Goodbyes are hard……

August 15, 2016

…..but this is one I have to make. I’ve decided to cease writing this blog. It’s been going for almost nine years now and I think I’ve said all I want to say and I’m finding it hard to come up with new posts which aren’t just repeats of what I’ve already written. And seriously, I doubt whether it’s doing any good to encourage self-sufficiency amongst people who are aren’t already into it. I’m just preaching to the converted and those who don’t think self-sufficiency is important won’t be reading this stuff anyway.

Thank you all all my readers and those who’ve made regular comments; they’ve all been much appreciated. I will still read all your own self-sufficiency blogs and comment there, so we can keep in touch.

I won’t take the blog down but will leave it here for as long as WordPress allows it to be here. I’ll probably need to refer back to some of the information myself. 🙂

Enjoy your gardens and the healthy food they give you.

 

Pickled apples

July 30, 2016

I’ve dried them, but never pickled them.

Just thought I’d share this. I’m going to have a go.

http://restoringmayberry.blogspot.com.au/2016/07/how-to-make-pickled-apples.html

(image taken from the blog)

Turmeric

July 22, 2016

About 12 months ago I was given a small pot with a sickly-looking yellow leaf in it and asked if I could “make it well again”. The label said ‘turmeric’ and I’d always wanted to have a go at growing it, but had never been able to buy rhizomes locally. Green Harvest in Queensland does sell them but I hadn’t ordered any to try because I figured it probably wouldn’t be that easy to grow down south and didn’t want to waste the money.

But here was an opportunity to have a go and the donor had said she didn’t really want it back again.

So I potted it into a slightly larger pot and consulted Mr Google. As I thought, it seemed as though the plant wasn’t dying, but just entering winter dormancy. I left it in the polyhouse, just keeping it moist, and sure enough, in spring a little green shoot appeared. I fed it with Dynamic Lifter, watered it regularly and eventually potted it into a larger pot. This is how it looked at the end of summer :

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As the weather cooled, the leaves started to yellow. I cut back on watering :

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More and more :

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Finally, the moment of truth had come. Time to tip it out of the pot and see if there were any rhizomes.

Yay! :

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The clump split easily into two. I’ve replanted the group of larger rhizomes on the left and separated the smaller ones on the right. I was surprised to see the little tubers growing at the end of the thick roots, just like they do for potatoes. I had thought that the main rhizome multiplied by just elongating and branching, so I’ve stored these little tubers in moist cocopeat until I can get around to planting them individually into smaller pots. I hope they will form the basis of new plants, but will probably take some time to grow big enough to harvest.

The  tubers I took inside to use were only small….. a couple the size of my little finger. I didn’t even bother to take a photo. I decided to try drying them, so chopped them in the Thermomix and put them in the dryer. They were yellow when I put them in but they’ve gone brown :

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Maybe that’s an enzymatic reaction, same as when chopped apples and potatoes go brown. I hope it hasn’t altered the nutritional qualities. Looks like I can add another foodstuff to my self-sufficiency repertoire…..and a healthy one at that.

Storm damage

July 19, 2016

We had some wild weather last week, with high winds and rain. Today is fine, sunny and windless and I finally got outside to assess the damage. A tamarillo has  bitten the dust :

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A huge Swamp Gum down the back has lost a main branch, which is still attached and hooked up on other trees. I’ll be keeping away from underneath this one until it decides to fall all the way :

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This was the major damage. The rest consisted of small branches and twigs everywhere, out of which I got four useful barrowloads of mulched gum leaves.

 

May update

June 23, 2016

Yes, I know it’s almost June, but nothing much happened during May and I’ve been hibernating inside in front of the fire for the most part of each day.

So just a few quick photos.

I’ve given up sowing seed in the conventional way, potting up and growing on seedlings ready to plant out. Instead I’ve taken the lazy way out and sowed thickly in wicking boxes and large tubs. This is Lacinato Kale in a tub :

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Another tub of the same, with some chickweed coming up as well :

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I’m harvesting a few seedlings to add to other greens and will eventually let the rest grow on into bigger plants.

