Monday, 28 December 2015

A Gardener's First Aid Kit … and tick remover

Since I took over my allotment a few years ago I often receive gardening gifts. Always a delight.

I was particularly chuffed with this dinky little first aid kit I received at Christmas. The tin is only a little larger than a match box so it will fit into a trouser pocket, or stored amongst small tools because the tin lid fits snug enough to keep the contents clean and dry.

I love the band-aids with the daisy design, perfect for slapping on a small wound. The tweezers will be really useful to remove a thorn or a splinter.

But the real plus is the gadget for removing ticks.  Funnily enough we were talking about ticks over at the allotments only a couple of weeks ago because it's 'tick season'. Ticks are only tiny little critters, size of a pin head, but they burrow into the skin and if you break them off and leave the head in, you can get a nasty infection.   (I know, sounds gross, but I ended up in hospital once having one dug out!)  Who ever thought gardening was an Elite Sport and not for the feint hearted.

Gardeners first aid kit in tiny tin
So. The magic tick remover is featured below - the gadget to the right of the photograph. And there is a tiny instruction book in the tin on how to use it to remove the tick. You stick the pointy end over the tick, grasp it, twist the gadget which will twist out the little critter! 

L to R  a band-aid, tweezers, and tick remover
All I need now is another gardener, plus tick, to practice on.

Happy Safe Gardening.

Friday, 25 December 2015


Happy Christmas.

My blog posts are pretty thin on the ground, but I still enjoy being able to record some things happening over at the allotment.

The last 'happening' was our community party at Beelarong. We must have had 40 folk turn up, volunteers and allotment holders.

The first job was to lay the tables

Add the decorations

 And I drew the short straw, the ablution block!

Then everybody arrived 

Tucked into the festive food

And gathered for a group photo after much hilarity

We grow more than food at the community garden.  We are pretty good at growing our community too.


Sunday, 22 November 2015

Cucumbers …. Bread and Butter Pickles

Sometimes my allotment goes berzerk and I think this is one of those times. The cucumbers are taking over.  I bottled a 2 litre jar of Bread and Butter pickles a couple of days ago. The recipe is here.  They are a tasty addition on a cheese or cold meat sandwich but years ago, during frugal times, the pickles alone were used between (you guessed it) two slices of bread and butter.

I went back to the allotment the next day and picked another five cucumbers, they are presently sitting on the draining board in the glass pyrex dish having been sliced, with onions, and 'brined' in the fridge overnight, ready to bottle this afternoon.

Just went down the allotment again today, and couldn't believe that hiding under the leaves were another 16 beautiful organic cucumbers. I will be going nowhere today until those cuc's are chopped, salted and put in the fridge ready for … you guessed it.  More pickling tomorrow.

Happy Gardening.

Saturday, 14 November 2015

Sauerkraut, veggies and a thought for the day

Can't believe it's been a month since my last post. Plenty happening over at the allotments. We've just had the AGM at Beelarong Community Farm where I have my allotment and I've been elected Secretary of the committee. It's great to have the opportunity to share in the running of the farm.

I've started doing workshops at the farm on making sauerkraut. We do lots of preserving of our harvests, jams and pickles, but I'm taking a big interest in fermenting. Sauerkraut is probably the easiest thing to start with and that's why I want to share it with others at the farm.  Here is my first workshop, great fun, shredded cabbage flying everywhere !

I've picked lots of cherry tomatoes. The fruit fly seem to leave them alone.

My lone Italian kale, Cavalo Nero, has kept me in kale for months now.  I harvest a leaf at a time and chop it into my veggie soups.  Despite the weather warming up it is still going strong. Mind you, it has been the most cosseted plant in Brisbane receiving regular liquid feeds and drinks of diluted worm juice.

Silverbeet (or chard as it is also called) is up there with my all time favourite vegetables and my little bed of plants is prolific. I cannot eat it fast enough, even after sharing the spoils I still have enough to blanch and freeze.

And finally. Here is the thought for the day from my favourite little cushion.

Happy Gardening.

Saturday, 17 October 2015

A garden visit - and walking the labyrinth

This week a group of us from Beelarong Community Farm visited horticulturist Linda Brennan's home Ecobotanica.  Linda and her husband moved onto a bushland block on the outskirts of Brisbane   two years ago and they have turned it into a wonderful oasis, complete with labyrinth.

The first of the group arrives at the bushland setting, they look a bit like Lilliput people next to the towering old Australian gum tree. It was a beautiful day.

After a warm welcome from Linda and her husband we started our morning with a labyrinth walk.  Here is the overview.  It is a classic style built to specific measurements.  A labyrinth has spiritual and meditative properties.  This link to the Labyrinth Society will explain it much better than I can.

The entrance, facing East.

With friend Bernice, ready to walk the labyrinth

And then it's over to the vegetable garden, through this entrance. I love the rooster on the roof and the flowerpot man guarding the entrance.

