June update

I’ve been doing a bit of reblogging lately, since I learned how to do it, but it’s because I find other people can say what I want to say so much better than I can, and it seems almost criminal not to spread good blogs around.

So for something original for a change, I thought I’d do a regular end-of-month post about all the things that have happened on the property during the month and also include the monthly solar update as part of it. Since I only just thought of this brilliant idea, I can’t remember the first couple of weeks of the month, but from now on, I hope I can remember to document and take photos regularly.

Last week. What a shocker weather-wise! Gale-force winds nearly every day and bitterly cold to boot. Trees down all over Melbourne. I didn’t venture outside much, as I don’t like working in the bush under trees that tend to fall over or drop huge branches without warning.  I lit the wood fire and worked inside on my new chook coop (of which more later).

I did go outside briefly, to check on damage and found this. It has popped up, at least 2 months early by my reckoning:


It had a tiny mate:


Means I’d better get some chook poo compost on them to boost a few more spears. I really don’t mind climate change if I can get fresh asparagus in June.

Solar generation continued to be down, with most of the readings between 2.5 and 5 kWh per day and of course, I was taking more from the grid, but still sending a little bit back. Which is good, because they pay me more for my electricity than I pay them for theirs. I received my next bill during the month—the one I’d been waiting for, which was only 5 weeks overdue (!!) and true to form the retailer got it wrong again! Surprisingly it wasn’t the meter reads they got wrong this time—they agreed with my readings—it was in working out the solar credits. Would you believe they managed to subtract 1838 kWh from 2854 kWh and come up with 125.463 kWh!!!! To three decimal places, what’s more!! I thought all this was done by computer. It meant I got a credit of $41.40, when I should have received $335.28. So I rang, AGAIN, and pointed it out and I’m still waiting for the amended bill.

I imported an average 2.6 kWh per day from the grid; sent 2.1 kWh per day back to the grid and the panels managed 2.9 kWh per day.

It’s been 8 months since the solar was installed and although it’s too soon to tell yet, it’s looking hopeful that I might wind up at the end of 12 months with an overall credit. Which means I will have not only saved about $1200 in electricity bills, but an additional credit might also pay for all, or some of, my bottled gas bill. Which would be very satisfying.

The winter solstice happened during the month and I was so wrapped up in the idea that the sun would be heading south again (thinking solar generation), that I forgot it’s also when I start sowing my tomatoes. So I got to work and filled dozens of small pots with a mixture of sieved potting mix and a little bit of blood and bone and went through my seed bank. I soak about a dozen seeds in water overnight and sow three to each pot—4 pots of each variety. They’ll be thinned to the strongest seedling:


They’re in a plastic box inside on the kitchen table. When they germinate, I’m going to put half the tubes out into the polyhouse (in the cold, poor things) and leave the rest inside as a control. This is because I spoke to the old chap who sells tomato plants at the Sunday Market and asked him how he gets his plants so big by August when he starts selling them (they’re 30 cm tall with stems as thick as my little finger—I could never manage that!). He said he puts them outside as soon as he’s potted them up, BUT they should have protection from cold winds. Well, they’ll get that in the polyhouse, but it certainly won’t be warmer than inside.

So far, I’ve sown—Silvery Fir Tree, Reisentraube, Grub’s Green, Black Russian, San Marzano, Burnley Surecrop, Checkmate and Red Pear Cherry. I have plenty more varieties in stock and will keep going with it.

I’m still picking tamarillos and having a couple on my breakfast cereal each morning. I’ll really miss them when they’ve finished:


And finally, rainfall for June. We had 109 mm (Melbourne’s June average is 43 mm) making up for the abysmally low February (8 mm; average 46 mm) and low May (36 mm; average 68 mm). Everything is nicely soggy.

13 Responses to “June update”

  1. kmfinigan Says:

    Your garden looks fantastic! Ive got a whole bunch of tips on growing asparagus, what nutrients to go into the soil when and whatnot over on my blog if you’re interested! http://bit.ly/1pjkDUO Happy Growing!


  2. Frogdancer Says:

    You’re an inspiration! I’ll follow your lead and get the tomatoes sown – I never know when to do it.
    At least now it’s the holidays I’ll have the time to do it.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Being a teacher is good in a way. You can program all your seed sowing, planting, etc, for term holidays, unlike me who has so much time to do things I end up doing nothing very efficiently unless I make a supreme effort.

      For e.g. you could sow all your brassicas for the winter over the Xmas holidays, then over 1st term holidays, you’d be getting out the end of the summer crops and preparing the beds for winter crops. You could be planting brassica seedlings then (or maybe they’d be ready a bit earlier).

