Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Nearly planting time, yay

Finally, the nights are starting to warm up and we won't have many frosts to go. I have a few trays of cucurbits ready to plant and in a couple of weeks I will start sowing most of my other seeds.

 I had forgotten how wet our winters and early spring gets after the years of drought, so I am going to have to rethink my planting. Everything is still too wet to walk on and most of the plants I have in are rotting.
I think I will have to stop trying to grow biennials that have to go through the winter like carrots and brassicas - here is a pic of red Brussels sprouts rotting in the mud.

It is going to reduce my planned income but can't be helped.

My native mountain pepper bushes are still holding onto their berries so I harvested them to put in packets. The have more fruit on them than ever before and I am thinking of putting in a couple of rows just to sell the leaves and dried berries to local restaurants. At least they do well in the cold and wet - though they grow best under shade so that is an extra expense.

From now on I will be posting more updates because I will be busy working. It is always hard having to sit on my hands over the cold months.

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Just a quick update

It is still far too wet to get on my blocks to do any work, except for a sunny day a few days ago after no rain for a few days. I did manage to do a heap of mowing without getting the lawnmower bogged, just.

 I know there is still a heap of frosts to go this month, and this winter the frosts have been colder than for the past few decades, but I am so impatient that I just had to get out a put a few seeds in trays.

Well, if they don't germinate or get burnt off I can still sow later.

I have been looking at my seed stores and taking out the seeds I am going to plant this spring. Writing out tags, and sorting is fun. Sometimes it is hard though to choose what to plant each year.

When the weather and temps improve and I have more to write about I will update, this time next month I will be very busy.

Monday, August 21, 2017

I'm getting sick of winter - but I do have a new fence

I am really getting sick of winter, just as I do every year at this time. I can't start sowing seed in trays for another couple of weeks and it is still six weeks away till I can start planting outside. It is hard to stay patient.

It is far too wet to do anything outside so I just have to go out occasionally and look at the boggy, waterlogged ground and hope that the few things I do have in the ground don't rot before the soil dries up a bit.

Just another few weeks, I keep telling myself.

On the plus side, I do have a brand new fence on one side of the property. That will stop the sheep getting through, and they put rabbit netting on so that will fix the rabbit problem, on that side anyway.

Now I just have to find enough money to do the other sides, and then hope the owner doesn't want to sell the place in the future before I am able to buy it, in which case I will have wasted the money.

My bed of 'Island Gem' lettuces are doing well and starting to head. They have been a bit slow because of the cold and wet but they still look good. I love this mix of mini heading lettuces, they look great with their colours, spots and stripes, and they are never bitter.

I do have a small bed of 'Camo Oakheart' lettuces in also but even though they look fantastic they just go bitter all the time, and I hate bitter lettuces.

I think I have posted about these before but they are quite ornamental. These are 'Singara' rat-tail radishes. The pods are much longer than the 'normal' rat-tails you can buy here, and they seem to be tenderer and better flavoured. They are definitely not as harsh.
Pity I just haven't been able to take good pictures that show the pods off well.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Winter update

Well, there still isn't much happening for now, and it is still a month before it is time to even start trays of seedlings, so I don't have much to write about.

Today was sunny so I got out and started weeding this bed of mini lettuce. There is only a few beds with anything in them so weeding is not such a big job right now. I am sure the weeds are waiting for a bit of warmth to start growing like triffids.

The only other crops I have in are the overwintering potatoes I grew from seed last season, some beets and the perennials like rhubarb and asparagus.

I am planning to put so much in this spring though and it will be amazing.
Since the ground isn't too boggy right now I put in some 10ft posts so I can put bird netting over the sorghum. Next year I will put up shadecloth and plant oca under them.

Eventually I will have a few of these shadehouses which will take the place of the removable row covers. It will be much more enjoyable to be able to walk and work under the shadecloth more easily.
Another plus is that they will cut a lot of the wind.
The neighbours and I pulled down the boundry fence because the posts were rotting off so I saved some of the good pieces of old rabbit netting and dug it in on the fence at the front of the property where a lot of the rabbits are getting in.

It will be good to eventually get the whole property rabbit proof but at least this is a start, and the neighbour has agreed to go halves in putting rabbit netting on the shared fence too so that will save me a little, even though it puts the price of the whole fence up.
I just have to hope that nothing happens to make the owner sell the property before I have a hope of buying it as it will be annoying to spend all the money on the place and have it wasted.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Getting ready for spring

There is still not much happening at the moment so you will have to forgive the very sporadic blogging.

I know that it is still quite a while till I start planting in October but since I am adding so much more growing area this year I have already started mowing a few more acres so I can get the grass sprayed and beds made.

I will not be able to afford the irrigation to this area but if the season is mild I should be able to get crops of watermelon and corn off it as they don't need much water.
The main problem will be trying to destroy all the crab grass and couch which is so hard to kill - and of course the rabbits and kangaroos coming up from the river nearby.

 I have a few seed grown rhubarb plants that I sowed just because I had some seed left over. Most of them will be pulled out later as they are not good enough but I notice that one plant has these pretty, feathery flowers and so I am leaving it just to see what the flowers do. Rhubarb flowers are tightly packed as they come out and this one just caught my eye.

