Like a Child in a 'Secret Garden'... the not so Secret Northcote Community Garden

There is definitely something to be said about the importance of connecting with other people to form and feel a sense of  'community'.  Which I might ad, is a very real feeling, no fluffy let's pretend in my mind that I am part of something but a real feeling of being involved in something worthwhile, surrounded by like minded people for the greater good of all.  

Honestly I felt like a child in a 'Secret Garden' when we went to visit the lovely people of Northcote in their Community Garden.  They have about 15 plots and 20 or so members.  Each plot uniquely different and an expression of the gardener tending them.  Each has its own story to tell, wild, rambling, super organised others with little paths like a mini backyard... all beautiful.

Just over behind there, that fence.. there it is..

As I walked through the garden plots, looking eagerly at what everyone was growing I felt a real sense of 'care and connectedness' - somewhere to talk to people about all things vegetables and of course all things food, which for me was my original passion before being swept up into the world of bees.  No online forums or web advice, no fixed ideas other than 'growing naturally, organically, just like it should be'.  Just people, hands in the dirt... loved it. 

After meeting the guys at Northcote, it really drove home to me how important it is to connect with others and feel part of something, even just for an individuals own mental health.  Doing all you can by yourself is all very well but think what you could achieve if you felt that sense of connectedness with others.  Anything is possible!

We met Alistair, Ros, Marijka, Rebecca and Elizabeth on Sunday. Alistair and his partner Christine got in contact with us to talk about Bees for their garden.  Excited as anyone could imagine I would be combining bees and gardening - I was in, they wanted to get a hive and of course I wanted to give them one.  So it is happening (when we get some more bees) a free hive will be placed in their gardens and I can't wait!

I took down some seeds to donate to the garden to sow in punnets to get ready for the bees - though whilst we were there lots of bees happily foraging in amongst the gardens.. heaven. Marijka kindly gave me some sunflower seeds too to take home to plant.

Rudbeckia Marmalade - A dazzling display of huge yellow daisies to provide loads of pollen for the bees throughout summer and autumn.

Hyssop - This herb makes a fantastic low growing hedge. The bright blue flowers are a magnet for bees and butterflies.

 Sweet Mace - Fragrant leaves are reminiscent of a mix between tarragon and anise. Ideal for making herb vinegars or dry the leaves for a warming herbal brew. The long-lasting clusters of small yellow flowers are a magnet for bees. Also known as Mexican Tarragon.

At home though we have been extremely busy, I have managed to take some time clean up the green house to get some 60 seedlings going.

 Some Hyssop, Sweet Mace and Capsicums coming up in the greenhouse.

The Vegetable patch has Garlic a plenty, lots of Broad Beans, Sorrel, Chervil, Parsley, Rocket, Snow Peas, Leeks, French Shallots, Red Onion, Broccoli and various Lettuces at the moment.

And some beautiful Crimson Broad Beans

Sorrel... all I want is Sorrel

I've been pretty excited since I discovered the lovely Sorrel.  I think I had heard of it but I certainly had never tasted it before.  We went to visit some friends over Easter at Kyneton, I know Easter how long ago does it feel?  Our Bee Project Melbourne City Rooftop Honey has been flat out, but I still manage to find the time to detach from all the craziness around me to find peace in the garden, hands in the dirt... good for the soul.

Anyways if you have ever tasted Sorrel, to me it tastes just like Spinach leaves which have have Lemon juice poured on to it. I love anything lemon so I instantly fell in love with it.  Sorrel, is a perennial herb that is cultivated as a garden herb or leaf vegetable.  Sorrel has been cultivated for centuries. The leaves may be puréed in soups and sauces or added to salads; Some say they have a flavour that is similar to kiwifruit or sour wild strawberries but I think lemon.  The Greeks use it in Spanakopita - perfect with Spinach.  So I took a bit of the roots and planted it quickly in the patch - one month later it is still alive.  I hope it lasts the winter!

 Sorrel - this is the plant I took some roots from to see how it takes

Just over the fence next door I have been admiring a lovely Olive Tree in fruit. I know the owners are not gardeners so I knocked on the door and asked if I could do something with them in return sharing them.  Here is the recipe I used from the latest Diggers Club issue.

