Thursday, November 26, 2015

blue tomatoes and windy days

After two days of gale force winds I am actually quite pleased at the lack of damage. I put down all the row covers beforehand, well, all except the ones on the seed block which I forgot.

I have been really enjoying this cooler weather, especially as we are expecting such a hot summer so I will value it as I can, and the plants are too. All the veggies are growing well and I am pleased.

The row covers over the oca on the seed block took a bit of a beating with the first third of each row coming apart, but it could have been worse. Luckily I make these so they fall down in windy weather which stops them from blowing off into the neighbours place.
It is easy to put them back up.

I have a quite a few of Tom Wagners tomatoes in this year and the first to set fruit are the two dark blue cherries 'Fahrenheit Blues' and 'Helsing Junction Blues'
It will be interesting to see which one is the better of the two as most blue tomatoes don't taste great. Luckily Toms tomatoes are not released unless they taste good.

The interesting thing about Fahrenheit Blues is that the leaves are naturally curled as if it is diseased. Apparently this trait was selected for as it allows more light into the fruit which darkens them.

Well, sorry but there is not much else to report today but I will try to write a longer post in a few days.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Frustrating neighbours and purple asparagus

I have just come inside after trying to prop up the fence in J block. The neighbours sheep have got through the fence and into my veggies for about the fifth time and I am getting sick of it. He is not home and not answering his phone so I just hope I still have some greenery left in the morning as I can't get the damn things to go back. In this block I have my Painted Mountain corn that I really need to fulfill a contract.
I actually don't mind that he has sheep to keep his block clean as the alternative would be for him to be spraying a lot and that would mean on windy days as he would have to do it when he had the time as he is away a lot. I just wish he would fix up the fence to keep his sheep in.

My purple asparagus is in its second year and showing a bit more life with some more spears. It had a flush a month or so ago.
I planted ten seeds but only managed to get 4 plants growing which is unusual as asparagus is usually easy to grow from seed. Out of the four plants I have one female and three males.

I am really liking this variety as the spears are really sweet and delicious raw and cooked. All asparagus is nice but this one is particularly good.

 The female has a heap of seed pods on it so I will grow a heap more later and put a whole bed in.

One of the neighbours of the' Back block' has a silky oak tree (Grevillea robusta) which I grow a couple of tamarillos under. I always love these trees when they are out in flower, they are spectacular.

The picture below is a closer look at the brush-like flowers. They particularly look good at this time o0f year not only because of the flowers but because they loose their leaves in late winter and grow them again in spring so the leaves right now are looking really fresh and green.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

There's lots happening on the farm at the moment

Sometimes I am grateful for the hot days as they give me an excuse to sit inside for much of the day. I still get my work done as I go out to work as the sun comes up and that is around 6am at the moment and work till it gets hot, then go out in the evening for a couple of hours of watering.

I love working for myself as I can set my own hours and I don't like to exhaust myself, I just potter around moving from job to job as I like. It is nice to be able to choose what I do and when.

.... Excuse me, I just has to pause writing to watch activity out the window. We have a little cherry tree out on the lawn and the starlings learn how to get the cherries every year so we don't get any. Well, I was watching one flying against the bird netting until its body weight brought the netting close to a cherry, then it grabbed the fruit and wiggled until the fruit dropped. Then the bird dropped to the ground and got the net in its beak and wriggled it around until the net uncovered the fruit. It got its prize with a lot of work and ingenuity. Good on it I suppose....

 Ok, back to it. I am in the middle of harvesting my tronchuda kale and Italian root cabbage seed. Covering the plants with shadecloth mostly worked to keep the birds off so I am going to have plenty of seed.
I am also harvesting white alpine strawberry and snapdragon seed now, and am nearly finished the broad beans.

Next year I am going to have to buy a mouseproof shed and work out how to make it into a seed drying shed as I will have a lot more seed and I can see that I will not be able to dry it all as I am doing with the small amount of seed I am getting this year.

