Thursday, April 16, 2009

Back to Update 4 and new chickies!

Its been a while since I last put a post up, the weeks have really been flying by and I didn't realise it's almost a month since the last post! Slack me.

We have been busy in this time and alot has been going on, nothing too exciting but busy, busy, busy!
These are 2 of our 4 new young chooks, we had to cull a couple of our old girls who got really sick, so it was time to bring some new life into the chook house, hopefully these little cuties will boost our egg production in Spring when they get a bit older.
The chookie above is a very inquisitive girl who was intrigued with the camera and I thought it was funny how 'in my face' she was. ( Shame she is not in focus - sorry)
The kids are really happy with our new arrivals and they seem to have all settled in ok, not much harassment from the old girls.

Back to basics update 4

Chinese greens

Broccoli -4 different types
Red Cabbage
Kale - 2 types
Pak Choy
Savoy Cabbage
Lettuce - Cos
Lettuce - Australian Yellow Leaf
Kohl Rabi - Green and Purple
Spring onions
Onions - Barletta

Cleaned out hot house (in photo below) ready for big sowing session (see above)
Removed golden robinia from front garden in preparation for new edible borders
Had black wattle that was taking all the moisture from vegie patch taken out , this area is now much lighter and hopefully things will grow alot better without the competition from the tree.
Also planted 200 garlic corms saved from last year's harvest (saved the biggest fattest corms for replanting) after preparing a bed with compost and horse poo and dolomite.

Planning for future
Some friends and I are starting a "buying group" for our fruit and vege, buying in bulk from our local green grocer and dividing the produce between us. Hopefully will save some money and also get really fresh top quality produce to supplement the harvest from my garden and the Community garden.
Have been reassessing our financial situation, looking for ways to economize so we have some money left at the end of the year for a holiday.

Working for future
Have been trying to complete lots of little things around the house and garden eg. tidy up around 'derelict' areas of backyard, keep Kikuyu under control around vegie patches(an on going job!)
Have knitted a doll for my nieces 4 birthday, and actually finished it 6 weeks in advance, a rare achievement with me! ( see photo, I have also made a little jacket to go with it since the photo was taken) I hope she likes it. I am trying to make more of the gifts I give people this year, so this is a start.

Building Community
Worked in Community Garden.
Had group of girlfriends and their kids over for catch up on school holidays. Good fun for all.

New skills.
Learnt more advanced knitting techniques
Made hot cross buns from scratch (see photo - they were very yummy )
Made homemade marshmallows - Kids loved them.

What else has been happening?
It has been school holidays here for the past 2 weeks , so I have been doing things with the boys and seeing alot of their cousins and friends. It has been a nice quiet holiday , Gary was home for the Easter break so it was good to just hang out and work around the house.

I just picked these vegies for our dinner tonight , we are having a nice chicken stir fry with all these Chinese greens and tatsoi, beans, broccoli and snowpeas. I will use the tomatoes to make a batch of tomato sauce, as I have another basket full of ripe ones waiting to be cooked.
They look delicious don't they? I love seeing the garden bounty like this!

Cheers everyone!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Back to Basics update 3 and garden stuff.

These are some of the great pumpkins we have grown at the Crib Point Community Garden, these ones are Australian Butter pumpkins and are really big and heavy, I hope they taste as good as they look!

There seems to be alot longer than one week between my updates, so it might look like I have been busy, but I will try and put in everything I can remember since the last update.

Back to Basics Update 3

Harvest (Mostly from the community garden)
Last of sweetcorn

Lots of Autumn things (see older posts)

Fed lime tree.
Worked on garden bed outside our back door, pulled out dead things, weeded and dug it over to aerate it a bit, added chicken and horse poo and mulched with lucerne.
Trying to keep on top of the cabbage moths, killing quite a few with the squash racquet.

Lots of snowpeas, kales, broccoli, lettuce, spinach, and silverbeet seedlings, also celery seedlings.

Lime tree has really perked up with lots of flowers and tiny fruit setting. Lets hope all the extra poo and water it has received will give us a good crop of limes for the first time in 5 years.

Rain on the weekend has half filled the tank, so we can start watering in earnest again. The roof area provided by the new extension has really increased our catchment area, it won't take a lot of rain to fill up the tank now, which is great. Time for another tank!

Dahlias that I thought had died in the heat wave, have all reshooted and are looking really healthy! I don't think they will flower now though, it might be too late in the season.

Lucerne is a wonder mulch, everything that I have mulched with it has taken off fantastically!

