Thursday, 4 December 2014

Summer is here

According to the bureau of meteorology,  this has been the hottest spring ever recorded,  and so far,  the hottest year ever recorded.  We have had a few days that have been more than 40C (104F) already and with no significant rain since July,  the garden has dried out early.  The colour has changed from green to brown except where I have watered daily and most of the garden beds are covered ready for the summer…. I have mowed the grass, but left it on the ground to protect any life that remains….

… actual garden beds are watered and covered with pea straw to protect any micro-organisms that remain.  This garden bed (below) produced carrots all winter and the remaining plant is the single dill plant that grew from the packet of carrot seeds (from Diggers.)

 The ground is dry.  Cracks are up to an inch wide.  Clay soils do this spectacularly….
 My garden that continues to feed me for the summer (currently broccolini, eggplant tomatoes, lettuce, silver beet, beans, fennel, celery, kale, jalapenos, capsicum) survives with daily water (difficult while fighting wth "non-wetting" soil) and my old lace curtain (bought for $5 at a garage sale)  has lasted for about 5 years,  though I may need another op shop/garage sale expedition before next summer.


I have recently moved a lime tree that was looking very sad.  Since arriving at the new spot,  it has sprouted a new shoot…..
 … perhaps it will survive!  I am not so sure about a couple of the espaliered fruit trees eslewhere, but more about those later. My espalier experiment is underway.

Inside,  I am sorting and sifting seeds collected from an assortment of plants… ready for next year.  The dill plant has produced plenty of seeds,  and having discovered how much nicer fresh dill is when compared to the dried variety,  I will be planting quite a bit next year.
 These are Russian kale seeds…
 …..these are much less troubled by cabbage moths and so I think I will be planting plenty of these too, along with black kale as a decoy.

My bookshelf is housing some of the seeds….
 … coriander, broad beans and peas.

Many are already packed up and stored in the cool of the bottom shelf of the above bookshelf….
… a whole new opportunity waiting for next year.

Friday, 21 November 2014

Seed saving

As the weather gets hotter (and this year is one of the hottest on recrd yet again) many of the plants that have provided my winter meals are 'going to seed'.  This seems to imply that they are no longer of any use,  but that is far from the truth.
As vegetables and herbs form flowers and seeds,  they attract quite a crowd of beneficial insects… ladybirds and hoverflies and more.  As time goes by,  they will also produce next year's seeds.  As each variety matures,  usually by drying out ready to be dispersed,  I collect, dry sort and label them and my kitchen bench turns into a seed factory!
Here are dill, two sorts of lettuce, coriander and parsley.
Soon to join them are silver beet, kale, broad beans and some snow peas.  Seed saving season!

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Earwigs

According to wikipedia, there are about 60 soecies of earwigs found in Australia.  I don't know which one I have here… or even if they are all the same species.  I do know that they are plentiful during the spring in most years though about every three years their numbers seem to peak and the damage is enormous.  
Adult earwigs survive over the winter and by early spring,  the young, which look like small versions of the adult, are hiding under every loose rock, board, straw or inside flower buds or leaves.  I have heard that they do no real damage, eating only damaged plant material.  I don't believe this.  They do eat fresh new vegetables (at the moment it is zucchinis) that are perfect in the early evening and half eaten by mornng.  The eat leaves from leafy plants, silverbeet flowers, carrot leaves, potato plants, parsley flowers, holly hock flowers… though those are just the favourites… there are more.
Numbers build up each year to a peak every 3 to 5 years and then the numbers "crash" ready to begin the cycle again.  This year is a peak year!
Last night I went out to see just how thick they were… and they were everywhere…  these photographs were taken at about 10pm as the earwigs were feasting on the parsley flowers…

I have used all kinds of traps, feeding the captives to the chickens, but even buckets full of the little critters don't seem to make any dent in the population.  
They are a considerable niusance,  but I am not resorting to poisons that I wouldn't want to eat myself.

