Archive for February, 2015

Pumpkin antics

February 26, 2015

Back in the December update I wrote about a couple of unknown plants that had germinated in compost in a pot beside the new chook run. I’ve reproduced that part of the post below :

When I built the new chook run, I put a couple of large tubs on either side of the doorway. I filled them with compost and left them until I’d decided what to plant in them. In the meantime a couple of pumpkins germinated in one of the tubs. It wasn’t what I would have planted, as there’s not much room for them to run rampant as they usually do, but I let them grow on anyway.

They’ve turned out to be a couple of oddballs. They’re not running everywhere, but growing in a clump like a zucchini :


They’ve flowered already and a couple of fruits are forming (I did my thing with the paintbrush) :


There’s a robust central stem and the new flower buds are in a tight cluster. It certainly looks like a zucchini :


They can’t possibly be zucchinis because I eat all my zucchinis before they go to seed. There would never be any zucchini seed in the compost. They’re not like any other pumpkin I’ve grown. If they came from the compost, it must be something I’ve bought. I normally only buy Butternuts and the occasional Kent. And then I remembered.

I’d bought a variety from Coles I’d never heard of, called Naranka Gold. It had bright orange flesh and was beautiful roasted. I’d Googled it at the time and found it had been specially developed and grown for Coles. They say it’s a cross between a Chilean variety and the Kent. I’d saved seed but some would have ended up in the worm farm and ultimately in the compost.

I hadn’t sown any of that seed this season, so I got it out and sowed some in a large tub. It will be interesting to see if that’s what’s in the chook house tub. I hope so, the flavour was exceptional.

That was then. This is now.

Well, those couldn’t-be-zucchinis weren’t zucchinis after all. One of the pumpkins I’d planted on a hugelkulture mound was a Grey variety. It produced a pumpkin just like the two in the tub :


So they were pumpkins after all and they came from the compost (they’re small and not grey because they didn’t develop properly).

But….the interesting thing was the seed I’d sown of the Naranka Gold variety bought from Coles. This is what it produced :


How pretty is that?

It even has yellow stems :


I’m sure the colours aren’t due to a nutrient deficiency, because I sowed a couple more seeds in another spot and they were the same (they haven’t done well because it was a dry spot).

The other thing worth noticing is that there’s not a single spot of downy mildew on the leaves. All my zucchinis and other pumpkins were covered in it and they’ve been pulled out. These seeds were planted late in the season, but even so, the plants have been subject to the same weather conditions as the early-planted ones and I would have expected these to have succumbed too. Interesting, eh?

Flower buds are starting to appear in the leaf axils on the stem, but I don’t have much hope that they’ll actually develop into pumpkins this late in the season.

I have a little bit of seed left. I’ll certainly be sowing it again next season and I’ll be keeping an eye out in Coles for more of this variety.

Excellent flavour, attractive plants and maybe mildew resistant. What more could you want in a pumpkin?

Cooking parsnips

February 23, 2015

I’ve never grown parsnips successfully, so I just let them go to seed for the bees. I share the seed with my neighbour and he brings me parsnips from his garden.

Recently he brought me some with apologies for them being a bit on the small side. They had thick cores and long skinny roots :


I love mashed parsnips and because we’d just had a cool change after a couple of days of oppressive heat and I was sick of salads, I decided on hot veggies for dinner.

Normally, I’d cut off the skinniest part of the root, peel what was left then cut into sections, discarding the tough core. With these, it was obvious there wasn’t going to be much left if I did that. So I used my veggie peeler to slice off long strips until I reached the core and was able to use most of the root. I cooked the peelings in a casserole in the microwave and then mashed them with butter and S&P :


(If you always do your mashed parsnips this way, don’t write and tell me. I want to believe I’ve been fantastically clever for just a little bit longer!).

