Archive for the ‘Tamarillo’ Category

April update

May 1, 2016

I found a spot for my little Australian native Finger Lime in a large tub beside the deck. It looked so big in its original nursery pot and now looks so tiny dwarfed by the gas bottles. I had planted a half circle of purple-podded peas at the rear of the tub and they had only just germinated, so it will have some company and they will put some nitrogen into the soil for it. I’m still tossing up whether to get another one to plant in the garden near the regular citrus trees :

image

Tamarillos are starting to ripen and so are persimmons :

image

I wasn’t sure about the persimmons, even though the colour looked right, they were still hard, so I picked just one and left it on the bench for a week and thankfully it softened and became edible. This is what a friend told me to do years ago. She had a huge tree and I can remember visiting and seeing dozens of bright orange persimmons lining the window sills in the kitchen and living room.

I’m pleased with my garlic so far, growing in the new bath. Hope it’s better than last year when the bulbs I picked were so small as to be practically useless :

image

Carrots direct sown in a wicking box :

image

My local greengrocer had locally grown Pink Lady apples for under $2 a kilo, so I got some to dry. I’ll chop these into smaller pieces in the Thermomix and use them in a mixture of chopped dried apricots and sultanas, which I add to my (cooked) rolled oats for winter breakfasts :

image

I dried some lime slices at the same time. Don’t know what I’ll do with these :

image

My Jerusalem artichokes were a dismal failure, but then I wasn’t surprised. They were in a terrible spot under gum trees, got very little water through the summer and almost no nutrients. So this is the entire crop. I’m not eating any, but replanting them right away into a large tub which will be well watered and fed through next summer.

image

The solitary yellow tamarillo has produced more fruit than the four red ones, which, for some reason, lost most of their flowers during the summer :

image

The trouble with most of these fruits is that they’re well out of reach, because tamarillo plants do this :

image

A tall skinny trunk with an umbrella of foliage at the top. In The Complete Book of Fruit Growing in Australia, Louis Glowinski recommends pinching out the tip growth when the plant is a metre high to force it to branch. Well, I did that with this plant and it still reached for the heavens (it might have been a little over a metre). Nowadays I pinch out the tip growth when the seedling is only 25 cm high (no mature trees from that experiment to show as yet). Luckily the fruits fall when they’re really ripe, even though they’re usually OK to eat before that.

My Naranka Gold pumpkin has been picked and is maturing enjoying the sun on top of the firewood box on the deck. I hope there’s plenty of seed inside as I’ve now run out and this one is grown exclusively for Coles supermarkets, so seed isn’t available to buy :

image

My yacon crop is better this year. I kept it well-watered and fed over summer, so I’m hoping for some decent tubers. It’s planted under a couple of tamarillos (note the trunks either side), so it was always protected from the direct sun which makes the soft leaves wilt readily :

image

I cleaned all the old summer crops out of the two planter boxes and planted some kale seedlings :

image

But there are still white butterflies about, so :

image

The climbing beans did so well in the milk bottle planters, I thought I’d try some peas. Only three per bottle and they’ll require careful tying up since they don’t twine like beans, but hey, anything’s worth a try :

image

The strawberry wicking buckets are still producing a few strawberries :

image

During the month we had a welcome 50 mm of rain which greened everything up nicely, but we still need much more to make up for the very dry spring and summer months. Melbourne’s average for April is 53 mm.

Last but not least, the Girls have all stopped laying and are having their autumn/winter break. I don’t expect any more eggs until September at the earliest. I’ll be buying eggs for the first time in 13 months. This was the first laying year for the three newbies (Bonny, Missy & Clover) and between them they laid 382 eggs. Five year-old Molly would have contributed some of those, but not many. She’s a senior cit now and just likes to spend her days lolling in the sun. When she does produce an egg it probably surprises her more than it does me.

Advertisements

March update

April 2, 2016

The Big Dry persists.

