A weekend blast, same as the last

Yes, another weekend has come and gone in a haze of hard work, sweat, lots achieved and exhaustion. I am so exhausted I think my hair is aching! Continue reading

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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.

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Gardening between the showers

It’s rather soggy around here at the moment due to a fairly substantial amount of rain (17mm this month) that has been falling this week. Aside from the gale-force winds and sideways rain the weather has been simply delightful. πŸ˜‰ Continue reading

Updates and another weekend

I feel like I’ve been in hiding for the last month. In fact, I pretty much have been. It’s been needed. I am still not back to normal (not that I could really EVER be considered to be normal πŸ˜‰ ) but I am getting there. I figured though I’ve been appallingly slack on the blogging front and there are several things I need to update on.

Firstly, I blogged about a giveaway that Missus Moonshine was having on her blog where the winner got to choose an outfit from Alicia’s Etsy Shop EvieandLiv. Well, I was the lucky winner of the competition. πŸ˜€ I chose a lovely upcycyled blanket tunic dress for Allegra which she loves and looks adorable wearing too. πŸ™‚ I haven’t taken a picture of her wearing it yet but I shall when next she’s dressed in it. πŸ™‚

Anna the goat is doing well too. She’s plumping up and the round of what may have been mastitis has cleared. She’s producing a little milk which we milk most of it out every few days although not completely. We don’t want her in milk at the moment as we’re trying to dry her off to allow her body to focus on gaining weight. Milk production takes a heavy toll nutrition wise and with her current state of underweight it’s not a burden we’re willing to place on her at the moment. We’re also working to get her into optimal nutrition in order to breed her again, hopefully in a month or two so we want nothing to be taking away from her. She is looking better every day. πŸ™‚

The gardens aren’t seeing much action at the moment but it doesn’t mean things aren’t growing well. The broad beans have the odd flower although they’re a less than impressive height. I must admit I am disappointed in our crops this last year but I’m also trying to remember that this is purchased compost, our first year of the veggie beds and the soil and the gardens also haven’t had the full benefit of experience and time. However, I have my second cauliflower head forming in the greenhouse. I don’t know that it’s had enough feeding to be honest but we’re learning. My greenhouse spuds are coming up in their cage on top of the citrus bed. Citrus don’t like their roots being disturbed but a cage of spuds grown on the surface doesn’t hurt them and any extra nutrients from the spuds drain through to feed the lemon and mandarin. πŸ™‚ In the garden beds proper I have 3 beds of garlic all looking healthy and 2 beds of potato onions which also seem to be doing what they’re supposed to. It’s hard to know with them though being an uncommon plant nowadays and also being my first year growing them but all seems well. πŸ™‚ The traditional onions and leeks are growing somewhat but not enough to make me jump up and down and the broccoli that I planted back when we first moved up here are still just growing away with no sign of heads forming. I’ve left them there in order to see what happens but I’m figuring nothing will happen now. Time for them to feed Anna.

The front gardens have ground to a halt sadly since my last update on them. When Martin was gathering wood from off our block across our creek the other week the chain tightening gizmo from his chainsaw came loose and has taken an extended vacation to the land of missing so we’ve been waiting for a replacement part which has just arrived so here’s hoping we can get some more trees chopped down soon. We’ve decided to forego hugelkulture beds for the rest of the garden this year though simply due to the time required but I think we’re going to do best by buying in straw bales for straw bale garden beds. They will rot down to produce good composted straw for the hugelkultur beds for next year. πŸ™‚

We’ve finally sorted out a way to get our washing dry over winter too. Friends of mine have a drying rack they built that hangs above their wood heater which is on a pulley system and we have blatantly plagiarised the idea. πŸ˜‰ We have a hexagonal play pen purchased when the kids were little, half of which we use as our fire guard but the remaining pieces have been used as lash up drying racks so we arranged for our builder to hook us up one too. I love it! With the fire roaring we can get jeans all but dry overnight and most other clothes dry faster. The sock hangers I built also allow us to dry our underwear and socks quickly (in the space of an hour if the fire is cranking) so it’s one more use we wring out of the wood we burn. We’re up to 5 uses now (heating the house, heating our hot water, cooking stove top and oven and now clothes drying) so i feel like we really are being conscientious about our fuel usage. WhetherΒ fossil fuels or not, judicious use of fuels, even the renewable ones, is a wise idea. Trees still take time to reach maturity so it’s not wise to squander that resource. πŸ™‚

