Monday, 31 January 2011

Heat wave

We have escaped any really hot weather so far this summer....  plenty of 30C+ days,  but this week has brought the first days that are regualarly around 45C  (more than 110F) for any length of time.
the "hot weather vegetables" beginning to produce...  eggplants...
... capsicums...
... and a couple of self-sown amaranth plants are doing well.

With the really hot days,  I have covers over much of the yard....
... and these lace covers work really well.  (Curtains and table cloths from garage sales and second hand shops.)  I go out to check on the covering every couple of hours, epecially if there is any wind at all.  Today there is a hot dry wind,  but last time I went outside, one of the tomato plants had lost some of its shelter....
... and its tomatoes are brown and cooked, despite not being ripe yet!

Gertrude was outside early.  She has been pruning the vegetation around the pathway at the end of the yard....  and a good job she is doing too!
Still tethered,  but she really doesn't seem to mind.  She certainly knows now that when I "fiddle around" with the rope,  she gets to follow me around.  She walks like a puppy on a leash.

Here she is eating the dry grass (she likes any that still ahs seeds on it) and you can see how fat she is getting!  Either she is eating very well, or she is expecting a kid.

I went over the check on the chickens.  The young ones still "cheep" rather than use adult tones, but they are getting quite big.  I have been trying to work out which ones might have tell-tale tail feathers... that would make them ideal them for "rooster soup".
There are nine "young ones" and about the same number of "old hens" though not all of those still lay.  We get anything from 3 to 6 eggs a day lately.
Gertrude saw me sitting by the chickens....

 She came to check out my camera...

As the sun came further over towards the middle of the sky,  I decided to move her back to her pen...
 .... she often rubs her sides along the wire of her fence.   Funny sight!

This afternoon, despite the heat,  I am cooking spaghetti sauce in bulk.  I'll be able to bottle it tomorrow or the day after, ready for the winter.  It would be useful if the spaghetti sauce ingredients were ripe and ready to go in the cooler weather. I look rather silly collecting wood for the stove when people pass by the gate.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Australia Day, 2011

Australia day is also known as invasion day or survival day here, and so it is with mixed feelings that most of the people that I know approach the holiday...  for many, a day off from work, though 36% of the workforce has no break.

Gertrude had her usual opportunity to eat some weeds.  Today was the first day that I've been able to lead herwithout any pulling or pushing at all... she trotted along behind me like a well trained puppy.

Today was cooler (30C) than previous days... or the days to come...  and so I planted some vegetable seedlings so that we'll  have vegetables at the beginning of winter (May-June.)   Once again, it is necessary to plant something regularly if one wants to eat regularly.  I'll be protecting the baby plants from the un next week as the temperature gets to 40C.

Today we had a dinner that came mostly from the garden... "Greek" salad and lamb, potatoes from the garden (cooked with the meat over charcoal in the barbeque.)   Then golden syrup steamed pudding with icecream.  I'm not sure what is tradidtional for Australia/invasion/survival  Day,  but this seemed quite ok.
I  have watched the cricket, done minimal gardening and cooking,  and I'm not cleaning up until tomorrow!

Monday, 24 January 2011

Heron, turtle dove and more.

Today has been another bird day!
I watered the garden early this morning.  I have some new small plants and the weather has been very dry.  We haven't had the very hot days that we can get in summer, but even with this La Nina year,  we don't seem to be getting much rain.  After a couple on inches of rain in mid December,  we have only had 9mm (less than half an inch) this month.  I have tranferred about 9000 litres of water into the "house tank" so far, and we are ok for a few more weeks, but we need some more rain.
The temperature has been about 30-35C most days, but with some strategic shading and intermittent watering, I am still picking enough vegetables for us to eat...  mostly tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini and capsicums, potatoes, and an assortment of "greens".

The birds are really enjoying my pond.  This morning I saw a white-faced heron right beside the water.  I have seen one in our yard before, but this was right in view of the kitchen sink!  I didn't have my camera at the ready,  but it looks like this...
(from my "Simpson and Day" bird book) and about 60-70 cm tall.

