2 weeks in 1-Melbourne, Gardivalia and some theatrical “Cultcha”!

Well, so much for slowly getting into this not working caper! I have been so busy I am exhausted. As a little treat to myself for finishing work, I headed off to Melbourne for 3 nights to check out some places I have wanted to see and experience for a while. First was to sort out somewhere to stay. My focus was on going to food shops, in particular those with middle eastern and european specialities, looking at stores who supply bulk foods with no packaging, checking out options for ovens I can use when I begin sourdough making classes and visiting CERES, Collingwood Childrens’ Farm and a couple of markets. Most of these were more towards the north side of the city central (which I wanted to stay away from) so I booked an Air BnB in Fitzroy North. The apartment was in Barkly St, just a stones throw from everything I needed. It was scrupulously clean, in a quiet location and met my requirements beautifully.

I am embarrassed to say that even though I grew up in Preston, I had never been to the Abbotsford Convent. It was a very wet and rainy day so it was a bit ‘spooky’ walking among these imposing buildings as no one else was around.img_9553The convent was established in 1863 as a refuge for women in need. It was developed on land that had been subdivided as ‘gentlemen farmlets’ near the junction of the Merri Creek and Yarra river. By 1900 the Convent was the largest charitable institution operating in the southern hemisphere. It was one of the largest Catholic complexes in Australia and at its peak, over 1,000 women and children lived behind its enclosed walls. There were vegetable and fruit gardens, dairy and poultry farms and a piggery. Income to buy what could not be grown or made on site was generated through lace-making and commercial laundry services. I bet there are a lot of interesting stories to be told about what went on living here.

img_9550Some beautiful buildings and gardens are to be seen. Love these chimneys!img_9551The bakery at the convent is still in use.img_9552A massive stained glass window upstairs in the historical section.img_9544Love seeing these old buildings still showing signs of their former lives.img_9556 A quick walk over the road takes you to the Collingwood Childrens’ Farm. Set on the bend of the Yarra river, this is a stunning example of food productivity, biodiversity, agriculture, permaculture principles, and offers education (in particular to students) to those who never have the opportunity to see how food actually ‘happens’. It was extremely wet and miserable this day, this is a pic while I’m peeking out from under my umbrella! All the school kids were leaving in droves, driven out by the rain. I didn’t mind.

Collingwood Childrens' FarmCERES-Centre for Education and Research in Environmental Strategies

CERES is a short drive away from the Abbotsford Convent. CERES (pronounced ‘series’) is a place where people come together to share ideas about living well together, and directly participate in meeting their social and material needs in a sustainable way. Through social enterprises, education and training, employment and community engagement, CERES provides the means by which people can build awareness of current local and global issues, and join in the movement for economic, social and environmental sustainability. This is done in a number of ways, education, by doing demonstrations and showing examples and by taking education programs on the road to schools. It is a great use of space on the easement under the power lines that supply Melbourne and surrounds with electricity.

img_9532 Great classroom!img_9534 There is also an organic store where you can purchase items in bulk, BYO container or bag. I was quite surprised at the extremely  high cost of these items. I also visited Source Bulk Foods in Sydney Rd Brunswick (as part of seeking out plastic free packaging suppliers) and decided that at more than double the price of nuts available at Dandenong Market and from our own local “The Nut Bloke” (who will also let me fill my own container), it is a no brainer. Stay local!img_9539After I had wandered around CERES, I headed towards Brunswick to see how much I could buy at the amazing array of food shops that are scattered right along Sydney Road from Coburg right back to Brunswick. I was very self controlled and only bought some cheese and pasta and Mediterranean Wholesalers Sydney Rd Brunswick. I wasn’t so well controlled at BAS  Food Imports, or Kahvecioglu in Campbellfield that I went to the following day. Kahvecioglu is one Turkish food supply store I will definitely be returning to. I forgot to take photos of my purchases so I will have to do this as part of IMK this month.

Some “Cultcha”.

