Monday, 9 September 2013

Junction Art Festival, Part 3!

The last event I went to was the Junction Arts Festival dog show and is the last in this series of post.  This is the first dog show I've ever been to, and it was hilarious. The cutest dog was judged by the cheering from audience, as well as a category for the most disobedient dog. Excellent MCing too and we all got so involved. It was as much about the owners as it was about their pets.

Why can't all dog shows be like this?

Thanks again To Chris Crerar and the Junction Arts Festival for making Photo Mob possible. I really hope to see it again next year, and that a new group of budding photographers will undergo this intense, adrenaline driven experience.

My only wish was that I had taken more photos of the food, and have stuck closer to the brief. During one of our mad rushes between events and hanging up photos, Chris said that photography is a constant disappointment -- that you can always do something better. Maybe that's why, just like gambling, photography is so addictive. For those rare few photos that works, and a lifetime of disappointment. Photography is not for the faint hearted! I should just stick to washing dishes and frying doughnuts.

Friday, 6 September 2013

Junction Art Festival, Part 2!

More photos from the festival. Watch Me Fall was a great act to watch. I got to go inside the Handle Bar (for those who don't know, it's a bikie's bar)! If you get a chance to see Action Hero's Watch Me Fall, I would highly recommend it.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Junction Art Festival

I'm spending a bit of time up in Launceston for the Junction Art Festival. I'm pretty jealous of Launceston for having such a great festival. Despite being its third year, it's the first time I've heard of it. If you can make it up north of the state this weekend, I would highly recommend checking out En Route.

This is an image heavy post, since I'm with the photo mob, taking snapping it up under the guidance of local photographer, Chris Crerar. Here's some of the photos so far.  It's heaps of fun, even though I'm sleeping in a old damp house and I'm so very tired.

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Wild wild west

I can't remember the last time I went to the West Coast of Tasmania, but apparently I did, when I was little, with both of my parents. This time, I went up with friends who needed some extra time for their learner's log book, and Strahan was about as far as we can go. It was beautiful even though it was rainy and windy. I think the foul weather made it the quintessential west coast experience: it was as I had imagined it, including a hail thunderstorm in the middle of the night. I must go for a few walks there before the end of winter. It's gorgeous.

I love that smells of damp forest so very much and I want to see more of it. Time to get out.

Monday, 17 June 2013


I love wontons, a lot. This is the stuff of my childhood. If bread is the benchmark for living cost, then wonton is the equivalent for me. My favourite variation is made with bok choi; a Shanghainese take on these bundles. I've been growing bok choi this year. All but a few have bolted during the dry spell last week, rendering the leaves tough and old. This is a great way to eat them.

I always make them with twice as much greens as you think you'll need, and just a small handful of pork mince.  Boil them for a few minutes and eat with a dash of soy and sesame oil. They'll go well in a good stock too, but depressingly, I used them all up last week.

There's nothing fancy about these wontons, but it's light and quick to make. The nostalgic factor is unbeatable.

What do you cook from your childhood? I think I'll be exploring more of this.

Sunday, 2 June 2013


Just a really quick post today! I've harvested these forgotten parsnips from the garden. I love the smell of freshly dug vegetable. It's heady, and addictive. I dug these up with my hands, delving deep into the black stuff, pulling them up gently and firmly.

It always makes me sad that so many people are frightened by dirt. A friend who once said they hated cleaning potatoes and would only buy bags of cleaned potatoes. There is really nothing to be frightened of. Once cleaned up in the sink (or in the garden), they are better than anything store bought. I've come to love soil, on my hands, under my nails and in my kitchen sink. It's a life affirming experience and makes you look at humble vegetables in a new light.

So get out there, and get your hands dirty. It's not frightening. it's exciting and rewarding.

Now, what delicious things should I cook with them?

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Getting ready for winter

I've found myself with a bit of spare time before work picks up again, so I've happily sending this bonus time in the garden. Despite the work I'm putting into my garden, it still looks rather haphazard and unwieldy though! Maybe that's why I love the idea of food forest so much; a space running amok with edibles and beneficials. I really have no idea what I'm doing though, and nature will takes its course regardless. For example, my strawberries. I love how I don't need to do anything with then, and they are still fruiting and sprouting runners! My dream of a strawberry field is slowly becoming a reality.

