Composta – a plant pot and worm bin in one!

I love my worm farms and have two, happily churning away my food scraps. I have two bottomless pots in my wicking garden and feed compost worms in one then the other to encourage them to move throughout the garden doing their busy best for the soil. However, I have just found a great new worm farm that is an attractive large plant pot with a worm tower in the centre. Composta will be a welcome addition to my edible garden.

Unique worm farm. Great Australian design. Composta Australia.

The plant pot is large and attractive and the worm tower is placed in the centre before filling the pot section with potting mix. The worms are added to the tower along with vegetable scraps. You are then ready to plant your choice of plants so that they can take advantage of the benefits of the hard working worms who will venture throughout the pot and break down your vegetable scraps and replace them with high value worm castings. The unique drainage system ensures that the worms will not be drowned in the event of rain or if you add water to the pot. You can put a container under the drain hole to collect the liquid for your garden or other pots, too.

I was quite impressed with my Composta when it arrived and the grandchildren are excite to get it started and planted out on their next visit. When I looked through the gallery on the Composta site, I had to buy another one for my beans and peas. With the addition of poles or a cone plant trainer

These would make great presents for fledgling and experience gardeners alike and the large pot will hold a good supply of herbs, flowers, strawberries, greens or whatever you decide to plant.

Ok, this is not the most frugal of ideas and many would say that they can create something similar with a little DIY inspiration, but this kit is ideal for many people who want to grow a few plants and reduce their waste a little, in an attractive and easy to manage system.

The unit comes with removable legs. I believe I will use these on my herb garden which will be outside my back door ready for the last minute dashes I inevitably do for herbs for meals. I never seem to remember until I am cooking that I needed a bit of this or a stalk of that and then it is off to the cupboard to find the torch and wander around in the back yard, visiting the garden.

I usually let most of my herbs go to seed so that I can have a supply of seeds for planting (such as lettuce, rocket and baby spinach) or for cooking (such as coriander and fennel seeds), so I will probably still plant herbs and greens elsewhere. Having a supply near the house for easy picking will be a pleasure and, when we get chickens in the very near future, will allow me to leave some garden herbs to them as payment for their digging over and de-bugging.

As for my beans, the Composta will work wonderfully sitting on my garden near fruit trees and with no need for the legs provided. The wormy goodness will be washed into the main garden to fertilise and add healthy micro-organisms around my edibles. I can’t wait!

I’ll post more personal pics as my Compostas progress and update with tips or info that I might learn along the way.

DISCLAIMER: This is merely the opinion of my humble self and BetR2 does not sell any products or have any relationship to products mentioned here.

I just like them!

 

 

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Still led like sheep to shops

I first heard RedGum at Narara ’83, the Australian Central Coast’s answer to Woodstock.

Even after all these years, this song still rings with simple truth…. we are fodder for commercial profit.

Some of the names have changed, but we are still chasing the products that will supposedly make us happy.

San Francisco Happenings: An Empty Lot Blossoms into a Beautiful Community Art Garden

This is a brilliant record of a community garden from woe to go. I am hoping to do something similar for Equilibrium Future Solutions amazing Natural Gardens which we have enjoyed watching emerge from nothingness.

Purveyor of a buoyant & luminous lifestyle

A sunny warm San Francisco Saturday unfolded like a picnic blanket on the grass at Dolores Park.

Today’s main event was a Alice in Wonderland themed tea party fundraiser for the Please Touch Community Garden, a creative space that was founded by one of my dearest friends, GK Callahan, artist and MFA student at the California College of the Arts.

I can still remember in January 2010, when GK and I, were vacationing in Mexico, and he received the news that he had the green light to plant this seed of a project. His vision was expansive- to turn a run down, needle-strewn vacant lot across the street from City Hall, into a community garden, when everyone, including the blind community from the LightHouse for the Blind across the street could come and enjoy the sun.

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Above: A photo of artist GK Callahan and myself in 2011 at the lot.

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Getting Canny and Hitting the Bottle

Getting Canny and Hitting the Bottle

I was once the young Mum just trying everything that I could in the cooking field. I got on the jam project (due to my first Tamarillo Tree fruiting) around the same time as the school fete so I went berserk bottling jams and marmalades of all types. I had people donating Seville oranges or lemons or other fruits and I just cooked up whatever I could find recipes interesting for. I even incorporated my other interests at the time and made homemade paper for tags and spray stencilled the school emblem on them (I had been using spray stencilling for decorating children’s cakes). Lots of fun.

I don’t know if I had a computer or the internet, but I know I wants very savvy at the time. I went to the library, got out a good old book and copied out the recipes (guess funds must have been low, too).

