Allsun Farm Organic Fair

With the temperature forecast to get to 29º today we decided to head out to the Allsun Farm Organic Fair. We arrived in time to catch the tail end of the farm tour, before reviving ourselves with a cup of coffee. The ice cream stand was also doing a roaring trade.

At 11.30 we went to the talk on green manures and hand tools. (Whatever turns you on). Wade gave a very informative talk with lots of good tips for both the suburban garden as well as smallholders. He then gave a demo of using the scythe (an Austrian mowing blade, as opposed to the scythe used to harvest grain crops). He uses the scythe to mow a green manure crop which he then uses to mulch his vegetables.

Exhausted by watching someone else work – actually he said he found the movement fairly gentle – we struggled back up to the stalls.At the Dalton’s stall, tastefully housed in one of the straw-strewn sheds, I bought Jackie French’s Chook Book – no we haven’t quite got to the chook owning stage yet but I fear it is only a matter of time. I also got Andrea Gaynor’s Harvest of the Suburbs: an environmental history of growing food in Australia’s cities. It’s good to be reminded that the return to home veggie growing is just that, not something that hasn’t been done before.

The next sidetrack was the Italian Gardener with a good range of Italian seeds. We’ve grown several types of Italian seeds already onion Rossa di Longi Firenze and a Chicory, green splotched with red, which we purchased the seed for at Tutti il Mondo in Mawson. This time we have Beetroot Cioggia, Erba Stella (Buck’s Horn) and Silene Inflata (Scuplit) both salad greens, a type of Chicory grown for its root and Chicory ‘Red Orchid’ and Scorzonera (Salsify) ‘Giant Black Russian’.

As the garden has expanded we’ve started sourcing seeds from a wide range of stockists, particularly through mail order companies. Once you have a look at their catalogues you realise there is a whole range of vegetables and varieties of familiar plants you’ve never seen before. As well as European plants we are also growing more Asian plants. We’ve had great success with bok choy, pak choy, komatsu and mustard greens.

We had a very tasty falafel wrap for lunch washed down by home made lemonade and Turkish apple tea. We collected our Australian native seedlings, Hardenbergia, Bracteantha and Tasmannia lanceolata (Native Pepperberry) and headed off home.

There is supposed to be a thunderstorm this afternoon. We appear to be on the edge of it but have had no rain yet – we hope it is falling in the catchment at least. Dam levels yesterday were 53.5%. Tomorrow we are expecting to go to 31º, so a bit of rain wouldn’t go astray.


What a glorious day

It’s been one of those ‘amazing to be alive days’ today, 26º and a perfect Spring Day. A light fog in our suburb provided just the right amount of atmosphere for early morning photos.

I started with the front garden when our ‘once was lawn (well bits of grass and some scraggy weeds)’ has been transformed for the second year running into another veg patch. The bed is flanked on either side by broad beans planted out about a month apart. On the far side the red flowered variety, (see the close-up photo) and on this side your common or garden Coles Prolific. In between in a block of Golden Bantam Corn and two Baby Blue Pumpkins all of which were transplanted out last weekend. One of the pumpkins has taken a bit of a chew overnight. This was probably a slater attack rather than a snail as the little blighters do a great job of ringbarking any juicy stem they can get onto. Sorry we are in this respect organically unsound in that we do use a modicum of the one snail bait that does for slaters as well.

Moving onto the nature strip is my, so far, very successful planting of native daisies which are interspersed with naturally occurring Wahlenbergia. The bulk of the non-edible garden is Australian native plants. This part of the garden really comes into its own in early December. Already there are early flowers on some of the other paper daisies and Billardiera. My Snow Gum, Eucalytptus robertsonnii (previously E. pauciflora nana) has been flowering for several weeks. I bought a huge bunch inside when I had to trim back a branch making a nuisance of itself over into my neighbour’s garden. I’ve include a photo of the flowers inside against the backdrop of one of my quilts. I’ve enjoyed two weeks of revelling in the sweet honey scent of the flowers.

Around the back you can see the broad sweep of the main garden bed with the last of the winter veggies Kale Cavolo Nero (going to seed), carrots, our variegated chicory and sorrel. The strawberries are just starting to move again. I’ve included a photo of our sage which is beautifully in flower.

Sadly I did have to go to work today, but on the way to the bus stop I was able to enjoy a Cecile Brunner rose in full flower scrambling over a neighbours fence.

