Displays of veg, ‘Woolly Pockets’, and Melbourne’s Sustainability Festival

The Sustainable Living Festival is on in Melbourne at the moment (http://www.slf.org.au/)  and a friend and I thought we’d check out a couple of the things going on as part of the festival.

This trip into Melbourne’s CBD was in part motivated by a marketer who made contact with me to see if I’d be interested in checking out some of her clients products.  These products – Woolly Pockets, were a feature of a carbon positive house which is on display in Melbourne’s city square.

I have to admit that the older I get, the more interested I get in good functional design. So the idea of a carbon positive house with ‘woolly pockets’ on its exterior was rather intriguing.  And this is it:

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The woolly pockets look like felt but are actually made from recycled plastics.  Designed for creating wall gardens, they are flexible pots with a wicking type watering system.  Aside from looking pretty they can also create a cooling effect inside a house if used, as above, on a sliding door.  Breeze on the wet pots cools the area inside.  Cool eh?

2015-02-09 10.42.34 (1280x848)While I loved that idea, for me the (almost) bigger attraction was that they looked great filled with herbs.  Imagine a whole wall of these things with plants cascading out of them.  Potentially very beautiful.

The same company also make these other more plastic looking wall pots (and yes that is the bedroom on the right of the photo).

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These were inside the carbon positive house.  Now I want a wall full for my kitchen (although I may need a skylight……and a new kitchen first).

The main reason I was so interested in wall pots is for my kid’s school.  There are some unsightly pillars and fences there that I think could do with a bit of living colour, and something like Woolly pockets could work really well.  (Hint, hint woolly pocket people).

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The other exhibit we looked at the Sustainable Living Festival was the Town Hall veggie patch.

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2015-02-09 10.52.40 (848x1280)These beautiful displays of veg are growing outside Melbourne’s Town Hall, and all in pots.  Although at first glance you would never realise.

These displays are created by loads of 15-20cm pots crammed together and with wooden edging attached.  This picture shows how they did it:

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Incredibly simple isn’t it?  But really effective.  The thing that amazed me most was the pot with 3 corn growing (and looking really healthy) in it.  I wonder what they use for fertiliser….

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Preserving Summer – Part 1 – Peaches in Fowlers Jars

I’m enjoying preserving at the moment.  Having a little bit of free time helps.  My youngest child has just started school and so I’ve gone from 15 child free hours a week, in which to cram in work, chores and a bit of blogging, to a wonderful 32.5 hours  a week.  Oh the luxury.  I can type that guilt free as, at the moment, he’s loving being a school boy.  Wooohoo!

Of course I should really find a ‘real’ job and have vaguely started looking but in the meantime I have been putting things in jars.

A friend (well actually two different friends) of mine have peach trees, and over the past couple of weeks the fruit has begun to ripen.  There’s no way they can use all the fruit so I have become a very grateful beneficiary.  Some of the fruit have become peach and plum jam (the plums were from my parent’s tree), some has become peach and chilli sauce, and some peach chutney but the best fruit I saved for bottling.

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My kids love bottled peaches, they will a whole jar in a single sitting, which quite frankly is pretty gross to watch.  Because they eat so many at once I want to limit the sugar a bit so I preserve them in either a super light sugar syrup, 1 cup sugar to 2 litres of water or occasionally in plain water.  I used sugar syrup for these as they were ever so slightly under ripe.

DSC_0135 (845x1280)I never peel the peaches I am preserving.  I find the process too time consuming and I don’t think the minimal textural difference  warrants it.  I also find that some peaches hold their shape better if you leave the skin on.  If you really want skin free peaches it generally comes off pretty easily when you take them out of the bottle.

These are freestone peaches, I love the colour and texture of the flesh where the stone has been – very pretty.

I bottle all my fruit in Fowlers bottles.  I bought a kit on eBay a couple of years ago and have really enjoyed using it.

You just put the fruit in jars, top with water, sugar syrup, or brine depending on what you are preserving, put the rubber sealing rings and lids on, clip them in place and into the water bath they go.  They emerge after an hour or two (there is a guide that explains the appropriate temperature and preserving time for each fruit or vegetable) ready for the shelf and the occasional proud glance.

