Monday, 22 August 2011

Kate's Vegie Group Story from 2010

We are a group of women who meet together every week to grow food. We have a roster and each week we go to a different woman’s house and work in her garden on whatever she wants us to do.

“Playgroup for adults” Beth calls it, “or maybe Playgroup for food growing Mums.”  Whatever the name it is simple, it works and we love it and so do our kids and our gardens.  Now it maybe the lashings of cake we get every Friday when we arrive, or perhaps its just that all the mums are outside with all the kids, but “gardening”, “veggie club” or the more inspired name we dreamt up one week over a bed of weeds “Food for Thought”, is the highlight of everyone’s week.

Just like a seed, the idea for our gardening group swirled around in the ether for quite a while before landing in just the right place with three Mums chatting in the playground at Macedon Primary School.  It then had to wait until the conditions were just right, it had to push to the front of the conversation at least three times before finally life emerged.  Someone again said “we should just do it” and instead of “yeah we should” the reply was “OK lets.  What day suits you?”  “Who wants to go first?”

And so the seed unfurled into a seedling.  We set some rules.  She who receives the labour provides the energy (otherwise known as cake).  Actually in terms of rules that’s about it.  Oh yeah, it’s all about food –making a chook run, moving compost, planting seeds, pruning fruit trees, harvesting, laying beds and planting herbs - are all in , but the rose garden, while possibly admired, is out of bounds. As far as possible we work on organic principles, learning as we go.  

For quite a while there was just the three of us which was lovely although the pressure to be available every Friday did build up so we thought about going fortnightly.  But then we got a few more women and you could safely take a week off, knowing you’d be covered.  Then a few more joined and a few more until we hit a peek of 10. 

At this stage we wondered whether we should close the doors, it can be quite a task being organised to feed and work such a wonderful resource, but it has naturally levelled out and it works well.  We can still have weeks of three and it’s rarely nine.

Some of us have small children who now, after three years of going to veggie club, know each other and really look forward to gardening.  My four year old is so keen if I mention I am going to do some gardening he gets very excited.  If I really meant I was just going to work in our garden, he bursts into tears.

We have a wide variety of experience in the group, from women who have never grown vegetables and didn’t have a garden before joining, to those with established gardens and several years’ experience.  We are curious, and research to find the answers to our musings.  We then share our discoveries.
It is an ancient idea of collaborative effort to produce food, not original at all, and as we have discovered, the benefits are far greater than the time and effort we put in. 

The benefits are huge.  Even when it’s not your day, you go home inspired and often spend the rest of the day happily in your own garden.  You nearly always come home with some seedlings or produce or seeds, we learn from seeing what is happening in each other gardens.  We are always gob smacked at how much rain Christine has measured with her rain gauge- she lives about 3km from town and gets heaps more rain than we do.   We connect to our environment,  to our food and what we eat and to the land we live in, and at the same time we build relationships and laugh.

Our group has grown into a little community, a place of belonging.  We invite each other to our events, we celebrate the solstices together and our partners and older school children all know each other.   We were very pleased to be able to encourage and support another group of women in a neighbouring town to start a similar group. and talking recently to one of them, their group is also a little place of gardening connection and solace.

It is a truly exciting day when you cook up a storm, set a bunch of tasks and watch as work that would’ve taken you all weekend by yourself is done in a morning and it seems to be with very little effort.

As far as we can tell this type of idea is not actively promoted anywhere else.   We have found a lot of information about community gardens, but we live in a community that has ample land and the benefits of a garden at your back door is streets ahead of the one down the road you have to visit.  We bring the community to the home garden.

The idea has the capacity to be flexible for different groups.  A Sunday morning group for workers, seasonal groups that don’t work through the cold winter months  or an after school groups with older kids in tow, are all possible.  It could work fortnightly or monthly, again depending on the needs of the group.

