Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Eve

After a very hot week,  today has been a little cooler, though still no rain at all.  As we near the end of the year,  this will prove to be one of the driest years for a very long time.
The tomatoes are beginning to ripen and summer vegetables are beginning to flower... beans, eggplant, capsicum and there are plenty of zucchini already.
The garden has provided minimal parts of the Christmas menu,  but it has provided the Christmas tree.  I cut quite a bit of the olive trees down today.  These trees do produce olives though they are not the  best bred varieties... these are feral and probably more like the original trees that grew in the area of the Mediterranean thousands of years ago.  Meanwhile I kept the best bits for a "Christmas tree" and installed it in the usual olive oil tin (ooking a bit the worse for wear) with gravel and water...
 ... and it is looking pretty good.
The decorations are minimal,  but I am pleased with the tree.
It should last for the twelve days of Christmas (until January 6th) provided I supply it with enough water.
It is interesting that people in this part of the world still attempt to have conifers,  usually Monterey pines (Pinus radiata) despite the problems with these trees in spring and early summer... they have soft new growth that doesn't last very well, even with water supplied.  The trees don't last very well inside, in summer.  I have found that olive trees (or at least the prunings from them) seem to be one of the best and most long lasting Christmas trees for our summer solstice/christmas/saturnalia festival.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Painted dragon?

I have been busy in the garden and preparing for Christmas.  The blog has had to take a "back seat" for a while as real life took over.  The weather has been warm and sunny and the summer vegetables are growing well... tomatoes, cucumbers, capsicums, zucchini, eggplant, potatoes and plenty of summer herbs....  more about those in the coming days.
Last evening,  I had a visit from my son, Chris.  We were sitting out on the front verandah and enjoying the last of the sunset when Chris suddenly exclaimed...  "look at that" but I couldn't see what he was looking at.  A lizard.  The amazing thing is where we were, and where the lizard was....  this is the view that Chris had.....
 ... and the lizard was on the ground beyond the white rocks.

It was a beautiful creature, about 20cms long (about 8 or 9 inches) and seemed quite unperturbed at me uncovering it to be able to get a photograph.
Chris had at first seen it in the dried watsonia debris and it returned there after a few minutes....
I cna't imagine how he saw it,  but this is the person that, as a child, would point out a possum in a tree as we drove past.  Apparently such skills remain throughout life.

I have seen tinier ones than this previously, but none as beautiful as this.  I think it is some kind of painted dragon, but I'll be checking again about that.

The only other thing to note is that when I first moved here some years ago,  lizards were rare...  the whole yard had been defoliated with glyphosate prior to my arrival.  I have been told that reptiles are poisoned by such chemicals, and the fact that after more than 12 years I am now beginning to see frogs, an assortment of lizards (and larger and larger ones) and a few snakes makes me think that perhaps the ground here is recovering, finally.

Recently, I took some photographs of the path to my back fence.....


.... and then the "defoliated" ground on the other side of the fence....

The bare, dead ground cannot be healthy for animals, and I suppose that is why it has taken so long for my own patch to recover....  the painted dragon gives me hope.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Seed saving: kale

Some time ago,  I showed the kale that was growing outside my kitchen window...
 ...  I like kale and use it a lot,  so I allowed the best plants to go to seed.  By now,  they are dry and ready to sort...

The little seeds are in dried pods.....
 and these are easy to break open and release the seeds....


I put the whole branch on a white sheet on the floor (before sweeping the floor) and I broke open the pods.... a few ended up on the floor, though I saved most of them.

Then I made this all into a pile in the middle of the sheet...
... and when I move the pile of "straw" in the middle away, there is quite a pile of little round seeds...
 ... and they are easily sorted, not perfectly,  but well enough to store and use.

There are probably a few hundred seeds here.... plenty for my purposes.

I will be planting some of these soon after the solstice, along with the other brassicas that will feed me next through next winter.




Tuesday, 4 December 2012

The chickens miss out...

I live alone,  and I cook meals for one.  It has been interesting, and I have even looked online for ideas about how to go about this.  For most of my life I have had huge households (six children and often unexpected extras) to cater for.  In many ways,  that is easier because there is a much greater margin of error.   The other problem is that the cooking ideas that I have found often cater for more than one, suggesting that I freeze leftovers for later.  Apart from the fact that frozen leftovers don't appeal to me, and are no better than other tinned, frozen or preserved options at the local shop,  I don't really think that this is a healthy option.  I have cooked a few meals that were surplus to requirements,  and the chickens have done well.  But these days thay are missing out.  I am cooking for one.

