Operation Clean up

We are continuing to work hard to reclaim our little slice of paradise from the insidious creep of weeds that has occurred whilst Continue reading

Shy

Spring has sprung here but like always itโ€™s not sure if itโ€™s going to stay quite yet. Why is it that Spring has to be the shy season?

The weeds chicken food that Iโ€™ve actively grown over the winter ๐Ÿ˜‰ is almost overwhelming to contemplate cleaning up feeding to the chickens but the sunshine these last 2 weekends has helped and I even managed a light sunburn. The vitamin D has helped to boost the motivation further yet, as has good company (thanks S and T).

Food for the chooks.

Food for the chooks.

2 beds partly cleared and also partly sown - carrots, snap peas and some very early pumpkin seeds.

2 beds partly cleared and also partly sown – carrots, snap peas and some very early pumpkin seeds.

The time has come to pour some energy (and money ๐Ÿ˜ฆ ) into tidying up ourย gardens. The veggie patch needs nothing more than some hard yakka to find the soil underneath the “green manure” (how many phrases can I come up with to disguise the fact my gardens are a weed fest I wonder ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) then some time spent transplanting seedlings and sowing seeds, etc. That’s not so bad (as long as you only look at 1 garden bed at a time) but the front is more than a little overwhelming. With the help of some good friends, 8mยฒ of eucalyptus mulch (so far), more hard yakka, several garden tools, 2 wheelbarrows and a few days of sunshine,ย the front garden is coming together too.

We’ve decided to surround the beds with hardwood sleepers. We’ve been over the pros and cons of hardwood vs treated pine, both CCA (Chromated Copperย Arsenate) and ACQ (Alkaline Copper Quaternary) and decided that although “they” say it’s safe, neither of us are entirely comfortable, even with the beds more likely used for fruit trees and flowers. Still, the price difference stings. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Sorry for the half shadow - bed cleared of weeds, allium seedlings replanted and 2 plum trees planted too. They'll shade the greenhouse in summer, just when it needs the shade most.

Sorry for the half shadow – bed cleared of weeds, allium seedlings replanted and 2 plum trees planted too. They’ll shade the greenhouse in summer, just when it needs the shade most. I’ve since added some scrap plastic garden bed edging I had lying around and it all looks much neater. ๐Ÿ™‚

We’ve sourced a local supplier of greybox in Maryborough and hopefully the first lot of sleepers will arrive at the end of the week. Here’s hoping the preliminary forecast for fine weather arrives along with them.

In other garden news, the orchard is starting to burst into both flower and leaf with all bar 1 of the trees having made it through. The 1 tree that has no sign of greenery ran afoul of some small child breaking it in half (culprit unknown) but if the root stock lives, I hope to play at grafting. The seed grown apples are also coming along nicely. We spend Sundayย out weeding the beds and paths, topping up garden beds where needed and feeding the chickens anything green from in there. Our poor chooks must be totally glutted I must say but if the egg the kids found is any indication, I’d say the greenery agrees with them. There is 1 poor hen walking funny tonight. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Here’s hoping the weather lasts as these school holidays I would like to spend outside in the sun, weeding, sowing, planting and structuring, teaching and learning alongside my children. ๐Ÿ™‚

It's Lizzie the Skink, found on the woodpile, released into the veggie patch.

It’s Lizzie the Skink, found on the woodpile, released into the veggie patch.

As an aside, my unbelievable daughter was in the garden with me the other day. She picked a leaf, brought it over and asked me what it was. It was a FOUR LEAF CLOVER! I could scarcely believe my eyes! 1st and only leaf she picked. Today, out in the garden with friends I was telling them of Allegra’s incredible find. She tells them how she did it, picks a leaf and brings it over to show us. Would you believe it? Yep, ANOTHER FOUR LEAF CLOVER! What are the odds?! Both of them are pressing between the pages of my Earth Garden magazine to be laminated for lucky charms. Not that she needs them if she can find them like that!

The first 4 leaf clover. It's 1 in 10,000 chance of finding one. What's the odds on picking 2 leaves over 2 days and those very first leaves are 4 leaf clovers?

The first 4 leaf clover. It’s 1 in 10,000 chance of finding one. What’s the odds on picking 2 leaves over 2 days and both of thoseย leaves are 4 leaf clovers?

