In My Kitchen – January 2016.

Welcome to 2016 where a very busy year is staring us straight in the smacker. To start the year, we have a grand baby due to arrive (literally any tick of the clock), a wedding in February, hopefully a working kitchen soon after that and a holiday to Greece and Turkey in May. I’m also hoping to hold some sourdough bread workshops once we have a kitchen, so I’m trying to wrap my head around the best way to present information that is most useful to participants. Thanks to Maureen over at Orgasmic Chef who has kindly taken over the co-ordinating of In My Kitchen while Celia has some ‘being gentle to herself’ time.

I’ve had a peek at a few other IMK postings and I can definitely say I’m not going to wow you with delightful Christmas goodies and gifts. In My Kitchen this month is very down to earth and some may even say “boring”. Never mind, here’s what’s In My Kitchen this month regardless.


Cucumbers, chillies, tomatoes, garlic, eggplant, beetroot, capsicum and in a couple of days there will be corn. We are chook sitting for our son, so I think I will have to turn some eggs into pasta over the next couple of days.

Egg Cucumber HarvestI love pickled cucumbers so I made some bread and butter cucumbers (not sure what the difference between the two is). I have been using this recipe that I found over at Liz’s Suburban Tomato Blog  and it’s a winner. Bread & Butter CucumbersPickled beet and cucumbersI also pickled some beetroot using this blend of pickling vinegar. This was enough for 500g of beets.

    • 750ml malt vinegar (can blend types to suit)
    • 400g caster sugar
    • 2 star anise
    • 1 tablespoon whole peppercorns

Boil all together, let cool then strain and pour over cooked beets that you have sliced or cut to desired shape and size and packed into sterilised jars, seal. Let mature for a couple of weeks before using. I really like the flavour of star anise with beetroot. Served with some feta or add greek yogurt, blitz it and you have a delicious dip in a matter of seconds.


I’ve followed a tip from Francesca at ‘Almost Italian‘ and this year not plaited my garlic harvest but just bundled the heads together and hung them. This was so much easier than plaiting and I think they look pretty good! I have not bought garlic for years now and I just love having it on hand knowing it’s been grown with no chemicals, no bleaching agents or sterilising agents to reduce the chance of it sprouting on the shelf. Nearly 100% of supermarket garlic is imported and the growing conditions are very questionable.

Garlic harvestAs well as this stash (it should last 12 months) I have kept enough aside for planting. I usually plant in March. This is much earlier than many recommend, but I have had great success since doing so.

Garlic for plantingWe have been picking tomatoes since mid November. Most have been from the greenhouse but they are now coming in from the wicking beds as well. We have to pick as soon as they get a slight blush because the birds are onto them like a flash if we don’t.

TomatoesI have about 15 compost buckets on my kitchen table. I take responsibility for collecting the compost bin from the staffroom at work  (sadly, I don’t have to compete with anyone for the privilege of doing this). I bring the bin home, add the goodies to the compost then usually forget to put the bin/bucket back in my car to take back to work. I’ve given them all a good scrub and airing and they are ready to be returned for the new year. I really wish I could create a swell of enthusiasm among others on staff to be more involved in sustainability and waste management, but there just isn’t any interest or sense of purpose  for doing so at all.

Compost binsClean out the fridge soup! There were many bits and pieces that were getting close to needing to be used or piffed (compost only, not rubbish bin) and as the weather was nice and cool today I made soup. This meant I could use up some celery, pumpkin, sweet potato, stock, and turkey that were sitting in the fridge. I added a stubby of passata,  some potato, my favourite zing szechuan (sichuan) pepper  and served the soup with some sliced chorizo I had grilled, flat leaf parsley and some of my ‘Maurizio’ sourdough

IMG_3585that had been grilled, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and rubbed with garlic.

Clean out fridge soupHappy New Year to all fellow IMK’rs out there and to any new participants. I am really looking forward to see what 2016 will bring to everyone.

Seasons are Turning. GSC March

I’ve missed doing a post for a few Garden Share Collectives (GSC) recently, just can’t seem to make the deadline! Thanks to Lizzie at StrayedTable  for co-ordinating all of us home growers showcasing what is happening in our plots.

Harvests at the moment. What else? Tomatoes, tomatoes and yes tomatoes! I say that bit it has generally been a pretty average season. Also capsicum, cucumbers, grapes, zucchini and mini eggplant. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to planting full size eggplant. The ‘finger’ variety suits us well. There are a couple here left, centre.

Tomato harvestThe capsicum crop has been the best in years, yet I haven’t had much success with chillies that  are usually mounting up by now.