We have had dreams for our group.  The model we want to promote is one that builds in an aspect of philanthropy.  We are still talking through various options, but the aim is to provide our labour and expertise to help others less able and privileged than us.  We envisage doing this about four times a year.  It may be to an elderly person, who has the passion and commitment to vegetable gardening, but no longer has the capacity.  It may be to someone with a disability who is isolated who would like to grow food but doesn’t know where to start.  It might be a school garden.  Because we value relationship and community we are moving towards the concept of adopting a garden (rather than a one off ‘makeover’) working with them for a few years or until they have their own capacity.  We will see how this aspect develops.  

We have talked about writing magazine articles to spread the word and laugh about how we could make a radio program for out local radio station about growing food.  We have also discussed having education sessions to learn from experts about preserving food

As is fitting in such a group, our development and direction is very organic and a result of the influence of the people in it.

Swiss Italian Heritage Day Sun 30th October Lavandula

Our spring festival honours the Swiss Italian origin of this farm, and celebrates spring in the garden.
You can explore the Swiss Italian theme through a visit to the 1860s farmhouse, enjoy the joyful music of Marcello and Paulina, listen to Fay Thomson's stories, watch Boyd Thompson's slides of Ticino, or listen to readings from Maria Triaca's Amelia.
Under colourful fluttering flags from Biasca, you will enjoy la primavera festa by simply lolling on the grass, watching the farm animals and the little chicks on the lake, or walking in a beautiful garden taking time to notice the fresh growth of spring or to hear the small birds bustling through the nesting season.
Bring a rug, relax and breathe in the indescribable freshness of spring country air.
This year's La Primavera will be held 10.30am-5pm Sunday 30 October 2011(that'll give you plenty of time to get ready for the Festa's evening lantern parade & fireworks).
Entry $5 adults, $2 school-age children

I thought this could be  a great day to get all the vegie group families together for a bit of a party - we're a pretty huge group to fit into a house these days.

lavandula map

Saturday, 20 August 2011

August in Christine's garden

My time for vegie group again seemed to roll around really fast. The weather didn't look promising although the rain held off with the sun even peeking out around lunchtime!

Here are a few pics of what we got up to at my place yesterday:

Hard at work clearing the  beds in preparation for spring planting

The Footwear

Clearing out potatoes and digging over soil to receive summer crops in the coming weeks

Chitted potatoes from last year's harvests being planted out

Nice work, girls!

2 cups plain flour
4 tsp baking powder
2 tbs raw sugar
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups milk
2 tbs natural yoghurt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

Mix the wet ingredients together in a large bowl. Add the dry ingredients and whisk to combine. Allow to stand if there is time, around 10-20 minutes is fine. If not, don't worry. Cook in preheated waffle maker according to your maker's directions.
To re-heat later, toast on low setting and serve warm with your favourite topping/sauce.

Brownie recipe originally from HERE

Thanks for your help, ladies. As always it was a pleasure to have you here!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Recipes for treats served at Susan's House for vegie club, July 2011


Preparation Time
15 minutes
Cooking Time
100 minutes

Melted butter, to grease
2 oranges
3 eggs
215g (1 cup) caster sugar
300g (3 cups) almond meal
1 tsp gluten-free baking powder

Orange Syrup
1 orange
155g (3/4 cup) caster sugar

1.      Preheat oven to 170°C. Brush a round 22cm (base measurement) springform pan with melted butter to lightly grease. Line base with non-stick baking paper.
2.      Place the oranges in a saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil over medium heat. Cook for 15 minutes or until tender. Drain. Return to pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes (this will reduce the bitterness of the peel). Refresh under cold water. Drain. Coarsely chop oranges. Remove and discard any seeds.
3.      Place the orange in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth.
4.      Use an electric beater to whisk the eggs and sugar in a bowl until thick and pale. Add the orange, almond meal and baking powder and gently fold until just combined. Pour into prepared pan.
5.      Bake for 1 hour or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Set aside for 15 minutes to cool.
6.      Meanwhile, to make the orange syrup, use a zester to remove the rind from the orange. (Alternatively, use a vegetable peeler to peel the rind from orange. Use a small sharp knife to remove white pith. Cut rind into thin strips.) Juice orange.
7.      Place rind in a saucepan of boiling water and cook for 5 minutes or until soft. Drain. Return to pan with orange juice and sugar. Place over low heat and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until the sugar dissolves and the syrup thickens.
8.      Turn cake onto a serving plate. Use a skewer to gently prick the top. Spoon over syrup. Cut into wedges to serve.

