About Kat Szuminska

designer, educator, gardener, activist, creative problem solver katoombastreetpermaculture.com, mattandkat.com, openaustraliafoundation.org, bluemountainscommunitygardens.org

You’re Invited To See The Native Bee Hotel Installed

Blue banded bee02.jpg
Blue banded bee02“. Licensed under GFDL 1.2 via Wikimedia Commons.

You’re Invited to BEE AWARE Native Bee “Hotel” Installation

  • Bee introduced to the new bee habitat for your local community garden.
  • Bee part of the activities & learn how native, solitary bees nest in the habitat.
  • Bee introduced to some necessary equipment.
  • Bee ready to bee Citizen Scientists.

Where: Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens, Harold Hodgson Park, 10 Victoria Street, Katoomba

What day: Friday, 29th of August, 2014

What time: 10am


Bee Aware Native Bee SeminarWhat does a bee hotel look like? The bee hotel will be a lot like the one Megan is holding here, this one displayed at the exceptionally well attended native bee seminar in Leura.


Made from drilled hardwood and hollow plant stems, the bee hotel has spaces to suit Resin, Leafcutter, Reed and Masked bees. Megan will also place three rammed-earth blocks, particularly for Blue banded bees who prefer to drill their own homes.

Megan and Michael will be available to answer any questions you may have. Megan will bring everything we need to collect and study bees

No need to RSVP, just come along. And if you know anyone with an interest in native bees please invite them too.


Winter In the Gardens

by Sarah Hodgkinson

community gardens: winter

Now in the third month of winter, the cold has finally arrived. Gardeners arrive rosy-cheeked and hidden under many skins of clothing. During the season of winter, the garden is quiet and growth is subdued. All but the leafy greens have taken a rest. Despite the garden being at it’s least productive, we use the opportunity to tend, weed and restore. The slow movement from autumn to winter has given us plenty of time to recover from the busyness of a summer garden.
And whilst there is no hint of change in the outside coolness, we are now beyond the solstice. The shortest day of the year has past and the days have begun to lengthen. Despite only minutes more of sun each day, we begin the movement towards the warmth and light of summer as the natural cycles of the year pull us relentlessly from season to season. Slowed and contracted by the cold, it can sometimes seem as if it is only the progressing seasons that have the strength to take us out of winter.

community gardens: winterWe dig potatoes from the earth and hold in our hands the secret joys that grow during hibernation; these are riches of past toiling that have lain waiting to be uncovered at an opportune moment. Washing the soil from their skins, we place them straight into the soup pot. What was previously put away is now dug up. What was left to wait, is now harvested. How easy it is to be fooled by what we see – outwardly dormant and inactive, though full of life and nourishment beneath. All of which is happening silently beneath our very feet.

Now beyond the solstice, we re-begin the return towards the light. The days grow longer and warm cups of tea and noodle soup herd volunteers from every corner of the garden. Steady work sees the restructuring of the creek and the creation of a pond that will become the home of wildlife and the gathering spot of people in the warmer months.

community gardens: winter

Some weeks we work at revitalizing the medicinal garden, though mostly volunteers do not stray too far from the tea shed. It becomes apparent that we are spending more time drinking tea and snuggling around the small chiminea than working. But is this such a bad thing? When we look at what winter is reflecting to us through the garden we see that now is the time to rest, consolidate and prepare for the coming months. Nothing can grow from soil untended and there is no-thing is in a state of continual growth or production, all have their ebbs and flows. As we do what is needed to maintain the garden we are reminded of the importance of rest, quiet and introspection as the necessary periods before the bursting of energy and creation that will be arriving with spring.

Fresh Friday Tree Friends and Friends


Such a short time after Winter solstice, first budding flowers on trees are already appearing

Bright sunshine brings busy gardeners. today its lively and warm. its also the school holidays, so mothers and kids are playing in the sandpit and enjoying the day in the shelter of a nestled garden space.

We identify together three plants which on first inspection have similar leaves. As you look more closely borage, comfrey and dock all have quite different colours and textures. Borage leaves are bumpier more rounded, a blueish green. Some are still displaying those distinctive jewel like petite blue star flowers now, so its a great one for bee forage. Comfrey leaves are dying back now, their greenery wilting quickly from view to turn into great food for the soil. Comfrey leaves are hairy too, and have much pointier ends than borage. Comfrey leaves are usually a deep dark green, not dissimilar coloring to nettle. Now they’re yellowing and quickly turning brown. Yellow dock, which we’re also awash with, has smooth leaves in contrast with the other two.

all three have medicinal properties, with different parts used for a number of remedies, so they’re truly multipurpose plants. Borage is also known as star flower, best known for being packed with gamma linoleic acid or GLA, bringing anti-inflammatory relief, used for treating skin complaints and along with evening primrose oil, for hormonal balancing. comfrey invites a whole book by itself, but the most requests we get for it because of medicinal use here are due to its bone and joint healing properties, coming recommended by word of mouth from on neighbour or relative to another,.
Dock’s leaves are edible but somewhat bitter, a taste which has to be acquired.Its the roots which i hear can be used as a detoxifying tea, in moderation.