IMG_9815I discovered what an invasion of white cabbage moth on the capsicum growing in the greenhouse so a dose of Dipel was in order. Dipel is an organic pesticide derived from Bacillus thuringiensis. I’ve used this successfully in the past and I must admit I love seeing the little critters fall to the ground!

IMG_0116Yet again the value of using exclusion bags on crops as they mature has been proven. This shot shows tomatoes, some in the protective exclusion bag and one that didn’t have the protection. See how the birds ruined the tomato? Little buggers are even attacking green tomatoes this year!

IMG_0110I’ve started seed for kale, broccoli and brussel sprouts and cipollini onions. Hope I haven’t left it too late for the sprouts!

IMG_0124Time to gear up in preparation for the onslaught of autumn leaves that have already started to shed from our English Oak. This is a massive task. Will need to spread the 4 different compost piles I did last year and reset them ready to fill this year. This photo was taken last year and I love it. Quite look forward to seeing these pretty colours!

IMG_4643Head over to the Garden Share Collective and see what other gardeners are doing.



Backs, Bread, Brunch and Bountiful harvests.

Since we moved in to the ‘new old house’, the only kitchen workspace I’ve had has been the table. I’ve found this really causes my back grief because it is so low and I have to work in an unnatural position.  I’ve recently been moved to tears with the pain while working, so when we were at Ikea (which I survived with no panic attack!) and I saw this kitchen work trolley I just grabbed it. I can’t believe the difference it has made. I can now work comfortably and without pain. It also doubles as a great space to keep some of my bread making ‘stuff’. Wish I’d thought to do something sooner! I’m pretty sure this will also be able to fit in easily when we build the extension and new kitchen.

Ikea kitchen trolley IMG_9819

Dough on left is a light rye, one on right is a basic white. I made the batch a bit bigger than normal so took a bit from each and have done a twist.

Twist loaf

Interested to see how it goes. Shouldn’t take to long to prove with todays weather.

Speaking of backs, we really tested our metal yesterday when we collected an antique kitchen dresser that I bought on Ebay. The place we collected it from was spilt level and the driveway was so steep Mr ATMT wasn’t game enough to back the trailer down as it was wet and we may have rolled right into the sellers garage. We had attempted to get hold of  a piano trolley to assist but this didn’t pan out so I grabbed a skate board from the lost property cupboard at school thinking it might be handy. Good move, it was. The man selling thought we were nuts (perceptive) but it worked brilliantly. Once we got up the 5 split level steps we whizzed that sucker straight up the driveway on the skateboard. Seller was gobsmacked! This unit is 2.4 metres tall and VERY heavy. I’m hoping to restore it, get rid of the high gloss polyurethane finish and bring it back to a much more natural state.

Antique kitchen dresser
Sideboard Dresser antique 1920’s colonial

















I had thought one of the first things I would do, would be to replace the door handles but then I saw this,

Wooden door screws

These are handmade wooden screws and door knobs. Think I might just see how they clean up. Very special find!

Harvesting the bounty

The tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant and capsicum are in full swing now and some of the tomato varieties I planted to test and compare are quite interesting. I’ll do a separate post on different varieties in a few weeks.


This photo shows a few, the varieties and some of the weights I’ve been averaging from them are: Top Centre going clockwise-German Johnston 314g, Tigerella 65g, Periforme abruzzese 350g, Black krim 265g, Russian purple 40g, Big Beef (beautiful) 402g. In centre, money-maker 60g and yellow pear 10g. Not sure what’s happened to the other 4 varieties I planted (San marzano, Hungarian Heart, Gross Lisse and Amish Paste but they are not behaving. Some of these are planted into the garden and don’t receive much sun so they may take a lot longer.

Tomato varieties


Mr ATMT loves this time of year with all the tomatoes and one of his favourite breakfasts/brunches include tomatoes and bacon cooked together. I prefer my tomatoes just lightly grilled.  I made this today and served it on toasted sourdough along with a poached egg and grilled mushrooms. Yum, yum, yum!

Tomatoes and bacon

Taking it easy today, think we exerted a bit too much energy moving that dam dresser yesterday. Gee I hope its worth it!

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Garden Share Collective. Cup day in the garden.

Holy Moley, 2 posts in one night! Mr ATMT is away so I am not doing much after coming in from  the garden once it was dark. Love daylight saving, we can spend so much more time nurturing our souls watching things grow and tending to them.

This months Garden Share Collective (Thanks Lizzie), is based on how I spent the day in my garden on Cup Day, the day we usually plant tomatoes in Victoria. I only got 6 tomatoes in but it’s a start! Many more to go.

