Archive for September, 2012

Ultra-tiny tomato cuttings

September 28, 2012

Last year I wrote this post on how to take tomato cuttings from a mature plant.

There’s another way I’ve tried…taking cuttings from a small seedling.

I usually sow three seeds in the one pot,  just to make sure I get at least one seedling. All three germinated in this case:

I want to end up with the strongest seedling in the pot so I remove the two weaker ones. So I don’t disturb the roots of the one I’m keeping, I don’t pull the others out, just snip them off at the base.

Sometimes it hurts to waste a perfectly good seedling and since tomatoes are well-known for being able to grow new roots up the stem,  I thought I’d see if it would happen with the seedling. You can see how small the stem is, compared to a match:

I used sieved potting mix as a cutting medium and made a hole with a bamboo skewer:

The end of the stem was dipped in rooting hormone and the cutting carefully placed in the hole and watered in:

I put the punnet inside a plastic container with a lid on, to keep the cutting in a humid atmosphere. A couple of weeks later and roots are appearing from the hole at the bottom:

I’ll move the seedling outside and let it grow on until it can be pulled gently out of the cell and I’ll either pot it into a larger pot or plant it out.

Is this what collapse looks like?

September 24, 2012

Farm animal slaughter to push up food prices

A year on…life with chooks

September 24, 2012

It’s just a year since I traveled (with some apprehension), out to visit Julie at Country Chooks to pick up my three Barnevelder girls. When I look at photos of them taken that day, I can’t get over how those three scrawny, timid, little feathered things have grown into the three, huge, healthy-looking, Fluffy Bums they are now (although they’re still fairly timid).  At that early stage names were out of the question; it was impossible to tell them apart, so they just became, “the Girls“.

They were 3 months old then and not laying, but gradually their combs and wattles grew and reddened and they began to lay just before Christmas at about 21 weeks old. There’s nothing quite like the thrill of collecting that first egg, even though it was a tiddler weighing only 37 g!

By that time I could see slight differences in their combs and wattles and it seemed about time to find some names for them. One had already become the dominant hen, bossing the others (gently) off their food and always seemed to be up front when treats were being handed out, so she became Cheeky. The first one to lay became First Lady, or just Lady. My friend Y liked Molly as a name, so Molly became the third member of the trio.

They began their autumn moult in late February and stopped laying in early March. They managed 103 eggs in that first session and by the end of it, egg weights had climbed into the 40-50 g range. I was eating more eggs and giving them away as well.

I needn’t have worried about them coping with the winter cold; they just seemed to sail through it. Since they wouldn’t roost at night in the enclosed section of the coop (or lay in the above-ground boxes provided), I covered in the exposed outer section with light plastic panels, just to keep the wind off them.

I wasn’t expecting any more eggs until spring had kicked in, and was pleasantly surprised when they began to lay again in the middle of July. Eggs, like all the other food that I produce myself, are going to be seasonal, too.

Eggs weights for Molly & Lady have climbed into the middle 60’s. Cheeky, for all the noise she makes about laying and the time she takes to do it, hasn’t managed one above 60 g yet. She’s in the high 50’s and I’m still hoping.

They were very timid at first and didn’t like me anywhere near them, so I’m pleased they’re becoming tamer, or at least used to me. I still can’t pick them up or touch them, but Cheeky will eat hulled sunflower seeds (a treat), out of my hand now. The others will do it as long as there’s a fence between us. If I go into their playground to turn the compacted soil over with a fork, they don’t run and cower in the corner any more, they stand close by ready to grab any titbits that might get turned up.

They love their greens and are getting plenty of parsley, chickweed and kale at the moment. Comfrey is just starting to sprout again and that’s a favourite, too. They get grated carrot as a treat and that, with all the greens, is probably the reason why their yolks are such a beautiful deep yellow. Everyone I give eggs to, comments on it. Breakfast at the moment is half a cup of quick oats and water, 30 seconds in the microwave, and a good dollop of yoghurt mixed in after that. They love it and get it splattered all over their faces.

They can be amazingly dumb and just as amazingly intelligent. They can snap up low-flying mosquitoes with ease. They make me laugh every day.

