All hands on deck

The deck has inched its way towards being done. In fact it is all but done. A few aesthetic touches to go, possibly a weatherboard or more and a second coat of paint and then all complete. ๐Ÿ™‚ Continue reading

Advertisements

Going Bananas II

Back in January 2013 not long after I installed my greenhouse I had a go growing a banana tree. It was a Dwarf Cavendish from Diggers Club and although it is considered a cold zone 10 plant (we’re cold zone 9b here in Ballan) it was thought that inside a greenhouse it might do well. The morning our thermometre registered -6ยฐC outside the greenhouse it also registered -4ยฐC inside and my poor little banana froze itself solid, never to recover. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Continue reading

The year that was – 2013

Much to my surprise 2013 has come to a close. And as is natural at this time of year I am reflecting over the year that was.

Continue reading

All tuckered out

I sit here, exhausted! And boy does it feel good. ๐Ÿ™‚ I am well ready for bed though.

Continue reading

All systems GO!

It has been all systems go the later part of this week and the weekend. And we’ve achieved heaps. ๐Ÿ˜€ Continue reading

An update and things coming together

It’s all pretty amazing when things start coming together. I mean, you plot, you plan and you dream and you try and cram the plotting, planning and dreaming into reality, dodging around obstacles like time, money, weather, differing ideas, legal requirements and everything else and you hope to come up with a workable situation that hasn’t strayed too far from your first inspired musings.

File:Heidi Bild.jpg

Heidi, grandfather and Aunt Dete hurrying away

My initial dreams involved up to 5 acres, an eco friendly house built by my own two hands, robust and healthy children who look liked they had escaped from Heidi, friendly animals, beautifully landscaped (but not rigid) gardens and fresh produce pouring from their richly composted soil. The reality is a little different.

We have a 1/2 acre, the house was not built by my own two hands although I have had a lot of input into the design and materials used and we have been as eco friendly as the budget allowed for (low VOC paints, woolen carpets over recycled fibre underlay and LED lights). My children don’t have the plump legs and ruddy complexions of Heidi fame but they are healthy and happy and sporting somewhat of a tan, testament to their enjoyment of outdoor life. Our animals aren’t quite as keen on us as we are on them but Milly and Molly are getting more comfortable although Mandy still keeps her distance. The baby chicks are well acclimatised to children as they are picked up and carted around by the kids for a couple of hours each day and the silkies are fast becoming favourites (Mrs Silverpants was replaced last night along with her companion Dandelion the white silkie and Goldie or Gold Star the golden silkie). The baby chicks are used to being handled by us too although they still peg it during the day (we go out each night to make sure they’re either sleeping in a nesting box or on the perch which they’ve finally figured out last night too). The gardens are not the verdant oases I dreamed of and their soil, although rich, is not as rotted down as I had dreamed. It’s getting there now though. We do have crops coming along nicely too. I have 2 zucchinis that will be ready in the next day or 2 (they’re taking longer I think due to the still un-rotted garden beds) and my corn are flowering and I can see the beginning of corn cobs. ๐Ÿ˜€ My watermelons won’t make harvest this year but I will try transferring them even though they hate it. I have nothing to lose at this stage. My tomatoes are still coming along in the garden too. I live in fear of possums discovering them but we appear to have few of those thieving little blighters around thankfully. My broccoli are doing much better since I got up close and personal with them, rubbing the underside of their leaves and squishing all the caterpillar eggs (or are they butterfly eggs – defined by what they hatch into or what lays them?) and caterpillars of the (presumably) coddling moths that had turned their leaves into fine green lace. They still look a little lacy but much happier. My onions haven’t even made it to pickled onion stage sadly but then again I never really expected them to. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The greenhouse garden

The greenhouse garden, marked out with sticks and some used chicken straw for nutrients. I will mulch it when the seedlings are up more. Thanks for the idea Narf. ๐Ÿ™‚

