Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Winter days

Yesterday was a cold, wet, miserable day.  John went to Gawler to a meeting,  Chris stayed in bed and so I set the fire in the living room,  had a shower and washed my hair and avoided the garden and any other outside activities.  I wasn't sulking,  just practical!
I spent the day drying my hair, knitting socks and reading John Bellamy Foster.... (more about that later)...
.... and I'm glad that I did!

Later, John arrived home from Gawler with some seedlings....
... it's a cut-off pot with broccoli, peas, lettuce and parsley that someone in Gawler starts for low income people who apply for help at an agency there.  These were left over and rescued by John.  This seems like a really good means of helping people to be a little more independent though... self sufficient and just a little bit more in control of things.  An interesting contribution to the usual "food parcel" for those needing help.


I was out again this morning though....  first thing was to look at the jonquils... and they are looking lovelier by the day....
... and one of them is about to open....

The current vegetable patch looks like a jungle.....

In the old patch where the cabbages are it seems that things are going well too....
... it never ceases to amaze me that these leaves "know" how to curl around into a "cabbage" shape.  I understand the heredity and how it is transmitted and how the cascading effect of genes and their associated traits work,  but I am still amazed when I see the cabbage leaves curl around in the right way to provide me with a cabbage head.

Today I planted a few more seedings in another part of the garden.  (One needs to plant constantly if one wants to eat regularly.)  I found a few unexpected potatoes.  Not enough for us for dinner,  but something to add to it,  nevertheless.  With all of this cold and miserable weather and all of us having those "hibernation" feelings,  it's time for kitchari with mung dahl and winter spices.  And here are the beginnings.... broccoli (again!) and the potatoes and the garlic tops...
... I also picked the leeks that had grown from the "snapped off" ones from last year.  (I showed one of these clumps recently.)
Here are two...  the one without roots is the one that I photographed previously and, as it was amongst a group of others,  I cut it off carefully.... no roots left....
... and the other one was all by itself,  so I pulled it up by the roots....   with it came three tiny leek plants that looked like seedlings from the nursery.  I am not convinced,  as these babies might think that they are "second year plants" and might still go to seed very soon.  I'm not sure.  (Genetics and programming again!)  I have transplanted them into a new spot and I'll see how they develope.  This is part of the excitement of gardening and producing food.   But I suppose one has to be amused by the real world rather than television or trendier happenings.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Good soil

Yesterday I froze six packages of broccoli for later...   one can only eat so much broccoli each day!  The fact that it is lovely and sweet, and that we've only had summer vegetables for quite a while makes it easy to gorge oneself on it when it is so abundant.  When we just can't eat it all though,  I blanch and freeze it.  Even that is better than the supermarket stuff.  Later in the year,  if we are "between vegetables"  we'll be eating "eggs and vegetables" with plenty of broccoli in it.
The last two nights have been clear and cold.  I feared for my baby curry leaf tree,  but it is looking quite healthy (except for the part where I have removed a few leaves to eat.)
The potato plants are my "frost register" and here they are....
... the brown tips on some leaves appear to be all the damage so far.  Not all of them have it and where there is damage,  it's only slight.  So far, so good!

This clump of alliums (below) is actually a group of leeks.  I have several clumps like this.  Occasionally when you're pulling leeks up to eat, the top breaks off, just where the roots join on.  I have usually left the bottom bit in the soil and this is what happens....
... the fattest if these is quite edible (about 1.5cm in diameter) and the others are coming along nicely.  I'll give them a dose of stinging nettle fertiliser with seasol next time I'm putting it on the leafy plants. and we might eventually get enough for soup.

My four rows of broad beans near the corrugated iron shed....
... rosemary flowers...

... baby plants.  Here are some aloes from down the back and some thyme in the pots.

The Watsonia is growing madly....  no flowers yet,  but they are all around the concrete buddha...
... and forther down the front yard...  it's a jungle....
I have tried making paper from the Watsonia.  I'm sure that it would work,  though cleaning out the cell contents is hard with these tough and fibrous things...  but if you can make paper out of wood,  then I'm sure I'll eventually get the hang of it.

