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!