I'm experimenting with green manure this winter. My garden is pretty compacted, I've dug patches  that didn't get very far, and got blisters for my work instead! The amazing Suelyn, whose garden we visited on our pernaculture garden tour, suggested growing green manure will help to cultivate difficult soils. I sown some mystery green manure mix in a couple of garden beds and some buckwheat in another. I shall report in spring to let you know how it went.

My shungiku seedlings are finally growing up. I haven't eaten much of them, except a nibble or two while I garden. I want to toss them in some good stock, served simply with a bowl of rice. That would make a very satisfying meal. I can't really decide which to keep for seeds though. Both look so pretty and happy, I don't want to eat them!

I can't say the same for my other seedlings though. My kale and bok choi has been annihilated by something. It's either the cats, or the birds. I'm pretty sure it's not slugs (I can't see their telltale trails) and it's getting too cold for caterpillars. Instead of healthy plants, I have sad little stems poking up. All I can do is encourage them! Fight, my little seedlings, fight! Whatever it is, I hope they've had a good meal.

Recently, my mind was blown by the discovery of the compost turner (aka compost mate). I now have a steaming pile of compost, and the worms love with their warm home. There's enough worms to harvest worm to restart the worm farm! Just like that, the turner has paid for itself. My other mind blowing discovery is covering the worm farm with damp newspaper. It's like a blanket for them and keeps the light out. It's made a world of difference.

The lettuce seedlings are growing happily. It's common sense, but it never ceases to amaze me how plants thrive when you plant them at the right time. In another few months, there should be a good harvest.

As for fruit, let me introduce you to my single teeny tiny persimmon. I'm hoping some pruning will help next year. Fruit trees and I have never been the best of friends. They always seem to die on me :( Aren't they suppose to be Zone 2 plants?

My other plantings included some kale, crimson flower broadbeans, nasturtium, cornflowers, calendula (that's been trampled on by cats!), onions, globe artichokes and garlic. There's a few ideas about adding more garden beds, and grow grapes from cuttings for some summer shade.

I hope plant something every week, no matter how big or small, or whether it's edible or not. I'm sure every little bit of work will help to diversity this little patch, inching ever so slowly towards self sufficiency.

Friday, 3 May 2013

Milkwood Urban Permaculture Design

For the past two weeks I've been a busy bee, studying with the Milkwood folks, learning about urban permaculture designs. It was pretty intense and tiring at times, but it was so worth it.  We had access to a great set of teachers, who were not only intelligent and knowledgeable, but were also great communications of ideas. My fellow students were a great mix of people, fun and smart. We're already forming a little Hobart community, and that's just fabulous :)

I've come away with a renewed enthusiasm to tackle my garden. It doesn't matter if I don't stay here, someone will always benefit. There might not be swales, but I can already see grape vines and wicking beds on my balcony, sheet mulching on my fruit trees and comfrey in the garden. Oh, and chooks. Definitely some chooks.

Now that I'm gainfully unemployed, there's so much more time to explore permaculture!

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Autumn leaves

Some pretty pictures of autumn at Valleyfield. I'm quite taken with the secondhand (actually, third hand) 5D Mk II. It makes wonderfully rich images and I'm working with a full frame camera! I can't wait to spend more time with it and learn all of its quirks.

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Garden Wedding

Stacey from the Agrarian Kitchen just got married! The ceremony was held last Saturday at a private estate called Valleyfield in New Norfolk. The garden is just beautiful with grand old trees and immaculate lawns. This isn't normally opened to be public, but Sev managed to organise this especially for Stacey.

The weather looked gray and it rained as I drove to New Norfolk.  Luckily, the sky cleared just as the bride walked down the aisle.  Talk about timing!

I took some photos from the ceremony and reception, but I will keep them for new couple.  I am, however, going to share photos from the delicious afternoon tea that Rodney and Severine had organised.

There were so many great moments at the wedding, and thank you for sharing your special day with me. Congratulations again, Adam and Stacey and may your new life together be filled with love, and happiness :) xx

Friday, 12 April 2013

A new beginning


Yesterday was my last day at work and will not have to look at another bit of code for a while (*until I start another project in May).  There's a few exciting things on the horizon, like job searching and a lot of grown up decisions to make. 

