Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Agronomist visit and mauka seedlings again

It is still too cold to go out and do anything so I have been doing some tidying up and not much else.
Yesterday I was visiting a friend over in the Mount who grows fresh vegetables and while I was there his agronomist called. I was mentioned and I spoke to him and told him what I was doing so he made an appointment to come and visit me this morning

With no-one else locally to talk to - my local agronomist is experienced in grazing and large scale cropping, not what I am doing - it was really good to find someone who can not only supply me with some of the things I need cheaper, but also has advice that I can use as he has more experience with small acreage fruit and vegetable growing.

He gave me some advice on some of the problems I have been having with my dripper system and is going to come out and do a soil test in a couple of weeks a lot cheaper than my local guy.

Wow, it is so nice to discuss things with a guy who knows what he is talking about. He will definitely be my go to guy in the future, and it is handy that he travels through Casterton twice a month on other business so he can drop off stuff I get from him as he passes and that will save a lot on freight.

I now have 4 mauka seedlings up and although they are a bit slow at germinating in the cold I will plant out another tray tomorrow.

I am not sure if I have already discussed my reasoning for planting them in winter before but I wanted to give them as long a growing time as possible to get them to a decent size before the heat of summer hits.
They are a cold weather plant so I assumed, rightly, that they would not mind the cold too much as long as they didn't freeze.

Monday, July 27, 2015

'Lost crops of the Inca' seedling news

As many of you know if you read my blog regularly I am trying to grow as many of the 'Lost crops of the Incas' as I am able to in my area. Some like Jicama and cocoyam (Xanthosoma sagittifolium) just haven't made it because of my climate or their taste but here are a couple of my new ones that I have grown from seed.

 Another very, very rare tuberous plant - Mauka (Mirabilis expansa). Two seeds have germinated so far. Sorry about all the snail pellets in the picbut this plant is reputed to be very tasty to snails and slugs.
 This plant produced thick roots that are tasty but not as tasty as the water they are boiled in, I hear.

They may not do well in my hot summers but I won't know unless I try.

My couple of extremely rare Ulluco plants (Ullucus tuberosus) are growing fairly well. It is winter so I am not dissapointed in their growth. I have started leaving them outside at night now since the days are getting longer.

They produce colourful little tubers like little new potatoes. This is the bigger plant.

I noticed a week or so ago that this oca seedling from last season has started shooting even though it has been so cold and frosty. All the other tubers are tucked up nicely in their pots ready to shoot when the weather warms up but this one is a bit impatient, not even bothered by the frosty mornings.
I didn't have a 'potential' tick next to this one when I was evaluating them but that might change now that it seems to like cool weather.

One to keep an eye on for people in cold climates perhaps. We will see.

This has been the coldest winter that I have seen in my life here. We have had enough cold hours now that many deciduous trees are budding out and flowering. It might be cold but with the expectation of a 'super' El Nino this coming summer I am not complaining at all. I really hope the summer will not be as hot and dry as they are predicting.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Getting the irrigation system up

With the cold weather stopping all my other work I made a start on my drip irrigation system on the new seed block as soon as we got a nice day.

 This is the fertigation set-up with a venturi fixing. This is an easy and cheap way of running liquid fertiliser or liquid fish or kelp soil improver through the drippers. The piece on the left will have a tube fixed on it that operates to draw up the fertiliser through a vaccum caused when you mostly shut off the water with the left tap and divert the water through it.

It has no moving parts or electronics so is easy to maintain.

My main cross pipes are 3/4 inch rural poly and the 13mm dripper tubes are attached to it. The main line that runs the length of the 6acre block is 1 inch rural. I would have gone with a larger diameter but that is the size of the pipe coming from the supply so that is what I am stuck with.Although I finally found a place that sells the right joiners for this set up it really doesn't work well and I will have to seal the attachments with UV resistant silicone to stop leaks. There has to be a much better way but I can't find it.

Most people use the softer low pressure pipe but with the distances I am working with I decided to go with the rural pipe instead.

I have just completed all the left hand side and when I can afford the next thousand dollars woth of dripper line I will start on the next. I don't know how much I will be able to afford after that and before spring planting in october. Even if I only get these two lines done it will be a good start anyway.

My Portuguese kale is starting to show flowering stems. I never understand why this plant is called kale as it is a true cabbage with true cabbage taste. It is also called Tronchuda kale.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Winter veggies

Yeah, I know. It has been a couple of weeks but really, nothing much happens over winter. Last post I think I was telling you how I was going to visit some friends which I did. It is great to see people that I only get to see once a year when things slow down. It really makes you appreciate them.

