Winter Garden

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From the excitement of settling snow so close to home last week, to the magical morning visits by Jack Frost over the past couple of days, our garden and entire local landscape has been experiencing an exciting, changing face. The nights and early mornings are icy cold but the days have been bursting with sunshine and colour.

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As I hustled the kids out the door for an early kinder start this morning, we found ourselves quite side tracked by our frozen garden, sparkling under the gradual rising of the sleepy sun.

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The garlic, leeks and cabbages are all coping quite well with the extremes, apart from a few hungry slugs or snails and a soccer ball here or there.

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The peas, though still growing, have been flattened by recent winds and rather than climbing up its legs and levels, appear to be snoozing at the base of our tee pee.

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The leaves of broccoli and cauliflower are staggering under the weight of the heavy frost but should perk up as they thaw out – much like the rest of us.

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The kids were absolutely delighted to see Jack Frost had signed his handy work on the back of my car.

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And as the afternoon cheered up, I took the boys for a walk around the neighbourhood. Set among the naked trees, stark and beautiful against blue skies, we noticed the gums, quintessentially Australian, still dressed in their slender leafy best.

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And my nose tickled as we passed by golden wattle blooms whispering “Spring is coming! Spring is coming!”

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Summer In The Garden

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Summer… Days and nights on end of intense heat, strong winds and not a drop of rain in sight. Last weekend, terrifying bush fires raged close by and much of the landscape driving into town has been completely blackened. Fortunately no lives were lost but properties and homes were destroyed and many local animals suffered and are now displaced.
It was the closest I’ve ever come to the threat of bush fires and despite being in quite a built up neighbourhood, we are surrounded by a lot of grass lands and paddocks and bone dry rolling hills. It certainly made me rethink the need for a fire plan and we packed our things and headed to my parents place, nearby but out of the apparent danger zone. Better to be safe than sorry! The sky has been thick with smoke all week which is a heavy reminder of what has happened nearby and of the fires still continuing to burn.
Despite the harsh weather conditions, my garden has held up quite well but it has required a fair amount of watering. The cherry tomatoes got a little battered by the winds but are still producing plenty of fruit so that’s good.
Cucumbers and zucchinis are coming by the dozen – at least 3 a day of each! We’ll be turning green soon! We have been giving a lot to friends, family and neighbours but still have bucket loads.
Beans and leafy greens are flourishing and I dug up the first of a few good potatoes last night.

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Lots of good things still to come though…
Sweet corn almost ready for harvest.

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Butternut squash going bezerk.

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Spaghetti squash -and lots of them! I’ve never eaten them or even seen them as they are not so common here in Oz but can’t wait to taste! How do I know they are ready to pick? Do I wait for the autumn frosts and the vines to wither as with the butternut squash?

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Capsicums and chillies aplenty.

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And nothing quite so joyful as a garden full of sunflowers…

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Garden Tour

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It’s been a long time since I’ve posted. For various reasons. Tonight however, I have seized a great opportunity to write. I find myself in the incredible position of being home alone for the first time in almost FIVE YEARS!!! My boys, 2 and 4.5 are having a sleepover at my mum’s and the hubby is out with some mates. I often spend nights up alone while the rest of the house is sleeping but that’s not the same as an empty house where there is no chance of any little footsteps creeping down the hall and wandering into our bed. Oh! Bed… Alone! No snoring husband, no restless four year old beside me and no 2 year old in the next room calling out for mummy at various intervals through the night. Imagine… Sleeping uninterrupted all night and waking at whatever time I like in the morning. Pure JOY!!!!!!
Anyway, I could paint my toenails, shave my legs and have a shower – with the door closed! But so far I’ve just spent some time in the garden and poured myself a wine.
My garden is flourishing at the moment despite a slow start this season due to three things.
1. Snails
2. A serious lack of sun and warmth
3. This guy…

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We thought he was so cute the first time we discovered him in our back yard. (my veggies are out the front) We found out that he belongs to our neighbours over the back fence and is apparently a “free range bunny,” that is, no cage/hutch.
This sounds all very lovely until he began escaping every day and eating my entire patch of seedlings. Well, whatever the snails hadn’t already demolished.
Lots of rain meant lots of snails and, the horror, black spot fungus! Between this and the rabbit, my garden was really struggling. I had to replant all of my cucumbers, all of my yellow button squash seedlings were eaten the minute they sprouted and my tomatoes were covered in blackspot. I was tempted just to pull them out and start again but decided to just cut them right back to almost nothing which turned out to be a great idea. They’re doing beautifully now that we’re finally getting some sun.
The snails I discussed with my local nursery lady and she suggested some pellets which are approved by the USDA for organic gardening. Apparently they are just iron based with nothing harmful going into the soil. These made a HUGE difference and finally my seedlings started to grow.
The rabbit also disappeared. No one seems to know how, where or why. Poor bunny, but glad my garden’s safe!
So anyway, here’s what’s happening…

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Lots of cherry tomatoes beginning to ripen. These pots have only just survived very strong winds as we live on the top of a hill. I’ve now anchored them to the blinds.

