Saturday, April 24, 2010

Going in Circles

Here I was this week clearing away the last of the corn stalks and thinking it didn't seem so long ago I was planting them. Now I'm sowing black oats, then it will be potatoes and then another summer crop and on it goes. Life is cyclic and so is nature.

Still reading Monty (Monty and Sarah Don, Fork to Fork) and absorbing the ideal of a self-sustaining or 'non-input' garden. This is where you establish an environment that largely provides for itself, supplying its own compost and nutrients. It is probably easier to do on a larger scale and I would think that having livestock would help, even if it is as small as worms. Strangely enough the penny dropped this week; I am gardening on a larger scale. I was reading an advertisement for forcing pots where they recommended two rhubarb plants, not one, if you were going to force it. I'd say I have 3 dozen and that is barely enough. This is a big garden.

Well sustainable gardening requires that nothing is wasted and that everything is returned to the soil. Ta da! That black in the wheelbarrow is leaf mould from the leaves that Mama raked here 2 years ago. Yip,it takes that long for them to break down. In the sack is sawdust, untreated, from the workshop. In the bucket dried blood, and bone meal. Without asking too many questions, dead animals get sent off to the works and come back in bags...seperated. This is a gift from a farmer down South. We don't work on this scale.

So equal quantities of sawdust and leaf mould, and a good handful of blood and bone (with a partiality to bone meal here) and the result is a strawberry soil mix to dig in and use as a mulch. Finished them off with a pine needle mulch because these are planted 2ft apart and are just new runners. Look in the box and you'll see the nice root formation.

Now what remains is plenty of Autumn watering and they should be cropping next Summer.
The time has been right this week for getting in those cover crops where ever the ground is cleared; ideally double-dug in this garden. It is a slow process here because it hasn't been done. It can only get easier.

The seasons may run a circular route but jobs in the garden are a chain of processes. One job leads to another to another to another to finally the end task that you had in mind from the start. So to throw over the peas as a cover crop first required saving the seed back in February, podding them, preparing the soil (fetching the cow manure and building it into the dig) and then slowly rehydrating it with the soak hose over a few weeks here and there. Sowing seeds: 5 mins. Preparation: always and ongoing. When I come in the door and say, 'I've had a great time in the garden; I sowed some peas' it doesn't really communicate all that. Blank stares all round.

Haven't mastered the really close-up in which you would have seen not just one or two bees, bottoms up in the artichokes but many, all burrowing down into the depths of the flowers. We may not have eaten many but they have been a great crop.
The frosts are taking them out but they have shoots coming away at the base to nurture over winter with straw. In Spring I'll plant them out and begin the year again...

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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Looks like Autumn

'It seems to me that making places is what gardening is really about and the
means that you use, with plants, hard materials or open spaces should always be
directed toward this end of creating somewhere with its own definable identity
that was not there before. '
Monty and Sarah Don, Fork to Fork
Autumn is rather a nice time to stand back and look at the framework of the garden. Monty Don's aesthetics are something to aspire to but I haven't really got a clue about how to make these places or even what I'm trying to make. I normally just respond to needs and the current need is a place to put some raspberry canes and blackcurrant bushes that I want to get out of the vegetable garden. The obvious place is amongst the fruit trees at my place. First step remove the red hot poker that had sucked every skerrick of moisture out of its immediate environs. Here is the sad debris, dead leaf on the left to compost, live material on the right that is full of virulent looking stems and roots; dump that. And behind the piles the large gap to plant raspberries. They have to be far enough from the fence that the cows won't reach them. This is as far as I could be bothered going for the minute.

Of course, when you can't, or don't feel like gardening, there is always the great fall back of reading about it so that's how I spent the rest of Saturday afternoon, rereading John Jeavons', How to Grow More Vegetables.

Current gardening task until my new seeds arrive is putting in cover crops. Here's the black oats just up in the glasshouse. This year I'm forking in pony plops (secret flag swamp stash), then oats and the plan is to dig it all in in Spring before we start planting again.

Last day of the school holidays so today we took a day out to Falls Dam. This is the overflow plughole and the picture doesn't really show you just how low the water is behind it. Last time the boys were here the plug was submerged and all they could see was the swirling water tumbling down. Apparently this is the driest it's been for 80 years. We carried on to St Bathans for the drive. Thought we could come again when you're down Mama and carry on along the loop road which comes out near Becks.

Here's Bill heading up the road to have a look in the little art gallery. It's in the middle building, the old Bank and gold depository barely big enough to swing a cat in. You can see the leaves have changed colour but are still on the trees...for the most part.

So for the week ahead? I've had a week of starting things but not finishing them . Started double digging beds but they're either too wet, or too dry. Things like rhubarb, artichokes and the yams are starting to disappear in the garden as the frosts take their toll; but it's a process and too soon to do anything. The primary goal is to get the winter cover crops in, the seasons' debris out and tidy up for winter. Now all of that done really will make the vegetable gardens a great statement of purpose and identity and in my opinion, beauty. It will take more than a week though.
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Friday, April 9, 2010

Photos for Emergency Rations and the technology to integrate them is beyond me.

