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The Kitchen Garden Guide August
It is hard to imagine a more weather-diverse July – five frosts in a row and my pond frozen for three days straight, followed by t-shirt days and balmy nights. All this will affect our gardens in August in ways that we have to tune into, to notice.
It is time to see that the early fungus that causes leaf curl on peaches, nectarines and related fruit trees does not get a hold, by spraying every nook and cranny of every branch, stem and bud with a copper spray. Peter Cundall recommends Burgundy mix, which you can make yourself, because it does not clog up the spray nozzle, like Bordeaux can. It is also beneficial to spray apples which had scab last year and raspberry canes which had leaf rust.
• Dissolve 50 grams of washing soda (from supermarket) in 2.5 litres of warm water.
• Dissolve 50 grams copper sulphate in a separate 2.5 litres of water.
• Slowly pour the dissolved washing soda into the dissolved copper sulphate.
• This is Burgundy mixture. It is at its most effective strength when freshly mixed so must be used immediately or within a couple of days.
• Spray thoroughly over the bare branches of peach, nectarine and other stone fruit trees to help control leaf curl and brown rot disease. It is also useful when sprayed over raspberry canes in late July or early August for control of raspberry rust and on apple trees that had scab last year.
The mixture colours the sprayed plants blue. The spray can withstand light rain but should be re-applied after persistent rain and done at least twice before any buds open. Do not spray once the leaves and flowers open.
Bare rooted fruit trees can be planted now. Do consider if you really want full sized fruit trees or if, like me, you would prefer more, smaller trees, providing fruit over a longer period.
It is great to use vertical space for food production and it is easy to trim fruit trees flat against a frame or fence. It also makes them easy to protect from wildlife when they are fruiting as they are a much more manageable size for netting.
I just dig a hole, work in some compost then make a small mound in the bottom of the hole for the roots to sit on. I put the tree in the hole, stand back and look at its shape in relation to my desire for it to end up being flat against the fence, turn it so it looks good, then fill in the hole and water in thoroughly. Make sure the graft is well above the soil.
Next, I prune off anything that is sticking outwards away from the fence. Then I cut a few pieces from a ball of the stretchy fabric type of twine and start tying the remaining branches back horizontal or slightly upwards, to the fence. At this point some of the twiggy branches or those getting in the way of others, can be removed. Then, all year round, I simply prune off anything growing outwards and anything growing over the top of other branches. If it is a single stalk, I prune off to a bud that is facing the right way to grow along the fence. If you want to learn about how to espalier almost anything, you can attend one of the Cygnet espalier workshops put on by Nik Magnus. Check out the dates and book on the Woodbridge Fruit Trees website.
Some leafy vegetables have large amounts of oxalic acid in them, rhubarb being the highest concentration and everyone knows not to eat rhubarb leaves. Next comes spinach and anything related to beets; silver beet, rainbow chard (which is multi-coloured silver beet) and beetroot, for example. My mother always told me that these need to be cooked in lots of boiling water and drained well. If I want some greens to put in soup or to stir fry, I use leaves with the least oxalic acid, from the table above. I eat a lot of greens, many raw, so I like to vary what I eat and choose according to how I am going to prepare them.
Water and frost
If you have land but no garden yet, winter will show you how your land handles rain and frost. Are there boggy areas that are constantly wet? Are there patches that remarkably stay bone dry (like under large trees)? Perhaps you have a slope that turns into a sheet of running water or a creek that becomes eroded or overflows? Does the frost affect some patches more than others? Take notes, draw a rough map and mark out distinct zones with sticks because you will forget.
One way to modify the land is to make your garden interesting with cleverly designed mounds and shaped low areas that lead excess water to a pond or already existing creek. My garden has such a design, directing water around the garden in shallow, grassy depressions which end up either in my pond or in the creek. There are paths crossing the dips, with small “bridges” which keep a walker’s feet dry, which are anything from a few, short planks embedded into both sides to a metal grate or some nice rocks. These features make land into garden and plants can be selected for their habitat requirements where the soil is often damp.