Planning for the future
I have decided that the front yard needs to become the next area for an "edible overhaul"
It is looking very tired and drab so I am going to create some beautiful edible borders and fill it with food and herb plants.
A few crafty friends and I have decided to work towards an 'open house' Christmas sale in November to earn some extra cash at an expensive time of year, so I am dusting off the sewing machine and getting out the knitting needles to make some cute things to sell.

Working for the future
Sowed new seed for market stalls.
Had new antenna put on roof for new room.
Finished painting new room.
Organised new carpet to complete house renovations. (Yay!!!!)

Created a weekly craft group with some friends to meet and complete half finished projects.
Worked at community garden working bee.
Had a stall at the Seaford Farmers Market with my seedlings (Living Larder Productive Plants) and 'networked' (had a chat) with Regina from the Frankston Community Garden.
Volunteered at school in the garden and kitchen for the Kitchen Garden Program they run.

What else has been going on.

I spent the morning yesterday and today planting out my patch at the Community garden, it took me 2 days because I took the boys with me yesterday and they find the garden interesting for a very small amount of time , so we came home with half the job done. I went on my own today and it was much more peaceful. I have taken a few photos of the garden to show you what's been happening down there recently.

This is a view of the main garden areas with the 10 communal beds to the rear and a few of the individual beds in the foreground. The tomatoes are just on the way out and there are a few beds with root crops on the right hand side.

This is looking from the main vegie area to our little orchard, it's a bit hard to see, but there are about 15 different fruit trees and a large raspberry row, we are also slowly building up freeform vegie areas around the outside of this area. In the foreground are pumpkins and zucchinis.

This is my individual plot at the Community Garden, just planted with sugar peas, snowpeas, broccoli, cauliflower,kale and some lettuces. My space finishes just behind the pea teepee. The broccoli at the back of my bed belongs to my neighbour Troy.
I love being involved in the community garden, there is so much growing there, and the other members are lovely and have so much knowledge to share, there is just a great vibe when you go there. ( Even though it is usually pretty quiet there as we don't have a huge amount of members.) They are doing a big renovation on the old community house next to the garden, so when that is all finished and people are back visiting the house, hopefully they will be so impressed by the garden that we will have a heap of new members!

We tried the first glass of my homemade ginger beer today, Gary thought it smelt disgusting but tasted very good. It did have a sour lemony smell mixed with a gingery aroma that was not very pleasant. I think the lemon juice I added to the mix changed the smell, because the plant was smelling great (nice and gingery) before I bottled it. Any hoo, I thought it tasted great and was quite fizzy which I was very happy with. I will start another plant soon for batch no.2. (Stupid me didn't realise I could keep that plant going, so it ended up on the compost heap, so I will start from scratch again.)

I was reading Rhonda's blog about the return of the homemaker, and it really struck a chord with me. I feel that skills that can make you more independant and self sufficient are so important, and are just not valued enough in today's consumer society, so it was great to read that other people are feeling the same way. I often feel that I have to make excuses for why I haven't gone out to work and am a stay at home mum, especially now my children are all at school. I sometimes think there must be something lacking in my personality, in that I don't have a strong desire for a career and lots of money, I am quite happy to get by on our one wage and live within the limits of our budget. I like being around my children and family and friends, I like to take them to their afterschool stuff and just chat with them as they come in from school, I like cooking our meals from scratch and having the time to do so, I like growing our vegies and keeping our chickens and riding my bike around when I can. Housework may not be my strong point, but I muddle through and am making a big effort to be more consistant with laundry and cleaning efforts!
There has been such a huge move towards everybody working and most homes have 2 incomes these days, that I guess it is unusual to spend your days at home, but I think what we stay at home types do is also important and a valid life or 'career' choice. I just wish I didn't always feel like a dumb freak when people ask me 'what I do', and were not so embarrassed to answer I stay at home.
My son was saying the other day that he thought we (I) were too old fashioned and low tech, I tried to explain that a lot of my hobbys like knitting, cooking, gardening, sewing and "family stuff" are really quite hip these days and I'm really a pretty modern mother! I don't know if he appreciated the point!

Anyway, enough of my raving on. Happy days for everyone!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

catch up

I can't believe it is Thursday already - this week has flown. We spent the long weekend in Geelong visiting my father- in- law, which was nice and relaxing. We drove down to Lorne for the day and bought some delicious fish from the pier to cook for dinner, when we got back home. We also went raspberry picking, which was fun, although I think we were the last in a long day of pickers, so there weren't too many left to pick. Andre ate more than we put in the bucket while he was picking! I have joined a "knit- along" at Rhonda's Down to Earth blog, and I managed to do a fair bit of knitting over the week end, so it was a very enjoyable break.

