31 December 2012


You may remember when we had a heatwave some weeks back and I down some palm fronds as a temporary cover for the seedlings
Since then I've got a bit more organised and put up a structure to hold the fronds during the hot summer months, especially in the big bed where the delicate lettuces are.  In this way they get morning sun, shade in the middle of the day from the palm fronds, and shade in the afternoon from the madagascar beans.

29 December 2012

Summer projects

There are a number of projects Shaun and I have been working on these holidays.  The first has been working on the citrus swale.  With the recent rain, its a great time to weed with the roots not gripping as tightly.  When we first put the swales in, we did a winter cover crop of green manure, followed by a summer crop, but clearly we didn't sow thickly enough as the weeds and grass soon took over, despite this promising start.  So this has been the week to get started ( I know its summer and its really, really hot, but at least we're on leave and so have some time).  And now that the trees are establishing nicely, its also time to think more about the understory.  So here's what we've done this far

24 December 2012

Its a zoo around here!

Dogs, chickens, fish, snakes, koalas and now monitor lizards!  Yesterday we heard some birds going crazy just outside. At first we thought a group of minor birds were having a go at another native bird who had come into their territory perhaps, but they all seemed to be looking down on the ground and other birds seemed to be joining in.  So given recent events, we thought 'snake'.  Shaun slipped quietly outside to have a look, and unsurprisingly, I decided to stay inside and watch from the window.  He turned and held out his arms, showing me the size of the snake (not too big I thought) but then came to the sliding door to tell me it was a monitor lizard.  I rushed for the camera and Shaun ran to get a shot, but those puppies can move, so I saw it darting off into the bush but we didn't get a photo.

Then we heard the chickens going ballistic so Shaun went down to have a look and see what was upsetting them.  Despite finding nothing, though the girls were clearly avoiding one section of the run, so perhaps there was something in the grass he couldn't see.  As he came back to the house, he spotted a second, and much larger, monitor lizard and as he still had his camera in hand, he managed to get some great shots

23 December 2012

Just a mild heart attack

I'd just picked some onion shallots from the garden (the first I've grown) and was giving them a bit of a trim outside the kitchen door.  I heard a substantial shifting sound just next to where I was standing, as if the dogs had bumped into something.  But they were inside and the thing that shifted was our two surf skis, which for some reason are up next to the house, just along from the sliding door that leads into the kitchen.  I yelled out for Shaun to come have a look, as I thought it was a rat in the skis.  He came outside and was peering under one end and I was peering under the other, and then I saw it - a snake.  Then once I'd recovered and come back  to have another look, as it was clearly trying to catch said rat, Shaun saw the head and realised it wasn't our resident roof python, but a brown snake.

So one heart attack later, I was inside, looking out the the sliding doors as Shaun bravely offered to scare it away and towards the bush.  But by the time he went back to go and shake the other end of the ski, the snake had turned right around and was coming out his end.  If he had a heart attack at this point, he hid it well.  The snake perhaps had its own conniption as it turned around again and headed in my direction (though I was safely behind the glass)

22 December 2012

Summer holidays are here

I had one last business trip for the year (hence rather long blog gap) and am now on summer holidays, that greatest of Australian traditions.  I've now got just over 3 weeks of pottering around, and Shaun 10 days, as we don't plan to go away but are staying home instead.  After all the travel I've done in the second half of the year, I'm thrilled at not having to leave.  We do plan to do a few day trips to see things we haven't visited in the time we've lived in Brisbane.

The first hint of summer was our local growers Christmas party.  We offered to have it here as we've got a gorgeous spot for a picnic and have yet to use it - under the trees by our dam.  With holidays commitments, we ended up with about half the gang able to come over for a relaxing Sunday lunch.  As usual, everyone brought something to share that they had made from their veggie gardens.  We made quiche, fried rice and bread to add to the festivities.

10 December 2012

That's one way to deal with the rats

Shaun went down to close up the chooks a couple of nights ago and it was unusually quiet - no rats scuttling around, no chooks shifting and complaining about who got the best spot on the roost.  Silence.   What could silence chickens and chase away rats?  Only a python.  So Shaun started looking around and finally found the sneaking thing tucked up under the lid of the roosting boxes.  But when you lifted it up, you could see him but you could feel his weight in the lid itself, as he'd slithered in between the wooden frame and the metal lid.  Tricky fellow

07 December 2012

koala rescue (so sad)

When Shaun found the little koala on the second day, she was wondering around the patch and so Shaun let her out so she could get back to a gum tree.  She made it to the grass at the base of the tree but didn't have the energy to climb up.