Still kicking

Sorry for the lack of posts from the hippy homestead. It’s been a busy time with spring planting and of course the lead up to Christmas (bah humbug ๐Ÿ˜‰ ). We have also been spending time focussing on family which has been wonderful. I’ll be back before Christmas, at least to wish you all a good one. ๐Ÿ™‚

Take care my hippy friends. ๐Ÿ™‚

I got sunburned

In August! And no, I am not in the northern hemisphere. It is winter here. Maybe the last few days thereof, but it is still winter. It’s been absolutely lovely outside in the sunshine, soaking up fresh air and vitamin D but after 2 days of doing so, my vitamin D requirements have been overshadowed by sunburn. Continue reading

With all things being equal

The day and the night that is. Happy Equinox hippies. ๐Ÿ™‚ We are on the lighter side of it now and heading fast into Summer. ๐Ÿ˜€

True to form we spent the weekend in the garden, trying to get done all we need to do. Our fences are finished and had a test run with 5 kids under 7 on Saturday afternoon when my nephews came to visit us. Jasper, clever little fellow, showed us where the greatest weaknesses in our perimeters are within 5 minutes. The gates. They are easy to climbย and we then had the chance to recite the poem “swinging on a gate, swinging on a gate. 7 little sisters and a brother makes eight” although ours was more like 4 boy cousins and Allegra makes 5 but oh well. ๐Ÿ˜‰ We can easily put some chicken wire over the gates to stop the climbing but with them opening it we need to think about what steps we take.

Sitting on the deck eating hot chips for lunch. This is what we can see.

Sitting on the deck eating hot chips for lunch. This is what we can see. A LOT of mess!

And lowering clouds that threatened and pulled faces but didn't follow through on their threats.

A large woodpile to be moved and glowering clouds that threatened and pulled faces but didn’t follow through on their threats.

The fences have also opened a lot more of the garden up to us which the kids have been exploring and loving. ๐Ÿ™‚ We have some cleaning up to do there with a huge expanse of roofing tiles that need to be cleared (some will be broken up and used to create a base for the 3000L water tank we’re putting up to catch shed run off) but they’re pretty brittle sadly and not much use other than to add to cement to stabilise it or as a rock base underneath something else as the edges are too sharp to leave exposed. Another shameful waste. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ If anyone can think of any other uses…

Over the fence and down near the creek.

Over the fence and down near the creek.

Saturday also saw me out in the front garden digging up the area where I plan to plant my asparagus. There is old lino underneath small white stones and copious weeds that need to come up. I’ve discovered though that despite some widely variable weed-mats (plastic, lino, carpet underlay etc) and other interesting gardening choices we have one thing really going for us. The garden has worms. Yeah, I was going to write that we had worms but figured a little bit of class wouldn’t go astray this once. ๐Ÿ˜‰ The pebbles above the thick clay and lino layers are absolutely seething with worms. I feel like a murderer every time I dig as I can’t but help hurt some of them. So, I tried paying Jasper to collect them and move them to the hugelkultur and blueberry beds but even at 10c a worm he piked out after 40 worms.

So when I found out that my 6-year-old nephew is learning the value of money and saving up and was keen to earn his money I offered him the same deal. He collected just over 100 worms in a space probably 1×2 metres! :O We capped his earnings at $10 (as I was fast running out of money) which he was stoked with and he had a blast diving on worms like a hungry chicken whilst his dad (my brother) sat and watched (he’d hurt his back again sadly) and I dug. It was a really lovely time to be honest.

We talked gardening and worms although he prefers his worms hanging on a hook suspended in the water. I sent them home with various seeds and instructions on how to best plant them too as they are burgeoning gardeners, more for the curiosity than the intent of truly growing things I think, but I am stoked. ๐Ÿ˜€ I hope the green thumb bug sticks and Jayke continues to grow and then eat all the wonderful foods he grows. I hope for his sake the Summer is kind with warmth and rain in perfect balance (but this is Australia in a time of climate change so I’m not holding my breath) to give his garden the best possible start. I’ve also offered to buy some worm wee and castings from him when his brand new worm farm gets up and running. I spoke to my sister-in-law this morning too and after a few more jobs and a bit more pocket money Jayke had enough to buy what he had been saving for. ๐Ÿ˜€

He earned $4 and my garden is much happier.

Jasper earned $4 and my garden is much happier.

