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Summer Harvest


Reuben and I have learnt so much about growing food this year. Our approach to our garden really changed after reading Jackie French’s book, Backyard Self Sufficiency, and seeing Jackie’s talk on the same topic at the Bendigo Writer’s Festival. I touched on Jackie’s ideas in this post but, basically, her philosophy is that the traditional neat rows of vegetables you see in European gardens are not ideal for the brutal Australian climate. Jackie advocates planting in groves, with a variety of plants all mixed together, planted close to each other. This allows the bigger plants to protect the smaller ones from the elements and can reduce the impact of pests.

Food Forest

As Jackie says “Most Australian gardeners plant too far apart. This is a relic from another culture: in European gardens you had to grab every available ray of sun. Our gardens need more shelter. Lots of leaf cover means the soil is insulated from the heat and cold, and the plants get more protection against frost.” Jackie also says “Don’t plant straight, neat rows: they allow pests to start at one end and march down the row munching, like guests at a smorgasbord. Break up plantings so that there is no large groups of any one plant.” We followed these guidelines while planting our veggies in spring and it has a resulted in wild, rambling jungle of healthy plants. While our garden isn’t the neatest or prettiest this way, it is the most productive it’s ever been. We call it our food forest, and we love it!


We’ve had great success with tomatoes, zucchinis, cucumbers and corn this year, but for some reason our eggplants, capsicums and chillies never came to anything. We’ve got pumpkins and melons growing happily under our fruit trees, and have been picking spring onions, silverbeet and herbs as we use them. Our basil is thriving and will soon be ready for making pesto with. Before Christmas we had lots of delcious home grown raspberries, and now that they’ve finished, we’ve started getting blackberries. Our tomato plants have gone especially crazy and are taking over the veggie beds. Though the tomatoes are still green right now, there are so many of them, soon enough we’re going to be eating tomatoes for breakfast, lunch and dinner!

Zucchinis Cucumbers and Corn


This summer we really wanted to have a go at preserving some of our harvest for the first time. Our zucchinis went wild in December and in the space of a just few days, our little zukes became giant monsters, so we figured a zucchini relish was a good place to start. We also had too many cucumbers to eat in salads, so thought we’d have a go at making bread and butter pickles. And so it came to be that we spent our new year’s day in the kitchen, listening to records, chatting, chopping and stirring bubbling pots over the hot stove. Aside from one incident involving a very large quantity of spilt sticky pickle juice, it was a lovely way to ring in the beginning of a new year. I’d quite like to make preserving our harvest at new year an annual event. (We used this recipe for the relish and this one for the pickles.)

Relish and Pickles

We haven’t tried our pickles yet, as we are giving them time to mature, but we cracked open our first jar of relish a few days ago. We ate it with zucchini and corn fritters (from our garden, naturally!) and it is oh so delicious. We polished off that first jar in the space of just two days!

Mega Beetroot

And it seems now I’ve got the preserving bug! I’m hoping that once the fruit on our little peach and plum trees is ripe, there will be enough for me to attempt jam making with, and I am planning to plant lots more beetroot in the future, so that we can pickle some.


We still have so much to learn when it comes to feeding our family from our garden and larder, but I can see we are making real progress now. It makes me so happy to think that our children will grow up knowing where their food has come from and being involved in the process of growing and preparing it, understanding the seasons and (hopefully) being grateful for all that the earth provides. A few years ago I never could have imagined how satisfying I would find growing and preserving my own fruit and veggies, but today, as I look at the little row of jars stacked neatly in our pantry, nothing could make me prouder.

Katie xx

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The Chicken Tractor

We’ve had a few questions about our chicken tractor, so I thought I might as well put a post together answering them all in one spot…

Beatrice Evie Tilly and Madge

Tilly (now Billy), Madge (now Matt), Beatrice & Evie.

Reuben with Agnes and Betty

Reuben with the new girls, Agnes (on the right) and Betty.

