Friday, 30 March 2012

Caterpillars, broccoli and potatoes

This morning I was out watering the baby vegetables and feeding and watering the animals (goats and chickens) when I discovered tiney lacy holes in the baby broccoli leaves.  I have described this previously, probably more than once, but the cabbage moths are at it again.  As I was out there, i was thinking that pickeing caterpillars or eggs is labour intensive,  but not very hard work (I remember a tiny Charlotte helping me many years ago.)  It is easy to have vegetables without having to use any poisons.  Apparently potatoes are one of the most poisonous vegetables that one can buy.  There is even one called "Superior New Leaf Potato" that is registered as a pesticide itself!  As I picked off the caterpillars,  I was thinking how easy this was, and how anyone could pick enough caterpillars to make sure that they had plenty of, say, broccoli without having to spray anything.  It's pretty obvious that growing broccoli at a mega scale would make that impossible,  but that is all the more reason to grow your own.  Surely, years ago, people grew vegetables and checked them all every day for caterpillars or whatever, and had plenty.  Expecting the quality of food to be equal to that when so few people make any effort seems foolish.  Today, I have picked off a lot of eggs and some baby caterpillars and hopefully the brassicas are all more or less safe and the effort required is minimal... going out to earn enough money to pay someone else to do it (or to pay for their chemicals) seems counter-intuitive to me.

This morning I have also been weeding.  After the few millimetres of rain a couple of weeks ago, they are doing very nicely.  In one particular patch though, I began to dig with the fork, and found quite a few potato tubers that were just beginning to sprout.  These were potato varieties that I bought to grow during last winter and I planted them dutifully at the recommended time.... early spring.  They grew for a few weeks and died off at the first hot dry days.  Potatoes need so much water, that unless one has an unlimited supply or a leaking pipe, there is not much point in planting them here during the summer.  Every year is almost exactly the same.

However, they are sprouting beautifully now.   They will grow when it rains, and despite the shorter days,  they usually produce quite a lot of nice big potatoes.  Any frost will set them back as the leaves are quite tender,  but we don't get many frosty nights (only two last winter) and potatoes recover quickly.  I'm sure that longer daylight hours would incrrease production,  but we don't get water and long days at the same time.  I expect quite a reasonable crop this year.

It's a pity that I can't source potatoes to plant at this time of the year from any professional suppliers.

This year I kept some of the smaller tubers from last season in the fridge all summer...
 ... and these sprouted in the cupboard!

I will plant those as soon as we get some decent rain. This year I plan to keep track of just how many (by weight) I am able to grow in the winter.

Potatoes are the easiest carbohydrate to grow and I am interested to see whether I can produce enough for the whole year in this garden.  You never know until you try.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Spotted Turtle-Dove baby

I hadn't realised that it has been a whole  week since I'd had time to post anything here, but it has been busy with household, family and garden preparation issues.....

This morning, from the kitchen window, I saw a scrawny-looking bird tentatively approaching the pond for some water.  It looked familiar,  but not exactly what I had seen previously....
 .... it finally got down to the water for a drink....

.... and then I noticed the parent nearby, watching me carefully....  a Spotted Turtle-Dove.  I had seen them previously.
 On looking thenm up in  my bird book (though mine is the fifth edition, 1996) the description of the juvenile merely says "lack nape pattern" and so it does.  My pleasure is mostly in the realisation that they are breeding successfully in my yard.

The "landscaping" around the pond is now back on track (after the leaking episode) and some preliminary plantings have been done.   It is still looking a bit industrial,  but the birds and the bees don't seem to mind.
 There is still a lot to do,  but as long as there are no leaks,  I'll be continuing.
 The breakfast table and chair (and the afternoon wine table) is in place, more or less, though the landscaping aroundit leaves a bit to be desired.  It is the spot to sit and watch the fish already though....  I've been feeding them artificially and they are getting a little less cryptic.  In the afternoons I sit and wait until I can see all ten of them together and that is harder than it would seem as one in particular is very hard to see as he/she has a dark shadowy patch along his/her back.  That must be a survival advantage in this particular pond....  interesting....