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Emergency Rations

I caught myself thinking this week that all of a sudden I had accidentally got 20 brussell sprout plants in the glasshouse. That's about 7 plants each for the three families that even want to eat them. I don't need a crystal ball to see a little consumer resistance looming as they appear again and again and again.

What struck me as odd, was that I only just seem to have noticed it when I did indeed plant the seed, and according to someone's law it struck particularly well, whereas the broccolli, which we all love, has been poorly represented. Not wanting to waste good plants, in they went, watered, fed and sprayed with "Success" which has seen to the white butterflies. It's the only spray on anything and is supposed to be organic but sure wipes out a lot of things. I don't trust it. Nevertheless, brassicas are a sorry lot if white butterfly is not dealt to. I'm gathering ideas on that one. One battle at a time.
Where was I?
Oh yes, I have been tending to them for weeks but now that the corn is picked and frozen, and the runnerbeans uprooted and out, then there are no other distractions and I sort of gasped, and counted them. Twenty.
Oh well. They're very good for you, and you, and you.

There are lots of runner beans drying as I write that just got away in the end. That old consumer resistance. Some years we are eating them by early January so that's four months of runner beans and they don't freeze particularly well. Enter plans B and C.
Firstly they make a great dried bean. Secondly these Emu beans, more what I call a french bean, freeze well. Grow these for freezing.

Here's Johnny podding them for me. If that looks like being very helpful (yes it is) he did also clean the windows for me today, but money changed hands. It was well worth it.
Now I've been bottling plums madly all week and still going. The basement is looking like some sort of Amish food cellar apart from the electric light overhead and the gentle hum of the freezer. I won't brag a tally until they are all done. Suffice to say, if there is an emergency, Marg has two pumpkins in her basement for the requisite 3 days food supply. (Hope the power is still on. )
We on the other hand, will dine on a surfeit of plums and all we need to do is prise off the lid. So both households are well equipped.
It does remind me of that book you used to read us Mum, 'Landslide'. The house is covered by a landslide and the children trapped inside. Hey ho there are hams hanging from the ceiling that keep starvation at bay. Now that's a good emergency plan.

And just to put a little reality check-in for anyone who might feel their garden is not performing. The sticks on the left with brown bits was a bay tree. Sorry Mama, that rather handsome rosemary of yours that came down from Chch; it doesn't like the cold/drought/neglect either. Then again who does.
Monday's poem out of the ODT this one by Susan Jones. What I like about it is that it's not beautiful, clever, profound or particularly meritous but it's still charming to me. Like your pottery receptacle Marg, for want of the right word, that hasn't been thrown out and we are all rather fond of.

The leaf takes leave

The leaf takes leave,
leaving the only home it
has known,
sails off
across swelling wind,
surfs waves of air.
at last!
Exploring another world,
lifted by another gust,
twirls in
dances in blue
is lost
in the
pile of ageing gold
at gutter's edge.
Sweet freedom all too short.
that I had left earlier!

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Good Pudding

It's a dwarf cox's orange tree. Last year the apples got too heavy and a
branch broke off. This year, a few more fruits and the wood a little stronger. The apples tend to have little cracks around the stem which is enough of an imperfection that the boys don't want to take them to school. They have grown up in an age of visual perfection. Real perfection is these apples, tree ripened and absolutely delicious straight off the tree.

I pulled all the beetroot, no photo. Lacklustre as they were, they bottled up well. Beetroot are a good indicator of soil health and sure enough, they reflected it. At one end of the row they were huge but by the other end they had dwindled away to ping pong balls. The tops of a good beet are even nicer than silverbeet.

The plums are in and the crutches down. This is my best pear: I think it's a Bon Chretian. The other tree I suspect was planted as a pollinator. It delivers more fruit at the moment but they aren't as well suited to this climate. They don't mature enough before the really cold weather and seem to be the worse for it.

Just a reminder of whose house you are looking in. Managed to get some of the dishes stack into this shot. That's more like it. Corn chowder for tea, and yes, the wheel has turned full circle, there's the first leek of the year. I seem to remember that that's where I started.
When I announced the other week that we were having leftovers for tea, Johnny asked would there be pudding, 'because when we have a poor tea then we usually have a good pudding.'
Soup also ranks as a poor tea. Pudding is pending for the minute while I do this.
Won't be long everybody, just post a poem.


Here lies the start and the finish. Wedderburn.
To bear witness will be the old tavern
of schist, mudbrick and rough thrown mortar.
Stalwart and steadfast.
Unhurried in nature, in the test ot time.

From far afield, from all walks, they are drawn,
to compare their skills and stategies and fortitude.
To benchmark their youthfulness, perhaps.
Those aging cyclists.
Hurried in nature, in the test of time.

The poet is Eion Mills who the newspaper tells us is a forest manager based in Milton.

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