Archive for November, 2013

A simple plant arch

November 27, 2013

I had some grape plants which were grown from seed. I didn’t want to go to all the trouble of posts and wire so came up with this simple arch:


The original post about it is here.

Here’s a view of the pipe in the ground showing how the larger pipe arch fits in:

grapes 001

The larger pipe is really heavy duty 25 mm plastic and Bunnings sell them in pre-cut 3 metre lengths.

The Concord grape at the left hand end has grown well:

grapes 003

The one at the other end is slower:


The Concord has reached the halfway point and I was rapt to see this:

grapes 004

And this:

grapes 005

Flower buds! Yay!

The things we do

November 21, 2013

It’s 3 am and I’m wide awake.

I’m sitting up in bed, laptop balanced on my knees, watching the antics of a flock of hens, a rabbit and two goats, on the other side of the world.

It’s late morning there, the sun is shining and it’s only when I look at the temperature recorded on the bottom of the picture that I realise it’s only a few degrees above freezing.

There’s a huge, orange, half-pumpkin in the foreground. A rabbit hops up and gives it the nose-over, then settles down for a quiet nibble. An imperious-looking hen strides into view and glares at the rabbit, who decides that sharing the pumpkin with a larger being, with a disapproving eye and a sharp beak isn’t a good option and sensibly lopes away. The hen takes a few pecks and turns away. I wonder if she knows she’s on camera and someone on the other side of the globe, who can’t sleep, is watching her:


Welcome to HenCam.

The rabbit’s name is Phoebe. The goats are Pip and Caper and the hen is Owly (or is that Beatrix—I still can’t tell the difference). There are two white hens—Twiggy, long and lean and Betsy Ross, the bantam; one large and one small. I can’t believe how white and clean they always look as they zip around.

There are others too, whose names escape me for the moment.

Who in their right mind would put a webcam in a chicken run; who in their right mind would sit up in bed at three in the morning and watch it.

Just as well some of us are out of our minds!

Plant profiles: Pepino

November 18, 2013

This is #2 in the plant profiles series which deals with unusual edibles not generally available in the supermarket. I’m just enjoying three large, delicious pepinos harvested last week, so this is a timely post. It’s basically the same post which I wrote some time ago, with a few additions.

The pepino (Solanum muricatum) is a low-growing shrub in the same plant family as the tomato and the potato. The fruits are usually lemon-sized but can be smaller or larger. The flesh starts off pale green and ripens to pale orange, often with attractive purple stripes. The texture and flavour is similar to rockmelon, only not as strong. The skin is tough-ish and I usually peel them. They’re extremely juicy and easy to propagate and grow. I’ve found flavour can vary between plants when grown from seed. The fruits I’m eating at the moment are particularly good, so I’m going to take cuttings from this plant and plant more out.

I was given a branch of a pepino plant by a friend many years ago when I was just starting my food garden. Her plant had never been cut back and was sprawling over several metres. A huge network of bare branches with leaves only at the ends. I cut it into 6 pieces and put them up as cuttings. They grew roots in just over two weeks and eventually I planted them all out. They flower in spring and autumn for me and set a lot of fruit. Because they’re low-growing, the weight of the fruits tends to cause them to lie on the ground where they’re liable to attack by any number of critters, so keeping them up off the soil is advisable. I gradually thin the small fruit and leave a few of the best.

They’re easy to grow from seed. The seed needs the same conditions as tomatoes, i.e. sow and plant out during the warmer weather. The bushes are perennial, but may have a short lifespan in some soils, so I keep new plants coming along. I prune them back when they get straggly. They haven’t been particularly drought-tolerant for me…I’ve lost them over dry summers if I don’t keep them watered. They appear to have shallow root systems.

Because I have problems with rabbits eating the fruit at ground level, last year I planted one in a wicking box up on the deck. I figured the constant moisture would be an asset, the fruit could lie on the deck without getting chewed by things that go bump in the mulch and (so far) the rabbits haven’t learned to climb stairs. It’s done well and is flowering at the moment and setting fruit:

saturday 001

saturday 002

The pepino hails from South America. It’s a useful addition to the permaculture garden and would be a good understorey plant in a food forest (if you don’t have rabbits!).

Conscious collapse

November 13, 2013

I ‘get’ collapse. I’ve read Tainter and Diamond and Catton’s Overshoot. I follow collapse blogs—Guy McPherson and Dmitry Orlov, to name but a few. I get peak oil and climate change. I get the consequences for civilisation as we know it. I get that business as usual is over and that life is going to change—dramatically.

I think I ‘get’ collapse. What I’m not sure I get is the psychology of collapse; the reasons why so many people are in wilful denial, not only about the fact that it can happen to us, as distinct from past societies, but that it is happening now and there is a need to talk about it and prepare. Carolyn Baker of  Speaking Truth to Power blog is a trained psychotherapist, and her book Collapsing Consciously: transformative truths for turbulent times, is a self-help book. Dmitry Orlov has written a pretty good review of it here.

I decided I wasn’t going to buy any more collapse books, but I’ve just ordered this one. And that’s it. No more!


November 4, 2013

Suncalc is a nifty little site I found recently which enables you to type in your geographic location and see the passage of the sun across the sky on any date in the year. You can change the date to any day in the year or click ‘now’ for the current day and time.

I’ve been playing around with it in connection with my PV solar system, trying to find the sun angle on my panels at the summer solstice, but it occurred to me that it would be an invaluable tool for permaculture designers because one of the first things you do in putting together a permaculture design for a property is a sector analysis of the site, in which you draw in the directions of the various raw energies impacting the site, like wind, fire and the sun’s path across the property on the crucial days of the year, the summer and winter solstices and the equinoxes. Knowing how these elements impact on the property allows you to design in features such as windbreaks, firebreaks and where you want shade and sun.

When you enter your location, the time of day is given along the top of the screen and you can drag the slider to see the sun at various positions throughout the day.

If you can’t get your exact location, then you can try a major location nearby and drag the little balloon icon which marks it wherever you like. I found that by magnifying the map, I was able to get the pointer right over my street and onto the position of my house.

Have a play with it—it’s quite useful.

My fluffy bits are bigger than your fluffy bits!

November 1, 2013

Which is what I imagine a salsify seed would say to a dandelion seed:

salsify 006

As you may have guessed, the salsify has flowered and the seed heads are maturing:

salsify 003

Imagine how far those things are going to travel in a stiff breeze! I don’t want to be responsible for introducing salsify to my local environment. I’d better make sure I collect every one and excise its fluffy bits. We don’t need any more environmental weeds here.