I feel alive again :)

Saturday, 9 March 2013


What happened to this year?  It's March already and I'm pulling carrots and onions from the ground, to make room for autumn plants.  Excitingly, I have a few plants of shungiku from Provenance Growers.  It's one of my favourite veg.  It has a pretty strong bitter flavour that's great in soups and stock. 

Predictably, I have planted kale to ensure a steady background crop because they are prolific and are pretty indestructable.  I've gotten a few sprouting purple broccoli seedlings too.  There's also good old broccolis too, but who knows, I've never had one that forms a proper head.  I suspect, I am planting them too late.  We'll find out soon enough!

Are you ready for autumn?  It's my favourite time of the year. 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Macarons at the Agrarian Kitchen

A few weeks ago I went the Agrarian Kitchen for the macaron class.  I was especially looking forward to this, as I have a few of my friends coming to the class with me.  It was going to be a super-fun, sugar-filled day.  The class was taken by Alistair Wise from Sweet Envy.  You know those beautiful macarons sitting in the immaculate display in his shop?  We were taught that very recipe.  The one that took Alistair two years to perfect. YES!

The day began with a forage in the garden for herbs.  I wasn't able to make it because of work, so no photos of the gorgeous garden, I'm afraid...  But I did get there in the nick of time before the cooking began though.  Phew!

The recipe begins with sieving (a lot of) almond meal and icing sugar (hands kindly modelled by my friend Liz, and colleague Natalia!)

At first, I thought Alistair had a pet name for this sieve, calling it "Tammy".  But after some googling, it turns out this is a Tamis.  While you don't need to have a special gadget like this one, it does make life a lot easier.  

Once the dry ingredients are ready, we got started on the meringue.  Alistair has chosen to use the Italian meringue, as it's a bit more lenient with time.  It's pretty important when you're making thousands of shells in one go!  Eggwhites were separated while the sugar was melted over the stove.

At just the right time, eggwhites were whisked, and hot sugar was carefully poured into the now whipped eggwhites.  The mixture cooks and became glossy and stiff.

Then comes to the most difficult to explain part of the entire process, mixing the meringue with the dry ingredients.  I was amazed how vigorously Alistair was working the mixture and takes a bit of elbow grease to mix it properly.  The idea (although, I didn't do this in class) is to get to a consistency that drops back into the bowl when you lift a little of the mixture up.  Sounds easier said than done though :/

Once the mixture's made, it's time for pipping them out.  It's amazing watching Alistair pipe these out, so quickly and perfectly.  The tray is then tapped rather violently to remove any bubbles and flatten the mixture out. 

The shells were decorated with a bit of nifty toothbrush work, and they were ready to rest until dry.  We've decorated other shells we added coloured sugar crystals, while others we've added nuts.  We even got to play with awesome gold dust!  These were baked off and we slowly build a mountain of macaron shells.

While we waited, we also made some of the fillings, like raspberry jam and lime and mint marmalade.  I love the herb selection at the Agrarian Kitchen, and find Rodney has planted something new everytime I go there.  He has inspired me to grow my own and I've made a herb patch in my garden, using secondhand bricks.  It's small, but useful, and I don't think I can live without one now.

We also made a dessert called "Gabba Gabba Hey", which uses the macaron mixture, but stencilled rather than pipped.  Most of the air has been knocked out of it, and because it's so thin, it's baked into a crispy biscuit.  We've made two lots of ice creams to go into it: basic vanilla ice cream, and a morello cherry sorbet.  Ripped raspberry with the crunchy biscuit and cold ice cream.  It was  the highlight of the day for me.

We took a break from the cooking from the very warm kitchen and Rodney cooked us a lunch of grilled baby goat cutlets, with potatoes and salads (and no cucumbers in sight!)  I haven't had goat many time before, and none as simply cooked as this, and yet, this was by far my most delicious goat I've ever eaten.  Mmm... I think I will seek out more goats from now on. 

After our rest, it was back in the kitchen to assemble the final macarons.  The secret is to build a sturdy wall of buttercream to trap the jam.  The one below was my favourite macaron for the day, I think it had a cherry jam. 

Stacking on the second shell and the macaron is done!

I just have to include this for Liz.  Here are your anatomically correct macarons ;)

I had such a great day at this class, and have came away with so many tips about making macarons that are impossible to convey from reading a recipe.  I feel like I can attempt to make these at home again. 

Thank you for another great class, Alistair, Rodney and Severine!