Weekend Wrap-Garden, Sustainable Living, Sourdough

I always feel as though I’ve taken the easy way out when I use ‘Weekend Wrap’ as a post title, but it really does sum up everything quite accurately for this post. I’ve touched on a little bit of everything this weekend, in the garden, sustainable living, sourdough bread and cooking.

Garden Wrap

We have several compost bins strategically placed around the yard, so that when they are full the contents can be spread easily. This, in theory is good, but because the wicking beds in the veggie patch needed a good topdressing, I had to use compost from the bin in the veggie patch as well as raid some from the bin in our Easterly garden bed.Compost-Geddye binThis compost bin sits  hidden (almost) and I used most of its contents topping up the wicking beds in the veggie patch and then spread the rest over this bed. We have relocated the bin a little further up the bed for the process to start over and will do the same again next year.Compost readyNeed a little something to quickly fill this fence space! I love the way the compost just oozes new life into the soil.Compost spreadThis is a barrow full of compost from the bin within the veggie patch. Sorry, the light is a bit harsh! The 4 barrows from this bin went to the rhubarb, potatoes, asparagus bed and garlic bed which will house the tomatoes in a few weeks. img_9353The potato bath filled up.img_9371Rhubarb that looks like it could take over the world!Make a caption!And the very obvious evidence as to why we should avoid single use plastic rears its head. This shows just how plastic stays intact in the process of composting. I try to avoid single use plastic, but it still sneaks into my life, sometimes invisibly. Interestingly, a fair chunk of this comes from ‘eco’ coffee cups.img_9380After shovelling all that compost I needed a little ergonomic break, so the hammock had its first workout for the season. It was a stunning day yesterday and everything was glowing in the garden.img_9384 img_9391 My brother-in-law gave me some native orchids last year and I was thrilled to see how this Dendrobium is settling in. I love these orchids and do a little ‘happy dance’ every time I look at the beautiful flowers stemming from it.img_9393

A bit of sustainable living.

I try to avoid single use plastic as much as possible and as hard as I try, I find it quite difficult getting local retailers to fill a BYO container or bag. I was thrilled when visiting the Yarragon market yesterday that the lovely people at “The Nut Bloke” were more than happy to accommodate me and put my purchases into my bags that have now been going for about 6 years with no signs of failing yet.Plastic free shoppingWhen we first started planting the garden out four years ago I put in a blood orange tree. Well this tree has struggled and struggled and I’ve kept up the vigil with TLC and lots of chook poo as a bonus. Well, this year we had a harvest, yes, a harvest. Might only be 1 orange but it is juicy, well-shaped and it has some ‘specks’ of blood in it. img_9410 Unfortunately, I think the tree will have to be moved due to a change of plans with the garden bed its in, so I celebrate this harvest in a completely appropriate manner. img_9417I can highly recommend blood orange in a glass of bubbly!

Sourdough Bread and Baking

For a long time I have read about using sourdough discard from feeding starter to make sourdough crackers (dry biscuits to me). I finally gave it a crack using the recipe from the King Arthur Flour Website. I collected discard for a couple of weeks (Kept in fridge), and as simple as mixing 1 cup flour, 1 cup sourdough discard, 1/4 cup butter, pinch salt and 2 tablespoons herbs we had wonderful crackers/dry biscuits.

img_9400I added finely chopped rosemary and would HIGHLY recommend giving this a try. I can see so many variations popping up in my mind for flavour variations of these.sourdough crackersMy bread bakes today was a high hydration/low inoculation (%starter) white loaf. Had to rush a bit to get into the oven but it was great. Light crumb, great crust (forget I dropped it from the oven at the halfway mark!). The loaf on the left is a little under-proofed due to the rush, the loaf on the right is a little over-proofed (and dented) because I had to go out.img_9404Crumb shot of the slightly under-proofed loaf. Still good enough to go with the plate of ‘nibbles’ we put togetherRainy Day Loafcrumb The weather had turned from Spring Glory back to Winter, so for the first time during the day this year, we lit the fire, sipped the bubbly with the blood orange fruit added, and feasted on the sourdough crackers (dry biscuits), soft sourdough bread, some King Island Brie, some French Blue, cheese, home-made pickled onions, some delicious prosciutto from Stellas Pantry in Warragul (they also fill BYO containers), a leftover grilled chorizo sausage sliced up and some Mersey Valley Tasty cheese. CompostAnd I didn’t even nod off after this indulgence! How was your weekend?

