Tales of a Backyard Farmer: Chapter 4

Our neighbour’s garden…

Circa December 2004, from the book Tales of a Backyard Farmer

Last winter we burnt our neighbour’s house! Four generations of one family had lived there together in relative harmony, then that harmony dissolved, and the house was sold to developers. Bulldozers and heavy earth-moving equipment moved in to raze the site at the least possible cost, and that meant destruction on a grand scale. On the lawn nearest our kitchen window had stood a magnificent old golden elm, whose branches covered our neighbour’s lawn and his hammock with deep shade even during the hottest days of summer. The grab bucket on the wrecker smashed off its branches and pushed over its naked stump, and shoved it into a huge pile of broken timber from the windows and doors, jarrah joists from the floor, oak slats from the tiled roof, and old fruit trees that had borne lemons and oranges and plums for decades. For my sons and I it was a race against the clock to retrieve as much of this timber as possible before it was hauled away in giant trucks to become useless landfill somewhere. Much of the broken timber we sawed into short lengths, and these gave off a cheerful blaze and much needed warmth through many a chilly winter’s evening.

clip_image002A way of life is dying around me as the old houses of our district and their productive gardens give way to Tuscan villas jammed cheek-to-jowl. Carports sport the latest model cars, but people are only occasionally glimpsed unpacking their store-bought vegetables from the boot and dashing inside with them. Neighbourliness has diminished with the increased pace of life, and this saddens me in some nameless way. Worse was to come; harmony dissolved in the Italian home on my other side.

In the late eighties, with interest rates at 17.5%, we were looking for some way out of the rental trap into a home of our own. We’d looked at dozens of houses in a desperate attempt to find some vibration somewhere that could be the basis for a home and a place to raise our family. At five minutes to inspection closing time, I dashed into this house and dived out the back door; there was an overgrown garden and an old tennis court. Land! They’re not making that anymore! The house wasn’t much, but I liked its unpretentiousness. But what really sold me was the sight of a little old Italian lady in the property next door chopping up the pruned branches of an apricot tree using a small hand-axe. Neighbours!

This garden next door has been a source of wonder to me as long as I have lived here. Artichokes and fennel, asparagus and raddichio, Italian parsley, rocket and spinach grew beside tomato plants, zucchinis, beans and basil. Avocados grew on a huge tree outside the back door, and deep orange persimmons contrasted with the lighter orange of mandarins. In summer there was loquats and apricots, bunches of delicious eating grapes and peaches and plums of all sorts.

clip_image006Deep purple figs grew near a magnificent chestnut tree that splattered its prickly-coated nuts over our fence, ready for roasting. Eggplants and capsicums, potatoes and onions, lettuce and olives could all be found in this garden. There were long cages of Australian parrots being bred for cash sale and smaller cages with giant European rabbits the size of small dogs that found their way into the pot. Dogs and cats were part of the family. Chooks provided brown eggs. Once there was a sheep with two lambs, which we grazed on the weeds in the old tennis court down the back of our place – site of my current veggie garden. Never have I tasted such tender meat! There was a wood oven in the shed, from whence came great crusty loaves of Italian bread and pizza they’re still trying to reproduce in Adelaide’s trendiest Italian cafes. In the rafters of this shed hung home-made Italian sausages, and in the cellar below the shed were barrels of home-made red wine whose taste I’m still seeking in pub-bought bottles. Jars of home-bottled olives and tomato sauce jostled bags of flour and pickled eggplant. Garlic grew beside the driveway, in front of prickly pears whose fruit was also eaten. Flowers – mostly chrysanthemums –were grown to brighten the grave of the old Italian grandfather, who died not long after we arrived.

Several years ago this home too dissolved (under the saddest of circumstances) and the garden fell into disuse. Finally, the house came onto the market, and a new generation of homebuyers trooped through the front door and stood at the back door staring out over this potentially wonderful garden and seeing instead a great liability. In others, I could practically see (from the vantage-point of my tomato patch) the predatory gleam in their eye as they calculated the investment potential and sought information from the real estate agent about the council’s attitude towards sub-division. Where were the families to be raised, and the backyard veggie growers? Were there no others who saw the land for what it could grow in the soil rather for what could be built and sold above it? Was I to be the last man standing in the neighbourhood? Finally, an imperfect yet tenable outcome – a Greek family brought the house and land, and the bulldozers are for the moment at bay while they decide upon the future of their investment.