I had a planting day last week, and here is a list of what I put in

Spinach - 32 pots (this is already coming up!)
Sugar peas Dwarf 64 pots
Sugar peas Climbing 64 pots
Snow peas Roi de Carouby 64 pots
Snowpeas Oregon 64 pots

The peas are all up and going strongly already.
I put some seedlings in the garden too - snow peas, silverbeet, celery, cos lettuce, late basil, bok choy and some carrot seeds straight into the garden.
( they don't seem to have done much in a week, I am not very successful with carrots).

It is a good day for root crops tomorrow, so I'm going to try and get some spring onions and beetroot seeds into modules.
I can't find the camera at the minute ( we have had some painting done this week so the house is a bit chaotic) so I can't post any pictures today, hopefully it will turn up tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Cockies and ginger beer plant(ing)

These cockies were having a lovely time with my sunflower heads! It didn't take long for them to reduce the flowers to a pile of husks. Gee they are destructive birds, but I still like watching their antics.

Here are some of their friends hoeing into whats left of the ballerina apple and some more sunflowers. The cockies were around for about a week, eating whatever they could, and when they had striped what they wanted they disappearred again!

What is this rather revolting looking liquid you may ask? Well, this is my first attempt at a gingerbeer plant! I am going to try and recreate a fond memory I have of a grade 5 science experiment where we made ginger beer at school, (and it tasted divine!).
I found the recipe on Rhonda's Down to earth blog (so much great info and recipes here!), and I couldn't resist, I think it is the same process we did when I was young, and this 'plant' is the first stage, it should start to bubble and ferment in a few days , and then we get to feed it for a week - I love how this is a living process that needs nurturing to succeed - a bit different to grabbing a DC (diet coke) from the fridge!
I am hoping this can help me crack my DC addiction, I know in my head that I shouldn't drink it, that it is full of crappy chemicals and that it is ridiculous that I eat organic vegies and worry about foodmiles, and still drink DC, but it is a real weakness that I have. (Also it is not making me skinny! haha). I am going to wean myself off it so my actions better reflect my beliefs. Homemade gingerbeer is a good place to begin!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Hello Autumn! Lots of gardening and kitchen action.

This is one of my zucchini plants that have been producing heaps of zucs for summer. They were one of the only things that coped with the heat wave, the rest of the summer garden is pretty much a write off. Miserly tomatoes, dried out beans, wilting lettuce, shrivelled capsicums, fried sweetcorn, stunted dwarfed pumpkins, the list of summer casualties goes on! ( Thankfully the Community garden has fared far better -those huge water tanks are worth their weight in vegies - so we have still been eating homegrown stuff) but on the other hand...........

...........It is officially Autumn today! I love Autumn, I can grow so many different vegies here in the milder months, it's terrific. I have been experimenting with growing times for different veg that are not supposed to grow through the cooler months, and I am finding that I can grow and harvest from lots of things that technically shouldn't grow at these times of year. Maybe because we are a coastal area it stays milder than other parts of Victoria; Whatever the reason, I'm happy! Hopefully that freakishly hot weather is behind us and I can get stuck into The Great Autumn Planting!

In the spirit of Autumn, today I sowed seeds. It was a good day for leafy things according to the moon calendar, so this is what I put in :

Cabbage - Red Drumhead x35
Broccoli - De Cicco x21
Tuscan Kale x56
Shanghai Paak Tsoi x56
Yukini Savoy x28
Red Pak Choy x28
Coriander x14
Parsley x42
Lettuce - Sunset x56
Lettuce - Mesclun Mix x56
Lettuce - Buttercrunch x21
Amaranth Grain x 42

These all went into modules, so I will transplant them when they are bigger. I will use some for my market stock, some for my garden and some for the Community Garden, I hope there will be plenty.
An earlier sowing I did about a month ago is going well, with everything up and growing strongly, I am watering with a weak solution of organic charlie carp every few days and I think this has helped them keep growing strongly after the initial germination.

Tomorrow is a good day for fruiting things like peas, so I have saved sowing snowpeas and sugar peas ( my favourite things to grow) till then. I have had good success with growing peas most of the year here, so we almost have snowpeas all of the time - such luxury! ( Another plant that didnot like the hot summer but the rest of the year was great!)