Olives in Green Brine
- 100gm of sea salt per litre of water
- 1 clove of garlic
- a slice of lemon

Place green olives in a jar, ass the garlic and top with a slice of lemon.  Bring the water/salt mix to boiling point.  Pour over the olives and ensure you have completely comvered them.  Seal and allow to stand.  Leave for 6 months before opening. (When you do open the jar, the brine will froth - this is normal).

  Green Olives in Brine - We'll see how they go, I hope they are yummy.

In the patch I have planted out a whole heap of Broad Beans, Peas, Garlic, Beets, Shallots, Leeks and salad leaves.  To my amazment my Golden Zucchini is still throwing out little babies which are just so tasty.  I can't believe it is still alive, thankfully it is protected from most of the frost but I just can't pull it out when it is being so fruitful.   

 Baby Golden Zucchini still fruiting

The Most Delicious Honey Ice-Cream

We have been soo busy with our honey share project of late but we have still found..... well make time for some pleasures in life.  Revolving around Honey of course we have set going some Honey and Apple Cider, Honey Ale, Mead as well as the most amazing Ice-Cream.  All made at home, and all awesome!

Delicious Honey Ice-Cream
  • 6 organic egg yolks
  • 1 cup of Honey (light in flavour - pref our honey of course!)
  • 600ml of organic full cream milk
  • 300ml of double cream
  • Ice Cream Maker or you can hand churn if you like
  •  Combine the eggs yolks and honey in a mixing bowl and whisk (2-3mins to combine well)
  • Heat the milk very slowly in a saucepan until it just starts to simmer (i.e. the edges will start to bubble – careful, do not boil the milk as it could separate or curdle)
  • Add the egg/honey mixture to the simmering milk and stir continuously until the mixture thickens and coats the back of your spoon – keeping the temperature @ simmer
  • Immediately remove from heat, strain and leave to cool
  • Once cool, mix in cream
  • Pour into Ice-Cream maker and churn for 35 minutes (or as per machine instructions)
  • Place into an container and put into the freezer
If using the hand method.  Place into an ice-cream container, place in the freezer and aerate with a fork every half hour for 2 hours then allow to freeze

The first cut is the deepest... First time honey extracting

I know I know... my blogging has been shall I say... a long time in between drinks.  Lately though our life and energy has been invested into our Honey Share, Beekeeping Project which has taken off.  It is amazing to see how wonderfully supportive the community has been.  We now have a list of 45 businesses and individuals wanting to adopt a hive as well as lots of media attention.  The Herald Sun, The Age, ABC News and Radio talk back shows have all been in contact with us wanting to do a story.

We've also received a wonderful $1000 grant from the Awesome Foundation which went straight towards purchasing our much needed honey extractor.  See our pictures from our first extraction! So besides tending to our 18 hives around Melbourne our garden is still producing lots of wonderful fruit and vegetables.  The weather as we all know has been a tad... topsy turby with one day 40 degrees then the next 20 - our poor tomatoes have taken a battering with all this heat and then rain.  On the upside, I have never seen such big zucchini and cucumbers!

Corn in the making!

Yay my first Watermelon

 Giant Zucchini

 Lebanese Cucumbers

We have rock melons and water melons growing in the greenhouse which I am super chuffed, seeing that I have never grown one before in my life.  I've also put in a second lot of corn which has been growing like crazy with all this heat and rain.

Our highlight though is of course associated with our Bees - our first honey extraction! Mat and I were so excited to un cap those first few frames to extract that delicious golden nectar we call honey.  What a gift from our own backyard. See our pictures from our first extraction!


Oh Honey... ahhh Sugar Sugar

Honey is here, we have taken our first frame of honey from our hive this week! Both of us have been living, breathing, working, tending, caring for Bees.  We have collected swarms from Couches, Rooftops, Chester Draws as well as Compost Bins. Our project is growing rapidly and we can't seem to keep up with the number of bees that need re-homing.  Last I wrote we were up to 6 hives, now we are steadily looking to well 12 hives!

Adrian Richardson - Mr Ready, Steady, Cook from La Luna Bistro in Carlton has jumped on board which is awesome - it is nice to have people participate, people who share a similar 'keep it local' philosophy we admire.  We also placed a hive at a wonderful Organic Bakery in Fitzroy call Fatto A Mano - much to my delight they do a whole heap of Gluten Free Goodies, so our visits to tend to our bees will also involve a tasty baked treat for me!  Thank you Universe for our paths crossing each other :)

Our first frame of almost 100% capped honey ready to go!

Close up of honey comb - this is uncapped honey

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