Thursday, 7 December 2017

Change in direction? Not really.

The blog has sat,  unattended, for some months.  Since July!  Even that surprised me when I actually checked back with it.  I hadn't forgotten it.  I had even referred to it when I had been "discussing" some issues on facebook or in the real world.  I have thought about beginning a new series altogether.  The garden continues to thrive, and it is even more productive that I had ever imagined.  I have a few ideas about why, and how this has come about, and mostly it means that "instant fixes" just don't work.  It all takes time and patience and remembering to take care of the soil. But I have said all that before.
Winter flowers - wattle.

In the past I have ventured, very briefly, into areas of philosophy, books, recipes, and life.  All of this seems to be related.  The garden, the cooking and the ideas that go with it are unavoidably connected.  Where one bit ends and the next begins is hard to pick.... it's all a work in progress.  But then it didn't really start only when I moved here,  to Kapunda.  I had been trying to live simply, despite living as an "academic gypsy" for many years.  And there are many stories there too....

Kitchen bench - winter.

These days I am able to grow most of my own food, and when once it was a novelty to provide all of the ingredients for dinner,  it happens regularly now.  I have reduced the amount of some plantings, and increased others as I work out just how much I need to have,  and how much surplus is too much to deal with.  I continue to learn.  I am becoming more "self sufficient".

Broad beans - early spring.

The other issue that I deal with is preparation of food in appropriate quantities.  In the past,  with a large family, I was able to prepare huge quantities of food at short notice, including a few significant occasions when I was sorely tested by important guests or teenage "invasions".   The opposite problem,  cooking for one, can be just as challenging.  I am learning.

Salvia somaliensis - a favourite.

Now that spring is here,  almost the summer solstice, it is time to change direction though continue to tread lightly on the earth.

Monday, 31 July 2017


I have just watched an interesting video on youtube about permaculture, agriculture and more... and it has made me think.....
The video is well worth watching,  but there is more to think about.

Some years ago,  I read a really interesting book by Lolo Houbein entitled "One Magic Square".  She described growing a food garden on a relatively small scale and which included "horta" which can refer to "greek boiled vegetables" or an Etruscan Goddess!  Houbein's "horta" plot "can be sown in any season" and "it grows fast, provides variety and can be grown.... each season thereafter."  According to Houbein,  the Greeks have, since ancient times, gathered horta from the mountains, gathering edible wild greens for the pot.

My garden weeds don't really look very likely as pot herbs go,  though some are edible and prolific.  The idea of growing a 'horta plot' has occurred to me now that I am saving seed from many of my food plants.
Most plants produce much more seed than is required to replace the "parent plants" and, despite planting larger areas,  I am left with surplus seed.  I do give plenty away.  I am still left with surplus seed.  I plant bigger areas,  and I am still left with surplus seed,  even in less productive years.  While it is good to know that I can produce plenty of food plants for myself, many of them grow for limited time, seasonally.

All of this is really a series of "problems"....  how to grow the right amount of food,  save the appropriate amount of seed, and what to do with the surplus when there are no more recipients.

It occurred to me that those Greek people who gathered wild greens for the pot,  horta,  no doubt spread the any seeds of those plants in convenient, easily located places for next season....  not quite "agriculture",  but more than just "wild gathering".  It is somewhere in between.

And so I am beginning to sow excess seed relatively randomly in a medium distant part of the garden...  quite a mixture...  herbs and vegetables... so that, despite not having a mountainside to explore,  I might  be able to gather horta for the pot in a few months time.

In the past,  I have done this with "old" spice seeds, some of which grew very well,  some less so....  but this year, and with 70mm of rain this month, I think that I should have a horta patch by the time that spring arrives.

Friday, 28 July 2017


It is an unusual winter....  and the internet is helping me to see just how different it is this year.  My old blog posts are a part of this,  though facebook (with its good and bad) has been showing me pictures of  "this day" in some past year.  It makes comparisons with other years in the garden effortless.

