Nov 292016

Helen interviews Maria Ciavarella

maria01Helen has now completed her first interview, which was with Maria Ciavarella from Donvale. If you read it, you will see that it is a doozy. To give a flavour, here is the first paragraph: “Maria Ciavarella is well known around North East Melbourne for the abundance of informative and practical workshops that she runs, with topics ranging from sustainable home growing food practices to food preserving, jam and passata making. Meeting Maria for the first time, I am struck by her generosity – from the fresh, delicious scones that await my arrival to the huge quantity of mulberries she picks for me from the largest mulberry tree I’ve ever seen – whilst we talk in her garden.Read the full interview.

Editor’s note: now that you have read how complimentary(!) Helen is about the people she interviews, would you like to nominate someone for interview? Even yourself? All they need to be is a home grower with something interesting to say. Just email me with your suggested names.

Mac’s tip of the week

It is called the Three Sisters. If space is limited, or even if not, the sisters get on well and help each other out (i.e. companion planting). Maize, climbing beans and squash (aka sweetcorn, beans and pumpkins) – a very old combination. Plant the sweetcorn first as structural support. Then, once growing, plant climbing beans around the base, maybe 4 per corn; the beans climb the corn while also adding nitrogen to the soil to help the corn. Once beans have grabbed hold, plant the pumpkins, which then shade the soil to retain moisture, gain nitrogen from the beans, and may also climb the older corn. Messy but very productive in a small space. Google for more info. Until next time, remember: dirty hand are good hands.

Editor’s note: I first read about the Three Sisters in Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel, which is a fascinating book about why Eurasian civilizations, rather than anyone else, conquered the world. Part of his theory is that, whilst the Native Americans had cultivated sources of protein in both beans and sweetcorn, both the pulses (e.g. peas and lentils) and the edible grasses (e.g. wheat) in the Fertile Crescent were better sources of protein. So, the people in the Fertile Crescent could live closer together and could form more complex societies. So, the current composition and distribution of the world’s population depend on where lentils happen to have originated!

A new food swap in Brunswick

Hosted by SEEDs Communal Garden. The 2nd Saturday of every month, from 11am to midday. 331 Albert Street, Brunswick. Facebook: seedscommunalgarden. Email: Maxine at

That brings the grand total of food swaps in North East Melbourne to a whopping 28. See the website for the full list.

Do you want a free gum tree?

Vicki Jordan has a self-seeded gum tree in a pot to give away. It is currently 2 metres high but, over time, will grow big. Pick up from Lower Plenty. If interested, email Vicki.

A couple of weeks ago, we asked for help to maintain the planter boxes in Diamond Creek. Thanks to Julie for responding – Pam Jenkins says that she has already made a noticeable difference.

Home Harvest FEASTival news

seedlingThe Home Harvest FEASTival is a celebration of local food and the summer harvest featuring a shared harvest meal to be held at Edendale on Sunday, 26th February. Your donation of homegrown produce = your ticket to attend. They have a Facebook group

People who have registered receive the occasional newsletter. The last newsletter included two broad bean recipes by Duang Tengtrirat (aka the best cook in Nillumbik): broad bean soup and broad beans linguine with ricotta.

Another of the newsletter’s articles concerned Beales Road Farm and The Veggie Empire. Beales Road Farm started three years ago in response to the social isolation being experienced by the leaseholder of the land in Greensborough where it is based. The leaseholder, Hayden, has autism and needed to meet new community members to help him feel safe and connected to his community. Gardening was something that he was interested in. Eighteen months after it began, a small community gardening team known as ‘The Veggie Empire‘ joined the original gardeners and have helped develop the food system into a vibrant and viable local food system. The team have been involved in one way or another since the first Home Harvest Feast in 2012. This year they are growing leeks, tomato, eggplant and zucchini and are looking forward to celebrating local food within an inclusive community activity.

Victorian Pleasurable Food Education Package

Pleasurable Food Education is what the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation (SAKGF) call their food education program. The Victorian Government recently announced that they were subsidising the program, to reduce the cost to a school to $550. healthAbility has just announced a further, Nillumbik-only subsidy, which reduces the cost to a school to $275. Click here to read about the program or click here to read about the latest offer.

Congratulations to Alan, Greta and Robin

The 2016 Banyule and Darebin Sustainability Awards included three newsletter readers: Alan Leenaerts (Montmorency Sugar Glider Project), Greta Gillies (a Local Hero) and Robin Gale-Baker (also a Local Hero).

Congratulations to Carol

Newsletter reader Carol Woolcock’s garden featured in this month’s Permablitz re-visited.

Spare Harvest website

Spare Harvest is a new website (and app) which is designed to enable local communities to help connect, share, swap and sell all things related to gardening and growing food.

It is similar in concept to the RipeNearMe website.

And, finally, as reported by Local Harvest: the Tinder of food waste, ShareWaste.

garlic-farmerGarlic farmer

Courtesy of Lucinda Clutterbuck, see picture right.

