Posts Tagged ‘self sufficiency’

In which I get into construction

I’ve had a few snatched moments in the garden, so I’ve been putting together a couple of structures.

My parsley, even before the sheep invasion hasn’t been doing well. It is still the same size, or even possibly smaller than when I put it in. I’m wondering whether the especially cold weather this year is holding it back, so I’ve decided to make a little greenhouse that Mr Gorgeous spotted for me at a garage sale. The greenhouse is much longer than my garden bed, so some of the asparagus in the neighbouring bed is getting some bonus warmth.  

 
Also, I thought about getting the chickens to do some work for me. I recently bought a box of corners designed to work with garden stakes. They do have nail holes so you can make a more permanent structure, but I want to move it around, I’ve just rested the pieces together. 

 
My gorgeous 17 year old went and collected this lovely girl, and she had a busy afternoon scratching away. Hopefully she left lots of earthworms for the garden.
 

In which I struggle to regain my gardening spark

We have decided not to enter our garden in the local open garden this year. The decision has left me a little short for inspiration in the garden, especially with a lot of digging due to be done. Mr Gorgeous came to the rescue yesterday and dug two beds for me, so I have finally planted some winter crops.

I have however been busy dealing with the harvest, and for those who are interested in what happens to it all, I’m blogging at Donnaisplayinghouse where this month I’m going to have a red hot go at not buying any food for all of May. This is the second time I’ve done this challenge, and it’s been a great way to get towards the bottom of the cupboard, fridge and freezer, and to really be frugal with my resources.

I have been most encouraged though by a visit from Linda from Chloe’s Garden who popped in for a look at the garden, and within a week managed to solve my two biggest garden searches. I have been looking for a small capsicum to stuff like they do at the supermarket, and have been growing different varieties for a couple of years in the hope of finding the perfect one. Well, thanks to Linda, I now have seeds! Also, I’ve been wanting to grow tree onions, and again thanks to Linda I have a supply to get me started. What a treasure she is!

Thanks (and congratulations on the new bub) to Lizzie from the Garden share collective for hosting this blog share, and getting me off my backside and into the garden so I wouldn’t be completely ashamed of myself.

What I’m picking
Tomatoes, still, but the quality and quantity are both way down. I got enough for two meals with yesterday, but only a handful were nice enough to eat raw. I oven roasted the rest, half for tea, half for the freezer.

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Pumpkins, all at once.

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Capsicums and chillis. These have been very late bloomers and I hope I get a few more to turn red before the cold weather really hits.

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The last of the apples and pears. The pears will mostly be cooked, as the kids don’t especially like this variety raw in their lunch boxes.

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Beets. Now cooked and ready to bottle, as that’s Mr Gorgeous’s favourite.

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What I’m planting
Lots of brassicas, greens like mizuna and lettuce and chicory and Pak Choy, onions, late beets, garlic, hopefully soon some peas and broad beans.

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What I need to do
Get enthused.
Dig.
Plant.
Compost.
Just do it.

In which I harvest like a crazy woman

March has been a big month for harvesting in the garden. My kitchen bench seems to be permanently covered in produce which needs to be dealt with urgently. Some days it seems to take all day! Cucumbers have been compulsory at every meal, and lots is being put aside for leaner days.

Other than a hand of bananas for some lovely guests, we didn’t buy any fruit or vegetables in March. We have eaten watermelon, rockmelon, apples and pears – two kinds of each. There are also grapefruit on the tree, but they will wait until the apples are all done. On occasion, the kids still look blankly into the crisper of the fridge and have to be told that the apples are still on the trees; such is the power of habit. I try to get them to bring in an armful when they go down to get one.

For this month’s blog, I thought I’d do a tour of the vegetable beds, and look at what I’m harvesting, what I’m planting, and what I need to do. It is quite long, sorry, as I have a lot of beds. At least looking at them all doesn’t take as long as weeding them! The first bed pictured here has some blueberries and artichoke at the back, and has had potatoes and zucchini this year. I took a before photo…

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Then went through and harvested the zucchinis and potatoes and took an after photo. I’ll plant some peas in here I think, because the soil looks a bit tired, and I think it could do with some extra nitrogen.

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Here’s the harvest. The potatoes, mostly kippflers, and some desiree came to the level top of my basket, and the zucchini, including the one that got away are on the top. We had a great meal of the potatoes last night. We picked up a BBQ with a lid for $40 at a garage sale, so I wrapped the spuds in alfoil with butter, chilli and rosemary, and roasted them in the BBQ. Very nice indeed.