In the first 8 months of last year, we had 424 mm rain, an increase of 17 mm over Melbourne’s average for that period. In the last 7 months since then, we’ve had only 50% of normal rainfall and that was in the critical spring/summer months, when plants are putting on growth, flowering and setting seed and fruit is swelling. I’ve tried to keep water up to all the fruit trees and berry-producing shrubs and my latest water bill shows I’ve used much more than normal. And that was with 18,000 litres in 3 tanks, which quickly ran out. The 3 large pools at the rear of the property have dried out; the third one (which is up to my waist when full), has only ever dried out once before in the last 16 years.

The rest of the plants—mostly natives and those in the bush have been left to survive as well as they can. Many have died. Even the bracken fern in the bush is looking peaky and when that happens, you know it’s dry!

So, I wait and hope. The ground is cooling down and without rain soon, I don’t expect to find many edible mushrooms, not that there are ever many of those anyway, but it is nice to get at least one hunt-and-gather meal.

Rain or no rain, life goes on.

All the summer veggies have been pulled out and the wicking boxes and tubs topped up with fresh compost. I’ve sown peas at the rear of most boxes, where there is wire for them to climb on :

image

I planted my garlic on the 21st of the month….it being the autumn equinox. I had prepared a bed down the back earlier in the year, but it is all so dry down there that I decided to plant it in the other half of the new bath, where the soil is richer and moister :

image

That’s self-sown mizuna on the left. The chooks are getting most of it.

image

Within 10 days green shoots were showing :

image

I am so pleased with my quinces. I put apple socks on some of them, otherwise I wouldn’t have harvested any :

image

This is what the birds did to those that weren’t protected :

image

When they had turned yellow I picked about half a dozen and left them on the kitchen bench for a couple more weeks. There are still another half dozen on the tree. It was my first real harvest. Not bad for something that was grown from a seed :

image

I cooked them in the slow cooker for 10 hours. 700 ml of water, a cup of sugar, a couple of cinnamon sticks, a dash of lemon juice and one star anise (thanks to Y for the recipe). The flavour is superb and while the colour isn’t the deepest I’ve seen, it’s the best I’ve ever achieved :

image

If the tree fruits as well next season, I’ll protect more of the fruit and do some serious bottling.

The leaves on the persimmon are starting to colour up and fall and the fruits I’ve ‘apple-socked’ are becoming more visible :

image

Are they starting to colour up under their socks? :

image

Yep, looking good :

image

Now I can see them more easily, I can count them and it looks like about a dozen :

image

image

The critical time will be when all the leaves are gone and just the fruits are left hanging on the tree. I’ll have to pray the socks will do their job and keep birds and possums off, or failing that, sit under the tree 24/7 with a shotgun. This will only be the second year I’ve had a harvest off the tree and it’s 8 years old. Persimmons are one of the most beautiful fruits I’ve ever tasted. This variety isn’t the one that’s eaten when it’s crunchy; it’s the one that goes soft and the inside is like rich apricot jam. You slice off the top and spoon it out. I’m salivating just thinking about it.

Tamarillos are starting to ripen, too. There won’t be as many this year as something caused most of the flower buds to fall :

image

My Naranka Gold pumpkin has lost most of its leaves and I’m hoping the single fruit will be ripe enough to contain fertile seed. I used my last seed to grow it and haven’t seen any more for sale (it’s grown exclusively for Coles) :

image

Seedlings of kale, broccoli and Chinese cabbage are waiting in the wings. I’m keeping them in the polyhouse as there are still white butterflies about :

image

I’ve sown carrots in 2 wicking boxes and leeks are on the way for winter. There are a few green capsicums still on the bushes and chickweed has self-sown in a wicking box. The chooks will get most of it, but I’m cutting it for scrambled eggs for me.

All I’m picking now from the garden is silver beet, a bit of rhubarb and some Asian greens. Oh, and Bonny the chook is still laying but only a couple a week now. But there are tomatoes, tomato puree and beans in the freezer, 2 large jars of dried tomatoes in the cupboard and pickled cucumbers in the fridge. Summer’s bounty is over until next season.