Bread again today....
... I have picked some kale and a couple of small cauliflowers to add to a lamb curry for dinner.  The old coffee grinder at the back is the one that I use for grinding the harder spices.  Some just go into the mortar and pestle, but the hard ones are ground in the old (actually a replica,  but it works) coffee grinder.

I did pull some weeds today.  The soil is so soft and friable now, that it's a much easier job.  I have used the clay that was here and, with gypsum, compost and straw, I now have beautiful black soil that smells good.  I am proud of this soil... it has been getting better and better,  though it's taken about 3-5 years for each patch to be really useful.  If local food production is required one of these days,  it will take some time to resurrect the soil first an then to learn the "tricks of the trade" so to speak.
The new Australian government has been talking today about sustainable development.  I don't understand this at all.  (It is an oxymoron.) The United Nations (in 1983) received and accepted a report from the "Brundtland Commission" which defined sustainable development as "development which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs."
Indeed,  Marx thought that it was necessary to maintain the earth for the "sake of the chain of human generations."   As he stated in Capital (1890)  "Even an entire society, a nation, or all simultaneoulsly existing societies taken together, are not owners of the earth.  They are simply possessors,  its beneficiaries, and have to bequeath it in an improved state to succeeding generations as boni patres familias (good heads of the household.)"
I wonder what future generations will think of the way that we are treating the earth and whether we will leave it in "an improved state."

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Partial eclipse of the moon

IThis afternoon, we had a cloudy sky and I wondered whether I'd be able to see the moon with the shadow of the earth passing across it.







The clouds were lovely,  but I was hoping for a clear sky...














...and the rainbow in the other direction didn't give me much hope either!


















I even took a practice moon photos as the clouds cleared and the  moon rose.













I waited until a little while after the "start time" and went out into the cold to take a some photos...






In fact it looked more shaded than this, in real life,  but I enjoyed the challenge.   The final picture has the reddish glow that I'd seen before at the last eclipse in about 2000, from memory.   Despite the fuzzy finish,  I like this picture.
I'm sure that there will be better pictures online soon (the actual eclipse is just finishing now) and I can add some links later.
My favourite "astroblog" is here and I'll be checking it soon.

Another harvest... soup for dinner?

Today's harvest includes 4 beetroots, 2 leeks, more broccoli (10 oz), cauliflower, fennel, 1lb of potatoes, celery (which I pick from the outside, leaving the plant for more later) a bunch of Chinese broccoli and just one egg.

On the way inside,  I picked some borage flowers...
..... beautiful blue.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Home again and real food.

Most of yesterday was spent, after the second half of the discussion about planning for the future of Local Government with peak oil and climate change in mind...  much to think about...  I arrived home quite late, in the rain,  and couldn't see anything much in the garden...  frustrating.

This morning, after checking the rain guage (3mm) and lighting the kitchen fire,  I went out to see what had happened in my absence.  It had been only a couple of days,  but when you're used to seeing it all daily,  there are a lot of changes in that time.  The weeds have grown well, of course, and one can see how people  can resort to glyphosate that Monsanto assures us is harmless,  but I like the lizards and frogs too much for that.  As I expected, the broccoli (which is the most abundant crop at this time of the year) needed picking. I have taken three big "heads" and I'll freeze some for later.  The total today is....
... that is about 1.5 lbs of broccoli, 8oz carrots (four) and four leeks.  There were two more eggs this morning, and it looks like "eggs and vegetables" for dinner tonight.  On the RHS of that pile of veges is a small bunch of "broccolinis"....  those little side shoots that are produced after the main head is removed...
These (about 6oz altogether) came from the first broccoli that I harvested nearly a month ago.  I usually get at least a couple of sets of these before feeding the leafy part of the plants to the chickens.
I've also picked some "salad" to go with the cooked vegetables...
... these are an assortment of lettuces,  some spring onions and the "thinnings" from the fennel (I planted them close together, and I'm removing them bit by bit.)  It will be quite a good salad.

There are no potatoes here today.  I don't have any big ones to take yet,  so we might have either rice or some bread with dinner...  perhaps some flat "chapati" style pieces that one can use to contain the vegetables....   and if the vegetables were spiced they would be good with some raita or green coriander chutney and heaped on flat chapatis....  this is how I plan dinner.

