Sunday, 29 August 2010

Snowdrops

The sun is shining and I have been out pulling weeds and even removing some of the plants that have finished their food production for this season.
I have picked a lot of fennel bulbs, broccoli and two big cabbages.

The best thing that I found though was the snowdrops...  they always flower some time after the jonquils and the fact that I'd moved some of these bulbs this year was worrying, as I coulcn't tell which were which until they flowered... the snowdrops have broader leaves, though sometimes these are deceptive.
Now that they are flowering,  I know which ones to look for....
....  there are a few of them....

Saturday, 28 August 2010

Mt Gambier

The conference in Mt Gambier ran for two days... Thursday and Friday of the past week.  I had planned long ago to attend... the papers about road construction and maintenance,  sustainable development, water re-use and the use of native plants in landscaping had a lot to offer.  Despite long term planning, I could only attend for one day as I had to get back to Adelaide for another meeting....  however, the first day was wonderful (I have yet to write my report for council.)  After that day's proceedings, and before we went on to dinner, one of our staff who used to live in Mt Gambier gave us a quick tour of the town....
Thhis is not the Blue lake.  This is called "Brown's Lake" ... not because of it's colour,  but it is named after  a person called Mr Brown, apparently.  There are a number of these deep fresh water lakes around Mt Gambier, and, coming from Kapunda where surface water is rare,  I was impressed!  (There is no picture of the Blue Lake because it was raining so heavily as I peered from the car window to see it...   too hard!
At the spot where I looked over Brown's Lake,  this statue (made from the ubiquitous local limestone) was right there.  This limestone is cut in rectangular building blocks from a quarry and many buildings are made from it.  It is a beautiful stone and it's hardly surprising that artists use it for sculptures.
Then it was on to one of the "sink holes that has been transformed into a garden...   as  we arrived at the spot,  the rain reduced to a mere sprinkle and I went to see what was there....  limestone carving again, of course and huge trees...  these are really amazing...  it's wonderful what 25 inches of rain each year will do!  (Mt Gambier was in the purple patch of my geography book in primary school,  and that meant 25 inches of rain!)
Huge logs were carved into seats....
... and then I found the sink hole....
Apparently there used to be more water down there and there was a pond that was big enough for a rowing boat.  These days,  there is a wonderful garden...
I didn't walk all of the way down...  the rain became rather heavy!  I'd like to see it in the summer!
More carved logs as seating and lilies all over the place....
Olive trees here grow tall and elegantly, rather than the stumpy and bushy specimens that we see here... I almost didn't recognise them...  except for the olive style stumps...
More and more carved logs....
... with lilies....
... amazing....
... seating all over the place....
... all too we to sit on.  Back to the car!
I really like Mt Gambier, and I'd love to see it in the warm weather :-)

Mt Gambier Library

I have been to a conference in Mt Gamber.  I even mentioned it on facebook before I left,  and so the librarian from our library in Kapunda suggested that I visit the one in Mt Gambier if I had the chance... and so I did....
....from outside it is very modern and spectacular....
The design includes re-use of the water from the roof of the building to supply these trees and some other deciduous varieties in the "plaza" space.

Inside,  the facilities are beautiful....
.... (the photographs are a bit dodgy because they are taken with my phone,  my camera having finally spat the dummy!)  however,  I really like the lighting effect.
This is the childrens area...  with tables for craft activities etc, and sliding glass doors, making the space look quite open, and yet no doubt the noise level is reduced....

Plenty of people using computers.... and as I walked past,   I noticed everything from computer games, blogs and search engines.

Further to the right was the area where the newspapers and magazine readers sat in comfortable chairs with music playing.  The music appeared to be coming from behind a partition...  so off I went....
...  the coffee shop!  
I am so glad to have visited the library and would like to thank my facebook friend for the opportunity,  for without it,  I would never have found it!


Broad beans

I have been away for a couple of days at a conference about roads and works for the council.  The meeting was in Mt Gambier (the coldest wettest city in South Australia) during the biggest rain event in South Australia for this winter.  The conference was good,  the weather wasn't, but I did get the opportunity to get out of the actual venu for an hour or so on Thursday.  I will put some of those pictures  in another post later today.