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Now I just have to keep the kids away from them, at least until the fresh peach season is over.

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Monday Harvest – 9th February 2015

The summer is rolling on and my harvests have settled into a pleasant consistency,  with the garden regularly producing  tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, silverbeet and herbs.  As a result I haven’t posted harvest photos every week.  Here are the highlights from the last few:

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The chooks are behaving themselves and are continuing to lay.   1-2 eggs a day between the 3 of them which is enough for our needs and I don’t think is too bad given that they are almost 2 years old.

I am regularly harvesting baby carrots.  They are in a particularly shaded portion of the garden – I suspect with more sun they wouldn’t be ‘baby’ any more but the small size suits me (and the kids) fine.

I’m really enjoying eating basil at the moment, and I’ve put in a few new plants so I can continue to harvest as much as I like from the more mature ones.

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DSC_0085 (1280x848)The cucumbers seem to be producing lots at once and then none for a week, which isn’t so bad as I got to make my first batch of bread and butter pickles.

What is less good is that I have seen signs of rat damage on a few (half eaten one day, gone the next) fruit.

But summer is really all about the tomatoes isn’t it?

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After noticing the rats I’ve started picking the tomatoes a little on the green side, which means they are less photogenic, but after a few days no less edible.

In these photos you can see a big Grosse Lisse with a couple of Tigerella on the right, and a basket of smaller varieties: Black Cherry, Broad Ripple Currant, Principe Borghese and an unidentified cherry/apricot sized red tomato on the left.

All the tomato varieties have done at least reasonably well this year, although a few of the plants are now looking a little worse for wear.  We have had a bit of warmer weather this week and the Broad Ripple Currant and Grosse Lisse in particular seem to have suffered.  Black Cherry remains the healthiest plant and the only one which I (well…actually my father) intentionally grew from seed.  The others were either bought as seedlings or are volunteers.

I’ll finish with another basket of summer goodies, this one containing the first of the dried beans (well actually still a little bit green) that became a chorizo and bean stew.  They worked well and the mixture of varieties made for a nice range of textures.  The best though I think were the purple king and I plan to now grow these every year to use dried.

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For more harvests head over to Daphne’s.

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Contact details – Email address

Apologies to anyone who has tried to email me recently – there have been issues with my email account.  Liz@suburbantomato.com has now been fixed and is working normally.

Hope you’ve had a good weekend and come back tomorrow for a Monday Harvest post.

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‘Spicezee’ – A Nectarine X Plum

Last winter after the chooks attacked the garden for the umpteenth time I made a decision to segment the garden in two – the chooks would be allowed the free range in one section while I would grow most of my veg in the other.

This has worked reasonably well in the main, the chooks occasionally escape but mostly keep to their side.  The downside though is because they now have a smaller area they have done a lot more damage to it – as you can see there is very little grass left:

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The solution I decided was fruit trees – hopefully the chooks would fertilise them but most of their foliage would be too high up to be eaten.  I was going to buy trees plural but they are really quite expensive so I bought tree singular.

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And I didn’t even get to choose it – that pleasure belonged to by my eight year old daughter who was so excited by the idea of a nectarine plum cross that I couldn’t bear to disappoint her and buy an apple instead.

So this is a ‘Spicezee’ – awful name isn’t it?

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But a beautiful plant.  I love the purply red colour of the young leaves.  They turn greener as they age but they are still beautiful.

I also love that the chooks haven’t destroyed it.  It doesn’t seem to mind them scratching around beneath it and I’m sure their poo is doing it good.

But best of all are the beautiful fruit.

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We got about 10 this year which I know isn’t many but its young and hopefully has years of abundance to come.

I’m not sure where exactly the plum comes in because the fruit are pretty nectarine like, from the colour, to the shape, flavour and stone.

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The fruit also grow close to the branch like nectarines.  It doesn’t matter though because I love nectarines and these taste particularly good.  Especially straight from the tree…

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