The New Year

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 :

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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 :

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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 :

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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 :

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

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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 :

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

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And in another wicking box with basil :

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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 :

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

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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 :

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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 :

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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.

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10 Responses to “The New Year”

  1. notsomethingelse Says:

    It can be very rewarding to give the little creatures a hand when they need it.

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  2. Chris Says:

    Everything looks lush at your place, despite the impressive heat! Though I’m sure there are casualties in the garden too. Thankfully, one doesn’t include a possum glider. I’m glad you were able to rescue them in time. A happy ending. 🙂

    Do you think you can put a log, or large tree branch in the water, so if something falls in, it can climb out again? I was going to do that with one of my barrels, then discovered a vine invading, so didn’t need to.

    I love your idea to switch to beans in the old milk containers. I love the purple king bean variety. It seems to suffer the heat better than the dwarf beans. But it will help to shade the porch too. It looks like nature is swallowing up your house. That’s either a gardeners dream, or nightmare. 😉

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Thanks, Chris, a branch is a good idea. In 16 years I’ve never had any problems with wildlife and the bath. Recently I bought a couple of wire mesh panels with the view of using them as frames for cucumbers or beans. I think I’ll put them over the bath for the time being. Ultimately I want to put supports for my trays of plants in tubes over the bath so that when I water them the excess goes into the bath and I can bucket it out and re-use it.

      The only lushness here is from what’s being watered. The rest is dry and brown. The rains will come eventually and things will green up again and I will have learned something from it.

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  3. fergie51 Says:

    Those milk containers have performed better than I would have bargained. Love the idea of hooking over trellis for the beans. Wow, can’t wait until we have passionfruit, the vine we planted has been somewhat damaged (stuffed!) in the building process. 🙂

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      No pain, no gain, as they say. Your new extension will more than compensate for a stuffed passionfruit. 😉

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  4. Bernadette Borg Says:

    Yay!! It’s raining here in Broomfield and I will be over the moon, if it continues. Summer has only just begun and my lettuces have bolted, the ants attacked the apricots, the blackbirds stole the cherry plums, the figs droppes all their leaves whilst the apples dropped their fruit and so on. I’ve been told that most of the other trees are very low on fruit,because the bees couldn’t get to the blossom, before the heat hit. At this point I’ll be happy if the worst hit trees survive. All have been watered, but it’s no match for good solid rainfall!

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Oh, you are so lucky! We missed out on the rain down here. Sounds like your garden has been having a tough time of it, too.

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  5. narf77 Says:

    No rain for us but 50km away it has been raining for 2 days :(. I LOVE your milk bottle vertical planters. What a great way to stop the possums from scarfing your beans. I will be pinching that idea as soon as I have enough ola in Sanctuary to keep the soil moist. It has been SO dry here that I have been having to water almost every day. We had it hot here as well (for us) and so I commiserate with you about your heat. My pear trees are loaded with fruit but have almost no leaves thanks to the tag team efforts of pear and cherry slug and the heat. We have caught 6 rats in a week and a half so this is narf fighting back rats! Not bad with only one trap AND we got a few strawberries from the wicking bed this morning when for the last year or so the rats have scoffed them all. Your fruit trees should give you a good year followed by a not so good year. We always have something doing better than something else. This year it was the cherries going great guns. The birds scoffed all of the cherries on the big old tree but then it only has sour cherries on it so they were welcome to them. They deposited the seeds all over the place and there are cherry trees coming up everywhere. I have been planting out Christmas mango stones and avocado pits and will be planting out my hazelnuts and chestnuts this year. I will install a long piece of PVC pipe in the ground when I plant them to make watering easier. I loved your post, especially the passionfruit. I miss passionfruit :).

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    • foodnstuff Says:

      Congrats on getting the rats! I got 6 too, and the chooks killed another. I’ve waited a long time for those passionfruit, though.

      Liked by 1 person

      • narf77 Says:

        Steve just bought 2 more traps. I am very tired of the rats eating everything in Sanctuary. We fenced it off to protect it from the possums, NOT to protect the rats from predators so they could breed exponentially! No more piss taking for YOU rats 😉

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