Archive for the ‘Potatoes’ Category

I can’t believe it’s June

June 13, 2015

Oops! I think I said that last month, when May rolled around. Is this the May Update then? Sort of. How about I roll it into June and then I won’t have to do a June update.

Despite reading other food-growing blogs and seeing how much winter work other people are doing, I haven’t done much at all in the last month to write about.

I did manage to cut back all the asparagus fern, mulched it up, put it back on the beds and fed them with blood and bone and dynamic lifter (chook poo compost gets reserved for the wicking boxes). My asparagus beds aren’t really ‘proper’ beds; I just planted groups of asparagus seedlings amongst other plants, in small gaps in the food forest. I wanted to have the feeling that I was harvesting spears from a forest landscape rather than a traditional garden bed (I also hoped that the rabbits wouldn’t find them so I wouldn’t have to put wire around them). And because of this and owing to not removing the berries from female plants, I now have extra seedlings dotted around that I didn’t plant. And other seedlings coming up in odd places, not in the food forest, like this one in a tub (which contains a blueberry), so it will be repotted and planted somewhere more suitable :

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The tamarillo harvest is well down this year. The four main trees flowered well in spring, but were attacked by aphid-like insects and by the time I realised what was happening, most of the flowers had dropped off…so not a lot of fruit this year. I have only one plant of the yellow-fruited form and that was in a different spot so I’m getting some fruit from it and I have a half-dozen seedlings from last year’s fruit of that ready to plant, so I’m going to spread them around in the hope that if one gets a problem, they won’t all get it. The yellow variety is a bit sweeter than the red :

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It looks orange here, but it really is yellow. Why doesn’t the camera see what I see?

This motley crew are about to be planted :

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I’m selling plants at a local monthly market and these kale plants are waiting their turn to go. Red Russian and Lacinato. I sowed 2 seeds direct into each tube…that way the growth isn’t set back by pricking out and potting up :

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I found two varieties of strawberry seeds at the local garden centre…an ordinary variety called Temptation and mixed seed of the red and white alpine variety. I’m thinking the alpine variety should do well at the market :

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Egg-laying has tailed right off and tailed is the right word for it! This was the latest from Clover, the only one still laying :

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The New Girls ended their first laying season of 13 weeks, producing 107 eggs between them, an average of about 8 per week. Clover is still producing a couple a week, but I’ve told her not to bother, since I’m not getting much benefit from her efforts. There’s not much point, I told her, if you’re not going to do it through the day and then it drops out of your rear end through the night and smashes on the floor, or if you could only manage to put half a shell on the next one, so that my thumb went right through it when I picked it up, but thanks anyway for the funny pointy one and I’m sure it’s going to be fine inside.

I have plenty of winter greens for the Girls. This is mizuna, direct seeded :

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And this is corn salad, also direct seeded. The French call it mache. It has a beautiful buttery flavour when lightly steamed; almost too good to give to the chooks :

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This kale plant is about ready for me to try a batch of kale chips :

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This is is new variety of kale called Jagallo Nero. Nice lacy foliage :

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I’m looking forward to the winter solstice in a bit over a week’s time, when the sun will start moving southwards again, and the days start to get longer. And tomato season will be on the horizon. Yay!

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November update

December 4, 2014

Whenever I see a new variety of potato at the supermarket I generally buy a couple to take home and try. Growing, that is. So back in June I saw the variety Ruby Lou for sale in Coles and bought 3 tubers to plant. I harvested almost 2 kilos in November. The plants were pretty healthy—no sign of late blight, no little nasties attacked them and the majority of the tubers were clear of scab :

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I’ll keep some back for replanting and will probably freeze the ones I don’t eat right away.

My first cherries! :

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There are just six! I immediately put a net over the plant. It’s only small and has been in a couple of years. There were more flowers but not all of them have set fruit. I’ll really savour these!

Quince futures. They’re covered in a furry down at this young stage. The tree was grown from seed; so easy to do :

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I’ll be really interested in these apples :

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They were grown from seed from a Granny Smith variety. The tree flowered for the first time this year and has only set 5 fruit. Since apples rarely come true from seed, it’ll be interesting to see how they turn out.