06 December 2012

Heatwave protection

I got up at 6.00 and went down to the patch to try and make some hasty heatwave protection of my little seedlings before work.  I gave them and go water and then went to raid my green waste pile (not sure I'd call it a compost heap as its just a place where we put the things that take absolute ages to breakdown).  I grabbed lots of palm fronds and laid them down over the seedlings

04 December 2012

Even koalas get hot

Shaun went down to check on the little girls to make sure they hadn't finished all their water.  They hadn't but what he found was an empty run.  Thinking this was just not a cool enough spot on a 40 degree day, he went inside their yard and found them huddled in the shade.  Then he heard some loud rustling on the other side of the fence in their run.  A snake would also explain why they weren't out there under the gum tree, so he went to look.  But what he wasn't expecting to find was a little koala on the ground in some heat distress.  So he rushed off and got a black garbage lid and filled it with water to place at the bottom of the tree.  When he got back, the koala had gone back up the gum tree, just out of reach, so Shaun put the water down and moved away so as not to stress the little fella any further.

First fruits

Isn't it a wonderful moment when a tree that you've planted as a tiny thing finally grows up enough to bear its first fruits.  For some, its obviously much longer than others, but each time its a little thrill.  One that I've been hanging out for since we moved here and started planting is my fig tree.  I'd been watching and giving lots of tender loving care and then I got busy with other plants as she seemed to be doing fine. And of course, when you stopping looking, things happen.

03 December 2012

What's our aquaponics system up to

Its probably time for another look at our aquaponics system.  The fish, along with everything else are growing.

Can I just say, its much harder to get a pic of fish in a feeding frenzy than you'd think.  Shaun didn't think I did much of a job capturing how big they are, and whilst I agree, they only come to the surface to feed and then its on - splashing and shoving and no glamorous photo moments.

02 December 2012

How many uses can you find for cow poo?

Not only did we manage to cover patch 5 (and me) in gorgeous cow poo and straw,

we also wheel barrow many (many) loads into the raised garden bed patch, filling each one up to the brim again.  you got a sneak peak the other day, but here's a proper look

01 December 2012

I had to give it a go

We've been watching a bit of Jamie Oliver's 15 minute meals lately, so I thought I'd give one of this week's recipes a go.  The ricotta fritters looks good, so I popped into the IGA on the way home to get a few bits a pieces I'd need.  I have to confess, it didn't take 15 minutes, but I wasn't multi-tasking and I was carefully going back and forward to the recipe, but I still think a meal in 35 minutes is pretty good.
It has three parts to it, the ricotta fritters, the sauce and the little side salad.  Relatively simple.  But what surprised us the most was the amazing depth of flavour that such a simple meal has and it was possibly one of the tastiest things I've ever turned out of my kitchen. And cheap as chips to boot.

30 November 2012

Our own little salad bar

You may remember the tomato cuttings I took from the aquaponics bed, which was a Green Zebra heritage tomato variety.  Well there is a veritable forest of tomatoes growing there now and in the row behind, cucumbers.

29 November 2012

My food forest

I love the idea of a food forest as a perennial food source, with hopefully a lot less work that the annual veggie patch.  I was turned onto the concept some years ago by Geoff Lawton's DVD and ever since, I've wanted to try it.  I did a small scale version when we lived in Sydney but I was keen for a greater variety of trees, so when we moved here, it was one of the first things we started.  I've been showing you updates on the swales as we've gone along, but since I've got the irrigation in, things have really taken off (surprise, surprise, trees need more than an occasional bucket of water, but in my defence, those buckets get bloody heavy).  So now with my trusty 18mm hose, its on.

