in the garden

octobergarden8octobergarden5 octobergarden4octobergarden2There is something magical and healing about a garden… I find so much joy in digging around, planting and pottering, watering and weeding – especially when bright flowers and shady trees bring beneficial insects and bees to visit, and healthy herbs and vegetables make their way onto our plates and into the pantry. This home is our most permanent so far, and we have done much to establish a backyard garden where there had only been dry grass, a couple of straggly rose bushes and a hibiscus tree!
IMG_8497sepgarden2octobergarden9IMG_8498So far we have discovered and weeded out garden beds against the sides of the house and planted various herbs, daisies, natives, strawberries, rhubarb, hellebores, wallflowers, pig face, lupins, forget-me-nots, succulents, violets, violas, lambs ears, silver dust… We also erected a round herb bed (which we later discovered previous tenants had once started their own herb spiral!) with a lemon tree in the centre. We set up some apple crates as wicking beds, and built our own long no-dig beds out the front. We put in a line of raspberries, red currants and blueberries against the front fence. We planted a number of trees too – japanese maple, chestnut, different kinds of oaks, ornamental plum, dwarf pomegranate, and fig…
polytunnel1octgarden1And about two months ago we put up a 12 metre long polytunnel hot house (the metal frame and railway sleepers were gifted to us by friends and the horticultural grade plastic we ordered online) – it’s now filled with mushroom compost and the first of the summer seedlings  – tomatoes, chillies, basil, cucumbers, corn, sunflowers, eggplant and melons. I am making use of it’s heat to start off seedlings for planting outside too – pumpkins, zucchinis, silver beet, lettuce, beans and more flowers than I can name…

I have a habit of being overly ambitious for my Summer garden but I am learning the limitations of being a mama to two small people and helping my love run a business. So I am trying to sow (and plant) only what we like to eat and in quantities I think we can realistically get through, with a little left for preserves and ferments of course. I still feel such a novice to growing food, especially in this particular climate, and it has been such a hot and dry Spring so far – who can say what the next season will bring!

Still, we put on our green thumbs, we mulch and weed, we watch oaks grow and water as the sun sets… it is good for the soul, this growing.

Spring Pyre

Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 1.10.19 pmA week ago we were evacuated from our home as bush fires nearby raged out of control. It was a surreal five or ten minutes, methodically collecting important documents, clean clothes, nappies. Outside it was hazy, orange coloured – the wind was fiercely blowing smoke and dust around our noses. It was hot. It wasn’t bush fire season yet. It wasn’t even the middle of Spring.

Today as I drove along a familiar road into town, I took it slowly. There was numerous signs with warnings, there were fire trucks and rangers patrolling by the roadside, keeping a watch on smouldering trees, earthmoving. I came across two stretches of road where the fire had burnt from one side to the next. I could see a mass of burnt umber through the usually green national park. I saw a house with blackened earth on every side of it, and yet it stood in the middle, seemingly unscathed. I cried.
Screen Shot 2015-10-09 at 1.10.29 pmThis is nature where we live. This is a reality of the Australian bush – our fire-prone landscape, in many ways carved out and cultivated by fire itself. I want to come to terms with this element, but it still feels unknown, terrifying. In a moment’s wind and crackle of flame, one could loose home, creatures, fence posts, familiar, livelihood…

And yet I carry in my hand a packet of flannel flower seeds. A native that will germinate only in moistened ground that has been burnt. How something so softly petaled, so creamy white, delicate can grow out of charred earth. That beauty can come from the flame…
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healing soup, a recipe

chickensoup1 chickensoup2 chickensoup4chickensoup3This is my favourite chicken soup recipe, which uses a whole chook (bones in) that can even be started when frozen. It’s inspired by the Chinese chicken and corn recipe – and is so simple, wholesome and healing! There are numerous studies into the healing properties of a chicken-broth based soup, and I do think when convalescing, there is nothing so comforting as a steaming bowl of broth.

You will need:
for the broth:
1 whole chicken about 1.5kg – fresh OR frozen

Your choice of celery leaves, carrot ends, leek stalks, onion skins, garlic, parsley stalks, sprigs of thyme etc…

for the soup:
3 large leeks, sliced finely
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen sweet corn
handful fresh chives and coriander + spring onions
3 cups shredded dark greens like broccoli, silverbeet, kale bok choy, pak choy etc..
2 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
2 tablespoons tamari sauce (or more to taste)
2 teaspoon roasted sesame oil
pure rice noodles like vermicelli or pho

2 egg whites

First make your stock. In a large lidded saucepan cover whole chicken with 2 litres of water, salt, splash of cider vinegar and variety of vegetable scraps like celery leaves and stalks, carrot ends, onion skins, green part of the leeks, parsley stalks, bay leaves etc. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 3-5 hours (could also use a slow cooker on a very low heat overnight/day). Remove chicken onto a plate and cool slightly. Strain stock into another saucepan and put wilted vegetables into the compost. Pull off all meat from the chicken and shred thinly – you might want to use tongs if still too hot. Compost the bones. To the stock add chicken meat, grated ginger, thinly sliced leeks, 1 cup of the corn kernels (reserving 1/2 cup to puree), asian greens, fresh chopped herbs, tamari sauce and sesame oil. Simmer for 20 minutes. Add rice noodles of choice and simmer for another 5 minutes. Puree 1/2 cup of corn to a pulp (a stick blender makes this very easy) and stir into the soup. In a bowl lightly whisk egg whites and tip into soup, swirl around with a spoon. Serve with a sprinkle of spring onions. 

Next Monday – October 5th – we will be delivering our first batch of truly-free ranging, pasture raised chickens to Watts’ Fresh in Kyneton. Order yours now by emailing orders@wattsfresh.com.au