A photographic update

Here’s a quick update of what’s been happening around our little farmlet. πŸ™‚ Continue reading

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

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.

Blowing a gale

It is, for all I can hear from inside the house, blowing an absolute gale outside. It sounds pretty terrible in here and indeed, my carefully hoarded cardboard that was weighed down with chunks of red-gum had to be rescued from the creek and the pond. However, Martin assures me it sounds worse than it really is.

Eating blueberry pikelets for breakfast is such hard work.

Eating blueberry pancakes for breakfast is such hard work.

I don’t know what it is about windy weather or stormy weather but it makes me worry. Irrationally at times too. But as soon as the wind started up last night I too started up with the worrying. What if the cardboard all blows away? (I’m not going to do anything about it at 3am so why worry.) What will the neighbours think seeing me traipsing off to gather back half of our front yard? (Um, they work full-time so they won’t see me and they also know we are working on the place and they saw the before photos on a daily basis so they will (hopefully) understand.) What if the baby ducks fall out of their nest? (Mumma duck has a big enough bum to hold them in and anyway, it’s 3am and they will be asleep.) See, irrational! The wind just sets my teeth on edge and it’s horrible trying to calm the old brain box down. Where’s the Valium when you need them? πŸ˜‰

It might not be PC to sleep your baby in the drawer any more but what do you do with they put themselves in there?

It might not be PC to sleep your baby in the drawer any more but what do you do with they put themselves in there?

Dinner tonight was a bit of a success in my opinion. Jas came to help me and I adapted a lentil soup recipe I came across in my RSS feed and added the leftover kangaroo meat from the roast we’d had a few days back. I’d been planning soup with it and with not much else on the meal horizon it was a go. it looks like, well, brown sort of slop and texturally it’s not all that (for kids who aren’t used to lentils and beans) but the taste! OH the TASTE! The roo meat was a bargain bin quick sale red wine and herb boneless roast so it was totally and wonderfully seasoned, adding to the general flavour of the soup, plus the gaminess of the meat itself. For those who have never tasted kangaroo before it is a strong meat. I’ve not had venison and kangaroo close enough together to be able to compare them but I do remember the strength of the venison and kangaroo is just the same. It’s utterly delicious in my opinion and using the last of the meat up, an amount unsuited to anything more than maybe a sandwich or two in the soup was perfect. The kids weren’t totally sold but did actually eat their soup and fresh bread I’d baked to accompany the soup (yeasted bread unfortunately) so I know there are a couple of full tummies tonight. Jas was a tremendous help with the cooking too, dicing the meat up finely, measuring out the lentils and generally filling in any available (and unavailable) silence with his chatter. Takes after his Mummy. πŸ˜‰

Yep. Yes. Uh-ha. Ok, nope. *can't you see I'm on the banana!* ok, sure!

Yep. Yes. Uh-ha. Ok, nope. *can’t you see I’m on the banana!* ok, sure!

As so many of my North American blogs that I follow keep reminding me, it’s 4th July today. It may not be Independence Day here in Australia but it did get me thinking about the concept of independence and all its meanings. For me, independence is akin to self-sufficiency. It’s about being able to eat independent of the global food conditions. About being able to preserve foods with which to feed my family over non-productive months, about harvesting our own fruits and veggies and meat too and about being able to save seeds or breed chicks (not that we do much of the work as we use hens to do the hard work) too. I’m a long way from being independent of the supermarkets and others for our food but I’m giving it my best shot and learning heaps about gardening and permaculture. In the meantime I will continue to do my best to damn the man and buy local, farmer direct or through farmers markets, CSA’s or my local co-op. It truly does make a difference. πŸ™‚

The fourth of July. A two-egg day today - extra independence from the supermarket.

The fourth of July. A two-egg day today – extra independence from the supermarket.

