Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Sustainable living on steroids

September 29, 2018

I just came across this hugely comprehensive website called Low Impact

I haven’t even begun to scratch the surface yet, but have (not unnaturally 🙂 ) started off with the ‘food’ section.

This is going to keep me going for weeks!

Have a look!

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Wildwood tea

September 19, 2018

I used to be a regular tea drinker then went off it in favour of coffee. Sometimes though, I get sick of coffee and make a tea from herbs I’ve dried from the garden, usually single ingredients—sage, rosemary, lemon balm or (even more lemony) lemon verbena. (Note: sage tea with a spoonful of honey is great for a sore throat. Just sip and let it trickle down.)

I’m sharing this post on making wildwood tea from the excellent Milkwood Permaculture site. It’s something I’m going to have a go at. A variety of ingredients and flavours will be more interesting than just one:

Wildwood tea—your place in a teapot

 

 

A walk around the spring garden

September 13, 2018

Just photos.

Grevillea Clearview David

Grevillea rosmarinifolia green form

Borage

Dwarf Nectarine

Quince

Satsuma Plum

Nasturtium

Calendula

Dwarf peach

Rosemary Tuscan Blue

Philotheca myoporoides

Nutmeg Pelargonium

Mizuna

Epacris impressa pink form

Epacris impressa white form

Bossiaea cinerea

Leucopogon ericoides

Acacia brownei

Boronia muelleri

Acacia paradoxa

Tetratheca thymifolia

Eriostemon australasius

Hypocalymma angustifolium

Ziera sp.

Boronia polygalifolia

 

Sunday morning blues

July 8, 2018

Another 12 mm of rain overnight to add to the 13 mm on Saturday.

After being trapped inside all day Saturday by rain, I thought I’d better try and get some work done. I cleaned out the chook coop and put fresh straw on the floor. I took the bucket of poo+straw down to the compost tumbler.

Crack…thump. I was only 20 metres away when it went down :

I knew it would go eventually, of course. It was leaning too far to not go. Wet soil….centre of gravity too far to one side….roots won’t hold.

Why, oh why, do they always fall across a path? Two paths this time—the main one to the rear of the property, in front of the pools and a minor one behind the pools.

Just as well there weren’t any neighbours around to hear the stream of 4-letter words.

More work!!!! All the branches have to be removed first, then the trunk. I think I’ll be able to clear the main path by myself—it’s only branches there—but not the trunk across the rear path; it’s too big for my little battery-operated chainsaw. About half of the branches are sitting in the first of the 3 pools. It’s the shallowest one, but it’s going to be a gumboot job to clear it.

Life on a bush block is never boring!

June update…..brrr!

July 7, 2018

We had a really cold, wet start to winter this year. It was disconcerting to be reading about wildfires in California and the English moorlands, while shivering inside 3 layers of clothes, a scarf and gloves in Melbourne.

So far this season, I’ve found only 2 edible mushrooms. By the time the seriously rainy weather started to moisten the soil, the ground was too cold and any sort of fungi, let alone edible ones, were not wanting to show themselves :

I ate the small one and because the large one was a bit on the over-ripe side, I decided to try an experiment with it, to see if I could inoculate some soil with the spores and get them to grow in a pot.

I put the mushroom gills side down on a piece of white paper. As I’d hoped, plenty of spores dropped out :

What I’m going to do now is put some commercial mushroom compost in a pot, cut out the circle of spores on the paper and place it on the top of the pot, then cover with a thin layer of peat moss and leave the pot in a sheltered spot open to the elements. I’m hoping the spores will germinate (or whatever it is that mushroom spores do to begin growing), and I’ll eventually get a crop of mushrooms in the pot. This is after all what you do when you buy one of those mushroom farms in a polystyrene box. You get a bag of compost stuff which you spread in the bottom of the box, and a bag of peat moss inoculated with mushroom spores which you spread over the top and keep moist. Worth trying anyway.

