Sunday morning blues

July 8, 2018

Another 12 mm of rain overnight to add to the 13 mm on Saturday.

After being trapped inside all day Saturday by rain, I thought I’d better try and get some work done. I cleaned out the chook coop and put fresh straw on the floor. I took the bucket of poo+straw down to the compost tumbler.

Crack…thump. I was only 20 metres away when it went down :

I knew it would go eventually, of course. It was leaning too far to not go. Wet soil….centre of gravity too far to one side….roots won’t hold.

Why, oh why, do they always fall across a path? Two paths this time—the main one to the rear of the property, in front of the pools and a minor one behind the pools.

Just as well there weren’t any neighbours around to hear the stream of 4-letter words.

More work!!!! All the branches have to be removed first, then the trunk. I think I’ll be able to clear the main path by myself—it’s only branches there—but not the trunk across the rear path; it’s too big for my little battery-operated chainsaw. About half of the branches are sitting in the first of the 3 pools. It’s the shallowest one, but it’s going to be a gumboot job to clear it.

Life on a bush block is never boring!

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June update…..brrr!

July 7, 2018

We had a really cold, wet start to winter this year. It was disconcerting to be reading about wildfires in California and the English moorlands, while shivering inside 3 layers of clothes, a scarf and gloves in Melbourne.

So far this season, I’ve found only 2 edible mushrooms. By the time the seriously rainy weather started to moisten the soil, the ground was too cold and any sort of fungi, let alone edible ones, were not wanting to show themselves :

I ate the small one and because the large one was a bit on the over-ripe side, I decided to try an experiment with it, to see if I could inoculate some soil with the spores and get them to grow in a pot.

I put the mushroom gills side down on a piece of white paper. As I’d hoped, plenty of spores dropped out :

What I’m going to do now is put some commercial mushroom compost in a pot, cut out the circle of spores on the paper and place it on the top of the pot, then cover with a thin layer of peat moss and leave the pot in a sheltered spot open to the elements. I’m hoping the spores will germinate (or whatever it is that mushroom spores do to begin growing), and I’ll eventually get a crop of mushrooms in the pot. This is after all what you do when you buy one of those mushroom farms in a polystyrene box. You get a bag of compost stuff which you spread in the bottom of the box, and a bag of peat moss inoculated with mushroom spores which you spread over the top and keep moist. Worth trying anyway.

I took a trip to the local nursery which sells bare-rooted fruit trees and bought some more for the food forest. I got another Stella cherry, an Anzac peach, another Satsuma plum, a Tilton apricot and another dwarf nectarine (that makes 3 of those I have now) :

I’m sold on these dwarf varieties like the nectarines (last year I put in a dwarf pear). It’s much easier to get a net over them to keep the birds and possums off. When I put in fruit trees at first, I just let them grow and do their thing. They grew too big to net and everyone but me got the fruit. So I’ve had to resort to pruning them back really hard, which doesn’t make for a particularly attractive tree (large truncated branches, with smaller growths sticking out everywhere). It’s much better to continually prune and keep the whole thing small and the branches in proportion, so I aim to do that with all these new trees that aren’t dwarf forms.

The turmeric died back and I harvested the tubers. Two plants were in pots and one in one of the baths. I was really happy with the yields :

Here’s what they looked like separated into tubers and scrubbed up :

Some of these will be replanted for next season. I’ll slice the rest, dry them in the dehydrator and grind them into powder in the Thermomix.

The new planter box I installed last year has been filled with weeds and prunings and other compostable stuff and might be ready to plant this spring :

I’ve been jumping up and down on the contents trying to compress them as much as possible and adding the liquid from the composting toilet to help with the composting process and increase the nitrogen content. I’ll buy a few bags of mushroom compost to spread over the top and try some planting this spring. Maybe cucumbers—the rabbits won’t touch those. The box is low enough for them to jump into, so eventually I’ll have to put a ring of wire around the inner edge. There was no point in buying a taller box, because of the extra cost and it will only be used for shallow-rooted veggies. Filling it would have taken longer, too.

We had 73 mm of rain for the month, compared with Melbourne’s average of 43 mm. It’s been cold and wet and not conducive to working outside, but the winter solstice has passed and the days are getting longer. And the asparagus will be up soon.

