Tassievore Eat Local Challenge Week 2: Grow something

I used to live in my vegetable garden. I’d quite happily spend all weekend in there, get totally engrossed, completely lose track of time, and occasionally even get something to eat from it.

Then we moved back to Tasmania, had a child and my passion for gardening disappeared into the cracks between dirty nappies, the Wiggles, play group, rushing between work and daycare and, later on, school and work.

I tried, but my old garden was full of oxalis, stinging nettles and stickyweed. With a small child, I didn’t have as much time to devote to it, and when I did get a chance to get out there, all I ever did was battle the weeds. It wasn’t enjoyable any more.

In the end I gave up my dream of a productive vegetable garden. Much as I had loved gardening, the spark had gone. I couldn’t spend the time in the garden I wanted to and was used to, and when I did go in there I didn’t enjoy it, or I felt bad for taking time away from Juniordwarf. So I didn’t go in there at all.

I felt enormously guilty. I was a self-proclaimed ‘gardener’ who didn’t have a garden. I wanted to grow food, but it all seemed so hard.

Then we moved into a house we both loved, but one with a yard that was mega-challenging in terms of its slope. I describe it as a cliff. It’s not far off that.

And we got chooks. Instant fertiliser! Instant destruction!

I dug out a few flat spots and installed some 1×1 metre raised beds, which is where the straw and chook poo goes to rot down and nourish the soil. My original idea was to have 5 of these beds that I could rotate over a 12 month period, with 3 being used to grow vegetables at any one time, one being the leave-alone-to-break-down bed and one being the add-the-fresh-stuff-to bed.

So far I’ve put 3 of the 5 together. I haven’t planted anything in any of them. I just keep adding straw and poo. The chooks get into them and scratch them up and most of the straw ends up on the ground.

Most of the time it all seems to hard to figure out what to plant, when to plant it, how to get the beds filled up enough to grow something in, how to keep the chooks out, how to maintain it once I’ve planted it. Everything I can come up with has become an excuse for why I’m not gardening.

And I’ve sat here for weeks, months, looking at these damn garden beds, telling myself off for not taking the next steps towards using them and feeling incredibly guilty that I’m not growing a single food for myself. I’ve been feeling totally in conflict with my own belief that growing your own is a good and important thing.

But in this last couple of weeks I’ve had a slight shift in perspective, which has got me going again.

In Lisa Grace Byrne’s book ‘Replenish’ (which is a book I would highly recommend if you are a strung-out, overwhelmed mother or just plain old strung-out and overwhelmed), she talks about the principle of starting where you are.

Lisa tells the story of a very overweight woman who decided she wanted to take dance classes. At first all the woman could do was go to the class and sway to the music. But she didn’t let this stop her. She kept going to the class each week and she did what she could. Very slowly she started to be able to do a bit more, and then a bit more. Eventually she started fully participating in the class and she went several times a week. But she didn’t start out like that. She started by doing what she could do, which was turn up and sway.

Last week’s Tassievore Eat Local challenge was to grow something. I already had a couple of herb pots on the go but they’ve survived by good luck rather than good management.

I wanted to do the Tassievore challenge, but as soon as I started making a list of all the things I’d have to do to get my first garden bed ready to plant something, I started to make excuses about why I couldn’t do it. There were too many obstacles and I didn’t have the time. It looked like this was going to be another good idea that I didn’t go through with.

Then the other night one of my lovely Twitter folk said they’d started sowing peas. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just a tweet about sowing peas. I love peas. I’ve always wanted to grow peas, but I never have. I tried once and they all died. I still want to. I think about doing it a lot.

But at that moment something in my brain clicked. Why can’t I sow some peas? Why can’t I just throw a few seeds in and see what happens? No fancy soil preparation (no preparation at all, fancy or otherwise), no checking the calendar to see if it’s the right time (if a farmer is doing it then that’s good enough for me), no moon phase timing, no fencing out the chooks. Nothing. Forget the garden bed. Just do it.