Our flock of four has undergone some changes in the last few weeks. Sadly, Madge and Tilly turned out to be Matt and Billy, and since we aren’t allowed to keep roosters in town, they had to be rehomed. They’ve since been replaced with two more sweet little Wyandotte bantams. Keeping up with the House of Eliott theme, our new girls are named Betty and Agnes. After some initial upset amongst the girls, they have now settled in with Beatrice and Evie really well.

We actually had a bit of a scare with Beatrice this week. She was very unwell and at one point I was quite sure we were going to lose her, but with some antibiotics, two nights spent in a cat carrier indoors (with a hot water bottle!) and lots of love, she recovered. She is back to her cute, friendly, happy self again now. Thank goodness! (She’s got such a sweet temperament, she’s a bit of a favourite around here.)


Beatrice and Evie.

Chicken Tractor

Everyone in the tractor, watching me excitedly as I walk over with some fresh silver beet for them.

We first got the idea for our chicken tractor from an episode of Gardening Australia. Our girls have a small coop under our little apple tree where they sleep and lay. It’s big enough for them to wander and scratch about in, but they quickly denuded it of any greenery and we wanted to give them access to fresh grass, weeds, bugs and grubs, so they could scratch and forage. Unfortunately, as much as we’d like to, we can’t let our girls wander free range (because our fences are inadequate and our dogs would like to eat them!) so a chicken tractor was the perfect solution. The tractor allows us to give them access to fresh earth and grass to happily carry out their natural chicken behaviours, digging and fossicking, while staying safe.

On wet or windy days, and days when we aren’t home, the chooks stay in their coop, but when the weather is good and we are at home, we put them out in their tractor. We put them out in the tractor mid to late morning, so they have time to lay in their laying box before they go out, and bring them in just as it starts to cool off before dusk. We move the chicken tractor a few times throughout the day, so they always have access to fresh greenery, bugs and grubs to pick at.

The tractor itself is just a light weight run that we purchased from a discount store. Reubs originally planned to make one, but when we found the perfect thing for a great price, we snapped it up. We bought the run when we only had two chickens and though they are still very happy in their tractor, now that our tiny flock has grown, we are planning to upgrade to a bigger one.

And that’s it really! How we work our chicken tractor. If you keep (or would like to keep) chickens in a small backyard or a space that isn’t safe for free ranging, we highly recommend this system. The girls love having the chance to scratch for bugs and dig in the dirt, and we love hearing their happy, chooky noises from the garden!

Katie xx

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Suburban Jungle

Reuben and Veggie Beds





We spent a lot of the weekend in the garden, building two more veggie beds, planting a couple of citrus trees, pruning and pottering. Though our garden isn’t producing much now, it feels good to be building something for the future. From little things big things grow.

I must admit, when Reubs and I moved into this house I was a bit worried about going overboard in the garden. Our block is very small and awkwardly shaped and I seriously doubted that we’d ever be able to make it particularly productive. Reubs was keen to make the most of our limited space and cram it full of edibles. He immediately wanted to rip out all the lawn and replace it with a giant veggie patch, and was adamant that we had enough space for a number of fruit trees, but I was reluctant. It seems crazy to me now but I didn’t like the idea of not having any lawn and I was scared that if we planted too much our yard would look messy and unattractive. (What would the neighbours think?!) So we started small with two little veggie beds, a couple of fruit trees and two chickens, and bit by bit we’ve added more and more. We now have four large veggie beds, ten fruit trees, two passionfruit vines, a couple of berry plants, two elderflower bushes (for making cordial) and hopps (for making beer) which we plan to plant next to the car port so it can climb. We are also hoping to turn a whole corner of our yard into a large chicken coop, so we can keep a bigger flock of chooks. Slowly, I’ve come to realise just how much can be done with a small space (we still have room for so much more!) and I now have a completely different kind of vision for our garden. Not a tidy lawn, tidy veggie beds, tidy trees and small tidy chicken coop, but a rambling patch overflowing with homegrown fruit, veggies, flowers and chickens.