The leaves on the turmeric plant in its pot in the polyhouse are dying back, so I’m giving it minimal water now. I’ve never grown it before so I assume that I will be able to harvest the tubers (if there are any!), when all the leaves have died back (helpful hints welcome) :

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I cut into my only summer-grown pumpkin, the Naranka Gold variety, hoping there would be viable seed and there was plenty. The flavour was a bit disappointing…not as sweet as I’d hoped, but I’ll be able to try growing it again this season :

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The purple-podded peas are producing plenty of pods but only in small quantities each day. I’m shelling them and throwing the peas into the freezer, seeing how they go without blanching this time. It occurred to me that blanching is really only done to destroy the enzymes that make cut surfaces go brown and start to decay, so I hoped maybe since they are just whole peas with no cut surfaces, freezing might work without the need to blanch :

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Tamarillos are ripening and I’ve been looking into trying a small batch of tamarillo jam. Recipes on the Net are many and varied, so I’ll pick one and have a go :

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Lots of rain in May has meant a huge crop of mushies, many more and bigger than I’ve ever seen here before. I’ve been drying them in the Excalibur dehydrator and storing them for casseroles and soups.

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Rain? Yes, it finally did. We had 127 mm (5 inches in the old scale), twice Melbourne’s average of 68 mm for May. The big tank is full and the overflow has been going into the 3 pools at the rear of the property and they’re now full and running over. All 3 dried out completely in summer, only the second time in 17 years the big one has been bone dry (it’s about a metre deep in the centre when full) and about 5 metres in diameter.

So that ‘s about it for May. If I don’t post this soon, it’ll be June and I’ll have to be thinking about another update. Time flies!

Happiness is a ripe persimmon

May 20, 2016

My persimmon tree produced 20 fruit this autumn. It’s been in 8 years and has only produced fruit once before. That year it managed 13 and  I was over the moon. This year, I went right around the solar system!

When a persimmon ripens, it goes squishy soft, like a balloon filled with water. The flesh inside has the texture of apricot jam. The peel isn’t usually eaten. I found the best way to tackle one was to cut from bottom to top, down through the centre, to the hard woody calyx :

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Then pick up the whole thing, one half in each hand, squeeze the sides upwards from the bottom and slurp up the pulp. It helps to be standing with head bent over the sink at the time, and a wet flannel is necessary to wipe the mouth and surrounds afterwards.

Bliss!

 

April update

May 1, 2016

I found a spot for my little Australian native Finger Lime in a large tub beside the deck. It looked so big in its original nursery pot and now looks so tiny dwarfed by the gas bottles. I had planted a half circle of purple-podded peas at the rear of the tub and they had only just germinated, so it will have some company and they will put some nitrogen into the soil for it. I’m still tossing up whether to get another one to plant in the garden near the regular citrus trees :

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Tamarillos are starting to ripen and so are persimmons :

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I wasn’t sure about the persimmons, even though the colour looked right, they were still hard, so I picked just one and left it on the bench for a week and thankfully it softened and became edible. This is what a friend told me to do years ago. She had a huge tree and I can remember visiting and seeing dozens of bright orange persimmons lining the window sills in the kitchen and living room.

I’m pleased with my garlic so far, growing in the new bath. Hope it’s better than last year when the bulbs I picked were so small as to be practically useless :

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Carrots direct sown in a wicking box :

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My local greengrocer had locally grown Pink Lady apples for under $2 a kilo, so I got some to dry. I’ll chop these into smaller pieces in the Thermomix and use them in a mixture of chopped dried apricots and sultanas, which I add to my (cooked) rolled oats for winter breakfasts :

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I dried some lime slices at the same time. Don’t know what I’ll do with these :

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My Jerusalem artichokes were a dismal failure, but then I wasn’t surprised. They were in a terrible spot under gum trees, got very little water through the summer and almost no nutrients. So this is the entire crop. I’m not eating any, but replanting them right away into a large tub which will be well watered and fed through next summer.

