Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Could you eat just once a day?

June 8, 2017

Here’s an interesting video I just came across:

 

And another link on the same subject.

Could you do it? Could you exist on one meal a day?

I don’t think I could. Not one meal. But I think I could do two meals a day, particularly if they were low-carb.

If you look at the bottom of the second link article, you’ll see a panel showing four types of what’s called ‘intermittent fasting‘ :

  • alternate day fasting
  • the 5:2 diet
  • periodic fasting
  • time-restricted feeding.

About 18 months ago, I tried the 5:2 diet. I wasn’t exactly overweight, but I was carrying some extra poundage, indicated by the fact that only one pair of slacks still fitted me comfortably. Getting into the others was a bit of a struggle. It was either lose weight or buy some new clothes.

The 5:2 diet was hard. Cutting 2 days a week to 500 calories wasn’t easy. An egg is 100 calories! A small tin of flavoured tuna is 100 calories! 100 gm of steak is 250 calories! You’ve got to be joking! I would wake up in the night desperately longing for a piece of cheese! On the fasting nights I would go to bed thinking, “yippee, I can eat tomorrow!” I think I lasted a couple of weeks, then I changed it to cut food intake down to 1000 calories every day. That’s about the basal metabolic rate for someone my age and I figured that any extra exercise I did would be burning up those extra calories from my hips.

Over the course of 2-3 months I lost 8 kg. I felt much better; wasn’t so tired after a day’s work in the garden and lo and behold, all my slacks fitted again. Money saved on new clothes!

Of course, as with all diets, the weight came back again when I started eating normally. But only 4 kg of it. I deliberately kept biscuits, cakes and sweets off the menu from then on (well…..just a couple of pieces of chocolate with coffee after dinner—not half a block of the stuff).

Some time ago I discovered low-carb, or LCHF as it’s more commonly known (Google it…..there are hundreds of links) and I’ve switched to that. I don’t think of it as a Diet with a capital ‘D’, it’s more a lifestyle. I’ve given up rice and pasta; I’m eating far more vegetables, plus meat and fish, full fat dairy, stacks of butter and only minimal fruit (mainly what comes out of the garden). More weight is slowly coming off, too.

Anyway, that’s the reason I think I could ‘do’ two meals a day. According to the definition in the table I referred to above, I’m already on ‘time-restricted’ feeding without even trying. My last meal of the day is over and done with by 6 pm in the evening. I don’t eat again till around 8 am and I’m never really hungry then. I only eat because, well….it’s breakfast time and breakfast is what you do in the morning.

I would really like to get my blood pressure down naturally, without having to take the drugs I do and I’d really like to see if I can reverse (or lessen) the symptoms of the rheumatoid arthritis which hit me some 15 years ago. Worth a try.

And it might be a good rehearsal for when the wheels begin to fall off industrial agriculture and food availability becomes a bit tenuous.

April update

May 3, 2017

Autumn is one of the best times in Melbourne—I love the way the bush looks on misty mornings :

As we move into the cooler months, work in the food garden mainly involves cleaning up the remains of the summer crops—removing tomato plants and climbing beans and getting the tubs and wicking boxes ready for winter crops.

I harvested Jerusalem artichokes. These are some of the bigger ones. There were many smaller ones which I’ve replanted :

Jerusalem artichokes are also called sunchokes. They don’t store very well—about a week in the fridge say most sources, so I’m investigating drying them with a view to using them in casseroles. I’ve sliced some and dried one lot without blanching and another lot with blanching—dropping the slices into boiling water and removing them as the water comes back to the boil. The unblanched ones didn’t go brown, which is helpful as blanching is an extra time-consuming step I would rather not do unless necessary. I tried them roasted—scrubbed but unpeeled—they took about 20 mins to soften and were quite acceptable, with crunchy skins. In the past I’ve just cut them into thick slices and fried them until soft. The carbohydrate in sunchokes isn’t starch as in potatoes; it’s inulin. Wikipedia has this to say:

Inulin is indigestible by the human enzymes ptyalin and amylase, which are adapted to digest starch. As a result, inulin passes through much of the digestive system intact. It is only in the colon that bacteria metabolise inulin, with the release of significant quantities of carbon dioxide, hydrogen, and/or methane. Inulin-containing foods can be rather gassy, in particular for those unaccustomed to inulin, and these foods should be consumed in moderation at first.