Meanwhile,  there is excitement in the garden,  despite the weeds.  The weeds have done really well with 30mm (more than an inch) of rain over the last few days,  but so have the broad beans....  the red flowering one is still obvious....
....the beans need another line to tie them up... so that any wind doesn't blow them over.  But the big news is the baby beans.....
...  too small to eat,  but it is only a matter of time.   There are quite a few of them already.  and once they grow bigger,  we'll have plenty until the weather gets too hot.   This is a thrilling discovery and one of those milestones in the garden that seems to be coming earlier and earlier.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Preserved lemons


A friend has given me some lemons...  about forty,  I think.   
I have spent the morning preserving them....
It's necessary to keep the lemon and salt mixture away from the metal lids,  so I've put some plastic (cut from a bag that once held potatoes from the shop) between the mixture and the lids.

It's very wet on the ground outside... too wet for weeding, so it will have to wait for another day.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Peak phosphorus.

Phosphorus is an element....  like carbon or oxygen or iron.   It's one of the elements that is essential to plant growth and so it is added to fertiliser as a phosphate compound, especially in Australia where the soils are old and the soluble compounds dissolved and leached out by millions of years of rain.
Plants need phosphate to produce phospholipids which are a part of the cell membranes of every cell.  Without it, plants just can't grow.

People have known that phosphate is needed for plant growth, even before they understood the chemistry.  It is found in broken down plant material (compost), manure and guano, and as rock phosphate that can be mined.  Compost and manure are good,  but the concentrated phosphate found in guano (that has been mined from islands where bird rookeries have been for centuries) and the rock phosphate that has been mined from deep in the earth are both reaching "peaks." This opportunity to use mined phosphate as "super phosphate" formed a part of the green revolution.

In the same way that we are used to seeing the "peak oil" graph with its common "bell curve" shape in recent years, there is also a "peak phosphate" graph....

... this shows peak phosphate occurring at about 2035.... 25 years from now.  

And below the graph shows the increase in the amount of phosphate used, with the huge increase coming with the green revolution.

I have been reading in the newspaper recently about the BHP attempt to buy the Saskatchewan Phosphate Company.  Their first offer was turned down.  It is obvious that in about 25 years from now, when phosphate production begins to reduce,  prices should skyrocket.  The long term strategy for any mining company then should be to acquire access before the shortage is apparent and while prices are still low.  These negotiations are apparently tough.  There is a lot of profit to be made in a few years time.  This negotiation among the big mining companies is the surest indication that peak phosphate is being considered by them as an opportunity.

The phosphate that is incorporated into food plants and eaten is normally lost in waste water, and often pumped out to sea, becoming unavailable for the forseeable future...  at least until the conditions on the earth change significantly enough for this phosphate to end up in sediment and then rock phosphate again...  conceivable millions of years.  Phosphate can no longer be wasted in this way.

My garden needs phosphate too.

When I first moved to this house,  there was an aviary in the yard (now converted to a fox-proof chicken run.)  The previous owner had had pigeons, and there was a huge deposit of guano inside the fence.  I dug it into the garden and my vegetables grew magnificently.  The chickens continue to produce manure and this is all returned to the soil.  And then there is compost, some occasional additions from various manures when they are available.  
In the long term, though, everything that grows on the soil here is using minerals from the soil,  including phosphate and for the long term, it is necessary to recycle all of these nutrients.  This is a part of the reason that I don't "export" plant materials from my little acre.  Weeds are either composted,  turned into "stinging nettle fertiliser" or fed to the chickens.  

My "green waste" bin remains unused.  

As peak phosphate arrives, the security of our food supply will be threatened and yet food security doesn't seem to be a priority yet.  

I am able to grow enough food to feed this family, and while our diet might be a bit more limited without  outside possibilities,  we would certainly eat quite well if dependent upon this garden.  

