Archive for August, 2013

Growing rhubarb from seed

August 31, 2013

When I first decided to plant rhubarb some time ago, I found it pretty hard to come by. The nurseries that did sell it, only had it in large  20 or 25 cm pots. Digging a hole for a pot that size in the heavy soil where I wanted to plant it, just wasn’t on and besides, I wanted many plants. I searched in vain for small plants in small pots.

I discovered that Edens had rhubarb seed in their catalogue and sent for some. It germinated readily and so well that I reckon nearly every seed came up.

I sent for more seed last year and had the same good germination from two varieties—Crimson and Victoria, sown in March and germinated in only 10 days. I’ve just planted nine plants from that batch along the first hugelkultur mound:

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Each plant has had a good dose of aged cow manure. Here’s hoping for great yields!

The rest of the mound will be used for pumpkins, zucchinis and cucumbers. All the rain we’ve had over winter has prompted the growth of the native ground cover (Stinking Pennywort—Hydrocotyle laxiflora) which was growing there naturally and it’s almost covered the mound. It will make a good living mulch:

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It doesn’t look it, but that mound is about 40 cm high. Those leafless ‘sticks’ behind the mound are just-planted raspberry canes. I’m determined to get good value out of my hugelkultur beds!

The drought is over!

August 28, 2013

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Yes, the Girls have started laying again. After not having any eggs since the end of February, it’s so good to see them again. Two on Sunday and two more yesterday (the pencilled numbers are the dates).

I can’t help wondering if that episode with the fox a couple of days previously had anything to do with it. Hormones stimulated by getting a big fright?

Eggs and a prediction of temperatures hovering round the 20’s. It really must be spring!

Close encounters of the fox kind

August 24, 2013

The Girls and I had a close encounter with a fox this morning. I don’t know about them, but I’m still shaking.

It was about a quarter to seven and just getting light. I got up to go to the bathroom. The Girls were out of the coop but still in the secure run where they get locked in for the night. It’s below the bedroom window, about 4 metres from the house.

I heard the Noisy Miners (a local native honeyeater) in the background, making their fox-in-the-area warning noise, but didn’t bother much because it’s a regular morning ritual. The fox comes back from its night-time job at the end of the street and usually crosses diagonally through my neighbour’s block before heading out the end and into the 10 acres of wilderness at the back where it lives. The Miners chase it all the way. It never comes near the house.

Never say never. Suddenly there was a cacophony of cackling and flapping from the Girls. I raced to the bedroom window to see the fox hurling itself at the wire door to the run.

I yelled blue murder and every other colour of the rainbow murder and grabbed for my clothes. The fox bolted.

When I got downstairs there were feathers everywhere in the run and the Girls were still yelling. They had obviously lost the feathers banging up against the wire and each other. It took me 10 minutes to quieten them down. Molly kept up the longest—fear, anger, indignation—she wanted the world to know all about it.

Then Lady plopped down on the ground and sat as still as a stone, not moving (she has a delicate constitution; she was ill the day before she laid her first egg). I wondered if chooks can drop dead from shock.

I went inside to make their usual morning mash with quick oats and yoghurt and when I came out she was up on her feet, but wouldn’t eat anything. She’s OK now.

When I say the fox never comes near the house, I mean in daylight. I’m not so naive as to think that it doesn’t prowl around there at night, but there’s never been any sign of anything trying to dig into the run or any fox scats or any noise. It wouldn’t be able to see the chooks up on their roosts in the coop. There might be some interesting smells but it couldn’t see the source. In any case, I regularly water the liquid from the composting toilet around the runs, hoping the smell will mask any chook smells, or it will think there’s a dog around.

Now I’m worried that, having seen the chooks, it will keep coming back. I’m sure I won’t sleep well tonight.

Freezing tomatoes for winter use

August 23, 2013

I deliberately grow many more tomatoes than I can possibly eat during the growing season. The quickest way to deal with them is to throw them whole into the freezer. When frozen, they clack about like cricket balls. Last season I finished up with four large plastic boxes full and now have two left. Number three was taken out last week and turned into a batch of spicy tomato and red lentil soup (Thermomix style):

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There was more than enough for the batch of soup so I turned the remainder into puree. I’ve written here about how I leave them to defrost on the bench overnight and then tip off the water that’s expelled, so the puree doesn’t need so much cooking to reduce it. I put the puree back into the freezer in 400 gm lots which is the size of a can of tomatoes, so one lot fits most recipes. It works well. For making the soup though, I left them as is and just chopped them in their frozen state in the Thermomix.

Of course, they’re no good as fresh tomatoes (which I never buy at any time of the year), but there are endless uses for cooked tomatoes and freezing them whole is a quick way of dealing with an excess that can be dealt with when there’s more time.

Spring things

August 20, 2013

Seedlings coming on:

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The first asparagus harvest:

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Plum blossom:

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Apricot blossom:

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Wattle blossom:

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But no warmth.

The temperature in the kitchen when I came down for breakfast:

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And in the living room:

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Just sitting around!!

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I’ve told them, it’s eggs or roast chicken. Make up your minds!

Versatile winter greens

August 12, 2013

About the only thing I’m picking from the garden at the moment is leafy greens; what are known in edible garden circles as ‘cut-and-come-again’, because you take off the outer leaves to use and new leaves continually grow from the centre of the clump.

They are so versatile, able to be used in stir-fries, casseroles, soups, pasta and/or rice dishes, salads, omelets or just plain steamed. The yellow flowers of the cabbage family are edible, too.

What’s not to like about greens?

Some of what I’m growing shown here include red mustard, chicory, lacinato kale, red russian kale, silver beet, dandelion, corn salad (mache), mizuna, New Zealand spinach, sorrel, bok choy (thinned seedlings), chickweed and sen posai. There’s also rocket and parsley (which I forgot to pick) plus radicchio and tatsoi, which are still only at the seedling stage.

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They’re rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly vitamin K, calcium and iron and antioxidants.

I need to grow plenty because the Girls like them too. They particularly like lacinato kale and if I give them a huge bunch of mixed greens tied together, they will dive right in on the kale and demolish it first.

I found this useful little book, with recipes and growing tips, some time ago. It sat in the bookcase until I got the Girls and realised they needed greens and I needed to grow more. That’s when I learned of the enormous variety available and how easy they are to grow.

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