Shiitake surprise!

When we moved into the ‘new old house’ just over a year ago, I gathered my shiitake logs from the old place thinking they were past it and literally chucked them into an old metal ‘hip’ bath up the back under a loquat tree where we are storing a lot of used timer and other crap.

Shiitake bathThis morning I thought I’d measure the bath to see if would fit in a space I have behind the greenhouse where I could make a more climatically suitable home for them. I have not once watered these logs since we moved.

Boy was a delighted to see some (many) erupting mushrooms and a couple of large enough to eat shiitake appearing on the logs. Could have knocked me over with a feather!

IMG_2989The few that were large enough to eat were well received, cooked with  garlic, shallots, butter and parsley. Consequently, I have watered the logs now, hoping to get the rest before they wither.

IMG_2981Now that’s a rewarding harvest!

Know when to call it quits!

The corn I planted was doing very well, lovely thick stalks, extremely strong-looking plants and I was very excited that I would be able to fill the freezer with cobs this year. That was until we had the weather in January that fried many plants, 44-47 degrees over 5 days in a row and we were away so couldn’t do anything to alleviate the stress. By the time we returned it was quite obvious that the heat had left a  severe impact on many of the plants. I thought I’d sit it out and see if they came good (wishful thinking) but I knew that the likelihood of poor pollination of the corn was high.

Today I bit the bullet and pulled the corn out, all was as I had anticipated, the 3 or 4 cobs (or potential cobs) that I found were not pollinated and only a few kernels were on each. So I filled the compost instead of the freezer! IMG_2948


At least the chooks enjoyed the little that was on them!


I felt that doing a green manure crop in this wicking bed would be beneficial so I added some compost, a sprinkling of lime and scattered a green manure seed blend over the top. Raked it in, when this crop sets seed and flower heads, I will slash and turn it back into the soil.

IMG_2962Today was a beautiful day and I managed to get a few jobs done in the garden as well as dealing with the corn. I removed all the dead flower heads and stalks from plants in the cottage garden, saving seed from some hollyhocks, granny’s bonnets (aquilegia) and lineria. Ooops, forgot to take a photo! We have a lot of wisteria shooting through in several spots around the yard and unfortunately the only was to deal with it is to spray. Great care is taken to ensure the spray does not come into contact with anything else but I hate using it. With many decades of untrained wisteria that we have removed it is bound to be an issue for a couple of years.

Plenty of tomatoes, cucumbers, beans, herbs and spring onions on the harvest plate. Think it might be time to do some of Liz’s Bread and Butter Cucumbers. I made these last year and they are beautiful. I will cut back on the sugar a bit as I found them a bit too sweet for my liking but the spicy blend is gorgeous. A secret that I hate revealing because everyone goes YUCK….is that my favourite sandwich combination is B&B cucumbers with blackberry jam,  butter and really fresh bread. Haven’t had it for years, when you think about it it marries quite a few of the taste senses together. Well that’s my excuse!

IMG_2937I’ve been struggling to keep critters from my kale seedlings and did an experiment using an exclusion bag to see if it helped. Spot the difference!

IMG_2971 IMG_2973I have now covered the bed with some veggie net that should keep the cabbage moth at bay. I planted some broccoli into the same bed so fingers crossed.

IMG_2977I found a little gem in the greenhouse too. When I planted the rockmelons seedlings I really didn’t think I would see any fruit. Well I was wrong! Not huge but it is a rockmelon or as we have until recently called them-cantaloupe.

RockmelonOne of the fun things about renovating an old house is the things you find that reveal a bit of its history. Mr ATMT was worried that the floorboards under the cupboard in the hall (a lovely 60’s addition) may be rotten and seeing as we are planning on having the boards treated fairly soon it was prudent to check. No, all good (well mostly good!) but we found some old newspapers and a letter to Dr Ferguson selling the wonders of a great new drug.


IMG_2922Tea was a quick throw together of tomatoes, salami, roasted sweet potato and eggplant. Thyme, basil and goats cheese all plopped onto some puff pastry and into the toy oven. Looks a bit like a train wreck but it tasted good!


Not inside enough!

I seem to have not posted anything about the reno for ages, probably because we haven’t had a lot to add. With Christmas, being away for holidays, dreadful weather and a little issue of needing to sell another property to free up cash flow, has meant we have been focussed on working outside on garden and landscaping projects more than on inside jobs. The domino effect is huge inside, can’t fit skirting board back until floorboards are sanded and waxed, can’t do floorboards until majority of painting is done, can’t paint until plaster is repaired etc, and so it goes. Just have to run with what we can and make the most of it. Mr ATMT has this weekend been, filling grooves between panelling in the hall so we can cover with thick heritage style paintable Anaglypta wallpaper.


Back into the kitchen – The one I don’t have!

