Archive for January, 2016


January 25, 2016

It’s cucumber time again :


Which means it’s time for bread & butter pickles. I’ve linked to Suburban Tomato‘s recipe here, because it’s the best one I’ve found. I do a couple of things differently: I fill the oven-heated jars with the cucumber/onion mix and pour the hot pickling liquid over, instead of adding the cucumbers to the pickling liquid on the stove and then bottling, and I add some finely sliced red capsicum for a bit of colour :


These are the first three jars of the season. Looking at the developing fruits on my plants, it seems there will be many more to come!

Note in the photo of the cucumbers above there are 2 different varieties. The 4 on the left are the standard supermarket variety with warty/prickly skins. The 2 on the right are smooth-skinned and a nice regular shape. It’s a variety called Diva and I’ve been growing it for a few years now. The seed came from Phoenix Seeds in Tasmania. It’s unusual in that the flowers are said not to need a male pollinator—they set fruit on their own without it.

There’s one thing I’ve noticed about cucumber plants. Like all curcurbits they have male and female flowers, but with pumpkins and zucchinis the flowers seem to only last for a day, whether pollination happens or not, whereas those on cucumbers stay open for longer, probably the females, at least until the flower is pollinated. I never hand-pollinate cucumber flowers (the sexual bits are so tiny anyway), and I always seem to get lots of fruit. I hand pollinate pumpkins and zucchinis and sometimes the fruit develops and sometimes it doesn’t. I don’t know what pollinates cucumbers—I never see any bees at them; let’s face it, I hand pollinate because there are less bees around in my area than there used to be. What I do have is lots of ants and tiny native flying things—wasps or hoverflies or something. Because I’m in a temperate climate I don’t have the tiny stingless native bees; I have the larger blue-banded bee, but it’s becoming rarer to see one of those. (Note to self: I must really get to and make an insect hotel).


January 22, 2016

Not Bubonic, but Beetle.

Plague Beetles to be exact.

I had these in the garden a couple of years ago. A few days ago I noticed some on my beans :


I remembered what they were, but there didn’t seem to be many and they weren’t doing any harm, so I let them be. A day or two later and a friend and I were sitting in the living room having a cup of coffee when she noticed the Woolly Bush in the garden seemed to be drooping significantly (it’s normally an erect shrub) and there were lots of dark blobs in it :


We went out and had a look. OMG, the bush was full of them. Their weight was dragging the branches down :


We went back inside and grabbed for our iPads and Google. This CSIRO site seems to be the best for information. There’s a video. We watched in horror, the sight of millions of these things crawling on a tree trunk. We said “Oh, yuk!” Amazingly, they don’t seem to do any harm to plants. They spend their time sucking nectar from flowers and (to be a bit crude) bonking. No wonder they’re a plague!

Fallout From The Crash. Who Benefits?

January 20, 2016

Another great post from Not Something Else.

I’m not alone in wanting this crash to be the Crash That Ends All Crashes.

Not Something Else

The next financial crash is coming.  Of that I am certain.  Whether that is a standalone event or is forced, cajoled, driven or influenced by other external factors taking place at the same time, is up for question.  Of course, the timing of such an event is also up for grabs.  I would love for it to happen this year and have factored that into the somewhat obscure darkness that I have predicted to be a feature of 2016.

A Guardian article (which was the inspiration for this post) talks about these things and fusses about whether, when a massive crash occurs, the fallout will favour either the left or the right.

Why are we so caught up in the absurd drama of any part of the spectrum of politics. It is not as though politics has proven to be of any benefit or advantage to anyone other than those…

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Australian petroleum inventories

January 17, 2016

This is a pretty important post from Matt Mushalik at Crude Oil Peak

No glut in Australian petroleum inventories

If you haven’t been keeping up with oil production and decline scenarios, please read it and understand that we would be in real trouble in this country if there was another oil shock. With the problems in the Middle East, that could easily happen virtually overnight.

