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

In the Veg Patch on a Dark Winter’s Day

calendula plant

The clouds have been promising rain, but so far we haven’t had a drop. I am enjoying this dark, cozy day though. It’s wonderfully quiet.

The last couple of days have been full on as Bear and I tackled the next phase of building our chook palace. We moved an entire shed from one side of the farm to the other via tractor and trolley and ropes and brute strength, complete with much hilarity and almost dropping and almost tripping and shouts of STOP and OK, GO and getting stuck on a tree and in a gate and beside a dog house, but we made it!! Soon we’ll fill it with feed bins, incubator, worming kits, and gardening tools for the orchard we’ve planted and the garden we will plant.

calendula plant

We also hauled trimmed tree branches into wood piles to be either burned for campfires or cut into usable shapes for my wood-burning projects.

This morning was a bit of Spring Cleaning in the middle of Winter, and it feels so good to look around the house and see bare surfaces and organized desks where once there were stacks and tottering piles.

After all that work it is good to rest this afternoon, to wrap up in a sweater and wander the gardens to see how they’re doing.

The artichoke bed has recovered from transplanting and is thriving under its thick bed of mulch.

artichoke plant

The red cabbages and red Brussels sprouts are coming along beautifully, and I can’t wait to see the heads begin to form.

red cabbage plants

The new fennel bed is also doing well, tiny seedlings growing into sturdy stalks with fragrant, delicate fronds.

fennel plants

The root veggies are coming along as well: beet roots, radishes, turnips, and hopefully carrots soon.

beetroot seedlings

Now it’s definitely time for a cuppa and a piece of shortbread, and perhaps an episode of Rosemary and Thyme before I start designing another set of cutting boards for my Etsy shoppe.

What is your garden up to in your part of the world? XO

Growing for Animals

capsicums for chooks

It’s a dark and blustery day on our farm, and Bear and I just came in from drenching our herd of Kalahari Goats, trimming the hooves of those who needed it. Now they’re out feasting in fields, staying close to the fence line to block the wind. Goats don’t like the wind because it inhibits their hearing and enables predators to sneak up on them unawares. That’s why we have our lovely Maremma dogs guarding them. Not even high winds keep them from being vigilant.

I’ve been working hard in my gardens in recent months. Tearing out all the detritus from the Summer and Autumn gardens, building up the soil with goat manure, and putting in all those lovely Winter things: greens, root veggies, and herbs that thrive well in the cold Winter air.

My kitchen garden is where I nurture the not-so-hardy things I love, like bougainvillea and lilly pilly. They make me smile with their brilliant blossoms and bright berries.


In addition to planting for me and Bear, I also plant for our animals.

Chilies and capsicums are perfect for our chooks, keeping them laying well into the Winter. That’s a great tip I learned from my gardening friend, Kathy, and it’s worked a treat.

capsicums for chooks

I also grow massive bushes of wormwood for our goats. Goats, sheep, cattle, they all get worms as they graze and need to be drenched (medicated) regularly. But by feeding them wormwood, a natural de-wormer, we only have to drench once or twice a year.

wormwood for goats

The clever thing about goats is that they know if they need wormwood or not. If they don’t have worms, they don’t give the wormwood more than a cursory sniff. But if they do have them, they chow down like it’s Christmas dinner.

goats eating wormwood

Now it’s time to go check on our baby goats. They get so busy eating that they don’t notice when the herd moves on without them and bleat plaintively when they discover they’ve been abandoned. A nudge in the right direction soon puts them to rights. 🙂

Do you grow anything special for your animals? I’d love to hear about it. 🙂 xo


Adventures in Cider Making

pears and apples for cider

Greetings People!
Things have been a bit chain rattling around Citadel Kalahari lately, getting ready for something I’ve wanted to achieve for some time; and that’s brewing our own grog. Foolishly, my thought train went like this: Toss in a few grapevines, squash the buggers up and “Hey presto!”, enjoy the fruits of my labour…well that’s what I thought ;-(.

Unfortunately, Wifey had other plans…firstly there were the twenty odd plum and citrus trees that appeared on the shopping trolley. Perhaps it was the shock to my wallet at the check-out that blind-sided me to the fact that I was going to have to dig the bloody holes to plant the buggers! Sadly, that simplicity was not what Wifey had in mind. During the drive home Wifey outlined her grand plan that the “Orchard” would be a grand affair, rising several metres from the ground, the structure would a roofed concern of nets and wire. I was speechless from the shock of this revelation, but the seal was set, when, Wifey announced to round off her sales pitch, was, “I’ll help out.” Similar promises should have alerted me to the fact that “I’ll help out.”, meant Wifey would provide cool drinks while she watched me provide the labour. I’ll not mention her cracking a nasty bull whip and hurtful comments hurled as she shaded herself on the porch.

