Sunday, March 29, 2015

Taste testing Yautia (Xanthosoma sagittifolium)

Tomorrow I start on the second greenhouse and thankfully I have a friend (maybe two) coming over to help. Hopefully this time it will take only a day or so to finish it, and even, maybe, I might be able to put it all together properly, lol.

As you can see from this picture from my last post I have four raised beds to move to fit in the new greenhouse next to the first one.

I got stuck into those today after I got back from a little market this morning. It didn't take as long as I thought to dig up the plants and put them in pots, then find the resident blue-tongue lizard that lives in one and move it to my shadehouse.

Now the area is bare and ready for the new greenhouse.

The plants I dug out of the raised beds were pepinos, yautia and achira (all from South America). The yautia plants (xanthosoma sagittifolium) were young but two were old enough to have small tubers which I took inside to cook and taste.

I left the tubers on the kitchen bench and my mother found them, chopped them up and put them in the oven to roast.

While they were fresh and raw I put my tongue on them to check for calcium oxalate crystals which some similar looking plants have but there was no painful needles in my mouth. I have read that yautia lacks this so I was happy. When it was cooked I tasted it again and it was pleasantly nutty. THEN, the needles started. This is strange because cooking is supposed to nutralise the calcium crystals in plants that have them. I am going to have to do some more research as I cannot find any reference to yautia having this problem.

I will try boiling the couple of left over raw pieces tomorrow to see if that makes a difference. If it doesn't I will have to think about where I want to keep the plants or not.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The first greenhouse is finally up, whew.

After a few problems I have finally finished the greenhouse. It looks a bit wonky but it works and I can finally have a rest by going to two markets tomorrow and Sunday, before starting on the next one.

 I found out why the instructions say that you should not cement in the feet until after you are finished.
As you would have read in my last post, at the end of the second day the wind was coming up so I had to make the decision to cement in the legs so it would still be there in the morning as there was no way I could get it finished that day.

Unfortunately I made the rookie mistake of not putting the level over it again after pouring the cement and the soft sand had given way under the middle two supports. By the time I got back from having a cuppa the 15 minute instant cement had hardened and I was stuck with a wonky frame.

Of course that meant that nothing from then on would fit properly so I had to get out my drill and screw a couple of the stays that hadn't yet been bolted on to the frame as best I could.

Then I discovered that the polycarbonate panels wouldn't fit properly - of course. Hmm, time for some judicious trimming with my Stanley knife.

With some trimming and shoving I finally got them to fit, though there were a couple of posts in the way which I had to get the neighbour to come and chainsaw off as they were cemented into the ground.

Left - You can see the bow in the roof caused by the middle sinking.

Originally I decided to leave the posts from the old polytunnel in place to help secure the new greenhouses, but it worked out that they were all in the wrong places so most of them have come out, or at least, I am in the middle of digging them out.

Due to the wonkiness I can't fit the guttering on so I will be using UV greenhouse plastic tape to cover the ends of the roof panels to stop the water from running down the inside of the wall panels.

As you can see, the first greenhouse is now finished except for the last bit of shelving, and I am exhausted. It seems like I have spent the last few days screwing millions of nuts and bolts.

Now to the next one.
BTW, for anyone who is interested, the greenhouse is one from Sproutwell. I am pleased with it as yesterday was very windy and wet and it didn't move.

 Lastly, my Madagascar beans are now ripening so I picked a heap today.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Greenhouse trials

Boy, these polycarbonate greenhouses are complicated to put up. All the bits come in what seems to be dozens of boxes and each has a huge assortment of pieces in them.
I managed to find the instruction booklet which made me feel like a fool as it was so hard to work out - even though it is all in English. They give you 8 hours to put it up in the manual but it will be three days for me. I can't see how in the world they think that anyone who has not put one up before can do it in one day. I think it will take me at least a day and a half to get the next one up after this.

Every page looks like this:

Seems reasonable easy but what you always forget is to put the extra bolts in the channels so I was forever having to unscrew pieces to put in more bolts to add more pieces, and the pictures are making me tear my hair out. It is not plain to see when you have to add extra bolts.Anyway here is what I have done so far (please excuse the wonky pictures).

My sister came along to help yesterday - she didn't come back today I noticed :)

It took us a while to put the doors and window vents together. We didn't realise that this was the easy part, lol.

After putting the base together we had to do the uprights - they are really flimsy at this stage and it is difficult to see how anyone working alone can keep them from falling down. I was so grateful for another pair of hands.
This green house is 2.5m x nearly 4 metres if you are interested. The next one is the same size.

 Now I had most of the wall bracing in but as you can see I still had to tie one side to a post to stop it from falling down.It is impossible to put these things up with one person.

Little did I know that I later had to take just about every piece apart again to add more bolts for later attachments.
 This is how yesterday ended.

This morning I got to doing both ends
 And here we are with the ends more or less finished. Now to make the roof frame.

After putting up most of the roof frame I decided to cement in the feet. The instructions say to leave that til last but I had to stop work at 4 pm as the wind was building up and I didn't want to be putting in the polycarbonate panels in the wind, and I didn't want it blowing down in the night.

After cementing the feet with instant concrete I had to remove a heap more bolts so I could add more bolts into the channels to put in more bracing.