This is Tasmania so make use of our climate and our diverse native Tasmanian plants, many of which are edible and which will result in frogs, insects and our gorgeous, tiny, native birds and small mammals inhabiting parts of your garden. Make frost your friend.
Plant and sow in August
Rhubarb, strawberry runners, raspberry canes, asparagus and get all deciduous trees and shrubs in before they leaf.
Start sowing summer vegetables with bottom heat:
Eggplants…. Good luck!
And while you are waiting for them to mature, why not grow some sprouts in the kitchen for a nutritious and delicious treat for your taste buds and body…. lentils, chickpeas, fenugreek, buckwheat
Sow now in trays to plant out later:
Onions including red, salad, spring and most others
Broad beans (it is not too late)
Peas and to eat as pea shoot microgreens
Raw vegetable Approx. oxalate content milligrams per 100 grams
Beet greens (silver, rainbow) 610
Bok choy, mustard greens, endive 10
Everybody needs a home
Brrr! It’s cold. Not a good time for insecurity, of any kind. This week is designated as National Homelessness Week (2-11 August), but the problem of homelessness is an ongoing and increasing problem, experienced by thousands of Tasmanians throughout the year. Like many of my friends and acquaintances, I support local organisations such as op shops and other charitable groups, whose work is aimed towards supporting people who are homeless, vulnerable and insecure. That may include food, safety or housing insecurity. Last week, when visiting St Vinnies in Huonville, I struck up a conversation with a volunteer. Is there a direct way – as well as the usual way of donating good quality items and purchasing any of the products they have in their Main Street store – that we could help anyone who was immediately and particularly vulnerable? I said I was interested in helping people who were in urgent need. I wanted to know, what happens when an emergency or sudden need arises?
The scale of homelessness
I like to knit beanies and blankets to give away, but I was concerned for those who might need direct help, right now. President of the Southern Regional Council of St Vincent de Paul Society Tasmania, John Moore, told me in his email response to my query, about some of the needs at the moment in this area: “Homelessness is a complex topic and the solutions for people in that predicament are many and varied. Certainly, the high cost of housing is a factor for many. Sometimes there are also other challenges including mental health, domestic violence, addiction, unemployment, debt, health problems, eligibility for Centrelink or family break-ups that underlie homelessness. Assistance for homeless people often comes from more than one agency so that underlying difficulties are addressed. Bethlehem House specialises in assistance for homeless men, providing a bed for the night and programs for those men to put them on a stable, safe path. There are others including Safe Space run by Hobart City Mission. Locally, the Community Health Centre social workers assist people with whatever issues present.
“In terms of beanies and blankets, I have a good supply at present and access to all stock that comes into the Huonville Vinnies shop. Similarly, Kingborough Helping Hands keep a good supply ready for their weekly Loui’s Van run around Kingston. You would probably find that Salvation Army, Red Cross, Hobart City Mission in Huonville also have supplies of these items for homeless people. St Vincent de Paul also has swags and emergency kits for the homeless. The need for these resources tends to rise and fall in Huonville depending on factors such as unemployment and the level of government assistance available.
“Recently, the supplements related to the coronavirus were a welcome boost for many. We see that rise and fall in the numbers visiting our Loui’s Van soup van in Huonville. Much greater numbers are seen in Hobart and Kingston. If there was one area of need we struggle to meet, it is the supply of furniture, including beds. When homeless people manage to secure affordable housing, they sometimes face the problem of sourcing furniture (particularly when most of their income goes in rent). Mattresses given to homeless people should be unused but other furniture can be second hand if it is in good condition.”
Tasmania is made up of many communities, alike but not always identical in terms of needs for its citizens. The following is just what we can do locally, through some of the agencies available to help those in need.