In the meantime, I’ve salvaged glass for raising seedlings, old bricks for making paths, wire for extending the chicken coop, stakes for the tomatoes, wood for the fireplace and wooden beams for laying across garden beds as I balance across from one side to other. Pots and odd-shaped containers can be used for herbs and yet more seedlings.


I’ve inherited a magnificent Welsummer rooster and his half-dozen old wives. Firewood and kindling destined for the wood-oven have been added to my wood heap. But best of all – my prize possession - is an Italian hoe. Why haven’t these been discovered in Australia? It’s like a giant sharpened horseshoe on a short but sturdy handle. It never clogs, even in the heaviest and wettest clay. I swing it over my head and bury it with a satisfying thud into the row that I’m hoeing. Pushing forward raises great clods of earth to allow the rain air and sunshine in. I use it on an angle to open up deep trenches for my potatoes. I carry it about and chip weeds, or use it to dig the carrots or comfrey roots.

Perhaps a small part of that wonderful Italian garden will live on over on my side of the fence, where mention of the investment potential of my patch of dirt will earn my scorn. How do I calculate the market value of sunshine on my back and good food on my table? Why would I trade hours in a garden for hours in a gym? Where else can I take my grandchildren one day to show them where peas come from, and give them a chance to learn the rhythms of life as I have?

Tales of a Backyard Farmer: Chapter 3

Soil Moisture in the Veggie Patch

[Circa October 2004: from the book Tales of a Backyard Farmer]

Thank God for the Royal Adelaide Show! Without it, I reckon we’d get no rain at all in September (has it ever NOT rained during the grand parade or for the precision driving team?) By mid-August I was starting to panic – what is normally our wettest month left the garden looking parched. It reminded me of all those droughts in the outback, and the tales the old folk used to tell. My uncle received a letter from his cousin up in the bush, who claimed it was so hot that when he’d seen a dingo chasing a kangaroo, they were both walking! It must have been pretty dry too, because he’d pinned the stamp on the envelope…

Standing in a small garden plot is no way to avoid the troubles of the world – they are evident everywhere – just on a much smaller scale. Here too, one watches the sky as avidly as a grazier or pastoralist.


There’s something about real rain on a garden that’s altogether different from water out of the tap. One can keep things alive and moving along using tap water, but only rain brings out the crickets, the weeds, and that wonderful green flourishing growth that is the hallmark of a happy plant. It brings me out too – I love that smell of summer rain on dry earth. But unlike a European summer, we here in Adelaide have dry spells that last for weeks going on months. The lifeline to the garden is the garden hose.

When running a vegetable garden as big as this one is, one would be stuck completely were it not for a town water supply. I trudge up and down between the rainwater tank at the house and the seedlings in the veggie patch, carrying my watering can and regretting not at all these small “fat-burning expeditions” that give me the chance to observe the garden and its inhabitants from different angles. But this is just no way to keep water up to the mature plants. For that I need rain in NSW, Victoria and Queensland, from whence it wends its way down through the Murray-Darling catchment and ultimately out of my tap in suburban Adelaide.

In August I called one of my farmer mates out on the flats on the other side of the Mt Lofty ranges, and asked him if he knew of anyone in the district selling pea-straw (the quantities I need are a bit expensive if bought locally).

This stuff makes wonderful garden mulch, as the stalks are curled and twisted, and once tucked around the veggies, doesn’t blow away in the howling gully winds that come up on summer nights from the south-east and strike along the foothills of the Mt Lofty ranges bordering the Adelaide plains. A deep pea-straw mulch over the whole garden stretches out my watering times to between seven and ten day intervals. The soil surface under the mulch remains cool and moist, allowing earth worms to work right up into the root zones of the veggies, opening up macropores that allow the soil and its micro-flora and -fauna to breath, and the root systems to remain active in taking up nutrients and moisture. This is real water conservation, and one gains some organic matter into the bargain.


A bale of pea-straw covers just a few square meters of the veggie garden, so I needed about 50 bales. I had work to do along the eastern flanks of the ranges, so hired an 8 x 5 trailer to get double value out of the trip by bringing back a load of pea-straw. My route took me up the Torrens Gorge to Palmer (population 80) out on the opposite foothills on the road to Mannum from Birdwood. I’d rung ahead, and the farmer’s wife had agreed on a good price per bale of pea-straw. Not only that, I left the empty trailer there and came back to find she’d loaded up and tied down 38 bales ready for my return journey.