Gertrude was watching me photograph the pond... though turned away when I pointed the camera at her.
 Introducing Flossie.....
 .... Flossie is a goat that I am babysitting while her family can't take care of her.  She is quite an old lady and prefers to lay in the sun during the day rather than be tethered out in the yard, though she does get out occasionally.  She has a purple collar (and lead) which reminded me of the book and the poem about wearing purple....


When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
                                     With a red hat which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I'm tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick the flowers in other peoples' gardens
And learn to spit.
You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fatAnd eat three pounds of sausages at a goOr only bread and pickles for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beermats and things in boxes.
But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.
But maybe I ought to practice a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.


Perhaps someone has already told Flossie.

The garden, after a fallow summer, is beginning to look healthy again....  sugar beet.....

 ... along with quite a few other beet roots, mangel worzel and winter greens....

.... swedes (rutabaga)... and some other relatives (the brassicas).....
 ... and among the broccoli plants, some self sown mangel worzel.  I will transplant some of these to a safer spot...
The weather is still relatively unpredictable.   It will be 29C today (about 85F) and it is very dry.
The leeks are looking healthy, and while they like plenty of water, they are more forgiving than some of the tiny root crops.  The carrot seeds are not up yet.  I planted them just over a week ago,  and so, no doubt they are just thinking about coming out of the soil and I can't afford for them to get hot and dry today....  I'll be watering every few hours!
This is why I only plant very small seeds directly into the ground when I can expect some cooler and, hopefully, damper weather.  No rain on the horizon yet, or even in the forcast, and with northerly winds expected in the next week or so,  it may well be hot and dry and I'll need to watch for my baby carrot plants.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Planting, 2012.

After the dry and disastrous summer in my garden, I have been able to begin planting after the total of about 20mm (nearly an inch) of rain over the past week or so.  I have been able to begin from seeds in the past, but this winter,  I am making use of a "kick start" from the local nursery and so I have planted quite a few seedlings in my closest garden patch....
 They are growing well, looking healthy and I feel as though I am "back on track" so to speak.   Among these tiny seedlings are some even smaller shoots that appear to be from the previous crops that were here....  these are definitely some kind of "beet related" plant....   silver beet, beetroot or mangel worzel, for these were all close to this patch last year.
 .... and then I found this little plant (on the left)  which is obviously a brassica of some sort (also self sown) and there were broccoli and kale plants around also, so I suppose this may be a child of those plants now well composted or eaten.
In a few days time I may transplant a few of these volunteers into gaps in this garden or spaces in other patches.  I ahve only had to water a few times so far,  but with a dry autumn pedicted,  I may need to keep an eye on all of these plants until the winter rain comes.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Autumn crocus... and winter potatoes....

During the night (last night) we had a thunderstorm with plenty of wind and rain but no damage.  At Kapundagarden, we received 16mm of rain, making a total of 62mm so far this year.  This is a dry start to the year,  but the rain overnight has brought out the autumn crocusses....  there are two kinds in my garden....  yellow....
 .... and purple.....


This morning I planted some seedlings from the local nursery....  I usually try to grow my own,  but this year, after a very difficult summer (climate and family issues) I am happy to make use of my local business.  This is just one of a number of plants that I put into the ground this morning.  I had prepared the ground, double digging it over the last several days as the weather reports began to mention rain.  I was out there at about 7.00 am this morning digging the
top layer, disappointed to have the dust blow away from each fork full.

I planted the seedlings... this one is kale.... and watered them in very well...  a few more to go.


The little bit of rain has caused the potatoes to emerge as well....
.... and as I have said before,  potatoes do not grow here in summer,  but these were seed potatoes that I could only buy in the early spring... at about August.  They died off as soon as the rain stopped, but are now re-emerging (as potatos have done in other years) and I will get a fair crop early in the winter....  I just wish that the planting schedules in the various magazines and gardening books would find out what is happening in the real world.  Meanwhile, I will grow my potatoes in the winter.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

More flowers...

The red cactus plants were blooming again today.

