Baby steps but getting there!

With the addition of 3 new wicking beds in the area allocated as the produce garden we can start to see how the final area will look and how workable it will be. I’m REALLY excited that I have more much-needed space to plant all the things I want to grow. The first filling has been placed between the pavers and will be topped with a lighter coloured gravelly mix soon. A water feature has been added that will allow  lizards and bees to rehydrate and is soothing to listen to while in the garden. The only jobs left to do in this area is fence it, get some espaliered fruit-growing on the rear fence, build compost bays, put permanent edging on asparagus bed and build a spot for my shiitake mushrooms to live. The area is proving to work well in its layout with good sunshine, plenty of space between beds and it is reasonably protected from strong wind (this has been tested well and truly with the weather of late!).

Productive Garden layout
Fence and gates will be along the area where the brick edging finishes. Hoping to build a really rustic gate as entry and a climbing rose (or grape) will be planted to cover an arch.

 What a beautiful day!

Saturday would have to have been the nicest day weather wise we have seen for ages! We had planned on getting stuck into doing some work finishing off the bedroom but you could not possibly pass up an opportunity to be outside on such a day.

I had 3 Big and dirty jobs that needed doing, sorting out some of the compost, cleaning out the chook house and removing one layer of worm castings from the worm farm. The leaf mold I started in June has progressed much better than last years efforts! This year I chopped the oak leaves with the mower and lined the wire ‘bin’ with black plastic. Today I turned the ‘cake’ into one of the Gedye bins and I wouldn’t be surprised if its right to use in a couple of months. I got 2 big bins full of chicken muck which is going to be composted separately and used on the citrus trees. The worm farm was well overdue for a cleanse and I now have a very large bucket of lovely worm castings which will be used in my potting mix and around seedlings.

Leaf mold 'cake'

 

Our efforts at attracting more birds and bees to the yard seems to be working. We have noticed wattle birds, many different parrots including lorikeets and crimson rosella coming in. The flowering callistemon always seems to have a visitor in it!

Rainbow lorikeet Wattle bird

 

Lots of spring flowers are appearing and I love seeing their cheery faces. Rose buds are forming and my Souvenir de la Mel Maison climbing rose is in flower. Cant wait to see it climbing over the arbor entry to the vegie patch!

Souvenir de la Mel Maison rose Granny's Bonnets

Poppy Pansies, lobelia, herbs and SLMM rose in bud.

Harvesting and planting at the moment.

We are starting to get strawberries, lots more forming so thats exciting!

IMG_1493I’ve been picking coriander, silver beet, beetroot, lettuce, asparagus (which seems to be slowing down), oregano and mint. I have planted (with all that new space) beans, both dwarf and climbing, zucchini, radishes, eggplant, corn, snow peas, capsicum,black cherry tomatoes and in the greenhouse, rockmelons also known as cantaloupe. I have planted a couple of tomatoes in the greenhouse but will hold off for another week or so planting out the main crop. It is traditional to plant tomatoes on Melbourne Cup Day in Victoria, but mine might go in next weekend.

IMG_1571Baby radish seedling coming through in one of the new wicking beds. Love seeing seeds come to life!

Rocoto Chilli.

My husband was given a seedling from a workmate of a Rocoto Chilli. I had never heard of them but apparently it is a perennial chilli and can keep producing fruit for several years. I did some googling and it sounds too good to be true, so I’m looking forward to seeing how it goes.

Rocoto chilli

 

This is why I keep chipping away!

Vegetarian pasta

Vegetarian pasta with my asparagus and herbs. Mmmm, mmm.

 

 

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!

I proclaim today a P.I.P day!

I’ve decided I’m going to create something called a P.I.P day. That is my acronym for a ‘pig in poop’ day. I have had the best weekend doing exactly what I love doing and that is playing around in the garden and in my greenhouse. So many jobs to do, quite a few ticked off the list too.

Working through the list involved planting all the pot plants, rhizomes, canes, and bulbs that I had purchased over the past few weeks. The cage for the  raspberries is now finished, so in went the last of those. I will add some shelving at the rear of the cage for the strawberries to go on now that it is getting warm enough to take them from the greenhouse.

