Autumn is here

Autumn is here and I am so excited. For several reasons. Remind me of this post again in 6 months when I am tired of clearing ash out of the fire and over waking up on icy mornings in the darkness and heading out into the darkness to milk the goats too (no we don’t have them yet but I’m sure we will soon) but I can’t wait to need to have Ignisa glowing away in my living room. 🙂 There really is something about fire, ad I can totally understand our ancestors worshiping it, much like I can appreciate worshiping the sun (and I don’t mean sun baking either). But I am a little over giving homage to the sun that turned my greenhouse into a 53 degree hot house the other day. I mean, it’s Autumn for goodness sake!!!

The last day of Summer was an icy affair. Ignisa was on all day and we pulled out winter woollies  The first day of Autumn, and since if truth be told, has been worthy of flannelette jarmies in the morning ad t-shirt and shorts by 10am. I am over the hot days, although my pumpkins and tomatoes are appreciating it. SO is my washing. 🙂

Bring on the colder weather

Bring on the colder weather – Ignisa burning after lights out on the last day of Summer.

But I am ready to break out the Winter clothes and pack those shorts away until next year. I’m ready to hunker down with cool weather jobs, like building up compost and knitting (I do that year round but it’s more comfortable to have a large pile of woolen goods on your lap on a cold day) and I am most ready for Winter foods too. Soups, casseroles, stews. Cooked my the gentle heat of Ignisa in the Schlemmertopf, started at 1pm and served at 6:30, full of rich flavours and hearty goodness. Yum! I’m looking forward to closing up the oven and stove in favour of our bonus cooking abilities to double (and triple) use the wood we burn. Ignisa was chosen for just this purpose. She is charged with the duty of keeping my family warm, of warming our water when sister sun is hiding and her stove and oven qualities allow me to cook with that heat too. Her ashes can then (in some quantities) be returned to the soil and added to our compost. I added some a month or so ago and my compost heap looks wonderful. 🙂

However, the bit that I am most looking forward to is the gardens. Sure, my fingers will be frozen, the rain will be icy (if we get much which is never a given in this climate change challenged world of ours) but it’s garlic season! And the added bonus is that the cabbage moth season will be over too! Those nasty green buggers have decimated my broccoli, rocket and radishes. 😦

I took a trip to the garden of St Erth again yesterday with a friend and her son. Between us we faced the challenge of 4 kids unhappy with their lot, 2 running around like fiends and 2 screaming their displeasure at us. Challenging. Sorry St Erth. Next time I’m thinking babysitter! But I still managed to buy myself some seeds and bulbs so I’m raring to get into my gardens. I also have some seedlings which were a giveaway – red spring onions, beetroots and chard – which have recovered and I am eagerly anticipating planting. But the garlic is our big one this year. Martin adores the stuff, even more so than your wallabies Fran, and has given me permission to plant out HEAPS! I’m planning on early harvest and late harvest varieties and hoping to cover the entire year for edible garlic for next year. Early varieties harvest between October and December and have a shorter storage time – up to 6 months, some a lot less. The later harvest ones I’m guessing are ready to harvest around now maybe, if not already done. They last until October to December when the next harvest is ready. If all goes to plan we will have kilos and kilos of the stuff. I know how quickly we go through a kilo so I think 10 might do us for the year? 🙂 Yes, we are not friends with any vampires. 😉

Edward, you are NOT welcome here! And no, I have not seen the films, nor read the books.

Ok, so I’m coming back to writing now 3 hours later. I’ve had a glorious morning outside in the dawn, gardening. We have 3 garden beds inside the greenhouse but only 1 of them was filled with soil and in use. I just hand’t got to the 2nd and 3rd ones but this morning I did. Martin had picked me up a load of compost the other day and it had been parked outside the greenhouse waiting for 5 days. Well, it’s now inside a garden bed and I have even planted out some seedlings gifted to me from a friend at Phoenix Park. Lettuces and beetroot and a brassica that again I have forgotten what it is. 😦 Sieve brain! The most exciting part of shoveling the compost in was the steam rising from it. Yes, it was steaming! I think it was due to the fact that it had been under a tarp in the sun for 5 days and it had acquired some decent heat which stayed (thermal mass) ad the condensation had moistened the previously hydrophobic soil too and it was rich a d wonderful and lovely. It smelled heavenly. 🙂