Independence to me also means watching my kids grow up and learn. Every step they learn is an infinitesimal loosening of the so-called apron strings, a small step close to that fabled independence that teens demand from parents that is in reality a LOT different but more rewarding once achieved a little later in life. My kids might not yet be 5 but that desire to be autonomous is clearly ingrained in them, much as it was in my psyche. I wasn’t s good at achieving it (surely I can have total independence and still have my washing done for me πŸ˜‰ ) but they are showing the same skills at wanting it at least. And the undying stubbornness independence of my kids is amazing. Orik will simply refuse to be spoon fed these days. Not even a taster mouthful which is all I hope to give him. Nope, he WILL do it (or not) himself! lol

Anyway, after a week of severely broken sleep I simply cannot keep my eyes open another second. I am off to bed.

Sleep well hippies.

 

It’s raining!

It’s raining. Steadily. The precipitation is occurring. The water falleth from the sky. And it’s a nice heavy soil soaking rain too.

Pitter patter pitter patter on the colorbond roof, gently lulling me to sleep. A lullaby from nature.

Grow seeds grow. Swell and burst forth. Shoot for the sky. Broad beans, broccoli, potato onions, onions, leeks, garlic and spuds. Loquats and strawberries still in your packaging, drink deeply too.

Drink deeply, for in this changing climate I know not when it shall rain again and the chlorinated water from our tap is a lowly and shabby second when compared to this, the tears of the sky.

Woah, random moment there. Think this hippy needs sleep. Off to make soap tomorrow. πŸ™‚

Must remember to water the greenhouse tomorrow too.

World Permaculture day, David Holmgren and Melliodora and a day off from the kids

Time off is an important part of staying sane. For a full time stay at home mum with 3 kids under 5 life is challenging. There are days where things go smoothly, kids are dressed, fed and we’re on our way somewhere with minimal issues. Then there are other days that descend into madness, or worse yet, hell, and stay there until bed time. Those are the days I try very very hard to never think of again except to vow to do all in my power to prevent it happening again. Most days however are somewhere in between. This morning for example, I have a half naked child playing on cold tiles refusing to get dressed. The other 2 are happily playing although one is also not doing as told and so I get the chance to sit and blog whilst I await some obedience (getting dressed or putting on shoes are not difficult tasks). As I said, I don’t mind too much although if it starts to rain again they will find our plans are off. Can’t play in the garden when it’s cold and raining. Continue reading

Just some updates

Lots happening here. Lots of little bits and bobs. A few big things too. πŸ™‚ I made our first harvest from the greenhouse garden last night. I harvested a nice big spicy peppery handful of rocket from the greenhouse garden for our dinner. It’s a little immature but I couldn’t resist the verdant greenery any longer. We had chicken cacciatore (or something similar to cacciatore) for dinner last night and in lieu of spinach to throw in, in went the rocket leaves. It was delicious. πŸ™‚ The tomatoes were home bottled (down to my last few bottles now) and the olives and onions bought via Highland Heritage so it was a mostly local meal. Sadly the chicken was dug from the depths of the freezer where it has been sitting on it’s polystyrene tray for some time. 😦 Like the lamb we had for dinner the other evening. It was a freezer find but I think that’s the last of it. πŸ™‚ I diced up turnips, potatoes, pumpkin, onion and garlic (all locally sourced and organic) and threw them in the schlemmertopf with 2 lamb shanks and a bottle of tomatoes. YUM! Absolutely delicious. Both of them are wintery meals I know but call it practice. πŸ˜‰ I can get the meals right before I have to learn to cook in Ignisa. πŸ™‚

And someone put herself to bed.

Someone put herself to bed.

Asleep on the dining chairs. I reckon we might have worn them out!

Asleep on the dining chairs. I reckon we might have worn them out!

We’re also a house under construction again. We are currently building a small shed where Martin can keep a few of his bits and bobs and we can store the boxes of stuff we have until we have the time and space in which to unpack. We are also building a woodshed, something we are in desperate need of. hopefully we can then clear up the random piles of wood dumped around the place which are both unsightly and snake havens. My plan for today is to get around to building my raised garden beds with their hugelkultur concept and hopefully purchase some compost and get the beds in and rotting down. I want to be planting out garlic in a few weeks! I would also dearly love to have our back garden resembling something other than a council tree cut down site. 😦

The giant moth next to Allegra's hand.