But it’s the greenhouse I am most amazed with and proud of in our garden. It’s a Sproutwell greenhouse built from a kit I bought off eBay (they also have a website and the price is the same) and the garden beds I built myself using corrugated iron and hardwood corner posts. The hardwood we already had and the iron, bought from my uncle, makes each bed cost $1.50! WIN! Anyway, I’ve built 3 beds in there and filled and planted 1 of them. I transplanted the tomatoes from the second martie bed as they were very small and not going to make harvest before the frost arrived so I had nothing to lose. I planted my mandarin, banana and lemon trees in there first, then the transplanted tomatoes and transplanted marigolds in there, some beans planted down the side, transplanted capsicums, rocket seeds between them, then planted carrot and radish seeds, some spinach seeds, leek seeds, coriander seeds, transplanted chives and also chive seeds. So far the chive seeds are the only ones I haven’t seen a sprout from yet. I also transplanted in a pumpkin that popped up from seeds I’d scooped out of a pumpkin around Christmas time and planted out mid January. So, although it’s not yet that verdant oasis, it is well on its way to being a nifty little food garden.

Radishes

Capsicums and radishes

A bean

A bean

Carrot wisps :)

Carrot wisps ๐Ÿ™‚

Spinach

Spinach

Capsicums and rocket

Capsicums and rocket with a tomato and the beans in the background. The carrots are near the icy-pole stick.

Nice mangel wurzels ๐Ÿ˜‰

I’ve also bought some more interesting seeds – mangel wurzels which are like turnips but they get HEAPS bigger and if harvested small they’re good for human consumption or if left to grow out, great for cattle and chickens. I wanted to try them just because I can! I’ve also finally sourced some black carrot seeds (purple/black inside and out and amazing for antioxidants), kale, rainbow chard and some other bits and bobs. I’m planning some BIG gardens over winter. ๐Ÿ˜€ And speaking of winter gardens, I’ve started building the garden beds to go in. The existing beds will be raked up to fill the new ones and they’re a little shorter but I can double the amount of beds, greatly increasing planting area overall. I am eagerly awaiting Autumn now, something I NEVER thought I would say. ๐Ÿ™‚

But the most fun of all is that Ignisa and I are starting to work together. We’ve had some veryย unseasonablyย cold weather this last week and Ignisa, our lovely Gourmet Cooker has been alight for about 44 hours although she’s been resting for the last hour or 2 but I’m getting cold again so reckon it’s time to fire her up again.. We need to organise some hardwood to burn (if anyone local has any they’re getting rid of or selling…?) but in the meantime we have been able to make do with our existing poplar stocks which isย marvelousย that we can use them up. ๐Ÿ™‚ We also had a little bit of plum from a tree that we chopped down after it died at Spotswood. I started off by bringing in our old DVD shelves and then arranged them in such as way as to make a surround or frame for the stove. I’ve now got some space for trinkets, wood, kindling and fire lighting paper. The lamps came out and look lovely too, bringing some pleasant ambiance to the room. The fire guard, half of our playpen is doing duty as a fire guard and at night it makes a great clothesrack too once stoo up on it’s ends. ๐Ÿ˜€ Multitasking and repurposing at its best. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve done some cooking with Ignisa too. ๐Ÿ˜€ I cooked a compete meal on her the other evening, spuds in the oven and then fried off the bacon in aย fry panย on top and breakfast this morning was homemade sourdough English muffins cooked on Ignisa and a hot chocolate made with her heat too – another complete meal. ๐Ÿ™‚ I also baked bread in her belly the other night but the oven was a wee bit hot (like 350C rather than 200C required). Should be fine once I carve off the top inch. lol

3 bookshelves arranged just so

3 bookshelves arranged just so

IMG_5380

English muffins and hot chocolate – this mornings breakfast

Briquette?

Briquette?

I also did some more unpacking – DVD’s away (not that they will see much use given the lack of tv), my crystal radio set up and working (I need to find a better station with some music although ABC news radio is ok too), and I’ve been knitting away getting clothes ready for winter. The kids each have a new hat and I’ve made a scarf for Orik too. I need to source some more yarn to make Allegra a scarf so it’s time to dig into the stash. I also knitted my first dishcloth using this pattern and I’m happy with how it’s come out. Now to test it and see how it works.