The production of gas in some people without the correct intestinal bacteria is the reason why they’re often referred to as Jerusalem ‘fartichokes’. I can’t remember having any obvious problems, but then I don’t pig out on them. I just see them as a valuable additional food source that is easy to grow.

There are four pumpkins ripening—Naranka Gold and Kent—two on each plant :

Cherry Guava are ripening. They soften quickly after being picked so I need to find a way of preserving them :

I picked a few pears. Although both trees flowered well, only the Williams variety set fruit and despite trying to get a net over most of it, the birds (or possums) got most of them :

Seeds were collected—garlic chives and Purple King climbing beans :

Kindling wood was chopped for winter fires (actually it’s an ongoing job) :

This is Redbor kale direct-sown in a wicking box. Two different leaf shapes have appeared—not surprising, as this was collected from plants last year and Redbor is a hybrid form, so it looks as though some plants have reverted to the parent forms :

Tamarillos are ripening :

Carrots direct-sown in a wicking box. Looks like I’m going to have to pull up a chair and do some thinning. I over-sowed because the seed was old. I didn’t expect such good germination :

I planted garlic and some cloves didn’t sprout. Haven’t had much luck with garlic the past couple of years, but I keep trying :

Persimmons are ripening. I’ve got them covered in the little nylon socks at the moment. They’ll be more obvious and in danger from bird and possum attack when the leaves have fallen. Last year I picked them when they had some colour in them like these and they ripened inside. I might try that again this year. Every one of these beautiful fruits is more precious than gold :

Asparagus fern is starting to die back. When it’s all dead I’ll cut it back to the ground and fertilise the area ready for spring. I can’t wait for the season to begin again. Last year I was eating fresh asparagus every other day :

Warrigal Greens survived the summer and has taken off with the recent rain. I wonder if I could harvest it and interest a local restaurant in buying it?  Unfortunately, not many people know about it as a nutritious native plant and spinach substitute. Anyway, it makes a useful ground cover :

I haven’t found many mushrooms so far. I missed seeing a huge one the size of a dinner plate. By the time I discovered it, it was infested with slaters. I’ve picked and dried a couple of smaller ones.

Melbourne’s average rainfall for April is 53 mm and we had 89 mm. The first couple of weeks were warm and sunny, but temperatures have dropped into the teens now.

Onwards to winter and warming casseroles beside the wood fire. Bye-bye salads.

Home, home on the range…..

April 17, 2017

….but no deer and antelope playing here.

I’ve been wanting to put up a post for ages showing a plan of my particular ‘home on the range’ and the various growing areas, but have been defeated by trying to manipulate the installed drawing programs on the computer. I’ve finally decided to save a Google Earth shot and use that with additional photos.

So here it is :

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The property is one hectare (2.5 acres) in area and there’s a gentle slope from the top left corner of the photo to the bottom right (south-west corner to north-east corner). When we bought it 17 years ago, the areas labelled 1 and 2 and the house site had been previously cleared of understorey vegetation (with a few trees left) and were covered in weedy grass. The rest was remnant natural bush, mainly what is classified as heathy woodland in this locality, with a bit of grassy woodland on the north side. The natural, undisturbed soil in the bush area is deep grey sand supporting the heathy woodland and with a clay subsoil under the grassy woodland. The cleared areas 1 and 2 were mostly heavy clay infill, introduced after a previous owner removed the natural sandy soil and sold it for topsoil (we didn’t know that at the time—a neighbour told us later).

Areas 1 and 2 were the natural choice for the vegetable garden as there were minimal trees and it was in full sun for most of the day (the horrible, sticky, infill clay soil only became apparent after I tried to put a spade into it!). It also sloped slightly to the north, which meant good drainage.

We wanted to protect the bush section and arranged with the Trust for Nature Victoria to put a protective covenant on it, to prevent it ever being cleared. The covenant is binding on present and future owners. Of course, I now realise that there’s no such thing as ‘in perpetuity’, and it will eventually be cleared. I don’t expect an organisation like the Trust for Nature to survive the end of industrial civilisation, and the land will probably be wanted by a future owner to grow food during the collapse of industrial agriculture when oil seriously begins to run out. Nevertheless, I do my best to keep the bush intact and follow the management plan written by the Trust for the property.

We began clearing the weedy grass in area 1 for the vegetable garden, which started out by being 2 big wooden boxes, 2 m x 1 m x 90 cm high, into which was thrown anything and everything that would compost. I decided built-up beds would be easier than trying to dig that clay (and the rabbits which were starting to appear by then couldn’t reach up into the boxes). On the higher part of the slope above the boxes, we began planting 2 rows of fruit trees in zig-zag formation.