I took a trip to the local nursery which sells bare-rooted fruit trees and bought some more for the food forest. I got another Stella cherry, an Anzac peach, another Satsuma plum, a Tilton apricot and another dwarf nectarine (that makes 3 of those I have now) :

I’m sold on these dwarf varieties like the nectarines (last year I put in a dwarf pear). It’s much easier to get a net over them to keep the birds and possums off. When I put in fruit trees at first, I just let them grow and do their thing. They grew too big to net and everyone but me got the fruit. So I’ve had to resort to pruning them back really hard, which doesn’t make for a particularly attractive tree (large truncated branches, with smaller growths sticking out everywhere). It’s much better to continually prune and keep the whole thing small and the branches in proportion, so I aim to do that with all these new trees that aren’t dwarf forms.

The turmeric died back and I harvested the tubers. Two plants were in pots and one in one of the baths. I was really happy with the yields :

Here’s what they looked like separated into tubers and scrubbed up :

Some of these will be replanted for next season. I’ll slice the rest, dry them in the dehydrator and grind them into powder in the Thermomix.

The new planter box I installed last year has been filled with weeds and prunings and other compostable stuff and might be ready to plant this spring :

I’ve been jumping up and down on the contents trying to compress them as much as possible and adding the liquid from the composting toilet to help with the composting process and increase the nitrogen content. I’ll buy a few bags of mushroom compost to spread over the top and try some planting this spring. Maybe cucumbers—the rabbits won’t touch those. The box is low enough for them to jump into, so eventually I’ll have to put a ring of wire around the inner edge. There was no point in buying a taller box, because of the extra cost and it will only be used for shallow-rooted veggies. Filling it would have taken longer, too.

We had 73 mm of rain for the month, compared with Melbourne’s average of 43 mm. It’s been cold and wet and not conducive to working outside, but the winter solstice has passed and the days are getting longer. And the asparagus will be up soon.

Time to get out the seed box and plan for the summer crops!

Watching asparagus grow

June 30, 2018

I just found a new blog which I want to share. It’s so nice to find there are people out there who think and feel as I do :

In Transition: exactly where I should be.

 

Turmeric flowering

March 19, 2018

I haven’t written anything here for a while, because, well…….summer was very depressing, with too many ultra-hot days which scorched the fruit on the trees and cooked the tomatoes on the plants and kept me busy just trying to keep ahead of the weather.

On top of that it has been dry and I mean dry. I recorded rain on only three days in January, even though the total was a good 60 mm (compared with Melbourne’s January average of 46 mm), including a good fall of 32 mm on the last day of the month. Since then there has been zilch……none at all in February and here we are nearly at the March equinox and still not a drop. The three tanks (one 9,000 litre and two 4,500 litres) are all down to a quarter full. I’ll be watering out of the mains if it doesn’t rain soon. It will take 4 inches (100 mm) of rain to fill them all. That’s 2 months of normal rainfall here. I can’t see this year being a normal rainfall year.

Everything is stressed, even the native plants. Some non-natives in the food forest have died outright, notably Pineapple Sage and Mexican Sage. Ordinary culinary sage would probably have gone too, but it is being watered. I’ve let the larger, older  tamarillos go….they were past their best anyway and I’ve planted a dozen smaller seedlings which are getting watered regularly. It means no tamarillo harvest this winter. The citrus trees are stressed, with dull and curling leaves and I’ve had fine sprinklers going on them for a day at a time, trying to keep them from going past the point of no return. The soil where they are growing had been introduced (by a previous owner) and it is heavy compacted clay which the roots haven’t penetrated to the depth that would make the trees more resilient, so I have to put water in slowly, hence the fine slow sprays. Being on a slope as well, means if I stand and hold the hose, the water is running off after a few minutes. It just won’t penetrate.

So all in all, there’s not a happy garden out there.