Later, after the assortment of honeyeaters had finished,  I saw a couple of young blackbirds (feral... there is one on the rhs of this picture....
....  on the lhs is a spotted turtledove.  
I tried to get a better photograph of it....
... but it hide in the shade at the edge of the pond.  (Not surprising after the appearance of the peregrine falcon the other day!
While I always have water out for birds, especially in the hottest weather,  I am surprised at the number and variety of birds that collect here daily.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Bird antics

Yesterday was very hot, very dry and there was some breeze as well.  Along with the rest of us, the birds all kept their heads down for the day.
This morning was cool and relatively humid... it was a lovely morning.  I took Gertrude out of her pen to graze, tethered at the clothes line, before breakfast... not that I was out so very early.  On my way back from the clothes line, I saw a bird come from the north, straight towards the chimney where there was a thud, a drop (like a stone) and a disappearing peregrine falcon.  I recognised the falcon because I'd seen one here previously.  That one was sitting quietly staring at my apparent invasion of its position under the kurrajong tree.  The staring eyes on that occasion were quite disconcerting.
This time, whether it  saw me or not,  it mis-judged its prey and the pigeon fell to the house roof.  Within less than a minute, as I stood there amazed, it came back around to fly above the lost prey.  I didn't ever see it land, and I still haven't been up there to see whether there is a dead pigeon.  I should think that the pigeon was lucky this time.  And there may well be a hungry peregrine chick out there somewhere.

Later in the morning I was watching the honey eaters dive in  and out of the pond.   These are so hard to photograph.  This is the blurry shadow of a white plumed honeyeater taking off from the water...
 ....  the water level is low after a couple of hot days and significant evaporation, and so the birds don't have access to their shallow edge.

There have been Murray magpies (magpie larks) wattle birds and parrots, but I was able, finally, to photograph these rosellas...   they sat on the side drinking until this one jumped right in....
... then further down...
 .... a turn.....
 ... and  then up and around to the bushes on the side....
It's like a circus to watch and very hard to photograph!
It has been a day of bird antics.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Bergamot and Gotu Kola

This blog is becomeing  list of plants that are growing in my garden.

Bergamot is a plant that has been used as a tea by the Oswego Indians, but it is not the additive to black tea that is used to make Earl Grey tea.  The bees love this flower, and I wish we had humming birds here ... their beaks would be just right!

Centella asiatica which is also known as Indian Pennywort or Gotu Kola is growing well this year.  It seem to like the same conditions as ordinary mint.
There are tiny (less than 2cm) tiny flowers on the plants... intriguing...
and I'm presuming that the plants reproduce mostly vegetatively, and only occasionally via these flowers.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Magnolia grandiflora

This is one of my favourite flowers, ever since I lived in a house where one had been planted in the garden some years ago.  This is the same cultivar as the one that I remember...  "Little Gem" and it grows into a small tree....  unlike the traditional variety which can be many metres tall, with flower out of sight!
This is the fourth flower on this tiny tree since I got it for Christmas.  The perfume is beautiful, and reminds me of citronella.
I have tried to grow a tree like this previously here,  in Kapunda,  but I planted it in the summer and it didn't survive.  This one will remain in the verandah, in its big pot,  until the rain comes next winter.

Monday, 17 January 2011


My Echinacea plant is growing well.  I have tried to grow these before,  but despite the recommendations on seed packets and plants at the nursery,  they do not like very hot dry weather.  This season, while we haven't had much rain  (even some of that that was predicted) the weather has been relatively mild most of the time.. plenty of days in the 30's, but no extended periods of 40+.   And so my Echinacea plants (two of them) are looking good.
They belong to the same family as daisies, so that the flowers are actually in the middle of the whole "head" which is really a composite flower and the "petals" are really bracts.  These are quite spectacular, growing larger  as the flowerhead ages.
I know that people have used echinacea as an immune system support and as a means of combatting the common cold.  I'm not sure that this is truly supported, but apparently North American Indian people used echinacea as an anti-microbial agent.
The flowers are lovely.  Gertrude is not going to prune these!

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Gertrude prunes the geraniums

This particular geranium grows at the end of the current potato patch.  I left it there because it looked rather beautiful and had pale pink flowers...  Gertrude liked them also...
 .... in fact,  her pruning willl keep the bush quite compact and thick.   She really likes geraniums.

This morning the first of the Echinacea flowers has grown quite big.  I have had difficulty growing these in the past...  they don't like the really hot weather and they do need rather more water than some flowers.
 This one is rather beautiful and I can't wait to see how large the "petals" of the flower grow...

I have been planting again.   These are new zucchini plants and some cabbages.
 It's time to plant the winter brassicas again now.

Gertrude surrounded by food....
 ....  she is happy to be out and about pruning and trimming the weeds,  though after a while she likes to get back to her pen.  As I work around the yard,  her eyes follow, and I'm sure it's because any thistles or wire weed (another favourite) are delivered straight to her.

The baby chickens are growing....
.... though I can't tell yet which are hens and which are roosters.  There are now nine young chickens (from the 12 fertile eggs) and nine old hens.  We get about 3-4 eggs per day, but this will surely increase when the young ones reach 6 months, despite that being just before they slow down for the winter solstice...  this will be interesting to watch.

