Gardening Inspiration

goat cheese and shallot tart

It’s so good to be writing here again after an extended break. Our busy time on the farm has ebbed and I finally have time to chronicle our adventures.

Last weekend we were still basking in the novelty of rain when it was time for the monthly meeting of my beloved produce swap group.

Every month we meet at someone’s garden or a local cafe for morning tea, lots of visiting, and a swap of homegrown produce, homemade goodies, and an assortment of seedlings, cuttings, and plants.

pink lilies

I never fail to return home inspired. I love seeing how other people garden, what fruits, veggies, and flowers they’ve got, how they mulch and feed, and what they make with the things they’ve grown.

raised garden bed

And I especially love having good heart-to-heart chats with friends I often only see at these events. It’s so good to get caught up on children and grand-children, pets and spouses, jobs and health, crafts and books, and anything else that comes into our heads to chat about.

stump filled with flowers

We always go home with a myriad of treasures, and this time was no different. I returned to our farm with cosmos, alyssum, eggplants, and tomatoes ready to plant in my gardens, fresh eggs, fat beetroots, and berry bushes and herbs from my friend Kathy’s home-grown shop, Pots of Herbs and Punnets of Seedlings. Such richness!

I also came away with a recipe for exquisitely delicious Goat Cheese and Shallot Tarts by Mary Berry. Kathy made them and we all swooned over the buttery walnut-studded pastry and sweet onion-y filling. Delicious!

goat cheese and shallot tart

Where do you go for inspiration for your home, kitchen, or garden? xo

Goats’ Cheese and Shallot Tarts

by Mary Berry 


For the pastry:

175g/6oz plain flour, plus extra for dusting
100g/3½oz cold butter, cubed
1 free-range egg, beaten
30g/1oz walnuts, roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the filling:

1 tbsp oil
500g/1lb 2oz banana shallots, thinly sliced
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp light muscovado sugar
300g/10½oz soft goats’ cheese
2 free-range eggs, beaten
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley

Preparation method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas 6. Put a large baking tray in the oven to heat up.
2. To make the pastry, put the flour, butter and a little salt into a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Alternatively, place in a mixing bowl and rub the butter into the flour using your fingertips. Add the beaten egg and a tablespoon water and mix until a ball of dough is formed.
3. Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the dough thinly (about 3mm/⅛in thick). Sprinkle the chopped walnuts over the pastry. Cover with cling film and roll over the cling film to press the nuts into the pastry. Cut out 8 large circles using a pastry cutter or saucer as a guide and line the Yorkshire pudding tins. Place in the fridge to chill while you make the filling.
4. Heat the oil in a lidded frying pan, add the shallots and cook over a high heat for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Lower the heat, cover and cook for 10 minutes until soft. Add the vinegar and sugar and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every now and then, until the shallots are dark brown and caramelised. Set aside to cool.
5. Put the goats’ cheese, beaten eggs and half the parsley in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix until smooth.
Prick the bases of the chilled tart cases all over with a fork, then spoon in the shallot mixture. Pour the goats’ cheese mixture over the shallots.
Slide the tins onto the hot baking sheet and cook for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and the filling is just set and golden-brown. Sprinkle with the remaining chopped parsley and serve warm or cold.

Spring in the Garden and Maple Pudding

fuchsia bougainvillea

Spring is the busiest time of year for us with newborn animals to care for, orchards to tend, gardens to plant, projects to tackle. Hence the silence on the blog over the last few months.

But it’s been a good busy and each day I wander our farm looking with satisfaction at all we’ve accomplished thus far, determined to enjoy THIS and not worry about all that still waits to be done.

Spring is in full swing now, with elderflowers blooming, asparagus shooting up every day, and blossoms and fresh green leaves covering our fruit trees.

elderflower blooming

We have broody geese and broody hens sitting on nests, and we excitedly check their pens to see if we have any new babies. We have one gosling toddling about, getting into mischief, and he’s so cute with his large behind that keeps him from escaping through the holes in the wire mesh of his pen. We keep a close eye on him so the magpies don’t swoop in and make him their dinner.

fuchsia bougainvillea

Today I made a tree nursery from an old duck pen. It is fully fenced so the goats can’t break in, has shelter from a nearby shed so the seedlings don’t get damaged by big winds, and has access to fresh water, so it’s perfect.

