Friday, April 23, 2010

Oh where did you get that hat?

My dad used to say that you could never trust a driver in a hat! What if he/she is wearing one of these?
One of our very talented members is not content with pottering in the garden, she is using it as a fashion catwalk, a runway for her design and talent. I just hope the butterflies landing on our kale and pak choy, their caterpillars happily munching, don't spy your hats, Ms Designer. They would make short work of your flowers and leaves.

The rhubarb mystery has been solved. One of our number exchanged the small thriving crown for a passionfruit vine! The garden was just babysitting the rhubarb which happens to be a treasured possession, a reminder of a lost relative. Ms Thoughtful said she was happy to cultivate the crown and divide it. I smiled but inside I bewailed the loss of rhubarb crumble and custard this winter!
I think we have room for a fairly substantial rhubarb patch if others are mad keen like I am. Nostalgia? Probably. But I look forward to hearing that someone else in the neighbourhood has a crown or two to spare us. In the meantime I shall peruse carefully the growing advice to make sure we don't lose the plants I know we will be donated!

Browsing, looking for information about rhubarb growing I just found this interesting site on community gardens in Australia. Have a look.

Monday, April 19, 2010


This sign brought back memories - memories of a long past community play at Drimpton Village Hall in another life! The lady with a very large posterior was told in the seafaring piece "Avast behind." And here she is again, a brassy bum this time. It makes me laugh; we do a lot of that in the garden.

Crouching down behind the fence on Sunday I was able to spy upon Madame Houdini who despite strenuous efforts by gate fixers was still finding her way into the new seedlings. Two things I noticed. The other dark hen, not the one always escaping, was pecking at the black wire at the bottom of the gate. This dropped the latch down and out they got! Clever! Chicken run all over again. Secondly Madame H just squeezed herself down and got out under the gate next to the paver. Little beast; I think I have now foiled her by placing another paver and unless she becomes paper thin she will have to be happy with the scraps within her run.

The sister was here this weekend and her concern for everything with fur and feather had her researching why one of the chickens might be moulting - if that's what it is. Perhaps the constant escaping was scraping her neck. Ideas please.

Do you like rhubarb? So do I, but my chances of rhubarb crumble and custard this winter seems somewhat scarce as the rhubarb crown looking so happy a few days ago has disappeared from sight. I'm not sure if the hens have spirited it away!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Houdini Hens

Yesterday morning the artfully arranged cos lettuce seedlings were nestled in their loamy soil, with carefully mounded mulch piles acting as a checkerboard in shape and contrast to the soft apple green of the tender leaves.

This morning the scene resembled the aftermath of a mini asteroid's impact on a small section of the community garden. My gasp set the corn leaves rustling. I glanced up and saw a brown shadow trying to escape into the pumpkin patch. "You devil," I shouted. The brown shadow moved further under the large spreading leaves, chuckling to herself as she scratched feverishly for some worms or insects. I love the chickens, who do have names, but I haven't learnt them for fear of something else horrible happening to them, but at this point I could have wrung this one's scrawny neck, envisioning the fat dripping onto the end of the month barbeque. What am I saying, I don't even eat meat! Look, ladies, what you have turned me into!

So here we are many moons forward from our initial turning and mulching and making soil. Ms Mova and I discuss strategies and developments as we cycle our way to work every day. We wait for each other like two schoolgirls, riding around and around if one or the other is late, waving madly when the tardy one finally appears and then mull over the day's happenings.

At some point I have to report on the incredibly awful happenings of November last. Planning for our trip away, excitedly talking about our plans at the cocktails in the garden I failed to notice an insalubrious character wander in and case the chicken run. A couple of loitering mates joined him outside the fence and then wandered off again. The next morning at breakfast, chatting over yet another cup of green tea, my sister and I were interrupted by Ms Mova. She sat down in the kitchen quietly and then burst into tears. Two of the chickens had been slaughtered. She had been the one to find the headless bodies and one discarded head. Not victims of predatory animals but predatory humans. The gate to the henhouse was forced off, the fence pushed down and the poor creatures massacred. The one remaining must have led them a merry dance we noted with satisfaction. Tearing through the tomatoes and corn and unable to find her in the dark she had escaped a very unsatisfactory end. I began to think that even battery cages would have been preferable but then thought again. The police took us seriously and sent two very sympathetic officers to interview us and promise to keep a look out for unsavoury characters, of which there are a few, in the neighbourhood.

