Feb 212018

Greta Gillies visits Tuan Pham’s garden

Greta Gillies, together with neighbour Stevie Chy, has visited the garden of Tuan Pham, from Heidelberg West. Here is how the write up starts: “Tuan Pham has lived in his current home in Heidelberg West with his partner and 3 children for the past 3 years. He moved to Australia from Vietnam in the mid 80s and has lived most of the time in this area. He tends to his food garden most days. He is also a member of the local trading group Rough Trade 3081 and previously worked with the local exodus community. Walking into his garden, the first thing you spot is his impressive hanging garden of gravity-defying winter melons. A nylon lattice covers a large metal frame which forms the support structure for his gourd crop which hang freely through the frame like enormous droplets of rain. This ‘winter melon house’ is big enough for someone to walk under and sit to escape the heat, plus it is a place to grow shade enjoying plants underneath. Tuan grows an impressive amount of food for his family in this space.Read the full write up.

Greta is one of our new interviewers, joining Judy Vizzari and Marina Bistrin. She lives in Heidelberg Heights with her partner and young son. She is a geneticist, a community rallier and an environmental and social activist. She also loves working on making her garden a productive and enjoyable space. She runs the local money-free trading group Rough Trade 3081.

Greta’s interviewing approach is somewhat different than the others. Where possible, gardeners write their own bios and answer some set questions before having photos taken. This ensures that their story is represented exactly how they want it to be. She only interviews people in her immediate area, partly because she loves getting to know people in her community more and partly because she doesn’t have a car. Additionally, 3081 is a community-orientated postcode with a hive of food gardens and people happy to share them.

Mac’s tip of the week

With continued summer weather ahead, and minimal rain, your watering duties are not yet over. Where there is still growth and flowering, there is more produce to come so keep the water coming. But for those plants which do seem to be coming to their end (e.g. tomatoes?), you can now reduce the amounts of water so that the plant begins to focus on producing fruit rather than on growing new foliage. When you reduce/stop watering such plants, the fruit will ripen quicker too.

Read all of Mac’s tips.

Homemade lemonade by Homemade Lemonade

Homemade Lemonade, who are based in Hawthorn East, are a new maker and seller of lemonade. Their range of homemade lemonades includes traditional old fashioned lemonade, cherry pink fizz, and lemon & ginger. The lemonades are made in small batches, with an emphasis on interesting flavours while maintaining the health benefits of the fruit. Currently, the only place and time that you can buy their lemonade is on the 3rd Sunday of the month at Eltham Farmers’ Market. Read their Local Food Directory page. Welcome Ingrid and Margot!

News about local food producers

Stir Crazy (who sell crackers, shortbreads, oatcakes and cordials) have moved out of the area.

Blue Pear Pantry, from North Warrandyte, have changed direction: “Due to the increased popularity and demand of our savoury rolls, we have made the decision to shift our focus solely to our savoury roll varieties (sausage rolls, Thai chicken rolls and vegan rolls).

PoppySmack, from Warrandyte, will be making a surprise appearance as a stallholder at Eltham Farmers’ Market on 25th February.

Barrow Boys Brewing Co., from Reservoir, are looking to hire a Sales Rep. Click here to read the job description and to apply. Closing date: 2nd March.

A new community food hub is being planned at Alphington (at the Melbourne Innovation Centre). As per a recent article in The Leader (pictured right), it will include a weekly farmers’ market, a commercial kitchen and an urban agriculture growing space. As soon as I know more, I’ll tell you more.

Bulleen Art & Garden (BAAG) is the favourite nursery of many newsletter readers. Its future existence is now under threat from the proposed construction of the North East Link. They are organising a petition calling on the North East Link Authority to ensure that the path the new road takes does not impact BAAG. Click here to read and then sign the petition.

Darebin Homemade Food & Wine Festival – the preparations begin

The festival will take place between Saturday, 26th May and Sunday, 3rd June. They have asked people to contact them about three aspects:

  • ‘Meet the Makers’: this is a competition to judge Darebin’s best makers of passata, pickled vegetables, preserved olives, etc. If you are interested in entering, contact Amanda Palmer by phone (8470 8306) or email.
  • ‘Homemade Marketplace’: this market will take place on Saturday, 26th May. Click here to read more and apply to be a stallholder.
  • ‘Homemade Umbrella Program’: there will be workshops, demonstrations, seminars and special events throughout the week around the theme of ‘food traditions and sustainable practice’. Click here to read more and register your interest in organising an event.

Do you have a project concept that you would like support with?

Doing Something Good, in partnership with City of Melbourne and Open Food Network, are running their third Local Food Launchpad Accelerator program from April to June this year. Their initial meeting, called a Concept Development Workshop, is being held in the CBD on Wednesday, 14th March. Click here to read more and register.

