Maison Bleue -seasonal activities at The Backyard Pharmacy

Tomatoes Maison BleueThis winter’s extreme cold would seem to be ushering in a summer that may break heat records in the planet’s hottest year on record to date. One of the benefits of mid 30 degree temperatures in September was an early start to tomato growing. Having successfully hot-housed tomatoes to avoid frosts and achieved early crops of Roma tomatoes last year, this year a new way to boost their pre-planting growth was their placement on a ledge of our double glazed north facing living room window. The results were spectacular with plants growing rapidly and two more varieties were added, plus pots of basil. With late frosts over, their planting out a few weeks ago has seen them establish in their new garden beds and fruiting already. One can never have too many tomatoes.

Our WWOOFer Vicki spent some spare time helping the major weeding and veggie bed refurbishing that preceded recent planting of multiple seeds and home grown lettuce seedlings in the warm soil. The benefit of growing large amount of seedlings is that thinning can allow for gifts and exchange with other gardeners – how many kale, mizuna, rocket, fenugreek and giant red mustard can you use?

Another part of the seasonal preparations was removal of the huge amount of nettles that were flourishing in the chookyard. Currently romanticised, the edible and highly nutritious nettle is undergoing a renaissance, mainstream acceptance being indicated by their presence on the menu at our local pub. I say romanticised as the bucket full I processed for eating, stripping leaves and blanching and steaming prior to making a hearty nettle pie ( see recipe), took quite a while and despite best efforts left my arms covered in nettle stings. Luckily we have dock growing and it provides a remedy. The remainder of the nettles removed were put in a barrel and topped with water and have broken down into a marvellous smelly nettle tea that is providing beneficial minerals to the veggie garden. Nettles have a long history as a herbal remedy for varied application from treatment of rheumatism to a traditional hair tonic. They are also high in protein, iron, beta carotene and Vitamin C. Once I’d removed them all, I was able to call on the help of the lawn care specialists I’d found at to come and give the grass a new lease of life. I’m determined to find ways in which I can use this too.

Five varieties of rubarb will also provide for swapping and gifts throughout summer, as we await the tomatoes. It will provide for experiments in preserving and fermenting to add to the repertoire at Maison Bleue as plans develop for workshops on preserving the bounty of the summer garden in 2016.

Maison Bleue tomato growing





By |November 11th, 2015|Categories: backyard food growing, Creating Environmental Outcomes, Growing Change, Local Community Food Initiatives, Maison Bleue|Comments Off on Maison Bleue -seasonal activities at The Backyard Pharmacy

Incredible Edible Bendigo


Since my January blog of 10 ideas for a more Edible Bendigo in 2015 the interest in all activities food related continues locally: the community is embracing a local food coalition, the Bendigo Regional Food Alliance; a Food Hub is being scoped, with the intent of improving access and affordability to fresh food while supporting local producers; and people are warming to the idea of growing more of their own produce in more places.

Inspired by Incredible Edible Todmorden in the UK, a community initiative that enables the whole Todmorden township to be enthusiastic about growing and campaigning for local food, Bendigo has been formally endorsed as Incredible Edible Bendigo. The focus is on free availability of food mainly, but from the food growing and related activities local community food enterprises can establish and flourish.

Here is an updated version of my 10 ideas for a more Edible Bendigo – a reminder of what is possible when the community is viewed through a food lens:


1. Vision

Contribute to the new Bendigo Regional Food Alliance, supporting local food and urban agriculture policies as they are formulated to ensure your favourite food system ideas and expertise are included

2. Champion
Start a local community food market that champions very local produce – separate from a larger Farmers Market, involving small scale and niche producers and people from the Bendigo community with something edible and homegrown to sell or swap plus bargain boxes of seasonal fruit and veg, maybe with recipes for their use

3. Participate
Work with a community group to start a weekly community lunch using rescued, donated, homegrown and gleaned fresh produce. Check out the Castlemaine Community Lunch

4. Advocate
Find out who else shares an idea you have around food production in Bendigo and advocate for change Eg. Why can’t our street trees be citrus trees? Wouldn’t it be great to have community orchards around the city? Have you heard of The Lemon Tree Project? or local ideas for a community food forest garden?

5. Value
Map our assets – infrastructure like kitchens in public buildings and trees producing fruit going to waste and get ideas going of what we could do with them. Check out this Harvest Group’s activities. Who wants to revitalise Bendigo’s Falling Fruit interactive web page?

6. Establish
Think about what sort of new ventures could be established that will enhance the food system in our local community? a food hub or a community food centre? Check out the Bendigo Food Hub Feasibility Study and distribution of the Open Food Network  and the brilliant Canadian Community Food Centres

7. Celebrate
Celebrate the diversity of food cultures in Bendigo with an annual event where we can learn food preparation ideas from our diverse citizens such as our Karen Community

8. Teach
Volunteer at the local primary or secondary school to grow fresh produce and share your experience with the students, such as the local Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation program at Eaglehawk Primary School

9. Invest
Invest funds in local community food initiatives and social enterprise startups, large and small, and where possible provide advice, mentoring and support. A new local social enterprise Growing Change has supported is Go and Grow Gardens

10. Reduce
Find out about composting to reduce waste going to landfill to create greenhouse gas emissions – 2015 is the International Year of Soils. Let’s have a Composters’ Composium – an event similar to one in Melbourne a couple of years back that was a smash hit. Think about reducing waste in general.

By |October 23rd, 2015|Categories: Growing Change|Comments Off on Incredible Edible Bendigo