Sunday, 30 September 2012

Clean eggs

I have often put photographs of my daily collection of food from the garden,  and I regularly include a couple of eggs.  I get two eggs each day from my four hens.  A friend asked why these eggs don't have poo and feathers attached (like the organic eggs that one can buy) but look remarkably clean.  These are the two "dirtiest" ones I could find...
 ... and this is where I found them.....
 There is a plastic egg in there as well, hence the three "eggs" in the home made nest.

This nest is in a corner of the chicken house and behind a bale of pea straw that the chickens have to make nests from.

In fact,  they have quite luxurious nest boxes....
 .... and they still prefer to lay their eggs in a corner of the yard more often than not.

The whole chook yard is quite palatial....
 ... the previous owner of my house had pigeons and peacocks and this was the enclosure for those birds.  It is fox-proof, with netting across the whole roof, though that is a whole other story.  A fox did get in through the top once and killed ten of my chickens.  I have four left.
The black one is the one that was so badly injured by the fox that I didn't even expect her to survive now lays one egg each day and the white (light sussex) hen also lays an egg.  The other two (which are  strange bantam cross hens) are quite old... at least 8 years or so... and neither lays eggs any more.  I don't kill old non-laying hens as they don't eat much and still produce fertiliser.

Hens dn't sleep in nests.  They roost at night, and most of their poo lands under the roosting spot.  These hens have plenty of places to roost and in fact, some of them go to their won spots each night... others change places every so often.   Here are some of their options....


 Their yard is quite large.  The door at the end is a feed store....
 ...and food is stored in a 44 gallon drum that is mouse and rat proof.....
The organic eggs that one buys may well be from chickens that are fairly confined so that they are roosting near to their nests.  My chickens go out into the yard when it suits me, but even if they are kept in for the day,  they have a lot of space to roam.  Their eggs are laid out of the way and nowhere near most of the poo.
This makes it easier to collect a shovel full of chicken poo when it is needed to make fertiliser or to add to compost of garden bed.
I do plan to increase my chicken population again soon,  but I need to wait until one of these chickens goes broody.  The last lot of chickens (in 2010) were half and half roosters and hens, so I'll probably get a dozen fertile eggs from  my usual supplier and see how they go.  Then the big decision will be whether to keep one rooster or not.... and there is a whole other set of issues.

Monday, 24 September 2012

Strawberry flowers and more

Yesterday,  I found the first strawberry flower....
 ... and today there are two more tiny buds....
 ... and that is just one plant.  There are a few of them.


That influenced me to go around to see what other flowers are blooming....  kale (I'm waiting for seed)....                                                         

...coriander.....  also waiting for seed...


and some of the salvias are beautiful....  Salvia recognita,  a native of Turkey....  with the very strong perfume that is very much like clary sage oil that I used to buy.  I bring these leaves inside these days.


 Salvia somalensis, a native of Somalia  (Somalian mountain sage)...

... and the first bluebells....

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Perfumed air and baby sage plants

In recent days there has been an incredible perfume in the back yard...  the perfume reminds me of sweet peas, except that I don't have any sweet peas!
Eventually I tracked the source....
 ... this tree grows near the pond behind the house.  It used to overhang the pond until an over zealous boarder decided to prune it.  It is very slow growing, and it will take a long time to recover,  but I'll keep an eye on it when anyone with clippers is around from now on.

 Closer, I can see the flowers... very tiny and apparently insignificant, but the perfume is beautiful....
 ... and there are many of them.
 I don't know what the tree is,  but I love the perfume and I'm wondering whether it might grow from cuttings.

A number of the salvias are flowering, or about to flower.....
 .... this one is a Californian sage bush.  I think that it is grey sage.
I pruned this bush last year after it had finished flowering and I stuck a number of the pieces into a pot.  By now, several of them seem to be growing....
.... and perhaps I'll have quite a few more plants to transplant next autumn.

Monday, 17 September 2012

"Wild Herb Soup"

Yesterday I made soup for dinner.  I collected the vegetables from the garden...
... and cooked them in stock that I had made previously,  from one of the roosters that hatched among the last lot of chicks.
I cooked all of the ingredients for long enough to make a lovely thick soup...
It was very good.

As I ate my soup,  I was reminded again of the book, "A Wild Herb Soup" by Emilie Carles.  I have mentioned this book previously. It is an amazing story.