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The next bed along has had beans, eggplant and capsicums and chillies. The eggplant is nearly all done, the capsicums are still going strong – just hitting their straps really, but the beans have all died really suddenly. The leaves went yellow and mottled, and they just stopped producing. I found quite a few juvenile vegetable bugs on the beans, but I suspect that wasn’t the whole story. Anyway, I grabbed what I could and pulled them all out. I think that I’ve neglected the soil a bit this year, and that could be the cause of my issues. I’m predicting a big manure week.
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Still, the view as the Aunty Collector and I worked, and the lovely weather this weekend made for a pleasant afternoon. When we had finished our work, the Aunty Collector grabbed the stakes and corn stalks, and had a great time making a tepee of sorts, and then trying to keep the dog out of it.(Unsuccessfully)

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The strawberry patch is a weedy disaster. I left the netting on too long so instead of grabbing a weed or two, or throwing on some mulch as I went past, things just grew like topsy under the netting. It’s a mess of runners, weeds, and I don’t know what else. Last year, I pulled everything up at the start of winter and just replaced the strawberry plants, and I got kilos of strawberries, so I think I’ll do the same again this year. Only with more mulch. And with remembering to take the netting off. And with more vigilance.

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This next bed is mostly clover since I pulled the onions and leeks. There are a few eggplants at the back, but although they have flowers, I may have put them in too late to get fruit. We’ll see.
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The corn and beans at the back are all done. Same bean problem here too. The silverbeet in the middle is THRIVING, and the beets are coming on well.
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Photo Credit: The Aunty Collector

The next three beds are where the rockmelons were. For the first time this year I’ve separated them from the pumpkins, and they’ve produced fruit. I can’t believe it took six years of swamped melons and no fruit to come up with that brainwave! There are still beans (fairly healthy) and cucumbers producing here.
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The asparagus is growing large and will be feeding the roots. I’ll need to get some manure here too.
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I planted some painted mountain corn. The ears are so beautiful. I’m drying it to see if I can make popcorn, but I have to admit I don’t know what I’m doing, and early experiments are NOT promising. Still, it’s giving me a great deal of pleasure as it graces the kitchen bench.
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Lastly the tomatoes and pumpkins are providing lots of colour and lots of meals. I’m roasting and freezing the tomatoes in Chinese food containers for winter meals. Between that, the lamb and the grated zucchini, the freezer is groaning. The purple ties you see here are an old pair of thermals!

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This poor tomato must have missed out on water. What a sorry specimen

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PLANTING
When my mum was here last year, she sorted my seeds so I could see what I should be (could get away with…) buying. Last week I finished the sort, and labelled the bags, and the resulting tidiness makes me happy.

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I’ve planted brassicas, leafy greens some late beets, and some onions. They’re happily residing in the little greenhouse.
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Thanks to Lizzie from the Garden Share Collective for hosting the garden blog share. If you’ve enjoyed reading about this, you’ll probably enjoy the other gardens there too. There are lots of ideas and lots of great gardens.

The Garden Share Collective

 

In which I garden long distance

Well, this will be a funny old post. I’m writing this from the top room at my mum and dad’s house in Perth. I’m here, thousands of kilometres from my home for my grandmother’s funeral tomorrow, and so I’ll be posting without the usual stream of consciousness flow of photos.
First I’d like to do a shout out about my grandma, who was a gardener. Some of my early memories are of happy childhood days spent in her backyard, eating cape gooseberries, pulling apart an old TV in the back shed, cooking jam tarts, sorting the button tin, and answering the dreaded question, “Have you opened your bowels today?” at least once a day, more often if we dared answer in the negative! No wonder we spent so much time eating the cape gooseberries.
Although she had Alzheimer’s disease of late, and was no longer the cryptic crossword loving quick wit that I grew up with, that lady had been replaced with another lovely gentle lady whom we also loved. So thanks, grandma for the legacy you’ve left our family.

And now on to what’s happening in my garden. You can read what other gardeners are up to in February here at Strayed from the table.

HARVEST
Being February I have mountains of zucchini. I’m making family favourites like zucchini quiche, creating new recipes, and grating and freezing the rest, which is lots. I’ve harvested all the kohlrabi, swedes and parsnips, which I’ve cubed, blanched and frozen for soups.
We’re eating beans, kale, and lots of herbs too. The herbs have taken off, and I’m pruning them back to keep them in check.
We’ve had quite a bit of hot weather here. The veggies don’t seem to have minded, but many of my flowers have been cooked to a crisp. At least the Jacaranda seems happy.

