Friday, May 31, 2013

Veggie boxes and general ramblings

I've just got back from delivering the veggie boxes, I can't believe how early the sun is setting now. I have to tread a fine line between delivering before dark and people being home from work. Luckily most of my customers are single pensioners so I only have to time it for a couple of workers.

This is a picture of my box today. In it there are feijoas, medlars, onions, carrots, Russian kale, marmalade, white beetroot, capsicum, radishes and parsley.

I like to provide an average of 10 items/bunches in each box and give my customers more than they would buy in the supermarket for the same price. I see that small bunches of beetroot are selling for $6 in the local supermarkets which is outrageous because they are so easy to grow. 
I gave customers one of my random surveys last time and just picked them up. Everyone was very happy with everything so I seem to be getting it right. All I have to do is get the growing more steady and then attract more customers and I will be set. 

I am slowly picking up more customers which suits me well as I know I can supply, I would hate to turn people away at this time. I think that I could cope with up to 20 customers within the next 6 months and will have to work on better space management before I could handle more than that. Any produce left over I will take to the Mount Gambier market.
I know that that number of customers will not be enough to make a full time income but it is a start and will allow me to plan leasing a larger block out of town and build up from there. 

Tomorrow I will post my first monthly farm report with earnings and other stuff which might help anyone starting their own little market garden or CSA. If I can help anyone avoid my mistakes and plan for problems I think I will have done good. It will also help me to keep to plan.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Worms returning and hope for bamboo

I spent the whole day today digging and weeding, whew, I certainly feel it now. Although it is dirty work getting my hands in the soil when it is damp it is great to find the worms returning after the dry. They must have had to tunnel very deep to find moisture during this past summer. I know these are only small worms but at least they are coming back.

Worms do such a good job in the soil, not only fertilising it as they live and eat, but also allowing water and nutrients to run deep into the ground via their tunnels.

A couple of years ago I bought some bamboo seeds. The type is 'Black Asper' which I chose for a few reasons. The most important is that it is a clumping bamboo so it won't spread. Most clumpers don't handle frost well as they are tropical but this one should be able to cope with our light frosts. I had them in my polytunnel to protect them last winter.
The second reason is that it is a multi-purpose type of bamboo. It produces large and good tasting shoots but the timber is also large, and of a good type for building and making things, though I don't think we have the climate to let it grow to the huge size that is reputed to grow.
Like tree wood, different large bamboos have different wood qualities. This one has thick stems (culms) that don't split too easily in use.
The third reason I chose this one is that it looks great with its dark, almost black stems.

I know that many people are afraid of bamboo because they only know of the rampant spreading types but I think that it is too useful a plant to ignore. Just think of all the things that can be made from it. I am also hopeful that I can use it as wind shelter and shade for some tender plants as they grow.

I have learnt why bamboo plants are so expensive to by though. The seeds are hard to germinate and the seedlings die if you look crossways at them. I have managed to get three plants to this size (about 1 metre tall) and I hope they all survive now that they are more mature. I have one still in a large pot, one planted in the back block and one planted on J block. I hope that as they grow I will be able to divide them to produce a couple more plants.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

How to divide asparagus crowns

When I started posting every day in this blog I was sure that I would quickly run out of things to say but it hasn't been the case at all. There is always so much to do, and so many different jobs every day that it just doesn't seem to run out.
I am not the sort of person who can do the one thing all day, every day so I am continually finding different jobs to do in any one day. I might do a couple of hours of weeding, then go and inspect one of my blocks, then plant a bed of seedlings while picking a few weeds out of the next bed etc. It sounds exhausting but it really does keep me from being bored.

Today I had to dig up the half dozen 'house' asparagus that were in the way. I had been meaning to do it for the past year but today it was the right time - I had time and they had died down for the winter so I had no excuse.

I was just going to dig up each plant and just transfer it over to P block where I had a bed ready but the root systems were just too big and heavy so I divided them to make it easier.

First I had to use a sharp spade to cut through the mass of roots around the crowns.

You can see here the growing point for the new spears in spring. They are found in clumps so it was easy to chop between them with the spade to separate them. You could use a machete or even a large knife.

Here is one clump separated. Notice the spear buds. These are what will become the new spears and leaves when they start growing in spring.

In this wheelbarrow load there are the divisions of only two plants. Each plant was divided into 6 or 8 pieces.

I took them round and planted them in P block where I will water and look after them this coming spring while they establish. I may not get any spears off them while they are trying to develop more roots but the next year they will be back to full strength.

Make sure when you divide them that you rebury them with at least 10cm of soil above the buds.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Growing banana yucca

One of the plants that I am looking forward to fruiting and tasting is my banana yucca (Yucca bacatta) which is a native North American plant which produces edible fruits.