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Still going after all this time

There's been quite a gap since my last post, but life has a way of getting in the way, just when you thought it was all going well.
Spring has been as unpredictable as other recent ones.  We have had almost no rain and a few very hot days… the warmest so far has been about 40C.   The winter vegetables have finished, and even some of the springtime ones (broad beans and artichokes) stopped producing after the very hot days.
The ladybirds are back,  though I haven't seen any white spiders yet.
 Currently I am picking plenty of herbs and leafy green vegetables, the first of the next broccoli crop, green beans and I am well supplied with potatoes, beet and carrots,  the chickens are laying regularly and I eat well.

 It is the time of the year when the cactuses are flowering in several parts of the garden and the air is well perfumed most mornings.
It is also the season for seed saving… at least for those plants that produce in winter and "go to seed" as the weather warms up,  but more of that later.

Monday, 6 October 2014

Messy garden might be healthy

Time has flown, and I have been busy. The warmth of spring has prompted the garden to produce plenty of weeds, vegetables and seeds. My garden looks like a jumble of food and flowers.
There are some plants that self-seed and produce at least annually and there are others that I do need to either plant in a suitable spot or transplant if they have popped too thickly (onions) in the wrong spot (the beet famliy.) The other issue can be with some cross-pollinating varieties that I want to keep true to their parent. This sometimes means preventing flwoering by lopping off a plant that is "going to seed" or being careful where things are planted. I am still eating almost entirely out of the garden. I certainly don't buy vegetables, and I am adding some espalier-ed fruit trees to the mix. These will take some time to produce, but I've made a start. So far I have two citrus trees, an apple, a nectarine, a peach and a plum tree, with spots for at least two more. Those will go in next year when I find out whether any different pollinators are needed. I have done quite a lot of work, but I've been thinking about other garden matters too. My garden (and the chickens) do supply most of my needs. Not only can I produce enough calories for my needs, but the micro-nutrients in my home-produced food are more than likely present in greater quantities also. I have mentioned this previously when I referred to Thomas F. Pawlick's book entitled "The End of Food" in which he compares the levels of nutrients in pre-green revolution vegetables and the currently available specimens. The mass-production of food under bizarre conditions, much of it "hydroponically", has led to the production of foods that may look "normal", even before any industrial manufacturing, but which are deficient in any number of micro-nutrients that used to be present in the food plants of the past. The green revolution with its addition of superphosphate to soils that became ever more sterile and the development of the varieties of organisms that were suited to this allowed huge volumes of plant material that is loaded with calories but containing less minerals and naturally occurring disease resistance (leading to the use of more pesticides.) As Thomas Pawlick says, when the increase in pesticides overtakes the inherent nutrition of a product, can it still be called "food?" Thomas Pawlick began his investigation when he bought tomatoes that he was able to bounce off his back fence without them breaking and then to keep tomatoes for weeks without them EVER ripening inside, despite the red outer appearance. There are similar tomatoes here. They are grown in glasshouses that cover acres of land. The plants are cultivated for up to nine months by growing them in relatively sterile conditions with nutrients added to the watering mixture, lighting adjusted for optimal photosynthesis, temperature regulated and the addition of carbon dioxide if levels are too low. These plants produce plenty of fruit. Tomatoes are self fertile, needing only movement to allow seeds and fruit to form. These tomatoes are packed into boxes within the glasshouse, loaded onto trucks in there as well and then driven thousands of miles to markets where they are sold to consumers as "fresh" tomatoes. However, the artificial conditions for these plants that may well lead to the lack of particular minerals or micro-nutrients in the fruits and hence in our diets. This does not even take into account the fact that plants which don't need to deal with pests may have different physiology and chemistry and therefore lack some other micro-nutrients/pest repellants that our ancestors had available and that might be of some benefit to us. Humans evolved in an environment with a very different chemical makeup and in which our biology was modified to co-exist with a particular set of nutrients, minerals, pests and even plant hormones and products. My thinking about this began with a comment from Peter Cundall. I had grown silver beet (because it was so easy) in many of the gardens where I had lived (I have moved a lot in the past.) Here in Kapunda, while it grew well, it didn't produce the really thick stems that I like. Peter Cundall mentioned in passing that the "beet family" which includes silver beet (chard) and beetroot, sugar beet and mangel worzel all need boron and it turns out that Kapunda soils are deficient in boron! I added a tiny amount (minerals are often micro-nutrients and excess can be detrimental) and the silver beet (and beetroot) thrived… I had the thick stalks on the silverbeet leaves. This demonstrated to me that tiny amounts of these sorts of elements can make a huge difference. This also made me wonder whether tiny amounts of minerals might also effect animal and human health. I had been having problems growing peas and beans as well. "Everyone" can grow beans, it is said… one of the easiest kinds of vegetables to produce. By this time, I had been reading and I knew that adding minerals willy-nilly could cause problems also. Overdosing is a disaster, and excess minerals are impossible to remove from a garden bed without removing the soil. The soil that I have made from hard red clay (with the addition of compost, manures and straw) has taken a long time, is very valuable to me and I was not willing to risk any disasters. Then I read about rock dust. Soil is made partly from broken down rocks and "new soils" that have not been weathered for millions of years seem more fertile… these are the volcanic soils of some parts of the earth where soluble minerals have not been washed away. My old soil is very weathered and no doubt lacking in more than just boron. I tried rock dust with my peas and beans… about a big handful per square metre and it was a wonderful success. I still don't know jsut what was missing, but apparently the rock dust was able to remedy this deficiency. Monocultures which produce such a huge proportion of our food are very good at giving us the maximum amount of calories for the amount of input, as long as the contribution of stored ancient energy from oil is ignored. Many of these nutrients have been added to the phosphate fertilisers that are used in broad acre cropping, but who knows how many more are missing! The other difficulty with the monoculture production of crops is the abundance of pest opportunities. This is remedied by the addition of pesticides. Prior to the seeding of croplands, the ground is sprayed with weedkilling products. These are not healthy, but aside from the issues of toxicity, the removal of any living material and organic matter from the soil is a separate issue. The ground is made bare and the topsoil exposed. I am assuming that any living thing would be killed. In my garden, it is necessary to cover soil in the summer to save the worms that are my indicators of the health of the micro-organisms that live there. The "healthy" smelling soil seems to depend upon worms and their friends. When I reduce the area that I cultivate in the summer because of the need for irrigation. The "fallow" patches are kept "alive" by a covering of straw. I am not sure what the micro-organisms do in the soil, but I know that the patches that have a healthy crop of worms (and their micro-neighbours) are much more productive when I plant a new crop. When people buy vitamins from the shop, there are some that have added minerals as well. I'm sure that people need the same minerals as the plants do, after all, we all evolved together in some kind of symbiotic relationship in which minerals were as much a part of it as the carbohydrate energy sources. How many of our newer "lifestyle diseases" owe their increased incidence to the inadequate diet and incomplete nutrition that appears to be on the increase and how much does this have to do with the lack of micro-nutrients of various sorts in our own food. This is merely a correlation, not a proven connection. However, I am not sure that the current supermarket selection has much to offer to anyone with a messy, weedy garden in which to forage and in which there is enough food to eat every day.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Council elections