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The solitary yellow tamarillo has produced more fruit than the four red ones, which, for some reason, lost most of their flowers during the summer :

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The trouble with most of these fruits is that they’re well out of reach, because tamarillo plants do this :

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A tall skinny trunk with an umbrella of foliage at the top. In The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia, Louis Glowinski recommends pinching out the tip growth when the plant is a metre high to force it to branch. Well, I did that with this plant and it still reached for the heavens (it might have been a little over a metre). Nowadays I pinch out the tip growth when the seedling is only 25 cm high (no mature trees from that experiment to show as yet). Luckily the fruits fall when they’re really ripe, even though they’re usually OK to eat before that.

My Naranka Gold pumpkin has been picked and is maturing enjoying the sun on top of the firewood box on the deck. I hope there’s plenty of seed inside as I’ve now run out and this one is grown exclusively for Coles supermarkets, so seed isn’t available to buy :

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My yacon crop is better this year. I kept it well-watered and fed over summer, so I’m hoping for some decent tubers. It’s planted under a couple of tamarillos (note the trunks either side), so it was always protected from the direct sun which makes the soft leaves wilt readily :

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I cleaned all the old summer crops out of the two planter boxes and planted some kale seedlings :

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But there are still white butterflies about, so :

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The climbing beans did so well in the milk bottle planters, I thought I’d try some peas. Only three per bottle and they’ll require careful tying up since they don’t twine like beans, but hey, anything’s worth a try :

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The strawberry wicking buckets are still producing a few strawberries :

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During the month we had a welcome 50 mm of rain which greened everything up nicely, but we still need much more to make up for the very dry spring and summer months. Melbourne’s average for April is 53 mm.

Last but not least, the Girls have all stopped laying and are having their autumn/winter break. I don’t expect any more eggs until September at the earliest. I’ll be buying eggs for the first time in 13 months. This was the first laying year for the three newbies (Bonny, Missy & Clover) and between them they laid 382 eggs. Five year-old Molly would have contributed some of those, but not many. She’s a senior cit now and just likes to spend her days lolling in the sun. When she does produce an egg it probably surprises her more than it does me.

Australian Finger Lime

April 17, 2016

A recent post by Kathy at My Productive Backyard dealt with culinary use of the Australian Finger Lime. I decided I had to try and grow one.

I rang the local nursery where I usually buy my fruit trees. “Nah”, he said, “don’t often have ’em….try again in spring.” Bother.

I had to call into Bunnings to get potting mix. They won’t have even heard of it, I decided.

“Oh, yes,” she said, “some came in on Wednesday.” I choked.

Beautiful little plants. I was rapt, especially in the tiny leaves :

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I need to do some homework about where to put it….garden or large pot? Kathy has a post here on growing it. We don’t get frosts here and the deck would be an ideal spot in winter (in a pot) but far too hot in summer. Shifting it wouldn’t be easy (down the steps?…no way).

Anyway….I have it and it looks really healthy. Plenty of time to do some homework and it can stay on the deck in its present pot, enjoying the winter sun until I find it a permanent home.

Thanks, Kathy.

 

March update

April 2, 2016

The Big Dry persists.

In the first 8 months of last year, we had 424 mm rain, an increase of 17 mm over Melbourne’s average for that period. In the last 7 months since then, we’ve had only 50% of normal rainfall and that was in the critical spring/summer months, when plants are putting on growth, flowering and setting seed and fruit is swelling. I’ve tried to keep water up to all the fruit trees and berry-producing shrubs and my latest water bill shows I’ve used much more than normal. And that was with 18,000 litres in 3 tanks, which quickly ran out. The 3 large pools at the rear of the property have dried out; the third one (which is up to my waist when full), has only ever dried out once before in the last 16 years.

The rest of the plants—mostly natives and those in the bush have been left to survive as well as they can. Many have died. Even the bracken fern in the bush is looking peaky and when that happens, you know it’s dry!

So, I wait and hope. The ground is cooling down and without rain soon, I don’t expect to find many edible mushrooms, not that there are ever many of those anyway, but it is nice to get at least one hunt-and-gather meal.

Rain or no rain, life goes on.