I have11 plants, some in pots and some in the ground at D block and the Back block. They grew fast from seed but then slowed down and haven't changed for the past year from the size in this pot. It might be because they are getting too much water and care so when the weather warms up in spring I will plant them out where they won't get much care as they are a desert plant. I am hoping that this year they will put on a spurt of growth.
I can't find any information on the web to tell me how old they are before they flower but I would guess at about four years but I also think that these will have to grow a lot bigger first. The flowers have to be hand pollinated as we don't have the moth here that pollinates them - but since I don't think anyone in Australia grows them for food we just might have a native moth that will do the same job. I'll wait and see.

The fruit is supposed to be delicious raw or roasted, tasting like sweet potato so I am really hoping that they grow well this year. You can also make a good, strong cord from the fibres in the leaves.

Today I did a bit of maintenance work, cutting down the old raspberry canes, pruning the gooseberries and such, then I popped over to the Casterton garden club meeting which was the AGM and there was a guest speaker so it took all afternoon and stopped me from getting anything else done. I seem to be doing too much socialising and not enough working nowdays. I suppose I could just call it networking but that still doesn't give me more hours in the day *sigh*

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Nareen veggie swap and green hills

I had a good morning at the Nareen veg swap. I had been a bit dubious about adding macadamia nuts to boxes next friday as the customer has to have a very good nutcracker to get into them but I hadn't planned on swapping them and they were sitting in my van, THEN a friend came in with a basket full of medlars. Well, wasn't I quick to suggest a swap which she was eager for - after all who doesn't like macadamias, lol. I ran over there with my arms out just in case I had to push any rivals out of the way. In truth I don't think anyone else was interested, they didn't know what they were.

I bet my box customers will be overjoyed to receive the medlars, well maybe not until I tell them what they are and what they can do with them anyway. I like medlars but don't grow them as they always seem a bit cost inneffective.
For those who don't know, medlars (Mespilus germanica) are an old fruit which tastes like stewed apples and is related to apples and pears. There isn't a lot of flesh around the pips but they are unusual and rare. Like pears and some persimmons they have to blet before they are edible - they come off the tree hard and you have to wait till they are soft in a few weeks of storage. They can be stewed and served with custard which is how I like them, or made into medlar jelly.

After the swap I went to visit this friend as I had been curious about here place for a while now. She has an acre and a half (I guess, maybe more) of all sorts of edibles and I was impressed with what her and her husband have achieved with their place. Apart from the medlars, I also came home with some quinces, yum.

While I was coming back from the swap I stopped to take a few pictures to show you how the hills around Casterton are greening up now after a couple of weeks of light rain. It is so good to see the green after so many months of dry dust.
The first picture is our small town of Casterton nestled in the hills.

This is the eastern side, the western side is a mixture of native forests and farmland but I wasn't out that way to take any pics.
Well, until tomorrow.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Last Hamilton market

Well I'm back from the Hamilton market. I really like selling face to face in that atmosphere but I just don't have enough produce for the veggie boxes as well as the market so I had to let it go. maybe when my stuff is growing well I will consider going back to it.
I sold out of everything I took in only an hour which is not as amazing as is sounds as I didn't have a lot to take. I am saving some of my veggies in the ground for later as I remember how they didn't grow during the winter last year and I almost ran out of stuff for my box customers.

I printed out a heap of brochures for my CSA program starting in the spring to see if I could get some Hamilton customers and they went like hotcakes, every one was interested. I should get a few calls, I hope, during the next couple of weeks. Hardly anyone around here has heard of CSA as it is still a new concept in Australia even though it is popular in the US.

Tomorrow I am popping in to the Nareen veggie swap so I can swap some radishes and a few other random things for some eggs. I love going to the swaps just to chat with people I rarely see otherwise. All the swaps around here are held in tiny, out of the way places and they are popular simply because nowdays farmers rarely see even their own neighbours and this gives them an excuse to go and socialise.

No pics today as I forgot to take my camera, sorry.

I popped into the place where I picked up the macadamias and cactus fruits that I blogged about last week and the lady generously gave me a few macadamia seedlings from under her tree and a large rooted piece of her cactus. I have just the right place for the cactus piece and the cuttings I took last week. The side of our house is rarely used and is shaded and sheltered, perfect. I am going to get as many of them growing as possible.

Well, that is all for my ramblings today :)

Friday, May 24, 2013

Damn the red legged earth mites

Red Legged Earth Mites (RLEM) are a serious pest in these parts that can totally destroy a crop of seedlings in two or three days. I found them in my J bock yesterday which was a surprise because they are really mostly a problem in spring. It is just another pest brought here from South Africa, along with many others. Luckily we have got our own back by introducing a couple of our own native plants over there where they have become pests, lol.

