Chapter 5
The Spice of Life

I have in my mind all these grand ideas about cooking with herbs and spices grown fresh in our garden, but really when it comes down to it my usual kitchen repetoire is very boring and bland.  Not because I don’t love the aroma and the subtle flavours that herbs can add to a meal but when I cook anything a la Jamie Oliver covered in Thyme leaves, Rosemary sprigs or fried Sage leaves I face the same old disappointing comment, “It looks like you dropped it in the grass!”  ARGH! What am I to do?  I have made the most beautiful fresh basil pesto with hand picked leaves, carefully toasted pine nuts and had it go off before it was finished because I am the only one who eats the stuff.  
I have even spent ages on a cushion on the deck pulling the tiny coriander seeds off their desiccated stalks to half fill a jar with the potential for a delicious curry.  It was therapeutic I must say, even enjoyable, as it really did represent for me my first “crop”.  But alas, no one else in my family eats coriander.
Anyway, regardless of the family’s lack of culinary adventurousness, the first time my sister from Sydney and her partner came to visit our new project, I roped them in to help me plant the herb garden.  We pulled heaps of weeds that had well and truly embedded in what looked like old weed matting (lot of good that did!).  Under instruction I dug the holes, half filled them with organic potting mix and gently eased the little plants out of their pots and placed them into the ground. Collections of local newspapers were placed over the ground and watered in and then topped with a layer of sugar cane mulch to keep in the moisture and repel the weeds.  We did a terrific job in such a small space and I held great hopes for the herbs progress. Weeks later I worked out that I needed to fence out the chickens as they scratched all the newspaper to the surface and I had to do the whole process all over again!
Everything flourished for a while and produced my crop of coriander seeds and garnishes for many salads.  Unfortunately with our business being my first priority the garden was left to care for itself. We first lost the parsley (lack of water), the coriander (went to seed way too quickly) and a couple of the sage plants (water again).  I must say though that we have the biggest healthiest rosemary plant that I have ever grown.  I have always chuckled when Jamie Oliver used rosemary sticks to skewer meat… I didn’t even know that rosemary could grow large enough to produce “sticks” as mine always died before the plant grew to get woody.  Now I see marinated lamb kebabs on the horizon!
We have since added the egg plants and as mentioned have been rewarded with fruit.  We planted some strawberries that we found sprouting in a strange space in another garden and now we wait hopefully  as they have bloomed with dozens of little white flowers.  
I knew that in order for anything to grow prolifically we needed to put in a water reticulation system on a timer because dragging a hose to that part of the garden was a chore which I neglected to do often enough.  
Another couple of hundred dollars later (did I mention we call Bunnings the $200 shop?) and we have all the parts we need; the hose, the risers, the sprinkler bits coupled with an old garden timer we found in the shed.  Now it is just another job for Benny that needs to be scheduled in to his many tasks.  I wonder when it will makes its way up the list of priorities?
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  1. Though my parents had a marvelous garden, I didn’t attempt growing anything beyond houseplants that invariably grew for a while and then died. Then, in my fifties, I took up flower gardening and it has become I hobby I relish. So I am impressed with what you are learning and accomplishing, even if you’re the only one who eats the result!

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