I also decided it was time to rejuvenate the garden outside our back door. It has a Tahitan Lime tree (which has never fruited, so I hope this TLC will have good results) and some big old roses in it which I have kept, but I pulled out some struggling bearded iris to plant elsewhere and some biggish clumps of cannas that I will divide and pot up for my friends and mum. There was also alot of dying scabiosa and dead nigella seed heads and sundry weeds, the hot weather has been useful here, as I haven't watered this garden much, so it was all very dead and easy to pull out. I gave it a good forking over to aerate the ground a bit and I incorporated chicken poo and horse manure into the surface layer. I am going to give it a good soak tomorrow with the bathwater and then a sprinkle of dolomite and mulch it with lucerne. It will be ready to plant with herbs and some great brassicas and leafy colourful silverbeet for a beautiful edible border!

I bought 20kg of beautiful Roma tomatoes last week, with good intentions of preserving them with my vacola kit. Very, Very Frustrating when I couldn't find the power cord to the preserver! I eventually found a supplier of replacement cords in a great shop called Bake and Brew, I also bought some seals and lids for my jars. They are in South Australia but I still got my items in 3 days - pretty darn good! So after a big day in the kitchen I am now the proud owner of 12 big Jars of chopped, peeled tomatoes!
I am actually proud of myself for completing this job, as it would not be unlike me to never get around to preserving them and they would just rot and become chicken food and a big waste of money! ( This has been my usual story; full of great ideas, but not quite finishing things off).
So we have some progress on my "being more organised and achieving more" resolution.
I also made strawberry jam, if my tomato day wasn't enough! Delicious on pancakes made from scratch with our own chook eggs, of course! I have definately been channelling some domestic goddess recently!

Ta da! Tomatoey goodness for winter enjoying!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Weekend outing and festival

We had a lovely day today. We decided to get out of town for the day and took the boys down to Phillip Island. We went to Smiths Beach and they all had a swim and surf while I read my book on the beach - very relaxing! We ate too much, but it was fun! We stopped at this cool market on the way and I bought a beautiful dahlia - lemon with an apricot centre, very pretty. I hope it will grow ok in our garden. We seem to have been having really busy weekends recently, so it was nice to do something just with the family.

The Western Port Festival has been on this weekend as well, I was manning a stall there yesterday for Crib Point Community Garden. It was great to get out there and let people know what's going on. There was lots of positive interest and I think we might have hooked a few new members (cross our fingers) !
We went down and picked a heap of tomatoes, beets, lettuce, cucumbers, squash, parsnips and herbs early yesterday and sold nearly all of it, which was great!
There were lots of carnival rides and food stalls - the boys had fun, and last night they put on a great fireworks display, we took the boys to watch; it was really good to see so many families out enjoying the occasion, there was a nice sense of community which is sometimes lacking in Hastings. (It is definitely on the improve)

These are the seeds we have been saving at the garden which we packed to sell at the festival.
I am planning to do a garden update post one day this week, so hopefully I'll have lots done by then, It is a good day for sowing root crops tomorrow according to the moon planting guide, so I will try to get some late carrots in and some beetroot. Happy gardening!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

back to basics update 2

We have had a slightly cooler last few days, which has been really nice. It has been warm enough for the boys to enjoy their outdoor swimming lessons, but not too hot, so I feel like I'm actually achieving some progress in the garden preparations for Autumn planting.

What I've been up to recently - Back to Basic Challenge Update 2.

*Cherry tomatoes

Sowing Seed/ Planting
*Sowed seed of 5 different kales, broccoli - Albert, Green sprouting Calabrese, Cauliflower -Early Glory, Cabbage - Sugarloaf, Snowpeas - Oregon

Garden Maintenence
*Weeding out empty garden beds
*Mowing around vegie beds
*Mulch up sweetcorn plants burnt in heatwave, add to compost heap

Planning for the future
*Worked out a priority list for what we want to do to this place this year
*Got a quote for the painting of the extension.

Working for the future
*Bought 2m of compost to top up summer beds for autumn planting
*Bought 4 bales of mulching lucerne to spread over brassica beds
*Mowed Community Garden and used some grass clippings for the chicken yard deep litter

Building Community
*Made donations to fire appeal
*Joined the Parents and Friends group at Jesse's high school
*Worked in Community Garden

Learn a new Skill
Didn't learn a specific skill, but did buy a moon planting guide for 2009 and figure out how to use it (I'm going to use it for future sowings for the market stalls)


I am having a bit of trouble at the moment with one of my goals for this year - saving some money and becoming a bit more frugal. I feel like I am bleeding money and I feel a bit guilty when I see how much some of my friends live on. I think we are going ok on food spending , which has reduced; but it is all the other little incidental things, the boys activities, socialising, and yes, I have to admit my garden is taking it's fair share of the booty.
I think it is time for a spending audit. I am going to try and track where our money goes, and really try to get rid of some of the unneccesary buying that we (I) do. I think we have a lot of "treat" spending, that might need some adjusting, starting with myself - NO BOOKS!
I am a sucker for a beautiful book, or an interesting gardening/self sufficiency/cook/knitting book and will have to be disciplined to resist the lure of the bookshop!
I must use the library more!!!!!!

