Monday, June 16, 2014

Preserving from the backyard

Bec Pollock in her garden at her Bonython home harvests a golden globe turnip.
In season .... Bec Pollock harvests golden globe turnips, swedes, kohlrabi,
and a variety of kales at her Bonython home. 
Jars of pickled yellow zucchini, tomato and chilli sauce, sage and apple chutney, and green tomato relish fill Bec Pollock's pantry in Bonython. In a glass container on the kitchen bench, she is lacto-fermenting garlic, which she says adds probiotics and enzymes. And she has a jar of garlic powder, made from garlic that she has minced then dried it in a Fowlers Vacola dehydrator.

Pollock will lead a preserving workshop at the Canberra Environment Centre on October 19. Pollock and her husband Ryan Mavin moved to Canberra in 2008.

They came from Coffs Harbour where she was raised on a small farm, so her early years involved sheep, chickens, horses, pigs and vegetable gardening. She says they became more aware of the environment and self-reliance when their children were little. She learnt about permaculture and they started growing organic produce, keeping chickens, making their own toiletries and foraging.

Bec Pollock's pickles and preserves at her Bonython home.
Time capsules ... Bec Pollock's pickles and preserves. She will give
presentations on preserving at Floriade on Thursdays at 1pm. 
In 2010, Pollock read about ''urban homesteading'' on a US blog and realised that's what they were doing. This backyard or city farming involves connecting with the community and living more frugal, lower-impact lifestyles. Pollock and a friend have a common passion for urban homesteading, and they've set up a website (, with plans for events and workshops.

In the home garden in Bonython, Pollock and Mavin have four large, raised, wicking worm garden beds where the soil is rich and friable. They make compost and use chicken manure from their own hens.
They are harvesting golden globe turnips, swedes, kohlrabi, and a variety of kales. Garlic and broad beans, sugar snap peas and purple podded peas are cropping. 

Pollock grows beetroot, carrot, chillies, radish, silverbeet and herbs year round. In a greenhouse, tomatoes, zucchini, squash and cucumbers are germinating from seed, ready for planting out into the garden in November. Pollock collects seeds from tomatoes, beans and peas but says saving seed means knowing which species will cross-pollinate so she does not collect seed from turnip, kohlrabi, swede or kale.

Colourful start ... Purple potted peas from Bec Pollock's Bonython garden.

Colourful start ... Purple potted peas
from Bec Pollock's garden. 
During spring, she is making casseroles and curries using homemade jars of relish, chilli jam and kasundi, as well as beans that she dried last year served with fresh greens from the garden. She uses eggs from five chooks in omelettes and vegie bakes with rocket and fresh herbs. Last year, after doing a ''natural beekeeping'' course with Tim Malfroy, they obtained a hive that had made a home in a research bird box. The bees have been rehomed into a wooden hive. The queen survived and the bees are out in force now feeding on the garden's blossoms on a donut peach tree, apple and apricot trees.

■ Bec Pollock gives presentations at Floriade on seed saving (Thursdays, 10.30am), preserving (Thursdays, 1pm), urban homesteading (Sundays, 10.30am), and cooking from the garden (Sundays, 1pm). Floriade also has a city farm display with vertical planting and chooks. 

■ Pollock also leads a workshop on preserving through the Canberra Environment Centre at the Bush Capital Lodge in O'Connor ($80, October 19, 2pm-5pm,