Friday, December 30, 2011

It's been a rather busy, and sad festive season mountainside and it feels like I've dropped more balls than I've had in the air, if such a thing is possible. New Year's resolutions abound and without going into all the boring details, paying more attention to this blog is one of them. Though I'm not overly interested in the moment the clock strikes twelve, I am very happy to celebrate the fact that I've persisted with Magic Garden, both on the ground and here, in the ether. I'm not going dwell on the disappointments of the last year, suffice to say, there won't be any green tomato chutney at our next Christmas feast... but these are some of the most recent highlights...

This time last year, I was in an extremely reflective mood. Our new baby had just come home from hospital after an ever-so-scary bout of viral meningitis and I was full of gratitude that we were home, that she was on the mend and so conscious of the lovely friends and family who supported us so wonderfully during that time. I love the idea of using plants and gardens to commemorate important events, whether they're joyous or solemn and when I was in hospital with Miss E, it bothered me greatly that I hadn't planted the magnolia I'd bought to mark her birth. Getting that plant in the ground was top of my to-do list, come the New Year. I'm just so pleased to present this image of her Magnolia's first flower! I love how the blossom is sheathed by its petals, how the pollen has fallen, that this plant has thrived in step with our little girl.

Our big girl is not quite as helpful in Magic Garden as I'd like; her weeding skills are yet to come to the fore! But she is very good at picking posies and strawberries...though it was a challenge to get this shot before she ate them all. Planting fruit and veggies that little people can help to harvest is so rewarding and the one of the best ways to get them interested in trying different types of produce. Who cares if they're not good at weeding as long as they eat healthily!

Two new crops I planted this year were garlic and broadbeans. Both required some discipline in the preparation stakes - that is I actually planted them when I was supposed to. I should have double the amount of garlic but I made a slight error in two of the patches, oversowing with a clever clover mix that I chose to let go...and go...until it flowered and I realised that Id created too much competition in the bed for the garlic to really succeed. Companion planting is all very well, but it does pay to actually follow the tried and tested suggestions, I guess, rather than make up your own...

And here are my broad beauties! Miss C and I planted the seeds together on one of the rare occasions that popping in seeds has held her interest. She wasn't blown away by the taste of the fresh beans, straight from the pod but I was and I have been busily cooking with them ever since. I think my fava favourite is to blend them up with lemon juice and a little salt and pepper, then serve as a bruschetta topping. Top with some fetta or goat's cheese marinated in olive oil and share. Bon appetit and happy new year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

on the 7th day of Christmas... lovely neighbour gave to me, a bowl of ripe raspberries.

Whilst she is not my true love, how can you not LOVE LOVE LOVE a neighbour like that? Not only does my lovely neighbour feed my cat when I'm away, she offers up scrumptious summer berries like these. Plus, she's away for a couple of days and said we should pop over and pick more! No matter what your denomination, and I'm firmly non, how can you not count your blessings when you have neighbours like these and the freshest raspberries on your plate? I had been dithering about whether I should get some raspberry canes and now, I shall dither no longer. I will find the perfect place and plant as soon as I can get my pink stained fingers on the plants! Even our fussy E.D. couldn't resist, that's her reaching out for some raspberry love.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

As deciduous trees go, the Copper Beech takes its own sweet time to lose its leaves. The leaves never drop, they remain on the branch, shielding the new growth in their husks. In terms of hours spent raking, you can't really accuse this tree of making work for you! When the new leaves unfurl, they have a delightfully soft quality that creates the translucency you see in this image. Two weeks later, the greenish blush of the new leaf has hardened up into a dark maroon and a completely different tree stands in Magic Garden.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

First sweetpea of the season. Sweet.