I am really inspired by a lot of the fantastic blogs I read who have great information, and have been living simply and richly and having great life experiences along the way. I am going to keep trying to lighten our lifestyle, it is slow going, but each day brings a new joy to be thankful for, and I think we are getting somewhere!!!
I am going to try to add some links to some blogs that inspire me. ( Still not very techno savvy so will see how we go)

Down to earth
Simple Green Frugal Co Op
The Compostbin
One Green Generation
Towards Sustainability

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Fire update. Still burning.

The fires are still burning out of control, but at least it is much cooler today. There were flare ups in the Bunyip fire this afternoon when the wind changed, more scary times ahead.
Meanwhile the death count continues to rise. It is just so sad.
On the other hand, the public outpouring of support for all the people caught up in the fires has been truly amazing. It does give you hope for the human race when you see how everyone is working together and doing whatever they can to help.
My thoughts are with everyone suffering loss and with all the volunteers doing the best they can to ease that suffering. You are all amazing.

Monday, February 9, 2009

bushfire nightmares

It is hard to believe what has happening in Victoria in the last few days. The fires have just been totally terrifying, and that is just watching it on the news, I can't begin to imagine how scary it would have been to have been in one of the towns that where caught in the path of such a powerful and devastating fire. My heart goes out to all the people who have lost everything and lost family members. I don't know anyone directly affected by the fires, but still find myself crying listening to people on the radio desperately searching for missing loved ones, it is seriously sad. There are many people who are living their worst nightmares and as a fellow Victorian, I feel very powerless to do much to help.
I have donated money to the Red Cross appeal, and our local school is organising a collection of basic toiletries and school supplies, so I've got some things to add to that collection, but it feels very insignifigant in the face of so much loss. I think I will give blood too, apparently they are going to need a lot more to cope with the burn victims and injuried people.
It is so sad to think that with 131 people already confirmed dead, they think they are going to find still more people who have lost their lives when they finally get into areas that are still too hot to investigate. More grief to come. The fires are still burning through the north so it will be a while until the crisis is over, I guess that is when the reality and magnitude of the destruction will really sink in for a lot of people.
Until then I hope all Victorians stay safe and get through this together. Watching the TV and listening to the radio, there is a strong sense of community from the whole of Victoria, and it seems that we all feel compelled to try and help in any way we can. It is strange how it takes a tragedy to really bring people together and unite everyone.
Anyway, I just hope no more people die and the fires are brought under control.
The terrifying thought is though, these fires could really have happened anywhere in Victoria, the conditions are so dry everywhere. Very, very scary stuff.
( Cheers to the brilliant CFA people who fight these fires, without them it would be 1000 times worse)
At least the weather has been a bit cooler today, so hopefully that will help the firefighters.
Thinking of all the people suffering such loss and sending out our support to the them all. We feel your pain.

I think I will do my Back to Basics update later in the week when I'm not so preoccupied.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hot, Hot, Hot and apricot jam.

It is 45 degrees here at the moment, with a vicious north wind howling through the place as well. I was determined to try and save a few of the vegie patches from the heat after the really hot week we had last week, and how frizzled everything got over the 4 days of40+ heat. I gave everything a good water this morning before the wind started, and put up the beach umbrella over the tomatoes for a bit of extra shade. Unfortunately, the wind keeps blowing the umbrella over, so I don't know how effective that strategy has been..... Also gave the chooks extra water and periodic spray down with the hose to keep them cooler, luckily their pen is mostly in shade and they have made lots of dust wallows under the bushes which must be cooler. My friend had 7 of her chooks die from the heat last week, so I am really aware of the poor dears on days like today.

