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August 2017

Onion, Garlic and Leek

By Farm Gate StallOne Comment

The garlic is ready! It’s Australian, organic and it’s also our first time growing garlic! We’re so pleased it worked out, as we’d been told by a garlic grower that it can take 20 years to learn to grow garlic well.

I’m also pleased it worked out because the week that the garlic HAD to be planted (before the cooler weather set in), Rick fell ill with some sort of fever. Rick practically never gets sick, but there you go…right when the garlic had to go out, he was too weak to leave the house. So the task fell to me. And garlic is kind of particular about how it gets planted. Each bulb needs to be the right way up, and our Bazuka planters can’t do that. So I spent hours…and hours, planting out thousands of garlic bulbs by hand while Rick recovered.

It was such a relief to have all these beautiful successful bulbs harvested (thanks kids!) and know the effort was worthwhile. We’ve been impressed with the quality and flavour.

And leek! I love the delicate flavour of leek, and it’s all the more appreciated after waiting so long for the leek to mature. I could be wrong, but it seems like it’s been in the ground for over 6 months! Crazy. So good to finally get to eat the leek. We’re selling them at 3 for $3

These beauties are Trapea Long Red onions. Long alright…they grow a LONG way down into our soil. We had to harvest them with a shovel!

But it was worth it…onions were the one vegetable item I still was buying from the Sunday Markets, and now we have our own 🙂

Rick has recently been reading about the nutritional superiority of purple onions (I know the name mentioned red, but they’re really more of a purple), so he’s decided he doesn’t want to bother with white onions anymore. We’ve harvested them ‘green’ (not dried), so you can eat the greens as well as the onion itself, which we’ve been doing. They’re $3 for a bunch of about 4-5 (depending on size).

Anyway, that’s what’s new at Birdsong!

Another use for the Beeswax Wrap

By Farm Gate Stall2 Comments

Inspired by the SLT War on Waste Worskhop

So Saturday just gone was the SLT War On Waste workshop. It was big! Great to see so many people interested in what they can do for the environment and waste reduction.

Just before the workshop, Margy, the coordinator asked if I’d have something to give to the council reps who came to present on composting/recycling/worm farming as a thank you gift. Some homemade soaps were chosen, but when it came to wrapping them I thought “Hang on, it kind of seems backwards to have a war on waste workshop and then give a gift wrapped in paper that will be thrown out immediately after opening the gift!” There has to be an eco alternative.

At last months workshop, Margaret had briefly mentioned Furoshiki, a Japanese method of wrapping gifts, using fabric. Hmm, this trail of thought seemed promising. The thought came that it would be very possible to wrap the soaps in not just regular cloth, but homemade beeswax wraps. They would not only serve as wrapping, but also be able to be reused over and over as a food cover…or as gift wrap again!

And then my daughters helped me find something to tie a bow with…some pink wool we had in the craft box, which can also be reused.

And there’s some of the soaps that we wrapped.

Check out to see how we made the beeswax wraps. I played with a few methods before settling on this one.

While we’re on the waste topic, thank you so much to all your customers that bring boxes back to us, or BYO reusable bags (no condemnation to those who don’t! I know how hard it can be to remember to BYO bags etc!).

Where We’re At

By Market Garden3 Comments

Winter is definitely not as I originally pictured it for this year! When Rick first started the market garden he’d had the (fleeting) thought that maybe winter would be our off season when we work on other projects/jobs etc.

But then books started coming in the mail with titles like “The Winter Harvest Handbook.” About a year ago Rick had designed a new kitchen to replace our 1980’s one, which is starting to fall apart. When winter harvest books started arriving, it became apparent that a new kitchen wouldn’t be coming this winter! But that’s ok, there’s no rush and in the first year of a new business, taking a season off isn’t such a wise plan.

So throughout winter the planting continued. The harvesting continued. The veggies kept selling. And more and more ideas and projects sprung up, just like the seedlings in the garden.

One is the strawberry patch. We’ve planted three rows, 3 different varieties, all of which are long season. We’ve just started harvesting the odd few now, though it appears we’re competing with the local wildlife for them! Maybe one day there’ll be enough to sell, but with 6 strawberry loving children, don’t get your hopes up!

The herb patch also came this winter. What is that ugly white barrier, you say? I know it’s daggy, but the morning after hares invade and devour your whole coriander crop, your first thought is not on the aesthetics, but on how you can quickly protect what remains with what you have on hand! And it’s worked, so that’s something. Actually, the barrier may have been the second thought. First thought was that Rick’s got a lot of live target practice hopping around out there.