Twelve months down the track and I don’t regret any part of having chooks. If you’re attempting self-sufficiency and don’t have chooks yet, go for it! You won’t regret it.

Tomato time again

September 23, 2012

I regularly visit a local Sunday Market and there’s an old guy with a long white beard who sells veggie and herb seedlings. At this time of year he does a roaring trade in tomatoes. Look at these:

The two punnets on the left are what I bought.  Roma and Rouge de Marmande. I haven’t grown the latter variety before. My own spindly efforts are in the plastic dish on the right. He gets his seedlings from someone in a production nursery and pots them on for sale.  He reckons they should be put outside as soon as possible, but out of the cold wind. This toughens them up, he says.  They’re certainly tough-looking little b’s. Look at those thick stems! I sowed my seeds (inside) a fortnight later than his were sown and mothered them indoors until a week ago when they went into the polyhouse. They’ll be OK by the time the ground is warm enough to plant, though. I’m tempted to plant his seedlings out now, but no, I’ll wait till it’s really warmer. I’d hate to lose them in a late frost.


September 22, 2012

Some weeks ago I bought Sandor Katz’s book Wild Fermentation. I didn’t know it at the time, but he’d just released a bigger, updated version with lots more information on fermented foods.

Look what arrived in the post yesterday:

The big updated version. It is sooooo comprehensive!

A complete surprise and generously sent to me by a reader of this blog, Fran from Serendipity Farm in Tassie. Fran’s blog is The Road to Serendipity. Apparently she had acquired two copies, thought I’d like one and posted it across Bass Strait.

How serendipitous is that! Thank you, Fran.

Home-made seed envelopes

September 16, 2012

Now, that’s not only a riveting title for a blog post, it’s actually my entry for the most-boring-blogpost competition.

I really do make my own seed envelopes as I mentioned in this recent post, so in case anyone’s interested, here’s how.

I have a huge pile of scrap paper which makes it easy and almost imperative that I do something useful with it. The paper is about 26cm x 20cm and since it dates from pre-decimal times, was probably originally called 10″ x 8″:

So… take a sheet and split it lengthways (I usually fold it in half and slice through the fold with a sharp knife):

Fold in half bottom to top (or top to bottom, if you like to do things that way):

Using a piece of stiff card as a template for the width, fold in both sides around the template:

Tuck one side under the other. I usually put a small piece of tape along the overlap just to make sure the tucked-in side stays tucked-in. You can’t see it here, not because it’s invisible tape (it is) but because I’ve run out of it!:

Fold down the top and Bob’s your uncle; a finished envelope:

I’ve made mine to fit this rather grandiose box which my husband made for me:

OK, there you go. Home-made seed envelopes (I did warn you it was going to be a boring post!)

More bedside reading

September 11, 2012

Just picked this up from the post office (we don’t get parcels delivered here):

Looks very comprehensive. There are 13 references under ‘shell’…bloody; chalky; double; misshapen; missing; pale; soft; thin; wrinkled; colour; gland; quality; strength. Bet you thought an eggshell was an eggshell.

Questions from the back cover:

What’s the difference between outer thick and inner thin egg white?

Why do chicken legs have dark meat while breasts have light meat?

Which breeds lay blue-green eggs?

Whats the difference between brooding and incubating?

What are the best ways to catch a chicken?

Why do chickens molt?

How do you hypnotize a chicken?  (now that one should be very interesting!)

I can’t wait to get into this!

Oh, forgot to say. I bought it from the Good Life Book Club.

Feeling seedy

September 9, 2012

I used to be a very organised person, but somehow it’s all gone awry. It’s seed planting time and my seed collection has become one big mess.

Here’s what it looks like.

Big tray with (home made) seed packets of local native seed collected from the bush and vegetable seed collected from the garden:

Plastic box of purchased vegetable seed packets:

Bottles of home-collected vegetable seed (because there’s too much to fit in a paper envelope:

Coffee tin full of Purple King climbing beans and other beans in plastic bags:

All this is was recorded on a computer database, but it’s become so far out of date that I might as well delete the file and be done with it.

I want to do away with the database and record it all in a book, so I have easy access for updating and don’t have to turn the computer on every time I want to make a change or see what seed I’m missing and need to collect or buy.