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

Marina’s interview with Sim Hanscamp, from Spoke & Spade.

Joke of the week

Why couldn’t the teddy bear eat his lunch? Because he was stuffed!

Read all the jokes. Continue reading »

Feb 142018

Marina Bistrin interviews Sim Hanscamp, from Spoke & Spade

Spoke & Spade is a small urban farm in Heidelberg West which grows vegetables and sells them in boxes. Marina met its owner, Sim Hanscamp, at the Heidelberg West Food Swap and then went to his farm to interview him. As Marina says in her writeup of the interview: “Sim is a friendly young man who has started his own business, supported by the government’s New Enterprise Incentive Scheme (NEIS). He has converted his rental property’s front and back gardens into an urban farm and is using the community-supported agriculture (CSA) model to pre-sell veggie boxes. He also has an honesty box in the frontyard with freshly picked veg and herbs for a donation. And he is growing veggies on a friend’s property in Hurstbridge.” She then goes on to discuss Sim’s objectives, methods and inspirations. Read the full interview.

Contact details, ways of buying Sim’s veggies, and various photos can all be found in the Local Food Directory page for Spoke & Spade. Or you might want to have a look at his website and/or Facebook page. Welcome Sim!

Mac’s tip of the week

Beware the common paper wasp! After years (too many to mention) of daily garden work, I have recently noticed an increase in the numbers of paper wasps nesting in our area. Last summer was my first painful introduction, and then another two nests this summer. Yow! The introduced asian paper wasps (Polistes chinensis) only tend to be aggressive when defending their nests and are otherwise beneficial insects to have around the garden. The adults catch caterpillars to feed the larvae, but otherwise feed on nectar. They form small colonies and make paper nests under tree branches, in shrubs such as westringia, and in the eaves of houses. The nests are shaped like inverted cones, and consist of a cluster of hexagonal cells made from wood fibre mixed with saliva. The wasp larvae are maggot-like and develop inside the papery cells of the nest.

Read all of Mac’s tips.

More RetroSuburbia

Following on last week’s discussion about David Holmgren’s new book RetroSuburbia: the downshifter’s guide to a resilient future, I’m pleased to announce that David will be coming to Eltham to give a presentation. See the event description below and on the website. Thursday, 22nd March, 7-9pm, at Eltham Community and Reception Centre. $10 (but free for both Local Food Connect members and Home Harvest Feastival attendees). Buy tickets.

News about local food producers

Rachael The Pie Lady, aka Yarra Valley Homemade Pies & Cakes, has retired.

Got some time to spare on a Wednesday?

The Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre hosts a free community lunch every Thursday. Most of the food is made from SecondBite offerings. They need a driver to pick up the produce on a Wednesday from Heidelberg West and deliver it to Carlton North. If interested, email them.

Really Really Free Market Preston

The Really Really Free Market Preston is in need of a new home to provide cover for both sunny and rainy days, and that it is easily accessible via public transport. If you have any suggestions, email them.

Have your tomatoes got any pests or diseases?

Newsletter reader Karen Sutherland, together with Penny Woodward and Janice Sutton, is writing a book about growing tomatoes and are searching for high quality pictures to include. They are happy to pay a small fee, or to barter their garden produce. If you have any relevant pictures, contact Karen by phone (0412 567281) or email. Here is a list of the pictures that they are looking for:

  • Deficiencies in leaves: nitrogen deficiency; phosphorous deficiency; zinc deficiency; manganese deficiency; iron deficiency; boron deficiency; or molybdenum deficiency.
  • Bacterial diseases: bacterial canker; bacterial speck; bacterial spot; or bacterial wilt.
  • Fungal diseases: anthracnose; damping off; early blight – target blight; fusarium crown & root rot; fusarium wilt; grey mould on fruit; grey leaf spot; late blight; sclerotinia rot; scerotium stem rot; sooty mould; or verticillium wilt.
  • Viruses: cucumber mosaic virus; tobacco mosaic virus; tomato mosaic virus; tomato spotted wilt virus; tomato yellow leaf curl virus; or tomato leaf curl virus.
  • Pests: budworm; cutworm; fruit fly; harlequin bug; heliothis caterpillar / budworm; leafhoppers & jassids; potato moth; red-eyed bug; rutherglen bug; stem borer; tomato potato psyllid; 26- & 28-spotted ladybird; thrips; vegetable weevil; white fringed weevil; or wireworm.
  • Other problems: catface; cracks in fruit; or heat stress wilt.

Now, here’s a test: there are 48 pest and diseases listed above; without re-reading, how many can you name?

Good things await you

Atika Rea has written in to recommend the film Good Things Await. She says: “I saw this really nice Danish film at film festival a couple of years ago. It gently leads you through a farmer’s life and his husbandship of land and animals. It warmed the cockles of my heart!”

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

The menu at Craft Kitchen And Bar.

