A weekend with a difference and lots more done.

This weekend started off a little differently to most in that Allegra and I were to attend Continue reading

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. 🙂

Tired

I am tired. Exhausted, pooped, weary (my Papa used to say he was weary – sorry, nostalgic moment 🙂 ), worn out, buggered, stuffed, knackered, all done in, fried, zonked, shattered. I am also elated, stoked, happy, pleased, proud, satisfied, contented, over the moon. It’s been a busy weekend.

Achievements this weekend include finishing the chook pen. Ok, so it’s not quite ready for them to move in but the fences are el completo, the door is up, although not yet lockable and the nesting boxes and perch are in. The nesting boxes are an upcycle job from junk existing left at the house. It was one of those shelves that are all boxed in (if that makes sense) so it’s been turned on its side, I’ve attached (ok, Martin attached) 2 bits of 2 by 4 to stick up in the air and after a large hole was drilled through, a piece of chopped down poplar branch was jammed in and drilled into place. Total cost? A few cents of electricity to run the drill and a few screws, non of which were actually bought for the job but lying around from previous jobs. It weighed a tonne so a bit of Egyptian engineering helped us manoeuvre it into place.

Rolling…

Rolling…

 

Rolling…

Martin also managed to get Trevor working again. He’s since mowed most of the grass flat again and made it worth while digging out the whipper snipper again too. The garden is looking a LOT neater and the snake risk is much lower. This has definitely been on the brain a lot of late as there is a snake road kill on the road into town that has had us both on the watch. Now that the grass is too short for them to hide in though we are both beginning to relax. Well, at least a little. Sadly, Trevor hit a stump and broke the belt that runs the mowing attachment. He can’t mow right at the moment but he’s earned his keep hauling a hole lot of crap and junk out of the creek. Sadly the fallen tree was a little too ambitious. Worth a try though.

I also got stuck into some planting. With the help of a few more loads of soil, the north and east sides of the chook pen are tyred in place (take THAT Mr Fox) and planted out too. There are a few tyres on the south side so, planted in anti clockwise order are: 3 tyres of marigolds, oregano, curry bush, thyme, rosemary, 2 with pyrethrum, curly leaf parsley, 2 more pyrethrum, then the rest either have sunflower seeds or sunflower seedlings planted. They will become chook food once ripe and hopefully a wonderful beneficial bugs only invite too (no shirt, no shoes, no service unless you’re a beneficial bug 😛 ).

These are some of my marigolds. More to be planted in the tomato beds and in the rest of the tyres along this south side of the chook pen when I get more soil and newspapers. 🙂

My pot-bound and water starved oregano has responded well to being planted and watered (funny about that) and the curry bush I struck from a sprig a few years ago.

Wonderful smelling thyme which was also very potbound and neglected before being repotted in anticipation of the move and is thriving even more with just a little love, next to the rosemary I also struck from a sprig of a rosemary that was all woody and near the end of its life (it died within 6 months of me taking the cutting)

2 pyrethrum, a parslet looking a bit sad and sorry for itself and 2 more pyrethrum. They will make a wonderful and natural organic and safe insecticide. Well, safe for us anyway. Sorry bugs.

Sunflowers…

… More sunflowers…

 

… And even more sunflowers! All for chook food. 🙂

I also planted out another of my no dig beds. This one is currently half full of purple sprouting broccoli seedlings. I will add some other brassicas in there too to fill up the bed. Only one more to plant out now, the second tomato and capsicum bed. I’ll also be planting some more marigolds in there as they are of assistance to tomato plants from what I’ve read. The tomatoes all got a water with Epsom Salts too. It’s supposed to be liquid gold for marties. We will see how they like it.

Kind of hard to see and some were looking a little worse for wear but we will see how they go.

 

My tomatoes and capsicums… Some are doing really well but some of the capsicums are looking pretty sad and some of the tomatoes haven’t grown much.

The mulberry tree is absolutely covered in fruit too. I am most impressed and will be planting a LOT more of them (they’re water hungry which makes them a good replacement tree for the silver poplars and they can be harvested for us to eat (and thoroughly enjoy I might add) as well as providing food for the chooks with any fallen fruit.

Not bad at all for its first year planted in our garden.

And even more on the higher shoots

The radishes are growing well and I may also have a few carrot seedlings coming up. It’s hard to tell at this point and they may well be radish seeds that got washed out of line. Time will tell.

Ooo I hope they are carrots.

Beans and spuds are doing very well too.

The kids have had a ball too. They’ve spent a good deal of time in various states of undress or swimming attire and playing  in the half wine barrel of water. They’ve had bike washes (they had their balance bikes and rode them through their bike wash 🙂 ), baby wash (Orik seemed to enjoy it too), a couple of friends over to visit and a lot of running around and playing.

I also had the pleasure of meeting one of my blog readers today who is a resident (and a rather new but extremely knowledgeable one at that) of Ballan. I’ve come away relaxed after an hour off from the kids and working, well welcomed to Ballan by jelly slice and a simply divine hot chocolate from Michellez cafe (near the butchers) and feeling like I know some more people and things going on in the community. I was also introduced to some further locals and I feel very much more like a local now too. We discussed blogs too. Check out her blog here. The offers of help have absolutely blown us away too. Thank you so much!

Anyway, my brain is totally fried and I can no longer see to type so I’ll pick this up in the morning.

Night all.

