Sunday, 30 May 2010

Fresh and local breakfast

Rain again overnight.  I have been out to see how the vegetables are looking, and it is wonderful.  There's not much that I can do out there today though... even weeding in the drizzle seems rather pathetic as the sour sobs are looking so healthy!
This morning I went out at 9.00am to check the rain guage (another 11mm) and to feed the dogs and the chickens.  The chickens are not laying very many eggs at the moment... this is normal as the days get shorter and shorter, but we are still averaging two eggs per day.  That means no seriouly egg based meals (quiche or big egg/vegetable dishes) but we manage.  This morning there was jsut one egg which I took from the nest and then detoured around the garden to find something to go with it for my breakfast...
Of course,  I had to light the fire (or at least resurrect the leftover coals from last night) before cooking,  but, in fact this changes the rythm of the day...  one lives slower by necessity with a wood fire.
But with coffee and the breakfast cooking....
... the tomato was jsut one single tomato from a jar of preserved ones... last summer's production.
And served on home-made bread toast (toasted on top of the fire)...
...  and this was cooked in local olive oil.... this is really fresh and local!

It is easy enough to slow down and cook food in the old fashioned and inxpensive way,  but there are a few things one has to get used to...
... the fire is warm and friendly,  but the mess on the floor from wood and ash is always there...
...  and while I'm sure that I could keep the area perfectly clean (as long as I cleaned up about twenty times a day) but as it's not really dangerous to one's health,  I have other priorities.  It does mean a different set of priorities though,  and I can't help thinking of other even more primitive homes that I've visited in the past and how unimportant some kinds of "dirt" are.  Vacuum cleaners, vinyl floors and "clean" sources of energy have raised the level of isolation from dirt and ash for most "western" people to that of the aristocracy of the past... those who had cheap labour or slaves to keep the environment removed from the soil and ash of production.
I have read about (and mentioned before) the calculation of how many slaves working "in the basement" to maintain our current standard of living without the cheap energy that comes from coal and oil.  As we reach the peak of cheap energy, it will be interesting to see how manyof us get used to living with more of the detritus of our own making.

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Rain

Yesterday I drove to Adelaide and back.  It rained all the way there and all the way home...  not good for driving,  but I kept hoping that Kapunda would be getting plenty of rain as well.  I could have unlimited showers and wash the dishes easily.  Having a part of the year with plenty of rain means that, with tanks overflowing,  there's no real need to conserve what we have.  The tanks are not quite there yet,   but already my attitude to water is changing.   This is yet another advantage of being "off the grid" as when we are using Murray River water,  water conservation is a year round issue as long as the "flooding rain"   is being pumped out onto various crops upstream or piped to cities outside the catchment.  No such guilt here... if the tank is overflowing,  one can use the normally precious resource in a truly profligate manner.  I  don't need to time the shower and I can have one every day if I want to.  I can wash the dishes in a deep sinkful, and I can flush the toilet whenever I use it.  Luxury!
Jess doesn't like going out into the cold and wet yard...
... the puddle in front of her,  around the mat,  does run into the verandah (it's downhill) when  it's raining heavily and yes,  there is a pool behind her from the overnight downpour.
I have just been out (between showers) to see how the garden is going.  It's loving the rain!
Some food for dinner tonight.  This broccoli will be the third that we've eaten this week, and it would grow much bigger if I left it,  but,  it's always the same... at the beginning of the broccoli season they are more treasured and later we'll have plenty... so there's not much advantage in waiting.  I'll leave the plants for a while and they'll all produce another lot of side shoots for the freezer.
The first rows of broad beans are doing well in the rain too.
As soon as they produce another few rows of leaves,  we can have the tips for pot herbs.

The whole next patch is looking so much healthier than it does on my artificial watering,  however diligent.
... and from the other side...
... you'll notice that I still haven't painted this end of the house... I need a much better arrangement than a single ladder...  I'd like a proper scaffold!  Notice also the yellow bucket full of "stinging nettle fertiliser."