Life in the summer continues in much the same vein as it has been so far... garden work, preparing food for storage, caring for family and the menagerie and watching the unfolding drama of the floods in the eastern states.  With friends and family in Queensland, dramatic rescues and disasters live on television and with the floods moving southwards through several states, it has been a stressful week.
As I watched the storms coming our way,  I even hoped that we might get some rain.  In fact, as the storms passed by and we only got 6mm of rain.   Perhaps my cleaning of the gutters "jinxed" it.

This week I have dug quite a lot of potatoes, picked tomatoes, zucchinis, onions, leeks, eggplants, capsicums, a few jalapenos and plenty of herbs.  I have made another batch of spaghetti sauce for next winter and we have eaten well, almost all from the garden.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Sydney Peace Prize

Near the end of last year, Dr Vandana Shiva was awarded the Sydney Peace Prize.  I remember reading about it at the time, and realising that she would be visiting Australia (it was in November, I think) and I'd been hoping to hear something about her at the time... after all, visiting celebrities usually make the news with quite a splash (I'm thinking of Oprah Winfrey here, or the Pope or an assortment of musicians... or even Paris Hilton!)  But it was not to be.
Since then, however,  I've found online a link to her acceptance speech.  Some of it is here....

The following is an edited version of Dr Shiva’s Sydney Peace Prize Lecture,
“Time to End War Against Earth”
When we think of wars in our times, our minds turn to Iraq and Afghanistan. But the bigger war is the war against the planet. This war has its roots in an economy that fails to respect ecological and ethical limits – limits to inequality, limits to injustice, limits to greed and economic concentration.
A handful of corporations and of powerful countries seeks to control the earth’s resources and transform the planet into a supermarket in which everything is for sale. They want to sell our water, genes, cells, organs, knowledge, cultures and future.
The continuing wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and onwards are not only about “blood for oil”. As they unfold, we will see that they are about blood for food, blood for genes and biodiversity and blood for water.
The war mentality underlying military-industrial agriculture is evident from the names of Monsanto’s herbicides – ”Round-Up”, ”Machete”, ”Lasso”. American Home Products, which has merged with Monsanto, gives its herbicides similarly aggressive names, including ”Pentagon” and ”Squadron”.This is the language of war. Sustainability is based on peace with the earth.
The war against the earth begins in the mind. Violent thoughts shape violent actions. Violent categories construct violent tools. And nowhere is this more vivid than in the metaphors and methods on which industrial, agricultural and food production is based. Factories that produced poisons and explosives to kill people during wars were transformed into factories producing agri-chemicals after the wars.
The year 1984 woke me up to the fact that something was terribly wrong with the way food was produced. With the violence in Punjab and the disaster in Bhopal, agriculture looked like war. That is when I wrote The Violence of the Green Revolution and why I started Navdanya as a movement for an agriculture free of poisons and toxics.
Pesticides, which started as war chemicals, have failed to control pests. Genetic engineering was supposed to provide an alternative to toxic chemicals. Instead, it has led to increased use of pesticides and herbicides and unleashed a war against farmers.
The high-cost feeds and high-cost chemicals are trapping farmers in debt – and the debt trap is pushing farmers to suicide. According to official data, more than 200,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide in India since 1997.
Making peace with the earth was always an ethical and ecological imperative. It has now become a survival imperative for our species.
Violence to the soil, to biodiversity, to water, to atmosphere, to farms and farmers produces a warlike food system that is unable to feed people. One billion people are hungry. Two billion suffer food-related diseases – obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cancers.
There are three levels of violence involved in non-sustainable development. The first is the violence against the earth, which is expressed as the ecological crisis. The second is the violence against people, which is expressed as poverty, destitution and displacement. The third is the violence of war and conflict, as the powerful reach for the resources that lie in other communities and countries for their limitless appetites.
When every aspect of life is commercialised, living becomes more costly, and people are poor, even if they earn more than a dollar a day. On the other hand, people can be affluent in material terms, even without the money economy, if they have access to land, their soils are fertile, their rivers flow clean, their cultures are rich and carry traditions of producing beautiful homes and clothing and delicious food, and there is social cohesion, solidarity and spirit of community.
The elevation of the domain of the market, and money as man-made capital, to the position of the highest organising principle for societies and the only measure of our well-being has led to the undermining of the processes that maintain and sustain life in nature and society.
The richer we get, the poorer we become ecologically and culturally. The growth of affluence, measured in money, is leading to a growth in poverty at the material, cultural, ecological and spiritual levels.
The real currency of life is life itself and this view raises questions: how do we look at ourselves in this world? What are humans for? And are we merely a money-making and resource-guzzling machine? Or do we have a higher purpose, a higher end?
I believe that ”earth democracy” enables us to envision and create living democracies based on the intrinsic worth of all species, all peoples, all cultures – a just and equal sharing of this earth’s vital resources, and sharing the decisions about the use of the earth’s resources.
Earth democracy protects the ecological processes that maintain life and the fundamental human rights that are the basis of the right to life, including the right to water, food, health, education, jobs and livelihoods.
We have to make a choice. Will we obey the market laws of corporate greed or Gaia’s laws for maintenance of the earth’s ecosystems and the diversity of its beings?
People’s need for food and water can be met only if nature’s capacity to provide food and water is protected. Dead soils and dead rivers cannot give food and water.
Defending the rights of Mother Earth is therefore the most important human rights and social justice struggle. It is the broadest peace movement of our times.
The sign above (GM-Free Zone) is on my front gate, and has been for some time....
... and my vegetables are GM free....
... and I am also beginning to save my own seeds.   I've begun with the easy ones,  but there'll be more.  The seeds in this box are quite an assortment....
 ... but in the right hand front and a few paper bags are my own saved seeds...
 ... all sorts....
 ... and I have begin giving away the surplus also.  There are a few people out there now who are growing silver beet and parsley that come from my back yard.  There is only so much that any one person can do,  but Vandana Shiva's Peace Prize talk is compelling listening and makes even some small steps seem worthwhile.