There are lots of all three which can be harvested at the community gardens, some, remnants in a spot we are clearing of all non-local plants. So if you’d like to grow comfrey borage or dock at home please let a gardener know, and we can help you find some to take home. Both dock and borage self seed easily so be careful where you plant them.

One mission among many today is the propagation of trees. Sue girard, local horticulture and permaculture educator is running two courses over the next 6 months in propagation. Students will also be helping those recently affected by fire to restock their gardens.

Today, Blue Mountains Organic Community Gardens donates a dozen bay and walnut tree propagules (that’s seedlings) today for students to get and understanding of tree growth, and provide new tree beginnings for lost gardens of Winmalee. Walnut and bay are both used for their fire retardant properties.

The flyer below is just for you if you’d like to learn to propagate fruit and nut trees as well as vegetables in 2014 …


Bee Aware of your Native Bees: Native Bee Seminar

BAYNB_invitiation_PHase2Seminar_BMCC Did you know we have about 200 species of native bee in the Greater Western Sydney and Lithgow areas? Bees and other insects are very important for our food production and biodiversity. Learn what they look like, where they live, how to encourage them into the garden & find out about citizen science. Australian Native Bee Seminar Come along & learn how you can be part of this new & exciting community project Date: Monday, 30th June 2014 What time: 6:30 – 8 pm, refreshments provided Where: CWA Hall, 137 Megalong St, Leura Bookings: bushcare@bmcc.nsw.gov.au or (02) 4780 5320 Supporter Logos

This seminar will give a terrific introduction to native bees, especially for those interested in finding out about the bees already living in the mountains. We are lucky enough to be installing our very own bee hotel in August at the community gardens, one of 5 locations between Western Sydney and Lithgow taking part in this delightful project. Download the flyer BAYNB_invitiation_PHase2Seminar_BMCC

Two Soups: Soup Number One Jerusalam Arichokes

International Permaculture Day visitors from around the globe enjoyed a couple of sensational seasonal food on the Sunday at the community gardens. As promised,  For those who asked about recipes and those of you who didn’t quite brave the weather on Sunday, you can still join in and get a little seasonal action, celebrating food culture in the kitchen at home with these wonderful warming winter soups. Here is the first of Sunday’s two soups, featuring very easy to grow local ingredient jerusalem artichokes (Helianthus turberosus). These often overlooked as standby and survival crop, in the right hands, in this case Sue’s, create dishes to look forward to.
jerusalem artichoke
If you’re not already growing Jerusalem artichokes at home, you can pick some up from the community gardens in the next couple of weeks, or at the Slow Food stall at Leura Harvest Festival this weekend.

Roasted Jerusalem Artichoke and Mushroom Soup


8 decent size Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed

1 medium onion, chopped

1-2 cloves garlic, crushed/finely chopped

2 cups mushrooms, roughly chopped

1/2 cup potato, roughly chopped to 2 cm pieces

2 Tablespoons dried porchini mushrooms

1l vegetable stock (if using powdered stock make it a mild one)

About a cup of oil and a tablespoon of butter (or oil)

small handful of parsley


Preheat oven to 200 C

As soon as you know you’re making this soup, cover dried porchini in a glass measuring jug with a litre of hot water and leave to stand. The longer you leave it the stronger the porchini flavour will be imparted to the liquid. The initial recipe I used says soak them 24 hours but if you do this step first, this will be fine to use by the time you need to add the mushroomy goodness.

Next chop jerusalem artichokes and potatoes into chunky slices, transfer to a baking tray, cover with oil & sea salt making sure all surfaces are well covered. Roughly chop mushrooms and put in a separate tray or dish, again cover well with oil.  Bake for 30-40 minutes.

When you’re bored of the artichokes and mushrooms being in the oven, (or just after the allotted time above), leave them in the oven til you’re ready for them. Take mushrooms out after 20 minutes. with artichokes, the longer they’re in there the more roasted flavour goodness you’ll get.

On the stove in a nice heavy pan or roasting pot, in a generous dollop of butter or oil, fry chopped onions and garlic until translucent, then add porchini + their water along with 1/2 additional stock. Cook for at least 20, preferably 30 minutes before blending with a stick blender or in small batches in blender with jug. If after blending you think the consistency is too thick at this point, add additional stock until you like the consistency. Season additionally to taste. I find with the salt used for roasting the artichokes that I don’t need any more at this point, so make sure you try it before adding any more.

Preheat bowls to serve with warm water. Add a swirl of cream, chop parsley and sprinkle over the top and serve immediately. Makes enough for 4-6 people depending on how hungry/gluttonous they are.