I grew quite a lot in those 2 boxes initially and as more home-made compost started to mount up I formed it into a long sausage shape on the ground. I thought it would be a good spot for pumpkins, having already learned that rabbits didn’t like pumpkin leaves.

The trouble was that the blackbirds loved the compost sausage and constantly dug into it, scattering it everywhere, exposing the plant roots and generally making a mess, as blackbirds always do. So I formed the compost into round piles and surrounded each one with a circle of wire about 80 cm in diameter. The wire circles mutated into what I called my ‘olympic rings’, but which a friend more aptly called ‘crop circles‘. They looked like this :

Eventually I ended up with 5 sets of rings, all in a row, making 35 individual growing areas—15 full rings and 20 half-rings. The growing medium in all of them was built up with composted material. The rings are 45 cm high and the compost, when I can get enough of it, is built up to about 20 cm.  The underlying soil wasn’t dug into at all. The wooden boxes were eventually abandoned.

Initially I watered by hand using water from the 9000 litre tank beside the house. The slope was enough to get a reasonable pressure by gravity alone. Later on, I made watering circles with fine sprays that I could just click the hose into and leave for half an hour or so. Sometimes I just prefer to stand there holding the hose. Hand watering is a favourite time for just observing, thinking and planning.

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Area 2 wasn’t developed as a food garden at all. I planted fast-growing wattles there to harvest for firewood, because cutting live trees from the bush was out of the question although there was plenty of dead stuff in there and branches were always falling. Areas 1 and 2 weren’t covered by the covenant—they were considered as the ‘domestic area’—where conservation isn’t the primary object.

When I did the permaculture design course six years ago, I realised that everything was badly designed, or rather, not designed at all and I set about trying to rectify it. The main food-growing area was too far from the house (zone 1), where it should have been, so, having discovered the wicking bed concept by then, I began establishing a series of wicking boxes and tubs around the house, for the more intensive growing typical of a zone 1 area. The ‘crop circles’ have been retained but mainly for winter crops, like garlic and leeks, where constant watering isn’t needed so much. All around them I’ve planted more fruit trees and other perennials to create a food forest.

Zone 1—wicking boxes and tubs near the house :

The 3 oval shapes to the right (north) of areas 1 and 2 were originally covered in weedy grass. I wanted some pools, so we slashed the grass and had a chap with an earth mover come in and dig out three pools (the 3 ovals). The overflow from the water tank runs down beside the path and into the first pool. It’s very shallow, only just above my ankles when full. Because of the slope, the water overflows into the second pool and then into the third. The second is a bit deeper, almost knee high and the third probably up to my thigh, although they have all become shallower over the years as debris accumulates on the bottom. The first pool usually dries out in summer and in a very dry summer the second will as well. There have only been a couple of summers when the third has dried out completely. Usually there’s a still a boggy puddle in the middle by the end of the season.

The first pool :

Stupidly, because of not knowing much about water plants, I planted reeds and rushes at the edges of the pools. Of course, they migrated towards the centre as water levels dropped and now there are no areas of water free of growth. The most prolific is the native Water Ribbons (Triglochin procera), which is supposed to have edible tubers utilised by the aborigines, but I’ve dug down almost to China and have never found anything remotely tuber-like to eat.  It has spread profusely from seed. At least the ducks like fossicking in amongst the strappy leaves. But it’s good nutrient for composting, so each summer as the water disappears I cut it down with hedge clippers and add it to the compost. When the rains come and the pools fill again, I get a couple of months of seeing actual water, before it all regrows again.

This is the second pool, looking towards the third. There is water in it, but it’s not exactly visible unless you’re standing right beside it. It is good frog habitat though (I’ve recorded 6 species), and a White-faced Heron comes regularly and stands quietly in the water, making frequent darts at edible goodies :

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The path on the right runs the full length of the property, from the house to the rear fence. On the right (south side) of the path is the food forest and on the north side of the pools is remnant bush, so it divides the property into 2 areas—conservation and food-growing.