Every year we make sure we support our local amateur dramatic society (TADS) by going along to their annual production. This year their play was ‘What the Bride Wore’. I love these events and wish I had a little more confidence as I have a secret hankering to be involved. It is real ‘nuts and bolts’ theatre, good fun and a very good way of catching up with some locals we don’t see often. Well done guys.tads The following day we had the pleasure of seeing a slightly more refined production presented by the Off The Leash Theatre Company. We were lucky enough to see a play called Milo’s Wake. Milo planned his own wake before he dies so he can participate in it. The wake is complete with an Irish Band who sing and play and there is the opportunity to join in a few songs. I was blown away with this play, the script is powerful, every emotion is presented and it hits you hard. The acting was first class and the music was a great feature. So proud to know we have such talented local theatre groups putting on such high calibre productions. I was going to say there is a performance on the 30th at the Railway Hotel Drouin, but I see that’s sold out. Brilliant!



This weekend we participated in the open food gardens weekend as part of Gardivalia in conjunction with the Baw Baw Sustainability Network (BBSN). The weather was atrocious yesterday but we still had some brave people turn up. Today was much better, the rain had eased, wind had dropped and we had a good attendance. You meet some lovely people doing these events and I even managed to cope with doing an interview with ABC Gippsland. Very brave indeed!

Our mascot with his shower cap on!img_9912 img_9907 img_9904 img_990132mls of rain yesterday, not conducive to having people go out and look at gardens. Thanks to those that did take the time to visit us, we loved having you.



Gardivalia 2015-We’re in!

October in West Gippsland is the month when gardeners, would be gardeners and just lovers of gardens have the opportunity to visit properties throughout the Baw Baw Shire. Gardens that are opened up for the public to visit and learn from. Food gardens, formal gardens, native gardens, permaculture and community gardens as well as events, forums and workshops being available for people to expand their knowledge and develop friendships and networks. This event is Gardivalia and I’m excited! Yep, check out garden Number 13, Around The Mulberry Tree. That would be us.



















I’ve entered Around The Mulberry Tree so that we can show people  what you can achieve in a relatively short time to get a food garden established.  Wicking beds, chooks, shiitake mushrooms, permaculture concepts, composting, worm farming, fruit trees, berry growing and greenhouse gardening are all part of our garden. The importance of thinking through the design and demonstrating how you can use recycled materials and creating habitat for birds and bees is also part of our garden. This is only the second season the vegie patch has been constructed and we want to show the development of it and the garden over the next few years, so this is the benchmark. Excited as I am, it’s a bit like having to clean up before you have visitors! I want to make sure we present in the best possible light, so there are a few jobs to do before our open garden weekend.


We transplanted a couple of standard roses from the front yard to frame the entry to the patch. They were just in the wrong spot out the front and should do much better here. This area has compost bins, a worm farm, potatoes in the bath tub, garlic growing beside the chook shed and there will be bee attracting flowers bordering the beds.


I’ve transplanted the rhubarb from the garden beds to the veggie patch, these pavers will be filled with toppings, herbs and bee attracting flowers will be planted in the bordering spaces. I’ve planted climbing peas on this frame near the compost bins,



















and these sweet pea seeds have been planted near the berry house. I soaked these overnight then left in damp newspaper for another 2 days to hasten the germination.

In the greenhouse I have a range of cuttings that hopefully will be established enough to sell at a little plant stall on the weekend. I have tomato seedlings starting, poppies and other flowers seed ready toppling out. I will definitely need to give this a sort out!


I always perform better with a deadline and this is certainly one I look forward to meeting.






Onion & Rosemary Bread

For years I have been working on mastering the perfect loaf of bread. While the search still continues, I am far more relaxed about the process than I used to be, happy as long as the end result is tasty and edible. I have even developed some pretty innovative ways of using up ‘dud’ results.

Last year I facilitated a bread making workshop through the Baw Baw Sustainability Network and I have attached the workshop notes at the bottom of this post.

The onion and rosemary bread I made croutons from tonight is really only the basic recipe from these notes with 2 onions that had been sliced and microwaved till soft and a couple of tablespoons of ground rosemary thrown in just before the final kneading. The flavour of the onion came through really well in the croutons.


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