“The St Vincent de Paul Society Tasmania provides emergency response to persons who need food, clothing, shelter or other basic necessities. Anyone faced with homelessness can contact us for assistance in a number of ways: phone 6234 4244 and our Hobart office will take their details and arrange for one of our local Society members or staff to contact them. The new contact website, assistancetas.com.au, enables online booking of an assistance request to St Vincent de Paul Society and a number of other service organisations including Salvation Army, Catholic Care, Hobart City Mission and Uniting Vic Tas”. John Moore said: “Our local St Vincent de Paul Society organisation in the Huon Valley will respond to requests in this area. Our Loui’s Van soup van provides a light meal every Tuesday evening from 6pm to 6.20pm in the car park behind the Huonville Council offices. This service will continue for the foreseeable future.”
Whatever way you choose to help, be assured that there are local organisations who are grateful for support. One thing that I have been plugging for a while – please only donate items that are of decent quality. Using local charities as a dumping spot for your cleanouts or rubbish is not on – the cost for disposal will fall on the organisations and reduce the amount they can give to those in need.
Woman of mystery
I once read a murder mystery where the victim was supposedly poisoned with an undetectable, untraceable poison. When I asked a friend who had serious knowledge of chemistry and, possibly, such substances, he replied, “Ah! Who did you want to bump off?” That was my answer, I guess. Such a poison does exist. Agatha Christie probably knew what this perfect murder weapon was. Born in 1890, she worked as a nurse through both world wars but also studied pharmacology and worked in the hospital dispensary, acquiring a thorough knowledge of potentially toxic drugs. They would often play a prominent part in many of her 66 detective novels and 14 short story collections. Did any include that mysterious, undetectable drug? If so, it would have to be some other flaw in the evil-doer’s planning that would bring him or her undone, for surely the Queen of Crime would never leave her reader dangling, not knowing ‘whodunnit’?
Don’t tell your friends!
Agatha Christie is coming to the Playhouse. Director Jeff Kevin is keen to spread the news of this new production, The Stranger, but he ‘requests’ (I suspect he’s keener than that! maybe – ‘pleads’?) that those who see the play do not reveal the end. “The final scene relies on a surprise”, he says. Intriguing. Moreover, “I have set the play in a dark winter in Hobart” – good timing Jeff. As I write, today’s maximum is only 9ºC. “The Stranger doesn’t depend on an English setting, it can be relocated anywhere. However, the keen observer will realise that setting it in both Hobart and Bothwell is appropriate for the plot,” he says. Jeff who, since coming to Tasmania in 2003 has lived at Kettering and Blackmans Bay, knows what he’s talking about. He’s a graduate of NIDA, and after obtaining a Master of Creative Art at the University of Wollongong, took up the position there as Head of School, Music and Drama. Jeff’s acting and directing career spanned over three decades, and in 1972 he became famous as Arnold Feather in the ground-breaking, cheeky television series, Number 96. Now retired, Jeff says his experience working with Hobart Repertory, both cast and behind-the-scenes crew, has been wonderful. The Playhouse team is equally delighted to have his “knowledge, skill and expertise” on board. The “brilliant cast” of The Stranger features some of Hobart’s most experienced and talented actors: Karen Kluss, Steven Jones, Pip Tyrrell, Jon Lenthall, Astrid Tiefholz and Angela Zonno.
Any butlers on hand?
Two men and a girl – the first of these men, Dick, solid and reliable, is the man with whom the girl, Enid, has had “an understanding” for seven years. Yes, it’s a bit much to think the flame of romance will survive so long, especially when it involves not enough money and too many dependent relatives on both sides. Then Enid comes into a decent inheritance – and meets the second man, a tall, dark and handsome stranger who very quickly sweeps her off her feet, into marriage and a new, exciting life. Dick is furious. The happy couple move to Philomel Cottage. It’s picturesque and isolated, and it’s where ‘something bad’ happens. Intriguing indeed. Philomel Cottage was the original title of the short story by Agatha Christie on which the play is based. It’s believed to be the only one she actually scripted herself, and – something else to add to the intrigue – lay hidden for around a century. Hobart Rep is staging only the second or third known production of her original script – something really special and something that makes this play a ‘must see’.