Plight of the humble bee.

The bee is one of nature’s most amazing creatures. Its social habitat, ability to pollinate a huge variety of food plants and the production of their beautiful honey is just some of their interesting factors. Unfortunately, worldwide bee populations  are under threat. Indiscriminate use of pesticides and fungicides  are leading to a massive reduction in bee colonies. Viruses and diseases are taking their toll and some consider genetically modified crops are adding to reducing resistance to these diseases. It is with this in mind I am conscious of planting many ‘bee friendly’ plants in our garden. We should all be mindful of these great agricultural helpers who reportedly travel an average 800km in their lifetime. Even if you are not in the position to have a garden you can help by sponsoring a beekeeper and beehive. Go to www.amazingbees.com.au and see what you can do to help. Was very happy to see this little worker on my young lavender plant.

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Spring, joy oh joy!

What a welcome start to spring! The weather this weekend was absolutely beautiful. Sunny, light breeze, bees a buzzing and great for getting stuck into jobs in the garden/yard.

With the chooks being confined to their house more, I thought it best to have a dust bath in there where they can do their ablutions. I grabbed an old tyre from the discard pile at a local tyre centre, trimmed top curve off and filled it with sand, some toppings from where they choose to do their bathing in the garden and some diatomaceous earth (DE). DE is a powder made from fossils and is purported to be great for mite control as well as a host of other conditions. Apparently the sharp cell structure from the diatoms of the DE kills mites. I’m all for trying to treat these things organically, so we will see how it goes.

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I’d bathe in that!

Good to see some birds

Native birds are starting to appear at our feeder, so far crimson rosella, lorikeets, king parrots and galahs. It is really interesting watching the hierarchy of them coming in to feed, they all take their turn and get very ‘snippy’ if one variety comes along at the wrong time. Although galahs aren’t our target, they are obviously spreading the word. I don’t think there have been any where near as many mynah birds recently, that’s a big bonus! Hopefully, once we get some of the bird attracting plants established we will be able to cut back on the manual feed.

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Strawberry heaven!

I planted some new strawberry plants into my self watering ‘Auto Pots’ and put them in the berry hut. These pots have a great little valve that releases nutrient enriched water into the reservoir of the pot as needed. Can go away for weeks not worrying about watering and it means the problems that sometimes crop up from overhead watering are eliminated.

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I am on the hunt for a small fridge or freezer that I can use as a stand for the nutrient solution that is in the olive drum on the pile of bricks. This drum holds approx 80 litres and feeds into the pots in 4mm tubing.

Potatoes/Spuds

My spuds have gone gang busters and grown too high for the bird proofing I installed, so I have to raise the height so when flowers form they wont be cramped. No drama just used some slightly longer bamboo stakes to elevate the poly pipe a bit.

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Dinner of a quiche made with home grown broccoli, asparagus and eggs from the girls and it was lovely testimony as to why we do this!

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No sooner than the last leaves of the oak tree have fallen, new ones are appearing. Next years compost in the making!       IMG_0548      Plasterer has finished the bedroom and hall ceiling. Photos yet to be taken but we are very happy with it!

Long Weekend

 

I love having a bit of extra time to be able to address tasks that are calling. With this weekend being an extended one, we have been able to go to Melbourne and catch up with my son and his partner, go to the Footscray market to stock up on asian cooking basics and go to some specialist shops sourcing some items that will go into the reno. All this and still home in time to do some work in the backyard where the sun is actually shining for a welcome change.

I find it very difficult getting quality supplies for asian cooking locally and the Footscray market offers a little feel of being back in Vietnam along with having great asian grocers and the most amazing fruit & veg and meat stalls. It takes a lot of willpower to not buy so much more, but experience has taught me that I end up overloading and not being able to use all the fresh things I buy, particularly now we are empty nesters! I did buy a stack of red capsicum at $3.00 kg and will have a go at roasting and storing in olive oil for future use.

Asian groceries

Spud bed finished.

The chooks have had a lovely time scratching through the compost I added to the new bed I made last weekend so I added some soil, manure and rooster booster fertiliser and planted some Dutch Cream and Kippfler potatoes. Topped off with some bird (chook) proofing and hopefully we will see some action in a few weeks.

SpudsFinished spud bed.

Manadarins

Last year I planted a mandarin tree and we have had a grand total of 4 fruit. I wasn’t going to bother testing them as they were the size of a tom bowler but today we cracked them and oh what a blast of juicy flavour! Just beautiful, I cant wait for next season.