28 November 2012

Wasn't expecting this

We brought a lot of garden stuff with us when we moved up from Sydney and one of those things was a tomato pot with water collector underneath. So I put it by the kitchen door and potted up a Roma tomato in it.  It hasn't done great things but the basil I've put at it's feet has.  I don't think the tomato gets enough sun and the basil doesn't get too much.  So now its become my basil pot with a leggy tomato trailing out of it that I ignore.  The other day, as I was giving my kitchen garden pots a bit of a water, I bent over to put some on the tomato/basil pot and was met with this

27 November 2012

A pretty shitty weekend

You know your life has changed when your idea of a hot date with your man is to head on up to the mountains for a beautiful drive to a dairy and you're more excited about the cow shit and straw you're going to collect that the amazing views.  So yes, life has changed.  But for all those gardeners out there who would feel the same, we got a huge ute load of beautifully rested straw and cow poo - I know right!

So we drove home with our treasure and decided to off load half of it into patch 5 which is currently being rested and worked over by the girls.  We thought they'd appreciate the gesture.

26 November 2012

Wait no longer

I've been showing off my corn patch but it was time to put my money where my mouth was and pick some.  Well that and trying to get to them before the rats do.
I picked this basket full and then a few days later, a whole large bucket's worth.  So despite my fears, there are still plenty for us and I've hardly made a dent in the crop.  Corn is one of my favourites but last year I didn't have as much luck with the end result.  I excitedly opened our first ears only to find there were just a few kernels on each.  So this year I planted a bigger crop and much more of a square than the rectangle I did last year.  Then I piled the rows up much higher, laid down the irrigation pipes and then mulched the hell out of the whole patch.  Clearly that's the way to go, as when I opened this year's first ears, they were perfect.  And poor Shaun, I've been insisting that we eat them everyday (he did draw the line at breakfast though).  What's wrong with corn fritters??

25 November 2012

Last weekend's storms

Though we were lucky just to get lots of wind and rain, rather than hail and other forms of destruction, last weekend's storms were still pretty scary.  Check out these pics from our driveway

Those two shots are over 180 degrees span of the horizon.  They weren't kidding about a super storm cell - and we had four of them in two days.  Hello climate change!

24 November 2012

Wonderful surprises!

As you may have realised, all I seem to have done for the last few months is travel for work.  The only real pleasure of that punishing schedule is the joy of coming home.  And particularly when you have a fabulous garden that pushes on ahead without you.  My first task when I come home, before unpacking, is to take a walk around and see what's changed.  Its always a delight, but last night's meander was the best yet.  Here's why

19 November 2012

kitchen garden

The main act of our veggie growing is a gentle stroll down the hill to the veggie patch, but we did put in a kitchen garden for herbs so I could dash out when I'm cooking and grab some.  I do have herbs down at the patch, but rarely get my act together before its dark to wonder what I'll cook for dinner.  The soil near the house is ordinary as its cut into the hill and therefore no real topsoil, but we hope this will improve over time.  So the growth of herbs here is a fraction of what it is down in the patch where the good soil is.

17 November 2012

Can't wait for corn

Its one of my favourite summer crops and also one of the first home grown veggies I ever tried, back when I made my first stumbling attempts at growing my own.  At the time I was living in the townships of South Africa and many families had a little patch of corn, or mealies as we called them.  So I decided to give it a go and they were spectacular.  The variety that is common there has a larger and lighter kernel and I think, more flavour.  However, last year I loved the corn we grew and have put a larger plot in this year.

16 November 2012

All mulched up

As promised, here are the pics of my now well mulched raised garden bed patch.  It feels weirdly spongy to walk on but I'll take my hat off to any weeds that get through the cardboard and the fat layer of mulch.

10 November 2012

Rain at last!

Finally, after months of drought, its raining.  It started yesterday afternoon with a little teasing shower.  At the time, I was unloading a ute load of mulch to put on top of the cardboard in the raised garden area.  I knew that if it rained too much, I might not get the ute off the grass and back onto the driveway.  But thankfully, it only drizzled for a few minutes but was still promising more later.  So I worked like a maniac and got the whole load into the raised garden bed area, laying it about 20cm think at least.  I'm sure none of those pesky weeds will get through now.  Once that was done, the rain started in earnest and really hasn't stopped since.  I'll take a pic once the rain has stopped so you can see how nice it looks now.  So let me show you this patch instead...

09 November 2012

So happy!