We were lucky. There did not seem to be demand for a repetition of Black Sabbath rituals and just to make sure, we padlocked the henhouse and the fence was refortified. Our new chickens who do have names, remain ladies or girls to me. I dare not name them again. Poor Miss Havisham and poor Estelle. As doomed as their namesakes.

But on a brighter note our little darlings produce 4-5 eggs daily and rush hungrily for the scraps that anyone might carry in for them. Anything in a bucket or pot is fair game and they leg it down the side of the fence to see what you might bring

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Autumn bounty

Ms Tagalong has been back from travelling far afield for several months now. Why has she not written any blog? Mmm must have been waiting for the garden to look lush and appealing with crops to cook and inspiration to take hold. So here we go again. Just look at these lovely chillis! What does one do with such a bumper crop?
I could wait for the grubs to come along and eat them but on a quiet Easter weekend it seemed better to turn them into a lovely indonesian addition to food, Sambal Olek The kitchen smelt very hot, nose-tingling hot and I thought what a wonderful Easter present for Ms Mova when she comes back from sourcing some plants at the Heritage Gardens. Actually, I think she likes the cafe there, but looking for some stevia to counteract the bitter gourd which is running rampant on the industrial fencing seems a feasible excuse for the journey! For those who are interested and want to find out more about this strange herb see This will be used to counteract the taste in the cooking you understand, not in competition as a climber. Bitter gourd is definitely the winner in that respect, its pale green, knobbly pods turning bright yellow, orange and then bursting to spray scarlet seeds into the garden in turn spawning more bitter gourd plants, the fruit of which no-one seems to like. So here's another recipe for the use of this acquired taste.

Bitter gourds with Channa Dhaal courtesy of Shehzad Husain
2 Bitter Gourds about 13cm long
1 Tablespoon salt
125g chana dhaal (I used small red lentils)
2 onions
1tsp ginger pulp
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garlic pulp
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp salt
600ml water (1pt)
4 Tbs corn oil
2 tomatoes, sliced
To garnish
1 2.5cm piece fresh ginger shredded
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 Tbs fresh coriander
1 green chilli, sliced

Wash the bitter gourds and pat dry with kitchen paper. Peel off the rough skin and slice the gourds discarding the seeds.
Place the gourds in a bowl, rubbing the tablespoon of salt into the slices. Set aside for at least an hour.
Meanwhile wash the channa dhaal and place in a saucepan. Add 1 of the sliced onions, the ginger, chilli powder, garlic, garam masala, ground coriander, salt and water and cook over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the dhaal is soft but not mushy and all the water has been absorbed. Remove from heat and set aside.
Wash bitter gourds to remove all the salt and add to the dhaal.
heat teh corn oil in a deep frying pan and fry the remaining onion until golden brown. Add the sliced tomatoes and the dhaal and stir-fry for about 3 minutes to blend together.
Transfer to a serving dish and serve garnished wit shredded ginger, garam masala, fresh coriander and sliced chillies.

Sambal Olek to blow your brains out!

1 lb red chillies or a mixture of colours like I used
5 1/2 ounces garlic, peeled and chopped
5 1/2 ounces tender young ginger, peeled and chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, thinly sliced (white part only)
6 fluid ounces vinegar
8 ounces sugar
salt, to taste
1 tablespoon lime zest, chopped

1Blend the chillies, garlic, ginger and lemon grass in a food processor or mortar and pestle.
2While processing gradually add the vinegar.
3Place the pureed mixture into a saucepan and bring to a boil.
4Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes.
5Add the sugar and stir until dissolved.
6Add the salt and lime zest.
7Remove from the heat, cool and bottle in sterilised jars.

I could tell you about the pesto I made too but that can wait.