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Capsicums, growing slowly but surely. Tomatoes beginning to flower. Sunflowers, marigolds and zucchinis.

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Zucchinis growing before my eyes, have already picked about six beauties 🙂

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Some sweet little stepping stones from Aldi.

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Fuji apple tree going beautifully. Should probably think about netting this though.

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Garden seat, potato patch and bed with sprouting carrots, spinach and silver beet.

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Three fantastic cucumber plants, all bearing veggies though can’t remember which are continental and which are Lebanese. Pretty sure the ones pictured are continental. I didn’t have a lot of luck with cucumbers last year but this year they are much happier in a sunnier spot with marigolds at their feet.

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Lots of chillies. Eggplant seedlings also in this bed but only recently planted. Watermelon seedlings planted not long ago in the next bed too. Had to wait for room until all of the garlic and onions were harvested and the bed turned over.

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Garlic harvest.

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Yellow butter beans. Two out of four plants doing well.

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Green beans, although I’m a bit disappointed. I obviously didn’t buy climbing beans so not likely to curl themselves around the corn stalks as I had imagined. Oh well, any beans are still beans!

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Gorgeous corn, spaghetti squash and butternut squash.

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My lovely new garden arch, a christmas gift from my three sisters to mark the entrance of my “three sisters” garden bed! What should I plant to climb it? Something beautiful and colourful but not too heavily scented as it will send my hay fever nuts. Mum suggested happy wanderer. I like the sound of that 🙂

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Little hedge trees growing quickly. Can’t believe how much our garden has changed in just a couple of years.

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We put the front hedge in too. There was nothing but the weeping birch.
The herb garden beds below the front windows are still to come but a lack of time and money after Christmas have halted that temporarily.
Oh, lots of peas have sprouted all over the place from the pea straw too. Vey exciting ’cause hey, free peas! Are they the kind I shell or more like snow peas?
I love my garden, it is such a place of peace, change and joy. It’s hard not to feel inspired when you’re standing in there, surrounded by green goodness!
What’s happening in your garden?

Lets Get Planting! Part 2

After a lovely morning at the local farmers market and a trip to Aldi for a much coveted, little red trike…

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The rest of the day and this glorious sunshine was dedicated to my garden. Tomorrow is back to rain again so I wanted to get as much in the ground as possible.
I was also extremely lucky to have my sister drop in for a visit and between chats and a garden tour, she happily entertained her little nephews, leaving me free to get my hands dirty without stop-starting for drinks, snacks, hats and squabbles.

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I put some finishing touches on yesterday’s efforts; my three sisters garden. Sweet corn seeds in the centre, green beans and yellow butter bean seedlings in the next circle and in the area surrounding both, seeds for butternut pumpkin, spaghetti squash and small yellow button squash.
The idea is that the nitrogen rich beans will climb the corn stalks but as my seedlings (particularly the butter beans) are already advancing I thought I’d put some poles in for them to wrap themselves around just in case the corn is slow to start.

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In the next empty bed I planted cucumber, both Lebanese and continental, a variety of green and red chillies and some more marigolds.

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And I finished off by potting four advanced cherry tomato plants, each surrounded by basil at the base to help each other along.

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Four may seem excessive but honestly, my kids devour cherry tomatoes like lollies. Especially as they can harvest them themselves. And the basil… I just can’t wait to make more pesto!

Feeling very satisfied with what I’ve achieved in a few days. Just the herb beds to go and my summer garden will be complete! For now that is, of course, a garden is always a work in progress!

Now, if I can just convince C to mow the lawn and tidy the edges… A happy woman I’ll be 🙂

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Let’s get planting!