Monday, October 31, 2011

sunset on October

Hard to believe that it is now November. We're on the downhill run to Christmas and the New Year will be here before we know it. Yikes! This shot shows the gloaming at its finest and at this time of year, the sunset is starting to move further to the left. In Magic Garden, this creates the most delightful glow through the copper beech and dancing shadows across the garage and throughout the house. If I was a photoshop whiz, I'd have eliminated the bag of mulch you can see in the background and added myself, vino in one hand and watering can in the other...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Old fashioned petal, old fashioned scent

Not quite the latest triumph in Magic Garden; as Spring is waving her magic wand in every corner - but certainly one I feel very proud now to claim as my own. When we first moved in, this wisteria had been languishing under the Hills Hoist, trapped and somewhat stunted. It wasn't flourishing and seemed to not have the even the energy required to colonise the hoist. As creating my kitchen garden beneath was my first priority, this lovely lady needed a new home. Hedging my bets, and loving the idea of an ugly garage transformed, I trimmed her root ball and placed her, well fertilised in a half-wine barrel. Then I got busy with the secateurs, the sugar cane mulch and proceeded to drown her with water. And a year later, I realised, that the soil mix was far too heavy with clay and I'd compounded the drainage issues with too. much. mulch. This was when I first came to understand the depths of my mulch addiction.

Fast forward, 2 years later: I am pleased, actually ecstatic to report that my attempts at rehabilitation (mark 2) have been a resounding success and I offer the following images as a poor-man's time lapse of how the buds came into bloom.

The reformed stoner in me found this point the source of much amusement. What can I say? Sweet buds, dude.

Here, we start to develop a little more length and you can just see the first flecks of mauve...

Now, Lady Wisteria enters her pre-historic, 'how to tame your dragon,' mode...

Making a run up the trellis and if all is going according to plan, next year should see a curtain of blooms running across the top of the playroom's window.

And voila!

Purple, lilac or mauve - how ever you'd describe the hue, I think you'd agree that this image is worth repeating as I am, as I mentioned previously, ECSTATIC! Looking closely at how the flowers are formed, you can definitely see that the wisteria is a member of the flowering pea family. These pendulous racemes occur before the new leaves emerge and are all the more striking for being the first of the season's growth. Pruning back to the bud after flowering increases the next year's show and I'm sure that this has made a big difference in this particular plants return to form. Like any climber, a wisteria can quickly became an invasive weed, especially if the plant is under stress.

The largest wisteria can be found in Sierra Madre, California. According to Wikipedia, it measures more than an acre in size and is estimated to weigh over 250 tons. Holy Moly, plant lovers! For a truly impressive specimen in the Southern Hemisphere, I recommend an early Spring visit to the Norman Lindsay Gallery in Faulconbridge, NSW, Australia. And if you are selecting plants on the basis of the scent they offer, wisteria's is a very gentle olfactory pleasure and one you should definitely consider.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Long weekend. Daylight Savings. Local garden festival. Happy days...

More snaps of the Leura Garden Festival to follow in the next few days. This shot shows the rare white cherry blossom - I do so love any contrast to the sickly musk stick pink that is completely ubiquitous in this neck of the woods. Wandering around gardens that are festival spec is a complete inspiration to this lady gardener...the return to Magic Garden has me feeling motivated and often, deflated. There is so much work to do before I could even begin to consider 'showing.' Take a number, sunshine, make a list.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Magnolias are another bloom that sing Spring, they anchor the season in the my memory and remind me particularly of the area I grew up. Trees as dominating as the houses whose front lawns they decorate and more than ample to play house in. Up here, you don't see them as frequently, when you do they're not usually as majestic. But the tree these came from is the one of the exceptions. It is easily as tall as my lovely neighbour's house and is a perfect example of a deciduous tree, in the perfect place. Facing north-east, it provides shady respite in the summer and maximises the sun's warmth in winter. In between, there are these drinkable blooms to enjoy; their shape reminds me of tea cups and crooked pinky fingers.

i do love to ponce about pretending to be a professional florist...

At the Gospel Hall, our old abode, Husbando had planted the Magnolia "Star Wars," as a tribute to his love of the George Lucas epic. It tickles me that somewhere out there, an earnest cultivator channelled his inner fanboy in order to give his labour of love such a nerdy name. I really hope that that is the truth and it wasn't a decision driven by the cynicism of the marketing machine. The realist in me knows the latter is most probably the truth, but the optimist is ever Pollyanna.

Magic Garden however, is all but magnolia free - another weird omission by Mrs Batty. I would so love to uncover her gardening notebooks, tucked behind the outdoor dunny. Perfect! Though it does feel inappropriate to imagine my genteel Mrs Batty making notes on the bog...I digress, swept away by toilet talk no less! When our new baby was born, I did plant one of the dwarf varieties, the evergreen "Little Gem." The leaves are a darker green, with an underside that is a russet - bronze colour. The flowers are a simple cream inverted bell and the whole ensemble seems hardier to me and somehow more suited to the Australian landscape. They are slow growing and happily, frost tolerant. In the year that ours has graced the prime position by the letter box, I really don't think it's grown significantly but apparently, it could reach between 4 and 8m high and be upto 5m wide. At this stage, it seems the baby has outperformed the tree...this is how it should be perhaps?