July update

August 10, 2015

Despite the cold and the rain, I managed to get a few jobs done last month. The first was to get the dwarf Stella cherry ready for the new season…..its second year of growth. I dug a small swale behind it so I could keep the water up to it in the summer :

image

Then I installed a support for a net :

image

I picked only about eight cherries last year and I’m hoping for a bigger crop this year.

I bought a dwarf Granny Smith apple and planted it on a hugelkulture mound. I’ll eventually put in a couple of posts and a wire framework and have a go at espalier :

image

It will get more TLC here because I’ll be planting my zucchinis on the mound when the weather warms and there’s a sprinkler system from the tank in place. The original Granny Smith I planted is right down the back where I never seem to want to drag the hose and the apples are always small. It’s too big for a net, but I try and protect a few with bits of netting, otherwise I generally leave them to the birds.

I also bought 5 bare-rooted, thornless blackberry canes and planted them on a new hugelkulture mound I’d been building up for a few months, with raked leaves and sticks from the walking tracks in the bush :

image

This mound is on contour and on the slope that leads to the first of the three pools on the property. Although I haven’t yet dug out a swale in front of the mound, water is already collecting there and running underneath the mound and into the pool.

I’d love to have nasturtiums growing everywhere, but the rabbits love them as well. The only place I can keep them is inside a wire circle. These are keeping a Cox’s Orange Pippin apple company :

image

Fortunately, the rabbits don’t like Warrigal Greens, so they’re doing a great job as a ground cover in the food forest :

image

These climbing peas have just started to flower :

image

Attractive foliage of Jagallo Nero kale :

image

And Red Russian kale :

image

I’m not picking much from the garden at the moment….just some greens and a few yellow tamarillos. The red variety has produced very few fruits because of an aphid attack last spring when they were flowering and most of the flowers dropped off.

On the chook front…..two of the New Girls have started laying again and I’m getting about 8 eggs a week from them. For the first time since I started keeping chickens, I went through the winter without having to buy eggs. Good one Girls!

I gave the pepino in the wicking box on the deck a haircut :

image

It will be interesting to see if it recovers.

The blueberry in a pot on the deck is flowering :

image

In the bush, Victoria’s floral emblem, Pink Heath (Epacris impressa), is flowering :

image

And a large patch of native Nodding Greenhood orchids :

image

Meanwhile, I’m hoping for spring and some warmer weather.

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 :

image

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 :

image

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 :

image

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 :

image

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 :

image

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 :

image

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 :

image

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 :

image

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

image

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

image

 

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!

September update

October 3, 2014

Good things finally started happening.

For one, the spring equinox occurred on the 21st. That means the sun will speed up on its return to the southern sky and that means more generation from the solar panels (it doesn’t really speed up, what changes is the rate of change. Or something. Don’t worry about it).

And those aforementioned little darlings (the solar panels) turned 1 on the 18th. I forgot to wish them happy birthday or otherwise mark the occasion, because the smart meter wasn’t reconfigured to show solar exports until the 1st of November and all my spreadsheet calculations in regard to solar credits start from there. But I was recording what the panels produced every day up to then, so I know that over the year they produced nearly 4000 kWh and that’s a daily average of 11 kWh. Much more than I would ever use from the grid so it’s not surprising I’m in credit moneywise and expecting to stay there.

It warmed up, too. How nice to be able to shed a few layers of clothing and not have to trek daily to the wood pile for firewood.