Rainy Saturday afternoon. Light the fire, get it all out on the kitchen table and FIX IT UP ONCE AND FOR ALL.

The big box first. There are 2 sections—one for native seed and one for veggie seed. Envelopes are organised first into year of collection and then into alphabetical order. I decided to throw out everything that was over 5 years old. The native seed will get tossed into the bush and the veggie seed into the food forest. Something might still germinate. When I select seed to sow, I’ll use the oldest first (I always do that anyway).

The bottles will be left as is, in alphabetical order. Again, anything old goes out the door. If what’s left in a bottle will now fit in a paper envelope, I’ll change it. I want to do away with the bottles eventually.

The bought seed has, up till now, been sorted in alphabetical order, but every supplier has different-sized envelopes and the little ones get hidden, lost and forgotten amongst the big ones (how did I manage to buy all that radish seed?).

So I’ve re-sorted those and put seed from each supplier together and then in alphabetical order. Sometimes it’s easier to remember what seed came from which supplier, e.g. especially Phoenix Seeds, because it’s always unusual stuff that no-one else has.

So…a couple of hours later and my brain is becoming so fuddled, I’m having trouble remembering which letter comes where in the alphabet!

Everything’s sorted but nothing is recorded and it’s time to get the dinner. The kitchen table still looks like this…

…so dinner looks like being eaten at my computer desk.

Whose stupid idea was this anyway?

Spring things

September 2, 2012

While everyone seems to think it’s officially spring, I have to be different! My season changes go with the solstices and equinoxes, so I don’t consider spring will start until the spring equinox around the 21st of this month. Maybe climate change will eventually force an opinion change!

Anyway, here are a few ‘pre-spring’ things happening around the garden.

Red Russian kale and Purple Sprouting broccoli in a wicking box. I love the combination of colours:

Lacinato kale and parsley seem happy together in a wire ring bed:

First fruits on the loquat. Considering the number of flowers it had, not much fruit has set, but since I’ve never tasted loquats before, I’m looking forward to whatever I can get:

Native Philotheca myoporoides (formerly Eriostemon) in flower. This was in flower and covered in bees when Frogdancer brought her garden group to see the garden and she was so impressed, she went out and bought one for her garden. Sadly, there don’t seem to be many bees around so far, on this or any other flowers. I hope it’s not a bad omen for fruit set this season:

Another native, Grevillea sericea. Again usually covered in bees, but only a few on this occasion:

Nectarine in flower. This one was grown from seed (they’re one of the easiest fruits to grow from seed):

Another nectarine, this time a dwarf variety I bought at a local nursery. It’s still only 40 cm high and should get to about a metre:

A wicking box with Spinach variety Galilee from The Lost Seed. I just broadcast it over the top, covered the seed with a layer of sieved potting mix  and got excellent germination:

The Girls, heads down, bums up, digging holes (what else is new?):

Trays of seedlings inside, in a sunny window:

Wormwood. Nice ferny, silver foliage. I grow this because it’s supposed to repel insects. I’ve just pruned out all the top growth, mulched it up and spread it around the Girl’s nestbox:

Japanese radish (Daikon). First time I’ve grown this. If it’s successful, I’ll add it to my next batch of kimchi:

Wheat, growing in a wire circle bed. I want to be able to grow at least some of the chook’s food. This year I’m determined to keep the parrots off it!:

I’ve cleaned out one of the planter boxes and prepared it for a beanfeast, in other words it is going to be planted out entirely to beans. I’ll put climbing beans (Purple King) at the back and French beans in the rest of the box. I’m rather chuffed with the trellis I made for the climbers, in that the uprights are cut from melaleuca saplings which grow on the property:

Back to basics

September 1, 2012

That’s where they’re going in Greece as the recession hits.

It will happen here too, eventually, and those of us who are already delving into self-sufficiency will be way ahead of the herd as the reality hits.

I know plenty of people who haven’t got a clue how to provide food for themselves and who scoff at the idea that they should begin to prepare before the triple crises of economic recession, peak oil and climate change begin to take hold of society.

It’s going to be a steep learning curve for some and the self-sufficiency skills we’ve developed will be very much in demand.

The time might be near when I need to start thinking about putting my Permaculture Design Certificate Course to some use by teaching permaculture.