Sunday morning saw me finishing off the last few metres of chicken wiring under the edge of the shed to prevent escaping chooks and then for the first time in months the funny buggers were let out to free-range. They’ve been kept in to prevent garden damage as they have been marching straight under the house and out the front and have even headed towards the neighbours which, considering he trains greyhounds for racing is not in the best interest of the birds. They are now, with the fences in place and barrier wiring finished, safe and welcome in the garden. ๐Ÿ™‚ We need to build another small free-range access door for them so they don’t need to traipse into Anna’s run and then out to the garden, and so they can wander in and out as they please (to lay and such) too but on the whole it was lovely to see them out in the garden eating bugs and grass. ๐Ÿ˜€ And destroying my gardens of course. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

A messy back deck and free-ranging Dorkings.

A messy back deck and free-ranging Dorkings.

We also spent some time moving wood from out the front around to the wood lean-to, finishing off setting the trampoline up and moving it back to open up the garden a bit more and just general clean up. I have 1/2 of the asparagus bed area cleared and am now thinking I will build 2 beds instead of 1 but we shall see. I hope to finish digging up the rest of the stones and weeds today but if there is no lino or other weed-mat I shall just pull weeds and build on top. MUCH easier. ๐Ÿ™‚ I also simply MUST plant out my seeds today or I will have no tomato plants to plant out come November. So much to do and still so little time. At least I have a garden safe for the kids to run and play in. ๐Ÿ™‚

The Hawthorn is putting out leaves. Spring must truly be here.

The Hawthorn is putting out leaves. Spring must truly be here.

One lone daffy (past its prettiest). I shall plant out other bulbs down there later in the year.

One lone daffy (past its prettiest). I shall plant out other bulbs down there later in the year and hopefully pull out some of the sticky weed.

We also spent some great time with the kids. They were stripped down for Vitamin D again for most of the day and in the later afternoon on Sunday we had 3 nudiesย running around the garden having a blast. We also built a pirate ship with them using a few fence palings, a bike tyre, 2 chairs and 2 kids camp chairs. They weighed anchor, had a flag pole and even caught a whale. What fun and what imaginations. ๐Ÿ™‚

Our creek really does have some pretty little spots. Not bad for a storm-water drain with a glorified name.

Our creek really does have some pretty little spots. Not bad for a storm-water drain with a glorified name.

Last night saw me fall into serious unconsciousness around 10pm. Exhaustion and bed are a great combination and I love the feeling of being so tired that I’m melting into the sheets. Sheer bliss! ๐Ÿ˜€

Not much of our garden can be seen through the trees. I love our privacy.

Not much of our garden can be seen through the trees. I love our privacy.

What did you get up to on your weekend? Did you get stuck into Spring planting or Fall/Autumn clean up perhaps or just enjoy the sunshine perhaps?

An explosion in the garden

This is what happens when you stay out of the garden for a week. It explodes!

The weather this past week has been considerably warmer, topping 40C degrees on Thursday with some heavy rain and storms too. It’s clearly been good growing weather as the garden is proving. Sadly, the grass concurs as it has grown enough to nearly need working in just 6 days. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

We spent a grand total of 15 minutes in Ballan this evening, a dropping off of some boxes and other stuff after having spent the day in Bendigo with my extended family for Christmas. We have had a lovely, but long day and didn’t make it home until nearly 9pm. But having that 5 minute check out of the gardens has been wonderful. Here’s the tally.

I’ve lost a few Marigold seedlings, suspected snails and slugs as well as possibly planting some too deep. I have more to plant so I’m not concerned. The various herbs are all doing well and the pyrethrum and parsley which were looking a little wan last week have bounced back green and strong. I’ve lost a couple of my sunflower seedlings, but as they’re not fans f being transplanted I am not overly surprised at their loss. In fact, I’m surprised I didn’t lose more. And the sunflower seeds I planted last Sunday evening are already starting to sprout and wave their cotyledon around in the sunshine. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sunflower seedlings. I only planted single seeds but there were some broken ones that I threw in too. Either some seeds hold twins or the broken ones sprouted! :o

Sunflower seedlings. I only planted single seeds but there were some broken ones that I threw in too. Either some seeds hold twins or the broken ones sprouted! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Sunflower seedlings that were planted last Saturday.

Sunflower seedlings that were planted last Saturday.

Ground-burst and a new born plant.

Ground-burst and a new born plant.

Venturing in to the vegetable garden proper and I nearly fell over. The pumpkins have grown nearly a whole foot! Beware the unguarded as they will take over the garden if left unsupervised! ๐Ÿ˜‰ Well, if they give me lots of big golden pumpkins, I say let them! My lone butternut pumpkin (butternut squash to my British and American friends) who was given a doubtful survival chance has proven to be only slightly less tenacious than my one remaining watermelon plant and almost as vigorous as his pumpkin cousins.