I started painting the fence we have installed around the patch. I hated the look of new treated line so I am coating it with the same stain I used on the chicken coop. Intergrain Natural Stain Charcoal. Really happy with the look and the way the greenery just jumps out with the dark backdrop.

IMG_6243 Here are the first of the tomatoes, 6 in this bed, hopefully when I pull the garlic it won’t disturb the roots too much. this variety is German Johnston.IMG_6214 Broccoli is doing really well, this succession crop is being harvested. Now, where to find space for the next lot! There are also beetroot and lettuce in this bed with snow peas that are flowering at the end.IMG_6213I planted a succession planting of snow peas on the end of this bed. Butter beans are thriving and the beautiful miners lettuce and chervil I got from Herbalicious Nursery have  (are) performed incredibly well. The last couple of leeks are on the left. I also stuck in some eggplant ‘fingerling’ which did really well last season.

IMG_6210 These are the snow peas about to from pods. Can’t wait!IMG_6207Did some tidying up in the greenhouse, planted some cucumbers in there and in the wicking beds outside. So much more to do and what I should report on, it’s so rewarding seeing this stuff grow and harvesting it.


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.



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!

Good things – Inside and out!


I am so excited that the new vegie beds are starting to look and feel like ‘real’ growing and production sources. When our children were little I managed to grow most of our food in our own patch, but that all changed as I returned to outside work and kept upping the hours I was not at home, consequently not able to tend to such a commitment. It has been quite a few years since I had the pleasure of reaping most of our food from my own garden and I must admit I’ve missed it more than I can say. I find myself getting so excited because my corn seed is pushing its little green poles through the soils surface,

IMG_1833there are tiny little swellings at the base of the radishes that I know will end up in our salad in a couple of weeks.


Beans are shooting (hopefully this 2nd round won’t suffer the same fate as the first which were eaten by earwigs), Tomatoes are flowering, strawberries are being eaten

Strawberriesand garlic is getting close to being ready to harvest. I can already see the lettuce in my lunchbox and those cucumbers in a Greek style dip. I just love it! Dinner last night was pasta with salsa verde made from Annabel Langbein’s recipe. My parsley, garlic, lemons, egg and combined with a few staples of mustard, olive oil, capers, pine nuts and fish sauce made a great pasta sauce. I roasted  some  cherry tomatoes and mushrooms it was  a gratifying and delicious meal to prepare and eat.

Pasta with salsa verde

The grass seed that was sown last week is sprouting and looks like it will do OK, the birch trees we planted don’t seem to have stressed too much and because we have had just the right mix of rain and sun, all the topsoil used to level out and lift the back yard  has settled really well.


I don’t know about anyone else, but I have huge problems selecting the right colour when painting. When I select sample colours from the hardware/paint shop it usually looks nothing like my expectations once it hits the wall. I had a particular colour in my head for the bedroom and because I have difficulty expressing what my ideas are it has been quite a hit and miss process. I wanted a sort of duck egg blue, but not too blue, not too green and not too dense. A colour that was fresh and light and that I would love whenever I wake up  and see it in the morning or when the dimmed light is on at night. I must admit I must have moved forward over the years because I never used to understand that light effected the appearance and I would ‘crack a wobbly’ if outcome of sample wasn’t exactly as I had anticipated. I now understand (much to my husband’s relief!) you just need to find the right colour, and I lightly sigh and continue the search. Because this ‘new old house’ is so dark we need to make the most of every bit of natural light that we can. As chance would have it, I had a colour consultant call in last night who was going to go and think about it and get back to us. Anxious to get the project moving I went to my favourite paint shop in Moe and the assistant just happened to suggest a Taubman’s paint colour called  ‘Rain Cloud’. I immediately knew we were in the right territory and bought a sample pot to try. Bingo! We were both very happy with the sample so I went back and bought 10 litres of half strength Rain Cloud. We spent the afternoon with Mr ATMT painting the ceiling and with me starting the filling, sanding and repairing of the old red cedar skirting boards we removed and will be reusing.

Skirting repairs

With the final ceiling coat of paint done and 2 coats of Rain Cloud on the walls we can see direction and are very happy with the results.

Rain Cloud paint half strength. Very excited to see what the outcome of this room will be as I am certain I have the exact picture in my head of the end result,  but as all my family have frequently experienced, it is quite likely I will say in true ‘Little Britain style’, “that’s not what I expected. I don’t like it!” Lucky Mr ATMT is a VERY patient man.

Dinner tonight, leftovers? Not quite!

