Farewell to 2014. Hello 2015.

I must admit, I don’t really ‘get’ the hype that many have in relation to celebrating New Year. To me it is just another day, but I don’t mind any excuse to spend some time with those we love and to indulge in just a bit more food to well and truly top of the festive season.

My last weekend of 2014 was spent…….

Preparing the vegie patch to cope as well as possible during the anticipated hot spell (36c tomorrow and 40c Sat). With a camping trip coming up I like to leave things pretty well self managed as much as possible. First up was to offer the chooks some extra protection from the overhead and hot westerly sun by installing some shade cloth on the coop. I also added an extra water source that is in the shaded part of the coop to extend the water availability and it will be cooler there. Chooks don’t like hot water!

Chicken shadedBecause the summer sun is so much higher, it means the shiitake and pioppiono mushroom logs are exposed to a bit too much sun. I’ve rigged up a temporary shade cover that will do until I get a chance to make a more permanent structure (I hope). I’ve also put the plug into the bath they are stacked in to maintain the humidity to a higher level. I don’t anticipate harvesting anything from these logs for quite a few months yet, but I want to maintain the best the conditions I can. I am considering installing an automated misting system here, but it is not high up on the very long list of priorities!

Shiitake shade coverMulching of all the beds has been done in earnest. The ability to keep surface roots cool and minimise evaporation by mulching has proven to be extremely effective. I use organic sugar cane mulch just because its easy and readily available. I’ve mulched the asparagus bed, tomatoes, the potatoes growing in a bathtub, the wicking beds in the greenhouse and I will do the last couple of wicking beds over the next couple of days. The photo below is of the wicking bed in the greenhouse where I have had to heavily cut back the sweet potatoes (on right) because of their vigorous growth that was threatening to overtake all the strawberries. I doubt whether I will get tubers and as I only use the tops for greens in stir fry it doesn’t present an issue.

Sweet potato

One of the compost bins and the worm farm need a little more sun protection.  Some shade cloth and a piece of carpet should insulate the worms. They seem to hold their own pretty well if they have a deep place to dig down into.

IMG_6896This is what’s happening in the greenhouse. I’ve rigged up the gravity fed ‘auto pot’ watering system for the tomatoes (on the left). The old olive drum is full of nutrient made from an organic mix and it syphons into the pots when the water level drops to a specific point. It can go for several weeks without extra watering. There are cucumbers (yellow flowers) capsicum, lemon grass (gangbusters!) all doing well and the tomatoes I have trained along bamboo stakes have been maturing since mid November. I am now starting to harvest larger varieties which we welcome very much.

IMG_6901I planted up our camping herb planter box. By the time we head off, these lettuce, basil, coriander, chives and parsley will be a good size for adding to our evening meals. These little touches add greatly to our camping meals and saves buying large quantities that end up wasted. Not to mention how I can avoid having plastic packaging when I buy supermarket herbs.

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The exclusion bags I put over the blueberry fruit have proven to be excellent! I now need to go in and pick these luscious beauties. Some are as big as marbles. Hope the taste is big too!

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We spent New Years Eve with friends and their lovely guests and I have some interesting reports to make on the food I took to share. That will be covered in my IMK post tomorrow.

I wish everyone a happy 2015 and look forward to learning more from the wonderful bloggers I have hooked up with in 2014. It is such a fruitful and rewarding way to share knowledge and learn so much more than you would normally.

 

Garden Share Collective July 2014

Time to have a think about what’s been happening, being harvested and planned over the last month.

We are halfway through a school term break here and I have been going ‘gangbusters’ trying to achieve as much as I can while I have the opportunity.

Plantings

I have planted a whole lot of flower seedlings I started earlier in the year, these have been put into the bed that has a lane way running along it. A good spot for viewing flowers from the lounge room window. I have also planted some kale, leeks, divided up and planted runners on strawberry plants. I grow these strawberries in self watering pots, the plastic drum is filled with nutrient rich water and refills the planter automatically as needed. I’ll add a more detailed post about these at a later time.

Strawberries in need of TLC IMG_4605We’ve planted a few shrubs , one I’m excited about is the native pepper berry which should fill in a nice gap along the fence as well as giving us the opportunity to use the berries in cooking and it is a good for attracting native birds. I’m still working on a place to plant my peach tree! Just can’t decide where will be most suitable.

What I’ve been and plan to be doing.