After eating all sorts of interesting food (catered at the conference) and a couple of formal dinners "out"  I ended up, on the last day eating from the fruit platter at each opportunity.  The fruit was fresh and some  of it might have been local,  but at least it was not as "rich" as the other selections.  The other choices included doughnuts, pastries and sandwiches with rich meaty fillings, deepfried items and cheeses and dried fruit.  Most of it was good,  but high in fat and, with no leafy green things,  a real lack of some vitamins.  Hence my resort to the fruit platter and a little bit of some really lovely soft cheeses.
It is good to be back to the assortment of vegetables that are available in the garden, and whatever turns up on a given day.  

This morning I'm doing a sewing job for someone in the town... a rather rough and ready upholstering job for a "wood" truck.  (I wpouldn't use it as an advertisement for any kind of upholstering of a prefessional nature,  but it will "do the job.")  Around here,  these are a kind of informal trade of the "barter" variety and I see it happening more and more.  As I read about the localisation of resourcing and the upskilling that is needed for the future and our Energy Descent Action Plans,  I have the feeling that we are on our way to all of that around here,  despite the lack of formal recognition.  There is much more to do,  but it is already happening in our community.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Chloe and sunshine...

Today, as I walked back from the local government meeting,  I saw the "sun" that is suspended above Federation Square.  I don't know how I missed it the other day....
It looks interesting the daylight....
I went with a friend for dinner at the pub on the corner... Young and Jackson....  and realised that this was the pub with the "Chloe" (and here) painting....   and so I went to see her after we had eaten.  She was painted in 1875 and hung in the bar for many years.  She is upstairs now...

I walked back via the Federation Square sun again....
... even more amazing in the dark!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Melbourne... art and conference.

This morning I woke up in Kapunda, and tonight I am sitting here in a hotel room... ready for a conference tomorrow.  It's been a long day,  but pretty good too.
The flight to Melbourne was thankfully uneventful... I sat reading a book by Marilyn French about the history of women in the world...  the young man next to me had a magazine with semi-nude women and articles about sport... it seemed rather incongruous at the time...  I wonder whether he noticed my book...

Once in Melbourne,  I decided not to waste time.  I wanted to find a charger for my computer as I'd left my own at home on the kitchen table. (I knew I'd forgotten something!)  Anyway it was my computer recharger connection (and I won't forget it again!)

I found an "apple" shop  but they didn't have one  (sold out!)  And then,  en route to the next possibility I saw a sign... one of those banners in the street... about an exhibition of "European Masters" at teh National Gallery.   I'd had in mind to get to that gallery anyway,  but that decided it.  I went to the city Visitors Information Centre  and asked about apple stores and the gallery....  not much news, except that there is an apple shop near the gallery... things were looking good!  
Then on to the touristy visitors information centre....   no they knew nothing about the exhibition... the gallery might not even be open today and they didn't know which gallery the exhibition was at anyway.  I decided to take a chance.  Ignoring the warnings about the gallery being shut,  I walked back along St Kilda Rd to where I was betting that the exhibition would be.  And I was right.  I had two hours left to see it by the time I got there, and it was absolutely wonderful.  It is a collection of paintings from the Stadel Museum in Frankfurt am Main, including works from pre-impressionsist... and on into the realists and modernists... amazing.  While one can't really have favourites in such an exhibition (or perhaps they are jsut too numerous to mention)  I was amazed to see a real Cezanne (one of my favourite artists)...  several pre-impressionist landscapes that are so subtle and beautiful (you can see how the impressionists went on from there)..... a beautiful van Gogh,   unlike anything I've seen in real life of his before (not a lot to choose among) .... the painting by Monet that was refused by the "Salon" prompting him to have an alternate exhibition.  This painting is about a lunch in a bourgeois household,  waiting for the "man of the house" to return.  (After my reading of the history of women,  the picture of the women of the household with untouched food and restraining an "under two" from that food was interesting.  The complaint from the Salon was apparently that a large formal painting of such an insignificant subject was unacceptable.  Then on to Cezanne (his was a dark painting made when he was avoiding the Prussian war or 1871 in the countryside)  but reminding me of my own "Cezanne's Gum Trees" and I felt vaguely connected to that 1870-1 painting... and the impresssionists...
So much to see, and so little time.   Other highlights were a collection of Max Beckmann paintings.  I was reminded of a print that I made from a self portrait of his...   and he made a number of self portraits.
Once I got to the medernists, including  Picasso, Klee, Feininger and von Jawlensky, I could see where some of my favourite paintings in the State Gallery of SA had come from... intriguing.
There were two final bonusses that I was competely unaware of...
... a painting by Max Ernst with the artist shown as a bird with arms and amazing "unreal" landscape that reminded me of the work of a local artist in Kapunda (I bought him a tiny postcard reproduction of the painting.)
... a tiny protrait of a little girl by Paula Modersohn-Becker that seemed magical.
This image is photographed from the catalogue with my telephone... but the original portrait is so interesting.