However, years and two house moves later, I have no idea where those recipes went. I always like the tried and true recipes, either getting a recipe from someone after tasting their efforts or, at least, knowing they have an idea what they are doing in the kitchen.

So, when my new Tamarillo tree fruited (just as excited as I was the first time), I headed into the many internet sites that I have found I can trust to deliver good recipes. However, not many of them had the recipes I was looking for and my yearning for knowledge on the subject had me wandering here and there across the ether in search of tips and clues about all things bottling (canning, preserving…whatever you want to call it)

Tamarillo, Apple, Vanilla and Rosewater Jam

Tamarillo, Apple, Vanilla and Rosewater Jam


One site I thought you might like is 365 Days of Creative Canning. I haven’t made a lot of the recipes, but they challenged themselves to ‘canning’ something every single day for a year and have recently SUCCESSFULLY finished that challenge. That’s big in the knowing a bit about it stakes. I got a lot of know how and answers to silly questions which helped sort out some recipes that I liked the look of but that didn’t supply the vital basic information.

The blog tab has articles such as Canning 101 – Mastering Marmalades; How to use a Water Bath Canner (I don’t use one of these as I like doing small batches and manage fine without, but just thought you might like to know the sort of info available).

I just think you gotta learn a lot if you do that much preserving and they share oodles of info and lots of recipes to inspire and motivate.

Thought of the Day – ‘Mindless Eating’ quote

Thought of the Day – ‘Mindless Eating’ quote

eating_spaghetti
Brian Winsink, director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab, describes mindlessly eating:

“Most of us don’t overeat because we’re hungry. We overeat because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers.”

Thanks to The Local Graze for this quote.

Pumpkin Sauce Fettuccine

Pumpkin Sauce Fettuccine

We enjoyed this easy throw-together (as if it were gourmet) while doing the Local Harvest Challenge (see my roundup, here). We were lucky enough to have all the ingredients in our garden and pantry. We used lightly sautéed onion, garlic, zucchini and spinach. You might choose different ingredients to suit what you like or have on hand. (we call this Pumpkin sauce, because we call Butternut a pumpkin)

I’d usually use coconut milk to create the sauce (but I don’t think there are any coconut trees within 160km of our place so used home-made chicken stock that week). No, the fettuccine was neither home-made nor produced within 160km, but everything else was local.

Mini ButternutsWe have many mini butternut pumpkins (squash) ready for the eating from our backyard. Our dog dug up buried Bokashi, thus bringing seeds up to the top of the soil, which allowed them to grow. We let the pumpkins run rampant (along with rockmelons). The plants helped the garden survive some heatwave conditions and the mini pumpkins were the result of not cutting back the vines, I believe. We love them baked whole and have been able to hand them out to family and friends, too.

Spinach Mustard small and large leavesWe also have many “baby spinach” plants (Japanese Mustard Spinach). We use the small leaves in salads and on sandwiches; the larger leaves in stir-fries, soups, etc. These self-seeded when we left one of the original plants to go to seed. We collected a bunch of seeds, but some obviously ended up back in the garden. A great picking garden addition. I have plucked some out of the garden and put in a pot nearer to the back door.

Here’s the recipe… Sorry, I didn’t take a picture of the meal. I will take one next time we have it and update the post.

Pumpkin Sauce Fettuccine

Serves: 2 large serves as a main meal 3-4 as a side or with a salad

Ingredients

Approx 225g (1/2 pound) cooked pumpkin or squash, cut into large chunks *see note

Olive Oil

1 small onion, diced

1 clove garlic,  finely chopped

1 small zucchini (courgette), cut lengthwise and then sliced

1/2 bunch fresh spinach, chard or silverbeet (cut stalk into small pieces, roll leaves and slice)

Approx 1 cup coconut milk (or stock)

salt and freshly ground pepper

fresh or dried herbs of your choice (optional)

Approx 120g (4oz) dry or fresh Fettuccine (or your preferred serving size x 2)

Grated Parmesan cheese to serve

Method

  1. Cook fettucini in boiling salted water as per pack instructions or until al denté.
  2. Drain pasta and rinse if you wish.
  3. Sauté onion, garlic, spinach stalks, zucchini and spinach (or vegetables of your choice), in a heavy based pan, in a small amount of olive oil if desired.
  4. Remove pan from heat.
  5. Add pasta to the sautéed vegetables and stir through.
  6. Add cooked pumpkin or squash to the pan and stir gently (pumpkin will break down to some extent to form part of the sauce, but try to retain some visible pieces.
  7. Return to heat and add coconut milk.
  8. Season to taste (you could add fresh herbs of your choice at this stage or dried herbs doing sauté)
  9. Stir gently until heated through (adjust sauce thickness by adding more coconut milk if necessary).
  10. Serve immediately, topped with grated Parmesan to taste and perhaps with a light salad.

