Gutter garden

8 01 2011

There’s something I’ve been meaning to show you. It’s pretty awesome.

Here’s a sneak peek.

A bunch of cress seedlings? you say. How is that exciting?

But wait. There’s more.

The gutter garden is here!

(Well, actually, it’s been here for about 6 weeks now).

It’s dreamy. Truly. I love it a very lot. It has cress, shungiku, chives, shiso, rocket and thyme in it. They all love it.

Here it is from the other end.

What’s that? You want one too? Well it’s super easy. Here is the recipe.


1 length of guttering

Appropriate amount of guttering attachment things


Green scourer pad



Potting mix

Water saving crystals

Slow release fertiliser

Sphagnum moss



1. Drill a few holes in one end of the gutter. This is where any excess water will drain out.

2. Attach the gutter to where it is going to go.

3. Put the scourer pad over the holes.

4. Put a layer of sand along the length of the gutter.

5. Put a layer of coir over the sand.

6. Sprinkle water saving crystals and fertiliser around.

7. Put a layer of potting mix on top.

8. Add seeds.

9. Put a layer of sphagnum moss (or another mulch).

10. Enjoy.

I don’t water it too much – mostly because we’ve been getting plenty of big fat rain coming in the verandah, which is keeping everything on the verandah moist. It’s lovely being able to wander on to the balcony and pick myself some greens for salad or whatever. I recommend it.



10 10 2010

I worked out a few years ago that I’m the kind of person who works best with savings accounts separated from my other money, and named for the thing I’m saving for. It seems really simple and obvious, but somehow doing that stops my brain from thinking that money could be spent on anything else apart from what the account is named. So I have “holiday”, and “wisdom teeth”, and “fabulous shoes”, and so on.

There’s also one called “slush”, which is for things that I want, but really can’t justify. Only a little trickle of cash makes its way into that one each pay, but it’s enough to allow me to get things like my beautiful zero japan crackle green teapot or the most snuggly pair of black ugg boots ever. And it stops me feeling like I’m living a completely frugal lifestyle, because that money is there for me to blow on things for no other reason than I want them. As a bonus, it makes me really be clear that I want a particular thing before I buy it, because it comes at the expense of other pretty things I could get. A good system, for me, and who knew it was so easy to mess with your own mind?

Anyway. The point of all this is that for the last little while (like, 8 months or so) I’ve had the slush account earmarked for a Le Creuset dutch oven. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t hung up on the brand, but in my searchings of the internets I had narrowed my wantings down to the Le Creuset in blue or the Staub in green. There is no reason to really own one of these – I can do most of the things it can do with either a saucepan or the slowcooker – and yet… and yet…

So, there I was, trickling little bits of cash into my slush fund and waiting for mid-2011, when I would have enough to buy one of these enamelled beauties. Dreaming of the day I could make cassoulet and no-knead bread and lamb shanks.

And then, through the machinations of the universe, one fell into my lap. Almost mint condition. In blue.  A year ahead of schedule.

So what do I do? Two things.

First, I put it in the cupboard and let it sit there for almost a month, as though I’m scared that if I use it, someone will come and take it away from me.

Second, I have a minor freakout about the slush fund. The money’s now freed up to be used for something else that I want, right? Wrong. That little mind trick is strong, I tells ya. Brain says, but that money’s for a dutch oven. FOR A DUTCH OVEN. ONLY FOR A DUTCH OVEN.

Not only does it take me a while to work out that I can spend it on something else, for a little while I can’t even think of anything else I want to spend it on.

I’m like a demented Jedi here.

But it’s okay. I’ve since realised the slush fund can sit there, being slushy, until the right thing comes along.

And I’m making a beef and guiness stew in it right now. So far, no ominous knocks at the door.

So all’s well that ends well.

Wild five corner fruit

27 06 2010

The lovely Duckherder often talks about ‘wild food‘, as in, fruit from trees that are growing along the roadside and don’t seem to belong to anyone.

I live in the city, so there’s not really an abundance of roadside fruit trees.

But there is the occasional fruit tree that is growing over the roadside. Or, maybe, the footpath.

Now, say a person were to walk often past a particular tree which grew fruit that is quite yummy but generally only when it’s picked close to ripe. What if that person happened to notice that more often than not, all of the fruit from that tree was left to fall on footpath and rot? Would it be a civic service to take steps to prevent that happening?

Or we could just say that I got these from the markets and no tall Architects with great reach were harmed in the process.

Reverting to type

10 04 2010

Living in a stoodio is all it’s cracked up to be – I love the efficiency and the economy of space it creates. Sharing this smallish space with another person means energy spent on cultivating congruence in lifestyle. I generally get up half to an hour earlier than the Architect. I spend that time tiptoeing around in half-light, trying to stop things making noise. At the other end of the day, I fall asleep while he watches tv or reads. It’s not a perfect system. Invariably, both of us are awake when we don’t want to be. I try to be quiet but with the kettle gurgling and clanking less than 10 metres from his sleeping head, it’s a losing battle. He turns down the volume more and more but loud ads and light flashes pull my eyes open.

So there’s energy spent on trying to match up, on living with it when it doesn’t match up, on understanding when it flares into actual annoyance.