Joke of the week

What’s the worst vegetable to serve on a boat? Leeks!

Read all the jokes. Continue reading »

Feb 072018

Robin’s veggie growing tip of the month

I’m really pleased to announce that Robin Gale-Baker, from Sustainable Macleod, will start providing a veggie growing tip each month for the newsletter. Here’s her first tip.

February and March are ideal times for seed collecting – both seed that has dried on the plant and wet seed which has to be extracted, washed and dried. Example wet seeds are tomatoes, pumpkins, zucchini, cucumber and capsicum. Consider collecting both early and late wet seed, particularly tomatoes, thereby selecting for plants that will produce both early and late in the season. Choose the best fruit, label clearly and plant at least one of each. You should be able to extend the tomato season until late May, if not early June.

Note that pumpkin seed will often not grow true as it can be cross pollinated by bees from as far away as 8 kilometres (but you may get a variety of interesting pumpkins on the one vine!). You can, however, keep the seed true by either bagging the flowers or hand pollinating.

Mac’s tip of the week

Mac’s tip is on the same subject as Robin’s, namely seed collecting.

Whilst in the midst of your peak harvest period, take time to appreciate the ‘star performers’ in your veggie patch. If one of your plants is far more vigorous or productive than the others then, hey, why not collect the seed from that plant to sow in future years? Beans, capsicums, chillis, lettuce, peas and tomatoes are considered the easiest to save because they all produce seed in the same season as they are planted and all are self-pollinating. Only the seeds from open-pollinated, non-hybrid plants will produce a similar crop; in other words, they are the plants most likely to produce offspring (in the form of seed) that closely resemble their parents.

As Robin and Mac both point out, you should keep back the best seed for planting, rather than follow the obvious course of eating the best and planting the dross. Incidentally, Richard Dawkins said (in The Ancestor’s Tale) that his father found this one of the hardest lessons to get across to farmers in Africa in the 1940s.

If you want to know more about seed saving, an excellent book is The Seed Savers’ Handbook. Both readable and comprehensive, it would be a nice gift for anyone at $32.

And here is a free booklet: A Guide to Seed Saving, Seed Stewardship & Seed Sovereignty.

Three of the local food swaps have ceased

Alphington (on the first Friday of the month), Diamond Creek (on the first Saturday of the month) and Manningham (on the last Wednesday of the month) have all ceased. Thanks to Becca (Alphington), Nigel Philpot (Manningham), Pam Jenkins (Diamond Creek) and all their colleagues for all their efforts over the past few years.

As well as the Manningham Food Swap ceasing, the associated monthly ‘home harvest’ workshops are also stopping.

Pam, the organiser of the Diamond Creek Food Swap, has written in: “Diamond Creek Food Swap ran for 7 years, having commenced in March 2011. Over the years, the originators of the swap and other Diamond Creek enthusiasts moved away from the area but the swap continued with the support of gardeners from surrounding suburbs until swaps sprang up more local to them and then they, naturally, moved to the swap closer to their home. All is not lost however, as the swap at Thrive Community Garden on the third Saturday of the month continues.

So, was it worth the time and effort to turn up for a couple of hours a month to co-ordinate the swap? Let’s allow some figures do the talking.

During the first year, 300Kg of fresh homegrown produce was swapped. Lemons (45Kg) topped the list followed by pumpkin (34Kg). That’s a lot of marmalade (or gin and tonic) and pumpkin soup! Then quinces (30Kg). Quinces, really?! Quinces and lemons also made second appearances at the swap as lemon marmalade, quince paste, quince jelly and pickled quinces. Lemons and pumpkin may be moderate value items at the grocery store but how about 18Kg of limes or 7Kg of tamarillos or feijoas that sell at $1 each at the shops.

Swap participants had the opportunity to ‘try before you buy’, with unusual fruits and vegetables such as babaco, Jerusalem artichokes, chokoes, Mexican cucumbers, pepinos, persimmon, spaghetti squash and trombonchino zucchinis making appearances. Some of these items are easy to grow, tasty and productive but are still impossible to buy because they may be delicate, have a short shelf life or are unattractive to shop owners for any number of reasons.

Also, let’s not forget the multiple bunches of silverbeet, spinach, herbs and all the other common fruit and vegetables that people grow and eat. A swap is all about swapping your excess produce for somebody else’s excess. It’s ideal for a small gardener who only has space for two or three types of vegetable to be able to swap for two or three other types, thus enabling them to increase variety in their diet at no extra cost.

The swap wasn’t limited to fruit and vegetables. 17 varieties of homemade preserves and dried foods were swapped, along with 30 varieties of seedlings and numerous seeds. Other miscellaneous items included wood ash, coffee grounds, compost, worm juice, jam jars and plant pots.

