Thursday, May 26, 2016

New fence, new beans and new farm

I spent a couple of days visiting my sister and her family on their new farm so I haven't posted for a while sorry.
Anyway, the neighbour of one of my blocks who has sheep that keep getting in has finally fenced them away so we can replace the fence. I hope we will get it done tomorrow and I have ordered the posts to be delivered. I did start removing the old fence today but then it started raining so I had to come in and didn't get any pictures of the progress. I will take my camera back tomorrow when I finish.

I got some new, colourful bean seeds in the mail today from a seed seller in Tasmania who specialises in beans.
I love beans with many colours :) Look at all the speckles, I just can't stop looking at them.

They are mostly dry beans but a few for fresh eating. I usually can't grow green beans here because of the hot summers but I chose these ones because they are early bearers so might beat the heat - and it looks like the drought has broken and maybe, if I am lucky, next summer might not be so hot.

My sisters new farm is in an area of poor soil, and combined with the drought it looks pretty bad right now.
Maybe with a bit of rain now it will start to grow grass and they won't have to rely on hay.

They have a comfortable shed to live in until they can save up to put a house on it.

All they have to do now is try and keep the goats out of the veggie patch, lol.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Chufa and cyclamens

There is not much happening at the moment so this will not be long.
This morning I had to go into Coleraine to get my windscreen replaced as it got a crack in it on my trip to Ballarat last weekend. At least the insurance will pay for that. It was the first windscreen I have ever had to replace in all my years of driving on bad and unsealed roads so I am not too unhappy.

I was a bit bored so I decided to harvest the few chufa (cyperus esculentus var sativus) plants I grew this year. I am kicking myself for only planting so few as they are so delicious. I love them boiled and eaten in front of the TV, they taste just like almonds.

They are a grass-like plant that produces little tubers under the plant at this time of year. It is related to the awful weed 'Nutsedge' but chufa doesn't spread or produce seed.

They are really easy to grow in my poor, sandy soil, and the sand makes them easy to harvest. They do appreciate a bit of shade on the hottest summer days but other than that they grow without much care.

Some tubers will overwinter in my mild winters but if yours are wet and cold the tubers will rot and you have to plant them each spring.

Here is a pic of some of my mothers cyclamen. They look fantastic at this time of year. She grows them from seed.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Silver edge pumpkin and habanero chillis

With a bit more rain I am starting to think that the drought might be broken. I know that a week or two worth of rain does not a drought break but to have it this early in the season has to be a good sign... doesn't it?
Anyway it feels right and I am hoping that this coming year will be much better weather wise. I am getting into the swing of things and feeling quite happy at how things are going. I think I can put the hoses away for the winter :)

 My few Habanero chillis are ripening now. I don't usually grow chillis but thought I would give this one a go as one of my buyers wanted it. Unfortunately most of the plants died over the summer so I will only have enough seed to replant.
They look great but I was a bit of a fool and thought I could take out the seeds carefully so I wouldn't have to go into town to buy gloves. That was a VERY bad idea.
I tried to be careful but still manages to get a bit of juice on my hands and rubbed my eye - yow (swollen and painful face for hours), put my finger in my mouth and instantly regretted it. I washed my hands before going to the toilet... but it wasn't enough.
All in all I spent a very painful day. I will get gloves before I deseed the next handful.

A much easier plant to get along with is celtuce. I love celtuce and sit in front of the TV munching on it when I have some spare. This is a type of lettuce grown for its big, juicy stem rather than its leaves.

I have three beds in but I think I might put in a couple more and see if they mature over the winter.

I have staretd harvesting the seeds of my Silver Edge Pumpkin. These pumpkins are grown for the big seeds rather than for the flesh which is practically inedible.
The seeds are used for pepitas and for crushing for oil. They are not hulless but the kernals are easy to remove from the seed hull.

Quite a few of the seeds had started to germinate inside the fruits so I picked them out and fried them to eat. Too bad I gave some to my parents to try and they ate the lot. They really are very tasty just fried and a tiny bit of salt added. Here is a pic of a small handful on a plate to show you.

At least these plants produced a decent amount of seed this year, unlike just about everything else.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Ulluco, rain and a good season to come

I am feeling great, we have had a couple of inches of rain over the past couple of weeks and the long range forecast says we have a good chance of average to above average rain for winter - maybe the drought has broken, yay.

I have lots of seedlings coming up and the Red-legged Earth Mites are in low numbers this year so I should be able to keep on top of them. There is lots to smile about. Maybe the river will even begin to flow soon :)

 Here is a small bed of beetroot seedlings. Not much to look at yeat but a sign of a good winter growing season. Just need to thin a bit more and fin in a few gaps and the bed should look good in a month.

With the frosts still holding off it is giving the seedlings a good start.

I have started harvesting my hopniss (American Ground Nut or Apios americana). This is a delicious tuberous climber native to North America.

I have also started harvesting the chufa. I didn't grow much this year and I don't know if I will have much to sell as I have developed quite an addiction to boiled chufa, they tastes just like almonds and I love almonds. I can eat a bowl full of chufa easily in front of the TV.

My Ulluco are doing much better than the oca this year and are starting to develop their tubers. You can see the long horizontal stems that produce stolons that go into the soil and produce tubers on the ends.
The plants are susceptible to earth mites but very little else has damaged them this growing season. The leaves taste like lettuce and I eat them as I walk around. I hope the tubers are also as tasty.

I have almost a total failure of the oca crop and will have to start almost from scratch next year. I will be heavily mulching all the oca beds next season as they did so well under mulch last year.

lesson learned.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The ups and downs of the summer/autumn season

With everything dying down for Autumn I will list the things I was pleased and displeased about this past growing season.