There seems to be a need for information about cooking for one.  With the increase in the prevalence of "single person households" here  (currently 30% and increasing) there would seem to be a need for "downsizing" our cooking means and methods.  Single person households also have a particular problem with the negative side of "economies of scale" that we are used to.  So where to from here....

There are bound to be some meals that are inapproprate (enormous roasts and spectacular puddings)  but I am willing to forgo those and I'd rather think about what single people have eaten in the past... when there were no take-away or frozen options and, most likely, ingredients were restricted to what was growing in the garden...  I imagine that the frugal lifestyle must have puzzled the people from larger households... even to the point of calling those single household residents witches.

Where to begin.... perhaps with breakfast.  I eat porridge every day.  It is inexpensive, healthy and easy to change the quantity.   I use 1/3 cup of rolled oats, one small pinch of salt, one pinch of cinnamon and, when it is almost cooked,  four dates cut and added to sweeten the mix.  I eat this with almond milk (made every two or three days, using 100gm of almonds) and I don't need any sugar.

This evening, for dinner,  I had risotto (after a hurried salad for lunch) and once again the amounts for a single serving are the issue.   I cook with a "stock" that is made with the peelings of garden vegetables and leftover salad ingredients.  (The stock pot is ongoing...
it is added to and used as necessary.)  But for the risotto,  I used onions, ginger,  1/3 cup of rice, and 2/3 cup of beans (broad beans from the garden) and stock from the saucepan.
Once the rice was almost cooked I added a small amount of grated parmesan cheese and cooked it for a little longer.
It was very good... and so much better than any re-heated leftovers or takeaway meal.

Dessert was another creme caramel... small, sweet and plenty.
My aim is to make precise sized meals that are good to eat, healthy and not dependent upon the takeaway shop.  
The difficulty with the smaller quantity is merely the greater accuracy needed in measuring quantities.  After years of "near enough is good enough"  I am having to measure ingredients much more accurately.  




Saturday, 1 December 2012

Epicurus; pleasure, happiness and contentment,

I have referred to the work and writing of Epicurus previously, and I often read quotations of his or the translations of them.... or even the translations of Lucretius who popularised Epicurianism in Rome.  It's no surprise that the multiple translations have made the message a bit vague or distorted and there is one particular idea that seems to have been distorted rather badly, and that is the idea of pleasure and happiness.
Epicurus founded a school of philosophy in his garden.  An inscription on the gate to his garden was reputed to have said  "Stranger, here you will do well to tarry:  our highest good is pleasure."  It is easy to say...  of course,  sounds good to me...  and enjoy that pleasure.  But was it "pleasure" or "happiness" that the translation should have said.  Once again,  the inscription is no doubt translated a number of times and, like Chinese whispers, I think that the meaning may have changed.

Pleasure, in English, has a connotation of more than merely happiness,  but also enjoyment, ecstasy and euphoria. Pleasurable experiences are wonderful and cause people to attempt to re-gain that feeling even when the long term outcome is disastrous.  I'm thinking here of addictions.  It is pleasure that leads to the addiction, but not always to happiness.  Pleasure and happiness can be at odds with each other.

This hedonistic seeking of pleasure seems to be, at least for "first world" people, hard to avoid and many  self indulgent occasions have been dedicated to Epicurus... as an advocate of living the pleasurable life.  (Just google "epicurean feast" and there are any number of menus that Epicurus would have found to be excessive.)

In past times, when it was harder to acquire the means to survive, let alone become fat or lazy, there was no need to distinguish between pleasure and happiness.  Times have changed.  The ease with which many people in my society are able to acquire the means of survival makes the striving for pleasure almost irrelevant, at least when striving for happiness.   Many people have plenty and are still not happy.  They have any number of pleasurable experiences but they are discontented.

Epicurus seemed to be advocating for a happy and peaceful life (contentment?) with freedom from fear and pain.

In English,  the difference between the ideas of "pleasure" and "happiness" seem to have confused the ideas of Epicurus.  Contentedness seems to mean that one is satisfied with one's life; pleasure is that positive feeling that one seeks in activity;  but happiness is a state of wellbeing that is achieved when needs are met and one is able to live a life that is consistent with ones moral obligations.  Happiness is subjective,  no doubt,  but there is ample evidence that having more food, more money or more "stuff" than is necessary does not increase happiness at all.  I think that it was this kind of happiness that Epicurus referred to in the many quotations that are repeated, rather than the pleasure of the hedonists or the joy of acquisition that the advertising people depend upon.

I have been reading "The Swerve" by Stephen Greenblatt.  It has made me think.



Friday, 23 November 2012

Lace curtains in the garden.