The new chook run is finally finished, the coop is ensconced within and all awaits the new occupants :

IMG_2659

The first run had one wall protected by being built against the polyhouse; this new run, although covered with a tarp over the top, was open on both sides. I was really pleased to be able to re-purpose some pine panels (the remains of the original vegetable planter boxes) from down in the back corner and use them to cover one of the sides. They were treated pine which concerned me a bit (the reason for abandoning the original beds), but a neighbour, who’s a vet, said he wouldn’t worry about the chemicals in possible contact with the chooks :

IMG_2660

The various varieties of kale in the big planter boxes suddenly took off. I put a few plastic butterfly look-alikes in amongst them to see if they had any effect on dissuading egg-laying females. I watched as a butterfly hovered near. It flittered and fluttered over the plants, dithered and dathered, hither and thither and finally flew away. Success! I smirked to myself for a couple of hours afterwards until I suddenly thought—maybe it was a male looking for a bit of what you fancy and was so bemused by the multitude of potential lovers that he couldn’t cope with so many to choose from and departed the scene in utter frustration. I haven’t found any butterfly eggs or caterpillars yet, so maybe the phoneys are doing their job :

IMG_2661

IMG_2662

Blueberry futures :

IMG_2663

This dark purple variety of kale called Redbor has been in a wicking box on the deck for ages. It’s finally flowering which means I can collect seed :

IMG_2664

The strawberry buckets are covered in flowers. Can’t wait for fresh strawberries on my breakfast cereal :

IMG_2665

I started planting out the first of the tomatoes. Most are going into wicking boxes where I don’t have to worry about constant watering :

IMG_2666

This is Senposai, also called Japanese Greens. It produces huge amounts of foliage which is great for stir fries. Being a brassica, it has the obligatory white butterfly look-alike to guard it :

IMG_2667

The plants in the old wheelbarrow have really taken off. I’m not surprised as I filled it with compost from the bin where I put the stuff from the composting toilet :

IMG_2694

I’ve made a new bed behind one of the rows of wicking boxes. The dwarf nectarine had been there for some time and also some sage and I’ve added some garlic chives and a couple of strawberries. The rabbits don’t usually come this close to the house, but if they do, it’s easy enough to put up a wire fence :

IMG_2669

I’ve planted a Heritage raspberry into one of the hugelkultur beds :

IMG_2670

Down in the food forest, the tamarillos that didn’t ripen earlier are starting to colour up :

IMG_2673

There are a couple of odd coloured ones that look like they’re going to ripen yellow and orange even though all the others on that particular tree are turning from green straight to red. I know a yellow-skinned variety exists; I’ve grown a single plant of it from seed, but it hasn’t flowered yet. I’m wondering if there’s been a gene mutation somewhere in the development of these two fruits. (I’m doing an online genetics course at the moment so my mind is full of mutations…not literally though, I hope) :

IMG_2672

The yacon is starting to appear :

IMG_2677

The comfrey is shooting up again. The Girls will be glad; they love it :

IMG_2680

The basil mint is running rampant. I don’t really like it that much, but I can do the permaculture chop-and-drop thing with it and use it as mulch :

IMG_2675

The redcurrants have come into leaf and there are lots of tiny flower buds forming :

IMG_2674

The cherry is flowering for the first time :

IMG_2681

The Bartlett pear is covered in flowers but its pollinator mate next door doesn’t have a single flower on it, so I’m not sure if it will set fruit  :

IMG_2682

The flowers are so pretty :

IMG_2683

The rabbits love nasturtiums and I can’t grow them unprotected, so I throw a few seeds inside a circle of wire which is protecting a fruit tree. Somewhere in there there’s a Cox’s Orange Pippin apple :

IMG_2684

Yep, there it is :

IMG_2686

Plum futures :

IMG_2687

Apricot futures :

IMG_2688

And possibly, apple futures :

IMG_2689

Chokos sprouting :

IMG_2696

The passionfruit that was hacked to bits to get a new trellis into place around the water tank seems to be none the worse for its ordeal. There won’t be any fruit this year though :

IMG_2691

But there are flower buds on the one over the old chook run :

IMG_2692

And plenty of oranges for a vitamin C hit until the tomatoes ripen :

IMG_2690

The egg situation has been the only flaw in the month. The Girls laid 4 eggs between them at the beginning of the month and haven’t laid since. So I’m buying eggs. Not pleased Girls.

August update

September 9, 2014

Well it was nice to finally see some sunshine and warm days towards the end of the month and the winter blues slipping away. Here’s hoping the warmth continues.

Around the garden…..