Lovely flowers, though these don't have the perfume of the white flosers and I don't smell them during the night so that I know what to expect in the morning.   These are at their best during the day too....  unlike the white flowers that are pollinated by night flying moths, apparently...  and I'll bet the moths are able to detect the perfume as well.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Blood lilies and honeyeaters

This morning I found the first of the blood lilies in the front garden.  They have appeared suddenly, as usual, and this time after the first rainfall that is associated with cool nights.  I don't know what triggers them, but they seem to know when to appear.  It was March last year that I found them though those particular ones (in the link) are not the same plants as I've seen today,  and in fact, those are not up yet.  Perhaps there is a different micro climate out there. This morning I found these....
 .... the flowers are beautiful, but apparently full of nectar also,  as the honey eaters love them.


 I sat and waited for one of the New Holland honeyeaters to come to these flowers that are out in the open and easy to photograph....  I could see them among the bushy patches..... you'll have to look carefully.
 There was even a red wattle bird (these are also a kind of honeyeater)....
 ... a grey thrush turned up near the flowers that would be the easiest to photograph.....
 ... and a white plumed honeyeater....
 ... easier to see in the sunlight....

and eventually a New Holland honeyeater ventured down.....
 .... and even posed on this flower for me....
 Then he/she flew closer to me and fed on the eremophila flowers just here.....



Still no rain,  and the garden is moveing very slowly,  but the birds are enjoying the sunshine and warmth, I am sure.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Another garden bed waiting for the rain....

I double dug a large patch of garden today....
....  quite a bit more to go,  but at least I am back out there... and as soon as there is rain predicted, I'll be planting.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Cleaning up the garden

I am beginning to clean up the garden after a dry and difficult summer.  It has been seriously neglected in recent months, and now is the time to get it back on track.  The "potato patch" way down the back is looking desolate.  I have raked the weeds into a pile and in fact they are piled onto Jessie's grave....

I'm sure she won't mind.  It had sunk  down in the same way as graves in some old graveyards do....  the compost and soil piled on there will help to level the ground again.

I have also cleared the pathways and the patch under the clothes line....
 At least one can walk to the clothes line easily now....
... but there is a lot more to go.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Kapunda and districts

After my work in the garden today, I spent some time at the studio... a bit of a cleanup,   but I was determined to make one drawing at least, which I did, and then I did have a look around the neighbourhood.

Looking across from the studio gate,  there were a whole group of steers, no doubt in their last home before they become steak....
 ...  not a bad place to wander around though.....


On the way back towards kapunda, the tree that I have painted before had a tractor beside it....  the rain has brought out the machines all over the place, getting ready for planting....

On to the Barossa and some errands there, and I saw these lambs, two of them,  with their mother ewe....
 ...  following along behind her....

Then on the way home, I passed the site of the old orphanage. Only recently I cound the painting that I made of it some years ago (the orphanage, that is... before the Catholic Church demolished it)....
 ..... sad to think that the girls grafitti is gone forever.... it ooked like this....

... and on towards Kapunda....
 The colours at the end of summer are so very different from how it will look when we get some rain.

Change in the weather... beginning to feel like autumn.

After quite a few weeks of leaving the poor garden to fend for itself, with awful consequences, I was able to do some work out there today.  We have had about an inch of rain over a couple of days earlier in the week, and so I've been able to at least begin some weeding and organsie the resurrection of a couple of plants.

First of all I moved some of the rocks from the "orchard" patch where they make it very hard to mow the area during the growing season (winter.)  These large ones that are left are destined to become a retaining wall for one of my pathways.  (I'll need a solid sack truck to move them.)
 The others have made  wall extending from the green man back up towards the house and in the enclosure I will plant some more rosemary plants....  there are a few more small ones to move,  bus most of the hardest part is done now.
 Nearby,  the neglected quince tree is producing a few fruits, though these were reduced this year by the goat haveing access to the tree in January!  These are still green and furry, but will be wonderful when they are ready.

These capsicum plants survived last winter and even the serious lackof care and water duing the last three months.  I have just put another small retaining wall around thema nd "top dressed " their soil with goat poo.
 I've done something similar with the jalapeno plant that grows outside my kitchen window....
It has been a disastrous summer for the garden, mainly because of the family issues that I've had to deal with, but the serious lack of rain hasn't helped either.

As I have mentioned previously,  I wonder how women (for it was mostly women) must have managed their vegetable gardens when people were so much more dependent upon them... prior to the local IGA bringing fresh produce from far and wide.