New events

Summer pruning

What: Led by Chris England. Using the demonstration fruit trees in the orchard of the Burnley Gardens, you will learn how to summer prune fruit trees and also how create espaliers. Summer pruning gives you maximum fruit in a minimum space. Then, under Chris’ watchful eye, have a go yourself.
When: Saturday, 3rd December, 10am-1pm.
Where: Burnley College, Richmond.
Cost: $75.
Enquiries/Bookings: Friends of Burnley Gardens by phone (9035 6815) or email.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Absolutely famished community day

What: Explore the food cultures and gardening traditions of migrants and refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East living in inner city Melbourne, sample a selection of culturally diverse foods, and talk to cooks and gardeners from the local community. Rare and unusual food plants for summer growing will be on sale including sweet potato, kang kong, ginger and turmeric. All plants have been grown through a collaboration between participants at the Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre and staff and students at the Burnley Campus of the University of Melbourne. There will be free consultations on growing these food crops in Melbourne’s climate.
When: Saturday, 3rd December, midday-3pm.
Where: LAB-14, Carlton.
Cost: free.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Chocolate discovery class

What: Anyone aged 12 & above can join them for a one-hour chocolate discovery class, indulging in a range of chocolate tastings, crafting your very own chocolate bar, and delighting in six handmade filled truffles, while each is passionately explained by their European Chocolatier.
When: Saturday, 10th December, 11.30am-12.30pm.
Where: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie, Yarra Glen.
Cost: $40.
Enquiries: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie by phone (9730 2777) or email.
Bookings: Yarra Valley Chocolaterie website.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Gingerbread houses

What: For children aged 4-11. Each child will be provided with a uniform and will receive a certificate of workshop completion. Bookings (by phone or email) essential.
When: Saturday, 24th December and Sunday, 25th December, both 1-5pm.
Where: Third Place Cafe, Wollert.
Cost: $50.
Enquiries/Bookings: Sibelleus Chefittles Express by phone (0406 653430) or email.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

Click here for the complete calendar of upcoming events. Click here for help in how to view the calendar selectively (e.g. search for events in a given suburb).

Nov 232016

Guerilla gardening comes to North East Melbourne (sort of)

guerilla-gardeningGuerrilla gardening is something that quite a lot of people talk about but, as far as I can make out, not many people actually do, at least in Australia (although Gardening Australia’s 2016 Gardener of the Year was apparently won by a guerilla gardener from North Fitzroy). I did some a few years ago: we went out in the middle of the night and planted a bunch of stuff. It was actually quite an adrenalin rush: what would happen if someone caught us planting the lettuce by torchlight?! Anyhow, it has recently come to my attention that a newsletter reader who wishes to remain anonymous has been verge planting in Warrandyte (see picture). The veggies currently growing include cherry tomatoes, sugar snap peas, silverbeet, butternut pumpkins, cucumbers, oregano, apple mint, common mint, salad burnet, garlic chives and lettuce. She has also started doing food-is-free veggies and her neighbour does food-is-free lemons.

Anyone want to do some seed bombing (aka seeds of dissent)? Or moss graffiti?

Mac’s tip of the week

Remember to train your tomatoes! Now that they are growing fast, you will need to tie them about every 20cm of growth. As they are starting to flower as well, best to tie loosely above the cluster of flowers. If you have single stakes, and planted close together, best to train to a single stem. This means pinching out side stems (aka branches) that are growing in the crotches between the leaves and the main stem. If you have a cage or trellis, or have spaced wide apart to allow more support stakes, allow maybe four main stems but pinch out further side stems. Older heirloom varieties often do better with multiple stems rather than a single. By training you will not only get a tidier plant, but also less fungal problems and quicker fruit, as your plants put more energy in to flowers and fruiting rather than to stem and leaf growth. Potassium is a key to success and liquid tomato food is full of it, as is sulphate of potash. Until next time, remember: dirty hand are good hands.

Click here to view all of Mac’s tips on our website.

A new food swap in Preston

South Preston Food Swap. The 4th Saturday of every month. Corner of High Street & Oakover Road, Preston. Organised by Transition Darebin. Facebook: Darebin-Urban-Harvesters-244273112267925. Email:

That brings the grand total of food swaps in North East Melbourne to 27. See the full list.

Local food producer in the news – Quists Coffee

quistsResearch-based Quists Coffee won a silver medal in the recent Golden Bean Coffee Roasters awards. They were also inducted into the Australian Coffee Roasters Hall of Fame. Congratulations Doris and Jim!

Crowd Harvest – seed banks for Christmas

Seed banks help people facing difficult circumstances to access the seeds and establish food gardens. Local home growers with excess seeds are invited to send them in a Christmas card or holiday card to one of the following organisations, who all maintain seed banks:

A related event – Crowd Harvest at Epping on Sunday, 27th November – featured in this week’s Leader newspaper (see picture).