Bear gave me two wheeled carts with waterproof trays on top where I can set buckets of seedlings and keep them well-watered through the hot, dry summer. At the moment I have cider apple trees and avocados, and will soon move in a bay tree, raspberry canes, and a host of plum and peach cuttings once their root system is hardy enough for transplanting.

flowering yarrow

It was Canadian Thanksgiving this week, and although it was far too hot to even think of doing a full-blown traditional turkey dinner, we did celebrate by making creamy maple pudding and using it to top Bear’s favorite steamed plum pudding. It was a luscious, cold homage to my homeland.

maple pudding

What projects are you doing this week? xo

Maple Pudding


1/3 cup brown sugar
3 Tbsp corn starch
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups milk
3 egg yolks, broken in small separate bowl
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 tsp maple extract


1. Stir together sugar, cornstarch, and salt in medium saucepan on the counter.
2. Add milk and whisk briskly until incorporated.
3. Place pan over medium heat and stir constantly until the mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir one minute.
4. Pour one ladle of hot mixture into egg yolks, whisking immediately. Pour into saucepan, return to boil, stirring constantly, and boil and stir for one minute.
5. Remove from heat. Stir in butter and maple extract.
6. Pour into one bowl or several individual dishes. Cover and chill for an hour or serve warm.

A Farm Full of Baby Goats

twin kalahari goats

Our Kalahari Goat farm is overrun with cuteness this month as one mother after another delivers adorable baby goats.

We’ve had three sets of twins and one single birth, and each one is unique and precious.

twin baby kalahari goats

I love how the twins snuggle together, finding sunny spots to curl up against the winter chill. And it’s been chilly. Just 40 minutes south of us they had SNOW!! Amazing. We didn’t know how our Kalahari Red kids would do in the cold, but so far, they’re thriving.

baby kalahari goat

Their faces are so sweet and tiny, their coats amazingly soft in varying shades of rich reddish brown.

kalahari red kid

The older ones are already learning to climb and jump, looking hilariously awkward as they trot along with their mothers before randomly leaping in the air, limps flailing.

twin kalahari goats

My favorite thing is watching our Maremma, Apollo, undertake his baby-sitting duties. He’s such a good protector for the littles. He sits with them while they nap, licks them clean, and chases off any older ones who look like they might have bullying on the mind.

maremma guarding baby goat

It’s such a beautiful and happy time of year on the farm. These baby goats put smiles on our faces all day long.

What’s putting a smile on your face this week? xo

Sun After Storms and Growth in Winter

sunny creek

It’s been dark and blustery for days, but every now and then the sunshine comes through with warmth and light that stops us in our tracks.

sunny creek

It’s been a busy week on the farm as we’ve tackled gardening and medieval projects and all sorts of cooking and baking. We are tired but happy as we look around see so many good things in progress.

After planting our citrus trees about six months ago, we thought we’d be waiting at least a year before we harvested any fruit. So it’s been sheer delight to see limes, lemons, and varieties of oranges ripen beautifully. We won’t be eating a lot of citrus this year, but every one will be a treasure.

lemons on the tree

A friend gave me a stock pile of aloe vera and I’m really looking forward to turning those succulent pieces into lotion to treat skin dried by winter winds, and juice to aid in digestion.

aloe vera plant

A lilly pilly was my first Australian native in my garden, and this year is the first time it has fruited. The berries are so gorgeous in vivid fuchsia and have a marvelous tart sweetness that is truly refreshing.

lilly pilly berries

What growth are you seeing in your part of the world? xo

Winter Rain

white strawberry flower

It was so fantastic to get rain this week, so exciting to look outside and see a haze of green over fields and paddocks as new growth peeks up between brown grasses.

raindrops on leaf

Our ducks and geese were in heaven, making a thorough mess of their pens as they splashed merrily about in the mud.

The gardens were equally thrilled with the nitrogen-rich rain. Limp leaves and stalks are now strong, tall, and sturdy, and we’re looking forward to the first radishes and beetroots of the season within the next couple of weeks.

This week I’m working on a small book of medieval remedies, so in between rain showers I was out in my herb gardens taking photos of sage, thyme, and other plants that I use in various concoctions. Mmm, they smelled so good and looked so vibrantly green.

thyme branch

The first berries of Winter are ripening: strawberries and blueberries. It is so lovely to pluck perfectly ripe berries each morning. One day we’ll have a big harvest, but for now 3-4 berries a day are a great treasure.

white strawberry flower

This weekend I get to meet with my gardening group to swap produce and food and whatever else we can think of. They’re such a lovely group of people, always eager to share their wisdom and great gardening tips. I’m really looking forward to meeting them face to face for a good feed and a good visit.

What are you looking forward to this weekend? xo