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The easiest and cheapest way to access delicious organic vegetables is, in my opinion, to grow them yourself. And it’s definitely the most mentally rewarding! We are so fortunate to have the space to grow quite a lot but you’d be amazed at what you can achieve in pots. If you’ve never had a veggie garden and feel daunted by the whole process, (as I did initially) start small. Even one large pot with a cherry tomato plant in the centre and some basil seedlings around its base can reap such rewards for you and your family. And it’ll set you back about $8 or $9. Such good value!!!
We are prone to frosts well into Spring where I live, so when it comes to getting our summer vegetables in the ground, the general rule of thumb is to wait until Melbourne Cup weekend. (1st weekend of November)
Finally today I got my hands in the earth and some dirt under my fingernails!
One bed is finished and filled with tomatoes, capsicums, (red, green and yellow) zucchinis and marigolds. Last year I planted all of these in one small garden bed – in a not very sunny spot but still managed to harvest quite a lot. This year, everything is well spaced and will receive all day full sunshine so I’m looking forward to bumper crops!
I also prepared another large bed for a three sisters garden and will hopefully get my sweet corn, beans and pumpkin in tomorrow or over the weekend.
And of course some cucumbers, herbs, cherry tomatoes, maybe some carrots, oh yes and the cheerful sunflowers! Exciting times ahead 🙂

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I’ve also been keeping a close eye on some cheeky snails in my garden. They’ve been munching at my little kale seedlings that I planted a couple of weeks ago – this did not make me very happy at all. They were the little darlings I grew from seeds in my miniature green houses.

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I’ve sprayed those since with something called Neem. It’s organic, from a tree and apparently 100% safe to use for pest control in organic gardening without harming people, animals, birds or bees. Sounds good hey? I’ll let you know if it works or if anyone else knows more about it, feel free to comment!
I’m all for animal well being and even happy to share a little silver beet, but these pesky buggers are just getting too greedy. When I find them now, I throw them over the hedge onto the nature strip. But mark my words, if any of them dare eat my almost ripe strawberries before I get a chance… I will think nothing of throwing them onto the road and into oncoming traffic!

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Sleepy Spring

The chill in the wind this morning is decidedly winterish but my garden tells a different story. Slowly, with sleepy stretching and yawning, leaves are unfurling and buds are beginning to wake and bloom.

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Cheerful daffodils smile and nod to greet me at the front door,

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The first of my beautiful tulips have shown their true colours,

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The strawberry pots are flowering,

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The weeping cherry is bursting into blossoms of joy

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And the branches of the small magnolia tree are capped with gorgeous deep pink buds. We planted this tree outside J’s bedroom window when he was a baby, of course making it J’s magnolia.
The fruit trees are showing signs of promise as well with tiny buds on the Granny Smith and Fuji apples and a shower of pink blossoms on the nectarine (maybe this year the parrots will let us eat some).
The broccoli and cauliflower are all pulled and half the leeks have been devoured in soups, pasta sauces, omelettes and rice dishes.

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The onions, garlic and cabbages are still in want of time and sun and the spinach is as generous as ever.

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The empty veggie beds lay ready in wait for for seeds to nourish and sun to bask in.
And for me? It’s still winter. Spring has opened few buds of motivation just yet and while one child is at kinder and the other napping, I am presently snuggled under the warmth of a “bob the builder” blanket, a hot cup of tea in one hand and a good book in wait for the other.

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Beginnings

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I’m Ren, a wife and stay at home mum of two boys: J, aged 4 and R, almost 2. Before nappies, mess and tickles I was a singer in a blues band, a cabaret performer, a waitress, a student and a high school art teacher.
More recently, I’ve become quite passionate about health and wellness. As a chain smoking 20 something, good health was never really a huge priority in my life but when I decided I’d like to grow a baby or two and stick around long enough to see them enjoy a richly nourished life, my focus shifted.
This continued when J was born as he was a very unsettled little bub, suffering badly from reflux and it took us three years of puzzling his problems (rashes, sleep disturbances, reflux) before we realised how sensitive he is to artificial additives in food.
My husband C has suffered life long chronic migraines and I have struggled with excess weight, depression, iron issues and sinus allergies for longer than I can remember.
So we started with food. We cut out heavily processed, packaged “foods,” refined sugars and carbohydrates, we planted a garden and began eating predominantly whole foods: loads of fresh fruit and veggies, ethically raised, good quality meats, healthy fats, nuts, seeds and smaller amounts of quality whole grains. And what a difference it makes! J was able to come off his reflux medication, C’s migraines have lessened in frequency and intensity, my sinus issues have improved immensely and we are now painfully aware if any artificial nasties have crept into the kids’ diet. That’s when the rashes come back and the tantrums turn up.
We’re so far from having “arrived” anywhere really and stumble and trip all the time but we all know the good stuff of life is embedded in the journey!
So all of these things have brought me here, to this blog. I love music, art, good food, education, my garden and happy children. I want to do better, I want wellness, balance, joy and contentment for myself, for my family and for you if you’re keen. Colourful days to come 🙂