Our local council had its annual hard rubbish collection in November. I put out a small pile of stuff and had a look at my neighbour’s pile to see if there was anything I could rescue.

I scored two 44 gallon plastic drums which will be useful for storing water and a small rabbit-cum-guinea pig hutch in good condition. It might be useful if I ever have a sick chook and want to isolate her from the others :

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Although technically it’s illegal to take something from a pile once it goes out on the naturestrip, everyone ignores that and it’s amusing to see the cars and trailers cruising up and down to see what they can pick up. I think it’s great to see what is rubbish to someone being re-claimed by someone else, instead of going to landfill as most of the stuff does. Most of my neighbour’s pile disappeared within an hour or two of him putting it out, so I was lucky to get the drums. I had put out a toaster that had died and someone came and cut off the power cord and left the toaster. I already had a large collection of power cords minus their appliances, so didn’t bother.

For the third year in a row I didn’t put a net over the redcurrants and nothing touched them! I can’t believe it, especially since some of the fruiting stems were right out in the open in full view of the birds! I harvested 2 cupfuls of fruit and that’s not counting the dozens I picked and ate every time I passed the line of bushes. I haven’t done anything with them other than to sprinkle a few on my breakfast cereal each morning :

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Of course the most important happening during the month was the arrival of the New Girls—three 12-week-old Barnevelder pullets from Julie at Country Chooks. They’ve settled in well, after a few hiccups with preferring to roost on the top of the coop instead of inside… :

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…but I settled that by shepherding them into the coop and barring the entrance with a wire panel. It only took 3 nights of doing that before they got the idea and started going in by themselves. I’ve allowed them into the 5 x 1 metre long corridor that connects the two runs, but they’re still not able to access the main playground where Molly and Cheeky are. There’s been considerable interest as the 3 newbies meet the 2 oldies at the wire barrier. Molly and Cheeky have never shown any interest in the various wild ducks and pigeons that parade outside their run, not even in the baby wild rabbit that can get in with them through the wire (only while it’s small), but somehow they seem to know that these other feathered things are their own kind. Molly seems to want to be friends, but Cheeky only wants to show them who’s boss. I may keep them apart until the newbies have started to lay. I want them to become attached to their own nest and coop and always return there at night. I don’t think I’ll have any trouble with Molly and Cheeky returning to their own quarters, but I don’t want the New Girls trying to roost in there as well. My nerves won’t stand the kerfuffle if Molly and Cheeky decide to object to that idea!

The cucumelons are growing slowly :

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Their tendrils are like fine threads and once the waving tip has grabbed onto something, the tendril forms a tight little spiral to strengthen its hold :

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Could that be a tiny flower bud with a tiny baby cucamelon behind it? Yay! :

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This Cape Gooseberry came up by itself beside the chook’s playground. It couldn’t have picked a better spot as it will give them some cool shade in summer :

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It’s already setting fruits in their papery capsules :

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The first of the cherry tomatoes are setting fruits. I’ve never had a ripe tomato before Christmas; maybe I’ll do it this year! :

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This is feverfew:

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Masses of flowers; I planted it in the hope of attracting bees, but I haven’t seen a single one on it. Instead, there are dozens of tiny flies and wasp-like things:

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I have no idea why the bees don’t like it.

I did a head count of the main crop veggie seedlings I’ve put out so far. There are 35 tomatoes; 7 cucumbers; 15 pumpkins and 8 zucchini. Direct sown seeds include beans, carrots, sweet corn, dill and caraway and some more pumpkins and there are leeks and celery sown in the polyhouse for next winter. Three dozen basil seedlings are waiting to go out. I should get something to eat out of that lot!

November saw the beginning of the second year in operation of the solar panels and they continue to be worth their weight in gold. I imported an average of 1.5 kWh per day from the grid and sent an average of 17.3 kWh back to the grid. The panels produced 20.1 kWh per day and the average daily credit to me worked out at $4.13. Overall, for the month I earned a credit of $123.81. If it wasn’t for the heat, I’d wish every day was summer. Imagine earning that much every month and being able to grow tomatoes all year!