My favourite butcher Wayne The Great had a special on Legs of Lamb the other week so I  bought 2 and knew the opportunity to decide what to do with them would arise. They came cryovacced, so there was no rush to decide. With a plentiful supply of lemons (thanks Melissa for the Eurekas!), garlic, tomatoes and parsley, I thought lamb marinated in garlic and lemon, tabouli salad and some pomme frites would make a nice dinner. I de-boned the leg of lamb,

deboned lambCut the boneless (butterflied) joint  into three and put 2 sections into the freezer for future use. The remaining section was marinated in some olive oil, 3 cloves crushed garlic and juice of 2 lemons. A few sprigs of rosemary went into dish too and that was that, ready to sit for a few hours in the fridge.


I love tabouli, it is  a great way to use up a surplus of parsley and tomatoes and it has such a fresh, clean flavour  I never tire of it! I would NEVER buy this in a deli as it must be fresh to avoid that musty, almost dank off taste that comes with more than a day old parsley and mint. Added bonus that every ingredient (apart from the burgul) came from the


garden. I don’t think you need to follow a recipe too closely as far as proportions of ingredients goes in a tabouli salad, but I do like a LOT of parsley. Just go with what you have to hand.

My recipe tonight was roughly:

  • 1/3 cup bulgur grain (soaked in equal quantity of boiling water)  sit in fridge till ready to assemble.
  • 2 large chopped tomatoes (if juicy strain juice off)
  • 2 cups chopped parsley
  • good handful chopped mint
  • juice of 1 or if you like tangy 2 lemons
  • good generous drizzle of olive oil (get out the good one!)

Fired up the barbecue and threw the lamb onto hotplate on medium heat, fat side down and seared for 3 minutes, turned heat down to low, turned meat, shut the lid and cooked for another 10 minutes. Turned heat off keeping lid shut to rest while I assembled the tabouli and cooked the pomme frites (fancy chips!).

I had peeled the potatoes, cut them into chunks the size I wanted, then cooked them in the microwave for about 6 minutes. Took out and shook jug so the cooked potato had a roughened surface. I then turned potatoes out onto another plate so they dried off really well ( I had actually done this step earlier).  Lit the gas ring on barbecue, placed  a pan with some olive oil on to heat, when hot enough I added the cooled potatoes and continually turned and moved around until nice and golden all over.

Plated up the tabouli, some fresh cucumber, the pomme frites, a dob of greek yoghurt and the carved lamb. So tender, I know why I don’t shop at supermarkets for fresh produce!


And for dessert!

We are not dessert people. I have however put my hat in the ring to try and seek out everyone’s favourite lemon tart recipe. With this in mind I set forth to test a recipe that was recommended on my Facebook page ‘Worlds Best Lemon Tart’. The tart this week was a recipe from Alice Medrich’s book ‘Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts‘. I will add a link to the recipe over the next few days. After a disastrous beginning with the pastry (not Alice’s fault I assure you)  got it together and as a result enjoyed a beautiful tart.



Bruschetta, Lemon Tart and other stuff.

I am not game enough to go outside today! This morning the temperature hit 39, with wind gusting up to 60Kmh per hour. I reckon there will be sun-dried tomatoes hanging on the bushes tonight!

In light of this, I spent today inside being slovenly and lazy which has been delightful! I read my new ABC organic gardening magazine, watched a few crappy TV shows and created a new Facebook page that I have been meaning to do for ages.

I love, and lots of my friends love lemon tart. I’m not talking about the little bits of pastry filled with lemon jam you seen in most bakeries, I mean a proper, grown up lemon tart. We do all however, have different ways of gauging our favourites. Some like really tangy, some like biscuity bases, some like textured filling and some smooth. Some you buy are just terrible. The new Facebook page  is aimed at getting everyones feedback of tarts they have made, bought and shared. I am after reviews, recipes, hints and tips and any different cultural examples of Lemon Tarts. My favourite LT recipe is one I got from the ABC a few years ago (PDF below). Please share yours. This photo is one of a small Lemon Tart we tried from The Bodalla Bakery. See my review at I have had someone suggest it is the new BLT! 

Bodalla Bakery Lemon Tart.

Lemon tart – ABC Perth (Aus

Bruschetta in a flash!

Too h0t to go out, too hot for anything much, so we were looking for a nice healthy, fresh lunch. Nothing more perfect than bruschetta! I had plenty of fresh tomatoes and basil, oodles of freshly stored garlic, (Just bang on 2kg stored in one of my garden exclusion bags).