  • I got to know how much I can grow and how to cope with a really bad season. I know how much I have to grow just in case and to always grow twice as much as I think I need.
  • I managed to get enough beds under irrigation as I needed. I will put more under before this coming summer.
  • I managed to get a couple of vegetable growers interested in having me breed some varieties for them over the next few seasons
  • Hardly any earth mites
  • I learnt a lot.


  • The drought and really high temps
  • Two plants that I was excited to grow didn't produce flowers - sword bean and Passionfruit melon. Luckily I have a couple of spare seeds of each to try next year but it was very disappointing.
  • Many of my vegetables/fruits such as many of the cucurbits didn't produce seeds because of the heat while flowering. Same goes for the corn.
  • Rabbits, grasshoppers and kangaroos eating my vegetables.

 As I said in an earlier post, I am really pleased with this new (for me) variety of Caigua. Not only is it much bigger than my usual one (the fruit on this one grows to 20cm) but it is also slightly better tasting.

I will definitely be throwing away my other seeds.

They are just starting to ripen now and go lighter in colour.

My Mauka (Mirabilis expansa) is finally starting to flower. Too bad it is too late to produce pods/seeds as I am expecting my first frosts any day now, in fact the frost is late. Maybe I will put the cover back on and see if I can keep the plants alive long enough for seeds to ripen. Worth a shot I think.

This is a plant from South America that grows large and spreading and produces an ugly, edible tuberous root. I am looking forward to digging it up when the frosts kill it down.

The leaves are edible cooked but contain oxalic acid so are not good raw.

This plant is such a spreader that it is great as a groundcover as it doesn't let any weeds grow.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Random pics and update

With so little happening on the blocks at the moment I am just taking random pictures to post.

We had a nice lot of rain yesterday, there were even a couple of puddle on the lawn - it has been a long time since we have seen that. The long range agricultural forcast tell us that there is a good chance of normal winter rainfall this year which I am looking forward to.

 I had some left over Falstaff Brussels sprouts seeds a few months ago I I planted some of them, they are making sprouts now. I was not going to plant this variety again as they are so small and I still don't know why I grew them. Oh well I will let them flower and collect the seed. Maybe someone will want them.

 My broad beans are coming up nicely through the corn stems which I laid down in the rows. I did wonder if the corn would attract mice which would eat the bean seeds but I have almost 100% germination so I guess it wasn't a problem after all.

The soil is so poor that I am hoping that by laying all the corn rubbish on the rows it will have rotted down by the time the broad beans are ready to pick and that will improve the soil. I will do the same with the bean stems after picking too. The more organic matter the better.

My Silver Edge pumpkiins are dying down now so I will have to get into taking the seeds out of the fruit shortly.

The fruit is not good to eat and it is grown for the large seeds which are used for eating and oil.

These are large and sprawling plants and not really very productive in their seed bearing but since I have plenty of room I thought I would renew my seed stash, and hopefully have some to sell.

I have been looking into the building of my seed drying room. After going to council to find out the rules for keeping a shipping container I realised that it would end up costing way more than I can afford. I would have to get building and planning permits, build a roof over it, slab, and then the cost of the solar system to power the dehumidifier.
I thought about getting a truck body, and also having a mouseproof room built in the shed and they are all too expensive.

I have decided that all I can afford is to line one of the rooms in the old shearing shed with mouseproof mesh, then line it with coolroom panels. Then I can afford the solar. It will not be pretty but it will have to do. I don't have a choice as I am getting more and more seed, too much to use the house for drying in.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

American Paw Paws and winter plans

Sorry, forgot to go and get some pics today.

Well, today is the last day of my sowing season - any later and the cold of winter will slow or stop growth and any veg will not be mature before they bolt in spring. With a few showers of rain yesterday I decided it was a good chance to get some more seed in the ground so I threw some Hamburg parsley and white alpine strawberries in a couple of empty beds.
There is still time to plant broad beans and snow peas but they will be finished in the next week.

From now on I will have less and less to do as winter nears. Just some weeding mainly. Since it is still dry I will be watering but with the cooler weather upon us I am only doing that twice a week

Time to plan my winter visiting of friends and family, and I will have to finish cleaning seeds and dig tubers later to take up to my seed buyers in June. I suppose it will be a bit busier this yer, especially as I am committed to a couple of markets per month now.

Yesterday with the showery weather I decided to plant out the poor potted American Paw Paws (Asimina triloba) that have been sitting in my shadehouse for the past few years. I haven't had any where to plant them where they would get afternoon shade as they were growing but there are a couple of big, old pear trees on the seed block so I planted them under those.
I really hope they grow as I am so looking forward to tasting them. These are a cool climate relative of tropical paw paws that are deciduous and can cope with very cold winters. They need shade as they are growing, and I guess with our summers here they would probably need shade as adult trees here too.

I hope that with a bit of care they will survive but I had to give them a go anyway. I have 8 seedling trees so I have a couple to spare if I lose some.

I checked the three month agricultural forcast this morning and they say that El Nino is still hanging around a bit but there is a chance of a normal to slightly wetter winter this year, I certainly hope so. I am really sick of struggling with the drought.

Today I went to Bunnings and bought some supplies to make a simple seed cleaner. It is made just with PVC pipe and mounted on a simple stand, with a hair drier to blow off the chaff.
I am sick of the time consuming ways I have been doing it so far and this will make the seed a lot cleaner and take less time. I need to have my seed a lot cleaner before I offer it to my buyers. When it is built I will show you.