At Palmer one can see the big Mannum-Adelaide pipeline coming up from the Murray alongside the road, and the redbrick pumping station in the background. Once this pipeline reaches the top of the ranges, it empties its contents into the Torrens River gorge – one can see this grey-green Murray water running down the riverbed on its way to storage in the Kangaroo Creek Dam behind Adelaide. So here’s our water supply coming in from the eastern states; our own pitiful end-of-winter supply of rain-fed storage is evident in the low levels in the Chain-of-Ponds storage reservoirs between Gumeracha and Inglewood.

As early as August this year there was talk of drought in the eastern states of Australia, and this must inevitably impact on my small world in a garden thousands of kilometers away from the head of the catchment up near Toowoomba in Queensland. On a larger scale again, the rainfall in eastern Australia can be seriously depleted by the El Niño effect. Cold nutrient-rich currents that well up into the eastern Pacific near Peru, combined with easterly trade winds in the equatorial regions of the Pacific Ocean, normally mean that oceanic waters above Papua-New Guinea are higher and warmer than in the eastern Pacific near the Americas. During El Niño years, this warm water shifts eastward away from our side of the Pacific basin, creating marked changes in our east coast climate, and lower-than-average rainfalls. The Murray River slows to a trickle – barely enough to keep the mouth free of sand-bars as it meets the ocean at Goolwa in South Australia. The giant ocean currents that regulate the Earth’s climate transport heat from the equator to the poles, and effect the weather conditions on all the land-masses. Man’s pollution of the earth’s atmosphere through the burning of fossil fuels and forests has warmed up conditions in our little “glass-house” planet. The reaction of the ocean currents to the distribution of this extra heat finally impacts on me in my small garden down at the end of a once-great river.


So I capture what rainfall I can, in the household tank and in the garden beds. Mulching keeps it there against needless losses due to evaporation. I grow native plants in the front garden and don’t water the lawn all through summer. How then to best get this precious water onto the veggie patch without undue wastage? One of my childhood memories is that of seeing my parents outside at dusk in summer time, hose in hand, watering the garden beds.


Even nostalgia is not what it used to be – I need something less labour-intensive than that, but can’t bring myself to the level of “set-and-forget” irrigation systems that mean the rich men of my district rarely dig their toes into their own lawns, or need turn on a tap themselves.

My compromise is a long garden hose (lots of hoses really, all joined together!) I connect this to the tap at the back door, and it reaches anywhere on the property. On the end of the hose is a Pope sprinkler – one of those ones with no moving parts that send up a sparkling shower of big drops that deliver water over a radius of several meters. At strategic points in the veggie garden I’ve got old boxes, barrels, tree stumps or up-turned pots, and the sprinkler sits on these for an hour or two each week, giving the garden a good soak below the mulch.clip_image006 The big drops from this sprinkler mean that even under windy conditions, not too much of my precious water supply blows over my neighbour’s fence. And despite all I’ve read in books, over-head watering doesn’t seem to bother the veggies – not even the lettuces or tomatoes. Perhaps that’s the great advantage of organic growing – healthy plants can thrive, even in less-than-ideal conditions. As I move the sprinkler from bed-to-bed, I am struck again by how inter-dependent we all are on the health of our planet as a whole.

Tales of a Backyard Farmer: Chapter 2

August in the veggie patch

[Circa August 2004: from the book Tales of a Backyard Farmer]

I’m always surprised at the burst of feverish activity down the local plant nursery once the first sunny days of spring appear – my own feeling is that the busiest time of year in the veggie garden is often through the winter months, preparing the ground for spring, and bringing along the seedlings that will be transplanted out once the soil warms up again. I too have rushed down the nursery in many a preceding spring, stocking up on seedlings that get dropped into ground occupied only hours before by sour-sobs, grasses and nettles. But as the price of seedlings has gone up (and the size of the veggie patch expanded) I’m trying harder to make use of a packet of some hundreds of seeds costing half that of the dozen seedlings one gets in a punnet. This all takes planning, and a “year-round” attitude to the veggie patch.