The newest potato plants have emerged.  There are a lot of stinging nettles for the bucket.
These are the newest broad beans...  there handn't even enmerged a few days ago...  notice how th eones nearest to the iron shed are bigger.  I presume that the soil is warmer where it gets the reflected sun and light...  interesting....
... also a few nettles for the bucket :-)

The new lavender/salvia garden is looking healthy,  despite a few weeds coming up... the newly planted bits are loving the rain too...  the three "Avonview"  plants that I transplanted are even going to flower soon... you can see the fat flower shoots coming up....
... these three plants are chosen for their particular size.  They are an Italian variety that  only grows about 1 metre tall, with those flowers that have the "butterfly wings" on top and a beautiful perfume... perfect for just beside the clothes line.   As soon as they are big enough,  I can pick them as I take the washing in and everything should be pre-perfumed despite not using smelly detergent or fabric softener in the dryer... so strong that it usually makes me sneeze :)

Today I discovered another miracle....
... this is a pomegranate plant that I put there about 18 months ago.  It was too close to a Melaleuca that has since been removed.   I assumed that this pomegranate had died, and I've ordered another plant to replace it.  This morning,  after the rain,  I have found a new shoot...  more thought required.

As I walked back to the house,  I was checking out the various vegetables and bits and pieces...  but look at this!  Some time ago, I showed the blood lilies that were so good at trapping water.  Well,  garlic does the same....
.. another plant that is so good at saving water and a "mediterranean" staple.

Back towards the house and the "summer vegetable" patch (because it is the only part that I water during the summer...  the eggplants are still flowering,  though it is too cold for setting fruit....
... the capsicums are still to flower and fruit....
... and the jalapenos are still producing several fruits daily...
 

I am inside sitting by the fire and keeping warm and dry,  though I can hear water dripping through a couple of holes in the roof.   I've put towels and containers in place, so it's all manageable.  There are plenty of people in the world who would be pleased to be as isolated  as I am from the weather, food production and risky living arrangements.



PS  Home alone tonight, and sitting by the fire....
... warm....

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Complications

Life has been a bit complicated (John is not doing too well) this week.... so today had to be simplified a bit.  I'm glad that we've had some rain...  no need to water or do much outside.  It can take care of itself.

Simple dinner... pasta with sauce (tomato and capsicum)  that I bottled back in February and a salad from the garden...  looks good....

I caught up on the washing too,  and as it couldn't get totally dry,  I am going to bed with most of the damp clothing, sheets and towels draped around the kitchen fireplace...
... and I'm sure that I'm not the first person to do that in this old kitchen!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

After the rain

Over the last two or three days,  we have had almost 15mm of rain.  It is an amazing feeling.  I have been watering the garden at least every second day when we've had no rain for so long.  I'm using rainwater, and I can sprinkle the plants and make sure that the soil is damp... but it doesn't work as well as a single day of rain!  Perhaps it needs the humidity.  Anyway,  I have ben for a walk around the yard today and it all looks good.  The baby broad beans are doing well.
These are the oldest of them.  There's another patch elsewhere.  The gaps in the rows here are caused by the blackbirds that scratch amongst the mulch and eat any earwigs or other bugs...  but they are hard on  the little plants until they grow a bit.
The baby cabbage leaves are starting to curl around into the right shape...  it's amazing how they know how to do this...
... and the baby lettuces are looking good...
...  and big enough to eat.

The salvia patch is beginning to flower too...  Salvia chamelaeagnea from Mexico
... and this red flowering one that I thought was Salvia microphylla (Huntington) but the leaves smell more like pineapple sage.   The problem is that there are a couple of different plants called pineapple sage, I think.   This is mine....
... I have tried to grow a "pineapple sage"  in the past and it didn't do well.  It had much bigger leaves than this one... hence my thought that this is the Huntington variety.  I have grown these in the past too,  but the leaves don't smell the same... they have a definite "fruity" aroma, so I've been looking up "pineapple sage" plants and find that there are two kinds.  S. elegans (from Mexico) and S. rutilans.  As I was trying to find out about this second one,  I discovered that they are now considered to be the same species.   I think that the leaves are different...  some seem to have small leaves like this plant and some seem to have larger softer leaves.
My original "Huntington"  salvia certainly has a different (spicy/sagey) smell compared with this fruity smelling "pineapple sage"  as I'll call it from now on.