Saturday, 15 September 2012

Broad beans to eat...

I have been in Tanunda today, about 30 km from Kapunda and I've been minding the Gallery and the latest exhibition.  I am usually there on a Saturday when the workers are there at the organ and today was  not exception.  As work progresses,  it is wonderful to hear the impromptu playing of various pieces... it feels quite luxurious...  like a lovely private concert.

Getting home late, I have exercised the dog (throwing the ball and having her chase it around the yard while I check out the vegetables and their progress) and I have lit the fire before even deciding how to deal with dinner tonight.

While Ebony chased the ball,  I picked some of the crops and the highlight was the first little taste of broad beans for the season...

... here is today's collection, from the right hand side...  broccoli, broad beans, leeks, beetroot and fennel.  I brought the fennel in because I have some fish and I will steam it with that fennel.  The broad beans are still tiny and I'll cook them whole with the other vegetables.  

I went to check in the artichokes and the first one is just beginning to appear...
... it will be a while yet for the beans to be big enough to shell for their little beans and have those with fresh artichoke hearts.
It is interesting to realise that there are a number of traditional mediterranean recipes with this combination of ingredients.... Greek, Syrian, Italian, and many more.  I have mentioned this previously and the fact that traditional recipes, quite naturally, combine ingredients that are available together in the garden.  More than eating "in season", there  are whole cuisines that have been dependent upon concurrent availability of ingredients and we seem to have lost these little joys along with the blurring of availabililty of our seasonal crops.  In the same way that the joy of "Christmas" cherries or "new season" apples has been lost, so has the understanding of ingredients and their appearance in the garden at the same time, and I think that there is a loss of a particular thrill.  
I am still waiting for the artichokes and big enough broad beans to make some of my own favourite dishes.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

Bits and pieces from the spring garden

I have been doing some spring planting as the days get longer and the soil is getting warmer.  The last couple of days have been lovely,  but the weather bureau has been predicting rain, so I have put some new seedlings into the soil.  Tonight, right on time, the gentle rain is watering  those baby plants.

In recent days I have kept up to date with taking photographs, if not blog posts....  during the sunny days,  the bees have been busy.... with the borage....
 .... and the rosemary....

The coriander is going to seed at quite a rate.  Most of it I will leave now.  The seeds are useful for cooking,  and not only that, they will provide another crop during the winter next year.


These tiny buds are on a native daisy plant that was thought to be dead at the local nursery.  Often I am given those plants (that are thought to be dead)  in order to give them a chance....
 .... these seem to have done well.

The pond plants are growing again also.   The floating "duck weed" is growing fast,  but the lily leaves are emerging too...
 ....still no lily buds,  but I'm checking regularly.

This little patch of the garden is where,  last autumn,  I threw a few handfuls of "outdated" seeds.  Some of these were seeds that I had saved and some were "out of date" commercial seeds.  I threw these into a patch of garden where they seem to have done well....
.
 ... and amongst the survivors are these....
 ... coriander, parsley and silver beet.

It is also very close to the spot that Ebony loves to rest during the day....


Inside,  the sauerkraut (made from the surplus cabbages from the garden) is doing well....


...and the first cabbage flower has finally opened in the cabbage that has been trying to go to seed for some time....
 ... the flowers are yellow (not white, as I had wondered) and very similar to the seeds of the kale that I will actually keep for next year....
 ... this means pulling out the cabbage (for the chickens) so that I don't get any hybrid brassicas.  I'd rather just have kale seeds for the garden next year.

The broad beans are close to edible size....
 and I will check the artichoke plants for buds.  Artichokes and broad beans always appear together.

As I weeded the potato patch,  I found a baby lettuce plant...
 .... this must be self sown.  It is close to where many of  last summer's lettuces grew, and some did go to seed.  I don't usually grown much in the way of lettuce during the summer.  They are better suited to the winter climate and besides,  I prefer cucumber in my summer salads, and I planted several cucumber seedlings today.

