Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Fitzroy Inn.

This weekend I was lucky enough to visit the Fitzroy Inn, an historic property nestled in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales. There is a rich history to be discovered here, dating back to 1836 when the main building was first opened as a travellers inn. Since then it has been home to travellers, convicts, and school children. The very first tennis court in Australia was even built on these very grounds! This was a fitting venue for the celebration of a special family occasion...

A very special "thank you" to 'the lovely Paul and Maria, who welcomed us all with such heartfelt hospitality, and made the day simply perfect.

If you are ever passing through the Southern Highlands, I would definitely recommend visiting this place.

Sam xox

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Green Harvest package arrives.

Arriving home from work today I found a large package waiting for me at my doorstep. "Green Harvest". My seeds! I had only placed the order 48 hours prior. Speedy service!

Here are my goodies...

Included in the package were some Green Harvest resource guides. I ordered a few extra to give to fellow vegetable growing enthusiasts!

I also ordered some of their trade mark Clucker Tucker. This is a mixture of 13 different types of seeds (including bok choy, clover, silverbeet and millet). I am going to plant out the seeds in seed trays and once they have sprouted to a decent length, put the tray into the coop and let the chooks eat it all up. I will plant a tray every week so that I will have a continuous cycle of Clucker Tucker. Once one tray is eaten it will be planted out again. The package advises that 1g - 2g of seeds will cover one seed tray. So 250g should last me a fair while.

I bought a wide variety of seeds. I ensured that I purchased seeds that were heirloom varieties and organically certified where possible.

And I even invested in Jackie French's "Guide to Companion Planting". It came with three packets of seeds: Good Bug Mix (perfect for growing flowers that attract the good bugs to your garden), Mustard 'Reg Giant', and Nasturtium 'Jewel Mix'.

Sophie was gobsmacked by the value I got for my money.

If you're interested, here is the list of seeds I purchased:
* Bean Bush - Italian Romano
* Bean Climbing - Northeaster (organic)
* Bean Bush - Royal Burgundy (organic)
* Capsicum California Wonder (organic)
* Carrot colour mix (organic)
* Cucumber Spacemaster Bush
* Eggplant Little Finger (organic)
* Eggplant Casper
* Radish Watermelon
* Silverbeet Fordhook Giant (organic)
* Tomato Cherry Red Pear (organic)
* Tomato Green Zebra (organic)
* Tomato Rouge de Marmande (organic)
* Zucchini Costa Romanesque

Sam xox

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

An unbelievable swap.

I have made friends with a lady at the Spinning and Weaving Guild I joined earlier this year. She is super friendly and very generous with her time and advice (some of her work you can see on her blog Flashion Fibres). When I attended my first Guild meeting I was a complete beginner. Full of good intentions and keen interest, but lacking in any skill, knowledge or experience. She took time to show me her spinning wheel, spoke about her creations, and was really encouraging when I spoke about my enthusiasm to learn to spin. I was spurred on by her kind words.

During the weeks that followed our first meeting, I found a 40+ year old spinning wheel on ebay for under $100 (a bargain as far as operating spinning wheels go). It arrived by post and after some handy work by dear hubby my wheel ran smoothly. Thanks to YouTube I was able to teach myself how to spin. It took almost three weeks for my muscle memory to kick in. Once my body had learnt the technique it was all smooth from there.

A week ago this same friend contacted me to offer an alpaca fleece. She occasionally receives fleeces, and likes to give some of them to beginners in the Guild. Alpaca fibres are silky natural fibres that are a pleasure to handle. Compared to wool, the fibres are warmer, do not itch, and are hypo-allergenic as they do not have any lanolin.

I insisted that I wanted to gift her something in return, so we agreed upon a dozen of my chickens eggs, six of my ducks eggs and a bag of snow peas picked straight from my garden. She loved her care package, as did I...

 ~ The fibres stretched out ~ 

~ I cannot describe to you how soft this fleece is ~

This has been one of my favourite trades yet! What sorts of home made / home grown things have you traded?

Sam xox

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Way back in autumn I planted some broccoli seedlings in one of the shadiest parts of my veggie patch. They grew so slowly that I was beginning to worry that I might not get to eat home grown broccoli this growing season. As brassicas are such heavy feeders, I had to keep the food up to them and this took a bit of work. They dinned on compost, chook manure, and fertiliser for almost three months. 

All the feeding has paid off, as last weekend I discovered that those familiar green trees were beginning to appear...

Sam xox

Friday, July 20, 2012

Seed to seed.