After all of this, I did finally find a cable to recharge my computer (at great expense) and after walking over much of the city...  several kilometres when I refer to the map.  

Back in my room....  the view from my window....
I am very tired... but looking forward to a conference about the future of local government.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Washing day and the winter solstice.

Today is the first day that it hasn't rained (sometimes only 1 or 2 mm) for about a week.  I'm doing the washing  It is hanging out on the clothes line and I'm hoping that it gets dry.  I have brought a few items inside to hang by the kitchen fire as I'm going to Melbourne for a couple of days  this week.  I need clean clothing for the city!
I have also made another couple of loaves of bread...  to keep everyone going until I get back.  And I have raided the garden for those vegetables that will need to be picked by the end of the week.
It is looking lovely out there in the very weak sunshine...  weak because the sun is so far north now... in fact it is just about as far north as it can go.  At 8.58pm  (my time)  tonight it will start the trip south again and the days will gradually become longer, the chickens will increase their laying and spring will be on the way.
Meanwhile, the peas are beginning to flower....
though I like the curly tendrils even better....
The first broccoli that I cut a few weeks ago has begun to produce its "side shoots"  of baby broccolis...
.....  and the jonquils are about to flower...
... one of my facebook friends commented that hers were already flowering a few days ago,  and so I have been checking these daily ever since.

Calendula (though no dark ones yet)...

These small seedlings are ones that I planted during the rainy days.  These are Tuscan black kale (my favourite) and a variety that I couldn't get seeds for this year.  I found these seedlings at the local nursery and planted them is a spare spot....
... they are looking healthy.

The first broad beans.... just two rows but these are in a more protected spot than most of them...
and the first three rows of garlic....
.... ubiquitous silver beet....
... chicories....  and these are looking really good now.  I'll be looking up Belgian endive recipes...  much the same...
... leeks...
... celery growing in a couple of chimney pots to make them tall...   I also have some "short" ones that are much bushier (I only have two chimney pots) that I have been picking and adding to soups and stews.
A flowering succulent plant down the back.  I was down there checking on the welfare of the baby fig tree and realised that the large leafed jade plant is flowering again.  I'm not an expert on these plants at all,  but this one has a similar form to the usuall smaller leafed jade plant that grows in other places in the yard and doesn't seem to flower as prolifically as this...
Two  rows of artichokes.  The large rows on the LHS are there from last year.  Each winter I take the biggest one and divide it into smaller clumps and so there are five new plants in the RHS row.


The insipid sun is doing its best to dry the wasing on the clothesline,  but I have brought the urgent items inside and ironed some dry....
... this is often the kitchen view in the winter.  I have three irons now,  though I still like the first two (the two on the LHS)  best.  I definitely need three though.

I have just taken the bread from the oven.  It has risen a lot,  and smells good.  The bread tin is quite long and makes one really big loaf.  I make it in two pieces and divide it before cutting.  I have usually added cinnamon and currants and some extra sugar to one end, though not today...  I'm not sure what the meals will be for the next few days.  But there will be plenty of bread and there are always "eggs on toast."
Only six hours to the winter solstice and counting!