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We’re getting some autumn raspberries too. I think we’d be getting lots more if we watered them more, but we’re a bit stingy on the water, giving everything only enough to keep it alive. The plums are in full fruit. We’re eating Satsumas this week, with juice dripping down our chins.
The strawberries are still fruiting, but have slowed down a lot since they started putting out runners. I never know whether removing the runners will help them to keep fruiting or not. Does anyone know?

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PLANTING
I had a flurry of planting before I flew out to Perth. I put in seedlings of lettuce, eggplant (too late, perhaps) basil, and lots of flowers which will hopefully bloom in time for an upcoming party. I also planted three rows of beet seeds with the Aunty Collector. Mr Gorgeous loves beetroot so I hope to be able to present him with lots.

TO DO
Keep everything alive. Mr Gorgeous is doing a great job of watering in my absence. It was 41 degrees yesterday, so it will be quite a job, especially with new seedlings. He is even texting through updates on the watering!
While I’m in Perth, I’ve got two permaculture and self sufficiency books that I’d like to read.
Also, I’d like to tidy my mum’s veggie patch up, as her back is giving her grief, and it’s getting away. Mum’s a great gardener, even coaxing vegetables out of the coastal sand they have here. The veggie patch isn’t big, but it’s productive. I’ll try and post before and after shots.

In which November has rushed by

December already?
What happened? All month I’ve been taking photos of interesting things in the garden,ready to blog, and life has taken over. It’s been a month full of happenings for the children, with our boarder “daughter” moving out, our eldest finishing school, with the associated exams and end of school functions, and our son getting ready for an overseas exchange.
The gardening has been done in very small bursts in between all this. Firstly, I’ve harvested all the broad beans. I’ve been harvesting for over a month taking some here and there as we’ve wanted them, but now I needed the space for summer vegetables, so they all came out at once. (6.5kg of pods to be exact). They were very lush, and produced really well.

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Of course I have had the help of Mollie the Collie, who has had the decency to leave the beans alone. She loves most other vegetables though, happily sticking her nose into the basket to pinch peas, asparagus and strawberries if I let her.
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Some of the beans have been pilfered by birds. I’m always impressed with the way they cut straight to the chase, taking only the sweet beans, and leaving the pod. (not impressed enough to let them get away with it if I spot them though)
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The family all like broad beans, but I suspect they’re not their favourite, as all the ways they like them best have the beans well disguised with garlic, soy or other flavours. I still grow heaps of them though because they add nitrogen to the soil. I took a photo of the roots to show the white beads of nitrogen. I scrape most of these off back into the soil before I compost the rest.
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The long awaited berry harvest has begun. First the strawberries, then red currants, and now the raspberries are fruiting. The raspberries in particular need picking every 48 hours, and freezing on trays before putting them in zip lock bags. My stash last the whole year of raspberry cordial, jam and desserts.
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I thought I’d include a pic of one day’s harvest to show what’s coming in at the moment. Picking is most of what I’m doing in the garden at the moment, and our evening meals are structured around what I’m getting. A recent cold snap has helped with using up the root vegetables, but I think that next weekend I’ll do a big pick and freeze of Swedes, Kohlrabi and parsnips.
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Even the flowers are in full bloom (just a month too late for open garden) We received this lovely vase from visitors a few years ago, and it’s perfect for this time of year.
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There’s a lot that’s ready. The onions, root crops and peas are all giving us food at the moment.
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The potatoes are completely taking over this bed, but they’re flowering, so it won’t be long now til I can start burrowing.

With the netting over the raspberries, we’re now getting good crops.
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The netting on the strawberries is about 10 times what we need, but the netting that was the right size got completely mauled by the dog when a bird got stuck in it. This, although completely over the top, is doing the job nicely.
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They cherries are so close! We tried a couple today that had turned pink and fallen off, but they were still a couple of days away.
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So, finally, the to do list. Still on the list sadly is sit and enjoy the garden, which I haven’t had time to do. Not on the list, thankfully, is mow the grass in the picture above, as that got done today. (thank you Mr Gorgeous)

I still have a few last seedlings to put in, and I need to reseed some more beans which I think probably rotted in a fortnight of rain after I planted them. I want to learn how to prune the lemon tree hard, as it’s become too rangy.

I also need to work out how to keep swede do that I can use it later, so that’s a research job for me.

Also, try new egg recipes. We’re up to three dozen in the cupboard, and nobody’s let the chickens know we have enough. We have three sheep to pick up from the butchers this week, so I think lamb chops will also be on the menu.

Perhaps also, I want to blog once during December, just to show I can do it without a deadline looming.