I’m now thinking about what to do with area 2. Most of the woodlot trees have either died and fallen over, or fallen over while living and I’ve been removing them and tidying up the area. This is what it looks like at the moment :

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I’m thinking of extending the food forest into area 2. I’ve started to dig a few swales, with a view to planting fruit trees and I allowed edible chickweed to take over as a ground cover through the winter and spring. It has all died back now, but has left a useful legacy of millions of seeds. That’s self-sown Warrigal Greens (New Zealand Spinach) on the left and I’ve raked sticks into a hugelkulture mound with swale behind, on the right.  As a food forest it won’t get any watering, so I need to think about what I plant that will tolerate what are probably going to be drier and hotter summers. It means doing some research about plants that will survive with an average rainfall of 640 mm annually (about 25 inches). That’s the next big project.

What I’m going to do now is take a walk from the house down the path to the back fence (about 150 metres) taking photos all the way on the right hand side of the path. The bush will be on the left. So here we go.

I’m standing with the house about 2 metres behind me. First up, in the background, are some Manna Gums, not close enough to ever fall on the house, but big enough to flatten anything they did fall on :

Just some native plants underneath at present :

Past the first lot of Manna Gums and some more native plants and a couple more Manna Gums. There’s feijoa, redcurrant and tamarillo on the left. They’re planted in the drainage line that takes the grey water from the house. Never any watering needed there :

The gums aren’t very healthy and have already lost some huge branches. Further down the path—there are some hugelkultur beds just visible on the left of the path, with asparagus, rhubarb and an espaliered Granny Smith apple :

The seat is where I cut my kindling wood, with a bow saw (lay the branch on the seat, hold it down with a foot and cut—no, the branch, not the foot) :

Beyond that is a bath where I’ve been collecting rainwater and then comes the compost tumbler :

The bath is going to be converted into a dedicated potato bed and I’ve been filling it with weeds and prunings to compost down in preparation. There’s still water in it and I’ll have to reach down through the gunk and find the plug to pull before I can get the potato bed going. That’s a pumpkin sprawling over the top of the kindling heap.

Behind the tumbler are 2 compost heaps inside wire cages and an elderly compost bin, acquired from a friend who didn’t want it. The bin takes weeds and shares veggie scraps with the worm farm, which is under the house. One of the compost heaps (with the blue tarp), takes the material from the composting toilet and the other takes just weeds and other debris. Slow composting. I’m not into tossing stuff around with a pitchfork. Haven’t got the energy anymore :

We’re now coming to the main food forest area and the row of crop circles in the foreground. Behind are citrus trees—Japanese Seedless Mandarin, Valencia Orange, Washington Navel Orange and Lisbon Lemon. Behind them, an Imperial Mandarin that doesn’t do well. Oh, it produces lots of mandarins, but they’re only golf ball size, if that. I generally don’t bother picking them. I read that Imperials don’t do well in Melbourne. I think it’s more a case of it doesn’t get enough summer water for its liking and it’s at the top of the slope, so probably a bit too well drained. I’ve dug individual small swales behind each fruit tree and I fill these with water once a week during summer. I’ve planted 5 tamarillos within the crop circles, thinking that when I watered the veggies in the circles the tamarillos would get watered too. They survive OK but those big floppy leaves need a lot of water and they eventually end up as trunks with all the leaves at the top (the one in the foreground is newly planted) :

A bit further down and there’s a lime in the back row and in front an apricot (Moor Park variety), a self-sown plum, a couple of d’Anjou pears and a seedling Red Delicious apple (hasn’t set a lot of fruit—it’s due for the chop). The thornless blackberries are under the net on the left. This section on the right is at the bottom of the slope, there are no swales for each fruit tree and they seem to do well enough without a lot of summer watering. I suspect water is moving down through the soil from the swales on the slope above :

Further down the path (the 3 pools are now on my left) and there’s a quince, loquat, plums further back and asparagus (gone to fern) in front. Somewhere in there as well, there’s a dwarf Stella cherry, 2 pears, 2 apples and a seedling-grown apricot :

Now we’re coming to area 2 which is what I want to open up as another food forest. There’s a couple of huge wattles beside the path (a Black Wattle and a Blackwood) and a seat that has seen better days which, if you sit on it (don’t try it until I’ve hammered all the nails back in), you will be facing the third pool in front of you:

Now we’re past the seat and another shot of the area I want to add to the food forest :

We’re almost at the end of the path—it curves round to the left here and runs along the rear of the property, but since a huge branch of a Swamp Gum (half the tree, in fact), fell across it, there’s no access. The neighbour behind me says he will come and cut it up for me when I’m ready. He’ll get the big logs (which I can’t split) and I’ll get the smaller stuff. There’s a gravel path under all those leaves—just haven’t raked it for a while :

Finally, a couple of photos of the bush section. There are numerous walking and maintenance tracks through it.