We had 53 mm of rain during the month; Melbourne’s average for November is 58 mm. Everything looks green and lush for now, but it won’t stay that way.

Onwards to summer!

Storing potatoes

March 27, 2014

Potatoes are so easy to grow and I always seem to have more than I can eat at any one time. As a result of which, in the dim depths at the back of the cupboard under the sink, this often happens:

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Sometimes it’s even more embarassing and this happens:

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So I need some other method for storing them where they won’t sprout. I investigated freezing and found that it’s possible but they need to be blanched first. So…peeled and diced, dropped into a pot of boiling water, then removed when the water comes back to the boil. Dropped into iced water to cool quickly and stop the cooking process. Drained and frozen in batches:

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I’d hoped that when defrosted, they’d be suitable for potato salad, but I found that when I tried to mix them into the dressing they were too soft and broke apart. However they’re just great for mashed potatoes. Into the microwave for a minute or so, add butter, S & P, chopped parsley, a dash of milk and mash. Quick and delicious!

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Handy hint corner

An old spice container full of fine sand, makes a great shaker for covering fine seeds after sowing:

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Here endeth the summer

March 24, 2014

Well…I hope so.

The autumn equinox has been and gone, we’ve had an inch of rain, the days are cooler and the plants are making new growth.

I’ve planted my garlic and potato onions from Yelwek Farm. Some went into the garden and some in a wicking box. I had success with one potato onion bulb (just one!) in a wicking box last year and I want to see if that was a one-off or whether they will tolerate the extra moisture in a wicking box. The drainage will still be good and if I need to, I can shelter the box from excessive winter rains. I’ve grown garlic successfully in a wicking box before, so no worries there.

Potato onions in the garden:

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Garlic in a wicking box:

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I’ve also planted asparagus in the first of the hugelkultur beds I made.  By spring, this bed will be in its third year and the underlying wood is starting to break down, at least enough for me to get the treeplanter into it without hitting any resistance:

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I’ve staked and tied up the ferns for the time being to keep them tidy and to dissuade the rabbits from investigating them. I’ve had to protect each side of the bed with wire to stop the blackbirds tearing it apart. The ferns will die back over winter and I’ll side-dress each plant with chook poo compost before the spears emerge in early spring. I doubt they‘ll be big enough to harvest this year but should be OK for the next:

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In the spaces between each asparagus plant I’ll sow cucumbers next spring/summer and let them ramble over the mound. By that time the asparagus will have stopped bearing and will be at the fern stage. The ferns, which grow to over a metre tall in mature plants, should provide some shade for the cucumbers during the summer. So the asparagus will do two things—provide me with a yield in spring and shade for other plants in summer. An example of the permaculture principle which says that each element in a permaculture system should perform more than one function.

Garlic chives are flowering. The bees love them. I’ve got a couple of dozen new plants in pots and will plant them everywhere:

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Tamarillos are ripening. I made sure I kept the water up to the plants in summer and it looks like a bumper harvest this year:

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New batch of potatoes coming on. These are Kipflers:

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Dandelions for use in casseroles and soups this coming winter:

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The last of the tomatoes ripening. This one is called Nicoleta and the seed came from a member of the Ozgrow forum. It’s a good size and shape and has a beautiful flavour. I’ll be growing this one again:

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Still getting a few strawberries from the wicking box on the deck. The blackbird has found them so I’ve had to put a net over them in addition to the ring of wire around the tub. Did I mention I hate blackbirds?

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This is purslane. It self-seeded in a wicking box and I’m hoping it will flower and seed there again. It has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, a crunchy texture and can be eaten in dozens of ways:

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The oca has kicked on with the recent rain and should form lots of tubers by winter when the plants will die back:

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It wasn’t the best of summers from a food-growing point of view. Yields were woeful compared to past years. The most important things I learned were that I have to make provision for shade on 40-degree-plus days and that plants in wicking boxes will do better than plants in ordinary garden beds.

