The main thing about gardening – you just have to start somewhere. I started our backyard market garden with absolutely no idea, no real skills, not much patience – but I had curiosity in spades. After working with food for so many years, I was up for a new chapter.
Most people at this stage would have done a little homework, talked to a few people, maybe have done a course or interned somewhere – not me! In my wildly naive ways, I thought I ‘d just stick something in the ground and see what happened. And that’s why the last 3 years has been such an incredibly steep learning curve.
Seeing a seed germinate in seed raising mix you blended and spring to life is something else. Watching the cotyledons emerge, then on to the true leaves – I check every morning, almost willing them to grow in front of my eyes.
No fancy greenhouse yet – repurposed the kids old plastic lego shelving until I know I can do this seed raising thing for sure before investing in the big bikkies. Use what you’ve got, run the experiments and pay loads of attention. Soon enough there will be a rhythm and then the seasons will change, just to keep you on your toes.
Many of us learn by doing. By actions taken and observing our experiments over time. That’s been pretty much the whole path of the adventures of Popes Produce. Try. Wait and see. try again. Wait. Cheer.
Working within your community is such a treat. I’ve been loving working with a local child care centre to share my growing enthusiasm for edibles with their little ones through monthly incursions.
So today it was lessons in to actions. Tiny little hands filling cups with beautifully aged compost, nestling in little lettuce seedlings to observe and share with their families.
To help illustrate the growth of a seedling, the worm farm pumps out the goods. It’s about getting your systems in place, observing, and sharing those findings.
Imparting these lessons with the little ones and their gorgeous teachers will generate further discussions with each other, in the centre, the the home, and give people food for thought as to where our nourishment comes from.
Caring people, caring community – what an awesome place to be!
Gardens are incredibly satisfying places to hang out. They also instill an incredible amount of wonder and a feeling of awe as well as providing something juicy for your next meal. If you make enough time to go slowly in the morning, you’ll see & hear all the pollinators playing.
Brush past the herbs, pinch off some basil tips and inhale.
The edible garden may offer solace and supper, but don’t be lured into a false sense of security – it comes at a cost.
Hot hot days require a little extra attention, making sure all your little darlings stay hydrated. Tomatoes are best fresh & homegrown, the fruit fly in our coastal environment greatly appreciate our efforts.
Zucchinis are so exited to get up & grow – you can just about watch them mature before your eyes.
Take a break during peak growing time and be prepared to wade through weeds and tomato bushels on return. One thing the edible patch isn’t is static. There’s always life, always a pulse, many lessons to learn and observations daily.
With the Davidson’s plum dropping and figs bursting at the seam, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
So lately I’ve been refocusing what our vision is for Popes Produce. What we came up with was –‘crafting locally grown abundance’ and what we’re encouraging with our education program is ‘inspiring home grown food adventures’. We want to have fun, empower people, get them curious about their food and playing outside.
So what bliss – planting out the last seedlings before lunch and a lovely friend surprised me with the offer of a trade – hand caught (by him) lobster for Veggie Wraps. Hmmmm…..edible awesomeness hand caught for hand grown in our backyard….paired with a home made garlic aioli (garlic generously gifted by a beautiful local grower) for dinner – hard to go past.
And the icing on the happy garden cake – a drop in (we’re talking under 5 minutes) by a dear friend who visits only very sporadically with a big pile of horse manure to keep our fruit trees happy.
So our systems are well fed and our heart is filled by random acts of kindness.
Spread it around – random gifts of generosity fill the soul and keep our communities knitted together.
It happens so often – run run run to chase a idea of who you should be, where you should be and what you should be. Sometimes slowing down can have remarkable results.
it’s important to remember to be a little kind now & again – slowing down long enough to nibble on mulberries, watch the ladybugs on the flowering parsley and check out how quickly snails can shimmy up the side of a bucket when they know they’re under threat. Making time to get on your bike.
Take this fennel for example – the last seedling left in the tray, tucked into a little pocket and quietly left to it’s own devices. Wanting space back, the beast was harvested and promptly turned into Agrodulce Pickles – half a dozen jars to be put away for Christmas family feasting. Going slow can have some pretty spectacular yields.
Moral of the story – be kind, go slow and remember the best things take a little time. A little planning and mapping goes a long way. Make it as visual as you like. Step back and check that plan now and again to make sure you’re where you thought you would be on the map. And if you’re not – adjust the plan to accommodate where you’re at.
For a dose of inspiration – check out the great story of Ruth Stout – a lady who found her ultimate garden groove well down the track of life. Enjoy the ride!
How many times did you hear this as a kid? Tedious – I know. Boiled to within moments of turning into an unrecognizable form. Ever found something lurking up the back of the fridge you just weren’t sure what it was?
When you have greens only metres from your door or picked within hours of reaching you – you know on some deep level these greens deserve respect. You need to enjoy their vibrancy – happy food.
There are a number of places to find the nutritional composition of why – but my eyes glaze over as I try to understand the composition breakdown of greens – I’m not scientifically minded and I like my food being food – not only because of what it can give me – but because of what it represents, it connects me back to place. Back to my backyard, to the sunshine and the watering and the incredible party trick of actually making the meal happen. These greens are seasonal, abundant, a whole food unto themselves and don’t need anything fancy.
Time and energy has been invested in making sure these greens reach their verdant potential. The average lettuce can take around 8 weeks to grow – carrots several months, shallots just are and beetroot – go top and tail into the meal. When you know the energy invested into their growth, you certainly don’t want to waste anything.
Carrot tops are totally edible – they can go into a sauce, stir fried as a veg, chopped into a salad. Beetroot tops can be used as a spinach substitute. Flash in the pan with a little olive oil, pinch of salt and lemon juice. Stalks of rainbow chard – just chop finely and throw into the stirfry. Respect your veg and munch away!
.(..being content with the small wins and getting through the day.)
Pretty much most days seem like their potential is limitless. There’s a never ending parade of incredible people doing amazing things and getting out there saving the world.
I walk down the hill and wonder how I can save a few lemons.
This tree you understand – is just in it’s happy place, doing it’s thing – growing quite remarkable lemons. No matter how many you harvest, there always seems to be a few more. Lemons just don’t grow overnight, one day I might tie a string to a blossom and see exactly how long it take s to grow these orbs of zingy sunshine, but until then – let’s just say a while.
So I juiced, I preserved, I made cordial and I made curd. All relatively simple, not too much time or space. (On the bench or in my head)
Great thing about preserved lemons, once you’ve got them, you’ll always find a use. And they look pretty.
Here’s how to – PRESERVE LEMONS.
Get yourself a clean jar with properly fitting lid. You could even sterilize it if you like. (Say 2 x 300ml tomato paste jars scrubbed clean.)
4-6 good sized lemons
Pure salt – I had Himalayan rock salt on hand.
A sharp knife and chopping board.
Sprinkle a little (1 tsps worth) of salt in the bottom of the jar. Cut a lemon into thick slices/ quarters/ eighths and lightly sprinkle salt on the cut sides. Wedge them into the jar and repeat until you’ve got approximately a 2cm gap at the top. Now start juicing another lemon and pour in over all those chopped up pieces. the aim is to totally submerge all the chopped lemon. Any bits left protruding could go moldy as they will be exposed to air. If any bits still stick up, either wedge them in or take them out. This preservation technique works because it’s an anaerobic environment (and there’s all that salt and citric acid.)
Screw the lid on and label. Best if left for a minimum of a month.
Minimum fuss, no waste and you’ve put away some food for later. Bottled sunshine.