The first of the tomato seedlings are out in the polyhouse after being sown at the winter solstice and being kept inside in a sunny window for a couple of months. I sowed three seeds to a pot and will let them grow on a bit, then take mini cuttings of the extras as I did last year :

IMG_2642

The tamarillo season ended with a flourish with this beautiful truss of fruits. Almost a shame to eat them :

IMG_2620

I’m really going to miss them on my breakfast cereal. Some fruits still haven’t ripened and I don’t know why, or if, or when, they will. I don’t know what triggers ripening—is it increasing warmth or lengthening days? They’ll be getting both of those from now on, so maybe there are delicious breakfasts still to come.

Leeks are looking good. These are in a wicking box. There’s a similar batch in the garden looking just as good :

IMG_2633

Likewise garlic. These are in the garden and also in a wicking box :

IMG_2635

This is a dwarf nectarine. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but it’s only about 50 cm high, and is supposed to grow to about a metre. The flowers are also much pinker than the photo shows. In its first year it had 5 nectarines and a rabbit/possum got them all. Last year it had 2 and I got them.  I’ve made a special cage for it this year :

IMG_2641

All of the larger stone fruits are flowering too, but it’s a worry that I’m not seeing many bees around.

I’m not really a great one for growing plants in odd-looking containers, but when my 15 year-old wheelbarrow finally died, I decided that since it was too tall for the rabbits to get to, it was worth being repurposed for veggies in Zone 1. It’s now sporting some kale and chicory and I’ve tossed in seeds of mizuna :

IMG_2626

While I was taking photos for this post, I saw the first Cabbage White Butterfly for the season. Damn & blast. That means it’s probably too late for netting, so daily inspections of all things cabbagy for eggs and caterpillars will be needed.

Er….? :

IMG_2643

Fooled you?  I cut them out of some white plastic sheet. Because…..

…..on last Saturday’s ABC Gardening Australia program, one of the presenters came up with the idea of plastic white butterflies, pinned to the top of sticks and poked in around plants in the cabbage family, the idea being that if a female Cabbage White sees other butterflies there, she won’t waste her eggs but will go somewhere else and lay.

Don’t laugh…..I did it years ago and it worked! Only then I hung the fakes on fishing line above the plants. I stood and watched and it was true; the butterflies wouldn’t land on the plants while ‘other’ butterflies were hovering there. There was only one problem—I had to spend some time each day untangling wind-blown fishing lines. I didn’t repeat it in subsequent years, and think the fakes must have been thrown out, but after that TV program, I’m going to have another go. On sticks this time.

I’ve had a few meals of asparagus. There are new spears popping up every day now. To store them until I have enough for a decent meal, I just stand them in  cup of water. It keeps them hydrated and they will even continue to elongate :

asparagus2

I harvested oca during the  month. These were the largest tubers. I planted the tiddlers straight back into the garden, but in a different spot. I’ll probably pickle most of these. I don’t like them roasted :

IMG_2646

This is purple mizuna. It has beautiful, lacy foliage and looks stunning in a salad :

IMG_2644

Solar…..

Generation from the solar panels bottomed out in July and started to take off again towards the end of August, with 9.7 kWh being recorded on the last day of the month. Amazing what a difference a sunny day makes! Over June and July I imported more power from the grid than I sent back to it, but I’m in front again now and exporting more than I’m using. I’m still waiting for a corrected bill from the retailer. According to their web portal there are 46 days in the January-April billing period that show no export to the grid, and this represents a credit of over $200 they owe me. They keep sending me texts to say they’re “working on it”, but since these are probably automated, I doubt whether they actually are. Main thing is, I haven’t paid a cent for electricity in the last ten months and don’t look like paying anything for the rest of the year. Or ever again. Maybe.

Rainfall…..

At 64 mm, we scraped in just 7 mm above Melbourne’s average of 57 mm for the month. It’s been good for the citrus and the oranges that looked a bit undersized are now looking a normal size.