      Second term holidays (like now), you’d be sowing early tomatoes for spring planting which you’d do in 3rd term hols (Sept or thereabouts). As well as planting your early tomato seedlings then, you’d be starting to sow late tomatoes and the zucchini, pumpkin, cucumber group for summer.

      And in between all this you’d be demo-ing and selling HermyThermies 😉


  3. k8heron Says:

    A dumb question – why do you soak your tomato seeds before sowing? I have a mini greenhouse I’m keen to try for early germination this year too!


    • foodnstuff Says:

      No, not that dumb, because it’s not really necessary. It just kick starts the germination process by getting them fully hydrated, which is easier in water than waiting for them to take it up from the seedling mix. If you forget to water them for a couple of days after sowing it just delays water uptake and they’ll take longer to germinate.

      With big seeds like pumpkin, when they take up water and swell, it’s easy to see if they’re firm and mature, not just an empty shell. Bit harder with small seeds though, that’s why it’s best to sow more than you need.


  4. Chris Says:

    I love the dandelion and nasturtium in the photos too. Bet they wouldn’t last a second without that cage. I know you said you battle the rabbits. We have kangaroos and hares.

    It’s good to hear your progress on the solar. This would have been quite a trying month in Melbourne for solar generation, but not an indication of how the system performed over twelve months. I’m going to do my solar updates via the quarter, as that’s when I get the electricity bills – though I am keeping a minimum and maximum kph for each month.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Hi Chris, yes it really irks me that rabbits love nasturtiums and dandelions. Nasturtiums pop up everywhere and would make such a good ground cover, but the rabbits make mincemeat of them.

      Will be interested to hear how your solar goes. Check the figures on your bills; the retailers are horrendously inefficient.


  5. rabidlittlehippy Says:

    I’ve been very blessed this year and taken advice from you about planting up those little shoots from tomato plants and my greenhouse plants are still producing a few tomatoes! I also have 4 plants growing inside which although they’re somewhat leggy, has shown me I can! 🙂
    As we get such late frosts I will be sowing my tomato seeds in August/September and I will plant them out under 2L softdrink bottles amidst the garlic as soon as they’re big enough. I will take your advice about planting them in the cold albeit protected. 🙂

    I can’t believe your electricity bills are STILL not sorted! It’s ridiculous, although I don’t need to tell you that of course. On a happier note, we will soon be joining you in the solar revolution. Just as soon as we sit down and review the 8 or so quotes we’ve received and work out through whom we go. 🙂 We’re getting a 3kw system. 😀

    The rain has been glorious hasn’t it. 🙂 Not so much the cold or the wind, although the cold at least provides balance and good conditions for the brassicas and alliums. The wind was horrid here and we’re still repairing the damage done. Here’s to today’s sunshine though which has JUST broken through the clouds to shine in my back door. 🙂

    Happy July.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Hi Jess, thanks for the comments. The good thing about tomato seedlings is that it doesn’t matter if they get leggy from being inside, because they can be planted with the whole stem in the soil, right up to the first set of true leaves and they will sprout roots all along the stem. I really must try a tomato in my polyhouse next winter.

      Fantastic that you’re getting solar. Now I will have someone else to compare notes with! Do you know about the Whirlpool forums, they’re a great resource for solar info?


      Scroll down to the bottom right panel and click on ‘green tech’. You don’t have to be a member to read, just to post.


      • rabidlittlehippy Says:

        It’s not my seedlings that are leggy but 4 whole plants! Still, they might well end up being converted into 10 or so plants instead. 🙂 One has flowers so it can’t be too bad. 🙂


  6. narf77 Says:

    A wonderful post :). EXCELLENT on your credits but no doubt they are twitching every time you contact them now. Makes you wonder how many other people they are getting it wrong for “accidentally” who aren’t paying attention and getting in touch with them eh? We aren’t supposed to plant out tomatoes here in Tassie till the Launceston show in October so I might start mine in a month. I want to grow my own seedlings for our garden this year. My yacon is STILL growing so I have decided to leave it put this year. NO idea when to harvest it but I dare say it will die back and hibernate happily in the soil till next year when it will spring up again. Off next month to the markets in Hobart to pick up some Chinese Artichokes from “Frog Hollow” and any other unusual perennials that I can cadge at the same time. Best phone them and tell them when I am coming so that they can pot them up for me as I asked them in Summer and they told me to get in touch with them in winter when they had been harvested :).


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