I have started getting my first melon flowers now. It always makes me feel good. I can't wait to be chowing down on juicy melons.

With having to grow more melons and pumpkins etc I will have to get help with the seed collection. I am thinking of offering the fruit to people free as long as they return the seeds.

The neighbour of D block decided to remove the trees that were sheltering my tamarillos so they are all exposed to the summer sun and frost now.

It will be interesting to see if they survive the summer, and if they manage to fruit in the heat. The fence behind in this pic is 7 feet tall so you can see how big the plants are.

Since Vivid choi is so strongly flavoured I have doubts that any company will want the seed to after wondering weather to just not grow it, and after a bit of conversation on a forum I decided to start selecting it for the bulbous roots which are much milder in taste, actually delicious.
This plant often produces small 'bulbs' but I might be able to improve on that. This is a picture of after I have finished my selection process, it looks like a bomb has hit it.

These are some of the smaller roots that I tossed. There are better ones to keep.

I started with eighty plants and ended up with 28. I kept plants that had nicely swollen roots like this one.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Why are food growers looked down upon?

Not long ago someone I know who is a doctor came to me to ask advice on growing some vegetables. He had never grown anything before so he was a bit hesitant but he went out and bought some seeds, soil and stuff and spent a good amount of time digging, weeding and looking after his veg.

So... at the end of the season he came back to me complaining about all the time, money and effort he spent but it was all wasted because he only managed to harvest a few tomatoes and carrots. He thought it was a waste of his time.

I really wanted to say to him - If I was training to become a doctor what would you say if after a year in medical school I told you that after all the time and money I spent I still didn't have an income so I was giving up.

Really, gardening and making it worth it growing food is a skill, just like doctoring. You can't expect to immediately know how to do it, it takes practice and mistakes and maybe a year or two before you can see any results - just like learning to be a doctor.

Are food growers devalued because city people think it is easy I wonder. I remember some years ago when farmers were having a rare good year and some of them bought expensive new cars. City folk were complaining because they thought farmers were ripping them off and should be able to afford new cars when food prices were always going up. Why is it that plumbers, accountants and even your dry-cleaner is 'allowed' to buy an expensive car but we are not?

Why are all essential jobs looked down on. The most imporatant people who take care of the world are farmers, toilet cleaners, housewives/husbands etc. but they are the lowest paid. Why do people whos jobs don't contribute much to society like middle managers, people who puch nu8mbers around on computers, people who work on the stock market and (dare I say it) professional sportsmen ( in my opinion sports are games to be played in your time off, why do we even have ministers for arts and sports who should be self funded) get paid so much?

Rant over :)

 Anyway... I didn't have enough of one variety of corn seed (Painted Mountain) to plant this year so I bought some in. For some reason many of the plants from this bought in seed are starting to flower very early and they are only 30-50cm tall.
I have read that this happens when corn is stressed but this year I am looking after it better than I have ever done, and my original seed plants are doing fine.

This is a real pain as I need every plant to fulfill my seed contract this year. I hope they put on a spurt of growth. Some people say these plants do.

On J block I have laid dripper tube to save on watering. It is all laid out now and working well. Now all I need to do is line up all the beds as the crops come out and dig the spaces between the bed so I end up with single long rows rather than three rows going down the block of 4m beds, if you know what I mean, lol.

When I get all the blocks done it will free up a lot of time, and the water will be more targetted.

I have made it so I can take the system apart easily if I need to vacate a block and set it out again elsewhere. A permanent system would have been a real hassle.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

November bits and pieces

With a showery day (too annoying to do much but still not much in it) I weeded a few beds this morning but spent most of the day indoors working on a new Facebook group for hobby farmers. I am feeling very lazy today.

 Small finches have been eating all the ripening seed pods on my brassicas just before they are ready to pick so I have been trying draping some of my spare row covers over them. Seems to be mostly working so far though I will have to invest in some bird netting soon.

My lotus is finally making its first out-of-the-water leaf. The leaves are pretty small, well smaller than I expected for a lotus so I have the suspicion that I was sold a dwarf variety.

