Bleak but Beautiful

It’s bitter outside, with icy rain sleeting down, but the garden still has its special moments.The Japanese maple, shedding it’s leaves, is never more colourful than when the weather is really cold.


Even our asparagus bushes, with their red fruits, are looking lovely.



In the past week we have seen both Eastern Spinebill’s and White-eared Honeyeaters in the garden, a sure sign that the season is turning and birds are migrating from the mountains down to the warmer coastal regions for winter.


White-eared Honeyeater

(Of course several weeks of below zero overnight temperatures have also indicated as much).

With the wonderful bounty of mushrooms growing in my mushroom kit we decided to host an Autumn dinner and invited Variegated along to enjoy the feast. TB decided on a Japanese meal so I did my best to follow the seasonal theme.

I used one of my Serizawa print cloths on the table


and was pleased to see that the chopstick rests I’d bought in Kyoto were suitably autumnal as well, ginko leaves turning yellow.


We also had seasonal red leaves (momoji), in this case maple leaves from our garden, on the table.


TB excelled himself as usual with the food. We started with a chawanmushi, a savoury egg custard which featured the shimeji mushrooms with chicken and scallops hidden at the bottom.


I love the various textures of this dish. The top is covered with a silky jelly flavoured with dashi, rice wine and soy sauce, thickened with kuzu starch (kuzu is a member of the pea family and is also used in Vietnamese and Chinese cooking). Underneath, individual morsels of food are hidden in each spoonful of custard.

Our second dish was the action item of the night as we went into the kitchen to cook our chicken skewers, or yakitori, over the charcoal brazier on the stove. Extractor fan on maxiumum Mr Scott!


We also had skewers of mussels and mushrooms. While Variegated and I were having fun with lots of smoke, TB was cooking garden vegetables in a tempura batter. All of these were served alongside a bed of soba noodles.


Of course they came with a range of condiments, including a dipping sauce (in the laquer bowls), some seaweed and a range of pickles including our home-pickled radish and  ginger.


Our meal was washed down by a 1997 Red Hill Estate Chardonnay which Variegated re-discovered when she was clearing out a defunct freezer in her garage! Turned out to be emminently drinkable and it’s golden colour certainly fit the seasonal bill.

For dessert we had that Japanese favourite Creme Caramel. No really, it is extremely popular in Japan, we’ve even had it served to us as part of breakfast!

After that all that was necessary was to sit back and pass the rest of the evening in pleasant conversation.


It was rather a ‘WTF?’ moment when I first received this birthday present from my friend Variegated,


thankfully it turned out to be a new type of mushroom growing kit.


Unlike other mushroom kits I’ve had in the past this one actually produces mushrooms!


Slowly at first..


then bigger and bigger.


Harvest size at last. While we were, according to the packet, growing oyster mushrooms, we were happy to have shimeji mushrooms instead!

PS TB tells me that the best crop of mushrooms he ever kept was a kit that lived under his desk in the office – just goes to show how closely working conditions follow that old saying about mushrooms ‘kept in the dark and fed on..’ you know what.

On Trend

It wasn’t until we got to the poultry sale on Sunday that we realised how much demand there is at present for chickens. I think even the poultry club people were rather overwhelmed by the numbers of would-be chook owners.

This is the queue of those lucky enough to get some birds (and there were plenty who were not sucessful).


It was BYO carrying cases, but don’t panic this was just a temporary measure (this is not one of our chooks) until the new owner could get it into a more suitable box.


As for our girls they seem to be settling in really well and the ground in their new pen is getting a good working over. Our Australorp is such a good digger that I’m thinking of hiring her out as a rotovator!

My sister tells me chook watching can become addictive. I think she’s right. The cat is also intensely interested in the new arrivals, but is grateful that she doesn’t have to share her place next to the heater with them.

Out of sight

Well there’s been quite a gap since I last got to the computer to write a post. Life has a way of getting in the road of both gardening and blogging at times!

We have been working hard in the garden tidying away the last of the summer veg. The tomatoes have been transformed into Green Tomato Chutney and the frosts of the past few days have wiped out the remaining basil bushes. At least the rocket plants are growing away strongly.


Winter plantings have been going in. I’m going heavy on planting turnips this year. They are very rewarding in that the seed will shoot within 3-4 days of being planted, but the snails will make a feast of them if you don’t keep an eye out for them. Apart from the seed I’ve also planted some seedlings of baby white turnips which are sailing happily through these frosty mornings.


Broad beans and purple-podded peas have also gone in, but they haven’t emerged as yet. Our self-sown parsnips are growing rapidly and some small ones will be available for eating quite soon.

However our major activity has been getting the chook shed and pen finished. This Sunday is the Canberra Queanbeyan Poultry Club Purebred Sale and we plan to be there to buy some girls for the garden! As you can see from this photo taken yesterday, we have quite a bit of work to do to get things ready!


Fingers crossed and work boots on!

PS if you are after an idea of what you can plant at this time of year check out the Cold Climate planting guide at the top of the home page.