Swaps are great places to meet with like-minded people. Gardeners who share their excess produce are a friendly bunch with lots of ideas, advice and experiences to share. We celebrate our successes and bemoan our failures together. The shared experience of dealing with Nillumbik soil, plagues of bugs and feathered or furry marauders leave us shaking our heads on many occasions but somebody usually comes up with a solution or two. There is always next season to plan a new strategy.

So, was it worth it? Absolutely!”

As Pam says, as more swaps have started, people have moved to the swap closest to their homes. So, particular food swaps are in danger of being victims of the success of the wider movement – an interesting issue and one that maybe also starting to happen for some farmers’ markets.

News about local food producers

Diamond Valley Library are now a regular collection point for the Diamond Valley Foodshare, so help those in need in your community by dropping in any non perishable items.

You can now buy Kylie’s Slow Dough’s bread online.

You can now buy AVS Organic Food’s vegan food in 13 different suburbs: Carlton (Aunt Maggies), Croydon South (Eastfield Organic Natural Food Market), Diamond Creek (Local Fine Foods), Fitzroy (Aunt Maggies and The Cruelty Free Shop), Fitzroy North (Wild Things Food), Greensborough (Go Vita), Heidelberg (Leo’s Fine Food & Wine), Kew (Leo’s Fine Food & Wine), Montmorency (Edes & Bibi), Northcote (Terra Madre), St Andrews (St Andrews Market), Thornbury (Naturally On High) and Warrandyte (Quintons SUPA IGA).

Kaz is gradually increasing the number of suburbs where you can buy her chai: Eltham (Dynamic Vegies, Eltham Farmers’ Market and Organic Fix), Hurstbridge (Nature’s Harvest), Ringwood North (Made Locally) and Wonga Park (Post Office)

For Elthamites only – two new cafes have opened in recent weeks:

  • Billy’s Deck (where Frio’s and, before that, Degani’s were). View/download their menu (pdf).
  • Craft Kitchen And Bar (where Volumes was). Craft Kitchen And Bar is also open in the evenings and thus is effectively also a restaurant. The picture right is apparently one of their dessert offerings. View/download their menu (pdf).

Pip pip

The winner of last week’s random draw for the free annual subscription of the PIP magazine was Jaime Edge. Thanks to everyone that participated.

‘Crowd harvest’ – seeds for Valentine’s Day

Gardeners everywhere often harvest more seeds than they can sensibly store. Gardeners with excess seeds are invited to send them in a Valentine’s card to one or more not-for profit organisations listed below, each of which has a certified horticulturalist employed and ready to look after the seeds, either to start the seeds, store the seeds or distribute to others in need who know how to start seeds. DIVRS in Preston, STREAT in Collingwood or Carrington Health in Box Hill (ask for Alex Salmon). Any questions, contact Cath Lyons (aka Tiny Trowel) by phone (0401 814679) or email.

The Gardenettes

New newsletter reader Deb Thomson has told me about The Gardenettes, a Melbourne-based group who are “a retro-tinged garden to table show whose stories, tips and tricks focus on the things we love most … growing and eating delicious home-grown, hand-picked, home made food … passionate about showing you that you can grow your own food … and create a feast with garden-fresh produce.” One of the gardenettes is Deb’s daughter, Chloe. Another, Melissa King, is giving a talk at Diamond Valley Library on Tuesday, 20th February, 11.30am-12.30pm.


RetroSuburbia is David Holmgren’s new book, to be published on 10th February. Click here to read about the book, here to buy the book, or here to go and listen to David talk about the book.

The book discusses a number of case studies from around North East Melbourne, including: Alistair and Christine’s (Northcote); The Plummery (Northcote); Saba and Matt’s rental property (Lilydale); and Sharehouse (Preston).

More about honey

Maya ‘Xala Honey recently posted on Facebook: “Honey never spoils. When sealed in an airtight container, honey is one of the few foods known to have an eternal shelf life. There are even reports of edible honey being found in several-thousand-year-old Egyptian tombs.” Well, I never knew that so I thought I would investigate. And it turns out to be true: as discussed on the Smithsonian website, honey’s combination of acidity, lack of water and presence of hydrogen peroxide apparently means that it can remain preserved in a completely edible form for thousands of years if sealed.

This site lists 10 other foods that take a long time to spoil: white rice, salt, soy sauce, sugar, dried beans, pure maple syrup, powdered milk, hard liquor, pemmican and (of course) Terry Pratchett’s dwarf bread (which enables you to survive for days by making you realise that you are surrounded by things that look more edible, and which can’t go stale because it starts off stale).

Which link was clicked most times in the last newsletter?

Judy Vizzari’s interview with Duang Tengtrirat and Rob Reid Smith.

Joke of the week

Did you hear about the restaurant on the moon? Great food but no atmosphere.

Read all the jokes.

Continue reading »