There is something a little sneaky going on at your local gardening super store. Most of the packets on the shelves contain F1 seeds. These are varieties of plants produced under controlled circumstances, where two species of plant are interbred, usually to combine their desirable characteristics (eg. disease resistance, high crop yield). F1 seeds are the 'children' produced by the joining of the two plants.

So why is this so sneaky? Because the seeds produced by F1 plants cannot be saved as the seeds will never 'come true' (they are sterile). This means that every year (or more) you will need to buy more and more seeds to regrow your crops (meaning more and more cash for the big stores!).

What can be done about this? Well, that is where heirloom (also known as heritage) seed varieties come in. These are seed varieties that have been past down through generations of seed savers and have stood the test of time. 

Seed saving is a cost effective way of ensuring you have good yields year after year. As the years pass, the plants become accustomed to the local climate and soil conditions. Plants that produce a high yield and prove to be most disease resistant are preserved in the form of tiny seeds for future plantings. 

My goal for this Spring is two fold. Firstly, I want to plant out all my summer crop from heirloom seed varieties purchased from small companies, and organic where possible. Secondly, at the end of Summer I want to save the seeds and keep them for the following Spring (and gift some to fellow veggie gardeners in the family!). However, my seed saving knowledge is very limited, and I do not want to spend the next 5 years gaining knowledge purely through trial and error. For this reason I have decided to take a 'short cut' and purchased this book...

Seed to Seed: Seed Saving and Growing Techniques for Vegetable Gardeners
By Suzanne Ashworth

There are over 70 positive reviews on Amazon regarding this book. So I relied on these reviews and purchased it online sight unseen. It should hopefully arrive within the next fortnight. The majority of the reviewers commented on the thoroughness of the information the book provided, so I am hopeful.

Tonight I will place my order with Green Harvest (recommended to me in a recent blog post by frogdancer - thank you for the tip!). I will be ordering only heirloom varieties, organic where possible. 

Do you save seeds? Do you have any tips for me?

Sam xox

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Reading and doing.

Gardening holds so many complexities that I believe it is a skill that cannot be learnt purely from books. It needs to be developed (grown if you will) through contact with soil, water, and sun. A book cannot tell me where the sunniest part of my garden will be, that I will learn from spending hours tracking the sunlight's path across the day. A book cannot tell me what my soil conditions will be like, that can only be known through contact with the earth. A book cannot tell me which of my crops will do well this growing season, as that depends on a multitude of environmental factors.

Do not mistake me, books have played a significant part in my developing appreciation of gardening in the early days. As my interests grew so did my reading. I studied gardening books, magazines and online sources, soaking up the information that was offered and locking it away until the day I had my own patch of earth to work on. I still do turn to books when confronted with a new challenge, their pages regularly containing a wealth of information. Information that would take half a lifetime of trial and error to be learnt 'on the job'. Having this sort of information readily available really is like knowing the secret short cuts in my garden. And I definitely enjoy that part of it.

The place where books and practical experiences meet is where the real learning happens.

Sam xox

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Oranges and lemons.

Oranges and lemons,

Say the bells of St. Clement's.

You owe me five farthings,

Say the bells of St. Martin's.

When will you pay me?

Say the bells of Old Bailey.

When I grow rich,

Say the bells of Shoreditch.

When will that be?

Say the bells of Stepney.

I do not know,

Says the great bell of Bow.

Here comes a candle to light you to bed,

And here comes a chopper to chop off your head!

A container of home laid eggs traded for a bag of home grown citrus.

Sam xox

In the garden.

~ Strawberry pot ~

~ Garlic ~

~ Thriving potato plants ~

~ Spinach ready for picking ~

~ Can you believe I am still weeding out tomato seedlings,
from last summer! ~

~ Home sown seedling planted out ~

~ Cambridge getting a hang of this 'free ranging' business a lot quicker than Oxford (the pen was wide open just to the left) ~

The weekend saw me attend to a few outdoor tasks. The duck pond called for my attention as Cambridge and Oxford appear to have had a field day over the past week, throwing all sorts of junk into the water and generally making a mess of it. They watched me curiously as I removed the brown water one bucket at a time. The noise of the hose filling the pond back up drew them closer, and as soon as I had finished and turned to walk away they were back swimming and diving for whatever I had managed to stir up at the bottom (I really prefer not to know!).

Sam xox

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Because this is not a contest.

There is something making me a little bit uncomfortable and I want to climb up onto my soap box for a few minutes and talk about it today. The subtle undercurrents implied online sometimes are that those not living according to certain values are living their lives wrongly.

