Wednesday, November 28, 2012

No phone or internet, damn

Well it has been a week since the fire in the phone exchange that put out all the phone and internet services in the whole western district of Victoria. I have just come over the border to South Australia to check my emails and get me internet fix. They say it could be another two weeks before it is on again.

Two nights ago we had a huge storm that thundered for about 5 hours and left us with a bonus of an inch of rain. To take advantage of it yesterday I bought in two large bales of pea straw and a couple of trailer loads of old horse manure to put on all the beds to keep the moisture in.
I'm glad the storm caem with rain as a week ago we had another small but dry storm that left us with some bad bushfires from lightening strikes. Luckily the fires didn't get into any farm land od come too close to town.

I am sore from spreading out the straw and manure all yesterday and will be back at it again this afternoon. I have to get it done today as we are in for a heat wave of 40 degrees C for the next few days. I hate the heat.

Anyway, my time on this public computer is up so I will post again when we have internet again at home.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Feels like summer already

Our first hot day for the season today. I didn't check but I guess it was over 30. I can't wait any longer for my mulch/manure supplier to arrive so I will put an ad for manure or rotten straw in the paper next week as well as Facebook. The ground is drying out fast and I need to get some organic matter on it.

A week or two ago I was posting about how I am letting my maca plants die off as they are awful to eat and won't flower - now a couple have decided to put out flower buds. I don't know if they are self-fertile but if they are I will have to decide whether to keep the seeds or not, hmmm, might as well.

The Hamilton market is this coming saturday and it loks like I might have some stuff to take, I will have bigger harvests every month from now on. I have a bed of beautiful, all colours of lettuces and I hope they go well. I just love looking at them as I water. They are all colours and leaf shapes.

I love lettuce, especially the different colours as they look so good on a plate. The spotty ones are so pretty. They have to be crunchy and sweet for me, I don't grow any with any bitterness as I don't like them but I am thinking of putting in some chickory and more celtuce for those who do like bitter vegetables. My new bed of celtuce didn't germinate so I am waiting for my flowering ones to set seed. It will be a while yet.
The celtuce went over so well at the market I took them too that I think I will offer it on a regular basis, once I get some seeds.

For those who don't know, celtuce is a type of lettuce grown for it's thick, juicy stems ratehr than the leaves which are a bit coarse. Even though it is thought of a 'bitter' vegetable, I don't find it very bitter. It has a very unusual taste that becomes quite addictive. The taste is hard to describe.
To use, you just peel the stems and chop into pieces before cooking or eating raw. I like it microwaved and eaten with dip ut when I get a few more growing I will do some cooking and make up some recipes for my customers.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Busy weekend and bad service at the National Hotel

Well I am back now from the 2 day orchard workshop in Coleraine. It was a bit different than my expectations as the lecturer mainly talked about growing vegetables rather than fruit trees. I didn't learn much but had a great time and got to meet some interesting people. The teacher, Rebecca Phyland was very generous with her time and knowledge and I am very glad I went. If you ever get to attend one of her workshops about permaculture and organic gardening it will be worth it, especially if you are a beginner.

The only downside of the weekend was the extremely poor customer service at the National hotel in Coleraine. I was a little early to order a meal so I was shocked when I asked and was told that I wasn't allowed to sit and read a book to wait till the kitchen was ready to take orders. The lady was rude and sour-faced and I will not ever go there again for a meal or room for the night. I ended up sleeping in my van.

Sure, they can run their hotel any way they please but the customer service was an embarrasment to not only the town but country pubs as well. If they want customers they should treat them as valuable assets. I wish they had an email address so I can complain to the manager. I might ring him/her tomorrow.

That is my rant over. I am back home now and tomorrow I will be back into the weeding and planting.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Damn starlings and orchard workshop weekend

I had babied my purple asparagus seeds till I got 8 little seedlings. A couple of days ago I planted them out into pots. Went out this morning and found that the starlings had pulled them all up and stolen them, probably for some nest building. I am so angry but I will have to buy some more seeds now. I am used to them pulling up my plant tags and leaving them everywhere but this is a new low. Oh well, nothing I can do now. Pity as they were so much slower to grow than my 'normal' varietey - which the starlings left alone of course.  *sigh*.

There is an orchard workshop happening in Coleraine tomorrow and sunday. I will go along to check it out and stay overnight in my van to save on petrol. I hope it is worth it. Aparantly we are learning about growing and looking after fruit trees tomorrow and doing some preserving on sunday. Should be fun.
I will let you know in a new post on sunday night.

Today I was busy doing some chipping (weeding with a hoe) and collecting snow pea seeds to resow. I also did a heap of watering as I won't be home for two days but I don't think it will be very hot. But you have to be careful just in case.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wow, another november frost

This is unheard of, we had another frost this morning, a bit stronger than the one a few days ago. It burn't some of my potatoes and tomatoes but didn't seem to do much damage to the melons. My little lotus seedlings got hit hard and I hope they recover quickly.

Did some more tomato and capsicum planting today, I am hoping they will grow a bit better now that they are in the ground. Can't wait to start harvesting some of the new varieties that I have planted this year. I got a mixed seed lot of a variety of heritage types and also planted some seeds of Hillbilly which I like and had seeds left over from last year.