Crop rotation

A newsletter reader has written in asking about crop rotation. How would you have responded? Here is my reply:

“The principle underlying crop rotation is that there should be a considerable gap in time between plantings of veggies from the same family in the same place. This helps stop particular diseases building up and also gives the soil a rest from particular burdens placed on it.

“Veggies can be divided into the following 8 ‘groups’ (most of which are families or sub-families):

  1. Legumes (beans, peas, etc).
  2. Brassicas (broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, mizuna, pak choy, rocket, etc).
  3. Alliums (garlic, onions, etc).
  4. Roots (beetroot, carrots, celery, parsnip, etc).
  5. Cucurbits (cucumber, pumpkin, rockmelon, zucchini, etc).
  6. Solanums (capsicum, chilli, eggplant, potatoes, tomatoes, etc).
  7. ‘Anywhere’ (basil, coriander, lettuce, radish, silverbeet, spinach, etc).
  8. Perennials (asparagus, globe artichokes, rhubarb, etc).

“Perennials are not relevant to crop rotation – they should be planted elsewhere. The ‘anywhere’ group are also not relevant – just plant them wherever and whenever you have gaps. So, the ideal is a 6-bed, 6-year rotation for the other 6 groups. If you have fewer beds, then you have to do one or more of three things:

  1. Combine some things: so, for example, plant alliums and roots in the same bed.
  2. Omit some things: so, for example, never plant brassicas.
  3. Plant a cool season crop (e.g. brassicas) followed by a warm season crop (e.g. solanums or cucurbits) – or vice versa – into a single bed over the course of a year.

“You then have to decide the order of how a bed should change over time. A principle here is that heavy feeders should, where possible, alternate with light feeders. So, for example, legumes (light) – brassicas (medium) – alliums (light) – cucurbits (heavy) – roots (light) – solanums (heavy).

“Finally, you have to choose whether the annual rotation should be in Spring or in Autumn.”

For a longer discussion of crop rotation, read Angelo Eliades’ article.

New events

Community garden workshop

What: Join Karen Sutherland, from Edible Eden Design, to learn about all the variety, freshness and fun you can bring into a small space garden. From a small plot to a balcony garden, look at: the options for plant selection for fruit, herbs or veggies; the best way to use pots; dealing with pests; growing upwards; and other considerations in your own growing space.
When: Saturday, 26th November, 10am-midday.
Where: Brunswick Neighbourhood House.
Cost: $40.
Enquiries: Brunswick Neighbourhood House by phone (9386 9418) or email.
Bookings / Further information: Weteachme.

Permablitz 194 (Eltham North)

What: Anne-Marie and her family would really like to make much better use of their garden space to be more productive. She also wants their children to both understand and appreciate where food comes from. They already have two veggie boxes. Workshops: wicking beds; compost bays; ponds; swales and capturing water; and green manure. Tasks: construct compost bays; construct pond; create wicking bed; fruit tree companion planting; constructing swales; sheet mulching; and planting green manure and other plants.
When: Sunday, 4th December, 10am-4pm.
Where: Eltham North.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Permablitz by email.
Bookings / Further information: Permablitz website.

How to make sense of food labels

What: Tour a supermarket and learn how to read and make sense of food labels so that it is easier to make healthy choices. The tours are led by healthAbility’s qualified dietitian and open to anyone interested in healthy eating. Bookings essential as places are limited.
When: Monday, 5th December, 9.30-11am.
Where: Eltham.
Cost: $15 (includes a healthy shopping guide booklet).
Enquiries/Bookings: healthAbility by phone (9430 9100).
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

Click here for the complete calendar of upcoming events. Click here for help in how to view the calendar selectively (e.g. search for events in a given suburb).

Nov 162016

Robin and Paul Gale-Baker write about how to grow eggplants and capsicums

capsicumAs you will know from the 26th October newsletter, Helen Simpson is moving on from writing growing guides to interviewing selected home growers. The results of her first interviews won’t be available for the newsletter for some time so it looked like there wouldn’t be an article for December. But Robin and Paul Gale-Baker, from Sustainable Macleod, have stepped into the breach with an interesting article about growing eggplants and capsicums. Thanks Robin and Paul! As it is getting late to grow these veggies, I have decided to publish the article now rather than wait until the start of December.

eggplantThe article starts by recommending that you plant seedlings rather than seeds: “Eggplants and capsicums are members of the Solanaceae family, as are tomatoes and potatoes. Unlike tomatoes, however, they are difficult to grow from seed because they need much higher temperatures to germinate and, by the time they do, it is often too late to grow them and get a decent crop. So, buy seedlings from your nursery and pot these into larger containers, and grow them on before planting out. Transplant capsicums once the temperature is steadily over 16°C. You can also buy (though they are much more expensive) grafted eggplants, which will produce a higher yield. For eggplants to set fruit, the temperature needs to be over 20°C at night.” It then goes on to discuss where to plant, pests & diseases, and campanion plants. Read the full article.