The lavenders are flowering too.  Here are two of them... a French lavender...
... and an Australian one called Sidonie....

And the rue is flowering...
...  I love the smell of this herb, though many people don't.

Around the front...where the garden is more jungle like... or at least unkempt!
... this would be the Buddha of the weeds.  The sour sobs are just beginning to flower...
 There are so many here that I'll never get rid of them.  I do pull them out of the vegetable gardens though.  They are beautiful flowers and they don't last long... they'll disappear as soon as the rain stops.

And here is my favourite rose.  It doesn't have multiple petals,  but it's really beautiful and has a proper "rose" perfume...
... it is supposed to be a "climber"  but so far this one hasn't got far.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Winter sky

Gardening, especially when one is growing food, is a very rewarding activity.   I have often encouraged friends to grow food (usually potatoes or silverbeet...  best results for little effort)  when they are feeling sad or having a hard time.  I know that this makes me feel better and I hadn't realised why until recent times.  When people feel sad,  they seem to lack control over their lives.  One way of getting a little bit of control over a small part of the world is to grow something,  especially food.  It seems to work for many people.

I have been growing food plants for a long time and, despite a couple of months off last year,  the garden is getting back into production pretty well again.  We have been eating bits and pieces of leafy greens, leeks, spring onions, not to mention vegetables that I froze last year for some time.
Today's food...
... includes baby leeks, spring onions, Chinese broccoli, Russian kale and herbs that we ate today.
This week I picked the first broccoli for this year, and that seems so much more significant.   Broccoli from the garden is sweet... completly different from the rank tasting old stuff from the shop.  That taste reminded me of the other big reason to eat fresh and local food.  I have mentioned this before,  but there is something to be said for waiting for a particular fruit or vegetable to be in season.  The classic example is the cherries that we are able to buy in mid-winter.  Cherry season here is around Christmas time.  The first very expensive ones each year come in before Christmas,  and most people are unwilling to buy them.  (The price will come down after the holiday.)  Many of us (me included) will splurge and buy some as a special holiday treat!  One wonders how long it will be before the supermarkets can find them growing somewhere in the world at any time of the year and there'll be no Christmas treat like that again.

Meanwhile the broad beans are coming along nicely.  The first ones that I planted are all up and looking healthy.  The next ones are jsut poking through, and I have a few more seeds to plant even now... they don't seem to be very picky about when they go into the ground.  It was these first ones and their healthy looking shoots that made me begin to think about these seasonal vegetables though.  Once they are big enough,  about 30-40cm tall,  I'll be able to pick the tips of the leafy stalks.  These are really good to eat, and long before the beans even flower, and a long time before the actual beans appear.
Meanwhile I am still planting more seeds and seedlings, and perhaps that is why last week seemed to disappear with little posting here.  In order to eat from the garden daily,  it is necessary to plant daily also... or at least weekly.  I am still planting carrots and onions, and leafy green brassicas.   I have been planting native seedlings that will benefit from any rain over the next several months, and now is the time to plant any perennnial food plants or herbs... when they will get a boost from the winter rain.
It's still not raining, but the 2.5mm since yesterday morning has been much appreciated.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

Where did the week go?