My licorice plants are starting to move now. I think I have to start harvesting the roots next year. I will have to do some research I think.

I haven't heard of anyone I know growing licorice but it seems like such an interesting plant that I thought I should give it a go. The roots seem to have a lot of health benefits but you shouldn't eat too much.
I thought I had lost them as they took so long shooting after the winter but they are looking healthy now. I haven't given any thought to selling the roots but I supose I should look into how I will do that and if the roots will sell at all. It might appeal to people who make sweets and stuff, but I've heard that it also helps people stop smoking if they chew on the roots.

It seems easy to grow but I planted my licorice plants on D block because I have doubts about the plants ability to cope with winter waterlogging.

That's all the news I have today I think.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Late, late frost but no damage

Saturday morning I woke up to a light frost on the ground, never had one this late before. Anyway, I was quite worried about all my tomatoes, melons and other frost tender plants. Luckily there has just been a few tips burnt off and no serious damage.

Today was warm and I got my watering done early so I got stuck into some paperwork and computer work. A bit of a lazy day but you have to have one of those occasionally. So much work to do, but I just thought it is sunday so, stuff it. It will still be there tomorrow. Trouble is a girl is coming over tomorrow on the bus to learn a bit about trekking with donkeys so I will be out camping with her and my Chak for a couple of days. The lawn will have to wait I guess.

Nothing much else to report today, got some tomatoes planted, a couple of posts put in as supports for my American ground nuts and some more lettuces in yesterday, that is about all.

I will take some pics and make a longer post in a couple of days.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Check out my glorious lettuces and stuff

This cooler weather means that I can put off watering for another week or two, thankfully. It also means that the plants are not getting any water or heat stress so they are growing marvolously. My globe artichokes are three metres tall this year so I have to bend over the stems to reach them to pick. I had to stand back to take a picture of these, I have never grown them so big.

I have stumbled onto a fantastic mix of letuces called 'Franks crispy mix'. They come in so many colours and types that I can stand around all day just looking at them. My customers love them and I have just ordered a couple more packets to put in.

There are red, green, yellow, frilly, speckled and more. I bought the seeds from as well as other interesting varieties of veggies that they come up with. You have to check in often as their varieties chop and change a bit.

Here is a picture of my little row of sugar beet that is flowering for the third time. The roots are so wrecked and split now that I think this is the last flowering. They have done so well.

My tomatoes and capsicums are not doing so well. I planted a heap out today even though they are still only a few cm tall just to see if getting them in the ground will get them growing better.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Water vegetables and natives

My water vegetables are starting to make a move now with the warmer weather. I planted out the last of my little lotus seedlings today. A couple were planted into pots, then into tubs as they will be transfered to my friends dam soon when they have a few bigger leaves.

The water chestnuts are finely growing well. I lost a couple for no reason I can think of but I am hoping for good harvests from my 60 litre tubs that they are in. I have 8 tubs of them and will get more if they do well. I will know in winter if they are worth going ahead with.

And here are some of my native water ribbons that are flowering. They produce slightly sweet, crunchy tubers. I only have two tubs of them but I think I will make more. They produce up to 50 walnut sized or bigger tubers each. I will have to think up some recipes and try them out.

I am growing quite a few Australian natives, the ones that look like they could be worth growing as vegetables anyway. I have water ribbons, murnong, native pepper, native raspberries and pale vanilla lily. I don't have many of each of them as I need to judge how they will go in a market garden situation but they are all growing happily at the moment.
I don't hold out much hope for the native raspberries as they don't fruit well and the fruit is a bit insipid - just how 'normal' garden raspberries would have been before people started selecting for bigger and better fruit. I'm not sure they are really worth breeding for better fruit though. Anyway, I have a few in pots for people who want to try them in their gardens, and they are flowering now.

I am impatient to try some of my natives and I think the murnong and vanilla lillies are getting big enough to take a couple of tubers to taste. I must get a few more native peppers. They are a fantastic spice but I have not been able to germinate them from seed. I think I will buy some plants instead but I am having trouble finding a supplier. I only have one plant at the moment and it is a female. They leaves are good to use but I would like to try the berries, but I will have to find a male plant for that.

There are a few other natives that might make vegetables and I will test a few next year.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Why can't they make a good garden hoe?

Went to town today to buy a few things for the garden - hoses, hose joiners, soilwetter and a hoe. All the hoes they had in Bunnings were so light I doubt you can get a weed out with them. I ended up buying a small pick/mattock head and a handle to put it on. It is cast iron and weighty enough to do some good work. Will put it together tomorrow and see how it goes.

This afternoon I planted out some more American ground nuts into their bed. We don't have any choice in varieties in Australia so I can only hope that these ones produce good tubers. I have been reading great things about this plant so I can wait to taste them in the winter. I have 8 plants so I won't have any tubers to sell but I think they will build up quickly. I think this perennial legumous plant would be a great permiculture plant.

