absorbing iodine - i think.

Chinese cabbage
lime or lemon juice
soy sauce
sugar - or make your soy sauce a sweet one
sesame oil
olive oil
sesame seeds - toasted (can do in a saucepan)
spring onion leaves
coriander leaves or thai basil ( i prefer the thai basil)

Now the dressing is not precisely measure but i reckon
juice of one lemon
4 tablespoons of soy
1 tsp of sugar
1-2 tbsp of sesame oil and the same for olive oil

Generally finely shred and combine the rest of the ingredients.

We have also been making a gremolata out of our preserved lemon skin, finely chopped with lots of Parsley.
have on top of stews, baked potatoes, mashed potato
we also use the preserved lemon skin on our pizzas the other day which was very nice.

Tonight for rabbit stew with our parsnips, fennel, greens and potatoes and pumpkin mash with parsley and lemon gremolata.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Sauerkraut a hit!

There  were lots of things to taste on Sunday morning including Kimchee (Korean traditional fermented preserve - thankyou Margi) fermented Diakon radish, cabbage and preserved lemons to marinade our home made olives. Margi also made some pancakes with the Kimchee which were a treat.

I had a lot of questions from the workshop participants including about the safety of eating different fermented foods. One thing i tried to explain is that it is actually much safer to eat food that you have made, have control of and know the history of. You know how the food has been treated and the environment that it has been grown in  - which is much more than we can say about the food we buy. I think we have been convinced by the media or health authorities that what we have done for centuries, and what kept us healthy for centuries is now somehow dangerous and that food we buy is somehow mush safer because it has followed regulations in some mass produced factory? It may take a while to get our confidence back after being told for so many years that new is good and old is contemptable.
Another question which i was asked was if the lactic acid had benefits other than not being a burden on the body to digest. To add to that:
Lactic acid promotes growth of healthy flora throughout the intestines
other benefits of fermented foods include:
The bio-available nutrients in fermented food are five times higher following pre-digestion.
This includes vitamins, minerals, amino acids, antioxidants and the numerous medicinal compounds found in food.
Digestive enzymes are a huge benefit as are antibiotic and antcarcinogenic substances found in fermented foods
Lactobacillus produce many of the B group vitamins.

Nourishing Australia has lots of good articles and links if you want to learn more about fermented and other traditional foods. I could spend ages looking at those links. Much of what i have learned about fermented food come from Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon. I had decided to buy it after reading a copy at the local organic shop- and then was given it by a relative. Enthralling reading - the click thing doesn't work by the way.

Now the recipe below isn't fermented but its simple and delicious and a friend asked for it so here it is - for those of you lucky enough to have limes falling on thr ground.


This recipe originally came from Ansty …….. I was never all that fussed about lime pickle before I tried this pickle – and now I am sadly addicted and am probably using it with far too many meals. Of course it is great with curries!

30 limes (we used 60 small ones)

1&1/2 cups salt (we used uncrushed, iodised sea salt)

½ cup Fennel

½ to 1 cup Chilli Powder

½ cupCoriander

½ cupTumeric

1 cup of Mustard seed Black or brown

2-3 cups of Mustard seed oil

Dee- pip and cut up limes thinly. Add salt. Sit for 2 weeks, stirring once a day.

After two weeks add about ½ cup of each the fennel, tumeric, coriander and chilli

(In my recipe I ground all the seeds but some people have left the fennel seeds whole). Stir well and leave for one week, stirring daily (taste after a couple of days to see whether it is the right flavour for you). Heat up mustard seeds in small amount of oil till they go ‘pop’ and release their flavour. Then cover the seeds with about 2 -3 cups of mustard seed oil (you want enough to cover your pickle yet not to much). Let it heat yet not bubble. Pour over pickle and stir well. Leave for a day or two to settle, stirring daily and of course testing for yumminess. Jar up and enjoy!

Even with I cup of chilli – this pickle doesn’t seem to be all that hot. I also made the pickle without any chilli and its still great.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Raddicio - you are a very special vegetable

Lots of Raddicio has gone into the garden over winter and spring. I love seeing it turn red as the winter colds up and the frosts kick in.
I have a couple more punnets that i will be scratching my head about where to stick, but i haven't tried very hard. Raddicio is one of the few leafy green vegetables that will survive  in this climate over summer without daily watering. Over the summer ours get water every 2 - 3 days and the keep on producing and seem to outgrow the pests. I don't think i have ever had any killed by pests. It does have a deep tap root which probably accounts for its drought hardiness, thus it is very different from lettuce which it can be mistaken for.

