What to do?

I’m sitting here at the computer on a cold, grey wintry afternoon, when I should be outside working, but I’ve succumbed to the temptation of being inside, with a fan heater under the desk, blowing warm air on my legs and a recording of Handel’s Judas Maccabeus playing in the background.

I’ve read through all the latest posts in my blog feed, I’ve scrolled through Facebook (it’s pretty boring) and looked at Chris’s new version of his Weekly Notes From Fernglade Farm blog. That’s when I saw that he’s very kindly put a link to this blog in his blog list and I felt immediately guilty, because I haven’t kept up with writing this blog like I used to.

Hence the title of this post: What to do? Because I really don’t know whether to keep writing or not. I closed it down once before and everyone wrote such nice comments that I eventually started writing again. I felt I was saying the same things over and over and I had only had a few new subscribers and the stats were showing daily readers had dropped off. And summer was a disaster and many plants died and the birds/possums got most of the fruit that did manage to set and….and….well, fellow gardeners, you know how it is. Not exactly gardening blog-writer’s depression, but similar.

I’d better write something……

So, after a very dry summer—no rain at all in February; and less than normal in March and April—the rains finally came in May, with almost 4 times the average for Melbourne. The water tank filled again; the 3 pools down the back, which had dried out completely, filled up. The curling leaves on the citrus opened out and became dark green again (I had tried desperately to keep water up to them). The 2 tamarillos that had gone to god decided to stay there and not return, but they were old and woody and probably past their best. All the tamarillos had flowered well before the big hot/dry but with a single day of 42 ºC in summer, all the flowers dropped off and that’s why I’m not eating tamarillos now when they should be coming out of my ears.

One fruit I did get, and very pleased with the crop I was, were about 20 persimmons. The blackbird got a few before I realised he was onto them, but I swathed what I could of the tree in nets and put individual little bags over the rest :

The good thing was, I discovered that if I picked them as soon as they had developed a reasonable amount of colour, they would continue to ripen inside on the kitchen table, so I was able to get them off the tree while it was still covered in leaves and the leaf cover helped to keep them out of sight of the birds. Oh, they are so delicious when ripe and almost fluid inside!

The other crop I got quite a lot of was Jerusalem artichokes. I had 2 batches in large tubs and another batch in the ground; in fact one lot are still in their tub—I just cut off the dead stems and left them there to harvest at any time. I will probably have to remove them and thin them out before they begin to shoot again in spring, or they will choke themselves out :

I love them sliced into quarter-inch slices and fried in butter till soft, but I discovered they also work well very thinly sliced and deep fried, when they end up just like potato chips. Of course, one can’t eat too many at once—not for nothing are they often called Jerusalem ‘fartichokes’.

Here are a few pics of what’s in the garden at the moment.

This is a mixture of kales which I’ve direct-sown from garden-collected seed. I think it was meant to be Red Russian Kale but it has come up as 2 forms—a feathery-leaved form and one with a darker, more entire leaf. Obviously the initial (purchased) seeds were hybrids and they’ve returned to a mixture of the parents. That’s a few purple-podded peas in the background :

Plenty of silver beet for me and the chooks. This is the form called spinach beet. It’s often touted as ‘perennial’ but it’s not—it runs to seed in its second year just like normal silver beet :

Leeks in a wicking box, almost ready to pick :

Parsley in a wicking box. Wicking boxes never need watering at this time of year :

This one is interesting. It’s Apium australe or King Island Celery, a native celery. Years ago I went to a talk on native bush foods and the chap giving the talk was growing this as a crop for the restaurant trade. I bought a plant from him and have been growing it and collecting seed ever since. I was lucky with these 2 plants. I discovered, going through my seed bank, that I hadn’t grown out seed for a few years and there were only a few left. Luckily 2 came up. These are in a wicking box and doing very well as all celerys like lots of water. The leaves have a very strong celery taste. I use it mainly for flavouring soups. This species is endemic to the Bass Strait Islands and Lord Howe Island :

I cleaned out the summer bean crops from the milk bottle planters and filled them with fresh mushroom compost with a bit of Dynamic Lifter mixed in. I’ve put endive seedlings in. More chook food than me food :

This is my little native lime in its large tub. It’s grown really well in the last year. I’m hoping it will flower and set some fruits this spring/summer :

This is Mizuna, a soft-foliaged Japanese green and easy to grow. I collect seed every year and direct-sow it. It’s useful as a winter green for soups, omelets and scrambled eggs :

Usually my strawberries in their wicking buckets die back over winter and I cut them right back for the new spring growth. This year I cut them back early and they leafed out again and flowered. The fruits aren’t ripening well; I suppose it’s just too cold :

Blueberries are getting their winter colours :

And some early flower buds? :

It looks like the turmeric is almost ready to harvest. I’ll wait till the leaves are a bit more dead and dig up the tubers :

Well, that’s it. I wrote a post. Yay for me! I’ll try and keep it up!

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19 Responses to “What to do?”

  1. karencheah Says:

    Great post! What do you do with your turmeric tubers after you dig them up? This is the 2nd year for my plants and they’ve grown much more. Last year, they were not very big so I’ve just left the tubers over winter and they came up again in spring.