Two of my favourite ladies have returned home from holidays, each bearing the most delightful news...congratulations and hooray for everything, I say!

Saturday, September 10, 2011

So much of Magic Garden's beauty pre-dates me entirely; each season I feel like I am reacquainting myself with each element and this process of rediscovery thrills me. The collection above represents just some of the camellia varieties that Mrs Batty was so enchanted with. I would love to set myself the challenge of learning the name of each but really, looking through the pages of my trusty, doorstop-sized Gardening Australia Flora's Trees and Shrubs, there really are just so many different cultivars that it's quite overwhelming and I can't make any assertions with any confidence. Plus, the light in my study isn't the greatest!

the white varieties are a bright spot on a misty mountains
morning...but must they brown up so badly?

Suffice to say, the majority of my camellias flowering at the moment are japonica with a few reticulata, the difference being that the latter's leaves are darker and narrower in comparison to the japonica and their rose pink flowers have a larger and open form. According to my Gardening Australia doorstop, there are over 2000 cultivars of japonica which makes me feel better about not becoming an instant identification guru. One of these, 'Anita,' is especially sweet, narrow pale pink petals, streaked with maroon. She's a more magnolia type of bloom and kind of reminds me of painting on silk, whereas other deviations from block colour seems to be more of tint that bleeds to the edges. Does that make any sense to anyone but me? God knows, I'm hardly an expert in the field of painting on silk either...

A big thank-you to lovely Mimi, who kindly put all these images together in these very professional looking grids. Have I told you lately that YOU are AWESOME?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Hello Hellebores! Hello Spring!

This type of shot makes me want to start super-imposing tiny creatures of the fey, in pearlescent outlines, so they could be seen in one direction but not the other. Spooky. As you've probably guessed my nous in this regard leaves alot to be desired and so rest assured, that won't eventuate. However, if you've visited and found that the images invisible, my apologies, I need some remedial image management lessons, I'm working on it and in short, I'm embarrassed...

But this is the first day of Spring, calendar wise and though it will take a little longer to work its way up the hill, I'm embracing today like my first born. This time last year, I was in a haze of pregnancy and this seasonal milestone passed me by. Even still, now that our new baby has been 9months in and 9months out, days still pass me by...but not today, people, not today! She started out overcast but burnt off into unapologetic blue, her brilliance almost accusatory as if to say, 'Oh, really? You doubted me?' If only the sky could talk...

Thursday, August 11, 2011

A rainy day mountainside; I'm so glad I took this shot yesterday and even more pleased that I took the time to plant up these bulbs, earlier in the year. There's been alot of self congratulations from the back steps!

Monday, August 1, 2011

2 months. Almost 9 weeks. 62 days. You could be forgiven for thinking I'd hung up my hat and gone home. In a way, I have! But these are the cold hard facts and I'm putting them upfront because they're shocking and I'm embarrassed. The worse thing is that whilst I could give you an overview as to where the time has gone, there's no way I can account for 62 days. Sure, there's been a whirl of interstate travel punctuated by brutal windstorms and then unbelievable days of Indian Summer in Winter. But we're now two-thirds of the way through winter and to be honest, I'm panicking and often sit on the back steps feeling overwhelmed. But the scent of Spring is on the breeze and my broad beans have germinated. Blossoms are busting out all over, pierus is cascading and the rhodos and camellias are ready to dominate. And all over Magic Garden, pockets of daffodil and jonquil are erupting. Snowdrops are bobbing and grape hyacinths and purple crocus compete against Oprah Winfrey for a role in the reprise of the Colour Purple. Crocus is up in terms of sheer numbers but the hyacinths have a more intense hue. Who'll take the Oscar this time, I wonder?