It also wasn’t the best from a personal-keep-cool point of view either. Before next summer I’m going to have an evaporative cooler installed. I don’t need to worry about electricity use, because the solar panels will run it through the day. No more do I want to try and sleep in a house where the temperature is in the high 30’s.

Updating…..

December 8, 2013

Mainly photos—easy post when you don’t have to write much.

The redcurrants are ripening. I haven’t protected them and I can’t believe the birds are ignoring them. Same thing happened last year:

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These ones made it inside. I’ve probably nibbled this many straight from the bushes:

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OK, so potatoes are relatively cheap. I still like growing them. These are Sebagos:

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The rhubarb in the hugelkultur bed has taken off:

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Here’s what it was like when planted a few weeks ago:

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Burdock leaves. Huge. Better dig up the root and see what I should do with it:

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Corn getting going:

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Oca leaves. The tubers won’t be ready till winter:

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Picked my garlic. Could be bigger, but better than last year. Will be useful:

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Small tree. Its first year. Only two apples. Cox’s Orange Pippin. Supposed to have the best flavour. Better put a net over these:

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Threw some old parsley seed amongst the zucchini on the hugelkultur mound. Who says parsley seed has to be fresh?:

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Borlotti beans. My first attempt at growing beans for drying:

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Pumpkins on the hugelkultur mound:

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Self-sown tomatoes on the hugelkultur mound. Really should pull them out, but will leave them to see what Mother Nature decides:

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Growing potatoes from real seed

October 22, 2013

Just a quickie to say that after my last post about planting sprouted potatoes, rabidlittlehippy sent a useful link via the comments box. Just in case some readers don’t read the comments, I’m relinking to it here.

It’s a really good piece of info about growing potatoes from real seed…..yes, potatoes flower like any other plant and set viable seed. I think I remember reading that the famous (American) variety Russet Burbank, was developed by planting real seed (by a Dr. Burbank, no less).

Last year, I was sent some seed of Pink Fir Apple potato by a member of the Ozgrow garden forum. I sowed it and it germinated and I had a dozen or so seedlings. Somehow I didn’t get time to pot them up and they grew for a while, being intermittently watered and unloved in the seedling tray, until finally giving up on the terrible gardener they’d been lumbered with, and dying. When I started to pull them out, I found a few small tubers. They’d tried so hard, I figured I owed them something and so I put the tubers into some pots and left them in the polyhouse.

A couple of days ago I noticed this (don’t blink, you’ll miss them):

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Little green leaves. Those tiny, tiny tubers have started to sprout! (those orange globules aren’t tubers…that’s slow release fertiliser.)

I’ve promised them this time I will look after them.

More mini cuttings

October 20, 2013

I’ve written about taking mini cuttings here, here and here. I’m still trying various varieties and now I can add two more: silver beet and cucumber. I was surprised at the cucumber; it didn’t seem that it would grow new roots up the stem like tomatoes do, and it didn’t. They grew out from the cut bottom edge. I can’t imagine that this will make for a very robust plant, since roots like that will easily break off, but I wouldn’t normally want to increase cucumbers by this method anyway. It’s just nice to know it can be done.

Treating silver beet this way, though, IS useful. A single silver beet seed is actually a composite of many seeds and several plants will appear from sowing one seed. Usually the recommendation is to thin to the strongest. Now I can snip off the extras with scissors and put them in as mini cuttings.

When a potato does this…..

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…..I make a small space somewhere in the food forest, place it in a hole, cover it with a pile of chook poo compost and a bucket of leaves and leave it to itself. It’s great fun digging up the progeny. Growing your own potatoes couldn’t be easier!

I’ve finally been able to harvest a decent-sized pepino:

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And there are two more to come:

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In the past, the rabbits or possums have taken them when they’ve been on the ground like this. When I saw these three rapidly expanding, I protected them with apple socks and thought I’d better put a wire cage over them as well. It’s done the trick. I’m going to enjoy these on my breakfast mueslii.