And the winner is … Joel Brown!

joel-brownThose of you that read this newsletter carefully may have realised that we never announced the overall winner of our video competition. Well, the wind scuppered our plans to select the winner at the 9th October Eltham Farmers’ Market, so we postponed it to the 27th October, and the winner picked up their prize (a bag of market produce of their choice) at the 13th November market. Congratulations, Joel Brown (pictured here with his mum, Ali).

Help needed to maintain the planter boxes in Chute Street, Diamond Creek

As you probably know, the 8 planter boxes in Chute Street, Diamond Creek, are food gardens and the produce, once it is mature, is available for anybody to pick, share and eat.

The team who maintains the boxes are looking for some food-minded people to help tidy and re-plant with summer veggies, herbs and flowers. Seedlings, plant food and mulch are all provided free of charge and the major watering to fill up the wicking bed reservoirs is done by the CFA. Working on the boxes is intermittent and easy. If you want, you could adopt a box or two, perhaps the ones outside your favourite cafe, hairdresser, or dress shop. If potentially interested, please email Pam. No experience necessary – just a smile and some enthusiasm!

Mac’s tip of the week

It’s time to buy ear plugs! It does not happen every year but, from the few I’ve seen emerging, it may be a good year for the iconic (and loud) cicada. Sure, they have been pupating underground, sucking sap from your tree roots, but they have been down there for the last 6-7 years, waiting for a good year. Adults only survive for 3-4 weeks, trying to find a mate to start the cycle again. And yes, as always (so I have been told), it is the males that are the ones making all the noise. Until next time, remember: dirty hand are good hands.

Click here to view all of Mac’s tips on our website.

Australia’s Right to Food Coalition

Dana Thomson has written in to highlight Australia’s Right to Food Coalition: “Australia’s Right to Food Coalition (RTFC) exists to improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians by working to ensure equitable access to nutritious food. We are a coalition of organisations, practitioners, researchers and community workers united in our cause.” They have a Victorian branch and they would welcome new members. Click here to join (as, indeed, I have just done!).

Filtering the website calendar

The website calendar contains a lot more events than it used to, partly because more people now tell me about their events and partly because I have become better at finding them on the Internet. Some of you might only want to look at the events that are close to you (e.g. in your local authority area) or of a particular type (e.g. community garden). This can be achieved on the website by filtering by either location and/or category. Read the help page to understand how to do this.

When filtering, I find that it is easier to read the results using the ‘agenda view’ rather than the default ‘month view’ – again, refer to the help page to read how to do this.

To coincide with this little article, I have added a new event type: ‘garden tour’. So, for example, click here to view a list of all the garden tours over the rest of November.

New events

Gnomes Farming Co-operative (Westgarth site)

What: In the run up to the Urban Agriculture Forum, this is one of several community gardening locations opening up to welcome visitors. There will be tours of their urban garden and verge space. Gnomes will be there to chat with people about what they do, how to join them, or how to start your own urban garden sharing community. There will also be a fundraising stall included with tasty treats, seedlings and succulents. There will also be books and clothes with a bit of a garage-sale vibe.
When: Saturday, 19th November, 10am-1pm.
Where: Northcote.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Gnomes Farming Co-operative by email.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre multicultural food garden

What: In the run up to the Urban Agriculture Forum, this is one of several community gardening locations opening up to welcome visitors. Head Gardener Sebastian Beck will give you a tour of the garden and explain its design and evolution into a multi use mini-urban farm providing a wide range of veggies and fruit for their multicultural community.
When: Saturday, 19th November, 3-5pm.
Where: Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Carlton Neighbourhood Learning Centre by phone (9347 2739) or email.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

The Plummery

What: In the run up to the Urban Agriculture Forum, this is one of several community gardening locations opening up to welcome visitors. ‘The Plummery’ is a small-scale 280m2 urban permaculture system which produces most of the veggies, herbs, fruit and electricity consumed by the household, as well as recycling all organic waste on site. The owner, Kat Lavers, currently manages a popular sustainable gardening program, My Smart Garden, for Hobsons Bay City Council in the Western suburbs and is a volunteer coordinator of Permablitz Melbourne.
When: Saturday, 19th November, 4-5pm.
Where: Northcote.
Cost: free.
Bookings: Email with the subject title ‘The Plummery – RSVP’.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Urban forage and feast: a celebratory community dinner

What: Youth Food Movement (YFM) Melbourne are whipping up a feast made exclusively with local fresh produce straight from community gardens, balcony backyards and small producer farms. The dinner aims to highlight the range of food produced within Melbourne, the stories connected to them, and to encourage eaters to support these local food champions. Have some homegrown produce you would like to donate? Have an out-of-control lemon tree? Spare a few leeks from your garden? Email them if you have some produce you would like to share. Growers who donate produce will be entitled to a discount on the ticket price. The food will be vegetarian – however, please let them know if you have any other dietary requirements. Stay up to date on their Facebook event page.
When: Friday, 2nd December, 7-9.30pm.
Where: Brunswick.
Cost: $27.
Enquiries: Youth Food Movement by email.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Christmas cookie decorating