Orik is also now in a big boys bed so I’ve been coming to terms with no longer having a baby. He’s still my snuggle-bug so I’m not struggling too much but for the past 5 years I have had a child under the age of 2 to cuddle so this is an adjustment for me. I’ve packed up the cot and put away the cot sized sheets and blankets. Orik is sharing a room with his big brother so I’ve been packing up the nursery too. I’ve met that last challenge with mixed feelings. On one hand I no longer have a baby but on the other hand I now have a spare room which has been converted into a room for us to do some of our educating. Yes, we are considering homeschooling our children. So this last weekend, whilst Martin sourced firewood from across the creek, I spent my time converting an old cot into a desk and moving furniture around to get a working set up for us. I think I’ve got something I can work with. πŸ™‚ The cot desk now just needs painting. The top will be painted with blackboard paint and I might see if I can attach a large bulldog clip to one end for a painting easel. We will see. πŸ™‚

In cleaning this all up I have also been working through more boxes and bags of stuff that’s still unpacked from the move. I’ve a box of books to return to my cousin from when she lived with us over 7 years ago (whoops) and I’ve also come across photos. Several packets thereof. πŸ™‚ I’m trying to figure out what to do with them. Many, like photos from my brothers 21st will be posted on to those for whom they are relevant. Others will be recycled but there are many that I wish to keep for the memories although I definitely have no space for the hard copies. I either need to sit and scan them one by one or find the extra money to pay someone to do that. I have the negatives for most of the pictures too. It sure takes up a bit of space so all I can say is thank goodness for digital mediums and terabyte drives. πŸ˜‰

We’ve also had to replace the glass on Ignisa. Just another frustrating expense really. I managed to close the door on a large piece of red-gum which broke the glass yesterday evening. Frustrating much? We dug out our electric oil heaters to warm the house and made it through a night that dropped down to around 2C in comfort. The use of electric heating grates at me but it is for only one night and sometimes needs must. Martin had a day off booked and so has changed plans to take the fire-box door up to Ballarat to get the glass fitted. Wood n Energy, through whom we purchased Ignisa repaired the glass whilst we waited to save us the drive up this afternoon to pick it up. Their service has been exemplary I must say and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend them to anyone in the area looking for a wood stove.

The last lot of news I have is somewhat amusing. Mandy, our female duck had decided to sit eggs again and as I had a dozen in the pantry of her eggs I placed them under her warm feathery derriereΒ to sit which she did with pleasure. I have however been noticing the eggs disappearing one by one until we h=now have 4 left so it appears we have an egg eater. We’ve increased their food and hopefully we lose no more. However, Miss Mandy decided she wasn’t interested in sitting them any more the other day and deserted her nest. Fortunately for us we’d had a slight misunderstanding with eggs and Martin hadn’t realised that Blackie was once again sitting on some eggs. He brought them inside and it wasn’t until morning that I connected the necessary dots, by which time it was too late for Blackie’s eggs. She decided then to help take over from Mandy so when Mandy ditched her nest, Blackie took over. Another hen had also deposited an egg in the next and since I think they’re due to hatch at similar times, I’ve left it in there so Blackie is sitting on 4 duck eggs and a hen egg. It should be interesting to see what happens when they hatch. πŸ™‚

Well, it’s time for me to go and get into the day properly. It’s been a slow morning due to a week of very broken sleep as we’ve had a virus through the family this last week resulting in another hospital run with suspected croup last Thursday night I think (not croup, just a nasty chesty cough for Mr Orik which is on the mend), and we haven’t had good sleep since then. Β I hope you all have a productive week and hail the arrival of Spring on Sunday. πŸ™‚

More kultur than yoghurt

Hugelkultur that is. πŸ˜€

I finally found motivation and got my backside out into the garden to a) tidy up a little (not enough), b) build some hugelkultur beds and c) finish off some more of the pond.

We spent the morning heading out to Newlyn where there is a lovely antiques store and heritage fruit nursery and also a water gardens nursery which was sadly closed (I will be back!) before heading home to a cold rainy and windy afternoon. Why is it that when I have motivation the weather decides to do her best to thwart me? So, armed with snow jacket, gloves and a hat I got stuck in.

The over hang of the plastic is held in place with stones and poplar logs

The over hang of the plastic is held in place with stones and poplar logs.

The logs will decay over time, absorbing water and attracting wonderful mycorrhizae to the soil

The logs will decay over time, absorbing water and attracting wonderful mycorrhizae to the soil.

At first these garden beds will be lower in nitrogen as the nitrogen is used to assist in breaking down the wood, making these ideal for plants that are not nitrogen lovers.

At first these garden beds will be lower in nitrogen as the nitrogen is used to assist in breaking down the wood, making these ideal for plants that are not nitrogen lovers.

These will make wonderful beds for corn, pumpkins, zucchini, watermelons,  even potatoes.

