Winter pulse

Much as I would like to be sitting in a warm room there are still tasks to be carried out in our winter garden. Soft winter grasses and fleshy weeds are taking advantage of the beds my partner prepared and planted out to garlic and onions. My task has been to weed the beds, which I have done over the past week.


There is still a bit to complete, but the worst is over and the chooks have enjoyed scratching among the weeds for fresh green pick. While the garlic has grown vigorously the onions have been overwhelmed by the weeds. Today I spent an ‘envigorating’ half hour filling in the gaps where some of the onions failed. It seems that the brown onions have fared better than the red cipollini. The gaps have been filled with more brown onions on the basis that their seedlings were the strongest available at the nursery.
One of our local magpie pairs has started collecting sticks and vegetation for nest building. While we see this as the start of the coldest part of winter these birds are looking forward to their first hatchlings of the year. Oh, and I’d better warn the postman, the magpies love to swoop him when they have young in the nest!


Some light in the winter dark

We may have passed the shortest day of the year, but here in Canberra we still have quite a bit of winter still to live through. Like my garden I’m slowly coming to life again.

On the weekend we read in the Sydney papers that now was the time to start tomato seeds. In Canberra tomato seeds would be facing this prospect with all the ‘excitement’ of a small child being forced into a cold swimming pool. Here it’s not going to happen unless you have a warm space inside to protect your seeds.

On the other hand our broad beans, which were planted very late this season have now stuck their leaves up out of the ground.

Young broadbeans making an appearance
Young broadbeans making an appearance

My friend M who was far better organised this year actually has pods on her broadbeans!

The new front garden has survived, to some degree the vicissitudes of the people doing the guttering and roof repairs, but the ongoing frosts have really had a big impact on my smaller plants. Just how bad the damage is can’t be fully assessed for another two months when chances of frost have passed, when I can see what will re-shoot and what will need pulling out.

TB’s wasabi plants are growing away quite happily and the citrus trees will shortly be having a new lot of potting mix in their pots ready for growing away into spring.

Wasabi is growing well in our cold climate, under the protection of the tree canopy
Wasabi is growing well in our cold climate, under the protection of the tree canopy

My first hellebore flower has opened.

My first Hellebore flower (well the plant did it really!)
My first Hellebore flower (well the plant did it really!)

But best and most promising of all, our boss hen has started laying eggs again. So far we’ve had one every second day. Let’s hope the other two hens get the message soon!

There is no such thing as a gratuitous chicken photo!
There is no such thing as a gratuitous chicken photo!

Whiling away winter

It’s always slow in the winter garden, not that nothing is going on, but there is less of that urgent feeling you get with gardening in spring. I think the chooks feel the same way. Our egg supply is so intermittent that we actually had to buy eggs last week – oh the shame! Not that that has stopped them from taking the opportunity to jump out of their fenced in area to grab some of that ‘greener grass’ before they get spotted and herded back into their enclosure.

Chooks on the run, out and about in the back yard.
Chooks on the run, out and about in the back yard.

There are also those clear sunny winter days that Canberra residents love so much. If the wind isn’t too strong we’ll sit outside and soak up some warmth. It also gives us the opportunity to spot some visitors, such as this Grey Butcherbird.

A Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus).
A Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus).

Actually the Butcherbird was sitting just above the foraging chickens and I couldn’t help but think it was calculating if it might just catch out one of our chooks – even though they are about five times the size of this fellow.

We are also trying to keep up with our bike-riding, despite the chill winds. We took a bento box lunch to a nearby lake last week, but forgot the chopsticks. Well at least there were some shrubs nearby – needs must!

Lunch by the lake with improvised chopsticks.
Lunch by the lake with improvised chopsticks.

Of course there is also the chance to eat some hearty soup made from our own garden veggies. I was particularly keen to try this roasted beetroot soup recipe which I found in the magazine Kinfolk that I bought in Tokyo (something to read in English!). It used pomegranate molasses as an additional flavouring! We have, so I now find out, not one but two unopened bottles of pomegranate molasses collected on our various travels. What an opportunity to use some.