All you can do on days like this is try to stay out of the heat, our house is starting to heat up (we don't have air con), so we will probably go to my parents place and have a swim for a while. There is supposed to be a cool change around 5 or 6 this evening, so we will look forward to that.
There are quite a lot of bushfires around today as well, which is worrying, there is a fairly bushy area nearby, so you just have to be aware of the risk of fire. The Bunyip State Forest is burning apparently; I have cousins who live in Bunyip, so I hope they are OK. I guess we will hear if they are in trouble.wWe going on a rare Adults Only outing tonight ( usually everything includes the Kids), we are going to see a band called "The Waifs" play at The Peninsula Lounge in Moorooduc. It should be a great night, they are a really cool band and we are going with heaps of friends which will be lots of fun! They have sold out the show so we will be part of 700 other fans, so there should be a great vibe! The boys are staying at my parents, so they get a special treat too!
Everbody's happy!!!


Thought I'd post how I made some apricot jam. It was my first attempt and I was pleased with the results.


*Weigh about 1.5kg slightly under ripe to ripe apricots.

* Wash the apricots and cut them into quarters, I discarded the stones, but you can bash them with a hammer to get the kernel and add a few to the pot for a bittersweet flavour. Put the apricots in a wide bottomed saucepan with a cup of water and the juice of 2 lemons (to help with setting)

Bring this slowly to the boil, and simmer till the fruit is tender, or longer if you don't want chunky jam. Meanwhile, put 1.5kg of sugar in a baking dish and warm it to hand-hot in the oven.
Add warmed sugar to pan stirring until dissolved then boil rapidly for about 15 minutes or until setting stage. ( put a small spoonful on a cold plate and put in freezer for a few minutes, if the surface wrinkles and has firmed up, it is ready)

Ladle into hot, sterilised jars and seal. There you have it! Apricot jam easy peasy style!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Seed to seed update and back to basics challenge

I have joined The Growing Challenge from Seed to Seed, which is an extended version of the normal challenge to grow your own food, where you try to save your own seeds from the best of your plants. It should be fun!


I have saved about 30 seeds from this gorgeous crimson flowering broadbean I grew in Spring.
The pack of seed I bought originally only had 12 seeds in it so I am slowly increasing my seed so one day I can put this everywhere in my garden just for it's decorative value, the braodbeans are an added bonus!

* I have decided to let the rest of my bean crop go for seed. The heatwave last week really savaged my bean plants and the beans are not much good for eating now, they have gone all rubbery and soft, so I will let them dry out and save the biggest, fattest pods for seed.

* I have found a few spinach plants that have gone completely to seed, so I will collect it and have a go at growing it again later in the year. I have heard that spinach doesn't set fertile seed very often, so it will be interesting to see if it germinates or not.


I have also joined up for Belinda's Back to Basics Challenge
This is a challenge to basically get organised and record your progress for a variety of different focuses.

Back to basics update #1

Sowing seeds or planting -
Bought some silverbeet seedlings to plant as soon as we have a cooler day.

Harvest - Zucchini, Bok Choy, Beetroot, Beans, Carrots (Community Garden) Spring onions (Com. Garden) Eggs, Apples, Apricots

Maintenence - Spread sugarcane mulch around corn and cucumbers. Tried to keep things watered through heatwave.

Observing - The garden suffered badly through the heat, and I think I've lost the early beans which were cropping well. Other things seem to have bounced back ok. The sweetcorn leaves are totally burnt to a crisp, but I can see new growth, so will see how they perform for the rest of the season. The apple tree in the front yard seems to have suffered the worst, with badly burnt leaves and sunburnt fruit, I guess the chooks will get most of them.

Planning for the future - Have decided to look into getting some solar panels for electricity.
With all the blackouts due to the heat, it would be good to have our own source of energy.
Same thing with another water tank, we have 9000 ltrs, but I need more if I'm going to grow alot of our food.

Working for the future - I made apricot jam with some of the apricots. I cleaned out the chicken pen (delightful work, I must say) to form the basis of a new compost heap for the winter veg.

Building Community - Organised our tennis team for the summer season. Had coffee with a group of school mum friends to mark the return to school. Supplied eggs to a friend. Picked up tickets for a group of friends to see The Waifs.

Learn a new skill - I made jam for the first time!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Sizzling in the summer (and I don't mean the snags on the barbie!!)

It is really, REALLY hot here today (and tonight!). Gary's temperature gauge on his car said it was 43 degrees outside on his way home at 6.00pm. Fortunately the boys and I spent the day at the Balnarring Beach, we set up our umbrella and met up with 2 other friends (11 kids between us) and had a much cooler time than if we were at home. I had to pop home during the day and nearly cried at the sight of my poor wilting garden, everything looked withered and sapped of all moisture. The sweetcorn's leaves were all curled, the bean leaves just looked fried (I think they will suffer some permanent damage but I hope they can grow new leaves before the end of the season.)
I spent 1 1/2 hours this morning (early) in the relative cool, watering everything and adding extra mulch, so it was pretty sad to see it all so stressed. Thankfully, when the sun started to set, the plants seemed to take a breather and take up some moisture and I'm sure most of them will recover in the slightly cooler night (it is 11.30pm now and still feels over 30 degrees - not much sleeping happening tonight I think, as we don't have air con).