Pasta sauce

At this time of year, there are plentiful summer vegetables, especially tomatoes, zucchinis and herbs.  These are exactly what one needs to make pasta sauce of the kind that one finds in the supermarkets, though one can't be sure just what is in those multicoloured jars of sweetened and watery (though sometimes thickened with some kind of starchy material) sauce.  Now is the time to make some inexpensively and to be used for the rest of the year...
... and here are the first seven jars that I have made today.

This particular mix contains tomatoes, zucchinis, onions, garlic, herbs and a few jalapenos, salt and pepper.  I cooked the mixture yesterday...
 ... evaporating it down until it wa fairly thick....
 ... and overnight, on the woodstove (cooling down) it thickened nicely....
 This morning I have put it into jars and sterilised it for about 30 minutes (200F)....
... while at the same time cooking the rest of the tomatoes in the stainless steel pot to make them into  tomato paste...

There was too much sauce today to fit into the seven jars that I can sterilise at the same time, so these two are in the freezer.
I've never had frosen pasta sauce before,  but I can't see why it won't work.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Ordinary day

I have been sitting around today thinking about what has happened that is worthy of reporting here.  It's been a good day.  I have spent time with Gertrude, cut the hair of a family member, gathered vegetables, had a cup of coffee out by the pond (there are two goldfish in there to watch) done the washing, then retreated inside to watch the first day of the last cricket match of the Ashes series (while knitting some more of my winter jacket) and then I lit the fire to cook dinner...  not the most exciting day,  I suppose,  but isn't this the way that most people in the world live their lives.

And so I went for a walk around the garden, and this is what I found....  leek flower...
 the last lily....
 ... and the oregano is flowering....
....  all fairly ordinary in the scheme of things,  but interesting nevertheless.

Saturday, 1 January 2011

New year's day 2011

After the hot and windy end to the year,  it was good to wake up to a cool breeze coming through the bedroom window... rather than the blast furnace air that was coming in last evening.   I was woken by the last of the crazy drivers doing burnouts in our street at 5 am...  the smell of burning rubber in the air.
The birds sounded extra enthusiastic... perhaps they liked the cool damp morning air as well.  I went out to investigate the damage to the garden...  having watered late lat night, I wondered how well it might have recovered.

The first thing I found,  in the back verandah, was the next magnolia flower....
 ... and its associated perfumed air.

I let Gertie out of her pen, tethered her to the clothes line where she can get plenty of her favourite flowers (especially jasmine) while I checked out the vegetable patches.  I cut a lot of leaves from the zucchinis... those that were most burned by yesterday's weather.  They are flowering profusely a if to make up for the "day off" yesterday...
 ... the nasturtium leaves are cooked, though I think the plants will recover....
... and the tomatoes look as though they should recover.  The soft tips of each branch are crispy, though the shade seems to have preserved most of the leaves....
 The bonus out of all of this is the dried seeds are nearly ready to collect...  these are silver beet (Swiss chard) seeds....

As I was checking for damage, I also found these new cactus flowers (more perfume!)... I had to climb up on my outdoor "tree" seat to take this photograph....
 ... watched by Gertie, still with a mouthful of thistles...

While there is quite a bit of damage from the heat, and more so from the wind, the garden looks remarkably luxurious ....
 ....  from the front, bay leaves, salvias, rose geranium, orange lily;  tomatoes, oregano and more salvias;  goatshed, tree seat and aloes;  and cactus flowers behind....

... and yet another lily has emerged this morning as well!

I picked these flowers (below) for inside....  bergamot....
... beautiful.