From the deck :

Further in :

Along one of the walking tracks :

And that’s about it. It’s a lot of work, looking after the food-growing areas and managing the bush, but I couldn’t go back to living in quarter-acre suburbia again. It is so quiet here; the neighbours are far enough away to not be visible or audible (yet they are friendly and helpful when you do see them) and it’s amazing how the presence of so many trees moderates the climate by creating coolness on hot days. I am incredibly fortunate to live here.

Feeling fine about the end of the world as we know it?

March 20, 2017

An interesting look at human behaviour. Not sure if it makes me feel positive or negative about the future.

See what you think.

February update

February 26, 2017

Well, it looks like summer is almost over and a coolish one it was. We didn’t have any days over 40º C and the ones in the 30’s didn’t drag on for days on end, but were punctuated by cooler days. Hot, northerly winds on the hot days were conspicuous by their absence. It was calm, simmering, fry-an-egg-on-the-footpath heat.

It has been the worst year for tomatoes I can remember. The cold wet spring meant I didn’t get them planted till early November and straightway they started to get blight—late or early, I can never work out which—but the lower leaves get yellow patches and brown spots and gradually that creeps up the stem leaves. This time they got some other sort of lurgi as well, where the lower leaves just went brown and shrivelled. I’ve never had that before. Luckily, the upper leaves just managed to keep ahead, but the whole lot looked very sick and sad. But at least the cherries started to ripen this month :

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I’m not drying any this year—I haven’t got enough, the weather hasn’t been great for sun-drying and I still have plenty of dried ones left over from last year. I’ll freeze the excess instead and use them for casseroles and soups in winter. I still have 2 packs of frozen cherries from last year in the freezer.

The eggplants are doing well, flowering and setting fruits. There are just three, in one large tub :

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I’ve never grown them before—in fact I’m not even sure if I like them. I’ve eaten them out but never bought them to cook at home. If they’re going to be easy to grow, I guess I can learn to like them!

I grew these Italian Long Red (rossa lunga) salad onions again this year, because they were so easy :

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And so pretty :

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The seedling-grown purple muscatel grape is setting a couple of bunches for the first time :

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I tried one and they’re surprisingly quite sweet even at this stage. I hope they grow a bit bigger and I’ll wait till they colour up before picking them.

These are carrots from a wicking box. I agree, they wouldn’t win any prizes! I think the wicking boxes aren’t deep enough to get a good, long carrot. Not to worry—they’ll make good lunchtime nibbles.

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Apples are ripening :

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Those in the big basket are from a seedling tree, grown from a seed of Red Delicious. Apples are notorious for not coming true to seed. It looks like they have a few Granny Smith genes in them, which wouldn’t surprise me, as the 2 original varieties are growing next to each other. Those on the top right are the real Red Delicious, just starting to colour up and those at the lower right are Cox’s Orange Pippin. I bought it because it’s supposed to be the Queen of apples (or something like that) but I can’t say the flavour is anything to write home about. The good ol’ Red Delicious is still my favourite and there’ll be a good harvest this year because I have a net over the tree :

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I keep poking my head under to check :

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I’m going to dry as many as I can :

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I planted some of the turmeric tubers I grew last year (and kept some back for drying) and they’ve sprouted and the plant has grown even bigger than last year :

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I’ve kept the pot in the polyhouse over summer and now there’s not really enough room for both of us, so I’m wondering whether to risk putting it outside for the winter. Has anyone grown it outside this far south?

The Girls have all moulted and stopped laying, so I’m buying eggs at the moment. Nice, new shiny coats for the winter :

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This is Evening Primrose. It’s self-seeded and more or less taken over this spot beside the pool :

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I grow it for the seeds (when the parrots don’t get them). The oil in the seeds is supposed to have a high concentration of gamma-linoleic acid (GLA) which is good for reducing inflammation. According to a study reported in the Lancet, GLA-rich evening primrose oil was found effective in controlling rheumatoid arthritis in a substantial number of patients. I have RA so I’ll try anything that helps. I put the seeds in my bread.