 They are indeed a bitter vegetable and i find they are best mixed with other leafy greens in a salad - but i do find as with Rocket, that the strong flavour is lessened when you add a bit of olive oil and Balsamic. Do not nibble a leaf and decide you don't like them - they are meant t o be dressed and put in salads!

They are also great food for rabbits and chooks and just seem to keep producing after quite savage picking. Our rabbits will always go for the Raddicio first if there is a choice. You can get varieties with long leaves which are more like chicory or fat leaves which are more like Raddicio.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Cabbage aphids arrive, knit one pearl one and processing bunnies

I knew they would arrive some time soon and as such I discovered a budding colony of blue cabbage aphids – under the cabbages actually. See link for more info -

Usually they start off in these tiny numbers then breed up to a plague and make the broccoli most unappetising. This year they are not stressing me though as I have no great goals of saving seeds from the Brassicas I have – apart from Mizuma, which has just started to flower. I’ll cross my fingers for those. However if you do have a need to get rid of them, one way is just to pull up the plants that the little populations are on – this slows down their population growth for a while and may just give you enough breathing space to get viable seed set on your plants. I have found that sprays that use soaps and oils to make a worse mess than the aphids do as they can burn the plants in warm weather.

Well I have taken up knitting as I just felt I needed to be doing something when my wife was knitting- I’ve already found it to be therapeutic. It makes me slow down a bit. By the way i am not yet pearling.

Processing bunnies. That’s a nice way of saying the half grown rabbits have now transitioned from their homes outside to inside the freezer. They have such soft beautiful fur at this time of the year. I’m wondering if I can scrape it off and use it for felting? I have tanned skins in the past – and I still have them and have done nothing with them. That may have to wait if and when the kids want to learn a new skill.
The kiddies have also transitioned to being present at the processing and are seemingly unscarred.

Down at the plot potatoes and beans are poking out of the soil , and we have planted some more tomatoes hoping that spring has now come. Chinese and other cabbages are looking good and carrots are sweet.

I tried the sauerkraut that I made a couple of weeks ago and it is surprisingly good for a young batch. It already has quite a sour taste. I wonder if it has anything to do with using the whey from goats milk, rather than cows milk?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Sour foods - Learn how to make sauerkraut next Sunday

Sunday August 22 , 11am - 12
33 Clarke st.

Lactofermented foods are a traditional way of persevering food in many countries. It has been somewhat replaced by preserving using vinegar and sugar which was spawned by industrial processes that were able to produce these 2 ingredients at low cost. However a lot of goodness was also sacrificed by the transition from lactofermentation.

Sauerkraut is most commonly made using finely sliced hearting cabbages that are pounded and naturally fermented with lactobacillus – the lactic acid produced gives the sour flavour and preserves the cabbage. Sauerkraut improves with age and attains the best flavour after more than 6 months of cool storage.

Why bother making sauerkraut? It is yummy , healthy and you can’t buy stuff that is as good for you as the home made. We also can’t grown cabbages during the summer and even leafy greens can be a struggle. By making your cabbages into sauerkraut of the end of winter you are preserving your harvest, making a convenient and healthy condiment that can be enjoyed with lunch and other meals, and provide the family with something healthy to eat in summer of your other crops fail to produce. Growing vegetables in winter also uses less water than in the summer.

On the day we will:

Make a batch of sauerkraut using locally grown cabbages and taste some product that was made recently and some that was made last year.

We will cover the benefits of fermented foods.

Provide recipes and references to take home.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Sauerkraut and socks in the sun

It was all a very relaxing picture on a Sunday arvo, with wifey knitting her socks and me pounding away at some sauerkraut in our chasseur. She has nearly finished one sock incidentally. We were pondering our differences the other night - the process drive verses the goal driven person. I reasoned that a process driven person would end up knitting longer socks because they are not focused so much on finishing the job as a goal driven person. This also partly explains why when we are doing a very big job like cutting up a fallen tree or doing roadwork, Helen peels off and looks for a job that is more rewarding and gives her a feeling that she is getting somewhere. However, there are many advantages of being goal driven and she is much more likely to complete projects in a timely fashion eg. ask for a baby present for friends, and in a matter of hours craft project is completed! 

Sauerkraut did get made. 1 cabbage turned into about 2 large jars.