I bought the apple socks from Green Harvest. They call them apple pouches but they’re actually little nylon sockettes. They’re great to slip over fruit to keep birds and possums off. I wouldn’t want to do a whole tree with hundreds of fruit on it, but they’re OK to do enough of the best (and low-hanging) fruit to get a useful harvest. Here’s the persimmon with its socks on, a couple of seasons ago:

I managed to collect and eat every one. No problems with possums, blackbirds or parrots. Persimmons are really vulnerable because they lose all their leaves before the fruit ripens, so you’re left with a naked tree covered in bright orange fruit that can be seen by every bird for miles around.

Winter solstice

June 21, 2013

I love it when the winter solstice comes around once more. It means the sun has reached its most northern point in the sky and will start to make its way back into the southern sky. Every day sees a couple of minutes more daylight. It doesn’t mean it will get warmer—there’s still a fair bit of cold weather left to go—but unlike the European calendar, which heralds spring on the first day in September, the Aboriginal calendar for this area welcomes pre-spring in the middle of July. The first wattles will come into flower, as will the native Chocolate Lilies and Sugar Gliders will be giving birth. A colony of gliders lives here on the property in the many tree hollows. They emerge at dusk and spend the night feeding on insects and tree sap. When we first moved here, I used to watch every evening for them the emerge, but I’ve become a bit blase about it now and only watch occasionally. Last time I watched, a few weeks ago, I saw five come out of the one hollow. Must be nice and warm all cuddled up together in there, but I’ve read that they urinate on the leaves they drag into the hollow to mark their territory. Warm but stinky!

So cute:

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In full flight. Up and at ’em!:

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I mentioned in the last post that I’d planted Sebago, Desiree & Kipfler potatoes so far this season. I was in Coles (for overseas readers, one of our big supermarket chains), and saw a variety called Creme Royale for sale. Always keen to try growing new varieties, I bought some and planted them. Not having heard of them before, I Googled and found this site. It seems they’re grown exclusively for Coles so they may have been treated with sprouting inhibitor. Oh well, we’ll see what happens. I bought a couple of extras and had them for dinner, cooked in the microwave. The texture was soft and creamy, flavour not too bad. Hope they grow.

While searching I also found this site which is a useful summary of major potato varieties and their uses.

Bread & cheese on a wet day

June 13, 2013

We had 47 mm of rain on the first day of June; just over the June average for Melbourne. Then another 23 mm by the end of the following week, 20 mm last night and it’s been raining all day today. The gauge is visible from the bathroom window and it looks like another 20 mm so far. The 3 pools at the rear of the property are brimming. I’d be happy if I was a duck but I’m not. The chooks are disgusted; they’ve been confined all day to the only bit of their playground that’s covered by a tarpaulin and their holes are just puddles. But not muddy ones thankfully; the soil is sandy and water drains quickly, so I don’t expect any cases of chookfootrot.

It was obvious no outside work was going to be done today, but I had a batch of bread lined up to make and also some cottage cheese. I’m making the cheese weekly now, using the recipe from Green Gavin’s e-book, Keep Calm and Make Cheese. It’s a bargain, downloadable from Gavin’s blogsite for just a few dollars, as are his other e-books.

The bread turned out fine:

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As did the cheese. Here it is draining in the sieve:

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From a litre of milk I get 200-250 gm of cheese, depending on how long it drains. I keep and freeze the whey to use as stock:

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The cheese has a lovely fresh taste and it’s free of all the additives in the commercially made stuff. One day I’m going to have a go at a hard cheese.

Out in the garden, I’ve been making more hugelkultur beds from sticks, raked-up litter and leaves. The bed I made last year has been invaded by fungi which is good because it means the underlying wood is being broken down:

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I’ve been adding wood ash and chook poo compost to the bed and I’m hoping to get a good crop of pumpkins from it this summer.

The garlic and potato onions I bought from Yelwek Farm earlier in the year are growing well. The garlic took a long time to eventually sprout but it’s OK now:

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These are the brown potato onions. The nets are to keep the blackbirds off. Their constant digging is driving me crazy:

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There’s not much else happening at the moment. It is winter after all. I’ve planted Sebago, Desiree and Kipfler seed potatoes and still getting lots of greens and two (small) heads of broccoli. It’s almost the winter solstice and time to think about what tomato varieties I’ll be sowing this year. I may wait another month and start sowing in July. Time to get out the seed bank and do some sorting out.