Vigorous pumpkins

Vigorous pumpkins

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The beans are putting out their second sets of true leaves and even a few third sets too which is great. I fully expect them to start making use of the fence in the next week. Hoping I get some to harvest for Christmas but not counting those chickens quite yet.

Some of the corn are going gangbusters and the others are not far behind and I will plant some more seeds tomorrow to increase the potential corn harvest. The zucchinis are doing well too although I’ve desperately got to weed the corn, kini and melon bed as the straw I used as mulch obviously still had a lot of grain attached – it’s all sprouted. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ Not bad for a fairly shaded garden bed. I think Martin will be cracking out the chainsaw tomorrow on that tree.

My one and only lonely watermelon seedling.

My one and only lonely watermelon seedling.

The onions and chives are doing well although it’s still hard to see too much happening. I don’t think I will get a good crop this year but I don’t think they do too well with freshly built no dig garden beds. Time will tell though.

The broccoli haven’t done too badly either although something is having a fine time munching on the leaves. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ 2 of the seedlings have shown me just how much they love me though as they have quadrupled in size and are going great guns. I wonder if they will provide something for Christmas lunch. I doubt it but I live in hope.ย The rest have done pretty well too, considering how sickly a few of them were. Not all survived but I was pretty sure that some of them would just not make it. Still and all, no harm in trying.

My second largest broccoli seedling

My second largest broccoli seedling

IMG_4671

The largest broccoli seeding

Broccolis

The brassica bed

My currently empty and awaiting more tomato seedlings bed is doing well too. Clearly the newspapers weren’t thick enough to stop one particularly tenacious weed as the rotten thing has come up smack bang in the middle of the garden bed. Its brothers and sisters have also come up in other areas. I have a feeling that it might need to get up close and personal with some natural herbicide (read salt and vinegar) or be completely, totally and utterly dug out. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

The planted tomato bed is going very well too as all it’s tomato inhabitants have at least doubled in size. One of my capsicums has died but the rest are doing well and it appears I even have some flower buds on there. Yay!

IMG_4672

The radishes have also all doubled in size and in fact I can see the beginnings of those red roots that I eagerly await. And if I look closely underneath the shade of their leaves I can indeed see carrots beginning to wave at me. The few I thought may have been carrots last week turned out to be a few washed out of line radishes.

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And most impressively of all are the spuds! I need to get another load of compost with which to bury them again already! It’s only been 2 weeks since I last buried them! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ

Spuds anyone. Just wish I had X-ray vision to see what's happening under the soil. The most vigorous of our spuds have been the Sapphire spuds.

Spuds anyone. Just wish I had X-ray vision to see what’s happening under the soil. The most vigorous of our spuds have been the Sapphire spuds.

It’s unbelievable what a little sunshine and rain can do. ๐Ÿ˜€

A whirlwind weekend and some huge achievements

Wow! What a weekend! Again! We seem to be having a few “wow” weekends these days. ๐Ÿ˜€ First of all, let me just say….

Drumroll please…

 

 

Wait for it…

 

 

Wait for it…

 

 

Wait for it…

 

 

We bought a TRACTOR! :O

Trevor the Bolens tractor

Yes, we bought a tractor. Now before you get all “they only have a 1/2 acre, what on earth do they need a tractor for” on me, it’s ok. It’s not a big tractor. In fact it’s one of the most pint sized tractors I have ever seen that isn’t made of plastic. ๐Ÿ˜€ He is the size of a ride-on mower and that’s in fact the reason we bought him, but Trevor is in fact a tractor with a slasher/mower attachment that goes underneath. It comes off though and we will be able to use Trev for other things like towing a small trailer (still looking for that) which means he can haul wood, compost or anything else we can think of. The kids love him, and Jas helped name him.

Trevor the traction engine from Thomas the Tank Engine series.

Boys and their toys ๐Ÿ˜‰

Jasper loves Trevor

Allegra loves Trevor too

Boys and their toys starting young. Orik loves Trevor and we’re fighting to keep him from climbing up of his own accord.

In other exciting news… ๐Ÿ˜‰

We have a kitchen! Lee has finished installing the kitchen and I must say it looks absolutely AMAZING!

