Archive for June, 2008

Thought for the week

June 30, 2008

……..the greatest threat to humanity comes from our own leaders.

(Colin Tudge)

Read the entire article

Useful website

June 25, 2008

Here’s a useful site I just came across. It’s a garden calendar; very helpful for newbies (and oldbies, too).

Pick your climate zone from the list (only Australia, New Zealand and UK given) and you’re shown a list of what can be planted for the current month. Other months are also listed for forward planning purposes.

Here I am shivering away in the temperate zone with only a handful of things suitable for June planting and drooling at the huge list available for the tropics.

Ah well, global warming’s on the way. One day Melbourne will be tropical.


Thought for the week

June 23, 2008

If all those people complaining in the daily papers about what ‘our leaders’ are/aren’t doing about the multitude of approaching crises were to substitute ‘the people in power over us’ for ‘our leaders’, they might more easily understand why things are the way they are.

Shortest day…now onwards to Spring

June 21, 2008

Winter Solstice and I’ve planted all my tomato and capsicum seeds. Yes it is early, a month earlier than last year in fact. But, as last year, they’re enjoying the warmth of the heated propagating mat indoors.

Last year, planting seeds early on the heat mat was very successful. Tomato and capsicum seeds germinated in a week and were potted on into tubes a fortnight later. The tomatoes, being a bit faster off the blocks, were planted into the garden in mid November. Not quite Cup Day, but near enough. [It’s said that in Melbourne you must get your tomato seedlings into the ground on Melbourne Cup Day. For those who don’t know—could there be anyone?—the Melbourne Cup is (shudder) a horse race, held each year on the first Tuesday in November].

Anyway, those early plants were a great success, producing lots of early tomatoes. Especially prolific were the San Marzano which I freeze and use for cooking through the winter. But the problem was, they finished early and when we should still have been getting tomatoes well into April, we weren’t.

So…this year 2 batches are going in. The first now, at the Winter Solstice and the second in September, at the Spring Equinox. For those the heat mat probably won’t be needed—by that time it’ll be warm enough to germinate them in the polyhouse.

And we’ll see how this little experiment goes.


Wicking box update 2 (& brag)

June 16, 2008

Here’s the wicking box containing the Bok Choy Chinese cabbage, 70 days after sowing the seed. Tomorrow’s the big day when I harvest a couple of plants for stir-fry.

This has been a great trial run for the wicking box idea. Even though the boxes received some overhead rain, they were happily sucking up the water from the bottom reservoir, because I was checking levels regularly and on two occasions found the reservoir empty and had to refill with water.

I’m looking forward to trying celery in the boxes over the coming summer. Celery is a water-loving plant and my previous efforts to grow it haven’t been notable. It’s shallow-rooted and keeping water up to it (remembering to water every day in summer) has been my main problem. I’m not going to direct sow the celery seed into the box as I did with the Bok Choy, as celery seed is very tiny. Instead, I’ll sow it in the polyhouse in seed-raising mix and pot up seedlings which I’ll plant into the box when they’re large enough.

Continuing with the showing off… here’s the first couple of chilacayote harvested.

The smaller one weighs 900 gm and the larger one, 1400 gm. And there’s seven more on the vine rapidly approaching these in size! I made a small trial batch of chilacayote and ginger marmalade yesterday and was given 8 out of 10 for it by the Better Half. Lost a mark for the set (slightly runny…next time add some Jamsetta), and another point lost for ‘not gingery enough’. Sheesh! And I doubled the ginger from the original recipe, too. Some Better Halves are never satisfied.

Oh… and the chilacayote will join the Bok Choy in the stir-fry.

Stocking up

June 9, 2008

Back in 2000, Britain suffered a transport strike because of rising fuel prices. The details can be found here, but essentially, within a couple of days the country’s food delivery system had almost shut down. Supermarkets emptied rapidly and bread was rationed.

Here’s another more recent article on the same theme.

Could it happen here in Australia? You bet your life it could. We have the same just-in-time delivery system for food and other goods. All of it depends on the transport of goods from afar which in turn depends on petrol supplies. A list member from the peak oil discussion group BOSA (Beyond Oil South Australia) pointed out recently that South Australia has just 10 days supply of fuel in stock. What other states have, especially Victoria, I don’t know (maybe I don’t want to). The time is ripe for a transport strike in this country. Motorists are making a lot of noise about rising fuel prices. Truck drivers are being hurt by increased diesel prices.

It’s time to be seriously stocking up on food supplies. Rice in particular, has rocketed up in price in recent months. Many rice-exporting counties have stopped exports. Rice for sale in Australian supermarkets comes mostly from Thailand. They’re still exporting, but are thinking about cutting exports. Rice is being rationed in some parts of the US. Some people in Australia have reported their local supermarkets out of stock. So far ours still has plenty on the shelves, but I’m not expecting that to continue.

Rice, pasta, all types of grains and seeds. Tinned stuff, powdered milk, flour, anything and everything you use regularly. Don’t forget mundane non-food items like basic medicines, soap, antiseptics and toilet rolls.

Then it’s on to the outdoors and the all-important food garden. Remember, this is not just about surviving through the odd transport strike. This is also about coping with diminishing oil supplies and everything that uses, or is made from oil. Garden hoses and fittings, (I’m currently replacing all my plastic hose fittings with brass ones), good solid garden tools, liquid and pelleted fertilisers, snail baits and herbicides, if you use them. Anything plastic is going to get more expensive as oil prices continue to rise. Water tanks especially. If you’re thinking of installing one, do it now.

Life is going to change. The way we do things is going to change. You don’t have to be a Boy Scout to Be Prepared.



June 1, 2008

Chilacayote (aka perennial squash, aka Malabar Gourd) is a vine which produces watermelon-sized fruits (only if you let it—they can be harvested quite small). There’s a reference here and although a bit on the technical side (I assume you don’t really care to know that the male flowers are pedicillate with a campanulate calyx), it does have some cultivation and uses information.

I first grew chilacayote a couple of years ago and wasn’t overly impressed with the yield of fruit, it being one of those annoying curcurbits that need both male and female flowers open simultaneously to produce fruit.  I had trouble keeping the water up to it in summer and the huge dinner-plate leaves would wilt alarmingly on hot days. I’d read, and seen photos, of it’s capacity to take over an entire suburb, but it didn’t seem to want to do that here.

Going through my seed bank late last year I found a few remaining seeds and thought I would give it one last try. I planted three plants in a group in late summer, in a shady spot this time and watered them occasionally. It was a sort of, live-if-you-want-to…if-you-don’t-I-don’t-care, scenario.

Somehow they lived, took off, started scrambling through all and sundry, over and under shrubs and trees. I was so fascinated, I let them do it. They started flowering a month ago, a few sporadic female flowers and I thought, ho-hum, typical, no males, and then suddenly the blokes came from everywhere. There are now small fruits all over the place, on the ground and hanging from shrubs.

My first thought was, it’ll be useful for stir-fries. I’ve also found a recipe for chilacayote and ginger marmalade. And I’ll let a couple grow into monsters to get some more seed. That is, if it doesn’t take over the suburb first!