Garden-wise, Winter has a reputation for being a period of dormancy; it's permissible to let things slide. But it is also one of the best times to make hard decisions about the shape of your garden. For me, the toughest choice I've made of late is to toss that old hat in the shot above. It's been a trusty part of my garden couture but there's only so many times you can repair the crown of straw hat before you start looking more jingle-jangle scarecrow than Flake lady. When trees are bare and legs are hairy, you can see the structure more clearly so it's a good time to identify plants which aren't working in the overall landscape and earmark them for transplantation when the weather warms. Plants which aren't thriving at all can simply be removed. In Magic Garden, I've nominated some rather spindly Azaleas which are for the tip and a big patch of seaside daisy which needs to be cut back before it completely engulfs the hebes. I've decided where I'll relocate the weeping Cherry if we ever renovate and I've finally started construction on a ring bed around the base of one of the biggest cherry trees. Next autumn, I'll pop in some of my many scattered daffodil bulbs and this time next year, share the joy.

During my meditations on the back step, I've been trying to come up with space for one of these divine chinese flowering quinces. The crimson cultivars of the superba are the perfect antidote to the fairy floss pink of the prunus which dominate at this time of year. Plus, I love the clash of pink and red together. The flowers emerge from a thicket of rather spiny stems which can reach heights of around 1.5 metres. Their spread is nearly 2 metres which makes me wonder if maybe I should aiming higher and be planning a hedge instead.

Magnolia x Loebneri...maybe...I think...could be Stellata?

And finally, I'm sure I've mentioned this before but despite the variety within Magic Garden, strangely magnolias aren't featured anywhere. I've planted a hybrid by the letterbox which goes by the name of Little Gem but I fear it's got a long way to go before it flowers. The specimen above is one I've come watch for each year when visiting some of my favourite people. You know who you are!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

The image above depicts how I felt last Sunday morning; a tiny tendril of consciousness trying valiantly to penetrate a rather blank corner in my mind. Sadly, this isn't a faked photo* but an actual example of Magic Garden's tenacious efforts to infilitrate the house, Yes, that is the corner of our stereo languishing on the floorboards, still not set up 18 months after we've moved in. Yes, buying a new iPod style set-up was easier than finding a place for the old one and its companions, the big ass technik speakers. No, the digital radio hasn't quite been tuned in yet.

In refering to 'house', it occurs to me that I'd really like to use the word 'cottage' which is a rather pastoral view of our abode, if ever there was one. The C word invokes a bucolic exsistence where I grow all our fruit and veg and keep livestock, chooks at least, sauntering out in my Flake lady hat collecting eggs as the sunrises. Truth be told, the closest I've come to keeping chooks is going on a hen's night. The two pasttimes really aren't that dissimiliar; each lady must be kept fed and watered, with a close eye on the proximity of foxes...which brings me neatly back to why I felt so dusty last Sunday morning. One of this lady gardener's oldest friends is getting married and she came up specially from Melbourne to celebrate! Which is so thoughtful as we're all travelling down for the big day and in order to show our gratitude, seven of her nearest and dearest Sydney sisters really put the boat out. Gorgeous girls in fabulous frocks with drinks at the revised Norfolk, dinner at Eat House Diner and then a ring-ding of sing-song somewhere on Clarence St.

The Japanese culture has made some rather significant contributions to modern life but for me, the hands down over sushi, sashimi and tempura, the winner is karaoke. What is it about confined spaces, table service preferably and singing your guts out? There is something life affirming is singing en masse, no matter how drunk and silly you are. Yes, my hangover the next day was shocking. Yes, I am scared to see the photos. No, I don't care and I'd do it all again in a heartbeat...or a Phil Collins' drum solo. So a big shout out to all the ladies on Saturday night, particularly Results TSAI who came in whipped that playlist into submission and Miss Staples who whipped up an alternate venue when we were too late for our initial booking at Ding Dong Dang. What a wonderful knees up for our beaming bride in her chickadee tiara; a hen's night is one of the nicest rituals of modern day life, up there with kitchen teas and baby showers. So lovely to pay tribute to the bravery involved in leaving the known behind and embarking on an adventure in life, on a bicycle built for two. Looking forward to seeing you all south of the border for round two!
My top ten Karaoke hits, in no particular order:

Scissor Sisters, Take Your Mama
The Carpenters, Rainy Days and Mondays
Elton John, Benny and the Jets
Phil Collins, In the Air Tonight
Womack & Womack, Teardrops
The B-52's, Love shack
Madonna, Like a Virgin
Bon Jovi, Living on a Prayer
Duran Duran, Hungry like the Wolf
Survivor, Eye of the Tiger
Toto, Africa
Salt n Pepper, Push It
The Police, Roxanne
Dolly Parton, 9 to 5 or Islands in the Stream
Queen, Bohemian Rhapsody
Sonny & Cher, I Got You Babe
Pat Benetar, Love is a Battlefield
Anything by Carole King

Well, more than ten but good to have a reference for next time! Between a sushi train and an onsen, a karaoke parlour is something that is definately missing from the mountside lineup. Anyone takers, anyone?

ps: if you found yourself on the mornington penninsula anmd were keen for some snow monkey frolicking, go here:

*you know me, a whiz with photoshop!

Monday, May 30, 2011

On Sunday, before the rain began in earnest, I spent a very happy time pottering about Magic Garden, sprinkling blood and bone like fairy dust and deheading the last of the roses. Miss C helped me plant the first of the broad beans and in the space where most of my echium had been, we made a bed of leeks. During some harsh winds last week, the echium I'd bought at the last Bilpin Rare Plant Fair had had its central stem blown clear away. It had been no bigger than my hand and I'd congratulated myself regularly on how wonderful it was looking. Well over a metre high and a good two wide. Pride goes before a fall, they say...only three lateral branches remain and I'm hoping to encourage them to set root. Who knows if it'll work, I've gone for the layering technique as they were all but on the soil anyway and have heaped some lovely, potent vegie patch mix from Tunks over each. I've a feeling they might be too woody to take, we shall see.

Whilst I was admiring these sasanqua camellias out the front, I was stopped by a gentleman who had known Magic Garden's original owner, Mrs Batty. I often think of her and it tickles me that this happens, people who knew Mrs Batty are so keen to let me know how thrilled she'd be to know her garden was being restored with love and mindfulness. Positive reinforcement makes a world of difference, particularly when it sometimes feels that progress is slow. It's nice to know that others can see the improvement and that the person who had gardened so lavishly and passionately would approve. Well into her nineties, Mrs Batty could be seen working away in the gloaming and I can only hope that I might be just as spry.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Things your mother told you...

No matter how frigid the weather outside, up mountainside if the sun is shining and the wind factor is low, you have to be happy...except if you've sucumbed to some random illness and then given it to both your children. Then malaise of epic proportions sets in and it seems there's not enough stiff up lip in the world to get you out and about. And worst of all, you know that the smallest effort will make all the difference. Sometimes I think my totem animal is the hippotamus, I love a good wallow.

Thankfully, after a week of this carry on, on Saturday I finally managed to shake off the shackles and get out into Magic Garden. A simple afternoon in the autumn sunshine, planting clever clover, radish and more garlic; transplanting some succulents and the last if the butterfly plant.

It's true: fresh air does you the world of good.

Monday, May 2, 2011


The problem as viewed from Miss C's bedroom.
As I mentioned recently, I have what some might call a procrastination problem...I prefer to reconceptualise this issue as a gestational solutions-based paradigm. Which means, I simply can't stand making a decision for the sake of being able to say I have done. I'd rather take my time and allow the way of proceeding to present itself in the fullness of time. And when it comes pecolating down or bubbling up or however it arrives, it feels good and right and you can move forward knowing you've not wasted time or more frustratingly, money. This approach is more correctly called a discipline, as it requires much; it is especially well suited to matters of the heart...and gardening.

Since we took on Magic Garden, Husbando and I had loosely decided to work front to back; pruning, removing noxious weeds and improving the soil with mushroom compost and sugar cane mulch. Then, the plan was to leave it for a year and see what happened. To be truthful, finances didn't really allow for much else! But now that our self-imposed moratorium on decision making has passed, it feels like it's time to start slowly making some improvements. As always, the onus is there to avoid pointless, pretty, busy work and focus on things that actually need doing. Ah, the conundrums of modern life...what happens when you're aware of what needs to be done but can't decide on the resolution? Enter the gestational solutions-based paradigm and allow the universe to provide!
In the front yard of Magic Garden, there was a clearing that had been loosely paved by very old rock. Nothing too special, it was slippery and uneven and featured a horror show of a blackberry infestation. In my frugal state of mind, I decided that I could use that rock to make an attractive stone wall elsewhere and dug it all out. Of course, the stone wall got waylaid and now I have an even weedier mess than I started with. Oh, the joy of pointless pretty, busy work! However, now that I have repackaged high calibre indecisiveness as a gestational solution-based paradigm, I am proud to announce my course of action has been the UK mag, Living etc.