 I also decided to try some preserved and fermented lemons. I have tried preserved lemons before with salt and citrus/ tartaric acid and they worked well. Hmm - must look up that Lemon liqueur.

preserving lemons

preserved lemon with cinnamon sticks

Tomatoes planted last weekend at the plot were hit by frost, so we will  have to start again with those. Potatoes and beans are still safely underneath the ground. The carrots are getting big enough to pick but should start putting on some bulk in the next month. The snopeas are also feeling the effects of being nicely frozen and are not setting new pods while the already formed pods look a bit speckled.

Planted lettuce and endive seedlings, planted Tat tsoi seeds, thinned tomatos, basil and greens in punnets. My Iranian lemon balm has come up in the punnets which is good. I was given the seed by a man who obtained the seed through his family and it is an annual rather than perennial. I've never seen this seed advertised anywhere and i may be the only seed network that has this seed. My plan is to grow these plants out and multiply my seed supply because this is one of those special heirlooms that could be easily lost.

The Valencia Orange trees are loaded and looking great. These trees never seem to miss a year, while the navel oranges definitely seem to fruit better in alternate years.
This one is growing in the chook yard but its roots are somewhat protected from scratching by black plastic.
Our old chooks have started laying now that the spring is near, so maybe we are not just feeding them for nothing after all.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Action packed long weekend

So the mulberry thinks its spring. This black fruited white mulberry was always a little earlier than the white fruited white mulberry near our back fence. Sometimes it suffers the consequences and gets caught by a late frost - which is predicted for this week. 

 The Asparagus are also showing signs of life especially the ones i have been growing in pots. My neighbour plants which get a bit more sun than mine are up and she is picking. However i'm in no rush to get Asparagus as there is plenty of Broccoli to be had as well as cabbages, sno peas and fennel. We picked some great bulbs of our 2 year old fennel plants from out at the garden plot on the weekend. If you let them grow , the following year that will produce bulbs on the end of long stems.

 Another surprising thing about the fennel was that when i dug over the bed next to them fo rthe tomatoes - there were lots of roots up to 1m away from the fennel plants. I 'd never had thought they would travel so far, even in good soil like that. I planted the tomatoes (grosse lisse) just out of reach of these roots just incase there was an effect from the fennel roots releasing nasty anti nutrients.

At the garden plot there was more work to be done than i had thought. We turned over the compost heap for the last time,

 planted tomatoes, potatoes, french beans, zucchinis, snake beans. I also mulched  the carrots with native Enneapogon grass which is everywhere after the rain this year. I find it very hard to bring myself to buy Hay for mulch when it has travelled so far and when we have perfectly good natural suplies of it growing all around us. I am a scavenger at heart which helps.

camping on Emily creek overnight was great fun and the kids just ran off and made their own fun. We just had to fend off the toottery babies walking around the campfire - and luckily this was successful. The treed were full of budgies and they seemed quite unperterbed by the fact that we had camped there. They still used the same roost trees  above our tent. The morning chorus was quite lovely to listen to as we lied in the swags. A small walk through the bush near the river revealed stacks of Litte Button quails, blasting off from unexpected points on the ground and making me jump. The other exciting find was that Brown quails are back after an abscence of about 7 years. They appeared in Central Australia after the big rains in 2000 and 2001 but then disappeared. The fact that they are back again means we have had a pretty good season

planted thai long green eggplants that i received from Mareeba seedsavers. I had been wanting to try these for a while as i think that they are much more heat resistant than the large purple eggplants that we have grown in the past. The large purple one tend to produce great buckets in the Autumn afte rthe hottest weather is over - that is if they are not eaten by grasshoppers. Eggplants are a very favourite of theirs!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Tomatoes are up!

So after having spent many days looking into the hothouse and frowning, looking a bit closer and wondering wether all the seed was bad - the tomatoes have all popped up. The 3 days of 25 deg plus weather has been responsible for that. Lets hope somebody gets something out of the many pots crammed into the hothouse.
I'm going to have to start evicting plants soon.

In the hot house we can see - curry plants, wormwood, Jujube, shallots, beets, honey locust and shallots

What else is going on? I really need to go out to the garden plots and pick broccoli and snopeas, dig in some compost ready for spring planting and pull some weeds. I think i'll also put in a row of french beans - as August 1 is my usual planting time, but i did wonder this year wether i should get them going in pots a month earlier to ensure a more prolonged crop before the hot weather sets in.