I was about to hit the publish button when I remembered the most important thing. Eggs. The Girls haven’t laid since mid-January. I’ve been giving them subtle hints nagging them for a couple of weeks now. Molly apparently got sick of me harping on the fact that it was spring and normal chooks lay eggs in spring and laid one on the last day of the month. And as if to say, “there I’ve done it, now will you shut up”, hasn’t laid since. Not to be outdone, Cheeky has laid three. And one dropped out of someone during the night and broke. Oh, well. It’s a start.

Cuca…what?

August 19, 2014

Cucamelon, aka Mouse Melon or Mexican Sour Gherkin.

Aren’t they cute?

Never heard of it? Neither had I. It was written up in the daily paper a couple of weeks ago (which I threw out by accident).

So I Googled (as you do).

Here’s a good site (the source of the above photo), that tells you all about it. I’m always looking for new foods to grow so I wanted some seeds. A quick look at the various seed suppliers indicated it’s not common. Diggers sell it, but I don’t like Diggers (actually it’s Clive Blazey I don’t like), but then I found it at 4Seasons Seeds. So I’ve ordered a couple of packets. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Tamarillo update:

I had 2 goes at collecting seed from my tamarillos. I couldn’t find any mature seeds in the first lot I picked, so I let them mature for longer on the trees; in fact I waited until they were actually dropping off. I treated them in the same way as you do tomatoes (fermenting the pulp), and eventually got a very ordinary 12 seeds from 6 fruits. Not wonderful. So I’m afraid that I can’t send seeds to those who wanted some, because I’ve sown them all myself. Sorry.

I’ve had good seed set in other years, so I don’t know what was wrong this year. I never noticed any insects at the flowers, but would have thought if they produced fruits, then pollination must have occurred.

 

Handy Hint Corner

If you’re using slow-release, pelleted fertiliser on tiny seedlings, make sure the pellets aren’t sitting up close against the stem of the seedling. The influx of strong chemicals against the tender stem can burn it and the seedling will collapse. Put the pellets well away, towards the side of the pot.

No-no:

IMG_2615

Yes-yes:

IMG_2616

Larger plants, with a layer of protective bark, should be OK.

July update

August 1, 2014

It wasn’t the sort of month you’d write home about….cold, wet & windy, so I spent much of it hibernating inside by the wood fire. I did manage to get some inside jobs done, the most important being making and finishing the new chook coop for the new girls I hope to get in spring. I also did some work (necessarily outside) on the new secure run to house them and the coop. There’s an ongoing post about the process in the drafts folder, which I’ll post when the whole project is finished.

I wasn’t picking much in the way of food. There are just a few tamarillos left and I need to keep some of those for seed. In the greens department I picked silver beet and also warrigal greens. This has taken off again thanks to the rain:

IMG_2473

I haven’t used it much in the past, but I must say I’m warming to it as a steamed green. Plus it makes an excellent groundcover and the rabbits don’t touch it, which earns it 10/10 in my book. I saw a recent TV program where an aboriginal chef steamed it lightly in butter and added a sprinkling of freshly ground nutmeg, something I’m going to try (for those who may not know, it’s native to Australia).

The yacon finally died back and I dug it up. There isn’t a photo, it was so bad. Just one decent-sized edible tuber and almost no vegetative tubers. Lack of food and summer watering was probably the reason. I’ve replanted the meagre lot of vegetative tubers in a spot where they’ll get shade and more summer water. I don’t want to lose it altogether, or I’ll have to buy more tubers. This is the harvest in better years:

The edible tubers are the elongated brown ones and the vegetative tubers are the knobbly pink ones with the white tips, which are the developing leaf buds.

My delivery of shiitake mushroom spore plugs finally arrived during the month, thanks to Bernie from Not Something Else blog who contacted the supplier on my behalf through their Facebook page (I don’t do FB). I had selected a couple of logs from recently-fallen large eucalypt branches and set about drilling the holes for the plugs (the instructions said, “using the drill bit supplied”. Oh, right…only it wasn’t).