Time to get out the seed box and plan for the summer crops!

Watching asparagus grow

June 30, 2018

I just found a new blog which I want to share. It’s so nice to find there are people out there who think and feel as I do :

In Transition: exactly where I should be.

 

The inevitable result……….

June 16, 2018

………of a rainy night with high winds :

I hope there wasn’t anyone at home. I couldn’t find any bodies :

What to do?

June 12, 2018

I’m sitting here at the computer on a cold, grey wintry afternoon, when I should be outside working, but I’ve succumbed to the temptation of being inside, with a fan heater under the desk, blowing warm air on my legs and a recording of Handel’s Judas Maccabeus playing in the background.

I’ve read through all the latest posts in my blog feed, I’ve scrolled through Facebook (it’s pretty boring) and looked at Chris’s new version of his Weekly Notes From Fernglade Farm blog. That’s when I saw that he’s very kindly put a link to this blog in his blog list and I felt immediately guilty, because I haven’t kept up with writing this blog like I used to.

Hence the title of this post: What to do? Because I really don’t know whether to keep writing or not. I closed it down once before and everyone wrote such nice comments that I eventually started writing again. I felt I was saying the same things over and over and I had only had a few new subscribers and the stats were showing daily readers had dropped off. And summer was a disaster and many plants died and the birds/possums got most of the fruit that did manage to set and….and….well, fellow gardeners, you know how it is. Not exactly gardening blog-writer’s depression, but similar.

I’d better write something……

So, after a very dry summer—no rain at all in February; and less than normal in March and April—the rains finally came in May, with almost 4 times the average for Melbourne. The water tank filled again; the 3 pools down the back, which had dried out completely, filled up. The curling leaves on the citrus opened out and became dark green again (I had tried desperately to keep water up to them). The 2 tamarillos that had gone to god decided to stay there and not return, but they were old and woody and probably past their best. All the tamarillos had flowered well before the big hot/dry but with a single day of 42 ºC in summer, all the flowers dropped off and that’s why I’m not eating tamarillos now when they should be coming out of my ears.

One fruit I did get, and very pleased with the crop I was, were about 20 persimmons. The blackbird got a few before I realised he was onto them, but I swathed what I could of the tree in nets and put individual little bags over the rest :

The good thing was, I discovered that if I picked them as soon as they had developed a reasonable amount of colour, they would continue to ripen inside on the kitchen table, so I was able to get them off the tree while it was still covered in leaves and the leaf cover helped to keep them out of sight of the birds. Oh, they are so delicious when ripe and almost fluid inside!

The other crop I got quite a lot of was Jerusalem artichokes. I had 2 batches in large tubs and another batch in the ground; in fact one lot are still in their tub—I just cut off the dead stems and left them there to harvest at any time. I will probably have to remove them and thin them out before they begin to shoot again in spring, or they will choke themselves out :

I love them sliced into quarter-inch slices and fried in butter till soft, but I discovered they also work well very thinly sliced and deep fried, when they end up just like potato chips. Of course, one can’t eat too many at once—not for nothing are they often called Jerusalem ‘fartichokes’.

Here are a few pics of what’s in the garden at the moment.

This is a mixture of kales which I’ve direct-sown from garden-collected seed. I think it was meant to be Red Russian Kale but it has come up as 2 forms—a feathery-leaved form and one with a darker, more entire leaf. Obviously the initial (purchased) seeds were hybrids and they’ve returned to a mixture of the parents. That’s a few purple-podded peas in the background :

Plenty of silver beet for me and the chooks. This is the form called spinach beet. It’s often touted as ‘perennial’ but it’s not—it runs to seed in its second year just like normal silver beet :

Leeks in a wicking box, almost ready to pick :

Parsley in a wicking box. Wicking boxes never need watering at this time of year :

This one is interesting. It’s Apium australe or King Island Celery, a native celery. Years ago I went to a talk on native bush foods and the chap giving the talk was growing this as a crop for the restaurant trade. I bought a plant from him and have been growing it and collecting seed ever since. I was lucky with these 2 plants. I discovered, going through my seed bank, that I hadn’t grown out seed for a few years and there were only a few left. Luckily 2 came up. These are in a wicking box and doing very well as all celerys like lots of water. The leaves have a very strong celery taste. I use it mainly for flavouring soups. This species is endemic to the Bass Strait Islands and Lord Howe Island :