But I’ve just noticed something to gladden the heart. My turmeric is flowering for the first time! I’ve been growing it in large pots in the polyhouse, because I thought it wouldn’t survive in the open garden. When I potted on the tubers after the harvest last year, I had a couple of spindly-looking ones left over and no spare pots so I stuck them in a second-hand bath in a batch of chook poo compost and other rotted stuff. I was surprised when they actually grew leaves and even more surprised that they survived the summer heat, although it was a fairly shaded location and was watered regularly.

And then I noticed this:

Having never seen a turmeric flower before, I had to check that that’s what it really was.

Here’s a really good blog about plants in Hawaii, with some good close-up shots of the flower and useful information about growing turmeric :

The writer says:

Inflorescences arise from the center of the leaves. They are cylinder-shaped and made of loosely open bracts that are very white or tinged pink at the top of the cylinder and green at the base of the cylinder. The true flowers peak out from these green bracts and are tube-shaped, usually white with a yellow center and have two “fangs” that point down from the mouth of the tube. Fruit are never formed, even though the flowers do have male and female parts.

My turmeric flower also has the true flowers inside the bracts at the base, but they were a bit hard to photograph.

So something has managed to survive and do its thing despite the weather.

I did get plenty of tomatoes, though; lots of cherries and regular sizes which I’m still eating, although I pulled out all the plants last week. Most of the cherries have been dried. I had only two eggplants in again this season and so far there are 3 fruits coming. I picked lots of cucumbers too, and some reasonable feeds of climbing beans. Pumpkins were a dismal failure, yet again. I don’t know why I keep trying with them. They never produce male and female flowers at the same time and if they do manage to produce any fruits, they don’t mature before the season ends and the downy mildew kicks in.

So not much else to report. I’ve put a few broccoli seedlings into wicking boxes and early-sown silver beet is just starting to be pickable, but that has to be shared with the chooks, since the self-sown New Zealand Spinach they usually eat at this time of the year has all died back too.

Just waiting for the rain.

 

 

Downsizing & decluttering

January 6, 2018

I shared a Facebook post recently where the writer was suggesting a decluttering plan whereby one would throw out stuff everyday for a month, starting with one item on the first day, 2 items on the second day, 3 on the third, and so on. I said I thought it was a good idea.

A friend commented that by the end of the month I would probably have thrown out everything I own! Well yes, I agree that it was a bit too much to aim for!

So I’ve modified it slightly. I will attempt to throw out just ONE item each day, from here on, until I feel I’ve successfully decluttered my life. Of course I’ll have to balance that with not buying more stuff, or at least giving considerable thought to any new purchases: “do I really need it”. (note: ‘need’ not ‘want’).

Of course ‘throw out’ doesn’t mean consigning things thoughtlessly to the rubbish bin. There are categories and I have established a box for each in the spare room:

  • can go to the op shop
  • can be composted or burned in the fire
  • can be given away
  • can go in the recycling bin
  • can be repurposed
  • can be sold (local market, eBay, etc)
  • and, last resort, can go into the rubbish

(Other suggestions welcome!)

I’m having a lot of fun with it. It’s easy at the moment, because there’s a lifetime of stuff in cupboards and drawers to be considered. Amazing how much accumulates over the years and how tastes and interests change as we grow older.

Do I really need that collection of rocks and minerals? It was an interest when I studied geology years ago, but not now.

A shoebox full of postage stamps, still on paper. Nothing valuable (it wouldn’t be there if it was). A good freebie, for eBay or Gumtree. Maybe the neighbour’s kids would be interested? (do kids collect stamps anymore?)

A pile of 3″ floppy discs. Today’s computers don’t even come with 3″ disc drives. Can someone suggest a use for those?

The kitchen cupboards are a minefield. Old rusty cake tins. I don’t bake cakes much anymore and anyway I have a couple of new non-stick ones now. Pots and pans and all the gear we used to take camping. Camping days are over. Just rummaging through the kitchen cupboards will keep me going in throwouts for a year.

Try it. You might enjoy it, too.

