Wednesday, 30 November 2011

The colours of summer....

On the way home form work today I stopped to look at the landscape.... this photograph is actually taken looking back towards Nuriootpa in the Barossa.  This is what my daily communte looks like....
 The canola is long gone,   but the grain is ripening and being harvested as quickly as possible.....  
 ....  but it is the colours that I like at this time of year... summer colours....
 everywhere.....
 except on the other side of the road where the vinyards are irrigated and green.
I wonder how long this will be possible, as water becomes more scarce.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Gazebo? or not?

I have done some work on the pond this morning, in particular, making the platform at the "kitchen end" of the pond.  My plan is to feed the fish in the mornings so that they become a bit more visible.
 There are five fish that survived the move to the bath tub and back while I modified the pond....  and you can just see them here....


I have been thinking about a gazebo for some time.   My idea is to have a kind of pavilion in the garden where I can sit outside and read during the warm weather.  Then today,  I wonder whether I really need one.....  today, having done some work on the pond,  I was sitting out under this olive tree with my book....
 ... my view of Gertrude is quite good as well.  (She likes my company, even when I am reading.)
 My view of the pond is pretty good....
 .... and here is Gertrude clearing the leaves that she can reach....
 ... and again.....
Perhaps I don't need a "proper" gazebo after all.  Perhaps people without trees are trying to provide this kind of shady comfort when they build gazebos...  though in a few weeks time,  when the flies are even worse,  I might want a screened pavilion to spend some time out there.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

After all the fun and games.... back to work....

The garden has been neglected.  I have been otherwise occupied for several weeks, in fact.  But it is time to get back to work.

The past week has been a week of fun and games with family.  One of my sons and his girlfriend have been visiting. it has been wonderful.  Here they are playing hand-ball in the yard....
 and goat managing.....
 ...it has been a wonderful visit.  Now,  it is back to owrk!  The summer garden will not manage on its own.  The summer vegetabele patch looks a little the wrse for wear....
 ... the pond is slowly being resurrected after a leaky disaster.....
 .... and the damaged chicken (the black one) is back "hanging out" with the others after her adventure with the fox....
 ... in fact she has just begun getting out and about.   I collected three eggs today....
 .... though I'm not sure who they belong to.   One to three eggs per day are enough for the moment.

The lilies are flowering.....
 ...  and becoming more spectacular by the day.....
The next few days require quite a bit of work if I am to have enough vegetables to last me through the summer.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

New Holland Honeyeater

I went out to hang the washing up before I left for work this morning, watched by this little honeyeater....
... a New Holland Honeyeater.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

The hungry gap

The hungry gap is considered to be unavoidable in climates such as Britain or Northern Europe.  This refers to that period of time before the summer crops are bountiful.   We are more fortunate here,  our crops are more flexible because of our more benign climate,  but there is still a period of time when winter vegetables have been eaten, spring crops are tentative and the summer season of vegetable gluts has not yet arrived.
This is where planning ahead is necessary.  In most cultures there is a tradition of preserving the "glut" for less productive times...   in antiquity, there were granaries and oil (high energy food source) that were stored for the lean times.  Various cultures have means of preserving the bounty... ancient granaries in the fertile crescent,  dried fish  (bacalau) from Newfoundland, salted olives from the mediterranean, passata tomatoes from Italy and our own "Vacola" bottled fruit and vegetabes that are judged at any number of local shows.   The reason for these skills, back in the day, was to tide families over during the hungry gap.

In my own garden,  it is interesting to compare my food supply with that of those people from those days.  In my store cupboard I still have spaghetti sauce (various) made when I had a glut of tomatoes and zucchinis last summer.  I have a variety of fruits still in sterile syrup...  quinces, nectarines, peaches and some apricots from the previous year that are just fine.  The silver beet has gone to seed,  though I still pick a few leaves from the remaining straggly plants... I always grow silver beet (as anyone who has been a recipient of my silver beet seeds will agree) and encourage other people to do the same.

Even the broad beans have finished.  I have eaten the leafy tips (stir fried) the baby beans as a substitute for peas in "rice and peas" from Italy and the bigger beans in curry... the rest will dry to provide seeds for next year as well as the well cooked beans in minestrone. The last two artichokes are about to be used, and the last mangel worzels are looking appetising.

The idea that any and everything is available at any time of the year is so "unreal."  Not only does it require an inestimable amount of fuel to maintain the artificial production, but also the transportation of "out of season" fruits and vegetables that need to come from thousands of miles away is not sustainable.  Recipes in trendy books include ingredients that are not avbailable synchronously,  supermarkets advertise special on non seasonal fruits and "good cooking" is now seen as gathering ingredients from the supermarket and making meals (seasonable or not) with the least effort possible.  Until we re-learn what is available locally and how to use it, we will never have any impact on carbon emissions, climate change or our extravagant budgets for our basic needs.

