July update

It wasn’t the sort of month you’d write home about….cold, wet & windy, so I spent much of it hibernating inside by the wood fire. I did manage to get some inside jobs done, the most important being making and finishing the new chook coop for the new girls I hope to get in spring. I also did some work (necessarily outside) on the new secure run to house them and the coop. There’s an ongoing post about the process in the drafts folder, which I’ll post when the whole project is finished.

I wasn’t picking much in the way of food. There are just a few tamarillos left and I need to keep some of those for seed. In the greens department I picked silver beet and also warrigal greens. This has taken off again thanks to the rain:


I haven’t used it much in the past, but I must say I’m warming to it as a steamed green. Plus it makes an excellent groundcover and the rabbits don’t touch it, which earns it 10/10 in my book. I saw a recent TV program where an aboriginal chef steamed it lightly in butter and added a sprinkling of freshly ground nutmeg, something I’m going to try (for those who may not know, it’s native to Australia).

The yacon finally died back and I dug it up. There isn’t a photo, it was so bad. Just one decent-sized edible tuber and almost no vegetative tubers. Lack of food and summer watering was probably the reason. I’ve replanted the meagre lot of vegetative tubers in a spot where they’ll get shade and more summer water. I don’t want to lose it altogether, or I’ll have to buy more tubers. This is the harvest in better years:

The edible tubers are the elongated brown ones and the vegetative tubers are the knobbly pink ones with the white tips, which are the developing leaf buds.

My delivery of shiitake mushroom spore plugs finally arrived during the month, thanks to Bernie from Not Something Else blog who contacted the supplier on my behalf through their Facebook page (I don’t do FB). I had selected a couple of logs from recently-fallen large eucalypt branches and set about drilling the holes for the plugs (the instructions said, “using the drill bit supplied”. Oh, right…only it wasn’t).

Easier said than done. The drill labored and stopped. I thought it had died. I tried again with a fully-charged battery. No go. No wonder they call them hardwoods. Eucalypt and some softer timbers are nevertheless recommended for shiitake logs, but I don’t have access to poplar, elm, willow or birch, so this needs to be rethought. If I use a partially rotted, therefore softer log (plenty in the firewood pile), then I run the risk that it will already have been colonised with foreign fungi which will out-compete the shiitake. Maybe all the problems I’ve had are telling me that growing shiitake mushrooms is not my thing. I’ll do something with it, just don’t know what, yet. In the meantime, the spore plugs are languishing in the fridge.

The solar panels produced 110.4 kWh for the month, 16.4 kWh more than for June. I’m hoping it will keep going up from now on. I still managed to send 75.6 kWh to the grid and imported 91.3 kWh from the grid. All up cost for the month, including credits, service charge and GST was $36.45. That service charge is the real killer. I need to send a bit over 3 kWh per day to the grid just to cover it. My April bill, which was wrong (again!), still hasn’t arrived with the corrected amount of credits and I was due for another meter read on 28th July. What’s the betting that will be wrong, too? I’m heartily sick of dealing with energy retailers.

I’m heartily sick of rabbits, too. I have a row of 10 wicking boxes placed up on polystyrene fruit boxes to keep them away from the long-eared pests, who demolish anything at ground level. It has worked up to date, but I’ve noticed a couple of very large rabbits running around. They’ve obviously been able to jump right up onto the wicking boxes and have demolished about 2 dozen plants…mainly celery, bok choy and kale. I was absolutely ropeable and now have to put a wire fence around all the boxes. What really irritates me is that there’s a huge breeding burrow on a neighbour’s property and he won’t fill it in. I’ve managed to stop them breeding here by filling in every attempt at burrow-digging. It’s bloody annoying when others just don’t care.

The bok choy was looking so good, too. This is the best of what was left and will probably recover:


So will the celery:


And maybe the kale:


It continued to rain. Melbourne’s average rainfall for July is 49 mm and we got 124 mm. Still very soggy right down the back.

I was given a couple of chokos a few weeks ago and I put them on the kitchen widow sill to see if they would sprout. One did:


I’ve put it in a pot to grow on a bit before planting out. This is my second go at growing chokos. I killed the first one, many years ago, probably by putting it in an unsuitable spot and forgetting to water it. I think the rabbits might have been implicated, too (when are they not!). I’ll try harder with this one:


I’ve had this patch of Queensland arrowroot down the back for ages. I’ve never done anything with it, cooking-wise. It gets little or no water in summer, so it doesn’t thrive, but then it hasn’t died either:


I’ve dug up a few tubers to propagate and will spread it around a bit more and experiment with cooking the tubers.

Well, that was July. Here’s hoping August brings some more warmth. Meanwhile I’m off to make another batch of kimchi.

8 Responses to “July update”

  1. Chris Says:

    I just bought yacon to give it a try in my garden. I can grow sweet potatoes but not the regular variety. So I’m hoping yacon will work here.

    Fingers crossed for your chokos. We used to grow them in a very cold climate when I was a teenager. The trick was to grow them next to a tin shed or something that would retain heat during the winter period. They always died back with the frost of course, but sprang back into action come the warmer months.

    We could use some of that rain up here, but we’ll just have to wait our turn. πŸ˜‰


    • foodnstuff Says:

      Good luck with the yacon. Thanks for the tip about the chokos; I didn’t realise they didn’t like the cold. They certainly wouldn’t have liked it here today; coldest day for the year so far…10 deg max.


  2. rabidlittlehippy Says:

    I envy you your choko. I’m hoping to source about 5 or 6 to sprout as I have plans to plant many of them around. They will need protection from the spring frosts here to give them enough time to climb but it’s worth the experiment I reckon. I LOVE choko and have plans to harness their climbing and large shady leaves to shade our house in Summer.
    I also envy you your 10 degrees. It’s been sitting at 2 or 3 all afternoon here. It’s been snowing on and off since about lunchtime! Nothing on the ground to photograph though.


    • foodnstuff Says:

      On Thursday afternoon I watched the cold front coming on the radar. The worst of it was heading towards Ballan and I thought of you. Do chokos have tendrils of do they twine? I’m wondering about giving it something to hang on to.


  3. narf77 Says:

    Your rabbits…my possums…I feel your pain :(. that Queensland arrowroot is most interesting, especially if it is surviving without much help. I went down to look at my “dead” little almond tree that I call Lazarus the other day. I call it Lazarus because it had been dead in a pot for years, no leaves, just chucked out on the compost heap in it’s pot and I wanted the pot back from my daughters house in town (big pot) so asked them to tip it out and when they phoned me back they said “are you sure? It’s got leaves!” err…it had no leaves for 2 years! I got it back and planted it out down in the second garden where it has had NO water and lives in the middle of a lawn (of sorts, no actual grass but not out-competed by other plants) that bakes solid in our long dry summer and it is sprouting! It’s only small but it survived an incredibly long dry summer after planting it in spring with no water. Now THAT is a survivor! I will be putting a watering tube next to it and mulching it heavily this year. It deserves a break πŸ˜‰


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