Monday, April 14, 2014

Shooting Bamboo for the Pantry

You don't have to shoot bamboo, though when you live in the subtropics, this time of year you would probably want to.This time last year, I spent some time with a dear friend who lives in the hills behind Mullumbimby.The micro climate there allows her to grow an amazing variety of food crops from stone fruit to sub tropical species.

In April her giant edible bamboo is sending up massive shoots that grow as you watch. I was happy to spend an afternoon harvesting and processing them.

Thick gloves, long sleeves and a machete are essential. Theses shoots are tough and covered in itchy hairs.

After trimming them at ground level, the outer leaves are stripped and the shoots cut in half lengthwise.

This exposes the wonderful pattern of chambers that will stretch to become the hollow interior of the bamboo stems that make them so structurally strong and flexible.. It made me want to rush off for some
paint and paper to do some block printing with them.

They are then cooked in salted water until they are softened and a creamy yellow colour.

Drained and rinsed, they are then ready to use, cryvac or bottle. They keep well in the fridge.

My respect for bamboo has grown another notch. Fast growing without fertilisers or chemicals, we have have the most fabulous source of  material for making structures, bowls and plates, simple garden stakes, woven baskets, fabric, fuel, food and medicine. It can stabilise slopes and riverbanks and there are varieties to suit all climates. Investigate this fabulous resource further: plants, pictures and a data base  How why and what of bamboo

Monday, April 7, 2014

Blessings on us all

A bit cloudy they said, after a gloomy old weekend. Not looking forward to a day of shopping and cleaning.
Then a totally unexpected 7 ml of steady warm rain and now glorious sunshine.
The garden is totally luscious, my cupboards are full and the house is clean.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Bali Anyone?

afternoon office
In a desperate attempt to rediscover my muse, I took off to Bali for a week with two friends. We all had writing missions and had committed to be disciplined to produce a thousand words a day. Our villa was surrounded by high walls so the only distractions were the noise of an occasional motorbike or voices of people passing.on the gang. Each morning after a swim or yoga and breakfast we set ourselves a start time and chose ourselves a spot to set up. We agreed there would be no conversation until the next break time, which usually coincided with mealtimes.

So, into the confronting silence, the blank screen and a mind busy with everything except the task in hand. A blank notebook, a pile of dog eared recipes with food stains and scribbles, a few reference books and a new lap top to do battle with. I shuffled paper for a while then began writing a list of contents - a blueprint of everything I planned to include. It felt a bit silly, like writing a book backwards, but from then on it was like painting with numbers.

There is something rather beautiful about silence that helps me to settle and focus, bring clarity to the task at hand. Now I'm home, silence and lack of distractions are rare. The luxury of time and space in a comfortable, supportive environment are a distant memory.Writing might be three hours with my lovely writing friends or a greeting on a birthday card. I have written a workshop, a proposal, and many shopping lists and am attempting to post a blog each week.. I have discovered to keep my writing alive, it is important to write everyday, no matter what form it takes.

The book remains as I left it, a massive 10,000 words in eight days.
Anyone want to come to Bali?

Friday, March 14, 2014

Learning is for Life

The other day, someone made a comment that resonated within me. The exact words are gone now but the gist was 'Don't say you can't do something - the way to learn how to do it is to go ahead and do it.' This seemed revelatory to me but when I mentioned it to other people, they ALL confessed that is how they approached everything. It seems that I have been lacking in either self esteem or the courage to open myself to failure for a long time.

I joined the new branch of University of the Third Age two years ago, hoping to be able to hop on board for all sorts of learning experience's served up on a plate. Instead, here I am administering a website with an alien format, producing a newsletter, taking minutes and stacking chairs. I am learning, not just new computer skills but patience with myself and others and growing an appreciation of the different skills and qualities we have to offer each other and the amazing results that happen when we work together.

Squishing last years three hour hands on presentation into an hours talk for our local Living Smart course was a challenge that provoked me into inventing new ideas,  Googling madly for the latest research and organising a new box of tricks to show people, I learnt lots of new things, they did too and sustainability awareness spreads a little further.

Teaching provokes me to learn and the joy of discovering something new makes it a joy, not a job. It's got to be time to advertise some workshops...especially some I've never done before!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Raining leaves and garden treasure

The weather is starting to change, the quality of light in the mornings, a slight chill in the air but summer temperatures continue. We have had two mls of rain over the last  three months, high winds and the ever present threat of bush fires. Clouds of dead leaves are raining down from the marri trees on the neighbours fence line. In the garden, the deciduous trees are crispy around their edges and the orchard and most of the garden beds are sleeping, a mat of yellow hay and wood chip mulch waiting for rain. Tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers are all finished, the nights too cold for fruit set and the pumpkins are starting to ripen.

The food forest that usually comes up in the gaps in the paving is reduced to chicory and English dandelion - tap rooted perennials. If it wasn't for them, the chickens would be very short on green food. Fortunately, you can take every leaf off and they will sprout away again quite happily, as will comfrey.
Its a great time to be pulling out the summer crops, cleaning seed, planning for the winter vegetables and sowing a few greens in anticipation of rain.

The strange summer weather has suited some plants, the night flowering jasmine has been flowering non stop. In the evenings you can imagine yourself somewhere tropical quite easily even if you do need a jumper some nights.
.  One small rhizome of turmeric came to me from a friend after she divided her pot last autumn and together with my pot of galangal, has been treated like a baby all summer.

After two summers the galangal is ready for dividing and eating. Hand watering this morning I found that my turmeric has sent out a wonderful flower stalk. It was well into spring before there was any sign of life, two leaves all summer, then this lovely surprise!

While we are all concerned about global warming and extreme weather, lets not forget to enjoy the wonder and delight of the ever changing potential of nature to adapt.