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What's been happening at Fifth Ave Katoomba Retreat - head above water quite literally.

You may remember me lamenting about the never ending task of keeping the grass looking neat and tidy at Fifth Ave Katoomba Retreat. Or you may not, as I'm sure we've all got loads on our minds. I received quite a bit of feedback from that particular newsletter so it must have resonated. I loved the suggestion of contacting universities and tafes to see if they want to use the land as part of a course.

So whilst I wait for a call back, we've been busy weeding, pruning, removing, clipping and generally giving ourselves a physical workout in the process. That's the beauty of Nature, it really does provide everything we could possibly need.

In preparation for the Edible Garden Trail in early March this year, my Mum and I went to the organisers' meeting, where we met so many wonderful people who were taking part, some for their 20th time. Being the first time we were taking part, I was a little consoled to see we were all in the same frantic boat, wondering how we would make our gardens presentable to the public, with the incessant rain hindering our efforts, not to mention, ruining anything growing.

Still, the whole point of growing food has a determination about it. One cannot give up. And one does have to develop a sense of resigned capitulation to the elements, knowing that the next season will see an improvement. At least, that's what one hopes for ...

So with less than three weeks to the Open Trail, we set about attempting to turn our 1000+ sqm yard into something the general public would find inspiring. At first glance, I was not impressed. All I could see was overgrowth, unripened fruit, lack of fruit and piles of mess. What to do??

Somehow between the three of us, and over the course of only about 5 days, stolen hours in and out of the rain (eventually just persevering through the rain!!), we had transformed the yard into a respectable area comprising of different zones. I was most proud of the new herb bed and the sections of grass we removed, which got covered in weed matting, then topped with crushed tree bark. I've recently planted ground covering plants that I cant wait to see in a few months time ...

For Trail visitors, I made up a little map, with a legend, as well as creating signs that would be laminated and attached to each tree or plant with string.

We gave our potted plants a good makeover with new soil and food, all ready for sale. And at night, we prepared our homegrown produce, jarring and pickling them. And calling on my printer for some last minute labels that would be attached. Oh, and some brand new flyers to hand out to visitors on the Trail.

I even roped in some family members to come and help direct the 200 or so expected members of the public through our property. At the eleventh hour, sadly the hard working organisers had to make the difficult but necessary decision to postpone the event as gardens and yards had become slippery, and roads leading into the Blue Mountains dangerous.

A sigh of disappointment mixed with a tinge of relief could be felt throughout the Mountains that day. But thanks to the clever organisers, an impromptu market day will be held at the Blue Mtns Food CoOp this Saturday April 2nd for edible garden owners to sell some of their products and produce.

I'll be there with our homegrown olives, from my Dad's 40 year old olive trees. As well as olive tapenade which is delicious even if I say so myself. And I've got jars of chilli oil, using homegrown chillis. They look pretty too!

Of course, the other thing we've been doing is continue to make our handmade pastas. Sadly the Woodford Harvest Festival was also cancelled this year, due to the rain. This is where I have sold our pasta gift bags in the past, so they will be available to buy this Saturday also. And as a special treat, I'll have pasta sauces for sale that compliment our pastas. Choose from meat based or vegetarian, which are suitable for vegan diets. Our pastas contain no egg, making it the perfect little package either for yourself, your next dinner party or to gift to your favourite person. What can be more uplifting than a plate of homemade, hand cut pasta?!

A new event we were eager to take part in is Equinox Blue Mountains, run by Blue Mountains Tourism, celebrating everything that Autumn has to offer. Cleverly, the festival was broken into sections related to the senses. Various venues held an event based on a particular sense such as Taste or Hear etc, focusing on an experience of food or music respectively. We ran our Italian Food Experience at Fifth Ave Katoomba Retreat. This festival is running til April 10, so it's worth checking for details. Keep in mind, our event can be booked for private groups for your next special occasion.

The good news is, the Edible Garden Trail has been postponed to new dates – Oct 15 and 16. Please mark your diaries and tell your friends. A lot of effort goes into this event. And it takes a lot of hard work to grow food, albeit rewarding. If there was ever a time to help small and local businesses, this year would be that time. We look forward to chatting with you over the weekend of Oct 15-16. And at the Food CoOp this Saturday of course :)

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