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.

 

Its a big one!

I mentioned that I didn’t want to waste a second of time while I was on the school term break. I reckon I can quite honestly say that I have exceeded my expectations of what I wanted to achieve. The poor old arthritic hands are now pretty useless but a couple of weeks being gentle and I should be back on track. One night I came in, lit the fire and literally couldn’t get up! Let the fire go out and was in bed at 7.30. All worth it though.

Here are a few of my accomplished jobs…….

Fly through restaurant is CLOSED!

The high priority job was to run smaller mesh wire over the chook house to prevent the sparrows eating all the chook feed. Littlebuggers were going through 3 times more feed than the chooks. Me being me, I didn’t want to just throw new wire over, I wanted it fitted neatly. This meant taking off (loosening) one end of all the weatherboards, removing and dis-assembling the door, then re-assembling it. I thought I would need to remove the barge boards too but I manage to work around that when I couldn’t undo the bugle screws. The raw zinc flashing had been annoying me since the chook house went in so I removed that and spray painted it matt black. I’m really happy with the end job and it now blends so well into the landscape. looks like it’s been there for years! I have since finished spraying the door black too.

IMG_4713New wicking beds!

I built 2 new wicking beds in my sacred space. The greenhouse. I had been looking at raised garden beds at hardware stores, online and I had considered building some but that would just knock my hands around too much. I happened to call into the greenhouse display centre at Officer just to see what they had and bingo! Came home with 2 flat pack, gal kits. Reasonably priced, no bells and whistles, just what I needed. I didn’t consider it would be too difficult to turn them into wicking beds, just took a bit more time and effort. I assembled the beds, ran tape over the metal edges and screws to avoid any piercing of the plastic liner of the bed. put a sand base in and levelled, lay the plastic liner, fitted the fill hose and inlet, cut an overflow hole and siliconed a drain tube into place, filled scoria over water reservoir, put geo-textile over the scoria to prevent the soil going into to water reservoir then filled with soil. I am quite amazed at how much more growing space this will give me. I also think the thermal performance of the greenhouse will be better.

wicking beds

IMG_4756This gives me 2 lovely big beds with room on the remaining side for seed raising etc. I’ll try a couple of grow bags with tomatoes down the centre to get maximum use of height.

Shiitakes have a dedicated home.

I created a spot behind the greenhouse especially for the shiitakes. Up until now they have just been in the old bath under a tree down the back. This spot should be great, all that’s needed now is some shade cloth and when the weather warms up I’ll set up an auto spraying system to keep them damp and humidity high. I also took advantage of this space to create a spot for all the garden stakes to be stored. I rolled these concrete blocks from the far end of the block to this spot. Can see why the wheel was invented!

Shiitakes new home

Mulch, mulch and more mulch!

I think in total I moved about 4 metres of mulch. Tidies things up nicely!

IMG_4742 IMG_4719Broad beans supported. I added a new layer of supporting wire to stop them falling in the wind. I’m amazed I have any still standing after me clambering over them and sticking ladders in the bed while I worked on the chook shed! See some flowers are appearing, can’t wait for these little babies to hit my kitchen!IMG_4724Started a concept layout for the front yard. Looking good!IMG_4755View from the back looking towards house. I’m thinking as I write this that it doesn’t seem like much that’s been done, but rest assured there is heaps! Lots I haven’t posted and lots of the jobs I did took a long time, especially when it was so wet.IMG_4741 First of the jonquils out-so cheery!IMG_4720

In the almost a kitchen.

These wet cold and miserable days are ideal for enjoying comfort food. My small slow cooker died last week and I am grieving badly. Will have to replace it next week. I had to resort to using a casserole which needed monitoring, stirring and heat control management on the camp cooker. Too much hard work! This is the madras curry and naan bread I made last night.IMG_4750 I made a lemon syrup cake, recipe courtesy of Town Mouse County MouseIMG_4743 We had the last of the flatbread I stock up on when I go to the Dandenong market. I cut the loaves into 3, pack 2 slices into bags and freeze. Great to have on hand, these ones were baked with a pizza style topping of passata, mushroom, capsicum, ricotta cheese, freshly chopped herbs of rosemary and oregano, sliced olives and salami. Great easy lunch.IMG_4746

Lemon cordial-Mmmmm.

I made cordial for the first time and it is beautiful. We drink a fair amount of cordial and because I am trying to make  “plastic-free” choices I thought I’d give making some a crack. Really happy with the result and its a great way to use some of the excess lemons we have at the moment. Served mixed in chilled soda water (using the Soda Stream) it is a winner! This is the recipe I used, I didn’t add epsom salts and did add 2 extra lemons as ours aren’t that lemony!

Lemon Cordial

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Vegetable Soup

I’m drafting this post as Mr ATMT brings me in a bowl of hot vegetable soup with some of last nights left over naan bread to eat by the fire. So heartening to think that a fair whack of the ingredients came from our garden. Pumpkin, celery, tomato passata, parsley, bay leaf, and my home made stock. Sometimes I just love winter!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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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