So this garden bed I’ve filled started off with some branches and a few logs at either end from our poplar trees, partly to bulk up the bottom of the garden and use less soil and partly to add slowly back to the soil when the poplars break down. It’s also another way to use them up. 🙂 Then I cleaned out the pile of chook poo from the chook pen and spread that on top of the branches. It’s a very nitrogen rich fertiliser and needs to be very very well composted before adding to your garden but as a bottom layer it will compost away from the roots of the plants and just add to the soil. I then added a layer of our homemade compost which is not yet fully composted but also smelled pretty much amazing and finally I topped it off with the purchased compost. I’ve got some leftover compost in the trailer too which will help with the other garden beds which I may even manage to get built today. They will all start off with some poplar branches, then maybe some pea straw or lucerne and then a layer of freshly mown grass for nitrogen (I even have some grass to mow now yippee 😀 ) and a little blood and bone for a bit more, before being topped off with soil and compost. I’ve also got 3 potato beds each half full of homemade compost which is breaking down nicely.

The third garden bed in the greenhouse is going to be an experimental garden bed. I am concerned that my greenhouse will not retain its warmth over the winter and I don’t want to add a heating source which will draw (and in my opinion, waste) electricity. I can’t afford to add solar panels to either house or anywhere else as yet but I saw a fascinating post about using compost to heat hot water the other day and although I don’t plan on building a hot water creating compost wheelie bin, the concept gave me an idea. Compost, as it breaks down, puts out a lot of heat. This mornings pile of compost was pleasantly warm to touch but I remember as a kid sticking my hand into the grass clippings dad had mowed a few weekends before and it was hot. In fact the other day a friend burned their hand on hot compost. Not to the point of blisters and such but still and all enough of a burn to make them exclaim aloud. I drink my hot chocolate at 70C and I need to let it cool a little so as not to scald my tongue. Yes, it’s hot! 🙂 So, I figured that I could use that to heat my greenhouse and at the same time prepare a garden bed for the spring. I plan on using a lot of grass clippings. and a thin layer of compost on top. Our kitchen waste will also go in here and our other compost bins can either sit fallow or I can empty out the composted or cooling down compost in the garden bed and put it out to finish decomposing and then restart in the greenhouse for more heat to keep it warm. It will involve a bit more work but with the help of Trevor and his trailer (or a working wheelbarrow even) it will be worth it to have heaps of rich, organic and home made compost for Spring planting. Well, that’s the plan anyway. Lets see how we go. 🙂

Lessons learned from my garden this year is that corn and zucchinis will produce fruit even under the shade of a large tree but they will be lacking. Watermelons just don’t grow though. I will remove the garden bed they’re in and use the soil elsewhere. I can use the space for more compost bins maybe. I can get the heat happening internally so the lack of day long sun isn’t an issue. I’ve also learned about nitrogen draw-down. No dig garden beds NEED that blood and bone int hem, that’s the ingredient I was missing and my poor plants have suffered for the lack of it. However, since adding it I do have a tomato harvest ripening slowly (it’s a race between getting some colour so I can ripen them completely indoors and the frosts arriving). I also have a very late and small but sufficient pumpkin harvest. This last week has seen at least half a dozen female pumpkin flowers which I have been busily fertilising just in case the bees missed them. In no way do I believe I’m better than bees but we don’t have much to attract their stripey flying selves to the gardens… Yet. I have 5 packs of sweet peas I am planning to plant in pots to add scent and colour to our back porch over the Autumn. The kids will like helping with planting them. 🙂 I’ll be planting more flowers out this coming Spring too to entice the bees to come and work for us. 🙂

Well, sitting here gets nothing done. Time for my Small Man Orik to have his nap then garden, here I come. 🙂

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13 thoughts on “Autumn is here

  1. leonefabre says:

    Great post ….. you sure have been a busy little vegemite!!!

    Must admit, the days have certainly been beautiful this past week. Great to be out and enjoy them too.

  2. Linne says:

    I was struck by the beauty of your leaf photo, especially as I took one of my own yesterday. I tried re-blogging your post, but it didn’t work, so I have posted a link to your post. Hope that’s ok with you.