This didn't happen overnight though.  In various blogs and articles I have read about people who seem to think that "when the food supply is threatened"  they will plant a garden and grow some food.  

It has taken me about five years to be able to produce food reliably.  It takes practice and, like other things, it's a learning curve.  It's not all hard work and worry though...  it is good fun too!
It is a whole new way of living.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Election results and my neglected garden

I have been out to the poor neglected garden this morning. I should be taking the corflutes down... from here to Pt Wakefield...  but I am having a day off.   The law requires that the election signage is taken down within 48 hours,  but that's almost impossible here without the "cast of thousands" employed by the big parties.  My results are not qite final yet,  but it appears that my electorate has the biggest swing to the Greens of any in South Australia....  I received more than 11% of the vote, and the biggest swing to the Greens in the state.  The Labor candidate won.

The garden is looking neglected and a bit the worse for wear.  I have been picking the vegetables as they are ready during the election campaign but the weeds, grass and sour sobs mostly, have taken over the pathways and the various corners of the yard.  There is much to do.  This is what happens to a garden path when you leave it for a few weeks during the rainy weather....
And this is the pathway to my tree chair now....
... the pile of mess in the middle is the outer leaves of lettuces and stray stalks of coriander that I threw there as I harvested dinner.
I have potted on the tomato and capsicum seedlings....
...  I did that this morning and these will be left in these pots for a few weeks until the weather is reliably warm...  no frost risk.
This is the most recent patch of potatoes...  pontiac and coliban....
... and yes, there is plenty of weedy grass in thte background (I think of it as potential compost or chicken food)  but eventually this garden bed will be extended, though probably not this year.

Back in the productive patch....
...  there are flowers that have taken over and so far I leave them until I need the patch for something else.
My favourite black kale is doing really well.... probably because I haven't raided it.....

Walking back towards the house....   the newly planted carrot patch is not up yet,  but the remains of the cabbages that we have been eating remain in the patch...
... more cleaning up to do!

Now to my bonus for the week....  a boronia plant....
.... this has been my indicator of spring for many years, and this is my "third time lucky" plant that I have tried to grow.  These are an Australian native, though it grows in a wetter climate than here,  but more importantly,  in more acid soil.  I have tried to grow such a specimen here twice before,  but they eventually died and I am sure it is a pH problem.   This time,  I bought some "azalea/camelia" soil and replaced quite a bit of this little spot.  I also added some organic compost that seems to do everything good,  and I am hoping for "third time lucky."    

PS  These photographs are rather fuzzy because my camera finally "spat the dummy" and I took these with my phone!


Friday, 20 August 2010

Election eve

It has been a busy day and I hate to think what my telephone bill will be!  On top of that,  some of my voting materials have been lost in the post.  That meant a drive of about 5 hours altogether to Adelaide, several suburbs and then to Clare and back to Kapunda....   by the time I got back the Labor party had already decorated part of the voting booth precinct.  However,  I was able to get some pretty good poster spots up.....  

.... here I am,  screwdriver in hand,  and John called this "The Phantom Corfluter" and there are quite a few corflutes around the booth.

We have had intermittent rain all day and it is cold.   While the garden can do with all it can get,  I'm  hoping for a dryish day with no wind for the sake of the people who are working at the polling booths.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Thursday already!

This week has been busy with the election (voting is only two days away) and council meetings and workshops.  The Council is busy due to the approaching election there as well, and the rush to get some business done before we go into "caretaker mode."

It has been cold today,  but I did get out to see how the garden is managing while it is being so neglected.  The most exciting new plant is this....

...  look carefully,  and there are some tiny green leaves...  sugar beet babies!  (These are up before hte carrots, kale and beetroot planted at the same time.)

During the week I had time to get to the community garden.  I hadn't been there for quite a while.  it is looking wonderful and I'll show some more later,   but I couldn't resist showing this little guy amongst the flowering rocket (arugula)....
Apparently one of the people who works in the garden brought him in.  I hope he helps with the working bees :-)

Monday, 16 August 2010

Potatoes, bees and the carbon tax

It has rained again overnight and I have just added up how much rain we have had recently...  45mm  (nearly two inches) this month.
This morning, it is sunny and cool out there, though lovely in the sunshine.  I am looking forward to Spring and some warmer weather.