Finally getting enough Purple King climbing beans for a feed. They’re on a wire frame at the rear of a wicking box, which also contains basil, parsley and some self-sown mizuna. I really get my money’s worth out of a wicking box! :

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Looks like I’ll get quinces again this year. I’ve protected some with apple socks (the one on the lower left) and the birds or possums have had a go at a few (upper left) but mostly they’re untouched. The tree still gets those brown fungal spots on the leaves but I’m not into spraying with chemicals, so it has to cope as best it can :

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Pepinos are ready to ripen :

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We had 2 nice dumps of rain in February—one of 37 mm and one of 40 mm—exceeding Melbourne’s monthly average of 46 mm. There were a couple of smaller falls as well. It topped up the tank and made a huge difference to the garden, especially to the size of the apples which I hadn’t bothered to thin.

Roll on autumn. The nicest time of year in Melbourne (usually).

 

Postscript

That eggplant. I wasn’t sure when to pick it. The experts said, ‘when it’s black and shiny’. So….. :

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Yes, I know. Laughter is permitted, but rude comments are not!

Not “Living The Lie”

February 13, 2017

Reblogged from Not Something Else

I was inspired today by a shared post on Facebook, recommending the video you will find below.  Inspired enough to reshare it and also to make this declaration.  I hope that any and all readers may…

Source: Not “Living The Lie”

Forget 1984…. 2020 is the apocalypse year

January 26, 2017

The crescendo of news pointing to 2020 as the date to watch is growing apace…. it won’t be the year collapse happens, because collapse is a process, not an event; but it will definitely…

Source: Forget 1984…. 2020 is the apocalypse year

Reblogged from Damn the Matrix

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Oh, to be a fly on the wall as it unfolds…

January update

January 23, 2017

First thing I did in January was to buy myself a present. A toy oven! So, what’s a toy oven, you ask? OK, read this post from Maree at Around The Mulberry Tree.

Now, I’m nowhere near as good a cook as Maree (let’s be honest, I rarely cook, not fancy stuff anyway), but I thought a bench-top oven would be easier to use, would heat up more quickly (which it does—5 minutes to 180 degrees C, compared with 15 minutes for the wall oven!) and therefore be more economical with power. (For the detail-minded, it’s a Sunbeam 19 litre Pizza Bake & Grill model #BT 5350 and was $96 at the Good Guys.)

I found a spot on the bench without too much fuss :

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When the weather finally cooled down, I tried a tray of roast veggies. Very happy with the result. Cooked in less time than the big oven and the potatoes were nice and floury. Next up was bread—I make a loaf about once a fortnight.

Ooops! Not so good :

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The bread tin almost fills the oven! I let it rise too high in the tin beforehand and watched in panic as it rose towards the top elements, ready to whip it out before it touched them. Luckily it just fell short, but as you can see, not a nicely browned top!

I’d cut the temp back to 165 from 180, following recommendations in the manual, but the rest of the crust was too pale in comparison to my normal loaf, so next time I will put it back to 180. I don’t want to fiddle about with the recipe to make a smaller loaf (there too many ingredients), so next time I will put the tin slightly lower (turning the wire rack upside down lowers it by a couple of centimetres), and try putting a piece of foil over the top halfway through. I won’t let it rise so much beforehand either. Despite the lower temperature, it was cooked right through and wasn’t doughy.

I’ve since made a batch of choc muffins which was a success (no photo…I forgot) and will get the bread right eventually. On the whole, very happy with my new ‘toy’.

Out in the garden, the thornless blackberries were starting to colour up, so it was time to get a net over them :

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They’re ripening unevenly and I discovered I have to be careful picking them because if I leave them to get too ripe, they fall from the bunch when I touch it and I lose them in amongst the ground cover of native violets underneath. I love their shiny blackness :

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So the trick is to wander down the back to the blackberry patch before breakfast and pick the ripe ones, which then end up on my breakfast bowl of mueslii and fruit. I’m definitely going to put in more plants of this variety this winter :

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The ‘mini’ Cape Gooseberry I bought a couple of months ago is doing well and setting fruits :

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They’re much smaller than the normal variety I’ve been growing :

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The flavour is quite different, much sweeter, and am I imagining it, or are there hints of pineapple? It might not be imagination, because some years ago I grew a definitely pineapple-flavoured variety from Phoenix Seeds, called Cossack Pineapple. It isn’t in their current catalogue but Googling will find other suppliers who do have it. It’s another species of Physalis—Physalis pruinosa (the common Cape Gooseberry is P. peruviana—that’s it in the photo above, on the right). I’m going to extract the seeds from the ‘mini’ fruit and grow more. It’s lower-growing and more spreading than the common gooseberry, with a neater habit and is a good plant for a large pot or tub (I put the two plants I bought from Bunnings in large pots). I might even try one in a wicking box.