We have been having lovely crusty "no knead" bread for a while now. It's a convenient sort of loaf because it was sit for up to 24 hours and you can then put it in the oven when the oven is on for other purposes. You also don't have to knead it as the name suggests. I'll have to thank my lovely wife for discovering that one through the blogosphere - i just wouldn't have tried it being the pessimist that i am.

Might have a test run or saurkraut this weekend. I have obtained some unpasteurised goats milk from a friend of a friend and that has been sitting on the bench in a bowl for a week making cheese. Last night i began draining off the whey, which i'll put in a bottle in the fridge to innoculate the saurkraut. The whey keeps this way for up to 6 months but you can also freeze it to keep it for longer. I also read that you can innoculate you saurkraut and other fermented vegies by using the juice from your last jar of saurkraut (i don't think this includes commercial stuff as it may have been pasteurised??) I have not quite finished my last jar from August lasy year.

While we are on food, we have been enjoying our sundried figs (made in Dec) in nut mixes, and cut up finely in fruit salads. Although they are somewhat dry when you first put them away to store, the remaining moisture seems to get redistributed and they are now a bit moister and spongy.

My nut mix consists of almonds and pecans (each nut contains a different form of vitamin E), Pumpkin seeds (from our pumpkins) Goji berries (big vit c), dried figs and sometimes sunflower seeds. This is available to the kids at most times of the day for snacking. We beleive we are at a milestone with the kids as they have stopped picking green things out of their food now and are whoofing down green salads in a way that is most non childlike.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Pickles and pottering

Pottering sort of weekend. Panted abit more coriander so see if we can keep the supply up for a bit longer into spring. Took a few seed punets (gossip cabbage) out of the hot house and into a nice sunny spot for hardening , as well as some thinning of other seedlings. Cleaned out the rabbit pens and  dug in some of it where the gossip cabbage has been growing. I have planted a lot of summer greens for the chickens in the form of endive, chicory and gossip cabbage. The rabbits also got a lot of neighborhood greens from our weekend wanderings - and the male rabbit went back with the female. I found out recently that rabbits are "stimulated ovulators"- that is they are stimulated to ovulate after copulation (about 10 hours after). So there is no oestrus cycle that we assocaite with other mammals.

The show radish gets processed!

I decided to have a bit of  a test run of my radish pickle (lactofermented)  in readiness for a workshop in a couple of weeks time. This involved choosing a couple of large Diakons, peeling and grating, mixing with  a tablespoon of salt and 4 tablespoons of whey. This is mixed and then pounded for a while with a wooded mortar/pestle thing. Then it is jarred and sealed. This will now sit in the kitchen for 3 days until it has had a good go at fermentation. The recipe is from "nourishing traditions" by Sally Fallon.
Most of 2 large radishes (1.5kg) fitted into a large pickle jar.

We also pricked out some edibles and medicinal herbs - Malva sp, Euphorbia peplus and Liquorice.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The seed man hands on the batten

My seedsavers email to our mailing list was sent out today, so i've posted it up here too.

Preparing to save seeds from the winter garden.
.For those who have not saved much seed, we will be working through winter vegetables and talking about how to best save seeds from them. We will cover hybridising, pests and assessing ripeness of seed.

Changing of the guard

As I’m leaving Alice Springs in November I’ll be handing over the running of Alice Springs seedsavers. There are various parts to running a seed network in a low key kind of way. These 4 jobs are listed below. Some of the roles do not require particularly developed skills in gardening or seedsaving but do require a consistent commitment and communication with the group. Consider taking on one of these roles if you would like to ensure the seednetwork in Alice Springs continue to thrive.

If you would like to take part in seedsavers in a more active way but can’t attend the next meeting, reply to this email and something can be arranged.

The seedbank

This consists almost wholly of seeds that have been grown locally by myself and other members of the community. The seedbank managers aim is to get people growing as many of theses as possible and to keep a viable supply of seeds. This may involve enquiring if people can contribute the seeds of certain vegetables or growing out some varieties and saving them every 2-3 years.

The seedbank also contains seeds that have been sent from other seed networks in Australia or from seedsavers. The seeds that perform well are saved from these varieties.

There is a rough division in the seedbank between summer and winter vegetables and this seedbank is shared at meetings where people are welcome to take from seed to grow their own. With the taking of seed there is the obligation to save seeds and to share them with others in the future.

You may also get requests from other seed networks in Australia who are looking for particular seeds, so you may need to package up seeds to send away in the mail.