Our food is improving on a weekly, if not daily basis. I’ve committed to making sourdough pasta using this recipe so we are slowly using up our normal pasta which I can’t eat and once it’s gone, that’s it. We’re now drinking real milk, our veggie box arrives each week from Highland Heritage (I highly recommend contacting them if you’re local and interested as their produce is first rate) and I’ve started culturing milk too – milk kefir is like super dooper yakult and it tasted a HEAP better as well as being heaps better for you. Google kefir if you’re interested. I just don’t know enough about it at this stage other than to say it’s very good for you and not unpleasant to taste.

Bertha was also split and fattened up and her daughter, Agnetha has gone to her new home. Bertha will be fed and split again and posted this week to The Eco Mum and Narf so you should see some mail coming your way soon ladies. I had planned to post it today but I haven’t fed her or her babies enough for the rigors of travel. ๐Ÿ™‚

IMG_5353

My Bertha, Agnetha her daughter and the tub with my bread in it at the bottom of the picture.

A Dexter. Photo is not such a good one of the cow but gives a brilliant idea of their size.

They come in black (most common) dun and red, polled or horned, short legged or normal. I think these are polled and the black one closest appears to be short legged. Aren’t they pretty. ๐Ÿ™‚

My latest project, much to the horror of my darling long-suffering husband is to purchase a house-cow. Yep, a cow! ๐Ÿ™‚ Don’t have a cow, she wouldn’t be a full sized one and nor will she be a genetically twisted (albeit via breeding only) miniature cow but a genuine naturally occurring small breed cow, the Dexter. The average Dexter cow, when fully grown will stand no higher at the hip than Jasper. They stand around and just over the 1m mark although the bulls are up to 1.17m I think (44in) so they really are quite small. They’re easy calvers, easy milkers, friendly animals and make excellent lawnmowers! ๐Ÿ˜€ They also require a lot less pasture space and although we don’t quite have enough land for exclusive grass feeding we may have access to some good local and I believe organically grown hay. It’s also another reason I want to try growing mangel wurzels as they used to be used for winter and early spring food in the UK for cattle. We are big dairy people here with hot chocolates, homemade yoghurt, custard and cheese (not yet homemade) on our menu with frequency. I want to know that our dairy is organic and hence free of hormones, anti-biotics and all the rest of the garbage pumped into many commercial cows (I’m not sure how much of that is dairy cows rather than beef cows which I believe are treated with regularity in factory farming conditions but any of that gunk is too much gunk) and I also want to know that it’s cruelty free. These cows are prolific milk producers for their size and can easily feed 2 or even 3 calves so I figure that there is no need to remove the calf from mother and we can simply milk the excess. No poddy calves! ๐Ÿ˜€ I also want to know that our milk is local. Full respect to dairies around Australia but I would prefer to support any in the district and preferably my own back yard… Literally. ๐Ÿ˜€ I also want to be able to give my children raw milk, full of all the wonderful goodness that milk contains, not pasteurised to within an inch of its life. I understand that pasteurisation aims to kill nasty bugs but it also kills many beneficial ones and a single cow raised at home will be much easier to maintain in a sanitary milking condition than hundreds of them all traipsing in manure and mud. And that brings me to another great reason for keeping a cow… I want her manure for my gardens. ๐Ÿ™‚ Bonus fertiliser cakes. ๐Ÿ˜› Dexter cows are also great for their meat which is reported to be superior – a wonderful duel purpose cow. They can also be trained to pull like oxen, something that will come in handy in a post peak oil world. Any bull calves would be fattened up for organic, pasture-fed, free-range, cruelty free (need to find an on-site butcher) and utterly local beef. It’s a HUGE undertaking though, with initial costs, commitment (10 months of the year they lactate and they live for up to 20 years, even more) and we obviously need to check council rules and permits (definitely required) and whether we have or can access sufficient fodder (I do not want to grain feed except maybe as a treat) and there is also up to 10 litres of milk a day to work through. I would need to make cheese on a daily basis which would be far too much for us to eat) and I’d still have enough left over for custard, yoghurt, bechamel sauce, Orik’s bottles and all the rest. It’s very exciting to dream though and following up on information and researching is keeping the old brain box ticking.. ๐Ÿ™‚

So anyway, that’s the updates for now. There is lots happening, lots in the pipleline and many many more things on the discussion table. It’s a busy time and I’m loving it. ๐Ÿ˜€ What’s the news in your slice of paradise?