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Planted 2 standard roses either side of the entrance path out the front. This is they first thing we have planted in the front yard since we bought the house. Still not sure if Blue River rose is the right choice, flowering time will tell!

Blue River Rose

First Compost.

The first batch of finished compost is ready to use, so it went into a new bed made from an old bathtub in the greenhouse. Haven’t quite planned what to plant in it yet, might try some early beans, snow peas and cucumbers.

First compost

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My stocking up of seedlings to sell at the local massive garage sale day in October is progressing well. Today I potted up (using my great home made potting mix) approx 250 tomato seedlings. Varieties I have planted are San Marzano, Roma, Black Krim, Black Cherry, Grosse lisse, and Yellow mini pear. I stick to common ones for selling but I will try a few different ones for myself. Ran out of the coffee cups and milk cartons I’ve had everyone save for me so I’ll have to put out another wanted call. I also planted out lots of poppy seedlings, some assorted flowers (variety unknown) which I had saved seed from and hadn’t labelled and some lettuces.

First batch tomato seedlings.

We were pleasantly surprised that after the vile, wet week we’ve had that we could get outside to work. GMH started extending the path following the line it will take through the vegie patch. All of this concrete is what has been uncovered on site. With some filling between the slabs I think it will be great! Maybe a water feature in the circular section, yet to be decided.

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Harvests this week have been:

Asparagus, broccoli, asian greens, coriander, silver beet and eggs.

Asparagus
Starting to come in thick and fast now!

Edible plantings this week have been:

Raspberries, artichoke, beetroot, strawberries, red currant, blackcurrant, elderflower  and lettuce.

Did pick the first bunch of beautiful cheery flowers too.

bunch

Inside action.

We have the plasterers in at the moment, fitting out the master bedroom and re-lining plaster to ceiling in passageway. This is very exciting and means we are one step closer to a job being completed. I dare not list all the other jobs that need attending to as well!

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Yep, playing in the garden and in my greenhouse leads me to proclaim it was definitely a P.I.P. day for me. What makes your P.I.P. days?

Goal achieved!

The blog I posted Friday set me a target to do a few jobs and I am pleased to have achieved that target. Ticks to all the following:

Have my cello lesson – √

Make Quince paste – √

Tidy up – √

Plant something – √

Cleared some leaves – √ (didn’t mow them, will get a few more together and do all at once).

Enjoy our Indian Tea – √ Sure did, made a thermos full which we sipped throughout the day.

Now as for quince paste  cooked in a slow cooker.

How good is this? I wasn’t too optimistic but am thrilled with the result. No fuss or bother and a much cleaner method of production. I might even make another couple of batches while I’m so keen.

Quince minced

After stewing the fruit overnight I put the whole lot through the tomato passata machine.

Quince Paste ready

Into the pot with equal parts of sugar and just let go for hours, gave a stir every now and again. Took the lid off the pot for last couple of hours. Colour is beautiful taste is excellent.

Quince in tray

Into muffin tray to set. When cooled and dried out a bit the individual pieces should be just a nice size to go on a platter!

Girls go free.

We let the girls out for a run and they had a ball! Explored lots of nooks and crannies and devoured loads of bugs of all sorts. Dust baths were had and they were very curious whenever we were working on something. I’ve also added a photo of the massive egg Hilda lay on Friday.

Hilda dust bath

Egg massive

Mother’s Day Tea.

Had a fun-filled evening with the kids home for the first roast dinner cooked in the combustion stove. I set the lounge room up formally (haven’t done that for eons!), decorated the table with a little bit from each of our mums and grandmothers. My mums brocade white table-cloth, MIL’s antique glass lamp, G/Ma H, lovely little green glass bowl and G/M C’s antique sliced bread jar which we used for nuts. Roast was beautiful and my daughter bought along an apple and blackberry crumble which I am enjoying again as I do this post. While the oven was fired up I took advantage of the heat and put on a big pot of stock to simmer away. Smells great! Not much room between stove top and chimney though! Makes it a bit tricky when lifting the lid.

Stock pot
Everhot combustion stove with stock pot simmering.
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Stock simmering away beautifully

Other updates.