The weekend promises to be hot and dry.  The garden has its lace curtaining installed....
 .... not the most elegant,  but it keeps the sun off and helps to reduce evaporation.  All I need to do now is find a way to keep up with the earwigs!!!

I gave the goats another bale of hay this morning and saw the yellow cactus flowering (this is the goat view)....
 ... I was able to find on flower close enough to photograph.
 There were also some spent blooms from the purple flowers, and some more buds jsut developing.  this photograph is actually from last year,  but these are the other variety of cactus that is currently flowering.
The weekend promises to be very hot and dry.   I'll use some water to keep it alive,  but I hope for some rain.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Summer approaching, blogging and still no rain.

I went to a community event today, in the CWA hall.   There were people there that I hadn't seen for quite a while and there were some new faces.  I always enjoy those gatherings.   We ate snack food, "Christmassy" because of the time of year,  and we drank tea, coffee or wine...  there was a raffle (there always is) and talk of friends, family and the coming holiday season.  It feels like the beginning of the end of the year.
While I was there, someone came up to me and asked whether I was the blogger at Kapundagarden...  it's interesting where blog readers pop up!  And it is interesting to hear their views on the posts.

Once home again, I finished (almost) collecting the coriander seeds....
 ... these are the descendents of a bag of coriander seeds that I bought  at a grocery shop several years ago.  I grind these for flavouring in meals that I prepare,  but always manage to keep enough to plant again the following year.  The fresh seeds have much more flavour than those original ones that I bought, and usually I miss enough of the crop to find that they self seed anyway.  The few that I deliberately plant are merely my decision about the location of the green winter coriander that I eat in large quantities.  As an aside, when I lived in the city and had to buy green leafy corainder,  i have had to buy more than one bunch at a time,  as one would always be eaten by the time I arrived at the checkout.  I have always paid for the remaining stalks (not having the nerve to shoplift in such a way) but it has always been hard to arrive home with as much as I'd have liked.   Growing it is so much easier.

By the time I had picked the second bowl of seeds,  the light was getting dim,  but I did see several Purple-crowned lorikeets in the trees.   They usually feed in the flowering gum trees that are all around, but these three (and a couple of others) were eating something in the top of a pepper tree....
 ...  I was surprised.  It is not a native tree and there are no flowers now,  just the pink berries and the thinning leaves.  Pepper trees drop their leaves in the hot dry weather, and as the weather gets hotter after a particularly dry year,  the trees are very stressed.  
In a "normal year" (January to December) we receive about 480 mm of rain (about 19 inches.)  This year has been very very dry.  We have had 341 mm (less than 13.5 inches) so far this year.
Farmers are reaping crops and making hay by now and so don't want any rain at this time of the year.  It would be unusual.  And so it appears that this will be an incredibly dry and difficult season for the garden.

The cactus flowers are beautiful, however....
....  currently red and white specimens are flowering...with a couple of other varieties yet to perform.



   




Saturday, 17 November 2012

busy life, garden suffers, but the birds are thriving

Spring, despite the lack of rain has meant it is the breeding season for many birds.   I have quite a variety of birds in the garden at the moment... parrots, honeyeaters and feral earwig hunters.
Other local species include several kinds of pigeons... some quite plentiful, and that includes this one...
 ... a crested pigeon.  This is a fairly common native bird,  but no less interesting for all that.  This one was after a drink and a bath at the pond.

I haave picked most of the garlic.  It has been a very, very dry year and so this is rather early to be harvesting garlic,  but it has dried out pretty well....
... I hope that I have enough for the year.   I have less than last year... probably due to the lack of water (only about 360mm of rain so far this year.)   It should be ok,  but I will definitely plant more next June or thereabouts.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Primavera... Spring...

I have had a busy couple of weeks,  but the garden has carried on regardless.  At this time of the year, known as the "hungry gap" food is not necessarily scarce,  but it may be unconventional and that is how some recipes have been invented,  I am sure.   I have mused about recipes that incorporate ingredients that happen to materialise at the same time,  but there is also that precarious time (especially prior to the invention of the freezer) early in the spring when surviving seeds and tubers might be better utisised by planting them and the produce of the previous season is running low.
I have the added luxury of the local IGA store in town,  but with my seriously limited income,  I try to live on what I can produce anyway.
This evening, with garden production minimal,  I had leeks, the first garlic harvest, zucchini, herbs and some pasta.... this is the first version of "pasta primavera" for this year...
 ... with a little grated cheese (Mil-lel from Mt Gambier) on top.

I have also been using eggs for many dishes as the chickens are back "on the lay" these days...   creme caramel is one of my favourites....
 ... haven't made these for ages,  but they are very good.