    I do have to ask: what is a schlemmertopf? I have a romertopf, which is a two-piece German baker made of fired, but not glazed, clay. I soak the base and its cover in cool water for 15 minutes, then put in chicken pieces (or other meat, or none), then chopped veggies and whatever flavourings I like. Sometimes I add a bit of broth, too. Then I put the cover on and pop it in the oven. Yummy, moist winterfood!

    I expect you know that you can make home-made lye with your ashes (and then put the residue on the compost pile); lye, of course, is good for making soap, but not so good with children around. My grandmothers made soap that way.

    Happy Autumn! ~ Linne

    • I wish it was my leaf photo but Dr Google helped me out again. He does that a bit. Poplar leaves just go all yucky yellow and brown then all brown so not that exciting. And they’ve all gone green again with the return of the warm weather.
      Yes, your romertopf is my schlemmertopf. Must be a brand. I’ve been told they’re brilliant for baking bread in too which I must trial. Steams the top of the loaf for a great crusty shell.
      I could make the lye but as a virgin soap maker I’ll be buying it for a while yet I think. I do plan to make soap soon though. I had it budgeted for this week but needed to buy more preserving jars so there goes the soap for another fortnight.

      • Linne says:

        Thanks for the baking bread tip! My romertopf is in storage for now, but one day I’ll try it! Sounds like the recipe I found on the Vintage Hearth blog for Artisanal bread. She freaked me out a bit, saying to turn the oven on as high as it would go, heat the covered casserole (well, that’s what I used, anyway), then pop the dough in and bake! But it worked and if I hadn’t messed around with the recipe (I’m a ‘sperimenter, too), it would have been perfect. As it was, it was delicious, just on the heavy side, but that was great with the soups I was making then.

        As to soap, there are easier ways than using lye, as I understand it; I had friends who made soap a couple of times a year, aged it so it wouldn’t dissolve too quickly when used, and they used it all year; even had some to give away for gifts; lucky me! The husband was very handy and made soap trays of wood that he waxed or something. It was little compartments, so the soap came out the right shape once it had dried a bit.

  3. narf77 says:

    Are you sure you aren’t just “seeing” autumn in a heat stressed dead leaf Jess? I, too, am hunting for any sign that we are about to embark on something involving sky water. The crispy leaves on our weeping maples tell me that we are not going to get a lovely autumnual vision from the deck, rather a half-assed, pathetic last hooray to the arid desert of a summer that was Serendipity Farm’s torture. I am loathe to step into the optimism that I could easily dive into headfirst when seeing that autumnal leaf but I am cautious now…I dove several times over summer only to be pulled up by the drawstrings and rendered stiffled and restrained, both eventualities not often experienced in the world of narf7.
    We both long for the days when warmth will be our ethos and we will naturally gravitate to the hearth of the house, our fires and our kitchens, to use all of that free energy to luxuriate in slowly stewing for hours, tenderising cheaper meats to turn them into something amazing, pots of beans slowly simmering all day redolent with herbs and garlic, ovens issuing heavenly sourdough scents and wafting inviting cakey goodness…winter is where cooking comes to the fore 🙂
    I picked up an enormous Romertopf from an opshop for $3 last year and just remembered it tucked away (preseasoned and all 😉 ) in the cupboard! Brunhilda is going to LOVE working with it :).
    I could give Martin a run for his money on the garlic stakes Jess ;). We have it in just about everything and go through so much of it that we no sooner harvest than it disappears…life is NOTHING without garlic!
    Gardeners are so generous 🙂 I remember walking the dogs in Beaconsfield last year and looking at a particularly nice garden and the lady working in it smiled at us and I told her how lovely her garden was. 30 minutes later we were heading out the gate laden with plant material and seeds and I didn’t even know her name! Gardeners are fecund with possibilities and are the best sort of people…they are naturally “alive” 🙂
    Not so sure about that blood and bone Jess…we did bugger all to our black gold compost and we are raking in the toms and they just keep producing (don’t stab me girl, I bleed you know!). I have been experimenting with allowing the garden to go nuts. I haven’t been inclined to do the callisthenics needed to head into the tomato and capsicum beds on a regular basis to remove the weeds. I top dressed them with hay from the chook roost and have a nice middle crop of wheat growing in between the capsicums and it looks like chaos BUT the beds need an incredibly small amount of water compared to the more open beds in the top garden and I put that down to the amount of chopped up branches used in the base of these first garden beds. Hugelkultur of a kind (mum’s kind 😉 ) and it works! I love that you have caught the gardening bug and that it has opened up a huge pile of woopass possibilities in your life. It can go wherever you want it to and pretty soon you will be leaning over the garden fence educating wide and stary eyed future gardeners as to the intricicies of the semi-rural life 🙂 Barbara from the goodlife might have been a shallow husk of reality but Tom lives on! Get stuck in girl (and you are right…within 3 months we will both be whinging about how cold it is and how muddy everything is 😉 )