What: With Christmas around the corner why not make your own packaged cookies to give as gifts to friends and family. Learn how to decorate cookies using fondant icing and different techniques. You will be provided with the cookies and equipment to decorate and package them.
When: Friday, 9th December, 2-3pm.
Where: Fawkner Library.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Moreland Council by phone (9353 4000) or email.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

Click here for the complete calendar of upcoming events. Click here for help in how to view the calendar selectively (e.g. search for events in a given suburb).

Nov 092016

More blueberries, more ABC Radio National and still the best cook in Nillumbik

For those of you who enjoyed Duang Tengtrirat’s award-winning story about blueberries and racism, I have a real treat for you. As part of the launch of ABC Radio National’s 2016 audio competition, Duang recorded a follow up story. The setting is one year later and Duang is again collecting blueberries. But this time her meeting is much more pleasant and heart warming. Listen to Duang’s follow up story. Or, if you want to listen to both stories plus ABC’s commentary on them, click here.

The best mural painter in Banyule

The Victorian Government has done a lot to help farmers’ markets and they recently gave Local Food Connect a grant to expand Eltham Farmers’ Market. The video competitions during September and October were funded by that grant. It has also funded the painting of a mural, which was put up last week in the corner of the car park where the market happens. The painter of the mural, Felicity Gordon is a well-known, local artist and prominent person in our local food community. As Felicity says: “The mural is 2 metres by 2.5 metres and depicts images drawn from the local landscape, fresh seasonal produce, free range animals and a normal day at Eltham Farmers’ Market. It was designed to visually show the connection between local food producers and the people who support them by sourcing their food from the market. Painting the mural was a fantastic opportunity for me to paint a rural landscape as this is something I wouldn’t normally do. I really enjoyed adding figures with colour and emotion to tell the story of our local community market.” Thanks, Felicity!

mural1    mural2

Can you spot the kookaburra?

Do you have any items that you could donate?

The Youth Food Movement (YFM) is organising an Urban Forage and Feast event in Brunswick on 2nd December. The event will involve conversations around food sustainability, guest speakers and quality food. They are seeking donations of produce, seedlings, seeds, vouchers etc to be used in their cookup, given away as prizes or sold to fundraise for YFM. They will acknowledge contributors at the event and pickup of goods can be arranged. If you can help out, please email Kyra Hewitt.

In passing, YFM has one of the all-time great sentences on their home page: “Australia’s appetite for organic food is at crazy-milkshake levels.

Mac’s tip of the week

Now is the time to start checking your grape vines for the caterpillars of the grapevine moth. These black and white day-flying moths (not butterflies) lay their eggs on the under-sides of the leaves and it doesn’t take long before the holes appear. As they grow, these caterpillars can eat up to 6 leaves a day each as well as the developing grapes, and severe defoliation can therefore happen. Hand pick as often as you can. If you can’t reach, or numbers are too many, you can use low-toxic, organic bacterial sprays such as Dipel or Success. For those of you with young children, or are still inspired by the wonders of nature, put some caterpillars in a ‘bug catcher’, or large container with air holes. Feed them your chosen leaves and watch them grow and pupate. Until next time, remember: dirty hand are good hands.

Click here to view all of Mac’s tips on our website.

New events

Permablitz 192 (Preston)

What: Jessica has a deep interest in sustainability and permaculture and already has a productive fruit and veg patch in her back garden. She is now looking to transform her never-used, north-facing front lawn from a dull yellow wasteland into a vegetable garden. You will be building two wicking beds, planting espalier fruit trees and also building a raised garden bed. There will be workshops on wicking beds, espaliering and irrigation.
When: Saturday, 12th November, 10am-4pm.
Where: Preston.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Permablitz Melbourne by email.
Bookings / Further information: Permablitz website.

The art of espalier

What: What you will learn: growing espaliered fruit trees; different techniques to make the most of all available space for espalier; and improve your general gardening skills. What you will get: detailed notes on the topic; discount voucher to use at BAAG. “Go vertical” is the cry when garden space is limited. Gardening in two dimensions is what espalier is about and this class will cover the different types and how to get them started and then continue to train them into the desired shape. Topics covered are suitable fruit trees, pruning and training tecniques. Presented by Diana Cotter.
When: Thursday, 17th November, 6.30-9pm.
Where: BAAG, Bulleen.
Cost: $45.
Enquiries: BAAG by phone (8850 3030).
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Introduction to permaculture (two day)