Easier said than done. The drill labored and stopped. I thought it had died. I tried again with a fully-charged battery. No go. No wonder they call them hardwoods. Eucalypt and some softer timbers are nevertheless recommended for shiitake logs, but I don’t have access to poplar, elm, willow or birch, so this needs to be rethought. If I use a partially rotted, therefore softer log (plenty in the firewood pile), then I run the risk that it will already have been colonised with foreign fungi which will out-compete the shiitake. Maybe all the problems I’ve had are telling me that growing shiitake mushrooms is not my thing. I’ll do something with it, just don’t know what, yet. In the meantime, the spore plugs are languishing in the fridge.

The solar panels produced 110.4 kWh for the month, 16.4 kWh more than for June. I’m hoping it will keep going up from now on. I still managed to send 75.6 kWh to the grid and imported 91.3 kWh from the grid. All up cost for the month, including credits, service charge and GST was $36.45. That service charge is the real killer. I need to send a bit over 3 kWh per day to the grid just to cover it. My April bill, which was wrong (again!), still hasn’t arrived with the corrected amount of credits and I was due for another meter read on 28th July. What’s the betting that will be wrong, too? I’m heartily sick of dealing with energy retailers.

I’m heartily sick of rabbits, too. I have a row of 10 wicking boxes placed up on polystyrene fruit boxes to keep them away from the long-eared pests, who demolish anything at ground level. It has worked up to date, but I’ve noticed a couple of very large rabbits running around. They’ve obviously been able to jump right up onto the wicking boxes and have demolished about 2 dozen plants…mainly celery, bok choy and kale. I was absolutely ropeable and now have to put a wire fence around all the boxes. What really irritates me is that there’s a huge breeding burrow on a neighbour’s property and he won’t fill it in. I’ve managed to stop them breeding here by filling in every attempt at burrow-digging. It’s bloody annoying when others just don’t care.

The bok choy was looking so good, too. This is the best of what was left and will probably recover:

IMG_2603

So will the celery:

IMG_2602

And maybe the kale:

IMG_2604

It continued to rain. Melbourne’s average rainfall for July is 49 mm and we got 124 mm. Still very soggy right down the back.

I was given a couple of chokos a few weeks ago and I put them on the kitchen widow sill to see if they would sprout. One did:

IMG_2600

I’ve put it in a pot to grow on a bit before planting out. This is my second go at growing chokos. I killed the first one, many years ago, probably by putting it in an unsuitable spot and forgetting to water it. I think the rabbits might have been implicated, too (when are they not!). I’ll try harder with this one:

IMG_2601

I’ve had this patch of Queensland arrowroot down the back for ages. I’ve never done anything with it, cooking-wise. It gets little or no water in summer, so it doesn’t thrive, but then it hasn’t died either:

IMG_2608

I’ve dug up a few tubers to propagate and will spread it around a bit more and experiment with cooking the tubers.

Well, that was July. Here’s hoping August brings some more warmth. Meanwhile I’m off to make another batch of kimchi.

June update

June 30, 2014

I’ve been doing a bit of reblogging lately, since I learned how to do it, but it’s because I find other people can say what I want to say so much better than I can, and it seems almost criminal not to spread good blogs around.

So for something original for a change, I thought I’d do a regular end-of-month post about all the things that have happened on the property during the month and also include the monthly solar update as part of it. Since I only just thought of this brilliant idea, I can’t remember the first couple of weeks of the month, but from now on, I hope I can remember to document and take photos regularly.

Last week. What a shocker weather-wise! Gale-force winds nearly every day and bitterly cold to boot. Trees down all over Melbourne. I didn’t venture outside much, as I don’t like working in the bush under trees that tend to fall over or drop huge branches without warning.  I lit the wood fire and worked inside on my new chook coop (of which more later).

I did go outside briefly, to check on damage and found this. It has popped up, at least 2 months early by my reckoning:

IMG_2582

It had a tiny mate:

IMG_2583

Means I’d better get some chook poo compost on them to boost a few more spears. I really don’t mind climate change if I can get fresh asparagus in June.

