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 -6°C outside the greenhouse it also registered -4°C inside and my poor little banana froze itself solid, never to recover. 😦 Continue reading

4 whole days!

We’ve been cursed blessed with a 4 day weekend. The first Tuesday in November is the Melbourne Cup and the Race-that-stops-a-nation stops many businesses on this first Tuesday with a public holiday. It often cripples these same businesses for the whole week too. Monday, because everyone wants a long weekend and takes it with either a holiday or a sickie (holiday day booked for us), Wednesday due to the hangovers for those that imbibed a little too much on Tuesday, Thursday due to Oaks Day AKA Ladies Day at the races (further holidays or sickies) and Friday for the same reasons as Wednesday. I’ve never been to the races I must say, although I do usually watch it on the telly. It’s just not my thing.

A public holiday is most definitely my thing though. 😀

So, with a four day weekend at our fingertips, you can imagine all we were able to achieve.

Firstly, our house is ready for its bathroom vanity, some suede paint sanding back and then it’s time for painting. 😀 Tiles will be ordered this week and hopefully will be ready for laying next week.

Pretty flowering Hawthorn

With vicious thorns

The garden though has been our domain. Yesterday we were very blessed to be able to borrow a post hole digger so my wonderful hubby dug 14 holes for me. 13 plus an oops. Today we got busy with poles and concrete. I hate the idea of using concrete but the other option, rammed earth, really isn’t practical for us in a time sense. It was one of those kinda hafta times. 😦 We did recycle fence posts wherever possible though so my chook pen will have a swish green entrance. We also had to decide where we were going to build our bridge over the creek to the rest of our block which is currently a tangle of towering poplar trees, vicious Hawthorns and a tonne of long grass, forget-me-knots and sticky weed. Clearing it is a task for next year, but we need to do a little planning at least. And we DO have to clear this side of the creek this year. So, in our search for the easiest place to build a bridge we got stuck into hacking back the hawthorn. Out came the chainsaw and whilst the kids amused themselves playing in the water in the wine barrel bath, we started hacking back this beautiful beautiful plant. And then it BIT us! The wretched things have inch long thorns at the base of every set of leaves. I jammed one of the thorns deep into the pad of my left hand and the tip broke off in there. Over the day it got more and more painful. Sore, inflamed and so so tender that driving was hard, let alone picking up the kids. I attacked it several times with tweezers and a needle and FINALLY managed to extract nearly 3mm of thorn that had been stuck in there. Not nice no matter how pretty they are when in bloom. Their days are numbered… I’m thinking wattle might be a pretty replacement.

Chicken run posts.

The results of getting the posts concreted in is huge though. We have 2 more to go (ran out of concrete) but we can start with the ringlock fencing wire now and I can get to digging the trenches between the poles for burying the chicken wire (fox prevention) and start enclosing the chicken run. We’re on very borrowed time now as the temporary housing for the chicks and our existing chickens will fast become crowded.

Digging holes and boys toys all in one.

I had 3 butternut pumpkin seedlings in desperate need of planting too but nowhere left to plant them. I decided upon a temporary garden bed which, since pumpkins do nothing more than put down their roots before heading off to take over the garden, will do just fine for this year. I dug out a small area, lined it with newspaper and filled it with soil and compost and planted in the butternuts. In other seedling news, my tomatoes have absolutely thrived. Some of them were VERY small when they went in on Friday but I swear they have all grown another set of leaves in the 5 days since then! :O You were so right Ingrid and I will be planting out the rest of my baby marties as soon as they show something more than just cotyledon leaves. The capsicums are looking good too, as are the corn and zucchinis I planted on Saturday. The onions planted last week seem to have been hit or miss though. Some are looking very healthy, others I can’t find. Time will tell how they go, and if you’re into moon gardening, the waning moon should help them being root plants. My watermelons are not loving me at all though sadly. 1 looks like it will not last out the week although the other 2 appear that they may just make it. Here’s hoping at least one makes it.

Other achievements involved getting the water tank for the chooks in place, picking up our 9 silver dorking 6 week old chicks yesterday (there is a little expected friction between the older girls who are locked out to free-range during the day as the little girls are locked in), jet washing off more of the side decking area, unpacking my pressure canner and some more preserving jars, chucking a load of washing in the machine (sadly the household chores don’t stop whilst we play up at Ballan), pruning (very carefully) the hawthorn back so we can access more area to mow and chainsaw, pruning the poplars to allow more access into the shady areas, finishing off a portion of the veggie garden fence and of course, time spent with the kids. Today was time for crayon graffiti on an old wardrobe door brought outside as well as heaps of help from them too (Jas moved a heap of chopped up branches for us and they both pitch in with digging). It’s been a crazy 4 days and the best news is we get to do another 2 days of it all in only 3 more sleeps. Yay. (insert enthusiasm tinged with just a little sarcasm).

A few more pictures…

Cleared to the creek. So beautiful

We can see through the trees now yay

Not yet sure what this tree/shrub is but it’s beautiful (not a blackberry I do know that at least)

Found some beautiful lichen but a photographer I am not.

Lemons part 2

Ok, I have officially finished massacring pruning the tree and I think I have removed all the gall wasp nests. I am more than a little horrified at the sheer amount of gall wasp lumps, bumps and nodes that were on the tree and a little concerned for the life of the tree and its future lemon bearing for at least the next season. So much of the new growth was infested. Anyway, the job is done and tonight when he gets home I’ll get Martin to pile up some of the chook poo underneath with some grass too and divert the water tank overflow to its roots again. Then just hope for the best.

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This is just 1 of the branches I chopped off, one of the more infested ones.

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And here you can see where they have hatched. Hopefully they have not laid further nests that are yet undeveloped on my poor clipped lemon tree.

Lemons

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I don’t profess to be much of a gardener (yet) although I’vbe had some success over the years when I’ve managed to plant a crop, My kipfler potatoes from 3 years ago are probably my most noteworthy crop, not so much for the bumper crop but more for the fact that one of the tenacious things has grown in the very middle of my lawn again this year. I have however, had incredible success with my lemon tree (probably because I have left it well alone). A few

years ago we had a go with composting our cats litter (separate to any compost intended for the garden) and when we went to use it we found it wasn’t quite composted so we tipped it under the tree. Lemon trees thrive on nitrogen, and urine (and hence cat litter) is full of it. The tree also gets grass clippings tipped under it (also rich in nitrogen), chicken manure from our girls (incredibly rich in nitrogen) and the occasional watering from the boys 😉 This sounds like an awful lot of fertiliser, and it is, but given that it hadn’t been pruned since we’d moved in (4 years) and was covered in lumps and bumps which are actually the nests of the citrus gall wasp, I think the super doses of nitrogen is what kept it so prolifically fruiting as this usually impacts on the productiveness and health of the tree.

Today I gave it a big hard pruning, removing a good portion of the galls on the tree as well as picking all the lemons

as they are all just about ripe. I picked 30 yesterday to freeze the juice and zest. I have 400g of zest and around 1.5L of juice in the deep freeze. This morning I harvested probably around 4kg of lemons for a friend and this afternoon, 18 more kilos for another friend to share around the town where she lives. The tree STILL has several more kilos of lemons to go!

I’m at a loss of what to make next. I will probably make some lemon curd/lemon butter, maybe a lemon cake or 2 (all my boys are Leo’s so we are just about to have a run of birthdays) but I still have lemon marmalade left over so there’s no need to make more. Lemon cordial?

Just very sad we can’t take this tree with us when we move but I think it’s a little big to uproot and take with us. Whoever leases our house will have a major surprise next winter I think when they find themselves drowning in lemons.