As a community mental health worker by day, I practice according to a framework which is fundamentally based on the understanding that every individual has their own set of unique personal values regardless of mental health concerns or not. My job is essentially to support people to live a positive, independent life that is in line with their own personal values.

When we discuss 'simple living' and we talk about how to achieve this, I do feel sometimes there is an element of judgement in the written voices. People are judged because they consume. People are judged because they never feel content. They are judged through implication that their way of living is the undesired way. Do we know why they live the life that they do? Maybe there is a reason behind the choices they make...

As someone who spends her working days exploring the values people have (the life experiences that have shaped these, the struggles, hardships, addictions, traumas, and illnesses they have had to face), I do worry that people are often judged too quickly.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

I want this blog to record a snapshot of my life. A life being lived in line with, and staying true to, my own personal values. A life not recorded against a set of criteria, or compared to the lives of others. 

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

I read an article the other day by Angela Barton and her final paragraph struck deep at my core:

" ... Because this is not a contest. And it's not about being a martyr. Its is about living a thoughtful, meaningful, conscientious lifestyle and feeling like you are walking the walk and living your values.

And that makes me happier than new shoes ever could..."

Tread your own life path, even if the shoes you wear are a pair of old black rubber gumboots.

Sam xox

Friday, July 13, 2012

Which brand is best for seed?

Do any of you out there have a preferred brand of seeds? I have been looking at Eden , The Little Veggie Patch, and Diggers seeds, however I am yet to decide on a brand to buy Spring seeds from. I am having so much success raising seeds in my greenhouse over winter that I have decided that I will plant my summer crop  from seed. By doing so I will save a considerable amount of money and have healthier plants. Exceptions to this will be plants like herbs, where I only need one or two plants (I'll buy these from the local Farmers Market).

Two weeks ago I planted some radish seeds straight into an outdoor pot, and they are finally beginning to sprout.

Radish seeds are best sown into the place they will grow, as they do not like being replanted. This is similar to other taproot vegetables (carrots, beetroot, parsnips).

The seedlings in the greenhouse are ready to be thinned out. As you can see in the photo below, my basil is doing brilliantly! The garlic chives (in the foreground) are looking pretty lame. The parsley (back row) has been a complete disaster, with only two seedlings making an appearance.

A copious amount of broccoli and cauliflower. I read that you should sow more seeds than you need as some are likely not to germinate. Turns out this is not always true! I think some of these will need to be gifted as I simply do not have the room to plant all these into my veggie garden.

Broccoli and cauliflowers further along...

My plans for the next three days are:
- Clean out chicken/duck coop.
- Clean out duck pond and put in fresh water.
- Weed veggie patch.
- Spin two bobbins of wool.
- Sew at least 3 garments.

Ambitious? Possibly.

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend. 

Sam xox

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Chance meeting and a much needed slow Sunday.

I met a man at work recently. We have the same client and needed to attend a meeting together. General polite conversation quickly turned into a sharing of similar experiences of moving from Sydney to the countryside, with a nice mix of sustainable ideas and love for the home grown thrown in for good measure.

The term "blog" came up and he mentioned his wife had one. What?!? So excited. Someone living in the same area with very similar interests. Great!  I rushed home that evening to discover Little Green Village. What a gem to find! She has such similar interests to me: gardening, sewing, simple living.

So I sent her a "hello" package last week: broccoli seedlings raised by me, one of my winter tomato plants, home grown snow peas and chillies, and some eggs from my chooks. She loved it all and the very next day I got to meet her in person and gratefully received home grown lemon grass, rocket, and kaffir lime leaves. I have used the lemon grass in a stir fry and made a delicious rocket salad. Any ideas how I could use the kaffir lime leaves?

*   *   *  *   *   *   *   *
A slow Sunday.

~ Sophie ~

~ Fresh cut flowers ~

~ Spinning wool ~

~ A trip to the Farmers Market ~

Sam xox

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

The girls are laying.

About a month ago I went to my chook pen and found what looked like the remains of an exploded chicken - there were feathers everywhere!!! After doing an emergency head count (all girls accounted for) I turned to google for the possible cause of all these extra feathers.


My chickens were moulting. A natural yearly cycle when chickens shed their old feathers and grow back some new ones. Usually this happens in autumn/winter. During this time chickens will stop laying until their new feathers have grown back.

So I waited patiently for a few weeks. I fed them treats of silverbeet, lettuce, and bread soaked in milk (as Rhonda recommends) and hoped for the eggs to return quickly.

This week we are back to almost full production.

Anyone for an omelette?

Sam xox