Field Notes (Summer 2016/2017)


birdsWe have lots of avian visitors from sulfur crested cockatoos to fairy wrens to magpies to minor birds to kookaburras. These guys were posing in a prime positions. One of the reasons we get so many birds is due to Sophie G’s amazing natives gardens around the edges of the property. I hope to be able to include a list of all the plants she’s planted soon.


IMG_5520I know chickens are birds, but this quintet is in a category of their own. They suffered through summer, laying a bit, but not heaps. We had some mammalian friends sharing their coop which we managed to get under control late summer. We read that chickens aren’t too happy sharing their space with families of Templetons, so that (and the extreme heat) partly explained their laying patterns. This Autumn, as I write this, we have fenced in most of the garden beds and let them out heaps more during the day. They are so much happier and healthier now than they were in this shot. Poor gals.


sgcucumberSophie G had a power cucumber patch. A few plants. A bit of compost. Diligent watering. No chicken interference. This patch was the gift that kept on giving. All summer producing giant cucumbers. From my observations, there was obviously good, strong seedling stock and then well fertalised and careful attention to watering and ongoing harvesting. Award winning stuff!



cruel summerI once worked in a manchester (=bedding) store in the bowels of Bondi Junction Westfield. It was the lower ground floor (=underground floor). I think rent at that time was $23000 a month (this figure makes me dizzy, nauseous) Not only did we not have sunlight, we had to play licensed corporate music mixes. They were absolutely terrible on the whole but I remember one CD was sort of OK. In particular because of Bananarama’s song “Cruel Summer” (I learned of this song from the corporate mix CD, so I suppose it wasn’t all bad). The lyrics tell the story of a girl’s lonely summer having been left by a partner and friends in the hot, hot city. It was a cruel summer, primarily because it was stinking hot; the loneliness came in second to the heat. The heat made it difficult for the girl to actually motivate herself to do anything other than sit around:

“Hot summer streets
And the pavements are burning
I sit around
Trying to smile but
The air is so heavy and dry
Strange voices are saying
(What did they say)
Things I can’t understand
It’s too close for comfort
This heat has got
Right out of hand”

The film clip (apologies for the ad, but available HERE) shows the group (amazing hair, amazing outfits) working at a petrol station on Manhattan. They are working hard in the cruel summer. Until a truck comes along and they close up shop and go on a joyride, throwing bananas at a police car that’s chasing them because they closed up before the cops could fill up their tank. So much to think about in this little clip: the petroleum, the bananas, the red-lipstick, the cops, the truck driver and the overalls. But I  include this story here because “cruel summer” is a way of describing what it felt like in Sydney this summer. It was hot, long and the pavements burned. The heat “got / Right out of hand”. The garden suffered. On long afternoons we retreated indoors to a warm, but cooler than outside, and dark living space.


fourseasonsinonedayAlthough the summer was cruel and hot, there were deluges (sometimes morning, sometimes afternoon). It was tropical. I love this post on instagram, because the comment from Vanessa Berry that archives the afternoon change into hot, sunny and (presumably) humid. There was lots of this over the summer. Summer rain is usually good for the garden, but the intensity of the rain, and its irregularity made it difficult to handle. It would wash away seeds, rather than nurture them; that combined with the heat and very little technological solutions (low tech ones such as shade cloth and timed midday watering under it; or our presence at home during the day to attend to things that needed a boost) meant we didn’t have a hugely abundant summer. There’s a lot more about the summer that was over at my other blog Weathering the City.


LILLYPILLYlillypillyI must confess: I missed this harvest. Despite admiring the tree so much, I also felt overwhelmed by the abundance of fruit, not only in our front yard but all around the city. Pavements made slimy after rain by fruit squashed underfoot. We picked some. Stan (our littlun) and Olive (another littlun from down the street) spent a hot afternoon in the cool of the tree’s own private understory, fearing not of spiders and finding many, many berries. I picked a bowl but left them overnight, too hot, they dried out quickly. I fed them to the hungry compost. Next year I must make jam, pickles, vodka infusion and clothes dye! (This tree went in on our first working bee in December 2012. It’s now 4 and a bit years old) Below is a before and after shot of the front yard, in which the Lillypilly is the centrepiece. Before = December 9 2012, our first busy bee and then the second shot is from February 28 2017.

progress1 progress2


CMJnightwateringOne of the perks of the summer was being able to (=wanting to) walk around in your swimwear after dark to do gardening. It was also necessary in order to keep the moisture up after the hot, dry days. Sometimes the recommendation is not to do watering at night because it can cause things like powdery mildew to develop (and lord knows we have the spores for that little pestoid in the garden) but this summer it didn’t seem to matter.


summer pasta sauceWe started eating more pasta over summer because it is so quick to make after we pick up Stan from daycare. He also likes helping with the harvest – especially of the cherry tomatoes. This sauce was delicious. Garlic, Asparagus, Basil, Tomato.


potatoharvestThe potato plants seemed to suffer in the heat, so harvest was a bit early. The yield wasn’t too bad. They were very yummy and, as always, very fun to harvest. Stan really helped out this year, ferrying the potatoes between the garden beds and the wheelbarrow!


IMG_5506Stan just keeps getting bigger and bigger. He went through a phase of sitting on the bench while we did things. I think this was a hot day where we were hiding out inside. Water spraying each other to keep cool. He’s a sweet guy.


NZBefore I split my life and farm instagram feeds, we went to NZ (and so the Earlwood Farm Instagram seems to fly across the Tasman for a couple of weeks!). This trip I had a swim-a-day goal. A seemingly humble goal took us to amazing places such as Piha beach (pictured) and some hot springs outside of Rotoroua. When back in Sydney, the swimming continued. Below is the final swim on a 3-swim field adventure to Manly and across to Watsons Bay on the Ferry. It’s a bit of an effort to get around to the beaches in Sydney, but worth it when you do. It’s a luxury to be able to splash around in the ocean not too far from home, and another way of cooling off (instead of hunkering down in the house with the fan and the water sprayer)!



accidentalsunflowersOne thing that did survive the summer heat was a patch of sunflowers. One day, months earlier, Stan and I seed saved from a large sunflower that had died over in another bed. I left the seeds outside and it rained. So I tossed the contents of the seed jar on this bed and watered it intermittently. Magical little forest of flowers sprung up.


tomatoesThis palm-sized Black Russian tomato was far and away the largest one we had. The majority of our tomato treasures were from weedy cherry tomatoes that seem to grow where they are happiest! Though we still didn’t have enough for a passata day. One year!