Old kitchen

New kitchen. Not quite completed in this picture but since finished

I am in LURVE! On the left are my pantries. There are 4 narrow deep drawers for storing bulk rice, flour, wheat and rye (or maybe pasta) and then the narrow but wider drawers above will hold potatoes and onions. Then there are the shelves for storing the bounty of our summers harvest (here’s hoping) through bottling, drying and pressure canning. At the moment I have taken up some of my Fowlers Vacola preserving jars but given the space in those shelves, I will need MANY more jars ๐Ÿ˜€

The rest of the weekend was filled with finishing (although not yet completing planting) the veggie gardens, digging out the grapes bed and planting about 150 Erlicheer bulbs (yes I know they’re VERY late but one doesn’t look a gift horse of 600 free bulbs in the mouth), getting 2 loads of compost and a bale of straw, setting the veggie garden gate posts in concrete and of course, the endless job of mowing mowing mowing.

My grapes are bursting into leaf!

150 Erlicheer bulbs

The last of the veggie beds, my 3 spud boxes and compost bin. Along the left hand side is the beans garden.

We planned to choose tiles and carpet on Saturday morning but discovered that, unlike the Big Smoke, shops still close at lunchtime on Saturdays and don’t open on Sundays! It’s wonderful but it will take a slight mental adjustment. We did manage to get some floor tile samples and I think we have our chosen tile but having 5 minutes to run in and choose whilst the shop owner reopens the store for you is not conducive to a thorough search of the tiles. I need to choose splashbacks and bathroom tiles anyway so hoping I can convince a friend to come with us for babysitting purposes. Not sure taking children into a tile shop is a good idea. Well, not my 3 anyway. At least the carpet shop has a play area.

Moving day looks like it will be 2-3 weeks now which is scary and exciting all at the same time. I have a lot of packing to do and we have a LOT of stuff to move. At least now that the kitchen is installed I can start taking up excess pantry items and the rest of my preserving gear.

Fencing and the chicken run are our next big jobs. I need to finish the fence that sections off the veggie garden (mainly to keep the kids out) and now that the posts are sunk and cemented in I can attack that. Then once the gate is on we’re ready to go. A friend has offered to come and help/teach us to put up ringlock fencing along the creek. Martin is madly trying to at least mow a cleared swathe where we want it to go so that we can borrow/hire a post hole digger and get the posts in. I really don’t fancy digging them by hand after the hard yakka from last time. Mark will then help us with the star pickets and the ringlock itself. We have had to take a step back in regards to the chook shed though. There is a lean to kind of shed already on the property which we were intending to convert to a wood shed but with time constraints and other more pressing jobs, as well as it being absolutely perfect for the job, this shed will become the chickens home. I still intend to dabble in superadobe at some time in the future, just won’t be quite yet sadly. I need to add in a 2nd story (divide it in half) inside the shed, add perches and keep a space to add nesting boxes in the future (6-8 week old chicks won’t need nesting boxes for a few months) and then add in a door and fence off their run. We also plan to keep a couple of ducks so our half wine barrel will become their swimming area. Fencing the chicken run will involve more post hole digging and digging a trench around a foot deep so that the chicken wire will go down into the ground in an attempt to foil any crafty foxes that may come prowling. We hope that the presence of 3 large dogs next door may also help deter any members of the Vulpes family. It’s going to be a busy busy weekend over Melbourne Cup weekend. Thanks goodness for a 4 day weekend.

The beans bed and the fencing. And the shed in the background which will become the chickens new home.

Also got my pumpkins and onions planted, and their are even more potatoes sprouting up through their lucerne bedding. Zucchinis are starting to peek up through the soil and there are even more corn plants sprouting up like little green needles. My tomato seedlings are sprouting their second set of true leaves and the siberian tomatoes are starting to poke out of the soil too. My watermelons are still deciding whether or not to forgive me for transplanting them. Their cotyledon leaves died and the stems withered a little but there are some true leaves showing so I am holding out a little hope. My capsicum seedlings are doing well and looking lush and green in their punnet and I have HEAPS of broccoli seedlings that have nearly bounced up out of the soil too. My sunflowers are also beginning to grow their true leaves and the lettuces are continuing to provide a bounteous crop. I also have 4 strawberry flowers on 1 plant! I was going to pinch them off to give the plant the best go at doing its thing but reckon the kids will enjoy far more if I let them ripen. Next year I will plant a whole tonne of alpine strawberries I think – they’re the best cold climate strawberry and are supposed to be deliciously sweet. All my other plants are doing well and I am nearly ready to harvest my first few rocket leaves too. ๐Ÿ˜€ Spring has most definitely sprung!

Well, I’m off to enjoy the sunshine with my children. ๐Ÿ˜€