This year I am growing a new variety of rat-tailed radish called 'Singara'. The pods are very long and more mild and tender than the other variety that I normally grow.

I am impressed with the flavour as it does not seem to be as harsh as my usual one.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Work trip and rainforests, part 2

While I was in Queensland I had a few days to spare over the weekend so Alf from Eden Seeds offered to show me some great rainforest walks. This is temperate to sub-tropical rainforest which has very different vegetation to our cool rainforests or temperate forests around here.
We went on two walks, one more dangerous than the other.

As I walked a leaf from this plant dropped down in front of me... and I nearly pooped myself. For those of you who live in a country besides Australia you may not realise that we have plants that are just as dangerous as some of our animals.
This is a stinging tree. The stinging hairs on the leaves are so agonising that animals and people have been known to throw themselves off cliffs to escape. The pain also lasts for weeks or months. Why would anyone go with crude pliers and screwdrivers when a better torture method would be these leaves - or our Irukandji jellyfish.

This terribly spiky vine is called 'Wait-a-while' or 'Lawyer' vine because if you get caught up in it you will be there for a while trying to get free. Many people don't realise that this is the vine used in basket weaving. As the older parts of the vine die the bark and spines slough off and it is smooth and gathered for use.

It always saddens me to think of all the massive trees that were logged in the past two hundred years. The trees of this area are HUGE both in girth and height.

Some are hollowed out by fire or rot but many here have had a strangler fig grow around them and the original tree has died of old age and rotted away, just leaving the fig. It takes around 200 years for a fig to completely cover a mature tree.

Birds drop a seed high in the tree and over time the figs roots grow down to the ground and thicken and meld together.

 This tree on the right is called the 'Wishing tree'.
Nearly all the huge rainforest tree species make these huge buttress roots to stabilise them in the shallow soil against cyclones.

One of the walks we went on was 12km carved from the side of the cliffs. The side of the walk was all vertical drops for 50 metres or more and very narrow so you have to walk single file all the way and there were no safety barriers or ropes.
You don't just push any fear of heights aside, you beat it down with a heavy, pointy stick.

There were heaps of rocks and roots on the track so you had to concentrate on your feet the whole way. At least if you trip your death would be fast and painless.

Last month a man didn't make it to the end of this walk and even though there were searchers they never found his body or where he fell off. Helicopters or drones are no use here with the trees.

I wish my camera could capture depth better so you can see just how dangerous and steep this track is.

The track is like this the whole way, only around 40cm wide so if you meet someone coming the other way you have to try to find a spot with a few extra cm and hold onto a small tree to allow them to pass.

It is terrifying, the drop off is straight down vertical and you can't see the bottom. In some sections like this one there are very tall trunks of palms so if you fall you have the added bonus of smashing into trees as you fall and making an even bigger mess of your body.

Here is a picture of a strangler fig that has half swallowed a tree. You can see how the roots thicken around the original tree.
Although many people think that these figs kill trees, and they probably do to young ones, they are so slow growing that it is more likely that the original trees die of old age before the fig completely takes over.

When the original tree has rotted away what you see is an old, huge fig that is hollow in the centre where the old tree was.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Work trip and rain forests, part 1

Well I have just got back from my 11 day trip up north to drop off some seed and visit my seed buying customers and a few other potential customers for the future. I learned a lot about the current state of the industry and although there are some problems (mainly government regulation and global warming) there is a lot of room for opportunities as long as things are done right.

The weather was clear and warm for the whole trip which was a bit of a change from last year, and I managed to miss some of the long, narrow, very slow mountain roads that I found myself on last time.

After the cyclone a few weeks ago there was a lot of road damage and land slips from the heavy rain (more rain in two days that I get in two years) so there were a lot of delays with road works for the whole trip.

 I seem to have only taken pics of the mountains with settled valleys but there is a lot of rugged mountains with no houses or cleared land also.

The most frustrating problem with travelling in these areas is that you can't get anywhere fast. If you want to go somewhere over the next valley 10kms away you have to go right around on these tiny, narrow roads, negotiating two way traffic on one lane roads, with land slips thrown in. You end up driving two hours and 60km to go just 10km as the crow flies.
You have to be patient, or have a helicopter.

The great dividing range is beautiful and vast, running a huge line down the East coast of Australia. I am surprised that there are few roads through it, and those that are are so narrow.

At one point I found myself accidently on the wrong side of the range and had to drive nearly 100km over the mountains to get to the other side, it was so tiring. You can't even look at the scenery as you have to concentrate so hard on the road.

The sides of the roads are mostly sheer drops and in Queensland there are no barriers so you have to be very careful when you have to try and let another car coming the other way pass.
Last year a lady didn't return home and searchers took two days to find out where she ran off the road where I was driving. She was found alive which is not what often happens. Who knows how many cars and bodies are at the bottoms of these cliffs.

There is a rule to follow when you meet a car coming the other way - the car on the 'up' cliff must squeeze over and make room for someone on the 'drop' side as they are at the most risk. You have to look ahead when you can as there are not many places you can squeeze over.

I loved the trip though, even if it seems like I didn't. I gave myself a few extra days so I didn't have to hurry and I wish I had enough money to stay away another week.

I met a lot of really nice and interesting people.

Tomorrow I will write about my walks in the rainforests.