And the good news is we have only got 2-3 more days of massive temperatures! Yah!!!!
Let's hope we can all limp through to the weekend and find some relief from the heat where ever you can. ( Probably more swimming and beaches for us, although my 9 yo boy had too much sun today so we might try to stay out of it tomorrow.)

How do you stay cool in a heatwave? Any tips to nurse the garden through the heat? I'd love to hear from you.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bake a banana sultana cake

It has been pretty warm here today, I gave the vegies a good water this morning so I hope they cope ok with the next few days (Forecast is for 40 degrees + for the next 4 days!). I don't think it will get that hot down here, but you never know.
My boys have been busy rocking out with their friends, playing guitar hero 'world tour', so I thought I would take some time to cook up a storm! This morning I made a banana sultana cake,(or "that donut cake" as my son calls it) which is a family favourite and a great way to use up squishy bananas, it is really delicous! (they ate half for morning tea).

I thought I'd put the recipe up, so here, it is!

125gr butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
3-4 large bananas
1 cup sultanas
1 1/2 cups SR flour
1/2 tsp bicarb soda
1tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla essence

Cream butter and sugar until light. (I usually half melt the butter in the microwave to make it easier to cream, I get impatient if it takes too long to mix!) Add the eggs, one at a time beat well after each one. Mash bananas and add to mixture with sultanas. Dissolve bicarb in milk, add vanilla. Add to mixture alternating with sifted flour. Stir well. Place in a greased ring tin and bake at 350 F degrees ( 180 C degrees, or moderately hot oven) for 30-40 minutes.
I ice the cake and sprinkle cinnamon on top when it has cooled. Yummy!

I hope that makes sense!
I also had a go at making apricot jam as the apricot trees are in glut at the moment here.
It worked out quite well I think, it was a pretty simple recipe and was a lot quicker than I thought it would be. I was very happy and felt very domestic with my 8 jars of jam sitting on the bench! I will probably make another batch later in the week if I can scronge a few more jars.
I will post how to make apricot jam tomorrow if I get a chance.

We've got a really tough day planned tomorrow - water garden first thing in the morning, then smother on the sunscreen and hit the beach for the rest of the day, swimming, reading, playing with the kids, and generally try to keep cool. It's a hard life ain't it! lol.

I hope you are all able to enjoy the last week of the school holidays too. Next week it's back into the school routines and regimental schedule, but for now it is really nice not to have any comittments.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Home from holidays (the party's over)

Have a great Australia Day!
I haven't posted for a couple of weeks as we have been away camping at Pambula Beach, we had a great time swimming, surfing, eating, drinking, and generally relaxing as you do on holiday. One of my sisters had the site next to us with her family, and it was good to spend time with them all ( not that we don't see heaps of each other at home - we do!). Mum and dad and my other sister and her daughter also came up for a few days and bunked in with us all, so it was very much a family affair! (Lucky we all get along well!). We found a couple of divine beaches with water that was sooooo clear - it was just magic. The boys went fishing off the wharf at Merimbula, where the water was so clear we watched the fish nibbling the bait and saw huge stingrays gliding over the seaweed, really beautiful! ( Alas, the fish didn't do anything more than nibble, so we were buying dinner that night!)

While we were away we visited a gorgeous garden in TilbaTilba called 'Foxglove Spires'. It was very lush and shady and abundant with thick plantings of shrubs and flowers and a lot of established trees . They must get alot more rain than we do, as everything looked very green and damp (if you know what I mean!). There was a lovely vegie garden and lots of little areas secluded from each other and a fabulous wisteria and pear tunnel, it was a very peaceful,beautiful garden and quite inspiring!

This is a section of the vegie garden that they had caged, they must have a few problems with critters, but it all looked very healthy!

Anyway, all good things must come to an end, and we got home yesterday late afternoon. Back to reality! To tell the truth, I was starting to miss the chookies and I was a bit worried about the garden ( pathetic, I know), we had some really hot days at home while we were away and I thought everything would be frizzled, but luckily my friends did a great job keeping things watered and everything survived -thanks Esther and Jude!

