Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Busy week…

The autumn is always a busy time,  but this week I also detoured to the coast and had a few days off.  I had planted some seeds in the week or so prior to that,  so I watered well before I left,  but with no rain at all here in Kapunda,  I did worry a little.  It seems that the tiny plants all survived.  The beetroot had already emerged (and there was a photograph in the previous post) and those plants are looking healthy.

This morning there were a few more seedlings…  carrots
 … the carrots are the plants with the long thin leaves (the little round leaves are weeds, probably stinging nettles)…  the weeds will be removed when I am thinning the carrots in a few weeks time.

Peas….  a few are up and very obvious….

…..  parsley (for tabouli)….

The pumpkin patch continues to take over a huge area….  with quite a few pumpkins growing….
 …. for those who know my yard,  you can see the pumpkin plant going right on past the pond, with baby pumpkins intermittently along the vine….

…. and the pumpkins are of all kinds…..
 …  I am already planning some "pumpkin based" meals.

The blood lilies are attracting the honeyeaters….
 …. and each plant is beginning to produce the double leaf beside the flower stem….
 …. each plant (even those that have not flowered yet) produce the double leaves…..

…. these double leaves serve to catch dew and rainwater in the most efficient manner  (more of this as the season progresses.)

In other news this week:  I have made brinjal pickle from the brinjals (aubergines/eggplants) from the garden.  I added a few peppers (capsicums) as well….
…. and the salsa jars have come in handy too.

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Vegetables and other things….

It's been a busy week,  but I have been slowly planting and weeding as the days have gone by.  The original potato patch that I planted a few weeks ago has really been growing well,  and while it will be some time before I can even steal a few tubers, the plants are definitely looking healthy…
 There don't seem to be any pests about… another advantage of planting these vegetables in the autumn rather than in the spring….
 … beautiful leaves.

The newer plantings are doing ok too…..
 ….  plenty of potatoes!

The pumpkin patch is expanding daily….
 … and a few small pumpkins are forming….

Some self sown onions (where a few of them had gone to seed early in the summer) are springing up.  These are not in the way,  so I'll leave them to produce "spring onions" if nothing more….

… and the recently sown beetroot are up already….
 ….  though not the carrots.  These always take longer and quite a bit more care because the seeds are so tiny and they can dry out so easily.

There are a few "odd" things happening.  This tiny bit of rain (about 10mm over the past week or two) has made the Watsonia sprout… quite early...
 … and then there is the wattle that usually doesn't flower until the winter….
 … and the quince tree has burst into flower too!
 Quince flowers are lovely, especially the buds….
 though it is out of season for these to be around now!

The blood lilies are coming up everywhere…..
 … and the honeyeaters are feasting!
 These will last for quite a while and it is fun to watch the birds fighting over the spoils.

This poor little thing didn't do so well….
 … I found him/her out on the pathway.   The incredible bright yellow feathers look so much brighter when they are really close.   It was a good opportunity to see just how the long pointy beak is shaped to reach into flowers for the nectar….
…  amazing design.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Back to February

2 February 2014
The first week of February this year was very very hot.  From memory,  2 Feb was one of the exceptionally hot days, and it was the end for most of the tomato plants, but a really good day for sun-drying tomatoes.  I had quite a few roma tomatoes and I cut them into halves and laid them onto a biscuit tray from the oven…
 … I covered them with a cake cooling rack and checked them regularly for ants or bird interference.  It was too hot for any of that (even ants and birds don'go out in the really hot weather)  and I removed tomatoes as they were dry enough to be "leathery" and sun-dried looking.

Later in the day I found a piece of bird cage wire that is just perfect fot the purpose and the tomatoes dried very rapidly in the near 50C temperatures.

I checked them regularly and brought them inside as they reached the correct texture.   (I am sure that sun drying like this must have been the "usual" way to deal with excess tomatoes in the past rather than electric drying machines that one can buy.)  There were a few examples that took more than the single day, but most were ready during that day.