Here is a bit more about them:

American ground nuts (Apios americana) is a willowy vine that produces small, starchy tubers in the autumn/winter. They used to be a staple in the diets of American indians. It is pretty high in protein and very easy to grow.

The tubers take a couple of years to gain a good size but they can be nibbled after one year. They are usually fried, roasted with maple syrup or boiled, with a nutty taste in some descriptions, or tasting like potatoes in others. Aparantly the skin comes off easy after cooking so the tedious task of peeling them is not so bad.

The only down side to these tubers is that there are rumours that some people get sick after eating them, not the first time but after more meals of them, as if they had to build up a certain level of some chemical that they contain before reacting. I will find out about this next year I think.

Other than planting the ground nuts and going to the Mount I didn't get much done today. I hear a bit of rain on the roof and am happy.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pulling up the salsify

I have gathered more than enough seed from my flowering salsify so I pulled up the plants today. The last thing I need is for them to be self-seeding all through the beds, I get that enough with the carrots, lol. I found that the plants with a single stem had the best roots - in other words, the more forked the plant the more forked the roots. This gives me a plan to choose the best plants to gather seed from next time.
I realised that I planted my new bed of salsify at teh wrong time of the year, they are supposed to go in at autumn. Oh well, they are germinating strongly so I will leave them alone and see how they go.

Apart from the never ending weeding, today I decided to pull up the beds of onions that didn't grow well enough as I saw that a few had started putting up flower stems. I have decided not to grow any more onions as I can rarely get them growing well, and the heirloom ones are not so good that customers will pay more for them than in the supermarket. They take so long to mature as well. They are just not worth it.

I will concentrate on shorter rotation vegetables that will actually pay for themselves. I put in a couple more small beds of snow peas, at least these sell well, as well as fertilising the beds. On a side note, I grew a row of parsnips in the same bed as snow peas and they are turning out better than I have ever grown them. By that I mean they are straighter and faster. I would have thought that the extra nitrogen would have made them fork more but it is the opposite. Just goes to show that you have to question conventional wisdom and do your own experimenting.
The snow peas did almost smother them but they grew up through them. I think I will grow them together more often now. I will take a picture of these parsnips at the end of the month when I pull them for the market.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Root crops taking off

With the warmer weather my Andean and Chinese root crops are really taking off.

The yacon and chinese artichokes are bigger than they were at the same time last year but the oca is a bit slower. The maca just won't die. I just can't prepare or cook the maca in any way that gets rid of the bitterness so I won't grow any more. I keep thinking my little row will die when they die down with the warmer weather but it keep popping back up in the autumn. Lucky it doesn't flower here or I might have seedlings everywhere, at least that would give me incentive to throw them out, lol.

The new chinese yams are just starting to lengthen. They have been a bit slow and won't be ready to dig for a couple of years but I am looking forward to that. I have them in raised beds so it will be easier to dig the long roots.

When I was taking the Chinese artichokes and oca out of their pots in the winter to replant I must have reused the soil (I store them in damp soil in pots till I am ready to plant them) and I have them coming up in heaps of my potted plants. That is going to be a nuisance later so I will go out tomorrow and try to get them out. The Chinese artichoke can be such a weed that I am annoyed at myself for letting this happen.

After doing some fertilising I have finelly found a way of killing off the Chinese artichokes that get out of hand, just give them too much fertiliser. It might not totally kill them though but it certainly killed off the tops of a few. I will keep an eye on them.

Other happenings - I just planted another bed of salsify. I wanted to put in some scorzonera but I didn't have any seed and the ones in the ground are not showing any sign of flowering - so I had to get on ebay and buy some more seed. Damn Ebay, it is so addictive. At least I was able to control myself today, lol.

Anyway, after some serious begging I managed to get one load of manure yesterday so I spent this morning spreading it on my beds. I am worried that I won't get any more in time to do the other beds before the soil starts to dry out. Well, I can't do much about it, he is so busy that I was lucky to get even one load. Gee, things grow well in it, and the worms love it.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Bit of rain, bit of cold,and alpine strawberries

Spent most of the day inside, wasting my time on Stumble. The day was too yukky to do anything but check on my melons and sow some snake been seeds. It wasn't particularly cold and wet (only 8ml of rain) but I needed a break and didn't feel like going out and working in it.

I applied to become a Wwoof host any they will be finalising my application in a couple of weeks. Apparantly they are busy getting the latest Wwoofer book printed so I just missed out. It will be good to have a bit of help around the place occassionally, and have people to teach if they want. Looking forward to it.

Edible plant of the day is Alpine Strawberries.

These are cute strawberry plants that love to live in shaded areas, where not a lot of other foods grow. I have some in the shadehouse and a few in the shade of some tall growing sorghum plants.

They grow into clumping plants that don't produce runners which keeps them in check. They spread a bit from self-seeding but are not a bother. The tiny fruits are delicious, especially the white varieties. Kids have a ball picking the fruits and very few make it into the house, though I hear they make the mos delectable jam.

Another great thing about these wonderful plants is that they bear fruit for most of the year. As long as you keep them shaded and moist, they will delight you all year round. I love checking for ripe fruits as I wander through the garden.