Friday, December 17, 2021

Works of Helen in Dennis’s garden.

 I have been in wheelchair or frame for almost a year and a half. I am indebted to Helen with her wild creativity abilities in the garden, for creating such edible beauty now in my backyard from the basics I had laid out. The photos are in random order, from iPad. I wanted to make a movie but there was a mower next door  movie later! Tap on any image to enlarge all.

Monday, April 13, 2020

It's important to be able to entertain oneself

Dennis's garden March 2020

This quote from a web page of mine long ago.

Thus, here, mainly as the eye falls. Click on photos to enlarge.

We thought we had lost this orange tree in January. Skeletal, bare.
It has recovered and just as the most weary looking cows provide the finest children, its crop is excellent.

The guava bushes never showed weakness in the drought, but a little slow to fruit
The library has since been closed for the virus season. Just when it was becoming very active.
A great mystery, in that, invisible from the house, we have seen few of the borrowers arriving and departing.
At the end of December we (mainly Helen) used the battery powered mower to round up and crush leaf litter,
against the possibility of burning embers flying in from fires (greatest danger 31 December).
Added water, wrapped in a rug to cook down and moulder.
Now lower in height, massive amount of deployable mulch.
The difference between mulch and compost is that mulch with high carbon content inhibits growth
whereas compost with higher nitrogen content promotes growth...
at least for the time immediately after deployment. In time the mulch breaks down too.

March, Dennis' garden. And underpinnings.

this is the day on which the text at the top was introduced...


I Dennis, at 76, am limited in things I can do these days.

Helen, a creature of passionate gardening, determined about aesthetics and productivity, has begun some tidying of my garden, which like Helen's garden is more than a decade into its maturation. And having ceased full-time work in November 2019, Helen has put huge energy into our gardens as well as into our private lives more generally. We are happy together, which is very useful isolated in pandemic. I am able to do some light work and we are good at thinking and planning together. I bring from the 1990s my permaculture designer's certificate training and my brief time building a small orchard and securing its organic certification.

In many ways our gardens are now at climax. But any notions that permaculture involves a decline in work, just avoiding falling fruit, is far from the reality of fascinating observation, contemplation, observation, discussion, intervention, observation, correction, experimentation, observation... Helping the garden find its way forward, with exhilaration.

We are very fortunate. Fortunate to have each other, fortunate to have the comfort and rewards of this permaculture environment in a regional town in which at my age I am not supposed to go out, and Helen must also limit outside activities because of COVID-19 risks.

When we say permaculture we refer not just cute massing of edibles in nifty maybe magical gardens as some have betrayed the hard concepts... but thinking about permanent agriculture AND permanent culture. The term permaculture was coined by David Homgren in his doctoral thesis at the University of Tasmania in the 1970s, supervised by Bill Mollison. Mollison became the campaigning public face of permaculture; Homgren a more private, intense, intellectual example of applied permaculture in whole-of-life.

I note that this Australian, now global, concept of permaculture is about sustainable living. I note also that the term 'sustainability' did not enter language with its present meaning until 1987 with the publication of the Brundtland Report Our Common Future by the United Nations. Permaculture tends to occupy a slightly off-centre place in sustainability discussions because of its private not public sponsorship and the tendency of some proponents to live at the bottom of the garden with fairies. While, alas, the term sustainable has been largely obliterated of meaning with theft of the term for so many other purposes. I am sure that in this moment as I write someone is writing a paper on sustainability of the sex industry in the era of physical separation obligations because of the 'virus'. Search the web and youtube in particular for 'permaculture'. Its serious and a great focus in difficult times.

This COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences have followed a succession of natural stressors for us.

2019 was a period of savage drought in much of eastern Australia, including our gardens, mine in Nowra more than Helen's in Gerringong because of slight temperature and humidity difference and dramatically different soil quality. Helen's garden sloping volcanic origin clay and developed soils. Dennis's garden flat, former dairy pasture clapped out by superphosphate use and tramping heavy animals, with just a scraping of tired soil above tens of metres of fast-draining sandstone and conglomerate, needing in the best of times nurturing with mulches and development of soil humus.

Then in the beginning of December 2019 this corner of Australia caught fire. Forests burned in unprecedented ways because trees and soil were bone dry as regards water, the predominant eucalyptus trees loaded with eucalyptus oil. Advancing fire fronts gobbled a fuel-air explosive mixture and match-stick dry timber. Fire came within ten km of Dennis's house and destroyed a house and organic orchard Dennis built some way south two decades ago and sold to nice people in 2013. The air was filled with smoke and leaf fragments and dust for weeks.

In January 2020 the fires were put out by flooding rain. The flooding especially of Dennis's garden achieved resuscitation and restoration of the water table, also washing in a load of potash and carbon and more by way of growth promotants blown in from the fires.