The hugelkultur beds alongside the main pathway are taking a while to break down. I’ve planted asparagus and rhubarb in the longer one and an espaliered dwarf Granny Smith apple and two pepinos in the smaller one. The rhubarb’s not doing so well—it needs more feeding. I tidied up the beds, removed weeds and covered them with mulched bracken. The blackbirds persisted in tossing the mulch all over the path and I was sick of raking it back onto the beds, so I’ve edged them with short (1 metre long) sticks cut from the dozens of branches that are always falling in the bush. It seems to have done the trick. I’ve only done the edge that fronts the path so far, but will eventually do the rear edge, too :

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I’ve decided I need a dedicated potato bed—one that I can grow an actual crop of potatoes in, instead of just poking odd ones that sprout in the cupboard under the sink into any convenient spot. I can go back to buying a bag of certified seed potatoes again each winter like I used to do. I can also use the bed for other root crops like yacon and Jerusalem artichoke. So I’ve decided to use one of the three second-hand baths I have. Two were being used to grow azolla, the floating water fern, and I don’t really need two for that, so the one next to the compost tumbler is being re-purposed. I bucketed out most of the water and began filling it with weeds and other prunings so they’d rot down and provide a good base of organic stuff. Then it rained and the bath re-filled again. The water is now a rich, black, very stinky nutrient-rich liquid that should grow anything. I’ll have to bucket out most of it again, before reaching through the mire to find and pull the plug, but I’ll use it to water other crops until then :

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The Magpie Larks in their mud nest on the TV aerial finally fledged three young ones :

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They managed to keep them alive in that exposed nest through Christmas day with the temperature in the high 30’s and, a couple of days later, through a downpour that delivered 30 mm in half an hour. They’ve left the nest now and are constantly yelling “feed me” from the branches of a nearby tree. Mum and Dad Mudlark deserve a medal for devoted parenthood.

Last year I had a go at growing eggplant, but the seedlings didn’t make it into the garden. This is this year’s effort :

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If I’d known it was going to have such huge leaves, I’d have chosen a shadier spot. It has flower buds already so I’m hoping for some fruit this year.

My dwarf Stella cherry didn’t do so well in its third year, with only a dozen or so fruit. Last year it had about 20 and I sowed most of the pips in a pot and left them through the winter. Disappointingly, only one germinated. I’ll plant it somewhere and see how it goes :

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I had better luck with seeds from the Concord grape variety which produced one small bunch last year. I potted up 6 seedlings from this pot :

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Oak-leaf lettuce, endive and carrots in wicking boxes—all direct-sown. So much easier than potting up and transplanting seedlings :

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This, believe it or not, is 2 cucumbers in a recycling crate (not wicking—there are drainage holes in the bottom) :

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Ordinarily, I’d be assuming I’d mixed up the labels and planted pumpkins instead, but I knew I didn’t have pumpkins sown at the time. The crate was filled with chook poo compost and just shows what lots of nitrogen will do for leaf size. Here are what my normal cucumbers look like, in a wicking box on the deck, only topped up with a bit of chook poo compost :

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I thought I’d have another go at growing Goji berries. I tried several years ago but they didn’t survive in the garden. I think I wasn’t au fait with my soil types then, in terms of what should be planted where and probably put them in the wrong spot. So I took some dried berries out of a trail mix I’d bought (previously, I’d just bought a packet of berries in the supermarket) and soaked them in water till they swelled up, then I scraped out the seeds and sowed them and I have 4 plants to play with. This time I’ll do some homework before I plant them. I’ll probably try one in a large pot as well, just to be on the safe side :

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Still no ripe tomatoes or beans. This is the latest they’ve ever been, owing to the cool wet spring we had. I’m starting to suffer withdrawal symptoms for a nice, home-grown tomato sandwich.

That’s about it for January. We had 18 mm of rain in one event mid-way through (the average for Melbourne for January is 47 mm) and another 25 mm a week later, which will help swell the February apple harvest. We’ve had some hot days, but nothing over 40 C as yet and no really hot, northerly winds which freak me out because of the bushfire risk. I always count down the days to the end of summer and breathe a sigh of relief when we get through another summer without a fire.

Extinction is the End Game

December 11, 2016

Brilliant writing as usual, in this reblog from xraymike79 at Collapse of Industrial Civilization. If only people could be made to pull their heads out of the sand and read this.