With a sizeable amount of the salsa verde left over from last nights pasta, I thought using it as a topping on chicken with a parmesan crumb might be nice. Freshly picked potatoes,


cooked then added to pan to brown off, some beans and carrots and a grilled tomato on the side. Lightly grilled chicken spread with some salsa verde and I made a breadcrumb and parmesan topping. Under the griller for a few minutes and it was very, very nice.

Grilled chickenBit worried there might be expectations to keep these lovely meals coming. Will just keep Annabel close to hand!


I love the garden in winter, there is a special sense of expectant energy, colours  often seem far more vibrant and I always seem to have a tendency to try to achieve far more than is necessary to be ready for when spring comes. I almost feel quite ‘squirrelly’, storing all the leaves that have fallen to make leaf mould, building compost heaps and making sure any plants that do well as bare rooted stock are sourced and planted.

With some fairly ordinary weather over the last couple of weeks as well as juggling final design concepts with consultant, removing plaster from walls, organising electricians, insulation supply and having the end of financial year workload it has been a struggle getting out into the garden. Not this week though, boy have I had a great few days!

About five years ago, in my ‘squirrelling state’ I bought a dwarf ‘snow apple’ from Diggers, came home and ‘heeled’ it into one of the half wine barrels, it has done quite nicely and I’m glad I didn’t get around to planting it out because we would have left it at the old house when we moved. I decided now was the time to plant it into the garden, as well as upsize the pots the blueberry bushes are in, start training a bay tree into a ball shape, upsize the fig in a pot I have tagged for espaliering, plant some roses, start planning a design for the front yard, put together a small garden shed and start some seeds. Phew, I also had to make sure our property at Fish Creek which is for sale was up to scratch so there was chain-sawing, mowing, weeding and pruning to be done over there. I really wish I could cut back at work and keep doing all of this ‘stuff’ which I just love.

About to go into garden!

Apple root ball

Trimmed a few roots off,

Apple tree root ball trimmed, ready to transplant

moved to garden

With the help of the girls, all done! It was quite big hole I had to dig too. Prunings from apple trees make great additions for adding flavour when smoking food. These will be kept for the next weber smoke up.

Onto the espaliers-

Pear 2nd season training

This pear ‘Sensation’ is taking shape nicely. The orange has been wired to a temporary frame which I will remove as soon as possible. At least I have started the process!

Orange framework

At our old home I had a magnificent bay tree which I had trained into a feature tree with a ball top. I miss having access to picking bay leaves whenever I need to, so it was a priority to get one going again. I decided to go with the feature style again as it is manageable size wise, bay trees can get quite large!

Planted into larger pot, strip stem of leave and buds leaving a few at top. The goal is that stem will continue to grow and once at height I want i will ‘pinch’ out the top and side shoots will be allowed to grow and shaping can commence. You need to select a young plant with a single trunk for this to work. The photo above with the apple before removing from pot, shows the baby bay before I attacked it.

Bay tree formative shaping

Inside we are preparing to have plaster replaced in the room that will become the master bedroom. A decision had to be made about keeping or replacing the old horse hair plaster that was in pretty good shape, but in order to insulate this drafty old home it is easier to replace it. Walls have been stripped exposing some sensational craftsmanship in the chimney brickwork. Almost curves its way up through the walls. Respect to whoever built this! Notice the weather boards on walls? Who else would strip the guts from a room at the coldest time of year?

Plaster off Brickwork chimney Fireplace undressed

Waiting on insulation to turn up so we can make it all snug as a bug!

Last week I was at our Fish Creek property and the highlight after two VERY busy days of refreshing the property was a magnificent sunset. Armed with my camera and a glass of wine I set off  to the bottom paddock and waited for the colour show-I wasn’t disappointed. I will so miss that place (if it ever sells) as I truly enjoy everything about the kaleidoscope of nature’s wonders it offers. Sunset shots (not in sequential order).

IMG_9985 IMG_9991 IMG_9984

Back up and running.

I haven’t uploaded any posts since before Christmas due to a whole host of time restrictions.

Firstly there was Christmas.  We had to work hard at enjoying the season this year, but with a bit of determination, skilful planning and plenty of champagne it was a huge success and we spent some lovely time with family and friends.

This year was the 30th anniversary of me making the traditional gingerbread house that is now routinely destroyed in any manner we can invent at the end of Christmas Day. Everyone primed in anticipation and Grandma in the background saying “Oh, it’s such a shame after all the work that’s gone into it”. That only seems to bring more motivation on. Unfortunately this year the bocce ball, come ‘shot put’  hit the target before I was ready to film. Hopefully one day someone else in the family may share their capturing of the moment.

gingerbread house

Some finishing touches before we move in!