Jobs targeted over the last couple of weeks have been to spread mulch over the newly marked out beds along the back of the yard. This is what’s left (until it stops raining), rest will be spread next week.

IMG_4609 Mulch really neatens the overall look up. I had been using these beds as a dumping ground for all the soft prunings and old tomatoes, pumpkin vines etc, knowing that they would be covered soon. Now the mulch is covering this green waste, it creates a natural composting environment which will aid in developing better soil long term.

IMG_4607 IMG_4608

I’ve started building 2 wicking beds in the greenhouse, already I can see how much more available growing space there will be compared to using the old bathtubs.

IMG_4600I’ve targeted next week as the time to put smaller wire on the chicken shed to stop those pesky little sparrows coming in. Only if it stops raining of course! We’ve had around 60ml in 24 hours. Glad the gutters were cleaned out last week! I also plan to move the shiitake mushrooms to a dedicated space  behind the greenhousethat’s not much good for anything else. Think it’s time to innoculate  some fresh logs soon.

IMG_4575Harvesting

We’ve had some great harvests recently. The broccoli is sensational, as is the kale. I’m picking celery, beetroot, snow peas, assorted herbs, silver beet, lemons, lemons and more lemons.  The chooks have started laying again after a short layoff. I had to buy eggs last week for the first time in 12 months, that hurt!

Had a great stir fry with most of our stuff and some kohlrabi that I bought from Thorpdale Organics. Never tried it before and it was sensational, absolute winner of a veg. Bought a water chestnut type crunch to the dish. Great chicken and veg stir fry was the result!

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It is summer isn’t it?

Another lovely summer day, not! At this rate we will not be seeing many tomatoes, pumpkins or much else that likes a bit of heat. Too yucky to work outside so took a pickie of todays harvest. Zucchini, thyme, parsley, asparagus, lettuce, strawberries, ONE raspberry and an egg. Asparagus just about finished as are the raspberries. If I could only grow one thing it would have to be raspberries. LOVE them!Not quite summer harvest

First jobs for the New Year – and the last of the last years!

I must admit to having a very lazy day today. Not from over partying the seeing in of 2014  but just because it felt right. I am going back into the office tomorrow which doesn’t fill me with glee. I have been really busy since school finished and it was the first time it just felt right to stop.

Some of the jobs I ticked off over the last couple of days in readiness for the new year are:

  • Mulching the citrus trees with manure and topping with spent hay to keep cool
  • Feeding citrus
  • Getting my espaliered pear tree a bit under control and headed the way I want it to.

Before                                                                                             AfterEspaliered pear before TLCEsp Pear after TLC

  • Succession planting of leeks, cucumbers, radish, lettuce and beans
  • Cleaning up the perennial cottage garden bed
  • Get the holiday herb pot going. A few years ago my sister mentioned they took a pot with lettuce and  herbs away with them and I must admit I thought they were bordering on senility! A few camping trips ago I had a glut of basil, parsley, lettuce and something else, so threw them into a pot to take with us. guess what I have been doing every camping holiday since! It’s amazing how much difference a few sprigs of fresh herbs can make to a camp dinner or breaky. Especially some fresh bruschetta with basil. Mmm, mm, mmmm. These should be ready for our trip in a couple of weeks.Camping salad herb pot
  • Mulching, feeding and deep watering the raspberries. I topped the beds up with bags of manure, compost and some pea straw. Rejigging the placement of the strawberry pots so we can actually get into the berry house is an improvement. Really happy with these raspberries in their first season. Adding all this feed now to boost resistance to drying out and to get root system really well developed.Berry house
  • Sorting out the worm farm and harvesting some worm castings to go onto the surface of strawberry pots above.
  • Pruned, tied and generally tidied up the 40 tomato plants I have planted. That seemed to take forever and it appears harvest will be late this year. Not a lot of young fruit developing yet. Plenty of flowers, so I am hand pollinating hoping to get better sets. Zucchini are not setting male flowers so I hope they get working soon or I won’t have any. I attempted pollinating zucchini with a male pumpkin flower yesterday, so that will be interesting!