So things don’t always go quite the way you expect. I supplemented the beetroots, of which we have only a few, with some carrots which we have a lot of. The roasting went fine until I got distracted, sitting in the garden, and returned to find my veggies were more char than roast. I was able to peel the worst bits off, although this did reduce the size of the meal. I used just 2 teaspoons of pomegranate molasses, instead of the quarter cup I had anticipated, oh well. To finish it off we grated some of our freshly dug horseradish into some cream and swirled it in. It was a great combination of flavours, even though we only ended up with one serve each and no leftovers.

Roasted Beetroot soup flavoured with pomegranate molasses.
Roasted Beetroot soup flavoured with pomegranate molasses.

Winter is what we make it and some days the chooks even give us an egg for breakfast!

Some winter sunshine on a scrambled egg from the 'girls'.
Some winter sunshine on a scrambled egg from the ‘girls’.





A Winter’s Day

The sun is shining and I’m out in the backgarden despite a wind off the snow that is of a nails scraping on a blackboard chill*. After a week of more than 50 millimetres of rain, worries about termites and being stuck in the house I’ll take any chance to get out.

I figure the chooks could also do with a leg stretch so they are out in their annex digging through to another continent. Their main yard is a quagmire.

The 'girls' out in their annex
The ‘girls’ out in their annex

I’ve put the veggie scraps in the compost bin and spend a bracing 5 minutes scrubbing the compost bucket out. I still need to let the wind blast the stale air out of the house so I go into the polyhouse to check on how our plants are surviving.

chillies drying from the roof, some borage in need of a feed with some minerals and our native plants waiting to get into that garden I can't dig.
chillies drying from the roof, some borage in need of a feed with some minerals and our native plants waiting to get into that garden I can’t dig.

It’s looking pretty good and the sun is warming in the slight protection of the plastic sheeting. TB is working really hard to get some of our tender plants through the Canberra winter. He’s succeeding. Some of our chillies, the Vietnamese mint and lemongrass are alive and doing quite well.

Looking through the lemongrass to the Vietnamese mint and chilli plant
Looking through the lemongrass to the Vietnamese mint and chilli plant

His most daring experiment are a bunch of eggplants that are still outside in a large pot, which is carefully covered every night against the frost. His goal is to get the plants safely through winter so he can re-plant them once the frost has passed to get fruit earlier than we can from younger plants. We’ll see.

*PS on the weather report tonight I heard that our ‘apparent’ daytime maximum today was 1.3 degrees celsius.

Winter garden

 In the cold foggy light of a winter’s morning the back garden certainly seems rather forlorn and bedraggled.


The beds have been cleared and the pile of dirt in the background is where we have been harvesting our water chestnuts, a very unpleasant wet and cold task which has yet to be fully completed. A few fennel bulbs survive in the bed where the beans were growing in late summer. Our two best clumps of asparagus (foreground) have been cut back to stumps.


However just nearby is our herb bed (the semicircle in front) with some lettuces growing away and just behind that a sea of you garlic in protective milk carton collars. Behind the garlic are some rows of baby bok choy which came from our friend M. Further back is our still productive carrot bed. To the left again are some snow peas that are still producing the odd pod.


In front of the snow peas are some Mini White Turnips, which certainly don’t seem to mind the cold.

Out the front the legumes are leading the way.


The Purple Podded Peas I planted in the last days of April are now coming up well and hopefully will produce a great spring crop. The Welsh Bunching onions, behind them, are from last summer and are starting to run to flower. They are great in that rather than pulling them out completely, you can cut them off at the base and they will re-shoot.


The broad beans I planted at the same time as the peas are also up and growing, in front of them is very reluctant crop of mini cabbages which I don’t think will go anywhere. The red plants are chicory and more Mini White Turnips are planted next to them.

Enough computer work. I’m off to don some woolly socks and head out to deal with the remaining water chestnuts!