I am please to say that there is only one piece that doesn't fit (A wall brace) and I will get out my tek screws later to fix that.

I am exhausted but at least I will be finished tomorrow. It doesn't seem like it but it is far more time consuming that it looks from these pictures.

Monday, March 23, 2015

New greenhouses arrived and arracacha adventures

My new polycarbonate greenhouses arrived this morning, just as I was pulling down the old polytunnel. I wasn't expecting them till tomorrow so I am glad I was home.

Here are the 20 boxes sitting in the shed ready to be put together.
I rang them to see where the DVD instruction and my receipt is and they said they are in one of the boxes, but couldn't tell me which one.
I cut open a couple of boxes until I found a paper instruction manual - wow, it looks complicated, maybe I should go through more boxes and try and find the DVD. I have asked my sister to come over and help tomorrow. She doesn't know what she is in for.

Here I have taken off the plastic skin and the steel frame but I will leave the wood posts as extra support for the greenhouses.
After taking down the frame and skin I had to start digging out all the raised beds and removing those  whew, what a job.
I have done half of them and will build the first greenhouse tomorrow before tackling the other 4 raised beds.
The frame will go into the Back block and I will put bird netting over it for the berry plants. That is a job for next month.

One of the raised beds had my arracacha growing in it. I finally found that they grow best under plastic and if I could have left them another three months to fatten up their roots I would have - but, they had to come out, so I took off the small roots they did have, divided them and replanted them into pots until I get another suitable bed ready.

Now it will be another year before I will have decent roots *sigh*

At least I ended up with a few roots to try for the first time.
I nibbled on one raw and found out that everyone is right, they are not good to eat raw as they have a nasty aftertaste.
Cooked, they are absolutely delicious. I had them steamed and served with a knob of butter and a pinch of pepper, wow.
They have the texture and stickiness of potato and taste a bit like cabbagy potato but even better. I don't like cabbage but I love these, I could eat them every day.

Friday, March 20, 2015

March doings

Well, our new greenhouses are on their way and I am back to being broke again. I am hoping they will arrive monday but freight companies are not known for their punctuality. I am going to have to pull down the polytunnel on sunday (I am heading to a show tomorrow to sell seeds). I really hope the new ones are not too hard to put up, and they can cope with out strong spring winds. Oh well, time will tell.

 As you can see the blocks are looking very dry and bare right now. This is D block but they are all looking similar.
Although many beds look empty they are all full of seeds germinating so in a month or so they will be looking fabulous.
I am having to water the germinating beds every day to keep them damp but with the weather cooling down now it won't be long till every two days will do it.

All the Small Sugar pumpkins are ready to pick and store now. My mother, who is my pumpkin taster because she loves pumpkin, rates them as delicious, but I am not sure how they will go at the markets as the skins are so hard you need an axe to get into them. They are even harder to cut than QLD blues.

Maybe I will buy a new, clean saw and offer to cut them at the table when someone buys them, or, I can just advise people to throw them on a concrete floor to get into them, hmmm.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Defining Autumn, and interesting websites to check out.

Autumn is definitely here, my Chinese yams are colouring up and as I walk down the street I can see all the ornamental pear street trees going purple. It seems like tomorrow will be the last hot day until next summer and the mornings are decidedly chilly now. It is all feeling great for me. I love Autumn.

The Chinese yams are going yellow and dropping their leaves. This one has been in the raised bed for two years and although it never produced stem tubers I am guessing the underground tuber will be a decent size. I will dig it up when the leaves have all dropped.

While I had a few minutes of spare time I decided to make a list of interesting websites for some fruits and vegetables. Some of these sites I visit regularly - like the carrot one with its amazing and detailed information, and the rhubarb site, but others are ones I just stumbled across and seemed like they had some info that might interest someone.

At the moment I am working on a new website (glutton for punishment, lol) about all the so called 'Lost crops of the Incas' that I grow.



Monday, March 16, 2015

potato seed and geo fabric

After six months I have taken off a couple of beds of veg that I planted with geo cloth as weedmat so I can evaluate it before committing to putting it on more of my beds.
I have to say that it surpassed all my expectations. When I take it off the beds the soil underneath is still lovely and soft with no compaction at all. It is fresh and not sour as you can get with plastic, and even with normal weedmat.
Combined with the  huge reduction in weeds, and therefore work, I am very pleased and will definitely use it on more beds when I get the money to buy more. After ordering the greenhouses tomorrow it will be a while before I can afford to buy anything else. I am crossing my fingers that nothing goes wrong for quite a while, lol.

After complaining for a long time that I can't get my spuds to make true seed I was checking my gourds and found a dying 'Toolangi Delight' plant with 8 seed balls on it under the gourds foliage. Wow, I immediately got the seeds out and have them drying so I can plant them next spring. I wish they were from a coloured flesh potato but beggars can't be choosers.

It is easy to grow potatoes from true seeds and because they are all polyploidy there is a good chance of getting a new variety to name if you plant enough seeds. I have no idea of the parentage of Toolangi Delight so the seedlings will be a surprise.

I have now planted most of my winder veg and am just waiting on a few more beds to be cleared to double up on some popular types like snow peas and mangel wurzels. After some long days I am looking forward to some rest.