June was very dry and so my planting, along with many local farmers, was late.  We have had more rain during July...  more than 50mm so far,  and so the winter vegetables are coming along and the weeds are germinating rapidly.  The difference in seasons is shown effectively by these "flashbacks" in my social media feeds.

I still refer back to my "old" posts for information sometimes, and feel as though repeating information isn't very useful.  This was made obvious to me this week when someone, elsewhere, referred to the "phosphate issue" and the fact that we are "flushing it all out to sea".  It is true,  and I am reminded me of my old post....
Perhaps I can diverge into thoughts about life, the universe and everything.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Not much rain, late season and where to from here....

I have just posted a "half written" bit from over a month ago.  It's not because I have nothing to say,  but because I seem to have "gone off on a tangent" as far as what is happening in the garden, the house and everything.  There is the issue that "life has got in the way" as I am now a carer for my aged mother....  having just (almost) relinquishing care of my youngest son.  He seems to be doing well, and my mother seems to be needing more effort on my part.  I hadn't anticipated this.
The garden is running late this year.  It has been a very dry autumn and so I planted seeds and seedlings later than usual.  It isn't a serious problem,  but it is fairly extreme.  Facebook has made the delay even more obvious.  The "this day last year' memories that the app enables makes it all so obvious.  Instead of the jonquil flowers that I am being shown of this day last year,  the bulbs are only now emerging from the soil....

I have planted most of the usual winter crops,  and those have needed supplementary watering...  in June!  For the whole month, we had only 18mm of rain.  
 Broad beans.....

..... and an assortment of brassicas.
I have also been writing, as usual,  a diary of sorts,  and so I may begin to include some of those thoughts here....  though it may end up being an essay on "why I am an introvert" rather than a garden monologue.

End of May... but posted late.

I haven't been writing any "serious posts" for quite a long time.  My garden, growing food and managing my household (while dealing with a few difficult personal issues) have taken my time.  That doesn't mean that I haven't been thinking.  I try to avoid discussions about CO2 in the atmosphere, climate or renewable energy sources, mainly because I don't agree with many people and it is rather stressful to find myself in arguments.

The measurements of CO at Mauna Loa,  even if they are inaccurate as a measure for the whole earth,  are the longest consistent estimation that we have.  Just how unsafe the levels are now does require some projection, and the "deniers" are happy to say that it's all rather speculative so that we needn't consider it an issue.  (Some even think that the added CO2 might help plants grow, despite the fact that there is no indication of a CO2 deficiency for plant growth.)  Anyway,  it has been suggested that 350ppm would be a safe level to contain any serious consequences.  Unfortunately,  the Mauna Loa levels are now indicating that we are at 410ppm and rising.  This does not seem prudent.

The only solution that ever seems to be discussed is the production of electrical energy by "renewable" means to maintain the current "first world" lifestyle.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Strange weather, late autumn.

The autumn bulbs have been late this year... blood lilies are still out there being raided by the honeyeaters,  though not for much longer,  I suppose.
 They are already beginning to look a little the worse for wear.  The honeyeaters are rough on the petals.

The prickly pears were less abundant this year, perhaps due to the late spring,  I am not sure,  but they were later than usual and there were less of them.  They do make beautiful icecream!

After a late spring, moderate summer and an autumn that seems not to have brought much change until now,  suddenly, it feels like winter.  The climate certainly is becoming unpredictable.

The summer vegetables have just about finished.  Their self sown replacements are already showing their greenery.  I have also planted the broad bean seeds (usually about Anzac Day) and some "winter seedlings" are planted.  So far, so good. I shall wait to see how the season unfolds.  Meanwhile,  weekend afternoons on the verandah are most enjoyable.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Summer, corn and a long drive.