When he’s away, I go to sleep when I want. I wake up and open all the blinds and turn the radio on. I lie diagonally across the bed. I listen to Ani DiFranco and PJ Harvey and Magic Dirt on repeat. I let washing up pile in the sink and leave things out on the bench. As I write this I can see the iron, the rice cooker, the desk fan and the sandwich toaster all forlornly wishing they were stowed away in their places. I leave my yoga mat on the floor and my clean clothes in a pile at the end of the bed.

Now here’s the important part. I can (and will) do all these things when there’s two of us here. But I try not to. I try to limit it. I’m not always succesful, but I do put energy into thinking about it.

When it’s just me, I luxuriate in not needing to be efficient and considerate. It lasts for an hour or two, or a day or two. I stretch out. I gorge on space and laziness. I imagine what it would be like if we had a place with two or three or four rooms and I never had to think about putting everything away as soon as possible to maximise the space. Where I would be able to sleep when I want and he would be able to wake up when he wanted. Where Stuff piled up until it became a battle to put it away. Where I went to bed alone and he woke up alone and I couldn’t talk to him from making dinner in the kitchen while he’s playing guitar in the bedroom.

And I think, distant. Stretched. Cluttered.

Part of the joy of living in this space is being considerate and efficient as an end in itself. As a thing to do for yourself. And sharing it with someone who thinks the same way and is willing to put that energy in too. The reason I get such pleasure out of these stolen solitary slovenly moments is exactly because they are few and far between. I get to re-realise that I live this way out of choice.

And I feel good. Like the way a stretch feels best once you’ve relaxed again.


2 01 2010

Here’s a project for the new year …

It’s about sustainable urban agriculture AND open source design.


(via popgadget)

The CSA experiment

16 12 2009

Just a quickie to tell Brisvegas locals about foodconnect, a community supported agriculture (CSA) mob who provide tasty organic food from the South-East corner to your door. Well, not actually to your door, but to the door of your city cousin located conveniently somewhere near you.

We tried a four-week subscription of the mixed mini box. I loved the taste and variety of the vegies – I had forgotten that even the humble carrot could be so very delicious, and it was interesting to see what was in the box each week. The weekly pickup was  a bit tricky for us, but that was due to some teething issues with our city cousin rather than anything to do with the way to overall system works. The cost ($30 a week for the mixed mini) was on par with what we’d spend at the markets and we don’t usually buy organic, so that was a bonus. And given that we’re out 3 or 4 nights a week, the amount was just right for dinners at home and lunches each day.

But really, the clincher is that the taste of the fruit and veg is just so good. It’s hard to overstate the difference between bland, rocksolid supermarket veg and these little morsels of deliciousness in the CSA box.

In the new year we’ll probably re-subscribe for a larger mixed box once a fortnight, topping up as needed with the occasional sneaky market trip. That should sort out the issue with the city cousin and keep us rolling in yummy, sustainable local produce for the forseeable future.

Mystery crop

25 10 2009

So I accidentally grew some cherry tomatoes.

I mentioned them here, in passing. Using my CSI-like skillz of deduction, I think what happened is this.

When I buy things, I get sucked into the possibility of the thing, sometimes more than the thing itself. So, a while back, maybe two years or so, I bought a packet of mixed seeds calling itself “Balcony Garden”. I want a balcony garden, I thought. How lovely, to walk out on the balcony and harvest myself a little lettuce, a little tomato, a little radish. So gardeny and convenient for us terrain-challenged types.

I planted the seeds in my biggest pot and watched little seedlings emerge, only to be slept on by the neighbour’s cat. I’m easily distracted, so after a few weeks of the seedling emerge/crush cycle, I gave up, turned the soil and planted garlic instead.

Then, one day much more recently, I bought a really nice pawpaw at the markets, and as is my wont, saved the seeds. One of my favorite foods is som tam (green pawpaw salad), but it’s a bitch to find green pawpaw when you don’t have your own tree. Simplest solution? Grow one (or two, a boy and a girl, for the flower sexing, ya know). I planted the seeds in my biggest pot and waited. Finally, some pawpaw seedlings emerged.

The pawpaw seedlings grew, and grew, and developed their little pawpaw leaves.

Pawpaw leaves oddly shaped like tomato leaves.

I eliminated the impossible (a burglar had broken in and planted tomatoes to mess with me; happens all the time with the remote control) and the improbable remained: I had managed to defy the laws of biology and have pawpaw seeds mutate spontaneously into tomatoes (pawmatoes? tomapaws?).

In the name of science, I decided to let them grow and see what happened.

Then, teeny little tomapaws appeared. How exciting is that first baby fruit on your plant? They look just like real ones, except that you made them (well, the plant did, but it’s your plant, so)! Amazing. Each day I watched those little pawmatoes, waiting for them to swell and grow big.

But then they just turned red. Without getting bigger.

So I ate them.

And they were delicious.

Tasted just like cherry tomatoes.

Which is when the vague memory of planting the balcony garden came back to me.

This week I decided to harvest the remaining pawmatoes and compost the rest. They were coming to the end of their run, by which I mostly mean that I didn’t get around to tying them to the stakes in any sort of proper fashion, so they were looking a bit raggedy and tumbledown.

Also I wanted to give some space to the little pawpaw seedlings coming up nicely beneath them.

A basket of pawmatoes