Out of hibernation

September 23, 2017

With all the fruit trees blooming, it looks like it might be spring and I can come out of hibernation at last :

So….I wandered around the garden to take a few pics.

I left the comfort of the wood fire in June to go to the local nursery to buy a few more fruit trees. This time I bought dwarf varieties—a peach, a pear and a nectarine, to go with the other dwarf nectarine I bought a couple of years ago. The new nectarine is flowering at the moment :

Bear in mind that this plant is only about 40 cm high. These dwarf varieties are very compact little plants with short internodes giving them a truly stunted look. My first dwarf nectarine has borne well in the last 2 years and it’s still only half a metre in height. I saw a fully grown one of the same variety a couple of years ago in a garden and it was only a metre high and wide—easy to get a net over. I’m thinking dwarf fruit trees are the way to go.

There’s nothing silver beet likes better than nitrogen. These 2 plants are growing in an old bath and were watered with the liquid from the bottom of the composting toilet :

The native Bendigo Wax is fully out in flower, but there are NO bees. Years ago this plant would be covered in them. It’s very worrying :

This Red-veined Sorrel has come up by itself. Seems it’s not popular with the rabbits :

Bunnings have improved their edible plant range and have lots of blueberries in flower for sale at the moment. I bought another one to add to the 3 I bought a few weeks ago. Two of those have been planted in wire circles and the third in a tub :

Not sure where I’ll put this latest one. They’re very healthy-looking little plants :

The 4 blueberries I grew from seed a few years ago were planted in 20 litre plastic pails, which I made into wicking tubs. They’re flowering for the first time this year :

This was them as seedlings in March 2016:

So far that makes 9 blueberries in all in the garden. I’ve just sowed seed from last year’s plants. I put the berries in the freezer for a few months to simulate cold chill. With any luck they will germinate like the first lot I tried.

This bath is going to be a dedicated potato bed. At the moment, it’s a dedicated wheat bed. The chooks don’t eat the wheat in their poultry grain mix and everywhere I put chook poo compost, I get wheat germinating. I’m leaving most of it to collect the seed. The (stupid) chooks will only eat wheat if it’s sprouted first, so growing a bit means less I have to buy. The vet says it’s better for them when it’s sprouted, so maybe they’re not so stupid :

Asparagus are starting to appear :

I might actually get some decent garlic this year. The white rods are to stop the rabbits jumping into the ring :

Direct-sown Red Russian Kale in a wicking box. When I have plenty of seed, direct-sowing is the way to go. It saves all that tedious potting-up of tiny seedlings and then planting later :

It’s still far too cold for planting seeds outside so I started tomatoes on the kitchen table. They spend the day in the sun on the floor beside the sliding door :

I’ll have to start thinking about cucumber, pumpkin and zucchini seeds soon, too. We’re overdue for some warm days. We didn’t get a lot of winter rain, but it was just a persistent few mm a day. Enough to make the ground soggy and squishy wherever I walk. Surely it has to get warmer soon.

Postscript: It really must be Spring. A Cabbage White butterfly just flew past the window, heading for the kale.

Just love those ‘oh, sh*t’ moments……

September 7, 2017

…….when you set off down the main path early in the morning, with a barrow load of stuff to take down the back, and……

Luckily I have my trusty, battery-operated chainsaw (recharged by the solar panels) and within half an hour I was up and running with a clear pathway…..

…..plus a pile of kindling…..

……..and some useful firewood……

Fortunately, it missed my little espaliered Granny Smith apple and a recently-planted bamboo. The tree the branch came from is a big old eucalypt which hasn’t been a happy tree for a long time. It’s been regularly dropping big branches, but I’m happier for it to end its life in stages, rather than come down in one fell swoop and leave me with a huge trunk I have to get someone else to deal with. With any luck, it will lose all its branches and leave the bare trunk still standing (although that will fall eventually, but I might be gone by then!). One broken branch is still hooked up on other branches. I’m always wary when working under it—the rule is, if you hear a crack up above….run!