Where I live (Magill) there are still many older homes with veggie gardens lovingly tended by their Italian owners, and I’ve learnt many a trick in watching them and talking with them. So it was a real thrill last year to be picking tomatoes before Christmas, ahead of my neighbours. In this I was aided by my compost heap and some tricks learnt from that fine old Aussie organic gardener, Peter Bennett. I run a three-heap system; one for storage of new plant material, a second “cooking” heap of moist shredded green compost mixed with pigeon manure, and a third heap of “finished” compost that’s lovely friable stuff full of humus and good organic plant food. This last heap I used as my potting material – I had pots by the hundred that are available on any suburban Adelaide footpath for a day to two after the landscapers move in and plant masses of nursery-raised plants into the decorative gardens of newly finished home-units. The pots they throw away! Once I’d raised the seed in foam boxes under old window glass in mid-winter, I was able to transplant them into these individual pots, then place them on top of compost heap number 2, making use of the bottom heat it gave off to push the seedlings along during frosty weather. If one digs down into this heap about 300mm, the heat of decomposition is almost too hot to touch (around 70ºC). Many tomato seedlings raised this way were 200mm high by early spring.

The Roma tomatoes were ready for eating first – we use these for making tomato sauce to carry us through to the next crop – great on winter pasta! (We borrow the tomato press from our Italian neighbours!) Our favourite tomato is the Ox-Heart, which are wonderful eating tomatoes along with all the other summer greens and red onions. When I pulled out last year’s riot of old and shaggy tomato plants, I was able to strip off over one hundred green tomatoes. Placed on the window-sill of our dining room, these green tomatoes ripened slowly to a deep red, and made good winter sandwiches right through until early August.

clip_image004Capsicums don’t start to bear fruit until somewhere in February, even though I start these around the same time as the tomatoes. But once they start to bear fruit, they also continue to crop well into winter, and make a delicious crunchy addition to those lunch sandwiches at a time when the garden is not turning out many other salad vegetables. Last year I grew “banana” capsicums that are slimmer than the Californian globe capsicums, and go through an edible yellow phase between turning from green to red. These were prolific and tasty, and resistant to diseases and pests.

clip_image006The other member of the “solanum” family that are heavy yielders are egg-plants. These have a deep glossy purple fruit that we pickle and keep for winter eating; they are becoming popular through café meals and in Italian restaurants, along with pickled peppers and sun-dried tomatoes. Now’s the time to be planting out all these solanum seeds – tomatoes, capsicums and eggplants – under glass. To grow enough of these to make a significant difference to the family food budget (there are five of us) one has to grow dozens of each type, not just one or two. This takes up considerable garden space and quite some effort during summer in staking and tying. The effort is worth it; it’s a warm fuzzy feeling to be able to send visitors away with an armful of homegrown vegetables, and have them comment that they “haven’t tasted tomatoes like that for years!”

This year I’m taking a trick out of my neighbour’s book, and leaving out that whole business of potting and re-potting the tomatoes, capsicums and eggplants. The old Italian chap over the road has given me dozens of eggplant seedlings each year; he has scattered seeds in a small spot in the garden, surrounded them with bricks and covered them with window glass. This mini-glass house served to raise dozens of seedlings at very low cost. I take the barrow over, and dig up a shovelful of seedlings (I return his soil later) to be taken home and planted out.

The thrust of a good organic garden is that if you get the soil right, all else follows. Twenty years ago, my garden was an earthen north-south tennis court, long before these became fashionable in the wealthiest of homes. Its orientation is perfect for growing vegetables, but its heavy red-clay soil needed some work. After soil test I used gypsum to make the clay more friable and dolomite in patches to balance the pH. What I really needed was to boost the organic content of the soil, to feed plants and earthworms and ultimately the family. It was impossible to produce enough compost from garden and kitchen waste to fertilize an area this size. So I’ve purchased in Organic Compost from Jeffries Garden Soils by the truckload. This is commercially manufactured compost made from the recycled green-waste of Adelaide suburbs. It’s a deep rich black in colour, and when the small tipper trucks dump it in the driveway on a winter’s morning ready for barrowing down to the veggie garden, it gives off great clouds of steam, being still warm. It’s a big investment, but will feed the garden for years to come.


The great benefit of this rich black compost is that it is weed-free, holds water well, absorbs the weak winter sunshine and can feed seedlings grown in it. So this year I am raising my seedlings the Italian way; by planting seeds into small beads behind a 300mm high wall of bricks on a east-west axis on top of this compost spread over a garden bed. The seeds I’ve sown on the north side of this wall, and placed old casement windows at an angle across the seedbeds, so that the sun shines in from morning until late afternoon. The ends of this angled “glasshouse” I’ve filled in with soil to prevent wind running around in there and cooling off the heat captured by the glass and stored in the bricks and soil. Once they are ready for planting and the weather is warm enough, I’ll dig them out of there and separate the seedlings as I space them out in rows in their final summer beds.

