Saturday, 29 June 2013

Mowing

This morning, after a really busy week,  I mowed quite a bit of the yard...  that old saying "turn weeds into lawn" doesn't quite do it,   but at least it is easier to get around most of it now....
 ... without cold wet feet!   I can also hang the washing out without getting seriously wet feet....


The potatoes are still growing... the older plants are doing much better than the tiny new ones,  but they are all going to be alright, I thiink...

The broad beans are all up, though this patch needs some serious weeding....
 ... stinging nettles are doing well, but will make good fertiliser.

The main little patch is a lot easier to deal with.....
 .... and the plants are looking healthy so far.

Broccoli is still producing (cauliflowers too) ....
 .... and the ones that I have already raided are now producing side shoots....
... these side shoots are just as good as the main crop, and, while probably not worth fiddling around with for the commercial producers,  they are really good in the back yard where a little bit every day serves best.

My favourite rose bush is flowering.  This one had a hard time a couple of years ago when it was pruned into a bush shape by a "helper"... when it is actually a climber!
 It is a rose without the multiple rows of petals....
 ... just beautiful.

The jonquils are flowering as well, and this one is one of my favourites....

.... and it is salvia season!  So beautiful....

and this (very similar) one "African Skies"....

Salvia leucantha  (Mexican sage)....


Salvia microphylla (Huntington's red).....


Salvia chamelaeagnia (a native to South Africa)


... and even the weeds are flowering....  sour sobs (oxalis), another South African plant that was introduced as a garden plant many, many years ago....
... and they are now impossible to eradicate.  It's a pity that the early settlers didn't look around for local native plants for their gardens.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Frost

Frost... it had to happen this week.  The weather is predicted to remain much the same for at least a week.  (Still not much rain though.)

Last night, as I went out to the woodpile for an armful (a yaffle, for the Newfies out there) to fill the heater before I went to bed, the moon was half,  the stars were bright and I knew it would be a frosty morning.   The fog has only now (at 9am) begun to form.

It isn't a heavy frost,  no doubt those will come later in the week,  but the potatoes are looking a little worse for wear...
 ... this is the very same plant that I photographed yesterday...  it will be interesting to see how it fares by the end of this week.

The frost was all over the mulch and the plants,  but the older (tougher?) potato plants behind don't seem to be as badly stung....

 The tiny crystals are lovely to see up close.....
 ... and these are just beauti.ful...

Some plants don't seem to be troubled by the cold.....  broad beans....
 and the first jonquil flower has opened overnight....

The snowpea flowers also....
....  the garden is lovely this morning.

I can well imagine some of my Canadian friends laughing at my "frost" and during my time there, in the '70's and '80's,  I would have too.... how one's views of the world can change!

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Cold weather, but no frost as we approach the solstice... June 21st.

The past few days have been cold... the first really wintery weather that we have had so far this year.  Late last night,  I went out to the wood pile to bring in a nice big "chunky" piece of wood for the fire to keep it coing overnight.  The moon had gone down,  so the stars were lovely.  The clear sky made me a little bit worried about a frost.  The rain over the past week has increased the humidity, and by morning there was plenty of fog to protect the ground...  no frost,  just that sound-deadening fog.
My "frost gauge" is the potato patch.  Apart from a few limp looking leaves,  there was no indication of frost at all.   The outside temperature (by the time I went out to check) was 7C, so I'm assuming that it didn't get much below that in the early morning.
The winter solstice will be at about 2.30 in the afternoon on Friday (21st June) and then the days will begin to get longer.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Winter galahs...

It has been raining, off and on, for three days.  We have had 5mm altogether, and the weather has turned cold.  Winter is here.  I have been out picking cauliflowers, broccoli and parsley, collecting eggs and feeding the menagerie.  Earlier, I had seen a pair of galahs sitting on the chimney of my house...  at least one was on the chimney,  the other was making use of the television aerial.  I plan to try to photograph them there.  They watched me warily as I checked out the garden patches.  I often see crested pigeons or various doves up there...  I have even see a peregrine falcon snatch a pigeon from the television aerial one day...  anyway,  this also made me think to check out the nest hole in gum tree....  after rain,  the birds should surely be thinking of nesting, and so they are...
 ... one of them is busy picking bark from around the hole,  while the other is puffing and preening nearby.

Inside, the fire is buring in the living room and the house is warm.  It is interesting to think that the living room is the warmest room in winter,  but also the coolest room in summer.
 This certainly makes it a "living" room.  Other places are lovely too,  but the living room,  with my desk, books, classic fm and a cup of tea is just wonderful.

Today I will re-watch a dvd that has arrived from the producer.  This movie, that has been made by Michael Sosebee, investigates the dire environmental situation that we find ourselves in....   and, with 200 species becoming extinct daily,  the threat to our own survival.


I first heard about the film on Guy McPherson's blog, Nature Bats Last, and it carries an important message.  The trailer is here.....
... and it makes me think of Derrick Jensen's essay  "Forget Shorter Showers" and I'm afraid that I, too, have decided that the current actions (shorter showers and alternative electicity production methods) appear to be too little, too late.

I continue to grow my vegetables and reduce my ecological footprint as much as I can.



Saturday, 8 June 2013

Sweet potatoes

I have always grown the "ordinary" potatoes.... various kinds of those...  but this year I tried sweet potatoes as well.  I grew them in a  barrel, and the plants were spectacular, they were still growing,   but beginning to look a little the worse for wear.... something was eating the leaves.  they seem to be a favourite of some kinds of loopers.  Anyway, today I decided to pull them up and see whether there were any tubers under there....  and there were...
 ... these are not all of them,  but these are the best ones.  Some of them are long and skinny like carrots, and there are obviously quite a few that would have grown larger if I'd left them.
It has been a successful experiment though.  The plants grew very well in the half barrel....
 .... this photograph was taken quite a few months ago, from memory.  I will try some more in the barrel again after the winter,  though in truth,  the vines seem to be very hardy.  I will plant them in a variety of places from now on,  to see how they go.