I recently bought Backyard Self Sufficiency by Jackie French (which I highly recommend) and today I was having a read when I stumbled across a quote that so perfectly summed up what I’ve been thinking and feeling, that I had to share it with you. Jackie says:

“I have two images of suburban life today.

The first is of a neat house set in a mown lawn with trimmed shrubs and a sandpit; a clean kitchen with yesterday’s takeaway containers in the sink; and the latest DVDs to fill your life after dinner.

The second is of a suburban jungle: a maze of tangled apple trees and grapevines, carpets of strawberries, and kids with mulberry-stained faces who don’t come inside till dark. You trip over a box of apples in the laundry and the kitchen smells of summer tomatoes and of the basil on the windowsill.

The kitchen shelves are full, so are the lives of the inhabitants.

The richness of our lives depends on our surroundings and what we fill them with.”

I know which one I’d prefer. Bring on the jungle.

Katie xx

PS Just in case you are wondering what our “chicken tractor” is doing in our new veg beds – we were using the girls’ scratching skills to get a headstart on digging up the grass.
PPS My cute apron and trowel are from lovely Brenda‘s wonderful new shop.

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Little Things

No Knead Bread

Passionfruit Vine

Around Here

Reuben and Clover in Garden


Chooks in Chicken Tractor

Apple and Almond Cake

Joining in the weekly stills over at The Beetle Shack.

1. I finally made this famous no knead bread over the weekend and it was amazing. We devoured half the loaf within minutes of it leaving the oven! I haven’t had a huge amount of success with bread making in the past, but this little triumph has got me inspired to keep working on it. I’m determined to make bread making a more regular fixture in our weekly routine.
2. One of our passionfruit vines is growing nicely. The other isn’t doing quite so well.
3. A handful of goodness, fresh off our little raspberry bush.
4. Clover helping Reuben in the garden.
5. Cold wintery days mean tea. Lots and lots of tea.
6. We bought a lightweight run that we can use as a “chicken tractor” and drag around our yard, to give our girls a holiday from their coop on sunny days. They’ve been having a lovely time scratching in the grass.
7. Yesterday we had friends over for dinner so I made cake for dessert. I had the thought of an apple and almond cake stuck in my head so I googled it and ended up making this one this one with a couple of tweaks (which was good!) but I’ve since realised the seed of the idea was probably planted by this yummy skillet cake on Hugo and Elsa. I think I’ll try that one next time.

Wishing you all a most wonderful week!

Katie xx

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Summer Abundance

Garden Haul


Semi Dried Tomatoes

Tomatoes and Basil


Over the last few weeks our tiny garden has been going crazy! We’ve been eating cherry tomatoes around the clock and have had enough larger tomatoes to semi dry and make a big batch of pasta sauce (both of which we devoured in record time!) I’ve made lots of pesto and have managed to put a few bottles aside in the freezer for the approaching cold months. We’ve eaten a bunch of zucchinis and there are plenty more to come, including a couple that have grown to gigantic proportions. The rainbow chard is still doing well and we’ve had a few lovely cucumbers. Tonight we made veggie enchiladas using our first homegrown capsicums, and we’ve just picked the first of our little pumpkins. Silly Clover pup actually helped with that. This morning I discovered a small half chewed pumpkin in her bed! It was too cute and funny to be cranky with her about it.

All in all, our first summer season has been quite successful! Especially considering we’ve only had two little beds and we’ve taken a rather lazy approach to the whole thing.

I’ve never been much of a summer girl (I don’t like the heat and I’m very partial to cardigans, fireplaces and bowls of soup) but this season, perhaps for the first time, I have been able to really appreciate the garden goodness the warmer months hold. The 40°C days are awful but the homegrown produce is so wonderful!

Over the last week we’ve felt a gentle shift in the weather. It’s still very warm but the early mornings are crisp and some nights there is a real chill in the air. Soon autumn will be here, and though I will embrace the cold weather with open arms, I really will miss the abundance of summer.

Wishing you all a lovely, lovely week ahead!

Katie x

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