Sunday, 24 June 2012

Bandicooting again

This morning, as I waited for Ebony (new dog) outside to finish her morning ablutions,  I pulled some weeds for the goats, checked the rain guage (2mm) and then, as it had been so cold last night (and friends that I was talking to had predicted frost) I went to check the potatoes.  There had been a little bit of rain, by the look of the mud, and that might have made the difference,  but there was no frost here yet again.

I couldn't wait to see what was under those healthy looking potato plants, and so I was out there, bandicooting some fresh now potatoes....
....  these are "Toolangi Delight" variety. and to quote from Diggers catalogue,   "Bred by the Department of Primary Industry in 1986.  This variety has always topped taste tests,  being great for chips, mashing with good all-purpose attributes.  The delicate purple skin made it unsuitable for supermarkets so we have grown this variety to meet "home grown" demand."   They have also been the most productive in my garden.
I collected the egg from the chickens, cut one new big broccoli head and pulled the two baby leeks from where they self-sowed earlier in the season.
Now that I only need to cook for one, this is my daily grocery supply and dinner tonight.  Life's good.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Mid winter

The winter solstice occurred here last Thursday.  It was a cold wet wintry day, and in fact,  it has been like that for most of the week.  In the last three or four days,  we have had jsut over 30mm of rain.  In the week before that,  we had had about 11 mm, so I am hoping that I have finsished watering for the season.
The wattle has been flowering for a few weeks...
 ...  it looks a little bit bedraggled after the rain,  but it certainly indicates winter.
The other interesting plant right now is this tubular flower that comes from South America.  i have forgotten the name.
 It does not survive frosts very well,  and usually has lost its leaves during the winter and "revived" in the spring, only to look equally precarious in the summer if the weather is too hot or dry.  We have had a couple of frosty nights, and the potatoes have lost a few leaves (though they seem to be ok again now) but it has not been cold enough to do any real damage anywhere.
The lack of very cold nights is an issue for some fruit trees that need cold nights to fruit and for brussels sprouts that need to be frost bitten to make those "fairy cabbages" but in recent years, it has not been cold enough for those  around here.

This morning I fed the animals as usual, leaving a "compressed bale" of hay in the goat feed bin.  When I camd back with their water, I found Gertrude and Flossie doing their best to open it up....
 .... I usually leave these bales as a solid lump in the half 44-gallon drum in their secind shed.  They spend quite a while breaking into it,  and I figure that they have the time and inclination to do that for themselves...  it occupies them for some time.

Gertrude is getting fat.  Admittedly she has her woolly winter coat now,  but she is definitely looking quite solid.
I don't know whether it is the competitive eating,  the good hay diet or just middle age,  but she is looking ok.  Flossie,  in the background here, is actually quite a bit larger than Gertrude,  though she doesn't seem to get the same woolly coat as the weather turns colder.  They seem to have settled in together quite well now, and it's jsut as well because I have difficulty managing two of them on separate leash and collar set-ups at the same time.  

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Garden update, sunny Tuesday

The weather has been cold, especially at night, in recent days.  Today is lovely outside and I have been catching up in some weeding (leading to making stinging nettle fertiliser) and it's a good chance to catch up on how it is all going.  There are plenty of leafy green vegetables that are going into my kitchadee daily...

A few weeks ago,  there were gaps in the carrot rows and so I "filled them in with a few more seeds, and here you can see the little plants in the front with their bigger relatives behind.
 This is probably not the best way to grow carrots when one needs to harvest for a market,  but for my own garden and for my own supply of carrots,  this is probably the best way to go.   I will have carrots over an even longer period of time than I'd expected when I planted the original seeds.

The potatoes.....
 .... these plants are the very same ones that I photographed previously.  The dead leaves on the top are the ones that were frost bitten over the last couple of weeks.  There are still plenty of large green leaves to provide carbohydrate for the tubers, so I'll leave them alone for the time being.

The broad beans are looking lovely....
 ...  and the tips of these plants are big enough to be eaten and clipping off the tops doesn't seem to reduce the later production of beans.  I am always watching for the first flowers though....  still quite a way off!

The first of the broccoli have I planted ( some of it should be ready for the upcoming visitors) is looking very healthy.....

 The second planting  (I bought these six plants from the local nursery) are also doing well.....
... they should be ready to eat when the "hungry gap" happens in the spring.

The other baby plants (five of them) rescued from the seedling tray are here.....
 ...  I have just transplanted them today.   These are the "second seeds" that are often in the seed trays with the "best one" and when separated,  these were the one with the torn or broken root system.   I usually save most of them.  I dip them into some seasol,  cut all of their leaves in half and then replant them into the seed tray again. I have often been able to grow more than double the original intended seedlings when conditions are right, and I suspect that that means that none of the seedlings are not too advanced when I first plant them out.   It takes about a month for them (the second batch) to recover,  but then they seem to grow just as well as the "originals."    Their only handicap seems to be the competition from the other seedling,  and once they have a chance,  they grow as well as any other.  Brassicas seem particularly hardy in this respect.