It is difficult to impossible to control RLEM with organic methods except one - to eradicate their host plants, namely clover. J block is full of clover so that is not an option because it will take another year to get that under control on that block. I agonised over it last night and decided to spray the earth mite as I can't afford to lose those beds.
I hate to use pesticides on my veggie beds but in this case I have no choice and luckily they only affect a certain number of vegetable types seriously so I only sprayed those 7 beds today. The seedlings are still young so they will be well out of the withholding period when they are harvested.

The main vegetables that I noticed were being attacked by them were lettuce, legumes and radishes so I left the other seedling beds alone. The older lettuce plants were out of their attacking time so they were safe as RLEM prefer young seedlings.

I had a problem with RLEM on the back block when I started and I worked hard to eradicate the clover so last year there was no earth mites at all. I am happy that I can get rid of them in only one year so it could be worse - I could have had a different pest. I am just happy that we don't have some of the terrible veggie pests that they have in the US or the animal pests that the US and UK have. I am thankful for that mercy.

I pulled up the dead Kabocha pumpkin vines today adn gathered the last of the small, late pumpkins. I didn't want to throw them away so I thought I would try hollowing them out and stuffing them as single meals.

It worked very well. Please note that this will probably be the last cooking piece that I do for a while as I don't want to turn this into a cooking blog :)

Here are the pictures.

 First I cut a lid from the top

Then I scooped out the seeds

 Then I half filled it with a packet of instant soup/cuppasoup, then filled with water nearly to the top and stirred to mix.
I put it in the microwave and cooked it on high for four minutes. It boiled over but that adds to the appeal I think. Take out of the microwave and sit aside for another 5 minutes and the pumpkin will cook a little further. Eat.
Kabochas have tender skin that can also be eaten.

I did like this recipe but I think it would have been nicer baked instead of microwaved, and next time I might fill with cooked mince, herbs and cheese for a better flavour.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

I love perennial vegetables

Perennial vegetables are those that will grow for more than one year without having to be replanted. These include tuberous vegetables that we usually dig up each year but don't strictly have to such as garlic, Jerusalem artichokes and oca. These plants die down in the winter but regrow from their roots or tubers in the spring.

I find that perennial vegetables have a very important place in my gardens. I love that once planted they don't need a lot of care and money spent on them and they can usually take a fair amount of neglect.
Some perennials like asparagus and artichokes only bear for a very short amount of time in the year so take up a lot of space for little food but that is the same for some annuals like corn. At least with perennials you can put them in an out of the way place and forget about them for much of the year except for a bit of watering and the occasional application of fertiliser.

Other perennials grow all year round (in my climate anyway) and are always there is you need a little something more for the kitchen. An example of these perennials is rhubarb, and also shallots, which just need the occasional dividing.

Here is a bed of shallots. They are tough and just need dividing a couple of times a year and you have onions all year round, even if they don't have bulbs on them for much of the year you can still cut them like chives.

I love the onion family as many of them can also be used as perennials as many types will divide themselves, not quite as vigorously as shallots though. Below is a picture of a bed of Red Californian onions that usually divide into 3 or 4 per plant and form full sized onions.

Another great onion relative is the perennial leek. These produce numerous baby leeks at their base that you can use as little spring onions or replant. The leeks themselves are small but always around when you need some flavouring.

In my climate I also regard silverbeet as a perennial. White silverbeet will often live for a few years without flowering so you always have some leaves to pick.

Here is a list of perennial vegetables that I grow:

Perennial leeks
Globe artichoke
American groundnut
Chinese artichoke
Water chestnuts
Jerusalem artichoke
Purple Peacock broccoli

I am also experimenting with Australian rock yam, tree onions/walking onions, day lilies for flowers, bamboo and Bambara bean.

( I have started digging some of the tuberous vegetables above and have tubers for sale)

I might try cardoon one day though I have a feeling it is not really worth growing - readers, please help me out with some advice if you grow it, and I have tried skirrit but it will not take out summer heat even under shade.

In other news, I have decided to give up on attending the Hamilton farmers market as I am always struggling to have enough produce to take and it is expensive for a stall. I am also wanting to concentrate on my CSA (veggie box) customers more and build up my customers there. My CSA customers are my priority and always get the best veg so I hate having to always check on how much I have for the boxes.

I will attend the market on Saturday for the last time and I will try to get some more CSA customers while I am there.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Yum, pumpkin pie cones

Thinking of something to write for this post, and also deciding on something to cook since it was showery outside today. I was searching for the right thing to make on the internet and came across cooking cake in ice-cream cones. Hmmm, I thought, what about pumpkin pie in a cone. What a good idea since I have a heap of pumpkins in the shed.