    Big Beef (I think)
    Big Beef (I think). Name tags a bit muddled.
  • Yesterday I got onto the roof of the old stables in the hope I could pick some ripe mulberries that the birds had missed. Not a hope! But while up there I did take a couple of shots of how the yard is progressing. Things look so much different from above. Not bad seeing this garden is only a few months old!Aerial viewIMG_2287
  • I can remember reading or hearing somewhere that laterals removed from tomatoes can be replanted and they would grow new plants. I put this to the test a few weeks ago and voila! Really healthy, strong, new plants created. I might do this towards the end of the season and get some fresh plants for the greenhouse overwintering.Tomato lateral growing

Today I set about creating a better system for storing and tracking what seeds I have. Do I really have seed of 11 tomato varieties? How did that happen? I can now record what I get and when planting I can make sure I use the oldest first. I am going to set it up with an auto colour/shading formula so I will be alerted to old or approaching past best by times.

Seed Tracker

A lovely time watching the pretty little poppies dancing in the breeze today. Can even see some pollen flitting around on this one. Happy New Year everyone!!

Poppy pollen

In, out, in, out………

Deciding on what to tackle is loosely based around on the weather conditions, fine-work outside, wet-work inside. With the weather being very unpredictable at the moment changing from fine to wet and back again in the space of an hour or so we were doing a bit of toing and froing in and out all weekend. During the yucky, wet periods, it was clean and tidy up the verandah, (which looked absolutely frightful with reno stuff piled everywhere), and continue working on finishing painting the bedroom. We were going to fit the skirting boards but decided it would be best to wait until the floors are sanded. Can’t wait to post a photo of the finished bedroom!

Out for a bit.

Lots happening in the patch at the moment. One of the not so good things is that some crows discovered my corn seedlings and thought they were ideal fodder. With some quick thinking I requested some frames be attached to the beds. These will not only be used for supporting bird netting, but will mean I have something to attach shade cloth to in the very hot weather and they can also be used as anchoring points for trellis, wire and other supports. I think they will work really well and it was good to use up a bit of the old timber that came from a bungalow we demolished. There will be rails going across from  front to back  as well making them genuine ‘Four Poster Beds.  It started raining and we will have to come out again and get back to that.

Bird Proofing

Back in for a bit.

After a delightful brunch of cereal, greek yoghurt, skim milk and my beautiful strawberries, I headed into the greenhouse and did some planting, feeding, tying up and thinking.

Cereal with strawberries
Picking about this many every two days at the moment. They are soooo much nicer than the shop ones.

I am so sick of losing basil to snails and slugs I thought I’d try starting seed off in a hydroponic box. I cut down the lid of a broccoli box so it fits inside the box, made holes that fit small cups in,  filled the cups with potting mix, filled the box with nutrient solution, fitted some bamboo stakes through the box walls to keep the lid at a height that the cups have just their bottoms in the solution. Put some basil seed in cups on top and watered, then plonked the tray into the box. I grew basil in a similar way a few years ago and it was a great success.

Basil in a wet box
See how we go with this!

Thanks to my wonderful Sproutwell Greenhouse, I have some tomatoes just about ripe, Ripening Tomato

and some black cherry tomatoes going gangbusters in the old bath along with some rockmelons.

Some great harvests this week, potatoes, asparagus, our first raspberries at this house, (YAY!)

First raspberries

lettuce, herbs, silverbeet, and lots of radishes. I’ve cut the scapes from the garlic and will use them like garlic chives. It is reported that better bulbs result from doing this too.

What’s coming in?

The zucchini are starting to form. Might be able to do some stuffed flowers soon!

Italian zucchini

Back Outside

Lettuce coming along, garlic nearing harvest time, succession planting of radish and beans in. Replaced corn seed the flamin’ crows mowed down.

And most exciting of all………..dam, thought I had a photo, that will have to wait.

Back Inside

Thai Chicken Patties (recipe Below) with greek yoghurt sauce asparagus, roasted tomatoes and some gorgeous freshly picked spuds.

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Wonder if we will be in or out this week!

THAI CHICKEN PATTIES

MT’s THAI CHICKEN PATTIES

  • 300g lean skinless chicken, roughly chopped
  • small handful coriander leaves
  • 1 spring onion, finely sliced
  • finely grated zest of 1 lime or lemon, no pith
  • 2 tbsp sweet Thai chilli sauce
  • 2 tbspn fish sauce
  • 1 egg
  • 2 slices bread that has been turned into crumbs
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup coconut cream or couple drops coconut essence (for sauce)

Mix all the ingredients apart from the coconut essence in a bowl. Form into pattie shape balls, let chill about 15 minutes. In a hot (but not too hot) pan, put in a little grapeseed oil. When oil is hot, carefully put the patties in (they are quite moist and soft so be careful). Gently cook and when golden turn to cook on other side.