Planting (mostly done by husband) consisted of broccoli seedlings, lime tree, established camellia asakura X 12, Eucalyptus Silver Princess X 3, ginkgo biloba that I purchased from the Monbulk Scout plant sale. Amazing how a bit of dimension to a yard makes it feel so much better!

Camellia asakura
Established Camellia asakura planted to begin framework of hedge which will be seen outside bedroom window.

Last of the ‘very unattractive’ 60’s wardrobe removed, getting very excited about how this master bedroom is going to develop.

Wardrobe last bit

This last bit was pulled out minutes later. That’s about the last (apart from kitchen) bit of house that really holds that old stinky smell gone.

Hydronic radiator lounge

One of our new hydronic heating panels-love it!

Bottles

Couple of old bottles plumber found under the house. The beer bottles has MBCV logo on glass which after googling is apparently from around the 1930’s. Many more under there apparently. Wonder if patients needed a bit of ‘Dutch Courage’ before they entered the clinic!

Strawbs mildew

Mmmm, bit concerned that there is powdery mildew appearing o the strawberries. Organic control is apparently done using some or all of the following, diluted pure full cream milk, bicarbonate of soda, potassium bicarbonate and a canola oil-based product Synertrol. I think this has developed because the greenhouse was closed up on the few rather warm days this week. Must get those auto window openers going!

Have had a lovely afternoon working on design for bathroom reno, watching the very funny movie ‘Death at a Funeral’, eating leftovers from Mother’s Day dinner and occasionally doing something constructive. Hope others have had a lovely weekend too!

Yay day!

After a considerably yucky week of feeling a bit over work, tradesmen, lack of progress and a bit of a bug, today was a nice respite from it all. I finally managed to get the bags of bulbs I took from our old garden planted. Not exactly sure which are which but I know there are daffodils, jonquils, bluebells, freesia and some others I’m not sure of. That’s going to make it a nice surprise when they appear!

Bulbs to plant

The garlic is coming up nicely but the bed is attracting a lot of blackbirds and some serious scratching is going on so I netted the bed in the hope this will deter them until the plants are well established.

Garlic upBirdnet over garlic

When I removed the temporary garlic bed there were some eggplant bushes that I transplanted into pots in the greenhouse. I had no idea whether or not they would transplant successfully but they are flowering and some young fruit has formed so fingers crossed I may have an extended crop. The flowers of eggplant are really pretty!

Eggplant flower

Eggplant

While in the greenhouse it was good to see the young lettuce plants and the strawberries are going so well too.

Lettuce

I cannot remember the last time I have had such a sensational parsley crop. Planted in the asparagus bed it just hasn’t stopped. I should take some to the local swap stall or donate some to the pub and cafes!

Parsley with asparagus

2 new family members!

I have been holding off getting chooks until the new coop is here but I just couldn’t wait any longer. I bought two point of lay Isa Browns and they are going to have temporary digs in the mobile coop I built a few years ago. When we have the permanent housing here I will expand the flock. They seem to be settling in really well and it is lovely hearing that burrk, burrk sound again. I was especially pleased to see them gobble up a great handful of slaters that I got from the compost! We have named them Rene and Hilda. When I was very young we used to regularly visit close, elderly friends of mums in Mortlake, Western Victoria. The Jones sisters, Olive (Ollie), Rene, Hilda, Mabel and their brother (his name will come to me). These visits are greatly treasured and I believe are what led me to loving old houses, open fires, growing food and woodfire stove cooking. I might have to do a separate post on this! Meet Rene & Hilda. This was immediately after setting them into the coop so some better photos are sure to follow.

Chooks

Some new pillows, all bedding freshly washed and dried hanging in the sun, mmmm, looking forward to bed tonight.

Nice simple dinner of roasted veg-our first meal with this seasons pumpkin. Roasted with olive oil, thyme added some cherry tomatoes for last half hour and served with crumbled fetta cheese and chopped herbs. Very hearty indeed.

Roast veg

Tomorrow I’m hoping to wash all the windows so they are nice and clean for when the new holland blinds arrive! May keep an extra degree or two in each room on these chilly nights.