Archive for April, 2012

Re-trying fermentation

April 29, 2012

I just bought Wild Fermentation by Sandor Katz.


Katz is an expert on the  fermentation of foods and his book was recommended to me ages ago. Fermentation is another method of preserving foods, by encouraging the right bacteria to grow at the expense of the ones that cause food to rot. We’re all probably familiar with yoghurt, cheese and beer as fermented foods, but there are many other foods that can be preserved by fermentation.

A couple of years ago I checked out Katz’s website and had a go at making sauerkraut by fermenting kale. I had lots of it in the garden at the time.

I chopped the kale and added grated carrot and caraway seeds, then followed his method. It worked well and I really enjoyed what was, to me, a new taste sensation. I’d never eaten sauerkraut before.

I ate my way through 2 batches, but something went wrong with the third. I think the wrong bugs got in and it eventually went off. The experience put me off a bit and last year I dried most of my excess kale.

This year I want to have another go, hence buying the book. I’ve put 3 varieties of kale in—Red Russian, Lacinato and Curly Kale. The chooks love it too, so I’m going to need lots.

Red Russian Kale

I also want to get yoghurt-making right. I’ve been making it in the Thermomix and some batches have worked and some haven’t. No doubt I’ll find out what I’m doing wrong when I read the book.

I’d also like to get a sourdough starter going and have a go at making apple cider. The book covers it all.

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What’s happening?

April 26, 2012

Well, not much, at the moment.

In the last 3 days we’ve had over 2 inches of rain and that has kept me out of the garden. The Girls were not amused and stood in a disgusted trio in the secure run, protected from the downpour, watching the holes in their playground fill with water. Luckily it’s sandy soil and it soon soaks away.

Only Molly is still moulting and looking a bit tattered; Cheeky and Lady have nice new feathers and perky new tails and look particularly chipper. They were even doing their egg-laying chortling yesterday, so I hope that means more eggs soon. I’ll be pretty peeved if I don’t get any now until the spring. That will mean only 3 months of egg-laying since I got them last September. It really hurts to have to buy eggs.

I was a bit disturbed to find something had tried to dig under their playground fence a couple of nights ago. Probably a fox. It was in a spot where I hadn’t put wire down under the ground, but had put a wooden bird-bath stand against the fence. It was easily kicked aside, so now I’ve put wire there. In the spots where I haven’t put wire, I’ve put 60 litre bins to collect rainwater and also wicking boxes; those without compost to fill them are full of water. I’d like to see Mr Fox push a 60 kg tub of water aside. I’ve replaced the bird netting over the playground with wire mesh now and it’s secure enough that I can leave the Girls in there when I go out and don’t have to lock them back in the secure run, which they hate. They get locked in the secure run at night and that’s completely surrounded with wire under the soil, so I have no worries about a fox getting in there.

Water-holding bins and a wicking box against the playground fence:

Wire mesh over the playground:

I planted another 3 dozen cloves of garlic, this time in a wicking box. I pushed them down into the compost with just their tips showing and a couple of days later, they were standing up right out of the soil:

Nothing could have pulled them up as I’d covered the box with wire. When I investigated, I found that roots had already grown and that’s what was pushing them up. So quick! Apparently root developement is triggered as soon as the base of the clove is in contact with moist soil:

And in another couple of days, green shoots:

The persimmon leaves are getting their autumn colours and I’ve put apple socks on those precious 12 fruits:

I bought the apple socks from Green Harvest. They call them apple pouches but they’re actually little nylon sockettes. They’re great to slip over fruit to keep birds and possums off. I wouldn’t want to do a whole tree with hundreds of fruit on it, but they’re OK to do enough of the best fruit to get a useful harvest:

In the brief intervals between showers, I managed to get the second planter box planted out:

There’s 2 varieties of kale—Lacinato and Red Russian, and 2 varieties of broccoli—Di Cicco and Italian Sprouting and 1 brussels sprout.

So really, quite a bit has been happening after all!


Wild edibles

April 26, 2012

I make a point of always reading blogs and blogposts about edible wild plants (what most Aussie gardeners would call ‘weeds’), because even though the blogs might emanate from the northern hemisphere, that’s where most of our garden weeds come from, too.

Here’s a recent post that gives a recipe for dock curry. If I can find any dock plants growing down the back, I’ll give it a go, if not I might try nettles, of which I have a huge patch, or maybe a combination of nettles and sorrel which also has a lemony flavour.

This would be an ideal recipe to do in the Thermomix.

I really must try to develop a patch of edible wild ‘weeds’ somewhere down the back of the property in amongst the native grasses. I’m already growing sorrel, nettles, chickweed and dandelions, but the real problem is the rabbits. They seem to love all these (well, maybe not the nettles), and every plant I grow has to be protected with wire. I think I’ll have to encircle a large area with wire (several square metres), so that I can leave the ‘weeds’ to self-seed and multiply.

Missing out—or not

April 14, 2012

I’ve been out of major action for over a week with a torn back muscle (or ligament; don’t know what, but seeing the GP next week).

I’ve been hitting the anti-inflammatories hard and doing gentle, stand-up-at-the-bench work, like sowing seeds and taking cuttings, and a fair bit of sitting on the deck in the sun, with a coffee, chook-watching. I need the laughs!