So in the moment of the arrival the of SARSCov.19 virus and its disease COVID-19 we had gone through fierce phases arriving at a basis of garden health and abundance. With which to stay home...

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Buckwheat pancakes with home grown zucchini

We are in no way self sufficient from our garden but we are pleased with its abundance of herbs and in this season a good supply of zucchini, from just two plants.

Zucchini can be wet and dull, but these very fresh picked fruit can do many things.

Two weeks ago I cooked pancakes... gluggy and dull, using using ordinary wheat flour. It's difficult in this country town to find buckwheat flour.

So I went online and found this product. Ordered Sunday night, delivered to the door Wednesday.

a brochure inside encouraged me to send in a buckwheat flour recipe; I sent a technique... for buckwheat pancakes.

In reply I was asked to send a photo next time I made the pancakes. I have just made, we have just eaten, buckwheat pancakes with zucchini medley. 

I find recipes, in their encouragement to precise measurement, distracting from understanding ingredients. And in this case I was using this buckwheat flour, which looked superbly fresh, for the first time. You need to work the ingredients to know how much. You need to proceed with a process or technique to bring things together.


I use a banana in making buckwheat pancake batter, no other sugar, and a subtle flavour builder.

It was not my intention to create a poodle from a mashed banana, it just happened
The banana and eggs into a bowl

I recommend at least one egg per person. In this case a batter with three provided enough for a hearty breakfast for two, with a bit of batter left for later, or as a sour dough for next time.

I add flour gently bit by bit until the batter is very stiff, hanging on the fork.

and then add milk, bit by bit, to avoid lumps (apart from bits of banana)

...running off the spatula. 

Buckwheat flour needs time to open and absorb moisture, less in this case because it's a quality fresh product. I leave it overnight, during which time it matures and may ferment a little, bubbles forming. 

Here it is sitting, covered, on the stovetop for convenience. NOT for cooking in that bowl.

In the morning the batter was a bit stiffer, as I expected. I had intended to add a little baking powder but lacking that I added some self-raising flour as we do not have a major gluten problem. ... And then added milk slowly to get a consistency that suited me. Heavier for this project, thinner if you want crepes.



You have to check your zucchini crop every day as they grow so swiftly.
This one after hot day starting to swell.
It's also courteous to focus the camera properly before zucchine sacrifice
Slice down the middle and then cut the two halves so you have roughly 60 degree shaped lengths.
Then chop this way and that to make irregular shapes, which seems to reduce the prospect of burning one side.

Into the pan with a little coconut oil, because you don't want an oily taste and because coconut oil is almost entirely a medium chain triglyceride and has considerable health value.  A little pepper added.

Tearless onion chopping. Peel the onion. Cut down vertically with parallel cuts, but not through the bottom. Hold the onion together. Turn the onion and make same cuts at 90 degrees to first cuts. You may be able to see this more clearly by enlarging this photo, click on photos to enlarge. 

Then rotate the onion so the logs you've made are horizontal, and chop.

Meanwhile you've been tossing the zucchine in the pan. Now you can add the onion. Don't put the onion in when you first put the zucchine in, the onion will go under the zucchine and burn.

And now the secret ingredient: peel and seed and chop.

Chop up a bit of nutmeg to add

Wait till the onion has turned clear, tossing the pan as you go, and add the pear and nutmeg
... making sure the nutmeg is distributed.

The zucchine and pear release moisture. Keep the heat such as to cook and reduce the moisture. Do not let it brown hard and burn and don't have the heat so slow that it goes gluggy. Don't overcook it. You want tender little chunks not mush.

You should be heating plates now!!

Melt butter and coconut oil in the large pan you will use for making the pancakes.
See below for method before you gasp.

You need a bowl alongside. Before the first pancake and then after each pancake is removed from the pan, you rinse and moisten the pan with the butter/coconut oil.

Beware of using only coconut oil if you are not using a non-stick pan, Coconut oil on its own may make stuff stick to the pain, being a medium chain fatty acid. For perspective note that vinegar is a short chain fatty acid.

Stack pancakes and mix on hot plate

We added some shaved ham. If you wish to avoid meat,  consider a small number of capers, capsicum, etc, to add some sharpness. Three hearty pancakes, two layers of filling.

We served it with yoghurt. It happened to be vanilla flavoured, plain would be better.
You may have other ideas.

Ralph aka Captain Hoover took up station to tidy any fallout but on this occasion had to wait for tiny crumbs added to his kibble.

....and so full circle, as we look across the table and out the window at the garden from whence came the zucchine....

and looking out there we should have said before we ate, as one says in Japan:
"thank you food": itadakimasu.