This is one of the last broccoli plants from the oldest patch.  This plant is about 18 months old and has produced broccoli flowerets for most of that time.  I did add some goat manure, multi-minerals and seasol to the plants, but now that the new batch are producing well,  I will pull these last couple of old plants out.
It seems a bit sad really.  At first they produced the big full broccoli heads and then the regular side shoots.  As the weather got colder,  the side shoots became less frequent,  but just as good.  As the winter ended, production increased again, and these several plants have kept me in "green vegetables" for quite some time, until the new crop got going,  and I do feel a little sad to pull them out, disloyal really.  The chickens will enjoy them.  Green leafy vegetables seem to make the chickens' egg yolks very dark, and so there is not much to be missed  

Saturday, 8 September 2012

Dumplings for dinner

I don't drink milk.  I never have.  I have always thought that milk is the food for baby mammals and that they move on to other nutrients. The milk that is available in my town is designed for baby cattle and even they don't drink it for all of their lives.  Occasionally I buy some cows milk to make a particular dish or a luxury (surplus to requirements) item for my household.  I sometimes buy a litre of milk on "payday" every fortnight, in case I need some for visiting milky coffee drinkers. I buy local milk that is not homogenised (homogenised milk takes a lot of effort to re-aggregate the fat globules.)   I can't buy unpasteurised milk here  :-(
I bought 2 litres of milk on last pay day (1 litre containers were sold out) and so I had a lot of milk left over.  When that happens,  I don't throw it away.  I make cheese.
The cheese that I make is not the yellow cheddar product that I buy from the shop occasionally,  but soft, cottage cheese or panir.  This can be used in a number of dishes, but this evening was the first time that I'd used this "cottage cheese" to make dumplings, an experiment...  I made a dough with the cheese and flour, eggs and salt and boiled them in water that had already cooked several batches of broccoli (now in the freezer.)
Once the dumplings were cooked,  I tossed them with herbs (cooked in oil),  parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme...
 and I added the last of the broccoli and some grated Mil-lel parmesan cheese....
Very good.  I may make this again.

Friday, 7 September 2012

Tulip & vegetables

It is definitely looking like spring,  despite the fact that we are still more than two weeks from the equinox.

Overnight we have had 12.5 mm of rain.   This is wonderful for the garden.  It will be good for farmers here too.  The canola is just beginning to flower, the grain crops are tall enough to "wave in the wind" and this rain will give the vines a good boost when the buds burst.  I have been out to check on my tiniest plants that will benefit the most from this....
These are tiny carrot plants.  They have germinated fairly quickly (for carrots) and have been protected by "bird wire"  for the past few weeks.  I appreciate the birds' efforts in controlling insects (they seem to love earwigs, caterpillars and even aphids (though ladybird babies are the best predators for aphids) but in rummaging amongst the mulch,  the birds can do a lot of damage to baby plants like these.  The baby weeds are still there (they'll go when I remove the wire) but at least the carrots are safe.

The latest broccoli crop is very ineresting.  I have been cutting the main heads regularly,  but this particular crop seems to be producing plenty of large "side shoots" as well....
These were hybrid seedlings that I bought from the nursery, so they aren't much use for seed,  but it's interesting that even these seedlings can be so variable.

I checked my broad beans, of course.  So far I haven't even tasted one.  This must be a record because I usually can't resist the fresh taste of a tiny bean when they are forming.  There are quite a few that are well over an inch long, and I will try one soon.
There will soon be plenty though and I'll be freezing the excess for next winter.  (They make beautiful risotto with frozen artichoke hearts and a handful of herbs.)  I ate the last of those from last year less than a week ago with the last of the artichoke hearts that usually appear at the same time.  So far I can't see any buds on the artichoke plants, but it shouldn't be long.

I checked the cobra lily again.  This is the one that I have never seen flower. (I have a  couple of different kinds, it seems.)  It is getting a third leaf....
... my hope is that with the extra foliage (and maybe more to come) it will have the energy to flower this year.  (You can't get something for nothing.)

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

Eggs

I have chickens and I collect eggs daily...
... in fact, I have had more chickens (until the fox killed 10 of them on one night) but now it is just four.
Two of them are old bantams that must be at least 8 or 9 years old.  They don't lay any eggs any more,  but then they don't eat much either and they still produce fertiliser for the garden.  The other two that also survived the fox attack, are both relatively young and lay more or less daily.  That means that I get two eggs each day... more than I need, but plenty for those weeks when the money supply is running low.

I used to sell eggs when I had more chickens,  but it isn't really worth it now.  My two eggs per day are plenty for me and I should add that my puppy (who is mostly fed on commercial dog food and the remnants of some roosters) has a glossy coat since having some extra eggs in her diet.

