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.


Meeka said...

Great to see you back. Hope you had a restful break. Summer was terrible this year, agree glad Autumn has arrived. Your pumpkins look awesome. :)

Jan said...

Good to see you back Jane.