What would you do if there was an extended break in our oil supply? If there was no fuel at the pump? If supermarkets closed within a week or so because they couldn’t get deliveries? If this went on for months? Have you ever considered the possibility?

Our government is not preparing for such an eventuality. Even the American government, dumb as they are, keeps to the 90-day supply-in-reserve recommendation of the International Energy Agency. We’re a member nation and we refuse to do it.

His conclusion worries me :

The continuing talk of a global oil glut lulls Australian motorists to believe that everything is fine while actually this country’s petroleum stock holdings are minimal. When things go wrong in the Middle East no one will help Australia as IEA obligations have been wilfully ignored by both ALP and Coalition governments.

More links :

Australia nearly completely dependent on imported fuel

Fuel security crisis: Australia’s perilous dependence on imported fuel

Oil is the life blood of our current way of life. Yes, we could scale down to a less energy consuming existence (after all, we lived without oil for thousands of years prior to its discovery), but it can’t be done overnight. We will have to one day, when the world runs out of oil. Do some research. Don’t be like the idiot hairdresser who used to cut my hair and told me (without any supporting facts) that he wasn’t worried because oil will last another 400 years!

How prepared are you? Your family & friends? Your neighbours? Sadly, there’s no-one of my immediate acquaintance who thinks this is serious and worthy of some sort of preparation.


Onions & leeks

January 13, 2016

I had one go and one go only at growing conventional brown onions. While I think it was reasonably successful (so long ago, I don’t really remember), I gave up the idea because,  a) I don’t use a lot and  b) I don’t have the room, or at least I would rather use what room I have to grow more of what I use a lot and like.

I took to growing leeks instead. They take up less room (vertical growth, so can be grown closer together) and can be picked and used at any stage from spring onion size to baseball bat. They’re easy to grow from seed which germinates quickly and you don’t have to worry about day length varieties as you do with onions (and they don’t make you so tearful when you cut them). I usually plant seed in spring and transfer to small pots for growing on, before planting out when the cooler weather arrives. Here’s my current batch of leek seedlings waiting for planting time :


Getting back back to onions, I found seed of this variety, Rossa Lunga di Firenze and thought I’d give them a go because they looked pretty :


I sowed them in a large pot filled with chook poo compost, in late July and they took 20 days to germinate. I intended to thin them out, but as usual, didn’t get around to it, and now they look a bit of a mess :


But they are starting to bulb out so I’m thinning by picking :


They’re OK fried but I’m using them as a salad onion. The flavour is mild, but I’m not into strong onion flavour anyway. I’ll definitely be growing these again, with a little more care in thinning out next time, although come to think of it, since they don’t start forming bulbs till much later, it would be possible to grow them as I do leeks….. sow, then pot into small tubes and plant at the required spacing. No worries remembering to thin. Yup, that’s what I’ll try next time.


The Great Dumbing Time

January 9, 2016

I’m in complete accord with the writer of the sentiments expressed in the image in this reblog from Not Something Else. It boggles my mind that, with all the world’s knowledge available at the click of a mouse, people seem to be getting dumber and dumber.

The internet won’t be with us in the oil-depleting future ahead of us. While we’re lucky enough to have it, we should be learning as much as we can about self-sufficient living, not mindless facebooking and twittering.

Not Something Else


Image credit: The Don Freeman FaceBook post

I don’t really care who I offend by agreeing with the message in this image.  It is a sad thing to agree with but it is generally true, and it is not limited to the new generation who depend on the internet to give them some sort of, any kind of, self-definition, reason for being, or status.

The internet, along with its spawned brat – social media, will prove to be very temporary phenomena.  Temporary, because they are dependent on a viable resource-based consumer economy for their existence, and we soon will not have one of those on which to base anything else either.  These technological wonders, or toys, have only a short time left to continue to provide entertainment and mental benumbing for the masses.  When that time comes, a great percentage of the population will die of boredom, if nothing…

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Berry good!

January 8, 2016

The strawberry wicking buckets got their second wind and flowered again and I’m getting lots more strawberries :


The blackberries have started to ripen, too :


In a word: yum!