SALTED SPICE CARAMEL SLICE (thanks Karen Martini!!)

Prep Time: 15min
Cooking Time: 30 min plus 4hrs chilling time

¾ cup plain flour
½ cup brown sugar
120g unsalted butter, chopped
½ tsp ground cinnamon

50g unsalted butter, chopped
¼ cup golden syrup
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 stick cinnamon
½ tsp ground cloves
1 Earl Grey tea bag
395g can condensed milk

220g dark chocolate
30g unsalted butter
1 tsp good-quality salt flakes

STEP 1 Preheat oven to 160’C. Line base of a 20cm springform tin with baking paper
STEP 2 Put flour, sugar, butter and cinnamon in a food processor and process until combined. Press mixture evenly into prepared pan. Smooth surface and bake for 14-16min or until lightly golden
STEP 3 To make filling, put butter, golden syrup, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and tea bag in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until butter has melted. Gradually bring to the boil and cook for 1min. Remove and discard tea bag.
STEP 4  Add condensed milk to pan and cook, stirring, for 2-3min or until mixture has thickened and slightly darkened. Remove cinnamon from pan and discard. Pour mixture over base. Bake for 8-10min or until bubbling and lightly golden. Remove from heat. Set aside to cool until caramel is firm.
STEP 5 To make topping, put chocolate and butter in a large heatproof bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water and heat until almost melted. Remove from heat, then stir until smooth. Spoon topping over filling, smoothing surface with back of spoon.
STEP 6 Sprinkle salt flakes over topping, then refrigerate for at least 4hrs or until set
STEP 7 Cut slice into thin wedges and serve

Vegie Visit July 2011

 Thanks Ladies for all your work in my garden. You thinned and replanted my seedlings, fertilised all my vegies and fruit with worm juice, weeded, tested my soil, then added just the right amount of sulphur to increase it’s acidity level. Not bad for a couple of hours work. All this and such good company. My garden, Emma,  and I all feel nurtured.

It's not all hard slog!!



Mulch has been removed to add sulphur to the soil. This will eventually be my "berrie" garden bed


Parsnips, radishes, turnips. Flowers at back to attract bees


Sorry Blueberries, you will need to wait a little longer until my soil is just right for you to be planted!

Mmm, this looks like a nice, safe place to burrow into


Monday, 18 July 2011

Lise's Garden

In the beginning........

The first crop
Creating the mandala

Mums hard at work
Yet another barrow of mulch
Vegie group kids    

Saturday, 2 July 2011


Lise's Fennel and Orange Salad

Here is the Fennel and Orange salad recipe which was requested after we had our end of term lunch at Catherine's house last Friday.


fennel   fine shredded
cabbage  fine shredded
green capsicum
orange zest
spring onion
roasted hazelnuts

Dressing ingredients:

olive oil
sesame oil
orange zest
balsamic vinegar
Dijon mustard
orange juice

This recipe has no exact measurements and is open to messing about with. Basically everything is finely shredded or chopped and then combined. The dressing is the basic two parts oil one part vinegar/juice and add everything else to taste. You could also add garlic and/or ginger to make it a bit more Asian. Have fun!


Thursday, 30 June 2011

Christine's garden

This is my fourth year in vegie group. I started coming along shortly after we moved to this area, not knowing many people and having a 4 year old who went to kindergarten on Fridays.
It quickly became a firm routine for me and I found myself anticipating the end of each week with quiet excitement. My 4 year old was also known to 'skip' kinder on occasions and come along with me to vegie group for a good dose of socialising, baked goodies and of course vegetables and soil.  The kids really do love it as much as the parents!

