Jamie and Rachel visited the Open Garden and wrote this lovely piece about it! Visit their blog and Facebook page to see some excellent photos and great text if you are interested in growing food. Take a look if you missed out on being at our recent open garden in person.
Don’t want to make you jealous but Joe just picked these figs and plums from the garden. I’ve been eating about 2 to 5 figs a day the last couple of weeks but I was gobsmacked to see all these. As those of you who visited would know we have nearly 50 fig trees with around 42 different kinds. Many people are unaware of the huge variety of figs: they can vary in colour, texture, flesh quality and certainly taste. So if you don’t like one you will probably find another that you do. Incomprehensible to us, figs are one fruit that many fruit lovers just don’t like usually citing the texture. You also may not know that the flesh on the inside is actually the flower of the fig which doesn’t blossom like most fruits.
I know I regularly say this, but we have a lot of new likers recently, please consider a fig tree when planning your garden. They are incredibly easy to grow, love our climate and thrive on neglect. All ours are pruned very hard in winter which keeps them to a manageable size, around two metres. I am sure many are put off by remembering massive 100 year old trees which took over the whole back yard. If you keep them pruned this won’t happen.
Another reason to grow them is that they are horrendously expensive to buy – if you can find them. One downside is that they are highly perishable and should be consumed as soon as possible after picking so they don’t store well. 24 hours is probably their limit and you can be sure the shop figs are older than that so you are paying big bucks for an inferior product.
So, no prize for guessing what dinner is tonight! I reckon for once there are more here that I could manage in one sitting, a very rare treat. A word of advice to those of you lucky enough to be in the situation of a figgy piggy: listen to your body which will tell you when you have had enough. Every year the RFS has a fig tasting field day where you can eat your fill but I always warn people about “fig mouth”. After a few you will find your tongue and lips get a bit sensitive, furry even. That’s the orange light to stop; if you don’t you might suffer actual pain. At my first fig tasting I kept going, such was my delight at having so many figs to try. Big mistake as I managed to take the skin off my lips which took over one painful week to heal. It’s not the figs themselves that do this but the white latex between the fruit and the skin. You can avoid this by scooping out the flesh with a teaspoon so your mouth doesn’t touch the white stuff – you can eat heaps more this way. Should you eat the skin? You can, some are tougher than others. I would not eat more than 2 or 3 skins as too many are a bit corrosive on western guts not used to so much fibre – you have been warned! A final tip: I usually cut them open before sinking my teeth in because occasionally they can be overripe and fermented which tastes gross, if in doubt take a sniff. Oh, and occasionally there are ants so it’s good to make sure you don’t get a formic acid dressing on the side.
Now, where are those figs….
Hard to believe there are only two weeks to go of the best time of the year. I guess time flies when you are having fun and winter drags on interminably because it is so revolting. The last week in Adelaide has delivered the most wonderful weather I could imagine; cloudless skies with temperatures in the low 30s. I wouldn’t complain if I woke up to that every day of my life, so long as it rained at night sometimes. Actually March is my very favourite month as, although technically autumn, it consistently turns out the sort of days we’ve had this week. Apart from a late peacharine and Golden Queen peaches, the stone fruits are done and what a yummy harvest it was this year. Except the cherries which the wretched birds managed to eat while still green despite double netting of the tree.
We are up to figs and grapes now, a sign that summer will soon be gone but nature saves the best till last. When asked what my favourite fruit is I find it hard to choose between figs and strawberries; the latter ushering summer in and the former a special treat as it ends. While we do have nearly 50 fig trees of about 45 different types, they are still young and not yet bearing enough fruit to be able to share. Besides, there are some enthusiastic fig munchers living here! For the last ten years a highlight of the RFS calendar has been the fig tasting at the Stevens fig orchard near Gawler. For the first time this has had to be cancelled due to a poor yield and an ant problem – very disappointing for those of us looking forward to the fig out. No doubt a result of our dry spring as they rely on rainfall only. So I will savour ours just that little bit more.
Grapes are another story! At the “crossroads” where the three gardens meet there is a wonderful grape arbour. These grapes have never been watered, fertilised or cared for but still they produce copious amounts each year. Last year I could not get rid of what was probably a 150kg crop. This year a little less but still plenty for everyone in a couple of weeks. They do have seeds which makes them less appealing for fussy people like me but the flavour is good. Watch the page to see when they are ready for collection.
In the meantime enjoy these last sunny weeks before the dismals hit us and the fruit gorging is drastically reduced. Always a taste of something nice in winter– persimmons, guava, citrus -but nothing can match the annual summer show.