These next two pictures are of self sown plants from last season's herbs that went to seed.   I let them go to seed to attract the predators for an assortment of pests, and the bonus is the huge crop in the following year....  years!  This is Italian flat leafed parsley.....
... and this is coriander....



Other experiments in survival this year include "arthritis plant"   of which there is a single leaf remaining here....
 .... in fact, I have planted my latest sample near the pond (where I am hopeful that it will be just warm enough for it to survive the winter.)  There are a few leaves, spread sparsely among these bulbs. (The bulbs are an asian Arisaema species, of which there are at least two in my garden. They will flower later in the year.)  However,  having had the arthritis plant die out over the past three winters,  I have also put some into pots....
....  ready to re-plant in the spring if I need to.
I plan to do this with a couple of other herbs that I regularly "lose" over the winter...  Vietnamese mint and lemongrass in particular.

I have picked the last green capsicum today....
... tiny,  but amazing that it grew at all at this time of the year!

Back inside.....
... the view from my computer looking through the fly screen to the "back garden" (different from the one above) with bread beans, potatoes, broccoli, leeks, parsley, garlic, sage and an assortment of salvias, my other favourite plants.  It does need a bit of a cleanup down there,  but that will wait until after the next rain.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Winter garden, potatoes and broccoli.

It has been a busy couple of weeks and so the blog has been neglected.  However, the garden in kapunda is looking good.
I have a new dog.  She is called Ebony and she came from an animal shelter where she had spent the past month.  She was desexed last Tuesday, and I picked her up, slightly groggy and a bit the worse for wear, that afternoon.  She had been pregnant and very close to giving birth to several puppies.  Between the after effects of the anaesthetic, the chaotic hormone changes and the move to a new home,  I wouldn't want to swap places with her for anything.  However,  she seems to be settling down,  she is amazingly calm and contented, and I have a new best friend.
 She needs a bath.  That can't happen until she has the stitches from her surgery removed... I don't know whether she is keen for a bath,  but I can't wait!
We have also jhad a birthday celebration....
 .... my mother turned 90 last week and here she is opening one of her gifts among friends.

Meanwhile, the garden is doing well.   After several cold and frosty nights,  the potato planes survive, if a bit the worse for wear.
 As long as there are green leafy parts that are collecting solar energy and turning it into tubers,  the plants are doing ok.

Here are two broccoli plants.   The first is one that I planted a few weeks ago and it is jsut beginning to produce a "head" (really a collection of buds) that is the usual eating part....
... and it will no doubt grow very much larger before it "goes to seed."
 This second plant is almost a year old.  I have been eating buds and flowers as they have been produced for most of that time.  I have watered and fed the plants (there are several of them) and continued to eat their produce...
 ... and I am convinced that, while one doesn't get the "supermarket style" heads for the whole year,  there is plenty of food to eat if one is careful and frugal in the garden...   and broccoli is one of the most useful food plants in the garden.

The rest of the garden is healthy and while the frost has slowed it down, it has certainly not stopped production...
... and neither have the goats...
... they are still producing their fertile contribution to the garden beds that grow my food.  

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

June 5th, 1885.

"People are prophising a dry season.  We have only had light rains, and things will prove most disarstrous in the extreme.  The farmers cant see the folly of carrying all their eggs in one basket, for they depend solely on wheat.  I don't know, though, what else will grow in this arid climate."  William Stagg, June 5th, 1885.

As a teenager, he lived with his parents near Tarcowie in South Australia. The house was typical of the time.
William and his father cleared the land and grew crops, with uneven success.

In the news lately here,  an El Nino year is predicted and rainfall is predicted to be low, and so far 2012 seems to be much the same.  In the words of William Stagg (aged 17) "people are prophising a dry season."

I often refer back to the copy I have of Nancy Robinson's book that was published in 1973 and which I bought in Salisbury, SA, for one dollar.  The book is titled "Stagg of Tarcowie:  The Diaries of a Colonial Teenager 1885-1887" and is good reading if you're having a hard time growing food in your garden. Descriptions of ploughing with a single furrow plough and a horse, grubbing mallee stumps and picking stones place my garden difficulties back into perspective. His view of monoculture, and of farmers "carrying all their eggs in one basket" is interesting too.

William Stagg turned 18 on June 26th, 1885, and he wrote:
"I am eighteen years old today. I aint very big for my age - have not a sign of whiskers or mustache so I'm a boy still.  We were ploughing and when it came to a steady rain about twelve o'clock, I thought I was going to have a half holiday.  In this respect I was disappointed as Old Charlie needed four shoes and so I was sent off with him to the blacksmith.  I bought a pound of dates for ninepence, the seeds of which I am going to plant."
William Stagg must have liked growing food plants, and all of those date palms that grow around old houses in rural South Australia must have had similar origins, and they are often the only remaining indication of habitation until one gets close and finds the old stones and roofing materials that have fallen, unattended, to the ground.
This picture is not a homestead.  This is a painting  that I made some time ago before the Reformatory (a part of Kapunda's heritage and associated with Mary McKillop)  was demolished.  The palm tree is still there and this photograph is taken from almost the same angle.
 I wonder who ate the fruit that grew this tree.