My garden was non existant when I had the group over for the first time. We planted a small 1m x 2m patch with some seedlings and spent the rest of the time drinking coffee and chatting! Since then it has grown to include half a dozen circular beds which I like to rotate chooks over to weed/fertilise and also a fenced off area with long traditional style beds. I much prefer the chook beds and the soil quality is 200% compared to what it was when we started. Last year saw the addition of a modest fruit tree area which was all thanks to vegie group! 

At the moment my garden is looking very bare with all of the 'bones' showing. I have been spending time this week collecting autumn leaves and putting a lot of my beds to sleep for the winter as we miss out on a lot of sun during this time of year due to large trees.

I look forward to sharing more updates when my turn for vegie group rolls around again and perhaps a recipe or two!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Kirsty's patch - in the beginning

Beth, Kate (L) and I started the vegie group after having one of those never ending meaningful chats at school pick up, where all great ideas take place. We all had young boys and wanted to get them together and also fulfil our love of gardening and desire to grow more of our own food.  The roster was pretty easy to construct back then, we decided to meet once a week at each others houses after dropping bigger kids at school. It wasn't looking like a sure thing in the early days, we even dabbled with the idea of meeting every second week when we were slogging it out in the dead of a cold winter.  You felt terribly guilty if you couldn't make it as two people doesn't make for much of a working bee.  We kept at it though, gradually growing in size as we kept telling others what we were up to.

Today we really fill a room and easily bowl over a big garden's work in a couple of hours, leaving plenty of time to eat cake and chat.  After a Friday I feel nourished in so many ways.  From chatting with dear caring friends, from having my hands in the earth, from seeing the delighted smiles on our children's faces, from watching a garden flourishing - my own or others and of course from eating delicious cake.  I learn so much from those around me and love sharing the seeds, cuttings and harvest.  I love doing the garden tour, seeing the changes in each others gardens over time and getting new ideas for my own. Vegie group is really the highlight of my week, my little boy cried when he discovered that going to school meant no more vegie group but still delights in the social network we have created and celebrations we share such as a bonfire for winter solstice.   I hope we continue for years to come and that we inspire others to create their own groups.
Out the front I have one fallow patch, one green manure patch and one compost patch - waiting patiently for September and the summer crops to come.  The compost patch contains silverbeet, rocket, and celery that all came up in my compost.  I have also planted peas to grow up the old corn stalks where the beans once grew.  My one productive patch contains onions, spinach, a variety of peas and broccolli.  I am still getting the odd chilli and broad bean but the tomatoes have finally finished - I made 8 jars of green and red tomato relish.

Abi has found the broccolli out the back and enjoys munching on it.

 The green manure is a mix of peas, oats and vetch - Diggers Autumn Mix - even the crop planted in May is going well. I have found the digging in bit hard work as the dug in plants keep resprouting - hopefully it will all be worthwhile.
fruiting spurs on cherry (I think)

fruiting spurs on pear

Have lots of fruit pruning to do - those upward growing branches just keep on returning

While the suns shining and Abi's sleeping think I'll try and get these in, do like a big leek even though the perennial leeks are abundant - could keep talking vegies all day but not as fun as growing them.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Tony the Tawny Frogmouth

By popular request

Susan's Garden

Melanie: Hi Susan, I see you have had a whole lot of bales delivered to your garden. I know you don't have a horse, what's going on?
Susan: They are for our new vegie garden
Melanie: Oh, a vegie gardener! You must come with me...
And, as they say, the rest is history.

Hi. I have been with the vegie group for a couple of years now.  Chats with friends, learning and sharing ideas for our vegie patches, children playing happily together (mostly!) , coffee, freshly baked cakes, and of course, working on our vegie patches together. Fridays have become the highlight of my week.
I would like to share a couple of photos from our family's vegie patch.
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