This black compost is best spread over bare soil after it has been dug over into big clods and allowed to absorb autumn and early winter rains. The compost is laid thickly on top, and I trench these new areas and plant red and white potatoes at the winter solstice – June 21st. The trench walls are overturned to built up soil around the growing potatoes as the season progresses, further mixing in the compost. Finally, the compost is dug in again as the potatoes are dug up in summer, leaving the beds friable and healthy for future plantings.

By the time spring comes, the backbreaking work in the garden is largely done, and the pleasures of planting lie ahead. The Italians are still one step ahead of me though; they conserve seed from their best plants, and carry these over until the next year. I’m still buying my seeds…

Nettle omelet

I'm getting rather hungry here. Lunch time is rapidly approaching. Maybe I should make myself a nettle omelet. The stinging nettles are looking very good - new, tender growth.

The girls are laying beautiful eggs. Herbs are in abundance. And there is still plenty of our own garlic in the pantry.

Oh, and I read somewhere that stinging nettles are really, really good for you. Like it has loads of vitamins A, C, iron, potassium, manganese, and calcium. Okay, I talked myself into it. See you later! :)

Tales of a Backyard Farmer: Chapter 1

Spring has sprung

Spring is in the air and in my step – I’ve missed the sun. One of the great pleasures of a garden is sitting in it when the work is done. clip_image002Sometimes I sit in it when puffed out by heavy hoeing. I’m aided and abetted in this by an old covered seat that looks like a bus-stop; it must have been installed decades ago when this used to be a tennis court. No tennis now – there’s a huge almond tree hanging right over the top of it, not to mention all the fruit trees, the compost heaps, the wood heap, the chook yard and my shed. I can see the hills from my garden seat, and the poplars in the school yard nearby that turn a gorgeous yellow in autumn before shedding their leaves and standing bare in the weak winter sunshine.

clip_image004I was sitting on my garden bench last spring showing off to my youngest son (he’s still at that uncertain age where he is interested in what Dad is doing, and not yet old enough to spend effort trying to appear “bored” and disinterested in anything parental!). I was trying to increase his powers of observation, and spark his interest in the wonders of nature to be found in a suburban garden. I’d made a bet with him that I could spot ten different species of birds in ten minutes. Musk and Rainbow Lorikeets went screeching overhead at high-speed, a Crow and a Magpie-Lark were kicking up a discordant racket in the poplars, Yellow-Winged (New Holland) Honey-eaters were mucking about in the lemon-tree, the usual House Sparrows and Starlings went by in flocks, Indian Turtle doves flapped like blazes to gain height, then went into long flat spiral glides to get where they wanted to go. A flock of domestic pigeons flew overhead – I reckon they get free feed up at the Magill Grain Store which keeps them aloft. There was a White-Backed Magpie heading cross-country for the school oval.

Willy-wagtails in ones and twos alight on posts or garden stakes, swinging from side to side, ever on the lookout for flying insects. When they spot something, they flit up, turn a cart-wheel in the air, one can hear their beaks snap over their prey and then back to the post to await the next meal. In the past years there’s been a large flock of about fourteen Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos wheeling overhead as they make their stately progress between the pine trees in the district, where they can strip away the hard woody petals of the pine cones to get at the nuts inside. Tiny Grey-Backed Silver-Eyes always appear when I’m watering; they love to dash into the spray from the sprinkler, then back to the nearest tree. I’ve yet to work out whether they are feeding on something I can’t see, or just having fun. Sometimes White-Crescent Honey-Eaters come to poke about in the leaves of the fruit trees, or black-birds come to flip my mulch up and poke about underneath for slaters or worms. Rarer visitors down from the hills include Gray Thrushes, Adelaide Rosellas (after my almonds!), Gold Finches and Eastern Spinebills.


So on this glorious day last spring, I had no real difficulty spotting enough birds within the time I’d allowed myself, until I got to number nine. Smugness and complacency ended suddenly; a small bird landed almost over my head in the foliage of the almond tree, and turned this way and that to give me a good look at it. My jaw was hanging down on my chest, with small squeaks and groans and gasps coming forth; I’d no idea what it was! Its back was a beautiful bronze-green, the chest of pale cream was barred with pale brown stripes, and a white ring circled the eye. When the show was over, we dashed up to the house and the bird books – our visitor was a migratory Horsfield Bronze-Cockoo. There were two cuckoos in the garden that afternoon, and one of them was me! But what a feast for the senses, and a story to tell to my grand-children when this son has grown-up.