Over the last week, and with another week to go we have been having the coldest weather we have had in my whole life. This is the third day where we have not got to 10C which hasn't happened since I was a kid. It has even been snowing in Queensland.

 When I got back one of the first things I noticed was that the parrots had stripped every seed off my Purple Peacock broccoli that I needed for seed. Oh well, I do have enough to grow another couple of rows in spring.

I will have to net it next time, especially as the parrots are learning now that there is often seeds on my blocks. I will have to almost net my whole new block because of the huge amount of parrots and pigeons that congregate there. It is by the river so many birds go there to roost.

Most of my garlic is looking fine. It is amazing to see how the different varieties grow different from each other. They are moslty looking like this one but the worst performer this year is Dynamite purple which is looking quite sick and scrawny.

The best looking variety by far this year is the Mexican Stripe which is tall, healthy and not fussed with the cold weather at all.

The crimson flowered broad beans are looking fantastic and the red flowers really stand out among the other green plants. Like everything they have been getting beaten by the earth mites but a few soap sprays has them looking ok.
They won't start setting pods till later in spring so I have months of pretty flowers to look at.

I have started on the watering system for the new seed block and have also started planting some rows of yacon and rhubarb.
I will take some pictures for my next post.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Quick update

Just letting you know that I will be going away for the next week so I won't be updating my blog until I get back.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

New block is rotary hoed

It has been an interesting week. First the computer had a little melt down which resulted in me taking a quick visit to the mount to buy another. After getting my computer guy to take out the second memory thing out of the first computer and install it in the second now I have to go through about 563 confusing steps to get to my photos and stuff , and I don't really know how to fix that. Maybe if I was 30 years younger I would be better with computers.

I finally got my new seed block rotary hoed yesterday. They were only supposed to do the first four acres of it but I obviously didn't explain it properly and they ended up doing the lot, almost seven acres.

We there is no way I can find another 4 thousand dollars or so to put down the watering system on the extra so I don't know what I am going to do now. I will probably just end up ignoring the area I can't afford to water. On the upside the soil is so fine and looks great.

I started putting down some of the irrigation pipe today but I will need a few more fittings before I can do any more.

I also notice that the are a heap of feral pigeons hanging around. Ok, so I have to worry about them as well as the cockies, wallabies and rabbits. I will be spending a bit of netting I think.

Continuing on with the theme of working out what to do with the undersized oca tubers, I made a jar of pickled oca and another jar of salt fermented oca.
The pickled oca was ready today so I had a taste. It is different, quite nice and crunchy but I think I will have to wait another two or three days for it to be right.

The fermented tubers are still doing their stuff for another 6 days. I will take a pic of them when they are ready.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Cooking oca

Yeah, I know, you are probably getting sick of oca posts - but they are all harvested now so you will not be getting any more till planting in spring, lol.

Today I am going over cooking oca as there are not many recipes for them on the net. Most recipes call for them to be cooked like potatoes, which is mostly correct but there are much more to oca.

Sure oca can be cooked like potato. They can be baked, boiled, fried and added to casseroles but my favourite method is microwaving which cooks them so much quicker than baking with the same outcome in taste.

The thing that oca has over potatoes is that if you let them dehydrate for a few weeks they sweeten so much that they (well nearly all the varieties you will come across) can be eaten raw like fruit. Of course, you don't have to leave them that long to eat them raw, only a week or two out of the ground and they are sweet enough to chop raw into salads. If you eat them straight out of the ground they will have a lemony tang about them which lessens and often goes completely the longer in storage.

Hot and cold oca salad

 Wash the oca tubers (give a scrub with a nail brush if they have dirt stuck on them) and place in a bowl.
Mix 1kg of tubers with two tablespoons each of honey, chopped onion and bacon pieces. If you don't use bacon add a pinch of salt.

Drizzle with oil and roast at 180c for 45 mins to an hour (10 minutes or less in a microwave), until the tubers are soft.
When oca is fully cooked it startes to break down and go soft all the way through.

Unfortunately oca loses its colour any way it is cooked.

The tubers now can be added hot to other salad ingredients (or just eat them hot as they are), like shredded lettuce and tomato for a warm salad.

Or let them go cold and chop and make into a cold salad with lettuce, tomato and avocado.

One other thing - oca leaves and chopped stems taste lemony and can be added to salads raw, and some people even cook the juicy stems into tarts as a rhubarb alternative.

Hmmm, I have just decided to think of a couple more recipes to use up some of the left over smaller than eating size tubers that are always in the way. I think you will have to put up with a couple more oca, and maybe yacon recipes in the next few weeks.