The solution kindly provided by Living etc. May 2011

Using the hot pink rhodo as a central point, recycled sleepers will radiate out like spokes on a bike. These will act like stepping stones of sorts and also break up the expanse of gravel in between. Only question now is what type of gravel? I'm leaning towards crushed pink granite, which should work nicely when the rhodo is in bloom. And if it ever stops raining and we get this project sorted before we see the first blossoms, I'll be very pleased.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

I'm a fall...

Every season has it's joys but up here mountainside, it can be hard to decide which season provides the most cause for celebration and delight. Summer is looked upon fondly when warmth seems too far away and spring is all open garden showmanship and the pizazz of petals. Winter is brisk walks and hot chocolate and well, autumn...autumn can feel like the most mixed blessing of all. There's a sadness as the air turns cold, especially this year as we seem to have bypassed the Indian summer of years gone by. I hope this is just a meteorological blip and not further climate change confusion; I love how crisp mornings burn off into long, hot afternoons, just perfect for finishing off those little jobs as the last of daylight savings ebbs away. But c'est la vie, not to be this year and so this post is a simple share and declare. I hope you enjoy the colours of Magic Garden in all it's autumnal finery.
The beautiful weeping maple that is the autumn's centrepiece in out front yard. I have enlarged the bed beneath it and will be planting daffodil bulbs this weekend...rain, hail, preferably shine.

Ugg boots have replaced thongs in my gardening footwear selection. FYI: they have been waterproofed.

Dusky red sedum, another gratefully received donation from my lovely next door neighbour.

Prehistoric mystery plant...the flowers (fruit?) look like they should be swaying beneath the an octopus's garden, in the shade.

Definitely fruit this time! This viburnum is just to the right of where my grand plan vegie patch will be situated. Now, if only I could lock off the design as I really want to have this patch up and running for next summer. Whilst I'm a big believer the positives of procrastination; I feel that a period of gestation allows the right path to come forward. Sometimes, though, you just have to make a decision or otherwise, life just keeps passing you by.

This is the type of countenance I strive for when gardening. She is tremendously tacky and definitely not what Husbando has in mind for the Magic Garden sculpture park! But for some reason, she and her smaller twin stay insitu.

The last of summer's sweetpeas...oh, the sadness.

Monday, April 4, 2011

larvae maria!

The beast with two backs has bred! I wasn't sure at the time, whether I had actually caught the lady beetle inflagrante or if it was simply one rude beetle trampling over another but now with the help of wikipedia, I am sure. The fuzzy yellow sausage on the left is the larva which changes skins four times before pupation occurs. Four times! Basically, the skin doesn't grow with the beetle, so the old skin splits and a new larger skin is revealed beneath. If only my battles with dress size was so easily resolved. And unlike many insects, the larvae do not have the protection of a cocoon as they go into the pupate stage. I had been perplexed by this process as the newly revealed beetles seem to have especially soft, almost dull shells. It is though only time and exposure to air will harden them up. I tried to capture this delicate stage in the image on the left but for once, the iPhone camera has let me down.

Thanks to for this delightful image.

I have been so excited to see the next generation of lady beetles emerge in Magic Garden. Not only are they fun to watch with little kids, they do a marvellous job of helping to keep the aphid and scale population in check. Plus, they are simply gorgeous little spots of colour. Though if you check the site below, you'll see that many species of lady beetle are actually grey or brown or black. What fascinating creatures they are!

On one of our frequent lady beetle inspections, divine miss C and I uncovered this bobbydazzler of a zucchini turned marrow. I was sure it'd be rotten on the underside considering just how wet it's been but no, this marrow was intact and ready to eat. Thanks to Stephanie Alexander for the handy marrow scale of measurement (somehow a matchbox just wouldn't cut it!) and also for her spag bog recipe, which in a very pleasing instance of serendipity, I had made a batch of the day before. I do love a spot of freezer stockpiling and long for the day when I have a more freezer real estate.