All the summer veggies have been pulled out and the wicking boxes and tubs topped up with fresh compost. I’ve sown peas at the rear of most boxes, where there is wire for them to climb on :

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I planted my garlic on the 21st of the month….it being the autumn equinox. I had prepared a bed down the back earlier in the year, but it is all so dry down there that I decided to plant it in the other half of the new bath, where the soil is richer and moister :

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That’s self-sown mizuna on the left. The chooks are getting most of it.

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Within 10 days green shoots were showing :

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I am so pleased with my quinces. I put apple socks on some of them, otherwise I wouldn’t have harvested any :

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This is what the birds did to those that weren’t protected :

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When they had turned yellow I picked about half a dozen and left them on the kitchen bench for a couple more weeks. There are still another half dozen on the tree. It was my first real harvest. Not bad for something that was grown from a seed :

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I cooked them in the slow cooker for 10 hours. 700 ml of water, a cup of sugar, a couple of cinnamon sticks, a dash of lemon juice and one star anise (thanks to Y for the recipe). The flavour is superb and while the colour isn’t the deepest I’ve seen, it’s the best I’ve ever achieved :

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If the tree fruits as well next season, I’ll protect more of the fruit and do some serious bottling.

The leaves on the persimmon are starting to colour up and fall and the fruits I’ve ‘apple-socked’ are becoming more visible :

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Are they starting to colour up under their socks? :

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Yep, looking good :

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Now I can see them more easily, I can count them and it looks like about a dozen :

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The critical time will be when all the leaves are gone and just the fruits are left hanging on the tree. I’ll have to pray the socks will do their job and keep birds and possums off, or failing that, sit under the tree 24/7 with a shotgun. This will only be the second year I’ve had a harvest off the tree and it’s 8 years old. Persimmons are one of the most beautiful fruits I’ve ever tasted. This variety isn’t the one that’s eaten when it’s crunchy; it’s the one that goes soft and the inside is like rich apricot jam. You slice off the top and spoon it out. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Tamarillos are starting to ripen, too. There won’t be as many this year as something caused most of the flower buds to fall :

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My Naranka Gold pumpkin has lost most of its leaves and I’m hoping the single fruit will be ripe enough to contain fertile seed. I used my last seed to grow it and haven’t seen any more for sale (it’s grown exclusively for Coles) :

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Seedlings of kale, broccoli and Chinese cabbage are waiting in the wings. I’m keeping them in the polyhouse as there are still white butterflies about :

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I’ve sown carrots in 2 wicking boxes and leeks are on the way for winter. There are a few green capsicums still on the bushes and chickweed has self-sown in a wicking box. The chooks will get most of it, but I’m cutting it for scrambled eggs for me.

All I’m picking now from the garden is silver beet, a bit of rhubarb and some Asian greens. Oh, and Bonny the chook is still laying but only a couple a week now. But there are tomatoes, tomato puree and beans in the freezer, 2 large jars of dried tomatoes in the cupboard and pickled cucumbers in the fridge. Summer’s bounty is over until next season.

Bonsai apple tree

March 16, 2016

Regular readers will have seen yesterday’s post showing a bonsai apple tree with what looked like a normal sized apple on it. As a bit of a joke, I addressed the post to one of my blog followers, Bek of Bek’s Backyard blog, because Bek is an apple freak (hope you don’t mind that title, Bek). She has huge numbers of apple trees (I’ve lost count) in a suburban backyard, growing in a style called ‘step-over’. (I won’t explain it, go to her blog and have a look).

I did some bonsai many years ago and thought I’d love to have a tiny tree with one big apple on it, so I quickly scarfed down an apple and sowed the seeds. Apples germinate readily from seed.

I got the image from Facebook. One commenter said it was a phony picture; that the apples would be miniatures, never that big. So I Googled and came up with this page. And there was the same Facebook image, along with some others. Certainly the fruit on the others is smaller, but I can’t see how the big fruit is a phony (of course, there’s always Photoshop I suppose).

Anyway, I’m going to have a go. I’ll report back (if I haven’t succumbed to old age before then).