Thanks to Lizzie from the Garden Share Collective for getting me going to share now. You can have a look at other gardens here:

In which we are now counting down days, not weeks

It’s getting so close. I really hope you all like my garden.  There are only 17 days until we open!

The peas have been cropping hugely, but these guys are all but finished. The shelling peas have just started, and I have two more rows of peas after those that are still coming on.

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The  broad beans are in flower, and should start giving us beans in the next few weeks. There are even some little baby beans at the bottom. I’ve heard that broad beans will crop at the same time no matter when you plant them, so I’d be interested to hear if anyone else has them in, and what they’re up to. (Sorry about this photo – it’s too rainy to go out and take another!)20131006-205706.jpg
The brassicas are all but finished, and I’m starting to tidy up the bed for some of my tomatoes. This garden bed has my cheap and cheerful fence which keeps the dog out, but does make dumping barrow loads of mulch tricky, as there’s no gate.

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 Mr Gorgeous has been quite proprietorial about his new garden bed, and has rigged up a quick version of the string fence which has been really effective in changing the dog’s habits. She can still get through the fence if she chooses, but she no longer goes flogging through at breakneck speed.
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This is not what I imagined my front yard would look like with just over two weeks to go. We’re getting a new driveway, and I hope we can get it cleaned up in time! I’ve made lots of “mind your step” sign as a plan B, but I actually think we’ll be ready.20131008-104426.jpg
Finally, a quick pic of my lemon verbena which grows higher than my head each year. I prune it hard every winter, and then spend a month worrying that this time I’ve really killed it, but once again it’s on the way back, and I’ll be drinking lemon tea again in no time.
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Great weather for ducks…

What a rainy week it’s been! It really has been too wet and windy even for me. I’ve had a few quick trips out into the garden to pick produce, but other than that, I’ve been indoors. I thought I’d take advantage of the inside weather to use some of the limes that we have all over the tree. I’d had it in my mind to make lime and ginger cordial for quite a while, but I didn’t have a recipe or any idea really whether it was a bona fide drink or not. I bought a good sized bit of ginger at the supermarket, but by the time I got around to the cordial, there was only a 2 inch piece remaining, due to a lovely curry and another dish during the week. Still, not knowing how much was needed, that amount was as good as any. The end result was quite nice, but not as gingery as the cordial of my dreams, so I’ll double the ginger next time. Apart from my raspberry cordial, I make my cordial with a recipe from my sister in law, which is 2-4-6. 2 cups of juice, 4 cups of water and 6 cups of sugar.  yes, 6 cups, so it’s not something we drink every day). The ginger I sliced up thinly and added with some lime rind right from the start.
Once the sugar’s dissolved in the water, I add the juice and boil for 5 minutes. I usually add a tablespoon of citric acid.
These bottles have been added to my lemon cordial (1st prize at the show), and raspberry (2nd!) in readiness for summer nights on the back verandah. Just as soon as we get some SUN!
I’m not usually so worried about the weather. Having come to Gippsland from Perth, where I felt like we were in a permanent state of drought, I still love the rain, even after 9 years. As my good friend always says when it rains: “Good weather for ducks and Donna”. At the moment though, the desire to have a nice garden for Gardivalia is overriding my love of rain.

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Our beautiful broccoli

On the positive side, the broccoli are the best I’ve ever grown and there’s not an aphid (or is that an aphis?) in sight. I’ve always had broccoli which was smaller than shop broccoli, so I assumed they used chemical fertilisers (I use none), but this year, I got the seedlings straight from the punnet to the garden, and got them in too early for the bugs. Yay. Note to self for next year to do the same.

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Some of our lime surplus

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My lime and ginger cordial on the windowsill, with a few pumpkin seeds on the left. look at that rain!

I’ve got some seedlings in, after a very sorry start (see the pic below). I’ve been reading the “weeks until harvest” information with renewed interest. I’ve always just gardened with a view to a succession of harvest, but with a date for Gardivalia very much implanted on my mind (just 9 weeks to go), I’m also trying to have a good looking garden for visitors. I don’t want 100 tonnes of produce all ready the same day, but I want something that’s worth looking at, that will show and provide talking points about what we do here. I really want my visitors to enjoy their time here.

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The wind blew my seedlings over. I had to start again!

The weather this week looks much better; Friday’s forecast is even promising 20 degrees. I hope to plant my potatoes, and  sort out my alstroemerias  this week. I wonder whether there’d be interest in them if I dug some up and potted them?

I expect my first tulip, and the big magnolia to flower this week. I’ll keep you posted…