These will make wonderful beds for corn, pumpkins, zucchini, watermelons, even potatoes.

I plan to grow strawberries here as a permanent crop although I think they might be a year or two off being planted here. I need the soil structure to be improved first.

I plan to grow strawberries here as a permanent crop although I think they might be a year or two off being planted here. I need the soil structure to be improved first.

In soggy fashion (but without melting) I moved a peach tree we’d planted last year, built up the pond side hugelkultur bed and the next one too, laying down poplar branches and logs, lucerne mulch and then finally some blood and bone to help it all break down. It’s been a good afternoon. Jasper came out to help me and was a champ at breaking up the lucerne (he loved that the bales break down into the smaller biscuits of lucerne – Mummy NEVER gives him 20 biscuits ever! πŸ˜‰ ) and also helping bring over branches. We got both beds finished too which is amazing and the rain will be washing the blood and bone down into the mulch and timber (hopefully not washing it away though), soaking into it all and getting it nice and ready for soil on top which I hope to be able to organise in the next few days.

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The miniature peach is on the very edge of a hugelkultur bed which means it will benefit from the nutrients and soil life in the bed but it will not be affected as the beds rot down and shrink.

The peach is just in the bottom left hand corner here. The cardboard area in the middle is large enough for a small seat which will be pleasant as the peach grows a little taller.

The peach is just in the bottom left hand corner here. The cardboard area in the middle is large enough for a small seat which will be pleasant as the peach grows a little taller and provides some shade.

My little helper attacking the biscuits.

My little helper attacking the biscuits.

He probably moved nearly 1/2 of the lucerne mulch! A highly efficient worker.

Jasper probably moved nearly 1/2 of the lucerne mulch by himself! A highly efficient worker who had a blast helping Mummy out in the rain.

Next step is to organise some mulch to spread out for the pathways which are currently just cardboard and then to lay out more cardboard over the next section of lawn weedy grass and get the next bed or two in place. I’m considering putting my name down on this free mulch site I came across as well as checking out local transfer stations (tips) once we get a tow ball for our new car (Mitsubishi Delica turbo diesel 4×4 known as Samson). Β There are still plenty of poplar trees standing that need chopping down and they will not go to waste. We are hoping that by chopping down the large trunks they will send out local side shoots (hopefully not widespread) which will allow us to harvest the leaves at a manageable height and feed them to our goat(s). It’s all helping to close the loop and keep everything on our property – little in, little out. Closing the loop brings us more in line with permaculture principles. πŸ™‚

As for remaining work to be done in the next few months or sooner, there is the huge pile of firewood logs that need moving and chopping up (which you can see in the background in some of the photos) before storing somewhere to continue to cure, about 3 or 4 cubic metres of red gum logs that need to be shifted from their current location in the middle of the driveway to our front deck (also in the photos, behind the bath tub) so they can continue to season as well as be easily accessible for the fireΒ , the espalier posts and wires to be sunk and fitted where the firewood logs currently reside, the cherry garden bed to be built along the front deck, and then the blueberry and (hopefully) cranberry garden bed to be built too. Not much really. πŸ˜‰ The list seems endless but the advantage of a last frost date of November means we get a little more leeway for planting out some of our veggies (I hope). Still, we are into their last month or two in which I can realistically plant our fruit trees and shrubs so I need to swing into action with a little more frequency. Fortunately most of what needs doing is just heavy lifting and we don’t need to budget the finances for hard slog. Here’s hoping the next few weekends bring motivation and finer weather than we’ve had here today. πŸ™‚

It's hard to tell in an iPhone photo but the rain is coming down pretty heavily. I only wish we had a water tank hooked up.

It’s hard to tell in an iPhone photo but the rain is coming down pretty heavily. I only wish we had a water tank hooked up.

I love my early mornings… And more (of course).

I really do! I can’t believe I’m even saying this but I simply adore my early mornings. πŸ˜€ As long as they’re not interrupted by small people wanting food/water/Daddy (so go and annoy HIM then πŸ˜‰ ) and everything else under the sun. Those mornings are a little less lovable. Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids but those early mornings are my sacred time of waking up my brain and then cramming it chock-a-block full of information for the day. It’s much harder to do that with the constant interruptions of little people. πŸ˜‰ Continue reading

Autumn in the garden

The weather the last 2 days (and continuing on into next week) is a last hurrah to Summer. Well, I’m hoping it’s the last one. The weather has been lovely and Thursday was nothing short of sensational. 25 degrees, light breeze, lower UV index which means I was outside enjoying the sun and I didn’t get burned! πŸ˜€ Continue reading