While patties are cooking mix app ½ cup of greek yoghurt with 2 tblspns chilli sauce, some chopped coriander and  2 tspns of fish sauce. Add a couple of drops of coconut essence or a blob of coconut milk and mix all together. Use as a serving sauce.

I served them with asparagus, tomatoes and fresh potatoes cause that’s what we had, but they would be nice with salad served in a bun or in pitta bread too.

Good things – Inside and out!

Outside

I am so excited that the new vegie beds are starting to look and feel like ‘real’ growing and production sources. When our children were little I managed to grow most of our food in our own patch, but that all changed as I returned to outside work and kept upping the hours I was not at home, consequently not able to tend to such a commitment. It has been quite a few years since I had the pleasure of reaping most of our food from my own garden and I must admit I’ve missed it more than I can say. I find myself getting so excited because my corn seed is pushing its little green poles through the soils surface,

IMG_1833there are tiny little swellings at the base of the radishes that I know will end up in our salad in a couple of weeks.

Radish

Beans are shooting (hopefully this 2nd round won’t suffer the same fate as the first which were eaten by earwigs), Tomatoes are flowering, strawberries are being eaten

Strawberriesand garlic is getting close to being ready to harvest. I can already see the lettuce in my lunchbox and those cucumbers in a Greek style dip. I just love it! Dinner last night was pasta with salsa verde made from Annabel Langbein’s recipe. My parsley, garlic, lemons, egg and combined with a few staples of mustard, olive oil, capers, pine nuts and fish sauce made a great pasta sauce. I roasted  some  cherry tomatoes and mushrooms it was  a gratifying and delicious meal to prepare and eat.

Pasta with salsa verde

The grass seed that was sown last week is sprouting and looks like it will do OK, the birch trees we planted don’t seem to have stressed too much and because we have had just the right mix of rain and sun, all the topsoil used to level out and lift the back yard  has settled really well.

Inside

I don’t know about anyone else, but I have huge problems selecting the right colour when painting. When I select sample colours from the hardware/paint shop it usually looks nothing like my expectations once it hits the wall. I had a particular colour in my head for the bedroom and because I have difficulty expressing what my ideas are it has been quite a hit and miss process. I wanted a sort of duck egg blue, but not too blue, not too green and not too dense. A colour that was fresh and light and that I would love whenever I wake up  and see it in the morning or when the dimmed light is on at night. I must admit I must have moved forward over the years because I never used to understand that light effected the appearance and I would ‘crack a wobbly’ if outcome of sample wasn’t exactly as I had anticipated. I now understand (much to my husband’s relief!) you just need to find the right colour, and I lightly sigh and continue the search. Because this ‘new old house’ is so dark we need to make the most of every bit of natural light that we can. As chance would have it, I had a colour consultant call in last night who was going to go and think about it and get back to us. Anxious to get the project moving I went to my favourite paint shop in Moe and the assistant just happened to suggest a Taubman’s paint colour called  ‘Rain Cloud’. I immediately knew we were in the right territory and bought a sample pot to try. Bingo! We were both very happy with the sample so I went back and bought 10 litres of half strength Rain Cloud. We spent the afternoon with Mr ATMT painting the ceiling and with me starting the filling, sanding and repairing of the old red cedar skirting boards we removed and will be reusing.

Skirting repairs

With the final ceiling coat of paint done and 2 coats of Rain Cloud on the walls we can see direction and are very happy with the results.

Rain Cloud paint half strength. Very excited to see what the outcome of this room will be as I am certain I have the exact picture in my head of the end result,  but as all my family have frequently experienced, it is quite likely I will say in true ‘Little Britain style’, “that’s not what I expected. I don’t like it!” Lucky Mr ATMT is a VERY patient man.

Dinner tonight, leftovers? Not quite!

With a sizeable amount of the salsa verde left over from last nights pasta, I thought using it as a topping on chicken with a parmesan crumb might be nice. Freshly picked potatoes,

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cooked then added to pan to brown off, some beans and carrots and a grilled tomato on the side. Lightly grilled chicken spread with some salsa verde and I made a breadcrumb and parmesan topping. Under the griller for a few minutes and it was very, very nice.

Grilled chickenBit worried there might be expectations to keep these lovely meals coming. Will just keep Annabel close to hand!

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