Once dried,  I packed the tomatoes into oil with herbs….
…. bit by bit… and I ended up with several jars of tomatoes packed with thyme and rosemary...
and these are the best dried tomatoes that I have ever tasted.  They were definitely "sun dried" and I will be trying some other vegetables next summer…. unless we don't have climate change and its 45-50C temperatures.

Rain… 1mm.

After 12 hours or so of very very light rain,  there is 1 mm  in the gauge.  Yesterday I planted some new seeds…  beetroot and carrots.  I had a piece of shadecloth with which to cover the carrot patch this morning,  but it looks so warm and damp,  I think that the seeds (despite their size… tiny) will love the extra warmth.  I've left the soil uncovered….
 ….  more rain is promised for later in the week.  I hope we get some of that.

The pumpkins are still expanding their territory… here is one that is attempting to cross the pathway to the clothes line….
 …..  I'll be stepping over it for quite a while,  I suppose.

With the end of the very hot weather and a tiny bit of rain, the salvias are flowering beautifully….
This one is a Salvia muirii, a native of South Africa.

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Pumpkin patch

This morning is overcast and damp.  It is the first day for a long time with anything other than a clear blue sky and clear dry air.  This morning is warm and humid and the garden is loving it (and so am I.)  The pumpkin patch seems to be the part of the garden that benefits from a few extra hours of flowering before the flowers just wilt and die.  I took some photographs after 9am this morning when normally the flowers would be starting to look a bit the worse for wear….

….  female flower...

… vine crawling across the weedy patch.  This vine is about 3 metres long,  and growing….

… one vine has taken off across the yard towards the pond…  about 4 metres….
 …. so much photosynthesis,  so many pumpkins full of carbohydrates….

… another female flower, with bees, of course.  I can't find a flower without a bee!

…. Male flower….
I sat out there by the pumpkins with my coffee this morning… beautiful day.

Monday, 10 March 2014

Strange discoveries…. and today's harvest….

I have been out to the garden to take a photograph of the potato leaves…  I find them a particularly lovely plant… their leaves look so lush and beautiful…
 … these are a few weeks old now,  but at this time of the year (supposed to be the "wrong" time to grow potatoes,  the pests are at a minimum and the plants are winning easily.

I also went to collect some watsonia fibre.  I have shown the flowers of watsonia plants previously.  But at this time of the year, the plants are completely dry...
 The leaves here belong to a kurrajong tree, but it is the long fibrous leaves that I collect lately to weave into baskets….  I am really happy with the results.

However, down where the watsonia is at its best,  the blood lilies are appearing also….
 … the honeyeaters will think that it's Christmas!
 None of the flowers are completely open yet, and these are just the first few,  but they are lovely.

The last of the Easter lilies are still around. These are also called "bella donna lilies" or "naked ladies".  this one is particularly lovely….

Then I found the most bizarre item of all….  a lilac flower!  These are supposed to flower in the spring and here we are, at the end of a hot summer with spring in the air?
I have an apple tree that produced a second flush of flowers about three weeks ago too.  This changing climate is really producing some strange effects.

I did collect a few vegetables for dinner….
….  this may well be an eggplant omelette plus!

Lunch was corn… and  I boiled the water before I picked the corn and yes,  it does make a difference.
These are quite pale in colour,  but taste exactly the same as other corn cobs that I have eaten.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Delinquent* Summer, not prodigal**

I had been going to call this post "Prodigal Summer" after the Kingsolver Book,  but decided in the end to call it "delinquent"  despite some negative connotations.

*delinquent - failing in one's duty
** prodigal - living lavishly

All summer I have been busy with other pursuits.  After a rather harrowing year,  I decided to take the summer off and do a few things that I had been intending for some time.  I went to a folk festival, read a lot of books, contemplated my hermitage (for, happily,  that is what my house has become) and I've done a lot of painting and decorating (not so much painting of pictures)  reorganised a lot of my belongings and I've enjoyed some independence for the first time in my life.  It has been good.