There are dog footprints on the potato patch....
....  it won't hurt the potatoes... but is shows how the dogs like to cut across the non-weedy patches when the grass is wet.

I'm checking the broad beans daily....  the bees are busy.  These flowers are apparently harder to get into.
This took some time, a lot of effort and the bee didn't seem to notice me and my camera....


Further down the yard where I have barely begun to weed....
... the artichokes are surrounded by stinging nettles.  These will have to wait until after the election!

The election launches are all over.  Neither of the two parties that are likely to form government have mentioned the climate emergency, carbon emissions or how to reduce them or what might happen if we don't.  

Without significant reductions in carbon emissions, sooner rather than later, it will be difficult to have any effect on the chaotic symptoms of this climate emergency.  The only means of ensuring that people will reduce their emissions that are effecting the climate is to have an effect on their budgets,  a "carbon tax."  Taxes have changed other behaviours....  reducing smoking, drink driving and the consumption of "alcopops" and it will change emissions producing behaviours also.

Our industrial society has used millions of years worth of photosynthetically produced carbon compounds, mostly as fuel, in a few decades.  This is like incurring a debt that will have to be repaid sooner or later if we are to return the climate to what we have collectively experienced over the past few thousand years.  One way or another this will happen.  Either it will be in a managed way,  with carbon emissions being voluntarily reduced...  and significantly,   or it will happen in a more chaotic way with more damage to humans and their infrastructure.

Behaviour change is difficult, but looking at the success with reducing smoking over the past 20 or 30 years,  it can be done.  Making destructive behaviours more costly has worked in the past and it will again.  I think we need a carbon tax and only the Green party is advocating this strategy.  This is one of the reasons that I am a candidate for the Greens in this Federal election.  There are Greens policies in all areas, but this one seems so much more important and urgent that it probably outweighs any others.  I hope that we are not running out of time.

Sunday, 15 August 2010

10.5 mm of rain and gusty winds

I listened to the rain on the roof overnight.  I couldn't hear it running into the tank because the window was closed against the cold and the wind,  but I could imagine it.  We had our biggest "single day"  rainfall so far this winter... and about time....  we had 10.5 mm.  I was thinking about those potatoes just planted in the patch out there.  Of course,   I went out to see how it all looked this morning.  The wind is still blowing and the clouds are rushing past towards the North-East....  meaning we are still getting that cold South-Westerly wind gusting around the house.
There's nothing to see where the potatoes are planted (of course)  but I had to look anyway.  I did go to see how the broad beans, restrained by the blue string, had survived the wind....
... all looking good....
... and that single red-flowered specimen is right there.

The celery is back to looking rather sparse after yesterday's soup.
I have been using the "uncloisetered" ones (on the right hand side of the chimney pots) when I need just the flavour,   but I used quite a bit yesterday and lifted the chimney pot to cut some long stalks.

Nearby,  there are onions and some garlic and a bit more broccoli.  The red leaves in front are the transplanted  endive that are my backup plant in case of frosty weather... though we haven't had such cold nights this year.  The days have been colder than average, but the lowest temperatures at night haven't been so hard.
There are, from the rhs,  two rows of onions,   two rows of garlic and then a row of broccoli.  And these (below) are my three main rows of garlic.  I gave them some good soil,  some seasol every now and then and they have had some stinging nettle fertiliser before the weather was too cold.  I'll give them some more on the next warmish weekend.  I am hoping to have enough garlic to last us for twelve months or so.

Inside again,  and I decided to check the rose that I've had in the plastic bag.  It is looking healthier than ever...
... a couple of leafy shoots are growing, and I may have one of those lovely rose bushes one of these days.  Once it grows bigger,  it should be pretty hardy.  It is a cutting from the one that I found on the sie of the road near the Nain Hills as I inspected a property for a Development Application that came to the council.  And this little plant began as the rose on the kitchen table....