Archive for January, 2014

January, in which I chronicle the ups and downs

Firstly, Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. May this be a wonderful year full of blessings.

As I write this, it is pouring outside. I was just thinking I’d have to water the garden, but all is well. I grew up on the other side of the country, outside Perth where it seemed we were always on water restrictions, and waiting for rain. Rain was always a relief, and even now, after 10 years living in rainy Gippsland, I still feel safe when it rains. Even at the end of winter, I’m not sick of it. Even when it’s boggy outside, rain still makes me happy. Especially today, when the garden was just starting to look thirsty.

One of the best things about having a big garden is having lots of people in it. We were able to have an open house on Boxing Day, and the weather was perfect. We played our new Christmas games, Finska (like 10 pin bowling meets darts) and my fabulous new backyard Scrabble game made by Missy Moo and the Aunty Collector, with some help from Mr Gorgeous. Yay kids, I love it!
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The first sunflower has just opened. I think last year’s flowers cross pollinated. I had a sunflower called Lilac Spray from Diggers’ Club and this flower seems to be half Lilac spray and half Giant Russian, judging by the height of the flower.Does anybody else have problems with their sunflowers leaning over. Mine seem to start lurching from a very young age. This year, and last, I have planted them near the back verandah, and have strapped them up with a maze of strings. The bottom isn’t so pretty, but my flowers are all standing to attention….except the ones down the back that I haven’t quite got to yet. These sunflowers are also just near the kennel of Mollie the Collie so hopefully she’ll stop them getting in too early. The seeds will go to our chickens once they’re ready.

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The herb garden is now a real riot of herbs, and is ready for another clean out. We’ve been eating lots of herbs in a happy accidental recipe discovery. We were given a sandwich press a few years ago, by some friends who stay with us when they go to the Phillip Island Grand Prix, and have discovered it makes great omelettes, cooking the top and bottom at the same time. So with our chickens giving us 5 eggs a day, it’s the perfect meal. I chop 5 or so herbs into individual dishes, then each family member can choose what herbs they want with their 2 egg omelette. Quick, easy, and the kids reckon they could eat it every day. Not to mention the fact that they feel like they’re ordering their meals a la carte.

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The tomatoes are a riot of leaves, and finally some fruit setting. I’m always late getting fruit, perhaps because I grow from seed, perhaps because I’m always late getting things into the ground. In amongst the tomatoes, (which are planted too close, but I’m quite thin, and I’m tying them up, and anyway I have a skinny kid if I get desperate) are a bit of calendula, and lots of borage. I’m pulling the borage out in succession to make way for tomatoes and putting it into the compost. We gave away an oven a few months ago to someone who turned out to be a permaculture teacher, and she told me borage was a compost activator. So far I’d only used comfrey. Are there any other plants that do the same thing? Anyway I’m happily pulling out borage. I’ll just leave a few to bring the bees.

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This year I’m trying tomatillos. Last year I picked up a few at the West Gippsland Permaculture Group’s Swap table. (They are so kind…I didn’t even have anything to swap in) I made salsa which was delicious, even though I can’t remember what a tomatillo tastes like. So this year I’m growing my own. Maybe I’ll even take some up to the Rokeby Market and sneak them onto the WGPG Swap table!

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I know I say this every year, but I’m giving melons ONE LAST TRY. My excuse other years is that they were crowded by the pumpkins, and that’s why in the last three years I’ve had one measly rockmelon and not a single watermelon. I grow varieties that are designed for short summers (though perhaps not for the wintery conditions outside at the moment), so hopefully an improvement in their living conditions will encourage them to fruit.

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This bed is the site of the latest rampage by the chickens. The gate has dropped, and the wind blew it open I think. Then in marched the chickens. They dug for potatoes, scratched around the melons, and dug up quite a few of the capsicums, chillis and eggplants in this photo. I replanted those I found and gave the bed a good water and apart from a few that disappeared completely, they will almost certainly recover. No real harm done, despite first appearances. Some of the plants had been buried 4 inches deep.
At the back of the bed are the scarlet runner beans. They are just showing a few small beans now, so probably 10 days or so until our first beans. My other beans got completely waterlogged, and so I replanted them yesterday. Perhaps it will work out for the best, and they’ll be ready after these scarlet runners are finished. Who knows?

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The potatoes are being dug up bit by bit as we need them. This end is the Kipflers which have been doing overtime in potato salads. The sweet peas behind are well and truly finished but have been beautiful enough for us to bring them inside despite the allergies.
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The zucchini glut is, I suspect, just beginning. All seven plants have thrived, and that is too many. Let me know if you need one!

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The corn is up and doing well. Oh, and more beans! I forgot about those!
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So, what to do next?
I’ve got a small time window in which I can plant a few last summer crops.
I still haven’t pruned the lemon tree.
Also, I need to rethink how I do the chickens’ roosts. Every month or so, they all get a big fright as the roost collapses, and I rig it up again using wire loops and nails. There has to be a better way.
That should keep me busy…