The famous Bartlett lecture

February 22, 2015

This video crossed my path again recently. It’s Albert Bartlett’s famous lecture, “Arithmetic, Population and Energy” and it’s billed in this youtube video as “the most important video you’ll ever see”. I’d agree with that. I think the world’s brain-dead politicians should be locked in a room together and made to watch it. But then, I expect very few, most likely none of them, would have the mental capacity to understand it. We wouldn’t have the unsustainable, useless society we have, if that were so.

The Tindo bus

February 19, 2015

It sounds great, doesn’t it? In the future, we’ll all be running around in electric cars and buses. This bus is NOT carbon neutral. It takes energy (fossil fuel type energy) to mine the raw materials and manufacture the buses. It takes energy to mine the raw materials and manufacture the solar panels on the bus station and also to build the bus station. It takes energy to build the roads the bus runs on. I could go on. All this energy use results in carbon emissions. The bus is not carbon neutral.
I wish the media would do its homework on the laws of thermodynamics before crowing about how wonderful the future’s going to be. Electric buses are part of industrial civilisation and will end up in landfill just like the rest of it.
When fossil fuels are no more and raw materials have run out there will be no more buses.


February 17, 2015

I cannot comprehend that a snowfall could be as high as my chest. Take a look at these pictures posted by Terry Golson at Henblog.

I’m gob-smacked! What happens to a garden under all that snow? Will it still be there when the thaw comes? Flat as a tack?

The chickens look nice and cosy in their house. She says it’s a comfortable 20 degrees. That’s Fahrenheit!!!  Minus 6 degrees Celsius in Aussie language.

I will never complain about Melbourne’s weather again!

Is meat unhealthy?

February 17, 2015

Stephan Guyanet at Whole Health Source has been writing a series of articles on meat and the role it plays in overall health. I’m linking to his latest article only and if you’re interested, you can search back through his previous posts and read all the articles in the series.

Like most people, I love meat. I don’t eat a lot of it because my food expenditure is limited by a budget, but I eat enough, I hope, for it to contribute to my overall health and to enable me to get the nutrients I can’t get from a vegetarian diet alone. I could never voluntarily be a vegetarian.

I’ve seen the nutritional arguments for being vegetarian (moral reasons are another thing entirely) and I’m not convinced that a person can be optimally healthy by avoiding meat. Guyanet seems to conclude that humans have evolved to eat meat, in other words, eating meat may increase our “Darwinian fitness”. I’ll go along with that.


And God said…..

February 14, 2015

…..let there be cucamelons.

And there were cucamelons :




And God saw that it was good.

And so did I. Now all I need to know is….when do I pick them? God? Anyone?



Nature is speaking – I am Mother Nature

February 13, 2015

This is one of a series of videos that rabidlittlehippy has reblogged recently. I think it’s worth re-reblogging; worth watching over and over again. We humans think we are so important. Mother Nature is indifferent to us. A lesson worth learning. Hurt her and she will hurt us. Look after her and she will look after us in return. Can’t get any simpler that that.

Rabid Little Hippy

This moved me to tears. Mother Nature is more powerful than we. I feel it’s time to show her some more respect.

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Integration…chook style

February 10, 2015

The New Girls seem to know a bit about permaculture, especially the design principle, integrate rather than segregate. What this means in permaculture design is that the elements in a design should be placed so that they complement one another and energy is saved and resource use maximised. So if the outputs of one part of the system are the inputs for another part of the system, then it makes good design sense to put them next to one another rather than separate them widely.

In chook terms what this means is that the Newbies have decided they want to be part of the original system, i.e. Molly & Cheeky’s run and coop, rather than be separated in their own run and coop (which only happens at night anyway…through the day they’re all in the same area).

I made a separate run and coop for the Newbs because I wanted to keep them separate initially for quarantine purposes and because I didn’t want to see them being beaten up by the two dominant hens, at least until they’d settled in enough to give a bit of their own back.

It worked OK until they had their first fox scare early one morning. They were quite safe; I knew that but they didn’t, and it resulted in them not wanting to go into their coop at night, but preferring to sleep up on the top. I gave in to that idea and made arrangements to protect what was left of my coop paint job (with newspaper), and collect the poo from there.

