Footnote Frivolity***, Gardening on a Budget, Going Green, mustbethrifty house, Second-hand Scavengers

Planning, planting, & waiting for the harvest

While home improvements have limped along at the rate of our mortgage-handicapped savings accounts, the garden around our new home has flourished. Water-tanks are the main bit of hardscaping. However, we have also put in some Colourbond-and-rescued-cypress garden beds, constructed by a local up in Hurstbridge.


And I’ve saved the neighbour’s broken pavers, turning them into a garden path.


More importantly, I’ve been adding as many perennial edibles as I can. It started with turning an ivy-infested patch into a herb garden and ended with me feverishly researching every and any edible plant that might survive in Melbourne. Quandong, anyone?

The plants we have so far includes:

 …almond, apple, artichoke, asparagus, avocado, basil (perennial), beans (runner, and butter), blackberry (thornless), blueberries, cape gooseberry, caper bush, celery (wild), Chilean guava, chives, choko, cranberry, elderberry, fennel, fig, garlic, greenfeast peas, horseradish, kiwiberry, lemon verbena, lemon, lemongrass, lettuce, lime, marjoram, midyim berry, mint (Vietnamese fish, Vietnamese hot, common, and apple), native ginger, nectareze, onion (spring, Egyptian walking), orange, oregano, parsley (curly-leaf), passionfruit, pepino, pepperberry, pomegranate, potato, radishes, rhubarb, rosemary, sage (pineapple, common), salad burnett, samphire, strawberries (alpine and normal), summer squash, tea camellia, thyme, tomatoes…

 Most of these plants are nursery-bought*, a few have come from veggie-swaps. The fig is one of Dad’s strikings.

I’ve tried positioning plants based on their needs. For instance, the orange and the lime has been placed against a north-facing fence**, whilst the cranberry is partly shaded and receiving the occasional deluge from a downpipe. Working with nature, instead of against it, means less watering, fertilising, and need for pest-control. In other words, a garden that is less resource-hungry.

Years will pass before we bring in a decent harvest: the antithesis of today’s have-it-now culture. It’s definitely a bit of wishin’ and hopin’ in a My Best Friends’ WeddingVeggie Garden kind of way.

*Note to self: must learn how to strike cuttings, etc.

*We had to remove a unruly neighbours-be-gone hedge first. I’m looking forward to planting out the rest of our food hedge.

Gardening on a Budget, Going Green, Money Matters

Renting chickens (because a mortgage is enough commitment already)

For the last four weeks, we have been hosting two chickens, Henrietta and Lily, from Book-a-Chook.

Pekin chickens
Pekin chickens, Henrietta and Lily, from Book-a-Chook

And like any new parent, I’ve been harping about them to everyone I meet: Henrietta is greedy, pecky, and sprints like an Olympic athlete, whilst Lily is the more cautious of the two and stays up past her bedtime. Most responses so far have been, ‘You can rent chickens?’ which is soon followed by ‘but why not just buy them?’

In the community, there persists a belief that chickens are mustbethrifty pets, since they give you free eggs, free fertiliser, free bug killer, and (occasionally) free chicken roast. And teenage chickens (8-10 week olds) only cost $30-40 each.

What most punters don’t consider is the cost of a fox-proof chicken coop (and run). There’s some cheap imports out there for a couple of hundred bucks, but they’re not very sturdy and you still need to wrap metres of mesh around them. Mesh, I’ve discovered, is surprisingly pricey.

Plus there’s the usual ongoing costs of feed, bedding, and veterinary treatments. And you have to be able to put them to bed at dusk, every frakking night. Buying chickens is a huge commitment.

Hence, Book-a-Chook is good for indecisives like me. It prevents people buying a flock of chickens as a whimsical Christmas present for the family before trying to get rid of both the chickens and the chicken-keeping paraphernalia on Gumtree a couple of months later. Okay, it’s not the cheapest exercise ($170 for 4 weeks, plus $100 delivery), but it helped confirm this particular life-choice. And Fleur, Book-a-Chook’s Chicken Whisperer, was great at guiding us through the process.

If only there was such a thing in the world called Book-a-Baby or Book-a-Dog.


Gardening on a Budget, Gen DIY-er, Going Green, Reviews, Second-hand Scavengers

Localism’s the new black: Millie Ross’ The Thrifty Gardener

Millie Ross' The Thrifty GardenerGardening books are either aspirational or educational. With its brightly coloured pages and photos, Millie Ross’ The Thrifty Gardener comes across as aspirational but unlike other aspirational gardening books, striking architectural plants and stunning aspects do not feature. Instead, The Thrifty Gardener’s aesthetics lean towards the ‘nanna-chic garden’: there’s fruit and vegetables amongst the flowers and the structural elements of the garden such as walls, paths and water features are DIY-ed from salvaged items.

Aimed at the beginner to intermediate gardener, the book starts with planning and design, before moving into specific tutorials that range from propagation to small and large projects such as newspaper pots and clay fire pits. Continue reading

Gardening on a Budget

Leaf harvest

NOKIA Lumia 800_001124Autumn has come to an end before I even had a chance to write another seasonal thrills without frills. The asparagus and the rhubarb is starting to die down and the trees have dropped their leaves all over the lawn.

I’ve raked up the leaves in the hope of making leaf mould. Unlike regular compost, leaf mould is easy to make, doesn’t smell, and doesn’t require special equipment. It does, however, require patience. Continue reading

Clever Cooks, Gardening on a Budget, Thrifty Asian

The indestructible spring onion

spring onion5

Spring onions are hardy plants. Once established, they’re drought tolerant, snail resistant, and they grow back after a decent trim.

It always baffles me whenever I see spring onion seedlings at a nursery. Why do people pay money for seedlings when they can get spring onion plants for free? Whenever I bring home a bunch of spring onions from the grocer, the first thing I do is chop off the ends and use these to propagate new plants. Continue reading

Gardening on a Budget, Gen DIY-er, Going Green

My dad’s mini greenhouses

Dad is a Jim’s Mowing man. He’s also one of the thriftiest gardeners I know. I don’t think he’s ever bought a bag of compost or a plant; most of his specimens come from seeds or cuttings or are castoffs from other people’s gardens.

I shared some of my seeds with him and he’s been nursing them in mini greenhouses made out of plastic food containers:

The greenhouses help maintain a warm and consistent climate for the seedlings. They also protect the seedlings from snails. Continue reading

Gardening on a Budget, Thrifty Asian

Striking betel leaf cuttings

It’s lunar new year this weekend and one of my favourite snacks to eat from the street-festival vendors is bò lá lốt, beef wrapped in betel leaves. I’ve recreated it at home, using Luke Nguyen and Mark Jensen’s recipe (via Secrets of the Red Lantern). Nguyen and Jensen use pork mince and pork fat to enhance the flavour, but Luke Nguyen also has a pork-free version up on the SBS website.

Because betel leaf is a such rare commodity in Melbourne, I’ve struck my own with the stalks leftover from cooking. Continue reading