In the few days between workshops, we spend a day in the garden with Our Lovely Wwoofing Friend Kate. She is a good worker and keeps us going all day. She is full of energy and good ideas. No slacking off with Kate in charge. The two Lovelies go down to the pottery and make some 50 odd ceramic buttons for kiln building and repair work, while I take the truck down to the mushroom farm to get a load of spent mushroom compost to spread around the fruit trees and various vegetable plots so as to stifle weed growth. It works as a great mulch and weed suppressor, while it also has some fertilising effect as well. Best of all it’s cheap! Most plants seem to thrive with it around them. It is a little bit alkaline, so I don’t use it on any of the acid dependant plants like blueberries.
Janine harvests a couple of small rows of potatoes, left over from the late summer. With what we already have in store, this will be enough to see us through to the end of winter. She cleans them and dries them in the sun before she packs them away in a dark place.
I’m back late morning and we clean out a few garden beds of frosted and dead late-autumn stragglers, like chillies and capsicums. Kate strips off all the freeze dried chillies. We thread some of them and hang them in the kitchen. These will keep us going till next summer, when the next crop will be ready.
We’re ready for an early lunch. I cook stir-fried, green, leafy vegetables from the garden, 10th pick micro broccoli and firm tofu, fresh ginger and coarsely crushed and chopped, end of season garlic that has been hanging in the kitchen ceiling since Oct/Nov. It’s a little dry, so I add a slosh of white cooking wine from the fridge and a spoonful of garlic/chilli/tomato puree. It’s fresh, crisp and warming. While I am busy doing this, the girls are de-stemming very large mustard leaves and rubbing them with a little oil to make green leafy crisps that they bake quickly in the oven. They are fresh and crispy, but with a little bit of salt to spark them up a bit. They just melt in your mouth, they are so fine and delicate. Totally ephemeral, but delicious as an amuse before a meal.
After lunch, we clean out a few garden beds ready for mulching. We start with the herb row. The thyme has grown out into the path and abandoned growing in the garden bed altogether. It has decided to migrate over a number of years. Progressing by layering itself bit by bit, metre by metre. We got our first rooted pieces of thyme from our neighbour, the famous Australian writer, musicologist and historian, John Meredith. He kept s superb herb garden, vegetable garden stone fruit orchard and apothecaries garden. Everything that he did, he did well. John was a fantastic mentor. He took us under his wing and educated us in ‘country’ ways and hospitality, folk lore, gardening, self-sufficiency, and bush music.
We were so lucky to find out that he was our neighbour. So our first sprigs of thyme came from him. I try explaining this to anyone who will listen. But no-one is, when the lovely comes over and explains to Kate that, “Steve’s hawking his brief history of thyme”. I know my place and I go back to work shovelling s%#t and spreading compost. I divide the thyme into a dozen small rooted pieces and replant them back into the herb bed. They’ll continue to grow there for while, at least until they start to migrate again.
After lunch we make yeasted dough in the marmalade making machine. In the later afternoon we come in from our labours and I make 3 disks of dough and let them continue to rise in the oven while the girls come in. Kate is shredding the tiny leaves from the pruned and cropped thyme, collecting them in a small colander. It’s a labour of love, as the leaves are very tiny and it takes her some time. We appreciate it, as she is about to use it all to teach us how to make manakish ‘Zataar’ , fragrant middle Eastern herbed flat bread.
Kate stripping the thyme leaves, sitting in the sun on the verandah.
Kate starts with the fresh thyme leaves that she has just stripped from the stalks, then fresh oregano,These are all finely chopped up together, then freshly pan roasted sesame seeds, sumac. These are all mixed together with olive oil to make a fragrant paste. This is spread over the flat bread dough, with a little extra drizzle of olive oil over the top and placed in a hot oven at 220 oC for 10 mins. When it comes out we grind a little salt over it and sprinkle a few shredded olives on top. We try 3 different variations using dried tomatos and even yoghurt on top . They are all delicious and it takes no time at all to finish most of them off. It’s a fabulously fragrant and energy rich carbohydrate hit to end off a day of working in the garden.
We send Kate home with 1/3rd of each one for her own family to try.
I love this exchange. We give and we receive. It’s all good and everything is as it sound be. We consider ourselves so fortunate to have such great friends, mentors and associates to help us along on our way.
I am grateful!
More of the days pick, potatoes, beetroot, carrots, parsnips, coriander. Abundance!
Best wishes from the Low GI, un-leavened Lovely and her dough-boy!