Receiving seed for the seebank is also an important part of this role. Details should be written down about the vegetable, the date of harvest and who provided it. Questions should be asked as to ascertain the experience of the seedsaver who provided the seed and to ascertain how likely it is that the seed may be hybridised with other vegetable varieties in the garden. The origin of the seed should be taken into account – if it was from the local shops, it may be a hybrid and needs to be grown out for several years to see if it grows “true to type”.

Bulk seed.

Often people save seed in quite large quantities resulting in many thousands of seeds. Often this is more seed than can be used by the seed network and this seed can be shared with the wider community. (*If you receive a large amount of seed from someone with unknown experience that you plan to package, it is wise to grow out this batch in the first year in order to make sure it is what it is supposed to be*). One way of sharing seed with the wider community is packaging seeds with appropriate labels which can be sold to locals though events or through shops. This is also a way of promoting seedsavers in the community.

The website (scroll down to view)

Seedsavers network hosts a page for each seed network in Australia where various information about each group can be posted. Meeting dates can be posted here as well as links to other websites. There is also a spot for putting seeds you are searching for – and this has proved a very successful way of finding hard to get seeds.

The events

To raise or maintain the profile of seedsavers in the community, we host 2 events each year. Depending on your energy and enthusiasm you may run more events but the events below we have found provide the best bang for your buck.

The Steiner fare is usually a very successful event and many people sign up to be on the mailing list so they can receive notices of the next meeting. It is usually held on the last weekend in May.

The desert smart eco fair is the other event where seedsavers makes an appearance and we usually run a workshop on the day as part of the program. This year it is on September 18.

The mailing list and meetings

The manager of the mailing list simply sends out meeting notices with the appropriate details so that people can attend. These should be sent at least one week in advance. Meetings are usually held four times a year at the changing of the seasons which often are good planting times as well.

March/ April – planting time

August – planting time

November – Seed harvest for winter vegies

Jan/Feb – seedharvest for summer vegies.

Other event notices should also be passed onto people and any relevant correspondence about seedsers network or seed issues.

There may also be other more specific themes explored at meetings such as seed sorting, growing seedlings, etc etc. You can guage what is needed by talking to people in the group or in the community.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

New babes and seeds to save

New baby rabbits have arrived. this time the litter is bigger - probably 7 - 9 but i haven't been able to get a close look yet. She did have them in theburrow again despite the fact that the hutch looked pretty good to me.
 The winter rain has brought out lots of grren growth and herbs so there are mounds of milk thistle (and wild lettuce and marshmallow) to be had around the neighbourhood. i've been stopping my bike on the way home to partake of the bounty on the road verges.
On the weekend we harvested carrots, fennel, chines greens, broccoli and planted some beetroot - and made a nice Ministrone. My cucumber seed has finally fermented enough that the seeds are free from the gooey coating. This time i floated the green goo off the seeds while the seeds sank to the bottom of the container. They are layed out on a tea towel until they are dry enough to transfer to a paper bag for further drying.

We also had a big seed sowing of summer vegetables - including tomatoes - although we should have planted these a bit earlier. I'm on the verge of running out of room in the hot house!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Horny cucumbers

Sorry if your google search has turned up the wrong sort of website. This is a gardening blog, full of wholesome ingredients such as.....
the African horned cucumber
I have grown these things for years - or rather they grew themselves after i planted them for the first time. They are no ordinary cucumber and have a particular timeframe when flowering and fruiting.
They will only fruit after mid summer and in declining daylight hours , so here that means march and april and they go on to ripen into winter. I have had a bucket of them sitting around waiting for seedsaving and decided to do it on this drizzly day.
This involves scraping out all of the pulp and seeds and putting it into a large container (as i had a large number of cucumbers). By the time i finished i had nearly filled this container with green frothy goo, which will now sit and ferment for over a week. This will break down the gelatinous layer around the seed , and when washed after a week of fermenting the seeds will come clean. They are then dried.
 This technique can be used for all cucumbers as well as tomatoes. you may have to add a little water to the mix if it is not liquidy enough.

These cucumbers give you a glut of fruit late in the year. I prefer to pick them while still quite green and when the seeds are small or poorly formed and eat them like cucumber - peeled. Today my kids were eating the contents out of the ripened fruits and it was slightly sweet. They are however bullet proof in regards to all hot weather conditions and all sorts of pests, as long as they have water.

Speaking of weather it has rained again over the weekend and in the evening today the coulds seemed to descend to near ground level. I thought you only got fog in the morning and i don't remember even seeing fog here before.

