Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Our 'green' day out

I'd been looking forward to it for weeks... and weeks.

Graeme's mum and dad drove down from Hervey Bay (15 hours north) to spend a few days with their three grandchildren – the boys' baby cousin was coming to visit from WA.

Luca and Kian were going to spend a lovely Saturday with Nan and Opa, while we were going to spend an even lovelier time... on our own.

I booked us on an organic gardening and cooking course, so it was half date, half a day of learning.

Gardening???? Me?

Well, I can't go on spending good money on rubbish fruit and veg from the shops – watery bland potatoes, plastic tomatoes, boring salad greens, giant root vegetables bred for size not flavour, not to mention the invisible layers of chemical sprays that they come with – nor can we afford to buy everything from our box scheme, so the answer is to grow our own.

We've had a lot of success in the past in our different houses in the UK, or shall I say Graeme has. Truth is, I've never been mad on getting my hands dirty. I hate bending down, I get a sore back. I don't like the fiddly jobs of pricking and thinning out seedlings (I once scattered an entire packet of sweet pea seeds in the ground because I didn't have the patience to do it properly). And don't get me started on weeding.

I'm an instant gratification kind of girl. Until now, I would have been blissfully happy for someone else to sow, dig and get dirty. And for that someone to come rushing in from my garden laden with beautiful bunches of herbs, juicy warm tomatoes, delicate courgette flowers and sweet carrots for me to use in the kitchen... All right, all right, they wouldn't have to pick it too.

When I say 'until now', I don't mean I've suddenly gone all green-fingered. It's just that with Luca madly keen on spending time with his snail and worm friends, I know this is something he'll love to take part in.

For me, cooking with kids and teaching them about good food and ingredients somehow falls short when you're piling cheap, mass-produced food into the supermarket trolley. Growing your own is just an extension of what happens in the kitchen. And when you have some space (we have very little), it's silly not to.

Anyhoo, the course was incredibly useful and very inspiring on the gardening front.

Adam McCall of Adam's Garden showed us how to create a garden bed using the 'no-dig' method that Sydney gardener Esther Dean came up with in the 1970s.

No digging. Now we're talking. This is my kind of gardening.

I'll do a separate post on no-dig gardening a bit later. The other really important thing Adam talked about, and rather obvious actually, is the soil. It's all in the soil.
We spent time pottering in Adam's garden picking whatever took our fancy and tasting as we went. Graeme and I probably asked far too many questions, but Adam's enthusiasm was infectious. His garden was an abundant mix of salads, brassicas, rhubarb, onions, herbs, potatoes, asparagus and even a banana tree. All growing in amongst each other as is the case with companion planting (something else we were taught).

The weeds were put to good use and piled here and there with hay to compost down and serve as another bed – the courgettes seemed very happy on this medium.

By the end of the day, Graeme and I were fired up. We learnt how to build a bed, how to layer the different materials, how to make weeds work for us, and why a worm farm is a marvellous thing.

Gardening aside,  it was a fab day with grown-ups in a lovely setting (let me just add that mums the world over will love and tolerate their children all the more if they are able to spend a little time away from them every now and again!). Beautiful food, all freshly picked of course, and an interesting mix of people.

Best of all, we discovered white mulberries. These creepy crawly-looking fruit give a wonderful burst of juice in the mouth. We had them in a pretty dessert at the end of our lovely meal.

White mulberries

For the first time ever, I feel I understand the basics. And I'm really excited.

I'm excited to be able to show Luca, and eventually Kian, how things grow, and I'm excited about growing food in plenty of sunshine.

We've already bought a worm farm. Luca now has over 1000 worms he 'feeds' every day. And he loves it. I'll post some pictures later of our worm café, as it's also known.

After a quick visit to a recycling yard, we had our hard wood and corrugated iron. Graeme and Luca got straight to work and by the next day, we they had built the first bed.

Next, we need to put all the layers in and then the exciting bit: off to Avoca market on Sunday to buy some seedlings from Michelle's stall (Green Thumb Organics).

Suddenly I'm very thankful for a house full of boys who like to get their hands dirty.

Here is one final picture from our day out. An old wheelbarrow looks the part as an edible garden. Adam's idea of slow food.


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