It has been a good week,  good for gardening, that is.   I have spent such a lot of time in out there,  weeding,  planting, cleaning up pathways and planting quite a few native plants as well... down by the back fence.  The fence will eventually be covered... hidden from view, and the house that has been built over there will be out of sight as well,  I hope.   John went to the "free tree day"  last weekend (I was sitting in the gallery in Tanunda)  and brought home some really interesting plants.  We are still adding to the saltbush patch near the road,  and the birds really like the bushy patch there now.
I have also done a lot of planting in the herb/salvia patch, and I am pleased with the affect already.   As I have been digging up various patches,  I have come across a lot of bulbs.  Many of these grow very well here (though they are mostly dormant in the hottest driest part of the year) and so I have been collecting any that I find,  separating them and planting them where they will be surrounded by lavender bushes eventually.  I finally found three English lavender bushes...
These are not wuite ready to plant yet.... their roots need a bit of time yet....  but I'll be olaning them in a couple of weeks.  I have jsut soaked them in some seasol,  and they are looking lovely.

I also have a curry tree to plant.  I've been looking for one for some time,  and here it is....
I am not absolutely sure where it will go yet... there are two choices, and, as they don't like frosts,  I'll need to be rather careful with it.

It has been a good week in the garden.  It has been so warm and sunny and easy to work.  Each afternoon I got to sit and admire my handiwork...
... with wine on my green table rather than the coffee of the morning.

From that chair,  I could even watch the mice running through the bushes!  They don't seem very worried about me being there!   This mouse plague is quite something!  And we are being threatened with a locust plague in the spring as well....  how many plagues can one have in a year?

Today (Sunday) the weather has changed.  Earlier,  the wind was blowing and it was colder than we have been used to.  As we waited for the rain,  I lit both fires in the house...
After lunchtime,  I heard drops on the roof.  the galvanised iron at the back of the house makes it all sound much more spectacular...   but there wasn't all that much.   I went out and made sure that the gutters and downpipes were working as they should and listened to the trickle landing in the tanks.  The "shed tank" sounded quite spectacular... the house one less so,  but we were getting some water in there anyway.  Several hours later and it has stopped again.
I went to see how much was in the guage... almost 2 mm.

And so this afternoon I have been knitting by the fire, and thinking about the growing vegetables that must love the soft and gentle rain.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Morning coffee in the garden

I moved my green chair and table this morning.  It had been in a shady spot until now,  but the past week or two have been really cold.  Well,  cold in the mornings and late afternoon,  but warm and cloudless during the day.  The lack of cloud has meant very cold nights too... and a couple of frosts already.  Anyway,  I moved my green chair and table so that I can sit in the sun in the morning with my espresso...
... and the view from the chair is a good spot to see the baby vegetables...
... with my favourite coffee cup...

The potatoes are amazingly healthy plants and all that I could think of this morning was that they are soaking up all of that light energy and turning it into carbohydrates under the ground.  It still seems like magic to see the plants capturing the light so efficiently.  The dinosaur vintage light that is now coal and oil is just as amazing,  but it's a worry that we are using up so many millions of years worth in such a short time,  despite the fact that it took millions to make.  These potato plants are doing the trick here anyway....
... and as for the beetroot,  they make more sugar than potatoes,  but it's all very clever...
... the beetroot leaves look beautiful and they taste good too.

Down the other way,  is this young gum tree.  This is a self sown tree that is only about 10 years old.  The big trees in the yard must be very old.

In the "new" patch where the salvias and lavenders are going, I left the baby bay leaf tree that was almost crowded out by the buddleia that was there previously.  It is looking a  bit the worse for wear...  it has a few leaves that were burned badly in the hot weather...
... but in the past few days,  there are new buds on the growing tips...  new baby leaves.
I took the buddleia roots out from all around it,  and suddenly it is growing.  I hope it keeps going.

Back towards the house...   three rows of garlic...
... two rows of broad beans that are regularly covered with straw by the blackbirds as they scratch for bugs...

The jalapenos are still producing.  It is luxurious to be able to pop a few into whatever you're cooking...
... the borage is trying to flower.  My other borage plants died in November during the heat wave...  they usually self seed every summer.  I hope this can make seeds eventually.  It's in a protected spot.
And the broccoli is nearly ready.  I bought some from the shop recently but it tastes bitter compared with the sweet stuff from the garden...  can't wait!
I hope we get some rain soon though.  Not much to speak of so far this winter.