But what about the garden?  I grew less food this summer, partly because I had planned to be away from home for a while, and partly because summers are becoming the least favourable growing season here, in Kapunda, as the world's climate changes and the climate here alters from mediterranean to semi-arid.  In the past,  I have planted judiciously, sheltered my productive plants from the heat and sun and mulched well the fallow parts of the garden to preserve the micro-organisms that live there.
In patches where the soil is unprotected,  it bakes into a hard dry surface…. and it is dusty for as far down as you would like to dig…..
 This patch (with a parsley plant, gone to seed, behind)  has been covered with goat bedding and when I dug down about six inches,  there were earth worms at the end of the summer.  I had watered very occasionally,  but if these earthworms ave survived,  then so would the micro-organisms that I'll be needing for the potatoes that will be planted here later (see below.)
This year,  I planted less and greater areas were mulched.  And it turned out to be one of the hottest summers ever, with many days that were hotter than 45C (113F) and one day on which the temperature in the shade at the southern side of the house (the coolest spot) reached more than 50C (122F).   Climate change is all around us.  Taking care of the soil is more important than ever.

Despite not having reached the Equinox yet,  this month is seen as the beginning of autumn here,  and, despite a few more hot days, the days are definitely shorter and the plants are finding life much easier. I am still watering daily.  Summer rainfall is very intermittent and even the winter, and more normal rain, is becoming less.

And so,  what is growing?  I have had quite a few questions about that lately (along with the questions about when I would be returning to this blog.)  I have picked the tomatoes and made pasta sauce with an assortment of other vegetables as well.
My Fowler's Vacola boiler finally sprang a leak and so I used a large stock pot and guessed the temperature by what the water looked like.  Years ago,  people used to be able to preserve surplus produce using a kerosene tin as a boiler.  With that in mind,  I decided to try and it really isn't so hard.  The only replacement "vacola" boiler that I could find on eBay was more than $100.

The tomato plants didn't like the hot weather at all,  and finally gave up altogether after the last really long heatwave.  I have had plenty of leafy green herbs and some silver beet,  though these have had very little care and managed to survive anyway.  Currently I am picking eggplants, capsicums, the last of the onions, zucchini, corn, a few "lost potatoes" and some cherry tomatoes that were self sown and seemingly indestructable.
 The chickens are laying,  and so I have plenty of eggs and then there is the pumpkin patch….
I always save the seeds from pumpkins that I eat, and I let these all dry near the stove during last winter.  Before Christmas I spread them on the ground over quite an area and covered them with a wheelbarrow load of goat bedding and poo.  They have "gone wild" and are currently forming pumpkins over a huge area.  The vines trail off into the distance in all directions….
 There is corn amongst this also…  the seeds were thrown in with the pumpkin ones.  And by now,  the pumpkins are "taking off" into the bushes….

 Baby pumpkins are all over the place…. maybe 10 or 15 so far….

I'm going to let them all grow….  I don't really want any huge examples as I need to be able to eat them quickly once they are cut.  I don't have much refrigeration.  A lot of small pumpkins will do nicely.  It has been interesting to see the pumpkin plants training the bees for weeks before they produced any female flowers…  and to be now producing those famale flowers up to 8 metres from the other plants.  They are incredibly clever.

I have planted the first potatoes.  As I have commented previously,  the easiest carbohydrate to grow is that produced by potatoes and so I plant plenty of them.  They are "supposed" to be grown all summer, but it is a waste of water to try to keep them going during the hottest months.  We will have no frosts for many months yet,  and the sunlight remains enough to grow plenty pf potatoes… perhaps they are smaller than they would be if the days were longer,  but I will have plenty of potatoes here….  about 10  plants….

… and from the next planted patch (where the goat bedding protected soil and parsley, gone to seed, was shown above)  There are about 30 plants here.

In items too many to mention today are the sweet potatoes, bananas, a few new herb discoveries and plenty of garden surprises.
My delinquent summer is over… and I am back to working more consistently in the garden, and hopefully the studio as well.  Autumn is here and life is good.