What: A two-day workshop, with the first day being on 19th November and the second day being on 26th November. Led by Donna Livermore. Developed by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren, permaculture (permanent agriculture) is a whole system approach to ecological planning and design for sustainable living. This workshop, spread over two weekends, will be part theory, part practical and will immerse you in the ethics, principles and framework to help you design a sustainable and abundant life. You will learn some useful skills and gather great ideas for designing a permaculture oasis on your apartment balcony, in your home garden, street or community. Some of the topics to be covered include: what is permaculture and its relevance today? the ethics and design principles; energy and nutrient cycling; veggie and fruit growing systems; and animals in permaculture. There will be examples from tiny urban gardens to suburban and rural properties showing how we can create resilient, sustainable systems that work with nature and the natural limits of our planet.
When: Saturday, 19th November and Saturday, 26th November, both 10am-4pm.
Where: Edendale.
Cost: $85 for the two days.
Enquiries: Edendale by phone (9433 3711) or email.
Bookings / Further information: LFC calendar entry.

A taste of China: meet authors Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan

What: Chinese cuisine is steeped in history and passionately embraced by Western culture, indicative of the vast array of Chinese eateries in our community. Avid home cooks have enthusiastically experimented with Chinese cuisine for decades with mainstream supermarkets stocking the special ingredients and tools making it accessible to all. Join Hong-Kong based best-selling authors Kei Lum Chan and Diora Fong Chan as they talk about their new Chinese cooking bible China: The Cookbook and the amazing history of Chinese cuisine. Guests will also take home a signed copy and enjoy a sample tasting from the book, specially prepared by Ringwood Chinese Restaurant.
When: Thursday, 24th November, 6.30-7.30pm.
Where: Realm, Ringwood.
Cost: $32 (includes a signed copy of ‘China:The Cookbook’ and sample tasting).
Enquiries / Bookings: Realm by phone (9800 6430).
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Honey appreciation and tasting evening

What: What you will learn: to recognise the flavours of honey and train your honey palette; to understand the composition of honey; and how to handle, treat and store honey and the meaning of raw, cold-extracted and organic honey. What you will get: a tasting of 9 varieties of honey and honeycomb straight from the hive; notes on the flavours of honey and how to detect flavour profiles; 10% discount voucher for honey purchases valid for 1 year; and a sample pack of 5 honeys to take home. Ever wanted to become a honey connoisseur? Would you like to learn more about the flavours of honey, the composition of honey and how to identify quality honey? You will taste 9 varieties of honey, as well as honeycomb straight from the hive. You will learn to detect the flavour profiles of eucalypts, exotic floral species and backyard suburban honeys. Honeys tasted will include: messmate, macadamia, stringy bark, leatherwood, blackberry, yellow box, manna gum, chestnut and orange blossom. Topics of discussion will include: the structure and nature of honey; training your honey palette; how to handle, treat and store honey; honey labelling (the meaning of raw, cold-extracted, organic and other terms used to describe honey); and the role of honey for bees.
When: Thursday, 24th November, 7-9pm.
Where: Bee Sustainable, Brunswick East.
Cost: $60.
Enquiries: Bee Sustainable by phone (9939 7301) or email.
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Beekeeping workshop

What: What you will learn: bee behaviour; the various major items that make up a bee hive and how to construct them; and the major tasks in hive management. What you will get: a wooden beehive frame that will have beeswax foundation inserted as part of the workshop; and a $5 discount on the book Bee AgSkills (normally $27.50, $22.50 with discount). There will be live bees and honeycomb to look at in a secure exhibition cabinet and a discussion of bee behaviour and hive management. The major items that make up a hive and their construction will be discussed. The equipment a beekeeper needs to work bees will also be reviewed. The major topics discussed will be: establishing a hive; understanding the tasks to be carried out in Spring; how to go about robbing and extracting honey; and swarm control. Participants will be limited to 8 to maintain an informal interactive format.
When: Saturday, 26th November, 9-11am.
Where: Bee Sustainable, Brunswick East.
Cost: $65.
Enquiries: Bee Sustainable by phone (9939 7301) or email.
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Heritage Fruit Society: orchard maintenance workshop

What: Work with their experienced volunteers and learn some new skills. They will be checking the watering system and performing various other maintenance tasks. Possibly grass cutting by mower and whipper-snipper. Some weeding in the nursery. They may lift some nursery trees for planting in the orchard. Newly grafted trees will need to be heeled in at their nursery. Coffee, tea and refreshments will be provided.
When: Sunday, 4th December, 9am-midday.
Where: Templestowe.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Heritage Fruit Society by phone (0449 508318).
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Raw living whole foods with Valentina Rise

What: What you will learn: basics of raw food; make guilt free treats; and learn what super foods are. What you will get: samples of all the food they make; and recipes to take home. You will discuss the nutritional benefits of superfoods, and how introducing more raw (natural plant-based) foods into your daily eating regimes can assist in your over-all health. Eating the right foods can help with reducing stress, anxiety and depressive states of being, increase your immunity and gut health and bring greater clarity into your lives. You will learn raw food cooking skills and get to feast on many different foods from savory to sweet healthy treats (e.g. raw pad thai, raw stir fry, raw caramel slice, raw ice cream, raw lemon slice and raw cheesecake). No refined white processed sugars or products will be used. You will gain knowledge on the best natural sweeteners and produce to use to assist in optimal health.
When: Sunday, 4th December, 2-5pm.
Where: Ceres.
Cost: $70.
Enquiries: Ceres by phone (9389 0100).
Bookings / Further information: WeTeachMe.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

Click here for the complete calendar of upcoming events. Click here for help in how to view the calendar selectively (e.g. search for events in a given suburb).