There are vegans who criticise my use of these animal products and I can understand their view.  However,  I wonder what they would do with the infertile eggs that are left lying around the chicken coop.  It seems such a waste not to make use of them.  I make these eggs into noodles, omelettes, quiches, frittatas and more...  and when I have still more eggs left over,  (I don't eat two whole eggs per day) my dog has a bonus with her breakfast.  Her coat is very shiny.

I collect the chook poo from under the perch where the various chickens spend the night. I use the poo to make liquid fertiliser for the vegetable patch and I clear the straw, laced with more chook poo, for the fallow garden patches.  This is the only cost effective way that I can return material to the soil as I remove it in the guise of vegetables assembled by solar energy.  I begrudge the sewer system all and any of the best material that it removes from my yard and that's another story, but I'm grateful for the chickens that replace so much of it from their meagre diet of grain, scratchings and left over greens from the garden.
Until we assimilate the knowledge that "you can't get something for nothing" and that we live on a finite planet   This leads to the fact that we have to re-cycle not just our plastic/oil-based/mineral materials in the yellow topped council bin every fortnight,  but our nutrients, particularly phosphate, as well and there doesn't seem to be much hope for our particular species on this tiny blue planet in this solar system on an outer spiral of a remote little galaxy in the universe until we do.... makes you feel insignificant, doesn't it  :-)

Monday, 3 September 2012

Cobra lily (Arisaema heterophyllum)

I first found this cobra lily in my garden when I was weeding a couple of years ago.  The one that I have has a mottled stem and typical (apparently) leaves that form a circle with leaf shaped pieces coming off around the circle... very distinctive,  but hard to describe.  The first photographs that I took of them seems to have been flooky and accurate.   I moved some of the plants to a place that I could keep an eye on them and this year,  they have grown well....
 This plant is not as easy to see,   but only because of the surrounding vegetation.   There is one mature leaf and another that is emerging with the complete set of lobes....  from what I had read,  these were assumed to grow as the leaf became larger.  Next day,  the leaf has begun to unfold,  and all of the separate lobes are already there....
... the stem is quite striped (as the original plant was) and the new leaf is unfolding.  I have never seen this plant flower, but I am waiting to see whether it is similar to the other "cobra lily" that I have in the garden.

I can only imagine how the intrepid explorers of olden days felt when they found new and intriguing species in their travels.

Spring

Spring begins here at the equinox which will be on September 22nd here.  (In the Eastern states it will occur just after midnight on the 23rd.)  However,  most people are celebrating it already, at the beginning of the month.   The days are noticeably longer and the weather is lovely, and the garden is ejoying it also.

Currently I am picking broccoli,
 (and the latest ones seem to be producing side shoots even before I pick the main piece... genetic variation?)

There are also cabbages, beets and carrots along with all kinds of "leafy greens", herbs and the occasional leek.  Two of the chickens are laying daily (enough eggs for me) and as the days become longer and warmer,  the weeds are growing much more quickly.

The kale is going to seed.
 I will collect some seeds from these this year, but I'm also giving some of the plants to the chickens.  I have had more than a dozen plants that have supplied leaves for me during the winter, and I'll pick the best few (biggest leaves and slowest to go to seed) to produce seeds for next year.  The other plants will go, one by one, to the chickens.  The love the green leaves and their egg yolks are amazingly dark when they have such a wonderful diet.

The cabbage that I found a couple of weeks ago... the one that was trying to flower....   is still getting there...
... I can't remember whether cabbage flowers are yellow or white.

There are some other beautiful bits and pieces in the garden....  the potatoes love the longer days and are growing much faster now....
 ... and the garlic is looking healthy....
... those lovely big leaves are what is collecting the solar energy to make my garlic bulbs for next winter.

I am still watching the baby broad beans.  I have a few frozen beans from last season,  but only enough for two more batches of risotto, even if I add a few of the frozen artichoke quarters (also from last season.)
These tiny beans are jsut over an inch long, and this is when it becomes an effort of will power not to have a tiny taste of fresh beans.  I always try to wait until they are at least 10 cms long!

The rue is flowering...
The buds have been sitting there for weeks.  Now that the days are longer,  they open...  and people don't seem to understand that plants are able to work things out.
The weeds are doing well also....
.... but I'm pleased with all that is happening here now.