I cleaned out the summer bean crops from the milk bottle planters and filled them with fresh mushroom compost with a bit of Dynamic Lifter mixed in. I’ve put endive seedlings in. More chook food than me food :

This is my little native lime in its large tub. It’s grown really well in the last year. I’m hoping it will flower and set some fruits this spring/summer :

This is Mizuna, a soft-foliaged Japanese green and easy to grow. I collect seed every year and direct-sow it. It’s useful as a winter green for soups, omelets and scrambled eggs :

Usually my strawberries in their wicking buckets die back over winter and I cut them right back for the new spring growth. This year I cut them back early and they leafed out again and flowered. The fruits aren’t ripening well; I suppose it’s just too cold :

Blueberries are getting their winter colours :

And some early flower buds? :

It looks like the turmeric is almost ready to harvest. I’ll wait till the leaves are a bit more dead and dig up the tubers :

Well, that’s it. I wrote a post. Yay for me! I’ll try and keep it up!

How to grow great garlic

April 24, 2018

Just dropping in with a link to a great post from Milkwood Permaculture although I assume most of you will be following the Milkwood blog (and if you’re not, have a look….it’s good)

https://www.milkwood.net/2018/04/23/how-to-grow-great-garlic-a-beginners-guide/

Not too late to get your garlic in. Mine is in and shooting.

 

Turmeric flowering

March 19, 2018

I haven’t written anything here for a while, because, well…….summer was very depressing, with too many ultra-hot days which scorched the fruit on the trees and cooked the tomatoes on the plants and kept me busy just trying to keep ahead of the weather.

On top of that it has been dry and I mean dry. I recorded rain on only three days in January, even though the total was a good 60 mm (compared with Melbourne’s January average of 46 mm), including a good fall of 32 mm on the last day of the month. Since then there has been zilch……none at all in February and here we are nearly at the March equinox and still not a drop. The three tanks (one 9,000 litre and two 4,500 litres) are all down to a quarter full. I’ll be watering out of the mains if it doesn’t rain soon. It will take 4 inches (100 mm) of rain to fill them all. That’s 2 months of normal rainfall here. I can’t see this year being a normal rainfall year.

Everything is stressed, even the native plants. Some non-natives in the food forest have died outright, notably Pineapple Sage and Mexican Sage. Ordinary culinary sage would probably have gone too, but it is being watered. I’ve let the larger, older  tamarillos go….they were past their best anyway and I’ve planted a dozen smaller seedlings which are getting watered regularly. It means no tamarillo harvest this winter. The citrus trees are stressed, with dull and curling leaves and I’ve had fine sprinklers going on them for a day at a time, trying to keep them from going past the point of no return. The soil where they are growing had been introduced (by a previous owner) and it is heavy compacted clay which the roots haven’t penetrated to the depth that would make the trees more resilient, so I have to put water in slowly, hence the fine slow sprays. Being on a slope as well, means if I stand and hold the hose, the water is running off after a few minutes. It just won’t penetrate.

So all in all, there’s not a happy garden out there.

But I’ve just noticed something to gladden the heart. My turmeric is flowering for the first time! I’ve been growing it in large pots in the polyhouse, because I thought it wouldn’t survive in the open garden. When I potted on the tubers after the harvest last year, I had a couple of spindly-looking ones left over and no spare pots so I stuck them in a second-hand bath in a batch of chook poo compost and other rotted stuff. I was surprised when they actually grew leaves and even more surprised that they survived the summer heat, although it was a fairly shaded location and was watered regularly.

And then I noticed this:

Having never seen a turmeric flower before, I had to check that that’s what it really was.

Here’s a really good blog about plants in Hawaii, with some good close-up shots of the flower and useful information about growing turmeric :

The writer says:

Inflorescences arise from the center of the leaves. They are cylinder-shaped and made of loosely open bracts that are very white or tinged pink at the top of the cylinder and green at the base of the cylinder. The true flowers peak out from these green bracts and are tube-shaped, usually white with a yellow center and have two “fangs” that point down from the mouth of the tube. Fruit are never formed, even though the flowers do have male and female parts.

My turmeric flower also has the true flowers inside the bracts at the base, but they were a bit hard to photograph.