Nov 022016

More on growing mint

Robin Gale-Baker has written in: “I’d like to add a tip to Helen’s interesting article on mint. Having owned a herb nursery for 10 years, I encountered the rust problem frequently. The article mentions that rust can be cut off but I have found that it is more complicated than that. Rust forms on lower leaves and jumps upward as a result of watering with a hose or watering can or any form of overhead watering. Dead leaves on the soil surface remain rust infected. To produce healthy rust free leaves, first cut all stems back to ground level and then remove them and all dead leaves from the soil and cover with 2-3 cm of fresh soil or potting mix. Within a week, new shoots will be sprouting. This process needs to be carried out annually or whenever rust appears. Generally the end of autumn is a good time.

Dealing with your green bin’s weeds

Marina Bistrin has kindly given us her notes for her upcoming event, What’s in your green bin? Edible weeds and composting weeds and prunings. Click here to read the notes.

Mac McVeigh’s tip of the week

It’s time to get the bird netting out on your fruiting trees and berries, now that the fruit are developing. Also, take the time to smell the roses. Until next time, remember: dirty hand are good hands.

Click here to view all of Mac’s tips on our website.

Blueberries, racism, ABC Radio National and the best cook in Nillumbik

As you may know, newsletter reader Duang Tengtrirat won ABC Radio National’s 2015 Pocketdocs audio competition. Listen to her story where she quietly picks blueberries for her business as, all around her, fellow Australians make racist assumptions about her.

Some local foodies in the news

thats-amore-cheeseThat’s Amore Cheese, from Thomastown, were in the 19th October edition of The Weekly Review.




italian-cookingThe Italian cooking workshop at Living & Learning Nillumbik at Panton Hill on 19th November is sold out and it is therefore being repeated on 26th November. Click here for the details. Coincidently, the facilitator of these workshops, Janice Mariani, was featured in the 19th October edition of The Weekly Review.

Upcoming Slow Food conference in Mildura

Deb Bogenhuber, from the Sunraysia Local Food Future team, has written in (using the valediction ‘slowly’) to tell us about the upcoming Slow Food conference in Mildura: “The conference, themed ‘Our food, our country: good, clean, fair in our past, present and future’, will be held over 4 days from 17th to 20th November in and around Mildura. It features tours of local smallscale producers, hands-on learning activities, two Slow dinners showcasing our region’s produce, and the inaugural Australian Terra Madre. The Terra Madre is open to the public on Saturday, 19th November. A market in the morning will see Slow Food convivia across the country presenting produce, producers and information about their region – including from Swan Valley in WA, the Hunter Valley, Shoalhaven and Sydney in NSW, and Noosa in Queensland.

“Participatory talking circles will be running during the market, including on the themes of Slow Meat (Lauren & Lachy Mathers, Koondrook), Slow Fish (Kirsten Abernathy, Sustainable Fisheries Victoria), Farmers’ Markets (Miranda Sharp, Melbourne Farmers’ Markets), First Nations river economy (Darren Perry, Murray Lower Darling Rivers Indigenous Nations) and Slow Food Youth. A speakers’ panel in the afternoon will address the conference theme, based on the foundation of this country where First Nations people carefully managed land and waters to maximise sustainable food production.

New events

Make ideas a reality in Box Hill

What: Three projects have now been selected by the community as part of The Neighbourhood Project, which is championing community projects in Box Hill. These projects are: a pop-up community garden; a food-sharing event; and A summer cinema and night time activation. The purpose of this event is for members of the local community to help work up the three ideas, as a first step in making them a reality.
When: Wednesday, 2nd November, 6-8pm.
Where: Platform 3 cafe, Box Hill Central.
Cost: free.
Enquiries: Whitehorse Council by email.
Bookings: just turn up.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Palestinian cooking workshop

What: Led by nutritionist Rasha Tayeh. Inspired by her grandmother’s kitchen, this workshop will take you on a sensory journey into Palestinian cuisine. It will focus on: an introduction to herbal medicine, from selected herbs and spices used in Palestine and the Levant; cooking a two course vegetarian lunch and discussing nutritional benefits of seasonal produce; and learning about herbal infusions for good sleep, digestion and immunity. The workshop is limited to 12 spaces.
When: Saturday, 12th November, 10am-midday.
Where: Ceres.
Cost: $65 (includes lunch).
Enquiries: Rasha Tayeh by phone (0403 843923) or email.
Bookings: Trybooking.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