Collapse of Industrial Civilization

Civilizations are living organisms striving to survive and develop through predictable stages of birth, growth, maturation, decline and death. An often overlooked factor in the success or failure of civilizations are cultural memes—the knowledge, beliefs, and behaviors passed down from generation to generation. Cultural memes are a much more significant driver of human evolution than genetic evolution. Entire civilizations have been weeded out when their belief system proved maladaptive to a changing environment. One such cultural meme holding sway over today’s governments, institutions, and society is our economic system of capitalism. The pillars of capitalism represent a belief system so ingrained in today’s culture that they form a sort of cargo cult amongst its adherents.Cargo cults are any of the various Melanesian religious groups which focused on obtaining material wealth(manufactured Western goods that came on cargo ships) through magical thinking, religious rituals and practices. Today the term “cargo cult” is used to describe a wide…

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A few pictures…..

November 28, 2016

…..just to show how things are going.

Looking from the edge of the bush across into the food forest. The sticks in the foreground are part of a hugelkultur bed in the making. Between the two stakes is the thornless blackberry bed, raised up and built on contour. The green groundcover on the right is a native, Swamp Mazus (Mazus pumilio). That area always seems to be wet for some reason, so the Mazus does well. It’s possible there is some sort of underground water seepage from the sloping area behind. The black pipe in the right hand corner is coming from the tank overflow up by the house and takes water to the three pools just to the left of the blackberry bed :

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I put a vigorous form of the Native Violet (Viola hederacea) under the blackberries. It’s taken off in the damp conditions and the rabbits haven’t touched it. This is the second year for the blackberries and there are many more flowers than last year because I pruned heavily to make them branch. Hoping for a good crop. I’ll need to get a net up soon :

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In the food forest itself there has been so much growth due to the wet winter we had. Borage in the foreground, much loved by the bees. Nasturtiums under the plum in the background and the apple (under the polypipe arches), which is a Cox’s Orange Pippin. This is it’s third year. First year it did nothing; last year it set two fruit but they dropped off when quite big. This year it’s had masses of flowers, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some fruit at last :

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Another view of the food forest, looking up the path towards the house :

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And looking down the same path, away from the house :

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Yarrow in flower. The rabbits love the flower stems, so I can’t get it to flower unless I put a circle of wire around the clump :

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Lots of hoverflies around this year. I hope they’re pollinating, because I’m not seeing many bees now. I’m not sure what this little guy is, but he’s not a hoverfly :

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Quince is setting fruit :

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A good crop of loquats but most of the fruit is covered in black patches and spots. I assume it’s fungal. I’ve bagged a few of the better bunches :

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The self-sown poppies are in bud :

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And the first flower appeared. It’s a frilly, double form and is attracting what few bees there are :

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My little Australian Finger Lime is in bud and a few flowers have opened :

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Redbor kale is in flower in one of the planter boxes :

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The leaves are frilly and an intense purple. The familiar grey-green, crinkly leaves of lacinato kale are on the left :

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Up on the deck, this tub of strawberries is doing well. There’s a tomato in the rear :

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The strawberry wicking buckets have all been topped up with fresh compost and are raring to go :

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I’ve planted tomatoes and alpine strawberries in the second of the two planter boxes :

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More tomatoes in tubs and wicking boxes :

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Endive in a wicking box. This lot was direct sown. So much easier than sowing seed and potting up seedlings :

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Dandelions direct-sown in another wicking box. The chooks will get most of these :

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I bought this mini Cape Gooseberry at Bunnings, although the label says it will get to a metre in height, so not that mini. I’m already growing the large form in the garden. Judging by the size of the flowers on this one, the fruits will be no more than pea-sized; it will be a bit of a novelty at best. I won’t risk it in the garden; I’ll find a large pot for it, so I can be sure to collect fruits and sow the seeds to get more plants, then I can try it in the garden. They grow easily from seed :

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It has been a strange year in the garden so far. Rainfall over the last six months has been double the average for Melbourne. There have been very few cabbage white butterflies, but hundreds of little hoverflies. The redcurrants have not flowered and fruited, but all the feijoas are covered in flowers which has not happened before. We have had warm days followed by freezing cold ones. I wasn’t game to put my tomatoes out until early November, the latest they’ve ever gone out. I’ve planted beans three times and they’ve all rotted before germination. My neighbour tells me he’s had the same problems with his beans. Usually I plant the first batch of beans in early October and every month thereafter; no way will I get beans before Christmas now. Has all this just been due to the extra rain or what? As the saying goes…..we live in interesting times. In the garden, anyway.