Once again,  life has got in the way of blogging.  It has been a busy patch with family celebrations, music rehearsals and carer duties, but the garden survives.
The summer has been unusual in Kapunda.  We have had an exceptional amount of rain,  later than usual hot days and, despite the news of a record hot summer in Australia,  Kapunda has had less VERY hot days (over 45C.... 113F.)  The garden continues to feed me.
This year I grew more corn than I have ever tried before and one of the varieties that I grew was not one of the usual hybrid varieties because I will try to save some seed to see how that goes next year.

The male flowers appeared early and looked beautiful....
 .... and then the female flowers.....  
 ... and finally the ripened corn cobs......
 ...... lovely.

This year the prickly pear fruits are much later than usual.  By this time last year I had been eating them for weeks and all of the fruit was ripened.  This year,  after the cool weather until Christmas,  it has taken longer to produce the fruits and for it all to turn red.  This is the first ripe fruit... today.

The family celebration involved my solo drive to Brisbane and back.  It was tiring,  but I am so glad that I made it. A total trip of more than 4000km.
A couple of photographs from my return journey....
I did have near misses with one kangaroo, an emu and a baby goat,  but no damage to any of us.

There has been so much news about out "gold plated electrical infrastructure" that has replaced much of the old poles and wires.  Here is an old pole left for the birds that had made such good use of it....

Arriving home safely was quite a relief.  I was pleased to see the "Kapunda" sign.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Summer, in pictures.

This summer has been late arriving, significantly wetter than usual and much gentler on the garden.  I planted things a little bit later than usual.... partly because of the weather and I didn't want to commit myself to too much watering,  too early, but also because I was busy with family/centrelink issues and didn't have enough hours in each day.  I am so glad that much of the garden has been takin gcare of itself.

By now,  these gentle days (only a few over 40C so far... nothing near 50C) my patch of vegetables seems to be going very well.  There has even been enough rain to maintain the potatoes so that they are still producing and so far, they are not looking as though they will die off any time soon.
We have had several severe storms and I have needed help to deal with the damage to trees....
red gums and pepper trees (below.)

It has been a good time to save some seeds too....  broad beans, onions and lettuce and a few more besides...

Meanwhile,  the summer crops are growing well and it is a joy to go out each morning to discover what new flower, fruit or just amazing plants are there....
 Zucchini flowers are lovely and, with potatoes, they make absolutely beautiful soup.
 The male corn flowers appear first, and then the female flowers (below)
 ... and it looks as though the corn will be plentiful this year.  A gentle summer season is lovely.

 The cucumber plants are growing up through the corn stalks.... along with some beanstalks (below)  as well.

I am always amazed at the skill of these plants to be able to make use of what ever support is available.  These beans are climbing up a bamboo stick that I put there for the purpose when I realised where some of these plants were going.
Gardening is an adventure, the food is good and my grocery bill is much reduced these days.

Sunday, 8 January 2017

Zucchinis and cucumbers in 2017

After the cool and unusually wet spring,  we had a very hot Christmas Day, and now with January here,  the heat is really on.  Growing food in winter can be relatively easy... I just plant the appropriate seedlings or seeds and they grow, sometimes slowly,  but with little effort on my part.  This is not so in summer.
The current heat wave, with temperatures above 40C is very hard on some of the smaller plants. This year I waited to see how things were going and then, planted quite a few things late... I resorted to buying seedlings from the nursery for some plants.  And that has been an adventure in itself.  One of the punnets that I bought had, supposedly six zucchini plants, each in their own little cell.  I soaked them in some dilute seasol (to give them the best chance to thrive) and then dug some gypsum into the soil and transplanted the little plants.   this was before Christmas,  and as the little plants got going,  some of them showed signs of powdery mildew (there was some rain during that couple of weeks.)
Anyway,  two of the plants looked quite free of the mildew.... noticeably different.  By now,  they are really quite different, and have turned out to be cucumber plants... so my punnet of zucchini plants had 4 of the expected variety, and 2 cucumber plants....
.... and four zucchini plants...
... in fact all of the plants seem healthy and I will have a few less zucchini and a few extra cucumbers.  2017 should be a good year.