How to grow and how to cook Spring/Summer Asian vegetables

What: The Asian vegetables to be discussed include shiso, bitter gourd, okra, water spinach and edamame. These can be planted in Spring and are short term vegetables that can be harvested in 2 to 3 months. Find out about crop rotation, what manure is best and the bolting and mixed planting system. Learn authentic Japanese cooking using these Asian greens. Handouts, seedlings and food samples will be available. This workshop will be hands-on; you will cook, eat, laugh and clean up together!
When: Saturday, 12th November, 2-5pm.
Where: Olympic Adult Education, Heidelberg West.
Cost: $10.
Enquiries: Suzanne Crellin by phone (0419 866171) or email.
Bookings: Trybooking.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Organic food – everything you need to know

What: What is organic food? What are the differences between organic and biodynamic food? Learn about the certification of organic food. Find out more about organic fertilisers and insect sprays. Learn more about nutrition and organic versus non-organic foods.
When: Sunday, 13th November, 10-11.30am and again at Sunday, 20th November, 10-11.30am.
Where: SPAN Community House, Thornbury.
Cost: $10.
Enquiries / Bookings: SPAN Community House by phone (9480 1364) or email.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Foodnotes & Coloursense

What: Part exhibition, part concert, part meditation, Foodnotes & Coloursense explores the intimate intersection of sight, sound and taste. With a program of intoxicating piano music, Luke Howard responds to David Sequeira’s intensely coloured, geometric paintings. The performance also features a suite of ‘tastes’ carefully selected in relation to the paintings and music. Foodnotes & Coloursense uses the science of perception to heighten awareness of the interplay between physical and psychological experiences. A discussion moderated by 3RRR’s Cameron Smith with Dr Renee Beale (curator), Dr David Sequeira (visual artist), Luke Howard (musician) and Dr Simon Cropper (neuroscientist) will follow the performance.
When: Thursday, 17th November, 8-10pm.
Where: Carlton.
Cost: $42.
Enquiries: Melbourne Music Week by phone (9658 9658).
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Beginner’s sourdough – wild yeast workshop

What: Tap into your bread-making skills by learning to make bread from an active living culture. Following a traditional recipe, you will learn to turn flour, water and salt into beautiful bread using a sourdough culture. You will discuss the fermentation process and benefits, look at the required ingredients used in sourdough bread making and use them to follow a basic recipe to create a naturally-fermented bread loaf. Learn to prepare sourdough bread, simple kneading techniques and methods for shaping bread. You will also learn how to maintain and care for your sourdough starter culture.
When: Saturday, 26th November, 10am-12.30pm.
Where: Maribyrnong.
Cost: $45 (includes your own sourdough starter culture, sourdough bread dough, recipe, bread tastings).
Enquiries/Bookings: Gemma Macri by email.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Italian cooking workshop

What: Led by Janice Mariani. Discover the authentic taste of Mediterranean cuisine, using the freshest ingredients. A tasty three-course menu (antipasto with a difference; salmon lasagne; roasted chicken alla siciliano (deboned and filled) with contour of vegetables; and festive panettone with ice cream and meringue) will be prepared and enjoyed for lunch afterwards.
When: Saturday, 26th November, 10am-1pm.
Where: Living & Learning Nillumbik at Panton Hill.
Cost: $72.
Enquiries: Living & Learning Nillumbik by phone (9433 3744) or email.
Bookings: Living & Learning website.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Sourdough workshop

What: Yvonne Ashby hopes that her passion for sourdough will inspire others to enjoy a good quality homemade bread and a great way to re-live a past time. This will be a hands-on workshop on how to make traditional sourdough bread with the 3 basic ingredients of flour, water and salt. The class will be limited to 6-8 people with a hands-on approach to all aspects of making sourdough, including the tasting for lunch from different variations of sourdough bread that use the basic sourdough recipe being learnt in the workshop (e.g. spelt, fruit & nut, seeded, wholemeal). The cost is inclusive of Yvonne’s continued support whilst the participant is making their own bread at home. The workshop is suitable for beginners who want to expand their bread making repertoire. You will: learn about the required ingredients and tools of the trade; discover the fermentation techniques to optimise the open crumb texture; and learn about the Baker’s Percentage and hydration. During the workshop, you will: mix, knead and fold the dough; learn shaping techniques; learn to score and bake; and learn how to maintain a starter.
When: Saturday, 10th December, 10am-1pm.
Where: Yallambie.
Cost: $85.
Enquiries: Yvonne Ashby by phone (0409 225774) or email.
Bookings: Eventbrite.
Further information: LFC calendar entry.

Summary of upcoming events

Over the next week
Over the next month

Click here for the complete calendar of upcoming events. Click here for help in how to view the calendar selectively (e.g. search for events in a given suburb).