And so here I find myself in the "hungry gap" and with less variety in mealtime ingredients.  I buy flour, and so I have fresh home made bread.  I have chickens (though recently reduced in number) and so I have eggs and I have a small,  much smaller thatn usual, selection of vegetables...  currently artichokes, silver beet, carrots, beets, mangel worzel, onions and garlic.  I still have a couple of pumpkins too.  I still have the perennial herbs, and olives from last year.... probably a few other items also,  but the reality is that the variety of ingredients is less than at other times of the year.  It is the "hungry gap".  

The big advantage of this is that when there is a bounty, one appreciates whatever is available and there is some incentive to preserve the excess for the future.  I have some empathy for those women who had no choice in the olden days,  I regard them as skilled women from whom we could learn much and may well need to in the future.

Gertrude doesn't worry about the future....
... this is "goat heaven" with watsonia all around for a goat who loves watsonia.   She doesn't need to worry about her diet in the various seasons because she can digest cellulose (with the help of her bacteria.)

For us (humans) we need to make sure that we have adequate, affordable, locally grown food items for the rest of us that can't manage on watsonia... gardens will do this, but it is not an instant "fix".     It has taken some years for my garden to be sufficiently productive to be reliable, even during the hungry gap... I think we all need to learn some old skills.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

gecko

After all of the miserable stuff of the past few days, it was good to find a friendly critter....
... a gecko came out from under my clock radio on the window sill in my bedroom.  I hope he's looking for mosquitos.   Anyway, after a few days of death and destruction,  it was good to see an energetic little gecko on my window sill.

repair and regroup

I had to go to work today, but when I came home, my first obligation was the hen house....  I took my hen house repair kit....
 ... and I made the repair to the spot that the fox had got in.  I have also done a few pre-emptive repairs to some other dodgy spots, though this is the repair that will foil that fox for the forseeable future....
 The chickens that remain are doing as well as could be expected....  here is the bantam (light coloured) and another reddish broody hen....
 .... the white (sussex?) broody hen.....
 .... and the sickly black one....
 She hasn't moved all day,  and if she was a mammal I would be thinking about euthanasia, but birds of all kinds (including chickens) seem to be differently wired.  I'll leave her for another day or so and see how she is.  Black Australorps are my favourites, and, while she's by no means a well bred chicken ( I raised her from an egg from a mottley crew)  I'll wait to see how she goes.

Meanwhile, out in the rest of the yard,  the irises are flowering....
 they are only "flag irises"  that grow wild along the roadways here (usually white or this colour purple) I like them very much.
 Gertrude is tethered near them,  though she can't get to them.....
...she is eating Watsonia plants that are close by.  The same buddha is just behing Gertie's head if you look carefully.

Fox in the hen house!

Yesterday morning, just as I was leaving for work, I went out to make sure that the chickens had enough food and water to last them until I arrived home to let them out to forage for a while.   I found a complete disaster.....
....ten dead chooks, but if you look carefully, you can see one nervous looking little bantam hen, apparently untouched.
This morning, I went out to survey the damage again, and there is one very sick looking black hen and two broody ones sitting on plastic eggs.  It looks awful out there.
This afternoon, after work, I'll make the more permanent repairs to the roof of the yard and I'll bury the bodies that are already attracting flies.

Monday, 7 November 2011

busy week

I came back to my blog today, only to be surprised that it ia a week since I've posted!  I have been planting spring vegetables, re-organising my pond & my spare room and spending longer hours at work because there is much to be done there as well.  The broad beans are finished and the artichokes are almost over as well.
I have planted tomatoes, potatoes, some more "greens" and the green pepper plants that have survived since last year are flowering already. Plenty of herbs, a few beets and carrots, but I'm looking forward to the new season summer vegetables.

The cactuses have been flowering profusely.....  so many flowers.....
 ... and in the mornings, the bees are out as well....  taking advantage of the nectar and pollen....

There is more to do,  but I have also been working on my house.  It has been necessary to remove graffiti from the walls of a bedroom that is to be used shortly....    it began like this....
so far, much of the room has five coats of paint and now it looks like this....  (the "BitcH" in the photo is still there....  especially the "C")
.... almost gone,  but I've used a lot of paint!  Who would have thought that it would be so hard to cover over.
The new "guest room" will soon be ready for visitors!

I have also been working on my pond...  photos of that are coming soon.