Time to share a few secrets with you! A bit more was happening here than you knew about….
Firstly, thanks for all the sharing that happened with the Event post. Facebook is truly amazing for getting a message out there. By last weekend it had gone out to 23,000 computers! While I knew nothing like that number would rock up on the day, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see a couple of thousand. Did not want to tell you guys before the event in case the thought of such a big crowd put you off. I am by nature a very open and honest person – thanks Mum for the mustard on the tongue when I was three years old and told a lie, as you do – so it doesn’t sit right with me to withhold anything but it seemed discretion was wanted here to get the most people here.
Secondly, we almost did not make it with the preparation due to Joe’s work situation and my health issues. The garden wasn’t quite as tidy as in previous years but we figured we’d be forgiven as it’s a working urban farm and not just a pretty showpiece. However, without the help of some people in particular on the last day it would have been quite unacceptably messy. So special thanks to Paul who took time off work to spend several hours here putting massive amounts of prunings though our newly repaired mulcher and then came again on Saturday and Sunday to help. Paul met us for the first time the previous Sunday with the Permaculture group and has been an absolute godsend. David H dropped by on his way home from work and put in a couple of very heavy hours shifting things and general tidy. I seem to recall he’s done the same thing every year and as he’s a landscaper by trade, we can just let him loose and not worry. He also lent us his mulcher at one of the working bees while ours was being repaired and put another huge pile of branches through. And David P who came here originally on a RFS working bee came back on several occasions and worked incredibly hard. We were both so impressed and when I mentioned it to his wife she wasn’t surprised and said he was a machine. Also Charles, Joe’s friend of 50 years, took time away from an incredibly busy job to give some last minute help. There are of course many others who helped but these were there at the 11th hour. I know we say it every year but next time we won’t be leaving everything to the last minute!
Next, I had a stumble when I went to Vinnies to get an official collection box. There was a slight ramp to even out a floor that I did not see and I went crashing to the ground. Luckily, I managed not to connect with it but in the process I jarred both my shoulders very badly so had a lot of pain over the weekend and felt I needed my stick to make sure I did not trip again. It was good that you were all so lovely that I could enjoy the weekend but it would have been better without the hassle of that stupid incident.
And lastly, there were a couple of newborn “babies” sitting up in the grapevine in my back veranda. Yes, those white doves had been at it again and produced their seventh pair of twins in a year. Probably only hatched a couple of days ago, they were shielded by mother dove who sat placidly in the nest the whole time coming out to feed when the crowds went home.
This has been a behind the scenes peak at a very successful weekend at Joe’s Connected Garden. I should be more trusting that it will be all right on the day…
I’ve previously mentioned that the house next door is coming up for sale but it has been untouched for many months while the bank decided what to do. Lots of building noises coming across so that sale date should not be too many weeks away. Good sized block of land(around 800sqm from memory) and the house will scrub up quite well. And of course, you get to live next to us and be part of the gardens – only if you want to of course! Expected price range low $200,000s, depending of course how much they spend on the renovations. We really want one of you guys moving in and not an interstate investor buying the place. Will keep you posted!
We are really going to make an effort to update this blog more frequently since we realised that there are a few people actually reading it! Unfortunately, since it was set up two years ago Rosanne has had serious health issues and Joe some really heavy deadlines at work so it’s been very spasmodic. Enthused by the success of last weekend’s Open Garden, we will commit to coming here more often and developing this page along the lines we had previously planned. It’s been pointed out to us that there is a significant number of people who don’t like Facebook so we will duplicate some posts here and also write some longer entries. Please be patient with me as I find my way around this new program!
What a great weekend, so sorry it’s over now, we miss you already…after swearing all last week we would never do it again because the prep is just so hard. All absolutely worth it! What wonderful people gardeners are and it’s so good to meet people that I only knew here before. We wish there had been more time so we could have talked to more of you. Special thanks to all the helpers and our excellent guest speakers. Do let us know what you would like to see next time and constructive criticism is most welcome. If something isn’t working well, we often don’t know until someone points it out. On the whole, people looked pretty happy to be here and many said they felt inspired to go home and do something in their own gardens: that’s the best feedback we can get. We also had the Mayor of Playford, Glenn Docherty, say a few very kind words and today Nick Champion the Federal MP paid a visit, with an apology from local member Lee Odenwaller who is also a great supporter. It’s so good that these people are aware of what’s happening in their community and are enthusiastic supporters. The idyllic summer weather brought 635 paying guests to our gardens over the weekend so with children and helpers it would have been close to 850. Thank you all and stay in touch via Facebook or this page. I will be starting a Group as well this week which is a better format for questions and discussion.