The New Year

January 3, 2016

I don’t ‘do’ New Year resolutions. It’s too easy to let them go. But one I have made is to try and do a regular monthly update to this blog, with at least a few smaller posts in between. The small ones will probably be of not much consequence, as I’ll probably just be desperate to write something, but I hope some readers will get some information of value from them.

So here we go with the first for 2016.

I staggered out of bed on New Year’s Day after a hot night of non-sleep to let the chooks out and see what had suffered due to the heat the previous day. The temperature had reached 39 Celsius in Melbourne.

Luckily I went down the back past the bath full of water in which I grow azolla fern for the chooks. A little sugar glider was flailing about in the water. I don’t know how long she’d* been there but she was wet and exhausted. I lifted her out and took her inside. She was still pretty feisty—yelling loudly in protest—so I dried her off as best as I could, trying to avoid the sharp little teeth—I’ve been nipped by one previously—and found a pillow case to put her in. Sorry, it’s not a very good photo. Look at those tiny feet. She gripped my hands really hard with them, maybe thankful to have something solid to hang on to at last :


I’m fortunate there’s a very good wildlife carer not far from me. It was 6.30 am, but I hoped she’d be up and she was. So there I was, at (almost) the crack of dawn, driving the 10 minutes to her home. I didn’t see another car on the roads.

The glider will be in good hands. The carer will keep her there, giving her nourishing feeds with an eye dropper until she’s ready to come home and then she’ll ring me and I’ll go and pick her up. Probably around dusk when her nest mates will come out of their tree hollow for the night’s feeding routine. I know which tree they’re in so will put her on the trunk and let her be off to join them. An interesting start to the New Year!

(*note: I don’t really know what sex she/he was but I can’t refer to something so tiny and beautiful as ‘it’, so I’m assuming  the most important sex).

I picked my first tomato a couple of days before the end of December. Cheating really, because it’s a very early variety anyway—Silvery Fir Tree, with pretty divided foliage :


Since I never buy the tasteless cricket balls that pass for supermarket tomatoes, I’m going to relish eating this, the first home-grown tomato I’ve had since last autumn.

The lettuces in the milk bottle planters had reached their use-by date so I removed them and replaced them with Purple King climbing beans :


The planters are on the side of the deck and I’ve attached strings so that the beans can climb up and onto the deck railings :


I’ve added more planters since I wrote about them previously, so it’s looking like a feature wall of sorts :


I’m growing endive now, instead of lettuce. I find it easier to grow; it doesn’t run to seed in hot weather like lettuce and the chooks prefer it to lettuce. It doesn’t have the sweeter flavour of lettuce, but put it in a mixed salad with a decent dressing and you wouldn’t know the difference :


There’s more here, in a wicking box with capsicums :


And in another wicking box with basil :


You can see from the photos that with small plants like these, I can get six to a wicking box. The boxes are 60 cm long x 40 cm wide x 25  cm deep. Sometimes a bit of thought is necessary to decide what plants will go together. The basil and capsicums will grow taller than the endive, which grows flatter, and they’ll shade it from the sun. That will keep the leaves soft and lush and tastier.

The thornless blackberries are colouring up :


I can’t wait to try these. Meanwhile their little apple pouches will stay on until they’re fully ripe :


This Naranka Gold pumpkin is doing well in an old recycling crate (not a wicking box—it has drainage at the bottom—but about the same size). I wrote about this variety here. This season I made sure I planted seed early so it would have time to flower and hopefully set fruit. It’s starting to trail and since the crate is beside the wood heap, I’m going to train it over the top :


The passionfruit climbing over the chook run has finally flowered and is setting fruit. It’s been there long enough; maybe it can read my mind—I was thinking of removing it :



Funnily enough, a lot of food plants that haven’t flowered well previously, did so this season. Does the (changing) climate have something to do with it? Do they know something I don’t? As long as I get more food from the garden, I’m happy.