It has been some time since I was a councillor, but with council elections coming up and the community needing work, I have decided to run for election again.
My council is Light Regional Council, incorporating four wards which each have significant communities within them. I am running in Dutton Ward which incorporates my own township of Kapunda. There are issues of unpaved roadways and footpaths, community services, maintenance of assets (many of which are non-revenue producing), water, sewer and natural vegetation management, and much more, not to mention balancing the budget. That can often mean cutting back in some areas. There are decisions to be made and, having had four years with no woman representative from our ward (and a couple of others), it seems important to stand up and be counted, so to speak. In the past I have worked hard for the council at meetings, behind the scenes on committees and taking advantage of any training and educational opportunities relevant to my council involvement. I have worked hard in the past, and can do so again if and when I am elected. Meanwhile the garden needs work, vegetables need picking and the espalier "orchard" needs some more trees.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Winter herbs

As I weeded a patch of herbs today,  I was thinking of pizza.  The aroma of thyme always reminds me of pizza and it seems such a long time since I made pizza for dinner….  perhaps one night this week….

Thyme does well here in winter.  In summer it struggles….  perhaps it is the lack of water or the actual heat,  but at this time of year there is plenty….

Others that are doing very well at the moment are parsley….

 …. and coriander.

While sage is still growing, though obviousy not as "happy" with the winter weather and frosts as some other varieties.

Herbs and vegetables both come and go during the year,  but there is always something out there for dinner….