Shaun has installed a series of taps for me on the swales, so no more carrying big buckets of water to my little trees.  The weight of the buckets was starting to rip my elbows apart (and yes I know I could have carried less water but that would mean more trips up and down the hill, so....).  He also got me an 18mm hose, so it really delivers the goods and I can get round to all my trees in no time at all, and the hose is one of those "no kink" varieties.

08 November 2012

Spring Growth

Despite the big dry, there is still plenty of new growth in spring.  It's wonderful to wander around the garden after I've been away for a while (which I'm doing a lot of at the moment thanks to a run of work trips) and see what tenacious little plants are popping up and getting stronger.

06 November 2012

Boys time out

I wandered down to the veggie patch the other day to find Shaun chilling out with the chooks after letting them out for their afternoon stroll.  But what was so funny was seeing him sitting on the old trampoline (that came with the property, though hidden in the thick grass) and Bruiser the rooster staring up at him.  I wasn't sure if he was thinking "I feel you man" or "get the hell out of my patch - these babes are mine", but I think it was the latter.

03 November 2012

Colour is in the air

If you stop and look, even a food garden is full of colour (besides green that is).  One of my favourite edible flowers is borage.  We plant it for a number of reasons - bee attractor, companion plant to strawberries and ridiculously beautiful flowers.

20 October 2012

Waiting on the rain

Despite only having one decent day of rain in the last few months, the garden is hanging in there.  I've been away again for a week for work and Shaun has been trying to keep the water up to everything, so I was happy to be back yesterday and check on how the plants are coping.  There are always a few surprises and one of those is the kiwi fruit.  We brought it up when we came from Sydney and it did OK for a bit, but died completely back (more than the usual winter hibernation) so I thought we'd lost it.  But when I was clearing the edges of the veggie patch of grass, there in amongst it was the brave little kiwi fruit.

14 October 2012

Remember the ginger farm?

When we visited the ginger farm, we bought a few kilograms of fresh ginger (that we actually dug up ourselves - can't get fresher than that).  We got advice from Michael and Kate who grow the ginger and they said we had until the end of September to get our act together.  So on the last weekend of the month (of course), I did.

07 October 2012

Now that's an egg

As we have relatively young girls who are now laying, we have a higher number than normal of double yoker eggs.  But they're not just double yokers, they are jumbo doubles.

06 October 2012

Still growing despite the big dry

All sorts of lovely things are busy growing, getting ready for the summer.  We've put three extra tanks on the property to collect as much rainwater as possible and so we've been keeping the water up to the veggie path and the food forest with tank water.  And despite the heat wave this week, all is still looking healthy.

05 October 2012

Aquaponics update

In case you were wondering how the aquaponics system is going, here's an update.  The fish are now eating up a storm, and growing to match, so we're looking forward to our first meal of Jade Perch in mid-summer.  We also cleared out the finished bed of lettuce and beans and planted it up freshly.  Here is how the lettuce is looking now
They seem to be getting bigger on a daily basis and we've got some spring onion and some kale in there as well.  They seem to be getting bigger each day.

04 October 2012

beautiful things

Sometimes (well, most of the time) I get caught up in thinking about the productivity of the property and all the jobs I have to do to make that happen.  But some days, it's worth just looking at the beautiful things you normally march straight past, shovel in hand.  So let me share them with you.
How gorgeous do the mango flowers look?  Instead of wondering if I'll get any fruit this year, I can just appreciate the flowers as they are.

03 October 2012


I had been away for five days and when I got back, Shaun surprised me with our new bees.  You need to move them at night for a host of reasons and so he and our Bee guru friend Hans loaded them up under the cover of darkness and brought the hive over on the back of the ute.  Then clad in their bee keeping hats, looking like two ninja spacemen, they placed the hive on the blocks Shaun had prepared a few days before.  The site choice is key - morning sun is only preferable, water nearby for them to drink, a clear flight path and a nice level spot.  So here they were the next morning

02 October 2012

That was unexpected

I know I shouldn't be too surprised, given where we live, but we were out on the verandah with friends the other day (looking at my painting handiwork) when Shaun spotted a snake in the palm in front of us. So we went a bit closer to have a look....