At lunchtime I was joined by the Beloved for a lunch at Tasuke a really good Japanese restaurant in the city bus interchange just around the corner from the more up-market Iori Japanese restaurant. What I really like about Tasuke is that is the closest to a local neighbourhood restaurant in Japan (well if you ignore half of the clientele) that I have experienced anywhere in Australia. Shared tables and the same hand-drawn signs advertising individual dishes as we have seen while travelling in Japan. We shared a small bowl of marinated baby octopus, sea urchin roe sushi and tempura crab meat, along with a bowl of rice, miso soup and a drink. The cost just topped out at $21 per head for a really tasty meal.

Back to the slog after lunchtime for me. At least now when I get home from work it is still light and I can get out into the garden to enjoy the early evening in still good light.

Enough of the rosy glow … Being Spring it’s full on fete season and this weekend we plan to head out to the:

*Organic Fair at Allsun Farm
Saturday 31 October & Sunday 1 Novembe
(No bookings required)
*Address:* 1318 Dicks Creek Rd, Gundaroo
*Directions:* From Gundaroo travel 4 km N towards Gunning; immediately after Fairfield bridge turn left into Yass River Rd; travel 4.5 km & take second left into Dicks Creek Rd
*Open:* 10am-4.30pm. $8.00, no charge for children under 18

I was also very excited to get my favourite invite of the season today in the mail. Local ceramic artist *Bev Hogg* will be holding her annual *Ceramic Studio Sale and Garden Party from 10-4.00pm on Sunday 22 November at 8 Brennan St Hackett*. If you haven’t been you must go. The rule is pack the maximum number of people in the smallest car available and be prepared to park a bit away. Bev’s garden is worth a visit by itself. It is full of her fantastic pots fountains and ceramic animals, both real and imagined. There’s also finger food and punch and live music provided by Bev’s family and friends.


Why the name?

The name I’ve chosen for this blog comes from a concept used by author Michael Pollan (In Defence of Food, The Omnivore’s Dilema etc), and no doubt by many other people, heard on a podcast Pollan advocates ‘voting with our forks’, demonstrating what type of food we want to eat by choosing for ourselves, buying local, buying organic, buying from farmers market, growing your own or all or any of the above. This, of course, in the face of the industrialisation of our food production to the detriment of our health and well being. Pollan also commented in the same podcast that we should “shop strategically and be prepared to cook …!”

Of course this is where we come in. We’ve always gardened and cooked (and the Beloved can really cook), but several years ago we started to take this rather more seriously. Pollan we’d been reading since his fist books came out, A Place of My Own and Second Nature. Then I got into Animal Vegetable Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver et al; Living the Good Life: How one family changed their world from their own backyard by Linda Cockburn – for an Australian perspective; and the 100 Mile Diet by Alisa Smith and JB MacKinnon. (For Canberra locals the first two can be found in the public library but they don’t seem to have a copy of the third – but I’ll suggest they get it.) I found the ideas to be very exciting then and still do and all are entertaining reads to boot. Having read what they had to say it was a bit of a no-brainer to get a lot more serious about producing our own food.

We are not trying for complete self sufficiency but what we have done is provide a fair slab of our vegetables – converted into a major portion of our main meals each week. While we still shop at the supermarket for things we don’t produce and other household items and we shop at the farmers market we now find that we have made a significant change in our buying patterns and eating habits. But that’s a tale for another post.

Voted with our forks!

This evening I decided I’d better dig up the sorrel plant I’d promised my work colleague – I’ve decided that deep rooted perennial might just describe this plant. After lots of digging around and fruitless tugging I had to take out the Besser brick into which I’d stuck that tiny seedling just over a year ago. Then I got the spade to it and finally got it out! Thankfully it is going to the home of a person whose young child has miraculously been born with a taste for lemon and has taken to green soup with a vengeance. My favourite recipe for sorrel soup Margaret Costa’s Green Soup, which can be found in Jane Grigson’s _Vegetable Book_.

So what am I, a middle-aged Canberra public servant doing here? Re-living ‘The Good Life’ in person, along with the Beloved and the fur child (feline) – trying to get in shape and using the garden as one means of getting there.Well just over a two years ago, in winter and in the middle of our major drought we got serious about growing our own veg ….

As I’m more of your readily sidetracked thinker there will be lots of going back and forwards in these posts – so join us for the ride and we’ll see where we get to.