Thursday, 14 August 2014

Winter soup

The garden continues to supply most of my food. Winter means one of those ongoing soups that is boiled up daily,  and added to… with whatever is in the garden.  Today's soup has potato, carrots, cauliflower, some herbs and leafy greens, lentils, noodles made from eggs and four-leaf flour and a big spoonful of tomato paste that I made last summer… and probably some bits that I have forgotten from a couple of days ago.

Probably not the most elegant of meals,  but it is very tasty and probably pretty healthy too.

I have seen people grow vegetables and leave them in the yard until they are past their prime, eaten by some other organism or because it's too much trouble to gather them.  I often wonder whether people are so used to vegetables coming packed in polystyrene platters or mesh or plastic bags that the odd assortment that one can pick or dig from the garden is too complicated.  It really is quite a change in habits to get used to eating what comes from the garden…  particularly when some vegetables really are seasonal and unavailable for months at  a time.

Recipe books seem to ignore the seasonal availability of various ingredients.  There is often a list of food items to gather in order to make a particular meal… but the expectation is that locally unavailable items can be transported… often from the other side of the world… so that the recipe can be replicated as described.  When cooking from the garden,  it's better to look at "ethnic" combinations of ingredients which have been worked out using those foods that ripen or are available simultaneously.  It's not hard to do,  but it does mean changing the way that meals are planned.

I'm not sure how this started,  though the spectacular glasshouses of the wealthy in England at the time when the empire was large and expanding might be involved.  It must have been seen as luxurious to be able to eat tropical, or even mediterranean delicacies throughout the year and while, to begin with only the very wealthy were able to indulge themselves,  improving transport, the ability to make ice and the upwardly mobile middle classes must have meant that, for a few at least,  the boring diet of local ingredients was left to the poor.

By now,  there is no one who expects to eat only those things that are produced within walking distance,  or even driving distance,  of home.  The "oil boom"generations have changed food requirements, food miles, carbon in the atmosphere and our environment drastically.  It's hard to see where this will end, except that the oil supply will not last, transport will become prohibitive, the environment will change and people will need to work out how to eat "fresh and local" again.




Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Waiting for spring.

This has been an unusual winter.  It began with a real "Indian summer" with vegetables that hould have died off still producing, setting fruits, until well into May and June.  Then,  after several dry years, where priorities have been water storage, short showers and using second hand water for all sorts of things,  June and July turned out to be wet enough to have some luxurious long showers, rinse dishes under running water and take the easy way out with pot-plants (using a hose.)  By the end of July, we had had as much rain for the seven months as we had over twelve months in the past two years.  Despite threats of el Nino (and that means drought here) live seemed easy.

August has been different too.  It is supposed to be the end of winter.  There has been very little rain, several frosts and cold, cold days.  Maximum temperatures have been around 10C - 18C for the past couple of weeks…. and that is cold for here.

The soil is now cold.  Gardening has become more of a weeding and soil preparation job now.  I have dug a few patches that had weeds in them,  turning the weeds in (in the same way as "green manure") and I've added some rock dust to a few places that I am expecting good things from in the summer.
I have been harvesting enough food to be able to avoid the shops.  Current favourites are beetroot, kale, silver beet, potatoes (that I harvested a couple of months ago when the plants died off) carrots, and plenty of herbs.  Despite the birds eating a lot of the leaves from the pea plants (ordinary ones and snow peas) I am still able to pick a few.  I have a few frozen broad beans left (these make really good risotto) and the pumpkins are only half gone.

This morning…..  the boad beans are flowering and all that is needed now is a bit of warm weather to set some pods….
 ….  the cabbage that sowed itself in the pathway is looking good.  This year I planted more cauliflowers than cabbages, and those were good,  the cabbages are all coming along nicely.  I have found another self-sown one as well….  in a pathway (making mowing hard to do in that spot!)
 Herbs are plentiful…. coriander….
 ….. and plenty more,  annuals and perennials.  This is the time of the year when thyme seems the tastiest too…  not sure why.

