Monday, January 17, 2011

Roaming in the Gloaming

Apparently dusk in Australia is quite abrupt in comparison to that of the Northern Hemisphere, where that precious part of the day's end is called the gloaming. I feel there's something very Tolkien, very middle earth about the notion. On a perfect summer's evening mountainside, these are some of the things a hobbit might see in Magic Garden, before dawdling back to their burrow and pouring themselves a large G & T.

I do so love the passionfruit flower. I like how obvious the structure is and how neatly each component overlaps and layers the next. I found this one in tangle with a Daphne halfway down the garden path and neither plant could be said to be flourishing. The passionfruit is super straggly and is suckering everywhere and the Daphne is yellowing and lacklustre. Whilst Daphne usually thrives in this cool climate, sadly, it isn't really appropriate for passionfruit, a truth I learnt the hard way in my first garden at the Gospel Hall.

However this provides a fabulous segue to one of my reading highlights from last year was a book called Indelible Ink by Fiona McGregor. The main character reinvents herself, empowers herself through a late in life tattoo addiction and the designs she chooses are very botanically correct impressions of her favourite plants. In effect, she becomes her garden, the vine and flower of the passionfruit feature prominently as her confidence grows. I'm too much of a scaredy cat to ever contemplate a tattoo (and I'm not so secretly thrilled I never acquired one during my misspent youth) but McGregor's prose had me seeing so clearly how beautifully the passionfruit vine could adorn a body.

Leeks apparently enjoy the company of carrots, celery and apple trees and whenever I can, I do like to companion plant. However, leeks also like similar situations to the Allium family so in theory, lettuce and salad leaves should work as well. As these greens are pretty low impact, I hope I'll be supplementing my salad bowl in time.

If you were a tiny creature beneath this cathedral like canopy, perhaps you'd feel inspired to religious conversion...or maybe you'd wonder who'd put the acid in your drink?

All hail my Zucchini triumph! This is my first attempt with these magical members or the Curcurbita family and I am thrilled with the results. Both the male and female flowers can be eaten but only the female flower will bear fruit. According to Wikipedia, strictly speaking, the zucchini is an immature fruit as it is technically the swollen ovary of the female flower. Which is a somewhat disturbing thought...if your zucchini plants are producing too many swollen ovaries, this provides a perfect excuse to pick and stuff the flowers and then flash fry in a light batter.

And as I say goodbye, I invite you to say hullo to a lovely ladybird friend, I think my favourite of all the insect visitors. This little lady was obviously very happy with a zucchini leaf dinner as she hung around for over 2 days!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Snakes in a motherfu*kin' orchard!

In an effort to follow through on an important resolution; which is to actually do the cool things we see advertised*, rather than just say 'Oh, that looks interesting, I must put that in the diary, I must book tickets,' and then not, the day after New Year's Day (aka January 2), we packed up the children and gathered some friends to go berry picking at Cloud Farm orchard in Mt Tomah. The title of this post doesn't quite cover the degree to which Husbando and I had bought into the romance of fruit picking as neither of us had quite computed that when the ad in the local paper says, wear protective footwear that actually translates as a warning about snakes. However, when I mentioned this to the lovely Kellie, she said she was petrified the entire time but that no-one else seemed concerned. But as she said, everyone but us was wearing serious boots...hmm, live and learn?

Despite very humid conditions beneath the netting, we escaped with our berry booty unscathed. I felt very mother earth as I dallied, delicately placing my treasures into my very modern earth mother's green recyclable bag - another oversight as I hadn't thought of bringing a more appropriate collecting container! We came home with raspberries, both red and yellow, blueberries and gooseberries (which I'd never tried and found rather tart) and whilst I had rather grandiose plans for a berry tart, using a shortbread biscuit base and a marscapone filling, funnily enough, it didn't eventuate.

This foray to Cloud Farm was organised by the Blue Mountains Fruit and Nut Network. Their aim is to document and protect the region's rich heritage of fruit and nut cultivation through hosting events such as this and their blog, which can be found here at blogspot (the full address can be found below). Next up in the ripening rotation at Cloud Farm are apples and figs and so I'll be keeping an eye on the blog as I do love to make an apple jelly. Slowfood and the word locavore have become so overused that it's nice to see examples of these catch phrases in practise.

If you head to their blog, you'll see that I have used 2 of their lovely images, immediately above and below. I hope this is ok and thankyou!

*I've come to the conclusion that this is vital when you live just outside a major metropolitan area. So near and yet so far! A city in a national park, a world heritage area no less! Supporting regional initiatives is a priority and one I take very seriously but it also means taking yourself further afield and making an effort to stay in touch with what the wider world has to offer. If you don't, it becomes really easy to feel that life is passing you by and that you're not a particularly interesting person. Guess it's that old classic, you reap what you sow and as our excursion to Cloud Farm proves, it doesn't have to cost the earth.