Reblockers in

Most notable of the time drainers was that we have finally moved in to our ‘New Old House’.  We worked incredibly hard right over the Christmas break to get the house up to a level suitable for habitation. Water and gas installation finished, rewiring finished, new loo in, lounge painted then repainted after the re-blockers finished (the day before we moved in), earth-moving and rock down in drive so we could get cars in. Then there was the process of packing for moving and making the old house nice for the new owners. Between the local ‘Men’s Shed’, various Op-Shops, Ebay and the tip we got rid of an enormous load of ‘stuff’ but I don’t think you can tell-still seems to be ‘stuff’ everywhere. Once we get a shed/garage and a kitchen I’m sure most of it will find it’s own place.

We’re in!

Goodbye to the old home.

After 23 years in one house I am quite surprised that I really don’t feel anything much about saying goodbye to it. The garden, with its sense of tranquility and birds I will miss, but basically everything is re-do-able so I’m not that fussed. The things I’ll most miss are:

King Parrot bye

The many birds we have that regularly demand a morsal of seed. This beautiful King Parrot came to say goodbye,


I’ll miss having a thriving compost system that just keeps happening. Having to start a fresh system takes a little bit of time.

Growth chart

The old ‘measure the kids as they grow’ markers. Not only an indicator of growth but brings back memories of lots of things the kids did in this home while growing up.

Time to go, pack the kids in the car and off we go!

Packed up the kids and left

Greenhouse up-finally .


After much ‘faffing’ around and trying to squeeze this job in between all the others we finally have a completed Sproutwell Greenhouse. Hasn’t really been too high on the priority list because of the warm weather but with the possibility that temperatures  could drop at night soon I want the extra protection. Just need to finish the floor and set up benches inside and I’ll be sweet!

In the Vegie Patch

It has been incredibly dry here in Gippsland and we have quickly been taken back to where we were when in drought. After such a wet year last year we were lulled into a false sense of security and have had to revert to hand watering everything. I must say the wicking beds seem to be holding their own. A quick surface water every now and then (more because its nice on a warm evening to do than because its necessary).

My garlic harvest this season has been sensational and it along with ‘Spiced Prunes in Port‘ preserves, made great additions to the Christmas gift packs. Unfortunately I can’t find the photos of the garlic I took so will take a couple later and add them.

I have been battling a bit with my San Marzano tomatoes this year. For the first time in a very long time they have been a victim of Blossom End Rot, a condition that is due to lack of calcium in the soil. Having had to purchase soil for the beds I haven’t had much control over that. Next year once there has been a chance to work in plenty of compost and grow a green manure crop it should start to improve. It really hit home that all the effort I made with the soil at our old place was in fact worth it. I am still getting a pretty good crop and will have more than enough for sauce and passata. Now to work out where to process the harvest…………..

San Marzano

My quest to develop an opinion on whether or not to prune laterals from tomatoes has had mixed results.

Pruned of laterals Not Pruned
Larger fruit More fruit
Takes more time to manage Smaller fruit
Easy to support Heavier to support

Think I am steering towards the pruned method purely because of the larger fruit size. Will repeat again next year because I am not sure how much having a calcium soil deficiency had a hand in results.

The grosse lisse planted straight into the ground are doing really well, just have to remember to pick as soon as there is the tiniest blush of pink or else the blackbirds beat me to it. Today I placed some exclusion bags over some larger fruit to see if I can get longer on the vine time.


My Rosella sabdarifida is doing quite nicely, will go into the greenhouse soon as it needs warm temperatures to flower. With a good bit of luck I will be able to turn it into those beautiful syrupy flowers and use it in champagne.


Cucumbers have been great, picking daily and now need to think about making some lovely Bread & Butter Cumber Pickle. Growing up the trellis has been a great success.

Other continual pickings have been beans, silver beet, snow peas, lettuce and herbs. Not sure what happened to my capsicums but they appear to be tomatoes. Suspect I may have been a bit confused when I labelled my saved seed packet!


Couple of steps closer to getting our chooks. I purchased a ‘Dine a Chook‘ feeder and waterer for my husbands Christmas present and I have commissioned the local Men’s Shed to make my very specially designed chook house (keep an eye out, it’s going to be great!)

All said and done, we are a lot more comfortable than we thought we may be. Struggling a bit with highway noise but everyone assures me you get used to it! Lying in my hammock this afternoon eating ripe mulberries was a treat indeed!

I may not have the birds yet, but it is quite beautiful on a hot humid afternoon lying in the hammock looking up through the mulberry tree. Even better when I get to pick a few, very nice indeed.


Let the new memories begin!

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