20 September 2012

We'll never starve

For those of you who grow your own food, perhaps you feel like me.  When I go to the garden with my big basket and walk around the veggie patch seeing what's ready.  Then after five minutes or an hour, I walk back up to the house loaded with food.  At these moments I feel extraordinary rich and say to myself (often out loud, which I know is a sign of madness) that "we'll never starve".

I had just one of those moments when I went to the patch after having been away in New Zealand for work.  Here is a pick of my basket

17 September 2012

Garlic anyone?

Its our first attempt at growing garlic (not sure why I never tried it before) and we decided to go wild.  We planted 8 rows of the gorgeous stuff and its been growing beautifully all year.  We planted two types, the smaller purple garlic and the larger elephant garlic.  The elephant has been looking the best with the purple garlic looking a bit wimpy in comparison.  A few weeks ago, the purple started to die back and I didn't know if it was the drought we are currently in or whether it was time (seemed a wee bit early).  But yesterday, I decided to dig one up and see....

16 September 2012

Back from my travels

I had a week in New Zealand for work, with back to back meetings and a blackberry.  So no chance to blog.  But now I'm back and have shaken off the coats and scarves and put on my shorts and T-shirt and am back into it.  I'll take some photos today of what's been going on in my absence, but here is what I was busy with last weekend.

07 September 2012


There are so many young trees that we've planted around the property and each one needs a little tender loving care.  If I've been away for a few days or get home from work well after dark, I like to take a walk around and check on each one, looking for small changes and signs of health.  On the weekend, they get some water and a bit more mulch if they need it.  As we are trying to create a food forest on our swales, I'm constantly planting new trees, either ones I've grown from seeds or I buy trees that I don't yet have to make sure there's lots of diversity.  So here's how they are all going at the moment.  This is a malabar chestnut where I'm trying to join the planting in the space between the second and third swale.

05 September 2012

What's going on in the patch

We currently have one veggie patch in full production, one trying to get established but under attack by slugs and possibly mice, one going to seed and another in the first stages of being planted out.  Its a wonderful part of growing your own food to watch all the cycles and seasons.  Its so exciting to plant an area out and then watch it get some legs.  Then so exciting when you start to eat out of it, but it does reach some point (at least it does for me), when you're over what's in that patch and you can't wait to let the chickens in and start afresh.  So here is the one I'm looking forward to opening the gate on soon, with rocket and coriander going to seed, but the garlic not quite ready to harvest

04 September 2012

An invitation to bees

You might remember that I put an archway as the gate into each of our veggie patches, as a means of securing a gate, as well as to grow some bee attracting flowers over (and hopefully people attracting too).  Well, we are finally seeing the rewards of our patience as the first blooms have arrived, along with the first days of spring.

02 September 2012

A trip to Australia Zoo

I had a week's leave and my Mum came for a visit.  She was more than happy to enjoy the property, read and wander down to see what I was doing in the veggie patch.  But this trip, the thing that she did want to do was to visit Australia Zoo.  We took a drive up to Maleny last time she was here and we drove past the sign on the way, so Mum was keen to check it out.  Despite offering our teenage son the rare opportunity to join his mother and grandmother at the zoo, he strangely turned us down and with Shaun at work, we decided it was mother daughter day.  Here are some of the highlights....

01 September 2012

My first foray into cleaning products

I've read on Rhonda's blog all the good advice about making your own cleaning products, so I decided to give it a go.  And since its citrus season (well it was until a week ago for us when we ate the last of it), the citrus cleaner seemed a good place to start.
I had soaked the skins for two weeks in vinegar and was just about to decant into the bottle.  And whilst it smells very vinegary when I'm cleaning, it seems to work well.  Yesterday I was reading Linda's lastest post on her Witches Kitchen blog and read that she uses metho and just adds a splosh of vinegar for her citrus cleaner.  What have you tried and what's worked best?

27 August 2012

Mushroom compost

After visiting the first farm on the Sunshine Coast, we picked up some of their mushroom compost that the farmers were selling.  They grow several different types of mushrooms organically and so don't use salt on their mushroom growing medium.  The salt is the problem with a lot of mushroom compost that can be bought and you want to be quite picky with what you get and were you get it.  So it was great to see the operation ourselves and then know it was organic mushroom compost.  We filled the back of the Subaru (wishing we'd brought the ute) and took 12 bags home for our raised garden beds.