That worked OK until yesterday morning. I was lying in bed, half awake, half asleep, trying not to accept that it was time to get up, when I heard the Noisy Miners give their warning calls and the agonised flapping and cackling from the Girls that said ‘fox’. I fell out of bed, grabbing for clothes, with the usual hand clapping and yelling “geroutavit” and went outside. Molly & Cheeky were still in bed in their run but the Newbs were panicking in theirs. Two were in their coop, in the nestbox, on top of one another, while the third was parading up and down abusing all and sundry.

I calmed them down, let them out into the main playground area and staggered inside to properly wake up. The rest of the day proceeded as normal.

Came the evening and the usual job is to go down just on dusk, call them into their respective runs, if they haven’t gone in already, give them a bedtime treat and drop down the pop doors on each run that keep them confined for the night (and keep foxes out), say “goonite Girls” and retreat inside to the computer.

I was doing something important on the computer (Sudoku puzzles are important) and dusk came before I realised it. By the time I got outside Molly & Cheeky were nowhere to be seen, but I know that like all of us oldies they like an early night. The Newbs were nowhere to be seen, either. They weren’t on top of their own coop in their own run.

I bent down to check Molly & Cheeky’s coop through the wire. It was almost dark by now. There seemed to be a lot of black shapes in there and a lot of grumbling and grizzling going on. You wouldn’t read about it (well…I know….you just are!). The Newbs had put themselves to bed in the Oldies coop!

I went into the run and poked my head through the door of the coop. There’s room enough for 6 or 7 chooks in there so I wasn’t worried. Molly & Cheeky were NOT amused. There was a lot of sniping and pecking going on. The Newbs were trying to get themselves settled while keeping out of range of Molly’s beak. I closed down the pop door and left them to argue about it.  All because of the fox episode that morning, they’ve given up on their own coop. Who says chooks are dumb?

Ultimately it’s good. It means they’ve integrated fully with the other two. M & C aren’t happy, but they’ll get used to sharing their bedroom. It means less work…back to having only one coop to clean out and one to lock up at night. They’re all together at night in the run that’s next to the house, just under my bedroom window. I’ll hear and wake at any disturbances. They’ll be out of the winter weather, safely tucked up in a coop where I want them, instead of on top of it. Win win all round. Integrate rather than segregate. Permaculture wins again. Yay!

Be afraid…be very afraid.

February 7, 2015

This article appeared in yesterday’s morning newspaper. I find it very worrying.

What worries me is this:

In the industrial world (which includes our country), we have built a whole way of life around a finite, non-renewable energy supply, one that we have become totally dependent upon for our food and water.

Ninety-one percent of that supply for our particular country comes from overseas.

If that supply failed for any reason, no-one in our government knows how much we have in reserve.

No-one in our government is even preparing for what might happen in the event of a supply failure.

If that supply failed, in very short order, transport would come to a grinding halt. No food deliveries to shops, no ambulances, no fire services, no police.

What would you do in such a situation? Are you prepared? Does it even worry you?

I’ve been told, when I try to bring this to people’s attention: “they will think of something”.

If ‘they’ haven’t thought of it by now and aren’t even bothering to think about it, then where does that leave us?.

On a similar matter, this came from a recent commenter at Our Finite World blog:

The possibility that something bad could happen, and that governments would not warn people, is beyond people’s understanding.

And a commenter in reply said:

It’s entirely arguable whether governments warning people, especially if they suspect the worst is coming, is even advisable.

Oh, yes!

The thought that pretty much everything we need depends on the continued operation of that one refinery in Singapore, well….it doesn’t actually keep me awake at night, but pretty close to it.

I keep a year’s supply of food in the cupboard; I have a water tank; a toilet that doesn’t need to be flushed; a reasonable but far from perfect food garden; 3 means of cooking (electricity, gas & wood) and (I hope), supportive neighbours.

Still I don’t like the thought of what might happen. I don’t like being dependent on a system run by a group of people who haven’t a clue and care even less about people like me.