I loved the veggie garden, growing vegetables being my passion, and I spent the most time there. I'm afraid my photograph doesn't do it justice. It was packed with the most interesting and huge variety of vegetables and herbs. In the foreground is the pink bath with water-loving plants and fish (to keep down the mosquitoes, they eat them).

This is the front of the chicken run (or as we say in Australia "the chook house"). The two brown boxes either side of the painted door are the front of the nesting boxes. Just open the top and remove the lovely new-laid eggs.

We had a shower of rain which took us indoors for a delicious, and adventurous, morning tea. This colourful plate is of nasturtium flowers from Linda's garden, stuffed with cream cheese and fresh herbs. They disappeared in no time.

On the plate with the doily is the bunya nut cake. First time I've tasted bunya nuts and the cake was delicious.  You would have a long wait if you planted a bunya nut tree today. It only starts to crop when it reaches 100 years old, and then it only crops every 2 or 3 years. It's a tree native to Australia, the nut is original "bush tucker" and favoured by indigenous Australians - check out this link for more. It has an interesting history.

Finally, we visited the cottage garden and I found this beautiful Australian native hibiscus tree with the flowers a most delicate pink.

Thank you Linda. We had a wonderful time.

Happy Gardening.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

Carrots and parsnips - on the straight and narrow

I have grown plenty misshapen, and in some cases X Rated, carrots in the past but with my last planting I decided to spend a bit more time preparing the ground to achieve the 'perfect' carrot.  This time I was also trying for parsnips again which don't grow too well in our hot climate. But I love a challenge.

Before I planted the seeds I spent the morning raking and sifting the soil to bring it to a fine tilth, removing any small stones that could cause 'forking'. Then I added plenty of sand to the earth to make it even easier for them to form in the soil.  It worked, I've been rewarded with some beautiful straight, sweet vegetables.

Pulling parsnips. Gently does it.
Yay, straight.
I was happy with my harvest but I'm not sure I'll be so fussy next time.  I miss the carrots with their individuality. This year no more laughing with allotment neighbours at the carrots with appendages. No more tittering amongst my gardening friends at carrots entwined. No more guffawing.

Just a big bunch of carrots.

Just for the giggle. Here are some parsnips from the past.

And a pair of romancing carrots.

Happy gardening.

Tuesday, 13 October 2015

The snake bean, a yard-long ?

One of the vegetables that do well in our hot Queensland summer is the snake bean, also called the yard-long bean, due to it's length. This bean loves our hot humid summer weather when other beans would give up the ghost.

Due to the length of the bean, and the heigh of the plant, a pretty tall structure is required for them to climb up.  A bit of a challenge when you are only 5ft 4in but if you have a wheelbarrow and a mallet all is not lost.

Erecting support for snake beans
Thank you to fellow gardener Sara who provided the wheelbarrow and took the pic.

I took this photograph at the end of last summer, and the end of their growing season, that's why the leaves look a bit moth-eaten, but I had been harvesting from these few plants continually for 4 months. Truth to tell, by then I was sick of them, and so were my friends !

Snake beans 

They can grow to extraordinary lengths but I like to pick them when they are young and tender.  Like this. 

Snake beans (with Brazilian spinach)
Happy Gardening

Monday, 12 October 2015

Monday morning at the allotment

The ground is so dry, we haven't had a downpour for ages, so I spent some time this morning giving the allotment a good drenching with the hose pipe.

Then I took out the camera.

These cherry tomatoes are so sweet and a heavy cropper.

The Italian black kale "Cavolo Nero".
I have just the one plant and it keeps me in kale for months. I chop it up in soups and it's great for making baked kale chips.  Check out the recipe for kale chips by clicking onto this link.

Silver beet (some call it chard). I steam it, add a nob of butter and it's delicious.

My butternut lettuce is doing well, only planted the seedlings a few weeks ago. 

Tat Soi an Asian green, originally from China.
Tat Soi is full of nutrients and is particularly good sautéed in a stir fry, It needs to be cooked quickly, just enough to wilt the leaves.

And to attract the bees I mix the veggies with a few flowers.

Happy Gardening!

Welcome to my allotment garden

My passion is growing vegetables.

With just a small balcony at home I took over an allotment plot a few years ago and this is where I spend my time.  At Beelarong Community Farm.  It's a community garden in Brisbane, the centre of the farm is the community garden area where volunteers can work and share the produce.  But they also have small allotment plots for rent too, and I have a couple of those.

This pic was taken on the first day, a few years ago - turning the sod as they say.

My first day at the allotment, clearing the patch

I didn't know much about growing vegetables in a sub tropical climate when I first took over my plot, having been reared in the UK,  so it's been a learning curve. And I'm still learning.  

This blog is going to follow life on 'the farm' and my veggie growing exploits.