Anyway, the new crop of coriander is up, and safe 🙂

And this is the proposed tomato patch for this spring/summer. We’ve got a decent variety of colours and sizes coming in the tomato department this year. I’m so looking forward to it, because the surplus is what I make our tomato sauce, tomato paste, canned tomatoes and more out of. And it all has a much better flavour than the supermarket versions, as it’s come from homegrown tomatoes.

The trellis hasn’t gone up yet, but now that our supports have arrived that won’t be far off…especially as the tomatoes will need to get in the ground soon. Those seedlings are huge!

The other unexpected factor this winter has been the warm temps. Looks like our mulberry tree thinks it’s spring already. And we still have a few cherry tomatoes fruiting from last summer!

Working through the winter season has been a good thing after all…the second half of the market garden is almost full now. Rick’s a machine and prepares row after row each week (and then thinks he hasn’t achieved much)! We have our surprises and set backs, but over all this venture is turning out beautifully.

Korean Beef (a recipe for mizuna and kale!)

By RecipesNo Comments

Quick and Easy Weeknight Meal

We buy sides of beef, so end up with a lot of mince….and I’m certainly not complaining about that. The children love mince. Here is one of the recipes we go to for a quick weeknight meal that also uses up some of the glut of mince.

Korean Beef

1kg beef mince

1/2 bunch shallots or 1 red onion

1 Tbsp minced garlic

1 Tbsp minced ginger

1/2 cup soy sauce, or soy alternative like coconut aminos

1 Tbsp chili sauce (I used a homemade hot and sweet chili sauce, but use whatever gives you a heat level you like)

1 bunch kale, chopped

1 bag (around 200g) mizuna, chopped

  1. Saute your onion/shallots, ginger and garlic for a few minutes. Add your mince and cook until browned.
  2. While this is sauteing, get another fry pan going and saute your kale and mizuna in some butter or oil. Just get them wilted and then shut off the heat.
  3. Add the soy sauce and chili to your beef and gently simmer for 5-10 minutes
  4. Stir the greens into the beef and you’re ready to serve! We like to eat this with bone broth rice…you just cook your rice as normal, except you cook the rice in bone broth instead of water.

Introducing Mizuna

By Market GardenNo Comments

Ever tried mizuna? In this market gardening journey we’re discovering lots of veg that we previously either hadn’t heard of or hadn’t tried.

Ripe and part of our present produce list, is mizuna. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a lot like rocket, but I find it slightly more peppery than rocket.

Nutritionally, mizuna contains molybdenum, calcium, iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, zinc, and selenium, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K, folic acid, pyridoxine, thiamin and riboflavin.

And what do you do with it? Like rocket, it’s pretty versatile. Most often it’s used raw in salad mixes with leaves of more subtle flavours. But you can definitely be creative with this one. You can saute it alongside other greens as a side dish (Rick’s favourite use of it!), add it to soups, risottos, pasta dishes and stir frys.

It’s one of those plants that can be eaten at whatever stage you like too…you can sprout it, grow microgreens, or eat the baby mizuna leaves…or use the mature leaves (we’re harvesting the leaves when they’re mature).

So if you’re wanting to try something new, give mizuna a go!

Paper, Plastic or Cloth

By Nutrition4 Comments

Keeping Greens Fresher Longer

Keeping greens fresh…it can be an issue if you’re not growing them yourself, and therefore can’t pick them as you need them.

I’d been reading about cloth bags, made in Toowoomba too I think, from natural fibers that are said to keep greens fresher longer than plastic. This I had to try, especially as we’ve got a massive roll of natural linen just waiting to be converted into something creative!

Before I go any further, I will say that this experiment is not over. I’ve only tried one type of plant, and tried it in the coldest part of our fridge-the meat drawer (because the veggie drawer was full already!). To really know how effective this is, I’ll need to try other greens and in warmer areas of our fridge.

Here’s what we tested:

3 bags. One a plastic bag (with aeration holes), one a standard paper bag and one a 100% natural linen drawstring bag.

3 bunches of parsley picked at the same time and of roughly similar size and condition.

All the bags were sealed with a rubber band with the parsley inside, and placed in our meat drawer for 8 days. The meat drawer typically sits at 1.5 degrees C (I know this because Farmer Rick is also an engineer, and engineers do weird stuff like keeping thermometers in their fridge ‘just because’!!).

Today I pulled out the parsley and here’s what’s happened:

It’s a bit sad to see the parsley from the linen bag is actually the limpest and most lifeless. Bummer.

The paper bag was only slightly better.

The winner in this case was the aerated plastic bag! I’m not a plastic fan, so wasn’t thrilled with the result, but that’s how it goes in this case.

Hopefully sometime soon I’ll try again in a warmer area of the fridge, with other greens. And maybe for less than 8 days…that’s a long time to leave herbs in the fridge!

Has anyone else tried fabric bags for greens/herbs?