Where does the love of a garden begin? With me – the great romantic- it’s vegetables. Others grow flowers – I grow cabbages. My gifts to my true-love include brown mignonettes or curly-leafed lettuces, spring-onions, tomatoes and fresh basil, carrots and beans that snap like a pistol-shot when you bend them, capsicums and broccoli and sugar-loaf cabbages, shiny egg-plants and red and white potatoes and onions, strawberries, fresh peaches, apricots and dark purple Satsuma plums for jam. Yellow lemons for the salads dressing, along with olive-oil, balsamic and white vinegar, sugar and herb salt. Curley-leaved and Italian parsley with the tomatoes and sliced red-onions, with thyme to season our Sunday roast. Butternut pumpkins, onions and potatoes that don’t get scoffed down with those roasts hang out with leeks in winter soups.

clip_image010Somewhere not far below my surface lurks a peasant, joining me to my Irish ancestors, all of whom were farmers. Perhaps gardening for me is an antidote to the high-tech world where I spend my days. Perhaps its that my Dad before me was a gardener, and I can’t imagine how modern folk live in the houses around me, with pocket handkerchief lawns and all their world under their Tuscan villa roofs. (They’re having some difficulty adjusting to the reality of my rooster, who thinks dawn is on the half-hour from 3am onwards!) Lucky for me I took my childhood stories seriously, and believed that life was ordered as the Brothers Grimm ordained it; that all young men should go forth into the world to seek their fortune. I’d scratched enough together by my late twenties to set off on my own adventure, and in a Youth Hostel in the wilds of Canada, met up with a small German girl from a small German village, who believed in food and cooking it the way I believe in food and growing it. Gardens and kitchens are a two-step! Two peasants make a home…

clip_image012But I digress! The broccoli is coming to an end, the asparagus is shooting up out of its deep bed of compost, the broad beans are being fried with onion in olive-oil to feed my groaning sons. Life begins anew, and there’s little time for sitting on my bench as I rush to get the seedlings into the ground, and start to think of mulch and irrigation instead of slugs and water-logged garden paths. Spring has sprung, and I’m alive to enjoy it. What more could a man want?

[Circa September 2004:  from the book Tales of a Backyard Farmer]

Tales of a Backyard Farmer: Introduction

It’s a strange fact that growing ones own food is about the least profitable use of one’s time, whilst being the most rewarding. Modern folk look at my vegetable-growing activities askance, and the bolder ones offer to show me where the ‘fresh food’ section in the supermarket can be found.


This small book is about a view of the world as seen from a veggie patch. I’d set out to see for myself if it was possible to grow my own food without pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, soluble fertilizers and all that other expensive and poisonous stuff used in the modern veggie patch, but which Mother Nature seems to get by without. Will healthy soil produce healthy plants, leading to healthy food and healthy humans?

After a while, I was healthier than I had been for years. No doubt eating nutritious food was good for me, but it wasn’t that. All the bending, lifting, pulling, tugging, twisting and kneeling was also good aerobic exercise, but it wasn’t that. Rather, it’s that the garden allowed me to reconnect with a pre-television childhood that was spent outdoors, where I experienced the passing of the seasons, the colour of the sky and the sight of birds and beasts at first-hand.

I suspect many of us feel isolated from we-know-not-what. A small plot of vegetables, some herbs and fruit trees, a few chooks, a rainwater tank and a handful of basic tools down one’s own backyard is simply a good place to be. Food for the soul as well as for the table…

Tales of a Backyard Farmer: why this book?

Life rolls along, and sometimes it rolls right over one.

Far off, on the other side of the world, the cook’s mother has collapsed one more time, and age and frailty suggest that there will be no happy ending to this latest episode.

And so the Australian gardener must leave his garden, and the German cook must leave her kitchen, and both must journey together to Europe to do what needs to be done, for as long as it needs doing.

There’s not much fun in writing about the bond between kitchens and gardens in the abstract; this is something that lives and breathes from week to week, as one does what needs doing.

But then, back in 2005, I wrote about life and a world view from the veggie patch, and these 23 stories were published locally among organic gardeners here in Adelaide.

So here they are again, week by week, until we can return to an Australian spring later in the year.