So I went out and did it. I chucked some seeds into a pot on my deck and watered them. It took about 5 minutes.

Maybe peas

Maybe peas

The seeds are past their best-by date and the potting mix is a bit dry, so I don’t hold out much hope, but I’ve tried. I’ve shown up. I’ve thrown some seeds out there. I’ve started where I am. The list of jobs I’d set myself to do before I started gardening again was so overwhelming that it was stopping me doing anything at all. I don’t think that’s a good place to be.

Now I’ve done something. I’m the lady in the dance class. She didn’t expect to be dancing beautifully the first week of class, and I shouldn’t expect to have a perfectly planned and set up garden bed today.

You don’t walk 25,000 steps a day by going out and walking for 3 hours today. Starting big is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term. You start out with a flourish and then exhaust yourself after a few days or weeks and you give up. (Or at least that’s what I do.)

If you want to walk 25,000 steps a day, you start by telling yourself that when you get home you’ll put your bag down and go for a walk around the block instead of collapsing on the couch and going on Twitter.

You set the bar so low you can’t fail. Then you do it. And you do it tomorrow and the next day. Once you’ve started small and succeed consistently, it gets easier to get bigger.

I was going about my gardening the wrong way. I was aiming for 25,000 steps a day when I should have been aiming to just get out the door.

‘All or nothing’ creates inaction. If I can’t do it all (and I can’t do it perfectly and be completely prepared with all the information I could ever possibly need) then I’m not going to do anything. This doesn’t get me to where I want to be, because I’ll never get started. It’s pretty obvious isn’t it?

I’ve known this for a long time, but haven’t ever really accepted it as true. The message from Lisa Byrne and the lady in the dance class of ‘start where you are, do what you can do right at this moment and keep showing up’ has been forging a stronger course through my subconscious than I realised.

I’ve heard this same message many many times since I was a child:

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” – Lao Tzu

“Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it.” – attributed to Goethe

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

“Just do it.” – Nike slogan

For once it sunk in and all it took was that one simple tweet about sowing peas to get me up and out the door.

If I’d sat and thought about what I needed to do to get to the point of being able to sow some seeds, I wouldn’t have done it. There would have been too much to do to get ready. I did what I could do right then and there, and either nothing will happen or I’ll get peas.

That’s OK because I’ll also get some coriander and some baby spinach (or I won’t) because I put some of those seeds in last week too. That’s 3 lots of seeds more than if I’d decided to wait until I was ready.

It felt really good to take some action.

The sum total of my growing efforts this year. Coriander seeds on the bottom right.

The sum total of my growing efforts this year. Coriander seeds on the bottom right.

This baby spinach has managed to self seed from some spinach that went to seed over summer.

This baby spinach has managed to self seed from some spinach that went to seed over summer.

Tassievore Eat Local Challenge Week 1 – Food Forager

I’ve been busy walking this week, so I haven’t given the Tassievore Eat Local Challenge my full attention.

I wrote a post about getting started last week,  and have been doing what I can for Week 1’s challenge, which has been to “seek out Tasmanian food and drinks . . . whether an old apple tree on the side of the road, a bottle of wine you haven’t tried before, or a recipe that has tweaked your interest”.

Funnily enough, the apple trees on the side of the road that I noticed last Sunday got pruned to within an inch of their lives during the week. Something about power lines, I believe . . .

Foraging at my house is primarily the search for eggs.

The oldest chicken decided long ago that the laying box wasn’t for her and has taken to laying in a spot in some bushes that we’ve nicknamed The Egg Butty. This comes from something Juniordwarf used to do when he was very small, and it kind of stuck. She’s had more than one Egg Butty over the years, but this is the current go-to spot.

Egg Butty

Egg Butty

The new chickens are gradually getting used to laying and are figuring out where to do it. One of them has even found the laying box.