It’s amazing how quickly things in the garden go on without you when you’re not there every day to observe.

This loquat is finally in bud, so I’ll have a new fruit sensation to enjoy in a few months. It was planted 6  years ago, is now 3 metres tall and about time it earned its keep. With the truss of flowers at the tip of the branch like that, it looks like it will be easy to get a bag over the top if the parrots and possums get interested:

The purple-podded peas have reached the top of their tepee and are starting to flower—58 days from sowing the seeds. Actually they’ve lost their way and spread to the side of the tepee, so I’ll have to show them the way back with some extra string:

Before I hurt my back I managed to erect a protective cover over one of the wicking boxes and I’ve been gradually planting brassica seedlings in there, where the Cabbage White butterflies can’t get at them. The cover is just cheap mosquito netting I bought on special at Spotlight. I think it looks rather cute:

I bought a punnet of Red Russian kale at a Sunday market and potted them into small tubes. They were being kept in the polyhouse until butterfly season had well and truly ended, but since the covered wicking box looks so good, I think I’ll cover another one and plant them:

Have you ever had that potatoes-forgotten-in-the-back-of-the-cupboard feeling? I remember now, these ones had green skins and I didn’t want to eat them, so thought I’d put them away till they sprouted and then plant them. Waste not, want not, in other words. Or maybe famous last words:

The last small sowing of butter beans flowered and set beans. I picked them all today—200 gms in all, and that will be it for beans for another year. I never buy beans, just preferring the fresh taste of home grown. I usually do them in wicking boxes and start planting on or near October 1st and every month from then on till February. There are still jars of pickled beans in the fridge. I didn’t freeze any this year, because it wasn’t a success last year. For some reason they had that awful, bland freezer flavour.

This is pretty shattering

April 5, 2012

Another reason to grow your own food without pesticides:

The autumn garden

April 2, 2012

I love autumn in Melbourne.

Warm, sunny, windless days; gentle rain (hopefully); new growth from all the plants that went dormant over summer. It’s a good time to get into the garden and re-assess progress towards self-sufficiency.

This persimmon is starting to colour up:

There are 12 fruits on the tree this year. It’s the third year of flowering. In the first year it set 2 fruit, but they dropped off before they matured. Last year there was just one and I pampered and mothered that fruit like it was precious gold. All the leaves fall before the fruit is fully ripe and a leafless persimmon, covered in bright orange globes, is a sight to behold. I swathed my single fruit in netting to keep the parrots and possums off and allowed it to ripen till it was soft. I cut off the top and spooned out the pulp. It has the texture of rich apricot jam and is something to die for.

So I’m determined to enjoy that sensation 12 times over this season! I’ll have to cover each fruit individually, since the tree is too awkward and brittle to net. I’d better start thinking about it soon, before the leaves drop.

The plants in the greywater line are continuing to grow well despite no additional water over summer. Every time I shower, do a load of washing, use the kitchen sink or clean my teeth, they get watered. All the greywater from the house goes down the line. When I want to feed them with seaweed fertiliser, I fill the laundry trough with water, add a cup of Seasol and pull the plug.

Here’s the post that explains how I did it and here’s how it looks now:

There are feijoas, redcurrants and yacon and I’ve just planted a few tamarillos into the gaps. The large leaves of tamarillo transpire a lot of water in the hot weather and they need a lot of water to feed their shallow roots. I did very well last autumn with tamarillos because it was a wetter than usual summer. They were planted right down the back (silly, in retrospect), where dragging the hose is a real pain and luckily they didn’t need it. This summer was much drier and I just couldn’t get the water into them, so I gave up. At times, after a scorching day, the leaves hung limply on the branches and I thought I would lose them. A shower of rain at the right time saved them, but it wasn’t enough to produce decent-sized fruit. I’ll get some fruit, but they will be pretty small. So in future, tamarillos will be planted closer to the water tank, in fact I’ve just planted 3 right at the base of the tank in amongst maidenhair fern. If they don’t do well there, they won’t do well anywhere!

I noticed this beautiful little web early one morning between the wires of the deck posts. The sun was low in the east and illuminating it from behind and there was a bit of mist in the air as well. The tiny spider was still in the web—it’s the little white blob to the left of centre (the flash went off and has reflected back off the spider). What a masterpiece!

Celery is doing well in a wicking box. Celery loves plenty of water so I wouldn’t grow it anywhere else but in a wicking box now:

Basil is also doing well in a wicking box. It’s in flower and I’ve left it for the bees. I’ll use it all up in a final batch of basil pesto before I pull it out and might get some seeds from it if the parrots don’t get them first:

Silver Beet in a planter box. It’s the variety called Spinach Beet or Perpetual Spinach. I like this variety and after growing Fordhook Giant for many years, I think this one is far superior in taste and texture. Of course, it isn’t really ‘perpetual’, that’s a phony advertising ploy. It will run to seed in it’s second year just like other biennials:

In the front of the box is some form of bunching onion. I don’t know the species or variety. It was given to me and the giver called it spring onions, but I don’t think it’s that. Whatever it is, it’s very useful. It just keeps on producing new growth at the edges.

Oh, and I love it that daylight saving is over. I’m a morning person and now it’s lighter earlier, I can get out into the garden at a reasonable time and get an extra hour of work in before lunch.