This Russian kale is self-sown.  It grew among the potatoes and when I harvested thos a few weeks ago,  I left the kale.  I've planted seeds in that patch now (they are mostly up) but the kale remains.  This is the variety that seems to be less bothered by cabbage moths and their green caterpillars (I have some thoughts about that,  but that is for another day.)  This plant has changed colour with the frost….
… it had a little bit of purple in its leaves all along,  but after a coupld of frosty nights,  the purple patches were significantly greater….  I suppose the plant is withdrawing the chlorophyll from the leaves… it must be one of the more costly appendages to lose in a frost…  it's like deciduous trees turning red or yellow before dropping their leaves in autumn… or gum leaves turning red or purple before they are discarded.  These plants are smart.

It's time to order some seeds from the catalogue and start some of them off inside…  ready for when the sun returns, the soil re-warms and garden work gets busy.

Monday, 11 August 2014

Dill

How time flies….  I hadn't planned to have such a gap in posts,  though it's true that life in the garden slows down in winter.  This year the cold weather came late but when it did come,  it was very cold.  We have had the coldest night (with a frost) for 126 years this year.   The garden is still producing enough food for me,  though, with the cold temperatures,  it seems to be occurring in slow motion.  I keep thinking back to the Q10 temperature coefficient that I learned about so many years ago.  Chemical reactions are slowed by reduction in temperature.  Biological reactions have a Q10 value of about 2 ~ 3.  This means that reactions in biological systems are more-or-less doubled for every 10C degrees in temperature.
As an aside,  this is the reason that warm blooded animals have been fairly successful… their chemical reactions are maintained at the same rate no matter what temperature it is "outside" the body.  Lizards and snakes and other "cold blooded animals" need to "shut up shop" in cold weather and wait to be able to warm up using the sun (solar) energy.
The same thing applies to plants and there are a number of strategies for plants to survive cold weather. (Hot weather is a whole other issue and I'm not thinking about that here.)  In cold weather,  plants have a slowed metbolsim too… they grow more slowly, some live as annuals, dyng of the cold and leaving seeds to wait for warmer weather and some are just able to survive, despite the cold days (even frosts) though growing more slowly and unevenly,  depending upon the particular season.
So this year,  cultivated vegetables have grown well around here until the last 6 weeks.  The early part of the winter was unseasonably warm and despite the shorter days (less ultraviolet light for photosynthesis) the vegetables plants grew well.  Now that the weather has changed and weather (especially nights) have been so cold… a few nights have been less than 0C… just!    The Q10 issue has kicked in though,  and plants,  with no temperature regulation system to speak of, have slowed down considerably… some plants more than others,  but the whole gardening agenda has slowed as well.
Food these days is different from summer.  There are no fresh tomatoes.  I did see some in the local shop the other day and even those (glasshouse "tennis balls") were off-putting.  I can't imagine buying tomatoes in the middle of winter!  The description of tomatoes being the "last straw" is best described in the first chapter of the book by Thomas F. Pawlick, "The End of Food" which I would recomment to anyone interested in food and nutrition.  Pawlick was able to bounce the tomatoes that he had bought off the back fence,  despite leaving them to ripen for a week.  "It bounced off, undamaged, like a not-very-springy red tennis ball."
But that is a digression.  I eat winter vegetables (and some that I have preserved during the summer) in this colder weather. That means potatoes, beetroot, carrots,  onions, leeks, leafy greens (silverbeet, parsley and kale  don't seem to mind frosts) and there are still a couple of cauliflowers and some cabbages… no summer treats,  but they will be here later, and all the more appreciated for the expectation!
The typical collection of food for dinner in recent days is something like this….
 … and the "tops" of the beetroots are the "leafy green" vegetable and, as the chickens are still laying a few eggs, dinner is very very easy.

I have been pulling the carrots from the current rows in a funny sort of order.   They have grown really well from a packet of seeds from Diggers.  one of the plants was a bit odd….
….  it turned out that one of the seeds was a dill seed.   I have never been a fan of dill,  and so I hadn't grown it.  It turns out though,  that fresh dill is nothing like the bought kind… and especially different from the dill that is used to flavour pickles and preserved vegetables.  This fresh stuff is completely different.  I roasted the vegetables for dinner sitting on a cushion of dill instead of my usual rosemary and it is very, very good.

The next two rows of carrots don't seem to include any dill plants….
despite this being the other half of the same seed packet as the other couple of rows of carrots…. so I may let this "feral" plant go to seed…. and sed saving is a whole other issue…  and more of that later.