Laying box

Laying box

The other one has decided it’s better to lay in the very back of the chook house, between the two perches, right in the chook shit from the night. She invariably knocks the perches off and we have to perform contortionist acts to get the egg and set the perches back up.

Not the laying box

Not the laying box

Foraging in my own back yard.

One of the new chickens

One of the new chickens

I also got 2 strawberries off my plant this week. I think that’s about 10 now. None of the other plants have fruited, so 6 plants for $10, and 10 strawberries = $1 per strawberry. Bargain! At least they aren’t fumigated with methyl bromide.

Gourmet strawberries

Gourmet strawberries

And by happy accident I discovered a self-seeded oregano plant in amongst my pennyroyal in one of the most shady parts of the yard. How it got there is anyone’s guess, but I’m not complaining.

Feral oregano

Feral oregano

Because I managed to kill my raspberry plants, I didn’t get any raspberries this year. So as a consolation, I’ve been drinking the raspberry cider from Two Metre Tall. It’s very good.

My main source of raspberries this year

My main source of raspberries this year – note deliberately out of focus cider so you can read the sign in the background (ahem)

I had a couple of ideas of new places to go foraging, but other things got in the way and I didn’t make it.

I did pick up some Tasmanian produce from Eumarrah in Hobart, and I really like the new labelling that Hill St Grocer has for its fruit and vegetables.

Apples at Eumarrah

Apples at Eumarrah

Garlic at Eumarrah

Garlic at Eumarrah

Hill St's produce labelling

Hill St’s produce labelling

This morning we went to our local market, the Big River Growers Market, which has some wonderful people with fantastic produce (and also excellent laksa).

Big River Growers Market

Big River Growers Market

20150307 Big River Market 1 20150307 Big River Market 2 20150307 Big River Market 3

Laksa!

Laksa!

And we were walking past a new business that has recently opened, so decided to have a look in there and picked up a few different vegetables as well.

Spud Hut

Spud Hut

So we ended up getting a pretty good haul for the weekend.

Weekend's haul

Weekend’s haul

And dinner tonight was accompanied by one of my favourite wines (which I foraged for in my fridge because I needed wine for the dinner recipe . . .)

Derwent Estate Chardonnay

Derwent Estate Chardonnay

Week 2’s challenge is to “grow your own”.

I used to be a gardening fanatic, but since we’ve been in this house – in fact probably since we had Juniordwarf – my commitment to the garden has declined and I haven’t grown anything (successfully) for several years.

Perhaps this is the time to fix that.

Stay tuned.

Tassievore Eat Local Challenge – Week 1

Week 1’s Tassievore challenge was “Try Something New”.  The challenge organisers posted some ideas on their Facebook page, including:

  1. Try growing something that you haven’t grown before.
  2. Try cooking Tasmanian quinoa.
  3. Try a drop of local cider, wine or beer that you haven’t tried before.
  4. Visit a restaurant or shop that you have heard does a good job of focussing on local ingredients.
  5. Visit a local farmers market if you haven’t before.

I wasn’t really sure what I was going to do.

To start with, I cooked a couple of recipes from this cookbook, which I bought a while ago. 

ImageThe book was published a few years ago by Soroptimist International of Tasmania as a fundraiser for the University of Tasmania’s project to save the Tasmanian Devil.

 I’ve cooked Tasmanian quinoa before – it’s grown on the North West Coast of Tasmania by Kindred Organics. I already had some in the cupboard, so it was pretty easy to make that one night instead of rice.

What I should have done (in hindsight) is use it in a way I haven’t before, and there are some recipes on Kindred’s website that I could have tried. I also found out that they produce Adzuki beans, which I haven’t ever used before, so if I’d done my research earlier in the week I could have got some of them and blitzed this week’s challenge.

Never mind. Next week.