Solar generation continued to be down, with most of the readings between 2.5 and 5 kWh per day and of course, I was taking more from the grid, but still sending a little bit back. Which is good, because they pay me more for my electricity than I pay them for theirs. I received my next bill during the month—the one I’d been waiting for, which was only 5 weeks overdue (!!) and true to form the retailer got it wrong again! Surprisingly it wasn’t the meter reads they got wrong this time—they agreed with my readings—it was in working out the solar credits. Would you believe they managed to subtract 1838 kWh from 2854 kWh and come up with 125.463 kWh!!!! To three decimal places, what’s more!! I thought all this was done by computer. It meant I got a credit of $41.40, when I should have received $335.28. So I rang, AGAIN, and pointed it out and I’m still waiting for the amended bill.

I imported an average 2.6 kWh per day from the grid; sent 2.1 kWh per day back to the grid and the panels managed 2.9 kWh per day.

It’s been 8 months since the solar was installed and although it’s too soon to tell yet, it’s looking hopeful that I might wind up at the end of 12 months with an overall credit. Which means I will have not only saved about $1200 in electricity bills, but an additional credit might also pay for all, or some of, my bottled gas bill. Which would be very satisfying.

The winter solstice happened during the month and I was so wrapped up in the idea that the sun would be heading south again (thinking solar generation), that I forgot it’s also when I start sowing my tomatoes. So I got to work and filled dozens of small pots with a mixture of sieved potting mix and a little bit of blood and bone and went through my seed bank. I soak about a dozen seeds in water overnight and sow three to each pot—4 pots of each variety. They’ll be thinned to the strongest seedling:

IMG_2585

They’re in a plastic box inside on the kitchen table. When they germinate, I’m going to put half the tubes out into the polyhouse (in the cold, poor things) and leave the rest inside as a control. This is because I spoke to the old chap who sells tomato plants at the Sunday Market and asked him how he gets his plants so big by August when he starts selling them (they’re 30 cm tall with stems as thick as my little finger—I could never manage that!). He said he puts them outside as soon as he’s potted them up, BUT they should have protection from cold winds. Well, they’ll get that in the polyhouse, but it certainly won’t be warmer than inside.

So far, I’ve sown—Silvery Fir Tree, Reisentraube, Grub’s Green, Black Russian, San Marzano, Burnley Surecrop, Checkmate and Red Pear Cherry. I have plenty more varieties in stock and will keep going with it.

I’m still picking tamarillos and having a couple on my breakfast cereal each morning. I’ll really miss them when they’ve finished:

tamarillo2

And finally, rainfall for June. We had 109 mm (Melbourne’s June average is 43 mm) making up for the abysmally low February (8 mm; average 46 mm) and low May (36 mm; average 68 mm). Everything is nicely soggy.

Drastic pruning

June 22, 2014

One of the tamarillos grew so tall before it branched that I wasn’t going to be able to reach the fruit when it fruited, so some drastic pruning was needed. There were some leaves left on the lower growth, so I was sure it would shoot out some new growth, which it did. It’s now about chest-high and I should get a good yield next season. That main stem is over an inch in diameter:

tamarilloprune

There were 4 other tamarillos in the greywater line that had never been pruned when small. While I could reach the fruit this year, it wasn’t going to be easy next year. Trouble was, there were no leaves at all on the lower growth to keep the plant going while new growth sprouted. Oh well, can’t be helped. Let’s see what happens:

tamarilloprune2

I had a passionfruit vine growing around the water tank, grimly hanging on, not very tidily, to a length of plastic-covered wire, tied between the inlet pipe and the overflow pipe. I wanted to give it a wire trellis to hang on to and keep it properly pruned and tidy. To get the new trellis in place, the whole plant had to go. Again, there were no leaves on the lower growth:

passprune1

I was doubtful that it would survive, but I wasn’t worried. Passionfruit grow easily from cuttings and I had several new plants ready to go if it didn’t. But look:

passprune2

New shoots. And from every node. This will be a much better specimen.