Saturday, 19 July 2014

Winter, rain, market...

It's a while since I have written a post here,  mostly because there isn't much change in the garden.  Things slow down in winter, and it is time to look at seed catalogues by the fire or sit by the stove while the oven is heating.  It has been cold, especially at night, and we have had more rain than usual  (98 mm in June and about 50 mm so far this month.)  I planted seeds for the few crops that don't mind germinating in the cold (onions, lettuce and peas) and "gardening" has been limited to mowing the weeds on the pathways so that I can still get to the garden beds and venturing out each afternoon to decide on dinner.  Lately that has included a lot of potatoes, cauliflower, carrots, silver beet, kale and beetroot, along with eggs, of course, and vegetable soup with the last of my broad beans from last year and egg noodles (the chickens continue to lay fairly regularly.)  Risotto with broad beans and vegetables has been regular too.
 Daily collections are assorted...
 Cauliflowers have done very well this year….
We have had two frosty mornings, making me wish that I had planted some brussels sprouts.  They won't produce the sprouts without a few significant frosts,  and as we hadn't had enough for several years, I had given up.  Perhaps I'll try again next winter.

This morning I went ot the local farmer's market.  I bought only what I needed.  Prices are higher at the market for some things, but the quality is much better.  I bought sultanas for my morning porridge (from a Riverland grower.  I bought some mandarines and avocados from them too.  Then inside, 1 litre of milk (un-homogenised) from a local dairy (from Greenock,  about 15 km from here.)
Then onions.  I have just eaten the last of my "normal" onions and only have a few spring onions and leeks left, and so I bought 8 onions (no chemicals) for $7.  I also bought 9 apples for $8 (no chemicals there either.)  From the market…..

For $8,  I bought ½ kilo of "organic" brie cheese (organic here means no chemicals for the cows that produced the raw materials, and a loaf (actually more like a "baton") of ciabatta with fig and fennel bits in it.  Altogether,  I spent less than $50.  I didn't stay for coffee.  I never do.  I came home to feed the dog and the chickens and then made my own coffee which I had with ciabatta and cheese.

Most mornings I start the fire early to cook porridge and coffee before I do anything else.  The fire (for coffee) was last on my list today, and it made me think about the order of business in various households.

Years ago,  when everyone cooked on a stove with a fire inside,  someone had to get up early to start the fire and cook whatever was to be eaten.  I'm sure that whoever did that ate food that didn't need any preparation… bread and cheese… always available and a means of preserving grain and milk.  I have been thinking about how things must have been while investigating some of my family history.

Wealthier households,  whose way of life we copy these days (and assume that it is normal) would have had a servant to light the fire and cook whatever dishes were required…  eggs & bacon, the kippers of English tastes or even toasted bread or pancakes.  These days, cooked breakfasts are easily available with "instant stovetops" and electrical gadgets, and, in retrospect, my own children used to order various options as if they were in a fast food restaurant and I was a short order cook, all made simple because of the instant stovetop that I had at the time.

The sun is supposed to shine later today.  There are a few jobs to be done in the yard…  a bit more planting (I try to plant something every week at least,  so that I have something to eat every day), thinning some seedlings (carrots and onions) and collecting dinner.






Monday, 7 July 2014

Almond blossom

The weather has been odd this year.  Apples trees and quince trees flowered twice during the season, tomatoes didn't ripen and artichokes appeared well before the broad beans.  The climate does appear to be changing and we will need to get used to it.
Almond trees are flowering here now….
… a little early.  Some plants seem to be responsive to temperature,  others to day length (which does not change.)
This is also the first year that I can remember when bogong moths did not emerge during May.  They did not appear at all this year.  I hope that these are not permanent changes.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Potatoes