Garlic storedbut no suitable bread. Ahhh, just remembered the turkish bread I bought from the Dandenong market a couple of weeks ago. I love this flatbread and when home from the market I had cut it into serving sizes and thrown into the freezer ready for exactly this situation. Onto the sandwich toaster with that! I had cut the tomatoes up and put into a drainer, added some chopped basil, garlic, parmesan, salt and ground pepper and a little olive oil. When the bread was nice and crispy I cut into pieces, rubbed it with garlic and dressed with some grated parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil. I often add some fetta or ricotta cheese, capers or mushroom if they are in supply. Not today though.

Toasted turkish bread

It worked really well toasting the bread like this, nice and really crisp but not too dried out. Rubbed the surface with garlic and a drizzle of olive oil, topped with the tomato, garlic, basil and olive oil hen sprinkled some parmesan over. Very nice.


Sprung into action!

Not sure what my pear tree is thinking! One lonely little flower appearing. It shouldn’t be too stressed as it is well mulched, watered and is shaded from the very hot afternoon sun.  Have you got anything doing things they shouldn’t be at this time of year?

Pear flower







Mango Recipe wanted!

One of my fellow bloggers was asking if anyone had ideas on how to utilise excess mangoes (poor thing, such a dilemma. One I wish I had!).

It reminded me of a beautiful sauce we purchased many years ago at the Southbank Night Market in Brisbane. I don’t even know if this market still operates. The sauce was Ginger and Mango and was heavenly, a great true mango colour and a fresh zingy yet sweet flavour. I did try to recreate it on our return home but seem to remember it just wasn’t as perfect as the purchased sauce.

Got me thinking about how nice it would be to savour this sauce again and with not a lot of luck, I googled to try to find a suitable recipe. If there is anyone out there who has a GREAT Mango & Ginger sauce recipe that can be bottled, not a salsa, I would love to hear about it and most importantly would love to get the recipe. Fingers crossed someone out there will have something tucked away in their bookshelf or on their iPad that will fit the bill. Feel free to pass this on to anyone else you may know that could help. Cheers!


Hot, hot and more hot!

With yet another sweltering day here in Victoria Australia, it is more about survival of existing crops, plants, pets and people rather than establishing new plantings and doing succession crops. The temperature hit 38 today and is forecast to hit 39 tomorrow. Up until now the evenings have been dropping back to 18-20 so the house has had a chance to cool, the crops have been able to drink up their water  the wicking beds have stored and we have been able to get a decent (relatively) nights sleep. Changing now though, with the current temperature still at 28 and not predicted to drop until early morning. Not looking forward to a hot day at school with tired and hot kids and staff and no way of cooling off.

Seed Saving

I was suffering from a bit of a troubled tummy on Saturday so I was happy to just sit inside and do some seed storing from collected plants. Take my hat off to the way mother nature creates poppy-seed heads, they are beautiful artistically designed heads with little holes under the umbrella top so that seed can scatter. I stored some purple hollyhock, coriander, oriental poppy and a couple of varieties of Aquilegia (granny’s bonnets) seed for both starting new plants and using the surplus for swapping.


I also planted up some beetroot seed I had started inside that have sprouted. I never seem to have a lot of luck with getting beetroot seed to germinate in the garden beds so I thought I’d try starting off inside first. I have read that they don’t like transplanting much but I’ve got nothing to lose by trying and if I do it when they are still really little it may work better. Interested to hear if anyone else has had any luck with this. I soaked the seed for 24 hours then put onto damp paper towel for a few days and I have had a great success rate. Will be interesting to see how they go once I transplant them!

Beetroot seedlings

New Sweet Potatoes (hopefully)

I posted on another blog the other day that “I was having a go at starting some sweet potato plants. Not that positive it will work, as the tubers are from the fruit market. I suspect I may have more success sourcing some organically grown ones, but well give it a crack!”

Well, I have roots appearing and the little nodules on the main body are swelling o I just may be lucky!

Sweet potato cuttings

Yay, some tomatoes!

We are finally getting some tomatoes coming in. I am a little concerned that unless the weather changes we will have a very short season. I would like (Santa) for the temp to just drop to a consistent 25-30 degrees for several weeks (about 12) so the flowers actually develop into fruit and don’t just get fried! My issue of losing name tags early in the season is now rearing its head. What I thought were cherry tomatoes are huge and what I thought should be huge are small. Don’t think I’ll rely on seed saving this season!

IMG_2733Ive also harvested some zucchini, shallots, strawberries, chillies, spring onions, cucumbers and various herbs.

Cool relief!

We are so lucky to have a friend whose farm allows access to the loveliest little oasis which is perfect to go to when the weather is so bloody awful. We spent today playing like kids in a delightful lolly shop, good food, great company, bad outboard motor on the HMS Hunter, but the tyre tubes and air boat came good!


It was such a lovely night on the river bank that we didn’t want to leave!

IMG_2782But we did and I’m here doing this blog post in a hot house, but at least the outside temperature has dropped to 24. Stay cool everyone!

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