I might have to buy another normal size next year.

I hope it flowers this year. I don't know what colour it will be.

My first two giant pink sword beans (Canavalia gladiata) are finally germinating after being planted a month ago. I did have three but a bird pulled out the third one yesterday. I am not sure that my season will be long enough to get the seeds ripe but it will be fun to give them a go.

I am having so much trouble with birds this year, much more than other years, they pulled out all my oca seedlings yesterday while it was very hot so they are all dead. Luckily I still have one tray that I haven't planted out yet but it is very disappointing.

They are also pulling out every plant label in the rows. I am getting pretty sick of them.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

More dripper pipe arrived today

I have been enjoying sitting indoors most of today. It has been raining for the first time in a long time, not much but it is certainly welcome. Already the lawn and veggies are looking fresher and more alive. There is 11 mm in the gauge and a bit bit more expected overnight.
I think the corn is going to grow a foot taller tonight, lol.

At least with these few cooler days I have been able to get off watering today.

 I got another 5 rolls of dripper tube delivered today, each roll is 200 metres so that is another km of pipe.
That is the last of what I can afford but it is enough. Once I have it out I will have all the beds planted that I need right now.

This dripper tube is doing a great job although my runs seem to be a bit long and losing pressure at the furthest parts so I have bought little taps to put on the dripper lines so I can turn some off to give more pressure to others. This will also be handy for turning off the water to beds with nothing in them.

I am so happy with using this tube for my irrigation that I am going to eventually place all my other blocks under it. I have made the pipe for my small house blocks so I can take it all apart easily for if I lose a block and have to move the whole irrigation system.

Some of my potatoes are dying down but the tubers are still pretty small. I am going to dig up my potato beds and only growing a few of each as the unusual varieties don't sell well at the markets here. I will be able to plant more cost effective veggies in those rows now.

This potato is 'Toolangi Delight'.

I have a few seedlings germinating now which I will put out soon to see if they turn out to be anything different.

I have these pink, top-setting shallots flowering and also producing topsets now. I have been trying to find out their variety name with no success so far.
They are much better eating than the 'usual' golden shallot, and are very good keepers so I will plant more of them in the autumn.
They look much like miniature walking onions as the topsets often also produce more 'stories'. I have never seen them advertised or in other peoples gardens so I am very curious as to their name.

I got them a few years ago off a market stall and the stall owner didn't know anything about them either.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

November odds and ends

A few days of cool weather starting today will help me get a heap of work done. I mainly have weeding to do but now that I have harvested all my garlic I also have a few new beds to sow as well.

 A few days ago the first of my seedling hippeastrums put up a flower bud (all the others are still too small to flower this year) but the next night a snail ate the tip off the flower.
Well that has ruined it. I will remember to protect it next year though it looks like a pretty ordinary one.

I bought a heap of small seedlings off Ebay a couple of years ago but didn't look after them so only a dozen or so survived. I will have to try a bit harder so they all flower next spring.

All my corn is growing well. This is a bed of 'Glass Gem'. I wasn't going to grow Glass Gem as it is only good as an ornamental  and practically useless for anything else but then I figured that pretty also has its place in the world, and I had a bit of space so I put in a couple of hundred seeds.
At least the cobs will look great on my display at the Casterton Harvest Festival next March.

 I hand pollinated a few of my seedling bearded Iris I have been posting about and some now have pods on them. It is just a bit of fun at the moment so I have not gone to the bother of documenting the parents. Maybe if it gets to be something bigger I will start taking it a bit more seriously.

I have put up three 40m long covers on my oca rows on the new seed block. They catch a bit of wind so I might have to work out a bit more stabilisation but for now they are working well. I have a few steel droppers placed along the centre of the rows to keep the shadecloth from blowing off and the frames relatively stable.

I would like to put up a few more but I can't afford it at the moment so that might have to be a project for next year.

I am watering the new block twice a week right now which seems enough but maybe when the summer really hits it might be three times a week - oh, the water bills.