Notes and Tips:

* I baked my butternut whole and scooped out the flesh for this dish, but my pumpkin (squash) was just the right size for the dish (about 450g/ 1lb). Generally, you will get half the amount of cooked baked butternut flesh from a whole raw vegetable (so a 900g/2lb butternut will give approx 1lb cooked flesh). You can boil, steam, microwave or bake squash or pumpkin for this dish.

All quantities are flexible, as are the vegetables used.

Possibilities are endless with this dish: sprinkle some roasted pinenuts and chopped fresh parsley over before serving; use baby spinach leaves and add at last minute; add bacon when sautéing vegetables. Very versatile dish to use as a side to meats or to serve with a light salad. Great for lunch or dinner.

Butternut is a perfect consistency for this dish, but you could try substituting your favourite pumpkin or squash.

Savoury Layered Pancake Pie

Savoury Layered Pancake Pie

Our best fun cooking adventure while doing The Local Harvest Challenge, was a Savoury Layered Pancake Pie. We had once had something like this at a café and we already had some cooked crepes in the freezer, so we packed locally purchased and home-grown goodness between the crepes and created a ‘pie’.

Savoury Layered Pancake Pie in pan

Note: We call this a pancake pie because we call crepes pancakes. Apologies for any confusion.

We used a 20cm (8 inch) non-stick pie plate which was just a tiny bit smaller than our crepes, so they could curl up the side and create a bit of a ‘pie pastry’ look to the layers. We used 8 crepes, but you could use a few more or less, as you like.

I won’t list ingredients because you can use anything you like and the quantities will depend on the size of your crepes and your tastes (e.g. you might take one small clove of roasted garlic and break it over a layer or you might want lots of whole cloves in there).

You really don’t need much in each layer. I thought some of my meagre layers would have disappeared in the pile, but was pleasantly surprised.

Method:

For the roasted vegetable pie,  begin by cutting everything in long thin slices where possible (carrots and zucchini lengthwise, etc). Put these on an oven tray, with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.

Roast at 175 C / 350 F until tender, removing items as they are ready and allowing to cool. *See hint.

Spray pan with a little cooking spray if not using a non-stick pan. Place one crepe in the base allowing any extra to come up the sides of the pan. Put a layer of chosen filling on top of the crepe and top with another crepe, once again allowing to curl up the side of the pan.

Continue alternating fillings and crepes. You can have some layers the same if you like. 

These are the layers we used, as an indication only:

1)    Roasted sweet potato slices with lightly roasted garlic cloves – tear or slice garlic and spread around the layer.

2)   Cooked chicken breast slices mixed with sweet chilli sauce topped with fresh rocket (arugula).

3)   Cream cheese** or other soft cheese mixed with hot chilli and parsley. Spread over crepe.

4)   Roasted tomato and onion

5)   Roasted sliced carrots and roasted onion

6)   Spread of cream cheese mixture topped with roasted capsicum (skin removed after roasting) and lightly roasted zucchini slices.

7)   Any combination of cheeses – cheddar, parmesan, mozzarella, whatever you have or like. We only used a sprinkle, but it made a difference.

Top with last pancake. Sprinkle with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook to heat through (175 C / 350 F) for 10-15 minutes. Pop some foil over if crepes are getting too brown before pie is warmed through.

It is surprising how well it stacked up. Too easy!

Serve with a light salad for a perfect lunch or light dinner

Serve with a light salad for a perfect lunch or light dinner

Hints:

*Roasting: You can put the vegetables that need the most roasting onto the oven tray and start roasting while you continue cutting up. Add and remove items so most things are ready and cooled by the time you are ready to assemble the pie.

**If you are using cream cheese, first soften by stirring or mashing with a fork, then mix in a little milk. This will make a smooth sauce easier to spread on crepes. You can add anything you like to cream cheese, such as herbs, capers or your favourite sauce.

You could use any other fillings you think of: roast meats or ham; other vegetables; sauces (a tomato based sauce or paste would be nice); etc. Just sauté, steam, roast or microwave harder ingredients prior to making up the pie. Probably good to have a little gooey stuff (like cheeses) and a little saucy stuff (but not too wet obviously), just to help the pie stay together when cut.

Variation: I wouldn’t try this with thick pancakes, but you could try mixing different fillings into your pancake batter, cooking as normal and then piling up, warming through and slicing like a pie. A little soft cheese, mixed with chilli sauce or herbs, between the layers might be nice.