The giant moth next to Allegra’s hand.

We had some wild weather over the last 2 days too. Thursday the kids and I were privy to Mother Nature throwing a small but intense hissy fit in which I think she threw several large items of furniture down the stairs given the sounds of the thunder that rolled and rumbled around overhead for nigh on 5 hours. Most of them were quiet rumbles but we did have the dubious pleasure of jumping out of our skin after several intense flashes of lightning immediately followed by large loud cracks of thunder. For someone who really doesn’t like storms all that much, I think I did a pretty good job of not frightening my kids. That’s one of the things I hate about parenthood, having to hide your fears so as not to frighten your kids. Given Jasper’s reaction to the large moth that was on his foot I would say that my fear of bugs hasn’t been sufficiently well hidden. 😦 Best bit about our wild weather though was the heavy rain accompanying it. I believe there was large hail stopping traffic only a few kilometres away on the freeway but the only hail we saw was small enough to melt within seconds of reaching the ground. Still, hail in February?

Helping themselves to Daddy's breakfast. I hope you weren't hungry honey.

Helping themselves to Daddy’s breakfast. I hope you weren’t hungry honey.

The crazy weather has done something strange here though. Autumn has come early. πŸ™‚ Our poplar trees are changing their leaves to yellow and dropping them down over everything. πŸ˜€ As much as digging wet and soggy leaves off everything is annoying I am looking forward to raking it all up. Raking I hear you say, oh how fun (insert sarcasm there) but I see it as finely scattered compost! πŸ˜€ Once they’re raked up I will be mowing them which is the closest thing to a mulcher I have, them laying them on top of the branches in the garden beds before covering them in soil. The rest will mulch the garden beds or go into the compost bin to start breaking down for next Spring.

Speaking of compost, I’ve decided that once I harvest my spuds I will use the 3 spud boxes as temporary compost bins until the spring. I can then empty them out to enrich and top up the garden beds and then have my 3 boxes back for more spud planting in Spring again. Waste not want not on the space I say and the opportunity to have 4 cubic metres of compost is way too much to pass up. πŸ˜€ I guess I had better get that wheelbarrow tyre fixed so I can lug some chook poo around. πŸ™‚

My pantry of preserves. Not enough. 'Tis never enough.

My pantry of preserves. Not enough. ‘Tis never enough.

Another one of our roosters has been tagged for culling too. The glorious bird started his cock-a-doodle-dooing the other day although he’s been quiet since. If he stays that way he can stay but we must be courteous to our neighbours. How things will change after peak oil. A rooster will be seen as an asset, not a nuisance. Yet another reason to look forward to the coming crisis. πŸ™‚

Valentine’s Day passed quietly for us here. I was given a small rustic heart shaped box (which I can and will reuse) with a few small chocolates inside and Martin received nearly 5 litres of piccalilli pickle which I made for him and bottled in the Fowlers Vacola. We then spent the evening watching an episode of Life on Mars, a British TV series we both love. It was a pleasant evening but not particularly commercial. I don’t hold with spending a small fortune just to tell someone you love them once a year. If you can’t say it on the 13th or 15th of February, or any other day of the year, why bother on February 14th? I don’t mind the small fuss made as I know our love isn’t something that only happens for 24 hours once a year. It is in everything we say and do throughout the rest of the year too. In fact, my amazing and wonderful husband believed in me enough to move from Spotswood to Ballan upon my whim (yes he believes in the dream too but he believed in me and my dream before it became our dream if that makes sense) and although he may clutch in fright at his wallet when I mention my next crazy hippy idea and panic at the long list of unfinished jobs we have, he listens, researches and supports me in my wild dreams. He also does a lot of the hard slog, without complaint. πŸ™‚ I’m such a slave driver. πŸ˜‰

Piccalilli success!

Piccalilli success!

Well, the day moves on and we are still eating breakfast here so it’s time to get a move on.