    • Yes, the signs of Autumn are far and few between here too. In fact, apart from some leaves fallen on the ground which have actually been there since that cold snap a few weeks back, the only signs I have that Autumn is here is the calendar and even that is unreliable. Autumn might start on March first here but it’s not Spring until March 21st in the UK. Based on the weather we often have throughout March, that makes a lot more sense to me.
      I love the idea of garden sharing over the fence like that. One of the major perks of walking dogs there 😉 the conversation starter and the option to take different paths and meet the neighbours. Our street is a dead end (the cemetery is just across the creek from us so it literally is) and we’re at the end of it so we will not have too many opportunities for those kind of conversations but still and all, I am loving our garden and gardening in it. I got out and sowed seeds yesterday. more brussel sprouts, cabbages, 2 different types of kale, beetroots, rainbow chard (I can get it into the kids via milkshakes) and planted out my free-bee seedlings that were looking very lost and sorry for themselves when I picked them up from Diggers but looked much perkier after some water. I also finally planted out the seedlings a friend had given me but they didn’t like the transplant much and were like limp green smears on the soil yesterday afternoon. I’ll see how they’re feeling this morning. I too am not the worlds most gentle transplanter. That’s why I went researching for a seed blocker yesterday although I’m thinking I might have a go at making one first.
      Garlic is the stuff of life in this house. I enjoy it but don’t crave it in the doses Martin does. I do tend to add 3-4 cloves to spag bol or other meals though and 40 clove chicken went down a real treat when I made it a while back. I think one of our roosters who are currently in fridge and freezer will become 40 clove chicken. 🙂 We had bought 3 kgs of organic garlic as I’d thought that might be enough. I underestimated grossly. A kilo nearly gone in 6 weeks. and that’s rationing it out! I reckon we might go through 10+kg a year (although that weight does include stems).
      I am looking forward to the kitchen smells of winter so very much. And nothing quite says winter like a hearty casserole or slow roast. Bring on the slow food cooking. 🙂

      • narf77 says:

        We share a close proximity to cemetries indeed dad is buried just over the fence from Serendipity Farm… not bad for an athiest and methinks he was just hedging his bets with a healthy donation to the Anglican church 😉 I can just lean over the fence and squirt his grave with the hose whenever I want to make a point (or clean it off…either one is fine 😉 ). We are getting sick of using the bbq and want to get back into the routines with Brunhilda. Once she gets going she doesn’t go out for the whole of winter and just simmers away slowly working her way through her solid fuel like a well oiled machine or as I would like to think of her “our own personal fire cow in the kitchen” ;). Have a great day and hopefully you will have cooler temperatures than ours today 😦

        • Nope, 32 forecast here. 😦 At least I have about an hour or so of driving planned – not that I like using the petrol but the air con sure is nice on occasion. 😉
          I had forgotten you were neighbours with the old Kirk (?) and your dad was there too.
          What a lovely way to describe Brunhilda too, a fire cow. If the term is true then I really do already have my Dexter! Ignisa is small and black and a fire cow so it fits! 😀
          Have a wonderful day my friend. Off to read your latest post now. 🙂

    • Linne says:

      Re-reading this post reminded me of a pivotal article I read in the Mother Earth News. Check out this link, ladies: http://www.onestrawrevolution.net/One_Straw_Revolution/Interview_Plowboy.html