Golf ball mandarins

The fruit

Some more edging.

Hans finished the first section of garden edging today. Really starting to see the final shape taking place, tomorrow will be planting quite a few shrubs into this bed.

Garden bed edging

The Icing in the cake!

Finally have our garage started. Frame up, roof and roller doors are on. We will be filling in the walls in a style to match the main house either rendered or a blend of render and weatherboards. Still deciding which. The main benefit of having it in situ is we can now make definite decisions on where the raspberries, garden shed, compost and chooks will have their permanent place. Very excited about that!

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Tomorrow will be busy with planning layout of vegie patch and utility area, planting trees and shrubs and cooking up some of the mushrooms I bought at the market. I read somewhere risotto works well in the slow cooker so I will give that a go. Will update on the results later.

Snagged on Snags!

I had some feedback that my comments regarding the quality of food available locally was a bit harsh so I thought I’d just clarify my point. My reference was directed mainly towards the supermarkets more so than the family businesses of which there are a few making a difference to the range but not necessarily the quality available. There are a handful of businesses who are really making a difference to the quality and range available and they are predominantly butchers rather than purveyors of general produce. I still claim that it is near on impossible to get fresh, high  quality (mostly fruit & veg) as a matter of course in most towns in Gippsland. There doesn’t appear to be the demand  by the consumer which is what I find distressing. Most people I work with or know are quite happy accepting what the majors offer without question, along with all the packaging they throw in and nothing will change while this is so. I can only keep spreading the word!

We only eat meat  couple of times a year and when we do I really want it to be a treat, not a trial. This is where lack of planning ahead can strike you down as it did with my hot potato salad last weekend. Having to rely on the local supermarket, I was sadly disappointed. I decided to prevent this happening again so today went to our excellent local butcher and stocked up on some Chorizo sausages to freeze so I wont get caught out next time, and some honey, lamb and rosemary sausages to have for dinner. Very hot day today and a good snag (sausage) and a cold beer are a match made in heaven. I wasn’t disappointed by the lamb sausages, along with gorgeous freshly picked spuds tossed in butter, parsley, mint and served with a little salad of freshly picked offerings. Oh, and a lovely cold beer of course!

Lovely looking sausages from Trafalgar Butcher Shop. Note, no nasty little plastic tray!
Honey, lamb & rosemary sausages, fresh spuds with mint, parsley and a little butter and salad made from, carrot, grated beetroot, lettuce and cherry tomatoes.

 

Very productive day!

I have been very frustrated with planning and getting started on the new garden layout. For one thing we have been having exceptional levels of rainfall and everything I think of can’t happen until something else happens first, the domino effect! For example where the compost will go will just be in the way when we build the car port and garage. I’ve just wanted to ‘rip’ into it and achieve something. I had planned on putting in a temporary bed for my raspberries but when I started clearing some of the oak leaves between the “Fowlers Room’ and the fence I decided that would be a perfect spot to establish the permanent raspberry bed . Close to the kitchen for easy picking, easy to net for bird protection and good position in relation to getting enough sun and rain.

I shaped two beds allowing enough room to access a barrow between the beds and leaving enough room for the canes to spread while still having room for covering with bird netting . Compost was then added to the beds and sprinkled with blood and bone. I have several old bales of hay that are breaking down so some of that went on top. This will break down beautifully over time creating a great feeding base. The edging of the beds will eventually be replaced with a more attractive and permanent product but this recycled timber will do for now.
 
 
This is my four-year old pear tree ‘sensation’ that I have espaliered onto the driveway fence. It is too big to transplant (so my husband says!) without destroying a large area of the driveway. Have to start over! I Purchased the bare rooted stock yesterday.
Espaliering trees gives you the opportunity to create productive or picturesque plantings of trees or large bushes in narrower spaces. The technique can be used for both ornamental and flowering plants but I love the way you can turn small spaces into productive food banks. It makes it easy to manage pests and to protect from birds.

First pruning cuts have been made. What would normally grow into the main trunk has been cut just below a bud, this should encourage more sideways shoots which will make the second layer of the espalier. The two lateral branches will be tied and weighted down to encourage horizontal shaping.
 
 
We cannot establish a more permanent potato (spud) bed until the vegetable patch wicking beds are in place and the area is more organised. I have decided to put a temporary spud bed in the area under the mulberry tree behind what was originally stables for the property. This temporary bed will also work as a productive compost heap while yielding some very delicious produce (hopefully).