Spinning a good yarn
Agatha Christie was a voracious reader from the age of four, and later a fan of fictional detectives, especially Sherlock Holmes. She wrote her first detective novel, The Mysterious Affair at Styles in 1916, featuring Hercule Poirot. She had her only child, a daughter, with her first husband, and travelled the world with him to promote his business – even to Australia. When the marriage fell apart – she said it caused illness, sorrow, despair and heartbreak – Agatha created her own mystery by disappearing, the result of a major breakdown. Her second husband was an archaeologist. The world of archaeology, as all her life experiences, contributed to her cleverly imagined and skilfully crafted mysteries. Jeff Kevin believes Philomel Cottage and The Stranger were inspired by newspaper reports of two serial killers, one in France and the other in America in the early 1890s. Like a good murder? Consider yourself a bit of a mystery solver? Just like to be entertained? The Stranger will be worth coming out for, even braving a cold Hobart or Bothwell winter. It opens on Friday August 27. Book at www.playhouse.org.au or phone 6234 1536.
“Curiosity is a powerful motivating force that moves us forward. It propels us through doors and compels us to explore new pathways. Even though it’s rumoured to have killed the cat, author Sue Moon assures us that retaining a sense of it is a valuable tool for staying alive and vital.”
I remembered this the other day when the subject of ‘pin money’ came up in conversation and I was curious to know its meaning.
Looking online I found several explanations.
There is a site called Word Detective which answers such questions, so I wrote:
“Dear Word Detective: Recently I read an explanation of the origin of the term “pin money” on a Facebook page. Included in the explanation was a “fact” that way back whenever, pins were only sold on two days of the year (January 1st and 2nd). This sounds pretty ridiculous, so I await confirmation (or not) from you.”
The reply was: “Thanks for a neat question. All of a sudden I feel like I’m back in 1996, when nearly every question I received came with a colourful story involving the inexplicable behaviour of people, as you put it so well, “way back whenever”. In this case, however, the story is, as weird as it sounds, largely true. The Reverend Dr E. Cobham Brewer, author of the original Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable in 1870, included an entry on ‘pin money’ which read: “Long after the invention of pins, in the fourteenth century, the maker was allowed to sell them in open shop only on January 1st and 2nd. It was then that the court ladies and city dames flocked to the depots to buy them, having been first provided with money by their husbands. When pins became cheap and common, the ladies spent their allowances on other fancies, but the term pin money remained in vogue.”
A look at Wikipedia tells more of the history of pins: “Pins have been found at archaeological sites dating as early as the Paleolithic, made of bone and thorn, and at Neolithic, Celtic and Ancient Roman sites. Neolithic sites are rich in wooden pins and were still common through Elizabethan times. Metal pins dating to the Bronze Age have been found in Asia, North Africa and Europe, like the notable hammer-headed pins from the Kurgan burials in the northeastern Caucasus.”
This was all long before Velcro, zips, poppers or even buttons. Pins were used to hold everything together. It seems that pins were sufficiently expensive and in such short supply in the 14th century that Parliament actually did pass a special law so that they could only be sold on the first two days of January. Pins were so important that a Pinners Guild was established in London in 1356.
But back to the question of why we use “pin money” today.
Some of the letters in reply to the explanation given on Word Detective are:
“The way this term was taught to me by my grandmother, who was born in 1887, was that a father gave his daughter “pin money” to catch a ride home, if her “date” wasn’t going well. The money was pinned in her brassier.”
“My mother and grandmother used to use it to refer to money set aside from doing extra work, or set aside from being frugal, like the coin jar. If we saved on electricity, or my mum negotiated
a better heating oil price, or we had casseroles for a week to save on the food budget – that was all pin money.”
“Pin money” was never intended to be spent entirely on pins, no matter how expensive they might have been; the term was simply verbal shorthand for “household allowance.” What’s interesting about the term “pin money” is that it originally meant a hefty chunk of change. But with the dramatic fall in the price of pins, a literal interpretation led to “pin money” becoming synonymous with “a trivial amount of money” or “petty cash”. Back in the days when only the husband had paid work, he would give his wife “housekeeping money” to cover the bills of the household. Anything the wife earned herself was considered ‘pin money’ and kept to spend how she wished.
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