The rest of the garden has grown well too.  I hadn't collected the eggs yesterday as I was away for most of the day,   and so there are plenty...
.... the rest includes an assortment of herbs, broccoli, garlic leaves and some jalapenos.... with sweet potatoes,  dinner should be good!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Cauliflower... keeping them white and sweet and eating them fresh

Cauliflowers really don't like the sun.  Of course I am looking at this from the pint of view of the person who  is growing them for food.  Once the "curd" forms, it rapidly grows bigger, though remaining "tight" and hard to the touch.  With enough sun,  however,  the cauliflower does what it is supposed to and the "flower" tries to mature to mae more baby cauliflowers.   As it does this,  the curd gets "looser" and turns yellowish and tastes quite bitter.
As a gardener who wants the most cauliflower for my effort,  I try to trick the cauliflower into thinking that it's not as sunny and warm as it is in reality... hence the clothes peg....
... and I use a couple of pegs for most cauliflowers.  This one actually has two, though just one is visible in this picture.  This cauliflower is edible now, but I don't need it today and rather than pick it now,  I'll leave it until I need to eat it, keeping it white and sweet under its own leaves.
Not only do I get to eat very fresh vegetables,  but I don't need much refrigerated storage space... the vegetables are all better kept "in the ground" until I need them.  Planning a menu is done in the garden after checking what is available.




Self-sown gifts from the garden

Today's harvest... small but enough for dinner...
 ... I picked some flowers too.  They were hanging out over the pathway and so I "pruned" the bush... the red salvia  (I think it's a Huntington's red, from memory,  though I am not 100% certain.)

I gave the goats another bale of hay today and "stole" two barrow loads of "leftovers, incuding goat poo, for the potatoes that are growing well...
As I have commented previously,  potatoes seem to do best here in winter.  We do get slight frosts occasionally (though none since mid 2011) and that can slow them down.  However,  they really need more water than one can supply in summer.  It isn't possible to buy seed potatoes in the autumn (they won't be available until about August... just before spring)  and so I either keep my own, and these have been fairly successful with only a few diseased tubers which I have burned.  Otherwise,  I buy seed potatoes and keep those in the refrigerator until the end of summer. they don't seem to mind being in suspended animation for that time.

The broad beans are well and truly up.   As I commented a few weeks ago,  I didn't plant them in April, as I usually do as the weather was still too hot and dry.  I don't think it makes much difference to them.  They will grow well enough even when planted in the winter around here.
 This broad bean plant (below) is another self-sown one.  I had found a couple of those when I planted the seeds  this year,  and this is another....  right beside a garlic plant and some snow peas...  broccoli behind....

More self-sown plants,  these are some self-sown parsley plants....  hundreds of them...
 The gap in the middle is where I pulled out the parent plant a week or so ago,  just to let the sage plant have a bit of space.  I still have plenty of parsley....
 .... all self sown and healthy.  Once again, it is easy to see why tobouleh is such a mediterranean staple.
The old parsley plants are still flowering....
 ... and the bees are still enjoying them.

Coriander is coming up now too.....  all self-sown and where it is too thick,  I have been transplanting clumps to little bare spots among the vegetables...
 ... and self-sown lettuces....
 ... even a lettuce plant in the onion patch!


My "rescued" leeks and onions are doing well....
 ... these were poor dying punnets of seedlings that were being dumped for a dollar each.  I soaked them in seaweed solution and planted them out.
They all seem to have survived.  Onions and leeks are the kind of plants that are definitely worth rescuing from the rubbish heap.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Winter vegetables

I have been out to collect eggs,  feed animals and collect vegetables for dinner.  I was out there early so that I could have coriander on my breakfast avocado & salsa toast....
 ... that and my coffee was really good.

I brought in the next vegetables as well... and the regular eggs.  I had eaten a whole cabbage last week. I don't really like the shop ones.  They are not very sweet.  I grow a variety called "sugarloaf" which are relatively small and very sweet.  I am not convinced that the sweetness has  any more to do with the variety than the freshness.  Like many other vegetables,  they are so much sweeter when they are newly picked.
Today I collected cabbage and broccoli... plenty for today.  I'll leave the rest alive in the garden.  Now that  the weather is cooler, the vegetables mature more slowly too so it's not a matter of picking as much every day.  It feels like a luxurious way to live... to go out in the morning finding the best of what is available for the day.

I did pick a couple of caterpillars off the cauliflowers and a smaller cabbage, but once again,  I'd rather eat whatever doesn't hurt the other creatures in the yard.

The garden has definitely enjoyed the rain over the past week.  Altogether,  we have received about 38 mm.  It is enough to have not only the broad beans and brassicas germinating,  but a bountiful crop of stinging nettles, marshmallows and sour sobs.

In other news,  the pond level does not seem to have dropped at all, and so my fears of a leak somewhere appear to be unfounded.  The constant drop in level was probably due to evaporation.  The amount of evaporation is said to be more than a metre every year though most of that occurs in the non-rainy season.  In the summer,  the humidity can be so low that it is seriously uncomfortable,  not only for the garden,  plants and soil,  but for people also.  The fact that the level has not dropped during this damp weather (the inch of rain would not have been enough to keep up with a leak) indicates that evaporation is the main issue here.  Slight relief!