      Another link you may find useful: http://hungrymotherorganics.com/archives/1334
      partway down the first page you will see a reference to John Jeavons’ book “How to Grow More Vegetables”. I own this book (I think it’s in storage in Vernon, BC, though) and when we lived in the country I used it a lot. We had a two level pyramid greenhouse and this book was useful there as well as when I was building the deep beds. I like the French Intesive method of gardening (although Fukuoka-sama’s style is one I long to experiment with as well), but where we lived the land was so stony I just resorted to building long beds on top of the ground. I used old hay, covered with better dirt I carried in buckets from a pile left by previous tenants. We were there around five years and I had about 30 beds started, each close to 100 feet long and 4-5 feet wide. I only got to plant in a few of them, as it took so long just to create them. But we had over 100 cabbages in one bed once; I started them in the greenhouse, then set them out, thinking that we would have a cabbage a week plus some to trade or give away. Imagine my feelings when I got up one morning to find the small family of deer I loved had come in the night and eaten them all. They were only a few inches tall. I was not happy! We thought maybe if we ate one of the deer it would keep the rest away, but that didn’t work, either. (the venison was delicious, though, and we did thank the deer for its life). We tried tying my big collie dog out in the orchard at night, but the deer learned to stay out of reach, ignored his barking and kept on munching (mostly grass in the orchard ’til they found my cabbages!) We had no money for fencing, so in the end settled for peaceful co-existence. My husband at the time, who designed and built the pyramid greenhouse, also built a half-sunken greenhouse near the garden beds. It had a trough to stand in, with growing beds on either side and across the far end. There was a structure above that was covered in plastic. By digging the trough to stand in, he saved a lot of money on sidewalls and the greenhouse was tall enough for tomato plants.

      I was thinking, too, about a friend’s husband up-Island (Vancouver Island, BC) who turned a large sloping piece of land (old disused stone and gravel quarry, so pretty useless for gardening) into a very productive garden over several years. The land was not only sloping, but shaped in a bit of a curve, from the gravel being dug out. He dug flat paths in terraced rows from one side to the other. These were wide enough to walk on and also hold at least one bale of hay easily. He lined up the bales, cut open the tops of them with a sharp knife, spread the cut a bit, then dumped in some good compost mixed with a bit of aged manure. Then he watered enough to keep the bales damp (lots of water spring and fall (not to mention winter!) on the Island, so he only had to water a lot in the dry part of the summers. He planted seedlings and in some cases seeds right into the dirt and their roots helped to break down the hay bales (these were the old-fashioned rectangular ones, by the way). The next year, the whole thing would be rotted down quite a bit; he would lay out another set of bales on top and go through the same procedure. By the time I saw that garden, it was so lush and productive! Incredible! I wish I had pictures of it to share with you.

      Oh, one other thing: another friend of mine set up tall posts in his hillside garden and put a sprinkler on top of each one (nailed down, of course). Hose was attached to each one and run to the gate on the upper side. He could switch the main hose from one to another and water the entire garden from above, even as the rain does. Usually he watered in the morning, so that the sun would dry the plants by evening, which helped to prevent the development of moulds, etc.

      Well, I’m having fun reminiscing and sharing with you, Jess, and by extension, with your followers. But I’m sure it can be a bit much, getting all this at once. Evening again, you know. (after 11 pm, actually) My best thinking time . . . but now I’m off to bed. See ;you all again soon. ~ Linne (I forgot to get the bean recipe today to give you. I’m out most of tomorrow, but will try to get to it tomorrow night or the next day.)

      • I love your long comments and all the info they hold. I may not necessarily absorb it all but I know where it is for future reference and I love hearing about all the gardens you’ve been involved with or have seen. Please keep on sharing. 🙂
        Don’t panic on the beans recipe as yet. I’m not even sure when the order for the navy beans will go in but once it does I will let you know. 🙂
        Thanks for those links too. I’m partway through the One-straw revolution link and it’s fascinating. I’ve ended up with a migraine due to long day, hot weather, being crazy busy and lack of sleep so it’s been a slow afternoon.

  4. Leiani says:

    During the days, here in Perth, we still feel the last vestiges of summer heat, but oh those early mornings! The air is cool as the morning breeze whispers to me that autumn is here.

    • Yes, the mornings are crisp here too. I’ve been getting up earlier than normal of late (thanks for the idea Fran 😉 ) and most mornings I’m needing the jarmies and woolen dressing gown on although this morning was a Summers morning. The cool mornings, the mists of Autumn and the darkness not lifting until later and later are the best bits of Autumn. That and the spectacular colours.

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