Robin Hall was introduced via a photo (sent to us by his friend) of Robin's head next to a two kilo head of broccoli head. A modest man, Robin said he grows "a little bit of veg" so a visit to the garden in Gilmore was a big treat.
Born in Sydney, Robin has been in Canberra for 20 years. He and his wife, Joanne Hall, have lived in Gilmore for eight years on a site chosen for its sunny, north-facing flat block. One side of the no-dig veggie patch is ground level and the other area is 400mm above ground.
The first thing Robin did was to plunge his hand into the black soil and wriggled his fingers until he was down to mid-forearm level. He purchases cow manure, one cubic metre at a time and composts everything, with a wood chipper used at home for prunings and everything that is cut back. He has a compost heap plus manure from the chicken coop.
There are four handsome brown chooks, purchased from Bellchambers. The Halls have lost more than a dozen chooks to foxes but have now solved the problem, closing a tiny gap in the roost.
Rows in the vegetable garden include chest-high broad beans and snow peas, cabbages, pumpkins, beetroot, carrots, lush coriander, radishes, onions, garlic, lettuces and kale. Robin said had many heads of broccoli this year that were more than a kilogram in weight. These are lightly steamed in one centimetre of water or eaten with a white sauce and cauliflower or added to a dry stir fry pasta vege mix. Robin unwrapped growing leaves from the last cauliflower then pulled it from the ground, captured by our Canberra Times photographer.
In the sunroom trays of seedlings are growing from seed indoors before planting out, to spare them from voracious slaters. Small pots of beans, cucumbers and tomatoes among them. Robin's latest online order was for bags of certified potatoes which are waiting to sprout before planting. They include Purple Congo, Nadine, White Star, Pink Eye and Pontiac.
Both Joanne and Robin love cooking. Their recipes are from everywhere but Joanne's Italian background does have an influence. She was born Giovanna but was encouraged at school to change to an Australian version so children could relate.
Joanne said each evening they pick the ingredients for that night's dinner. A favourite is raw grated carrot with grated beetroot, garden greens particularly French sorrel, rocket, coriander, parsley and very finely sliced kale with La Barre extra virgin olive oil and vinegar with a "mother", fermented sediment in the bottle (sold at delis and some supermarkets). Joanne also uses apple cider vinegar with "mother". Another simple dish is boiled home laid eggs with raw cashew pieces lightly cooked and currants to which you can add a piece of beef or chicken.
She makes plum jam from their homegrown fruit, and green tomato chutney, and makes three-layered sponge cake with passionfruit icing. There are also olive, apple and fig trees and a heavily laden lemon tree. Kombucha is bubbling away in a large covered urn in the kitchen.
Robin started keeping bees six years and has three hives which produced dozens of kilos of honey last year. The creamed honey is eaten on Joanne's homemade bread with camembert cheese and a glass of shiraz.
READ MORE KITCHEN GARDEN:
Joanne's sourdough bread
400g baker's flour
100g sourdough starter (which Joanne keeps in the fridge)
1 tsp salt
enamelled pot with lid
Weigh everything in one bowl, then mix (it will be sticky porridge-like dough). Fold dough four times every half hour (lift side to centre, four sides). Do this four times, it should only take 30 seconds with wet hands. It will then be pliable and smooth, as the gluten relaxes. Leave in bowl covered with cloth all day. By evening put dough on bench and flatten then fold like an envelope and make a ball. (Encourage you to watch Youtube on sourdough bread to see folding technique). Put dough in greased bowl covered overnight in fridge. In the morning put your enamelled pot with lid in oven set to 210 degrees heat, for 30 minutes. Flip dough onto greaseproof paper. Put dough with greaseproof paper into heated enamel pot, then put lid on. Cook for 20 minutes then remove lid and cook for a further 15 minutes. Take bread out leave wrapped in towel until cooled. When you tap bread it should sound hollow.