Summer stuff

January 21, 2013

I can’t grow parsnips, but I sure can grow parsnip seed. These plants are all self-sown and are taller than I am. They’ve been covered in bees and little native wasps:

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That photo was taken in early December. Now I’m starting to collect seed:

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These little green things are potato fruits. That’s right—there are potato seeds inside  (correction: should be):

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Most of us grow potatoes from old bits of potato that sprouted in the back of the cupboard. I’m sure you’ve all had something like this happen:

Of course, the tubers should never be allowed to reach this stage before planting. Sometimes however, potato plants flower, get pollinated and set seed in little potato fruits like those above. Those ones were from the common Sebago variety. They fell off the plant while green, so I put them on the kitchen window sill to see if they’d ripen further. In the meantime someone from the Ozgrow garden forum asked if anyone had (real) potato seed to spare, so I sent some fruits off to him and kept a couple for myself to try and germinate the seed.

Unfortunately, someone else from the forum said that Sebago fruits rarely contain seed, so I cut mine open and he was right. Just green flesh and no seeds. End of experiment. However I have another batch flowering (which I think are Kipflers), so there’s hope yet of getting some seed to try. There’s no guarantee it will come true to the parent (particularly if cross-pollination with another variety occurs), and this is how (in nature, anyway), new varieties occur.

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I found this young fox dead on one of the paths at the rear of the property. I don’t know what he died of—maybe someone is laying baits:

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I left him there and next day he was gone. I expect some of his family claimed him—more likely they had a free meal in mind, rather than giving him a decent interment. I don’t hate foxes. What I do hate is the stupid, ecologically-ignorant people who deliberately introduced invasive species to this country (and are still doing it). I was amazed when I read that one of the noted early botanists who surveyed this country’s flora, Ferdinand von Mueller, deliberately scattered blackberry seeds alongside the tracks during his regular train journeys. The mind boggles!

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Just to give you an idea of how much growth can be supported in a wicking box. This one is on the deck:

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In the rear is a self-sown silver beet. The frilly plant on the right is mizuna, which I’m using in salads and as a steamed green. There’s also a self-sown lettuce buried in there somewhere. Curling around the front and rear of the box are cucumbers and on the left is a little clump of Tepary beans. This is the first time I’ve grown this variety (the seed came from Fran at Serendipity Farm in Tassie) and they have an interesting growth habit. I was expecting them to be short and stocky like French beans and they started out that way, but are now forming long tendrils. Wikipedia says: “The Tepary bean is an annual and can be climbing, trailing, or erect with stems up to 4 m (13 ft) long.” Oh, help! I’m going to have to show them the wire behind the wicking box if they want to go climbing.

Wikipedia also says: “Phaseolus acutifolius, the Tepary bean, is native to the Southwestern United States and Mexico and has been grown there by the native peoples since pre-Columbian times. It is more drought-resistant than the common bean (Phaseolus vulgaris) and is grown in desert and semi-desert conditions from Arizona through Mexico to Costa Rica. The water requirements are low and the crop will grow in areas where annual rainfall is less than 400 mm (16 inches).”

So they should do well in Melbourne. But obviously, on a trellis.

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Been waiting for this moment! The first tomatoes of summer:

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Roma, Silvery Fir Tree and a solitary Black Cherry. Bliss!

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Only 4 eggs last week from the Girls, or should I say ‘girl’, because Molly is the only one earning her keep at the moment, with one every second day. Lady has joined Cheeky in the annual game of who can lose the most feathers in a single day. The coop in the morning is ankle-deep in fluff. I’m even finding feathers right down at the rear of the property—that’s 150 metres away!

Lady looks like a feather duster having a bad hair day:

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Perhaps by the time Molly goes into moult, Cheeky will have finished hers and I won’t have a totally eggless period like last year when they all did it together.