Going Bananas! And garlic and a trip to St Erth.

I am going bananas and no, it’s not my children, nor my husband, nor neighbours, friends, family the weather or anything else causing me to go bananas. Just me. ๐Ÿ˜‰ I just bought a banana tree! ๐Ÿ˜€

If you’ve never seen a banana tree (I’ve never seen one in the flesh until now) then this is a Dwarf Cavendish banana tree

Wait there just a second I hear you say. YOU don’t live in a tropical, subtropical or even vaguely temperate climate. Ballan is cold climate. Well, it most definitely IS cold climate… BUT this is a cooler climate banana. It will grow in cold zones 10-12. We are cold zone 9b. It is too frosty for this banana in our garden… BUT we have a greenhouse! ๐Ÿ˜€ Yes, I am going to have a go at growing our own bananas! I figure if it doesn’t work I’ve lost $25 and a bit of hard work but if I don’t I will need to look for an organic source of local bananas (they do come with a bit of carbon mileage from Queensland after all) which may be rather difficult. If it works I will add in there some other tropically sort of plants –ย passionfruitย for starters. Not sure we’d manage a coconut or pineapple though. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The banana we are planning to grow is the Musa acuminataย or Dwarf Cavendish (are you proud of me Narf77? I looked up it’s proper name ๐Ÿ˜€ ). It’s a naturally occurring dwarf variety and Cavendish bananas are quite a popular variety I believe. It may take us quite some time to ripen our narnies though due to the cooler temperatures down here BUT ripen they should. ๐Ÿ˜€ How utterly awesome to be able to grow our own tropical fruit!

Today I took a trip with a friend to the Garden of St. Erth in Blackwood. It’s one of the 2 Diggers club gardens and I believe the gardens are a bit of a gardeners Mecca. I’ve not yet had the time to really explore but I am a member of the Diggers Club and I fully intend to go ‘sploring when I can get a kid free (or at least kid depleted) chance. We took the trip to go garlic shopping as the Autumn Diggers Club magazine had arrived in the last week with some wonderful early harvest varieties available but I was a little premature. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ They’re still for planting in Autumn and stock is still just arriving so they didn’t yet have the varieties I was after. They do now have my name and number and those varieties noted beside my name so I shan’t miss out on the limited stock they’re getting of one of them. We’ve decided to go all out and plant heaps of garlic as they will tolerate the cold and these varieties are harvested in October and November which is perfect as things don’t usually warm up enough for Summer crops here until November which means we will have little downtime of our garden beds! ๐Ÿ™‚ And since Martin eats a LOT of garlic it means we should be able to keep ourselves in the wonderfully pungent stuff all year round. ๐Ÿ˜€

I’ve learned a little bit about garlic of late – thanks Diggers magazine. There are 2 types of Allium sativum (I did it again Narf)ย – hard stem and soft stem. Hard stem garlic doesn’t store as long but will produce flowers, whereas soft stemmed garlic will store much longer but rarely flowers. The hard stem early harvest varieties are generally being harvested just as the later harvest soft stem varieties are sprouting (ready to plant) and they will last for up to 4-6 months which allows for plenty of time to harvest over varieties. I have a lot more research to do on their preferred growing conditions, soil type, and all the rest but it was nice to know that we can grow all of our own garlic, in theory at least. ๐Ÿ™‚

Anyway, I have a LOT of research to do on what soil both garlic and bananas like, not to mention that I want to finish knitting a hat for Allegra (I’m getting ready for winter early. ๐Ÿ˜€ ) so I’m off. Ciao my hippies. ๐Ÿ˜€