And that, was just the beginning! Other orchards of table apples, cider apples and nut trees followed. But true to her word, Wifey helped out by providing cool drinks while she watched me tunnel to China for each new tree.

But bugger the initial endeavours, on with the brewing! I purchased a HUGE wine press that I’ve earmarked for restoration – a really beautiful piece of history. My second purchase was an 18 litre winepress, more realistic to my needs. However, my engineer’s eye perceived that it needed to be mounted on wheels to allow easy transport and provide a solid base when in use. This resolved and $20.99 in my pocket (from which I was soon parted) I purchased a trolley. After some banging and profound swearing emanating from the shed, the press and trolley emerged as one.

apple press
My next planned purchase was a fruit mulcher/shredder. My enthusiasm was deflatingly gutted as I pursued what was on offer. Hand operated models seemed more like items of mediaeval torture and powered ones were priced unrealistically – no doubt driven up by desperate people who’d foolishly bought the hand operated ones first. But seriously, I felt that this little boy’s Mother had raised someone who could build a better one. For once I was right. A quick scan of eBay and I was in the car and off to the door of a hopeful seller offering “a dream garden shredder for only $180”. Poor chap was taken back as I expertly stripped the shredder naked while muttering disappointedly, “Ahh, Fawk.”, under my breath. Wifey played her part too, by offering, “Can you fix it Dear? Or is it broken?” My reply was to fix this sharp salesman with an accusatory glare and spat, “Does it work?”. “Yyyyes,” he muttered, holding up the trailing extension cord he’d answered the door with. And he was right, so moments later we left with the shredder in the car and a limp $60 in his bewildered hand.

More banging and profound swearing emanating from the shed and the modified and refurbished mulcher strained at its chain ready to devour any innocent and ignorant enough to stray into its path.

fruit mulcher


A trial run of apples and pears demonstrated its expert proficiency and this convinced us to do a trial batch of cider. At this very moment 3 demijohns are bubbling away, hinting at the yeast busy at work. If all goes well I’ll be sucking on a cider or three. If not, Wifey will have some grand vinegar.

pears and apples for cider

Cleanliness may be is next to Godliness, but where brewing is concerned, if your preparation is not meticulously clean, then you’ll have vinegar instead of wine. So apply the 10 P rule… PAINFULLY PITIFUL PREPARATION PRODUCES PROFANELY PUGNACIOUS PISS POOR PARTY PRODUCTS.

Cheers, Robbie.

Encouraging Growth

fried potatoes and sausage

Thunder is rumbling in the distance, giving the hope of a bit of rain that we desperately need. C’mon rain!!!

storm clouds in Allora

The weather is always a bit madcap around here. One moment we’re parched and sizzled, the next shivering as wind hurtles through the trees and rain pelts against windows and tin sheds. I’ve learned so much living in such extremes. When you can’t depend on the weather to nourish crops and animals, you have to let go and run with it. Flexibility and creativity are essential.

Gardening is one area that tests me regularly. After three years experimenting with hundreds of plants, I’m figuring out what works best in our soil (black and heavy in some spots, brown and gravelly in others), what thrives in drought AND flood, and what can survive the attentions of bugs, cabbage moths, grasshoppers, and innumerable other creatures.

I no longer attempt broccoli, cauliflower, or cabbages. No matter how faithfully I dust them with powder, they’re always decimated by cabbage moths and cut worms. I can grow red cabbages and red Brussels sprouts, however, because for some reason, insects can’t stand them. This is quite a thrill, I tell you.

Herbs also do well here, as do root veggies (when there’s enough water), and tomatoes. Asparagus grows like a weed, thank goodness, and fennel and artichokes are finding their feet.

Bit by bit I’m building gardens that suit our palates and the crazy weather. As I learn how to help my plants, it inspires me personally to figure out what helps me thrive. Encouraging me to remove the things that tear me down and suffocate my spirit, while gathering close the people and experiences that nourish my soul and help me flourish.

Regardless of what happens outside (and in!), a good, hearty breakfast is always a comfort. Our local butcher has fantastic sausages in all sorts of flavors: beef, garlic, and red wine, lamb with roasted tomato and parsley, chicken with cheese and sage. Fried and sliced, they go beautifully with caramelized onions and potatoes. Such hearty fare keeps us going through planting, weeding, and harvesting.

fried potatoes and sausage

What grows well in your part of the world? xo