Yesterday aftternoon I dug over a patch of soil that had grown potatoes in recent months.  I had carefully gone through the soil and found quite a collection of lovely new potatoes… all sizes and shapes.  I was preparing the patch for some new vegetables.  I dug it again, added some rock dust and raked it smooth.  In the process,  I found a few more potatoes… mostly kippfler by the look of them….
Any of these could act as seed potatoes… and so can the potatoes that sprout in the cupboard if they are stored for too long.  
This is the reason that I find occasional potato plants in odd places in the garden.  Unless the patch is required for something else and the potato plant just can't remain,  I leave the whole thing there and wait for it to go through the leafy phase and the flowering phase (though not all potato plants flower in my garden) and when it dies down,  I dig up the tubers.
Whenever I think I have harvested every last potato,  there are invariably a few remaining… and these become the seed potatoes for the misplaced crop of next year.  
This is probably why my garden is not very neat and orderly,  but it's also why there is always some food for dinner.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Winter food

We have passed the winter solstice,  and the weather is cold and wet.  This month we have had about 100 mm of rain and the need for watering the garden is gone.
This morning I went out to pick enough food for today….
… and this is what I found.  A leek and a young red onion,  four carrots, a beetroot with all of its leafy greens, four potatoes (missed when I dug another 8kg last week) and three small side shoots of broccoli.  I put some clothes pegs on the next few cauliflowers (to keep them white and sweet) and collected the eggs.
The weather is cold and so the garden grows much more slowly.  However,  the extra rain (and the consequent lack of watering needed) means that I can plant a much larger area and the patch that has been covered and protected from the baking sun during the summer is now being planted also.
The snow peas and broad beans are all growing well,  I'll be planting more onions and potatoes soon,  and my plan for planting something every week so that I can pick something every week seems to be working… so far, so good.
The clay soil, having absorbed so much rain….and with more to follow (prior to the el nino that is expected late in the year) has some advantages.  The clay seems to hold water very well,  and by the summer solstice I will have re-covered some large parts of it in order to save the worms and micro-organisms that make food production possible here.
Dinner tonight will be fresh, local and tasty.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Rain…

So far this month,  we have had about 28mm of rain,  more than an inch, and the garden is looking healthy and happy, depsite some oddities after the very warm autumn.  I have picked the last of the eggplants and I have baba ghanouj for the rest of the week.

Meanwhile, there is still plenty of food out there… the capsicums are very sweet now….
 … the silver beet is prolific and healthy….
 … the cauliflowers are beginning…..
 … while the cos lettuces are coming to an end.  These are going to stay in this patch until they go to seed… so that I'll have some more next year.

There are a few odd things though…  lavender is flowering again, probably because of the bizarrely warm autumn.
Lavender usually only flowers in spring and summer here,  so this is quite unusual.  Perhaps the climate is changing!!!

The honey eaters are delighted with the aloe flowers….
 … it is still warm enough for the bees….
 … and for those who remember the blood lilies… here are the leaves… up to a metre long….
… the garden is really enjoying the rain.



Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Winter is here… and so are the vegetables… potatoes, pumpkins and more.

The first few cold days of the year are here,  and a little bit of rain.  Today the sun is shining and I have been out digging potatoes.  I planted quite a patch this year, at the end of the summer and with the warmer than average,  in fact, warmest on record autumn, the potatoes have done very well.  I dug about ⅓ of the patch this morning and there were about 8kg of potatoes (17½ pounds)… so far.
 ….  I have also been looking to see what else is getting ready to pick….  the first patch of carrots is not far off….
 … and it's the same with the beetroot which gives not only the bulb at the bottom….
 … but the leafy green tops as well…

The second picking of broccoli is well on the way….
 … and cauliflowers are just beginning to form….

I am still picking ripening capsicums….
…. and quite a few more eggplants…..

The silver beet (Swiss chard) has taken over this patch of garden….
… and hte cos lettuces are going to be eaten by the time that the winter lettuce crop  takes over….

The borage is flowering….
 … and all of the self sown calendula is looking spectacular, though I seem to have lost all of the maroon coloured flowers…  all of them are yellow this year.
 "Mexican marigold" (Tagetes lucida)  is flowering too…. smelling like
… and I have finally managed to grow heliotrope here…  third time lucky… and it is looking very healthy.
… after the last few cold, rainy days, it has been good to get out into the garden again.

Just last week,  I collected the pumpkins from the patch… ten of them… all grown from the seeds of those that I had eaten last year and thrown out into a bare patch early in the summer.  They did need to be watered during the summer,  but it seems to have been worth it.
There are more than 20kg (44 pounds) altogether.