Ebony does not like the flash of the camera,  but sat still long enough for a picture... just about the first time ever...
... she is a lovely dog and, after a dodgy start at the dog pound,  is very healthy and shiny friend.

Monday, 5 November 2012

Catch up

I hadn't realised how long since I had posted...  it is two weeks, a record!   I have been very very busy, with personal issues as well as the garden which is in the spring mode at the moment.  So much to tell... where to begin....  so much to tell...
We have still had so little rain that this year promises to be one of the driest for some time.   Our wettest months are from June to August (winter) but this year we had very little rain.  Since January,   we have had about 350mm (just over 14 inches.)  Our annual rainfall is usually about 480mm (about 18-19 inches)  so we are well "behind schedule" this year.  As the season becomes hotter and drier,  the evaporation rate becomes higher also... it will be interesting to see how the garden grows.

Last Sunday, I watched a David Attenborough programme about plants and their amazing abilities.  I recognised this plant that he showed.
 It grows in my garden and these buds will open during the night tonight and the air wil be amazingly perfumed.  I will come out early in the morning to see them at their best.

The guava is flowering...
 ... and this is amazing.  This small shrub is about 8 years old and has never flowered previously.  There was a huge buddleia growing about 10 metres from it.   I removed the buddleia because I couldn't keep up with the pruning that was necessary to use the clothes line (I don't have a drier.)   The roots were extensive  and the plant was quite demanding, apparently.  Since it has gone, the bay tree has "taken off" (5 metres away) and the guava is thriving.  (I do have another buddleia, so the butterflies are safe.)

Later today,  I went to see whether the baby ladybirds had begun to do their work (on the aphids) and besides,  their favourite plant has been flowering for a while... parsley...
 If you look really carefully,   you'll see the baby ladybirds above.

There are some adults aswell.....


and then I found one of those "white" spiders again,    only it was yellow!  Last year, I found quite a few and the yellow one looks strange...  same shape,  just yellow.
 Nearby, I found a spot with quite a supply of food for the yellow spider....
 .... three ladybirds, and a hoverfly that had landed.

As I focussed towards the closer field, I found another baby lady bird.
 No wonder the crab spiders are around at this time of the year.

I went looking for a white one.   I found one.  It is on another plant altogether.  i suppose the colour is due to diet or environment,  but there are both colours around here....
 ... and a baby ladybird close by!

And then there are the seeds from the winter vegetables.  These are seeds of black kale (Cavolo nero.)
Black kale was my "green vegetable of choice" for stewing, soup, steaming, kichadee, stir fries, and more.  I haven't tried chips yet.  Kale chips are supposed to be trendy in recent times,  so I'll try them next season.  I will soon have the seeds to start the new crop.
Michael Palin says we should all  "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." 


While writing this,  a thunder storm has blown through.  Despite a lot of thunder and lightning, there was not a lot of rain.  The cactus flower buds (above, the first photograph) have opened in the past hour or so....
 ... and the raindrops may well have hastened their opening.  They usually open in the early morning when the dew is at it's best,  but the rain may well have hurried them along this evening.
Beautiful flower.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Garden update, Gertrude and vegetables

I seem to have been getting behind with the garden, its updates here and life in general.   Today I went to see the music in the main street and then came home to cut wood, collect kindling and pick beans, but there is more happening here.  I came home to water the vegetables as well... with Gertrude watching and from her vantage point, she could also watch the neighbours...
 ...  she is standing (precariously) on the edge of a bathtub that has been used previously as a feed or water trough for a pony.

The pond is beginning to be healthy again.....


My second planting of beans is doing well.  The birds pecked the leaves from my first attempt.  (This year is very dry and difficult,  so I can't blame them) but I have planted the next lot under wire netting....
 ... and they are emerging, safely protected from the birds....


Other crops are doing well,  and at this time of th eyear,  the garden looks quite "suburban" and organised.  Here is the garlic and some of the potatoes....
 leeks and baby beets....
 Teh bird bath surrounded by various salvias and borage (which is everywhere)...


... the newly planted summer stuff....

zucchinis are ready to produce... there are tiny female flowers already....


the broad beans are still going.  I have been eating them, freezing them and I am now ready to leave enough for next year's seeds.

Seeds are also forming on the kale.  This is the "black kale"  (Tuscan kale or Cavolo nero) and is one of two kinds that I grow.   The other is Russian kale and that seems to be less invaded by green caterpillars  of the "cabbage moth" variety.  I didn't collect seed from that this year.  I have only an acre and if both kinds go to seed at the same time,  I can't manage seed production.   Next year I will collect Russian kale seed, and then decide whether to persevere with both varieties.  We'll see.