It's easy when you cook in a solarium...

Voila! Marrow stuffed with Bolognaise! As I already had the spag bog sorted, this dinner was as easy as slicing the marrow and scooping out the seedy centre. I mixed the seedy goodness back into the bolognaise and then whacked it back into the marrow boat. Husbando grated some cheese over the top and we popped it in the oven at around 180 degrees C. 45 minutes later, the marrow was soft with the bolognaise's oily goodness and we served it up with garlic bread and broccoli. Delicious and even tastier for having used the marrow.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Under the rainbow

Straight from the Digger's Catalogue

There are many ways to celebrate St Patrick's Day but for this lady gardener, it's never been about drinking copious amounts of green beer. I like to speak to my grandmother as it's her birthday and then follow up with a sweet pea planting extravaganza. For some reason, St Patrick's Day is the traditional day to plant peas in the Southern Hemisphere, though apparently you have until Anzac Day to get your seeds in place. I've tried to find out why St Pat's is the day but to no avail. I wonder if it might be as simple as tying the reminder to an actual 'day' is a good way to get it into people's consciousness. However, today is a drizzly delight and not so conducive to planting with my 3 and a half year old helper in tow plus the seeds I've ordered ('Painted Lady' and 'Matcuana' from the Digger's Club catalogue) haven't arrived yet. This is no fault of the Digger's, my deliberations took an overly long time. I'll use the seeds I saved from this summer's flowers as well but I'd like to introduce more reds and pinks this time round and start moving away from quite so much purple.

With a quiet day planned, only so much lego can be built and fairy snap played so I needed to come up with an alternate St Pat's Day plan fast. I've been meaning to make a batch of green tomato chutney for weeks now and today proved to be perfect. Serendipity at its finest! I collected a good 2 kilos of green tomatoes while Miss E was sleeping and Miss C was busy with Play School. Half an hour later, we were in business. The beauty of of this chutney is two-fold; by removing some of the green fruit, it frees up the plant's energy to ripen up the remainder. This is specially helpful if your summer hasn't been consistently hot and let's you utilise fruit that may have spilt due to too much rain following intense heat. This year, the mountains seem to have had every possible permutation. The second advantage is that green tomato chutney is quite simply and totally delicious, well worth stock piling. I find it really hard to get the keep/give away ratio right and by the time I've run out, I'm cursing my largess. If only there wasa reliable way to estimate how much chutney I'll need to last through to next year...

The littlest sous chef in action - love that motion blur!

The recipe I use is very simple and based onthe one in the Australian Women's Weekly's 'Book of Perserves.' I'm not sure if this treasure is still in print but it's a fabulous resource so snap it up if you come across it on ebay or at a garage sale. AWW say to use dry mustard powder but I prefer to use freshly roasted mustard seeds, ground in a mortar and pestle.

You'll need:

1 kilo of green tomatoes, washed and roughly chopped
- feel free to throw in some ripe ones if you can't quite make up the full kilo
1 large onion, red or brown, whatever's in the pantry
1 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup raw sugar
2 tsp freshly ground mustard seeds
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp tumeric
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1 tbsp cider vinegar
1 tbsp cornflour

Throw all the ingredients, except for the last tbsp of vinegar and cornflour.
Bring to the boil and then simmer covered for 40 mins until the mixture is pulpy.
Then ass the remaining vinegar and cornflour and stir until the mixture boils again and thickens.

Quite the tub ring in this shot...

While the mixture is still hot, pour into hot sterilised jars and then seal once cold. For more infomation on sterilisation, check Google. I cheat and use the baby's steriliser in the microwave.

All that's missing from this picture are the gingham lids tied with apron strings of love!

Whilst this chutney doesn't look the prettiest, it is super tasty and loves to served with any type of pork product, a sharp cheddar or the vegetable and lentil pie from Hominy bakery in Katoomba.

Please note: I am the queen of not necessarily following recipes to the letter. this batch, I forgot to 'cover and simmer for 40 mins' and instead I just let it simmer for hours on end. As the pot I used was extremely heavy, this took hours. If dancing you're own steps here like moi, take to keep stirring as you don't want the mix to burn and catch on the bottom. This recipe should make approx. 3 cups but I did a double batch and that's why there are so many more jars in the final shot above. Such a bounty, I'm well pleased with myself.