It is amazing how much things can grow in 2 weeks! These sunflowers weren't flowering at all before we left and today they looked so cheery I had to pick a bunch for inside. Great colours, aren't they? So much stuff was ready to harvest in the garden!
I chopped up a bucket of overgrown zucchinis for a chook treat and picked over 2 kg of mixed beans- very delicious!

These are the beans I picked today, there are Violet Queens, Lazy Housewifes, Brown Beauty, Tendergreens, Rattlesnakes and Snapbeans. I think my favorites are Rattlesnake and Brown Beauty.

I also dug up a couple of potato patches and got a nice big bucket of Dutch Creams and another one of mixed varieties (King Edward, Pink Fir Apple, Purple Congo, Atlantic, Pontiac) I lost the labels from this plot, I always think I'll remember what they are, but I never seem to remember at harvest time.
Anyway, I've got lots of work ahead of me in the garden at the moment , it has all gone a bit berserk will we were away, but never fear, I'll soon have it all under control (yeah right) !!
There is a first time for everything I guess!
I've got apricots to pick and jam, seeds to sow for the next market, mowing everywhere, compost to make, weeding,weeding and more weeding, chook housecleaning (not to mention human housecleaning!), and the list goes on ! The boys are back to school next week so there should be plenty of time to get everything done, hahaha! This is going to be the Year of Getting Organised ( or the Year of Actually Completing Stuff) so I am determined to try my hardest at organising my time better. I actually like having heaps to do, as long as I feel on top of it and not like I'm swamped and drowning in jobs and tasks that never get done. Hence the new year pledge.
I've got lots more to talk about ( I've been reading some interesting and inspiring sustainabilty stuff in other blogs), but it is getting late now so i think I'll do it tomorrow. Cheers.
PS. I am so happy -I have my first follower on this blog -Yippee and thanks for checking it out!

Monday, January 5, 2009

Check out these potatoes!

Spent some time in the garden today, I tried to start getting the front garden beds under control - quite a big job as it turned out! I have been very slack and the weeds have pretty much taken over, so I've decided to pull out most of the plants in the bed and start again. It will probably take a week or so to get it organised, but I think I will try and create an edible border, one that is beautiful and productive!
I also cleared an empty vegie bed to plant my extra bean, melon and cucumber seedlings. It was dry as a chip so I hope I can moisten it enough to get them off to a good start.

I thought these potatoes were pretty impressive! They weighed 900grs just the 2 of them! We had them for dinner - very delicious. Not bad for a self sown spud left from last year.
Actually dinner tonight was a very local affair - we had roast beef from my friends cattle (about 2km away), and potatoes, beetroot, carrots, beans, snowpeas and lettuce from our backyard and my community garden. The boys gave it the thumbs up, which is always nice.

These are the vegies we had for dinner tonight (the potatoes and beetroot were already in the oven)

The Growing Challenge rules are that you need to grow something that you haven't grown before from seed. With that in mind, I bought some seeds on the weekend - quinoa ( a high protein grain, I thought might be good for the chooks), and several types of kale (scotch, tuscan, siberian and red russian) . I know it is a bit early to sow kale, but I thought I would get organised. Anyway, I can never resist a seed stall, I can always find something new to try!

I had my regular stall at the Red Hill Market on Saturday - it was flat out! There were people everywhere, and I sold more seedlings than I expected which was great. It was lovely weather and there is always a great atmosphere at Red Hill so everyone had a good day I think. There are some really fantastic stalls at this market, I love going there! Mum came up to give me a hand so I even got to have a little look around (even though you could hardly move there were so many people).

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The Growing Challenge

I am going to try and put a link to The Growing Challenge page and see if I can get the hang of linking. If this works I'll be very happy! I have worked out how to do something that everyone else seems to find really easy , but I have never known how to do it. I'm slowly unravelling the mysteries of computer land!

I will post a list of what is in my garden tomorrow, after a big garden blitz that I am planning for in the morning, I have a heap of melon seedlings and bean seedlings to plant so hopefully nothing comes up to stop me getting on with it!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year Chooks!

I hope everyone had a great new year!We had lots of fun at a friends place and I'm feeling pretty tired tonight, so I 'm going to hit the hay soon, but I thought I would post these pictures of some of our chookies. They are real characters, these girls, and we get a lot of enjoyment (and eggs!) from them. We currently have 8 chooks and 2 babies, they are very cute.

Here are the hens scratching around in their yard.

I will post a longer piece about the Growing Challenge and how my garden is going at the moment very soon!