Went to a pruning workshop this afternoon which was very informative. I learned that different types of grape vines need different types of pruning - spur and cane. That was the biggest discovery for me anyway. I look forward to doing a bit of pruning in the near future.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

weekend jobs

The Asparagus has died off well and truly now so i have chopped it off and used it for various things. It will serve as rabbit bedding - the great thing about that is that they nibble it up into tiny pieces and it falls through the wooden slats as mulch.They probably eat quite a bit of it as well.

I have used some for mulch underneath the pigeon pea, which have not yet been frosted off but are not growing particularly fast. The rabbits are not all that keen on pigeon pea at the moment - although they seemd to be keener on it during the summer. This is in contrast to clover (another legume) which they absolutely love - and i have been collecting it from the park over the road. it has now grown back enough after the mowing to begin picking again.

The baby rabbits have now been separated out from the mother rabbit. She promptly sealed up her burrow with anything she could.

During the whole time she has babies she will block up the burrow and unblock it when she goes into feed them once or twice a day.
She might even use the box filled with asparagus’ mulch as a nest for her next babies.

The oranges were also treated to a top dressing of muck and dirt from the chook house. i thought i'd do this because it is forecast to rain a lot over the next week and it would get a good soaking in. Oranges should be given some sort of fertilizer in July as in August they begin to break into flower - and then set fruit. The amount of small fruit they end up dropping will be dependent on how you keep the water up to them and how well you have fertilised.

We also turned the compost heap out at the garden plot, which was just as well as it had some dry patches in it. One person digs and the other hoses to get more moisture into the pile.

We also picked the last of the pumpkins, but some of them are borderline in that they may not have been mature enough before the vines were frosted off.
This pic was just to show the "gossip cabbbage" on the right and more recognisable cabbages on the left. The cabbages are prefect as there are no cabbage moths or butterfly to shot hole the leaves. Some of these cabbages are going to be made into Saurkraut. I made a whole bunch of Saurkraut last year and it was a hit (for me at least). I had it throughout the summer when we can't grow cabbages - and all the nutrients are preserved and some enhanced by the process of fermentation. A couple of people in our street hope to organise a sour foods workshop to pass on some skills in the making naturally fermented foods. Another one of my favourite fermented foods is grated Diakin radish. it develops a lovely smokey flavour and i preferred it to the cabbage in the end.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Alice show

The Alice Springs show was on over the weekend and as usual the Brocks had exhibited in various categories – most notably in the agricultural section. Despite the disastrous run of pests over the summer, there was quite a good field of entries to be seen at the show. This was all thanks to Geoff Miers who each year drums up interest and gets people to give up their prize vegetables for the show. Let me tell you the Broccoli doesn’t look very good after a couple of days at the show.

The big news for the Brocks of course was being part of the Clarke street entry which took out the section as well as taking out the prize for the “grand champion” (subdue your visions of a fat red bull being led around by a ring in his nose) of the agricultural section.

 of course we couldn't leave out the most memorable part of the summer - the grasshoppers!
i hear we even made the nightly news with our exhibit - muy famoso!

The weather has been wet and we managed to record out lowest daily temp in 22 years on friday. i'm hoping the cloudy overcast weather may help to trigger the germination of some of the seeds we planted recently.
So far the following seeds have come up:

Asclepias tuberosa - L. Pleurisy Root

Fragaria vesca - L. Wild Strawberry

Glycyrrhiza glabra - L. Liquorice

Hippophae rhamnoides - L. Sea Buckthorn

Malva alcea (perennial – eat leaves)

Sanguisorba minor – Salad Burnette

Euphorbia peplus

Acmella oleraceae toothache plant

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

New comers to the seedbank

Ulla from Mareeba brough with her an interesting bootie
These included
Bitter gourd - chinese and japanese varieties
Sugar lime passion fruit
Giant cow pea
Thai long green Eggplant
Pigeon pea
Guar gum bean (as mentioned)
long bean (think it is snake bean)
Madagasgar bean.
Poor mans bean (7 year wonder bean)

These will all be available at the next seedsavers meeting in August.
Ulla keeps meticulous records and every batch of seeds has a number which refers to a page in her folder where all the information about the seed is kept - who grew the seed, its origin, which people took seeds to grow. Ulla commented that her seedsavers group had been going a number of years and all of a sudden there a quite a lot of Italian immigrants bringing in their seeds. We weren't sure why but perhaps for safe keeping for the next generation....