 

Slept like a log! Best nights sleep in ages. Can’t imagine why. 😉

So, what else happened on the weekend? Well, our chooks have been on the blink as far as laying eggs goes. I was pretty certain they had a hidden stash but I had been unable to find it. They haven’t been showing any signs of being broody – in fact I think they’ve all decided to be career chooks this year. If I’d seen signs of dedicated desire for motherhood I may well have sourced some eggs but alas it’s not played out that way yet. Anyway, on Saturday, through sheer luck I happened to be doing the egg hunt and just happened to see through the grass and spot an egg. I pulled away the grass then ran inside to get 2 egg cartons. I found 15 eggs! Yep, 15! Not a bad haul from 3 girls who probably lay ever 2nd day each. The best bit is they all passed the float test. 😀

15 pekin bantam eggs to add to the 2 I collected this morning and the 2 others I had in the fridge… I also have 15 organic eggs I’d ordered (Aussie Farmers) before I found the giant haul. 34 eggs. Quiche?

I’ve also noticed that more of our ‘fwowers’ are coming up. The ‘sturshuns’ have popped their heads up, the ‘I yisten’ is well and truly up too. I’m hoping to move my seedlings up to Ballan this week as we are at the point I can begin to move up a LOT more boxes so I think we might end up doing a few more trips each week which will allow me to water the seedlings when I’m up there.

We’ve also decided upon names for the various areas of our property. Our house has been named, as has the chook house and the veggie garden. I’m sure the shed will earn itself a moniker once it’s built too but in the meantime, I’m off to go and make some signs for the chook shed and veggie garden. I’ll share details once they’re done and not before so no asking. 😉

Well, the morning has disappeared and it’s time for lunch. I have small people reminding me of this fact with increasing frequency. What is it about 4 year olds who are permanently hungry? Bread rising, yoghurt culturing, about to start souring a chocolate cake starter too to trial sourdough chocolate cake (it seems almost anything is possible with sourdough).

So, what did you all get up to on the weekend?

Another day of sowing seeds

I got to spend the day in the garden. Well, on the deck and with my fingers in seed raising mix at least. It was glorious!

My seed raising attempts have met with mixed success. I tossed my pathetic excuses for radishes. I suspect their failure to do anything other than sprout was probably mostly due to inappropriate potting mix (don’t use crappy soil from your garden to raise seeds in and expect good results – my first lesson) and insufficient drainage (lots of holes doesn’t necessarily mean good drainage, you need good OPEN holes, not just holes that close back up again – lesson 2) and possibly insufficient sunlight (my deck faces east and gets only the morning sun and not even all of that due to trees along our north facing. Yeah I know, REALLY well designed. 😦

Anyway, I have learned through trial and error that our back patio has sufficient light to successfully grow violas but not enough for much else. My tomatoes have grown more in the 2 weeks they’ve been planted in Ballan and that includes surviving a frost, than they did in the 2 months since they were planted. I have also learned that even should the app say you can plant things in your climate, and even though they’re in a sheltered corner and even when they’re under glass (or plastic as the case may be) it doesn’t mean that the conditions are right for them to grow. If the time is right and the conditions are met however…

So, my gardening today involved piffing to the chooks about 7 milk containers of crappy soil and straggling radish plants. Some fo the milk containers had housed plants like tomatoes, hyssop, red cabbages, basil and such but all the permanent marker labels I had put on them had faded clean off so I have no idea what they are. Some I have guessed (the tomatoes were pretty obvious even at the cotyledon stage) but there are a few which could well be seeds sewn by the wind or a passing bird but they’ve been re-potted into a newspaper pot and they will be given a chance to prove themselves.

Allegra has also been on at me about pretty things and Jasper has consistently picked flowers for me (not such a problem with dandelions but sadly the fruit trees here won’t be fruiting much this year) so I figured I’d best get some planted. I also have several packs of seeds, many of them will probably self sow for next year and I have a garden of tyres to fill so it’s time for some flower seeds. Allegra helped me to sow Swan River Daisy, Alyssum (Allegra called it ” I yissen” (I listen) 😀 ), Nasturtium (ah sturshin) and Johnny Jump Ups. I know that the Johnny’s and Alyssum can sometimes run more than just a little crazy but I don’t really mind and I can always sic the chooks on them should they get above their station. 😉 They should also help encourage the pollinators to visit – bees and butterflies, as well as other beneficial bugs. I’m also planning to plant my sunflowers in the north facing tyres and throw a pack of poppy seeds in there too so there’s more flowers right there.

I also planted some coriander seeds even though a friend gave me several coriander seedlings. I adore fresh coriander – it must be my favourite herb – but it can bolt fairly quickly and even though I often use the seeds in Indian cooking, I also use the leaves in Thai so I’m not concerned about growing too much. Besides, the seeds were years old so i don’t know how successful they will actually be.

My marigold seedlings did really well with a very high percentage sprout rate so I will have their sunshiney-maned heads bobbing at me too in a few weeks. Sadly I don’t buy calendula, although I sure will next year. I also had my third go at striking passion-fruit vine even though I doubt it will survive the frosts in Ballan. I may just leave it in a pot and sent it around my greenhouse maybe. It can keep my mandarin and lemon company in there. 🙂

My last job was to stake up my carrot tops. Without their taproot they are very top heavy with their tall flowers. I couldn’t find anything to tie them to the stakes though so a couple of elastic bands got called into duty. So far they’re doing the trick.

Anyway, the therapy of getting some dirt on the fingers has really helped and I am feeling so very much more motivated. Yay for gardening. 🙂