So something has managed to survive and do its thing despite the weather.

I did get plenty of tomatoes, though; lots of cherries and regular sizes which I’m still eating, although I pulled out all the plants last week. Most of the cherries have been dried. I had only two eggplants in again this season and so far there are 3 fruits coming. I picked lots of cucumbers too, and some reasonable feeds of climbing beans. Pumpkins were a dismal failure, yet again. I don’t know why I keep trying with them. They never produce male and female flowers at the same time and if they do manage to produce any fruits, they don’t mature before the season ends and the downy mildew kicks in.

So not much else to report. I’ve put a few broccoli seedlings into wicking boxes and early-sown silver beet is just starting to be pickable, but that has to be shared with the chooks, since the self-sown New Zealand Spinach they usually eat at this time of the year has all died back too.

Just waiting for the rain.

 

 

Downsizing & decluttering

January 6, 2018

I shared a Facebook post recently where the writer was suggesting a decluttering plan whereby one would throw out stuff everyday for a month, starting with one item on the first day, 2 items on the second day, 3 on the third, and so on. I said I thought it was a good idea.

A friend commented that by the end of the month I would probably have thrown out everything I own! Well yes, I agree that it was a bit too much to aim for!

So I’ve modified it slightly. I will attempt to throw out just ONE item each day, from here on, until I feel I’ve successfully decluttered my life. Of course I’ll have to balance that with not buying more stuff, or at least giving considerable thought to any new purchases: “do I really need it”. (note: ‘need’ not ‘want’).

Of course ‘throw out’ doesn’t mean consigning things thoughtlessly to the rubbish bin. There are categories and I have established a box for each in the spare room:

  • can go to the op shop
  • can be composted or burned in the fire
  • can be given away
  • can go in the recycling bin
  • can be repurposed
  • can be sold (local market, eBay, etc)
  • and, last resort, can go into the rubbish

(Other suggestions welcome!)

I’m having a lot of fun with it. It’s easy at the moment, because there’s a lifetime of stuff in cupboards and drawers to be considered. Amazing how much accumulates over the years and how tastes and interests change as we grow older.

Do I really need that collection of rocks and minerals? It was an interest when I studied geology years ago, but not now.

A shoebox full of postage stamps, still on paper. Nothing valuable (it wouldn’t be there if it was). A good freebie, for eBay or Gumtree. Maybe the neighbour’s kids would be interested? (do kids collect stamps anymore?)

A pile of 3″ floppy discs. Today’s computers don’t even come with 3″ disc drives. Can someone suggest a use for those?

The kitchen cupboards are a minefield. Old rusty cake tins. I don’t bake cakes much anymore and anyway I have a couple of new non-stick ones now. Pots and pans and all the gear we used to take camping. Camping days are over. Just rummaging through the kitchen cupboards will keep me going in throwouts for a year.

Try it. You might enjoy it, too.

The looming net energy cliff

December 30, 2017

I’m putting a link here to this guest post from Cassandra’s Legacy blog because the information in it is so important.

If you have a blog, please reblog. I’ve already shared it on Facebook.

Growth

December 27, 2017

Someone on Facebook asked about the implications of the linked article below…..

The end of growth sparks wide discontent

…..”Can you break this article down into a statement that can be understood in laymen’s terms? I read most of it and felt smart even though I’m almost completely lost on its implications ..”

This was my reply (here expanded a bit):

“Growth is a function of energy use. When all you have is the sun’s energy to grow with (via the photosynthesis of green plants), you can only support so many people and produce so many artifacts and much of this will be done with human labour. Fossil fuels made it possible to increase all that by a thousandfold. Now, they’re starting to run out—discovery and production have both peaked. So there will  be a contraction—in the number of people that can be supported and the number of things that can be done and produced. The implications of too many humans to be supported by photosynthetic energy? Wars over declining resources; thousands of deaths; loss of those things that need fossil fuels for their production*; a return to a simpler way of life, eventually with human numbers in balance with their energy supply. It won’t be pretty and we’ll lose a lot of what we now take for granted. And all that while trying to cope with the effects of climate change, which our thoughtless use of fossil fuels has caused.”

*including wind turbines and solar panels—so there goes your hopes that we’ll keep this way of life going on renewables. The only renewable sources of energy for life on earth are green plants.