I was keeping my eyes open during the week for something I hadn’t tried before, and saw some Tasmanian mountain pepper in one of the shops I was browsing it. I picked up a packet that has it in four different forms:

  • The whole leaf, which you can use in the same way as bay leaves
  • The whole berries, which could substitute for black peppercorns
  • Ground leaves, which the package suggests adding to vinaigrette or mayonnaise, scones, bread and pasta, or as a garnish
  • Ground berry, which I imagine you’d use as a pepper substitute in cooking

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These are freeze dried, which end up being milder than the air dried berries, and from what I’ve read, the recommendation for using them is about half the amount that you would use of regular pepper.

So now I have to find a recipe to use this in.

I also stumbled across some Tasmanian black garlic. Now this really is something I haven’t tried before – I’d never even heard of it. I was curious, so I bought some, without having a clue what to do with it.

Image

Luckily the Tasmanian Black Garlic Company has a website, which tells me:

Tasmanian Black Garlic is not a garlic variety, rather organically grown Tasmanian Purple garlic in an aged state. Because garlic contains sugars and amino acids, when garlic undergoes fermentation, these elements produce melanoidin, a dark-coloured substance that is responsible for the colour of black garlic.

According to the website you can peel it and eat it exactly as it is, and they suggest using it on a cheese platter. Or you can cook with it in place of regular garlic. 

It keeps in the fridge for six months, so I have plenty of time to use in different ways.

Finally, I decided to grow something I haven’t grown before. Well at least not successfully.

Basil.

For some reason I can’t make this stuff grow, and end up paying $4 a bunch whenever I need basil.

I have some rather sad looking plants in pots near the kitchen window, and the other day someone suggested I should try growing from seed instead of getting seedlings.

I found some Tassie basil seeds during the week from Southern Harvest and decided to have another go.

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Yes I know, the packet says in cool areas sow from September to December, and it’s now March. So yes, I’m probably setting myself up for a big fail. I’m hoping I might be able to grow it as an indoor plant over autumn and winter.  I haven’t done this before, so it’s basically just an experiment.

If it doesn’t work, I’ve lost a few seeds. If it does then I’ll be very happy!

So now it’s on to Week 2 of the challenge: Support Local Businesses.

 

P365 – Day 322 – here be dragons (eggs)

A while very long time ago, Juniordwarf and I met up with the fabulous Kim from frogpondsrock to create some dragons eggs
One of the highlights of that day was walking through the bush and finding the huge eggs that Kim had made for the event and hidden in the bush for people to find. Here are some of the fantastic eggs that Kim created.
Unfortunately, some people decided to help themselves to the eggs, and several of them went missing, which was a very disappointing end to a fun day.
Kim very kindly offered to give me the sculpture that I had featured on my blog post about the event and I was thrilled that she’d offered it to me. 
I had an idea that it would go very nicely in the little sanctuary part of my garden that I’ve set aside just for me and my herbs.
It was just a matter of organising to catch up with Kim and picking it up, together with the dragon eggs that Juniordwarf and I had made in February, after Kim had fired them in her kiln (or, as Juniordwarf thought, killed them in the fire).
Well making a time to meet took longer than expected, but after a couple of false starts, today we finally organised to meet Kim at the Off Centre Gallery, in the Salamanca Arts Centre,  where Kim and a group of ceramics and glass artists display and sell their work.
I didn’t have much of a chance to take much in at the gallery, but I’ll be sure to go back in the next couple of weeks when I don’t have to keep a watchful eye on the small person, so that I can have a good look at everything. From this brief visit, it looks like there is a lot of beautiful work in there.
Juniordwarf had been looking forward to getting his egg from Kim for months, and he was so excited to find out we’d be going to get it today. 
He asked Kim whether it was going to hatch, and when we got home, the first thing he did was sit his little dragon on his egg to hatch it.
That approach being unsuccessful, a couple of hours later, he decided that he’d have to sit on it to make it hatch.
You have to admire his persistence!
I’m very excited about having a feature piece to put in my herb garden. I feel very inspired to get out there and make it all happen. Now if I can just manage a couple of days off work to spend in the garden, I might start to make some progress.
And thank you again Kim, for your very generous gift.