    I haven’t forgotten our plan…

    Liked by 1 person

    • foodnstuff Says:

      Last year was the first year I got extra tubers. I cut them into small slices and dried them in the dryer, then ground them into powder in the Thermomix and used it just like normal turmeric powder. I’ve actually been putting a teaspoon in my bread…..it makes a bright yellow loaf…quite interesting.

      Are the chooks in their new home yet?

      Like

      • karencheah Says:

        You’ve been making super-bread, LOL! Use if whenever you you fried chicken/fish, etc. You’ll be amazed with the flavour! Just turmeric powder with some salt. Better than KFC!

        How do you store the tubers you would like to plant again in spring?

        I haven’t got chooks yet but I’ve got one rescue quail that I’m trying to train to free range in there! She’s a very, very anxious and frightened bird so it has been ‘interesting’…

        To make things more interesting, I’m getting adventurous and thinking of ducks! Not sure how to handle their water needs and messiness yet….and living with a rogue quail…

        Liked by 1 person

        • foodnstuff Says:

          Thanks, I’ll try that use for turmeric. I add it to rice, too, just to add a bit more nutrients and for its supposed anti-inflammatory properties. I store the extra tubers in moist cocopeat until I’m ready to plant. I’ve been wondering about getting some quail. They’d be ideal for the new chook run I built, because the chooks don’t use it much since the new girls decided to bunk in with the old ones (and there’s only one of those left anyway). It would be ideal for quail and I could lock the chooks away from them in case they decided they were something to try and eat. Ducks….no….I have wild ones coming to the pools down the back. That’s enough for me!

          Like

          • karencheah Says:

            Quails are really low maintenance. I think it would be perfect in your spare chook run which would be a smaller version of mine? But if you let them free range, it might be difficult to collect their eggs because they don’t have any nesting instinct; they will just lay on the run. But I’ve read people ‘training’ them to regain that nesting instinct by providing them a very natural environment. Definitely keep the chooks away as the quails are too little to defend themselves. If you like quail’s eggs, you should definitely have quails. They can eat the same food as the chooks and for water, use nipple drinkers so no risk of them drowning and very little mess. They love dust bathing in used coffee grounds!

            Do let me know when you’re up this way. Will tell you all about my quail experience.

            >

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Kath Says:

    Lovely to see you. I’m one of those blessed lurking non-commenters, but I do enjoy what you write about and your photos too.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Frogdancer Says:

    Funny you wrote now; I’ve been thinking about you. The landscaper is working at my place and soon my veggie garden beds will be going in…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kayepea Says:

    Nice to see you back on the writing deck! Will be in touch soon-ish. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Chris Says:

    Hi again. Nice to see your garden still chugging along. Lovely mizuna. I normally plant some, but have given up on my vegetable beds, until I can get irrigation to them. It’s containers for now, and I need to find new areas for more.

    It’s challenging to write about the garden, when it’s being brutalised by the climate. I write about my craft, or things happening in general, in my life, when the garden isn’t performing. Or any infrastructure I develop, which may not have anything to do with plants.

    While this blog is primarily about “food” it’s also about “stuff”. 😉 Your stuff. Things which influence you. Things you enjoy, etc. There are many levels that make-up a gardener. Gardening is just one of them. Glad to see you back. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • foodnstuff Says:

      Thanks Chris. I would like to try and diversify the blog posts for something to write when there’s nothing much to say about the garden. Like you do, in fact. Your blog is a great inspiration for me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Chris Says:

        Aww, shucks. Made me blush. I love being inspired by your part of the world too. You’ve got a lovely bushland garden growing, and lots of friendly wildlife who come to visit. I had no idea you volunteered for the local bird hide sanctuary, until you wrote about it. I bet there are equally, many delightful surprises to learn about what makes you, you. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Chris Says:

        PS: I have an idea for your next post. Ask suggestions of things people would like to know about your little part of the world. Then decide what you’re comfortable sharing. No obligation to run with this idea. Just if you think it might help.

        Personally, I’d love to see the stuff your husband has built for you. Nothing like a personal story, behind something which has come into being, through ingenuity. He was, for a time, part of your land’s story. And through you, living there since – still is.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Jane Says:

    I am also glad to see your posts. I don’t mind if you’ve had a terrible summer or some gardening disaster, because I sometimes feel I’m the only one who’s failed to get a harvest it’s nice to know sometimes I’m not the only one. Of course I do not wish disaster on you or anyone and I always learn from your solutions. In the summer it is far too hot and dusty for me to be outside after midday and that is when I usually go back through old blogs looking for ideas and just learning new things generally. It helps keep my mind off the heat a bit, and gives me ideas to try in the cooler seasons. I always read your blogs even if I don’t comment, and I always appreciate you taking the time to post. So thank you from me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • foodnstuff Says:

      Thank you too, Jane. I always know people are reading by the WordPress stats on the day after I post, but it’s always nice to get a comment.

      The weather is a constant reminder that food-growing isn’t easy, but going out and being able to pick even a small part of a meal from the garden makes it all worthwhile.

      Like

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