There are a few recipes for pumpkin pie ice-cream but not for the real thing in cones and, well, I like to experiment. I popped over to the shops and bought some cones and gave it a go, and it worked. I thought that the sloppy mix might soak the cones but they worked out better than I thought. The cones weren't crisp but they did hold together well after cooking.

I only made half the below recipe just in case it didn't work but the whole recipe will make 12 cones. Here is the recipe I used ( I did change it a bit from the original though).

12 ice-cream cones
1 kg pumpkin, peeled, seeded and chopped into chunks
2 large eggs
1 can (400g) sweetened condensed milk
4 tablespoons plain flour
1teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Whipped cream to serve

Place the pumpkin in a saucepan with just enough water to cover and boil till tender. Drain off the water and mash. Leave aside to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 180c. Whisk the eggs in a bowl with the condensed milk then add the pumpkin and spices and whisk briefly. The mix will be runny.

Place the cones in either a cupcake tray or any other tray so they can't tip and spill. Spoon the mix to the top of the cones and place in the oven for 25 minutes. Check to see if the mix is firm, if it is still sloppy bake for another 5 or 10 minutes and check again.

Take out and leave to cool then spoon some whipped cream on top and eat. These won't keep so they should be eaten the same day.

These turned out just as delicious as the pumpkin pie milkshakes I wrote about way back last year.

Oh, and for those that are interested from yesterdays post, my sister seedlings turned out to be weeds. They looked nothing like the beet seedlings I posted a picture of.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Starting to harvest Jerusalem Artichokes

I promised some Jerusalem artichokes to my veggie box customers so I went out to harvest a few of my JA plants this morning. I have the gene that makes them taste like dirt so I can't eat them but most of my customers look forward to them at this time of year, especially for artichoke soup.

I was a little disappointed but certainly not surprised at the poor quality and amount of the tubers. These plants can handle a lot of abuse but the severe lack of rain and the heat really knocked them this past summer so they just couldn't produce good tubers. They didn't get watered as they usually don't need it but if next summer is the same I will have to put them in beds where I can get to them easily to water them.

The tubers were all infested with root aphids which infest plants when they are too dry for too long (as in this case) or have inconsistent watering. You can often find them on the roots of unhealthy house plants.

Here is a picture of a JA tuber with white, woolly root aphids on it. You can see them as little bits of white cotton wool-like stuff.

This is how most of the plants tubers are this year, far too small and knobbly to eat. I will have to clean them thoroughly of aphids and sell them for planting.
The plants suffered so much in the heat that they died down early, too early to grow out their tubers properly.

Live and learn I guess.

This is how good tubers look. A few plants were close enough to my other garden beds to get some water during the summer and they produced well.

Just for my sister who planted some seeds and now can't tell the difference between the white beetroot seedlings and weeds - as I promised on the phone, here is a picture of white beetroot seedlings. Now you can go out and compare them.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Cactus fruit, cauliflower and other ramblings

Ok, so I've been told by my sister who ready my last post that I really suck at humour. Well, I already know that so now I don't feel obliged to try any more funny, whew.

Back to business.
There are many types of cactus and cactus-like plants that produce edible fruits. I have tried dragonfruit and prickly pear and haven't been impressed with either but I found a cactus plant is a local ladys garden which had some fruit on it so I picked a couple of fruits to try and a couple of cuttings just in case it was nice to eat.

This fruit was so delicious that I couldn't stop nibbling on it even though I wanted to save some seeds. It is sweet and sour and tastes a bit like a cross between passionfruit and sour, blackcurrent lollies. Well, I did save a few seeds as well as the cuttings so now I just have to get them to grow.
I have tried to grow dragon fruit but it just doesn't cope with out cold winters so I will emulate the growing conditions in the garden this plant came from (under a tree) and see if it does better. I will certainly try me best. The taste lingers in the mouth for ages so you get your moneys worth :)

I was out in the garden and noticed this cauliflower that had popped up in a corner so I hadn't done anything about it.
It is producing many small cauliflower heads around every leaf as well as the main one in the middle. I would really like to have a variety that continues to do this but I can't save any seeds from it because I have no other cauliflowers flowering at the moment to pollinate it with. I will have to cut the flowering stems back when they extend and try to keep it trying to flower till late spring. It will be an interesting experiment to see if I can do it.

My potatoes are recovering a bit from the last frost that burned the tops off them which is very handy as the longer they stay alive, the bigger their tubers will grow. I haven't had them in long so the more and bigger tubers I get the better. I have 12 varieties of potato in, all interesting and great tasting. I really love Dutch Cream as it makes the yummiest mashed potatoes, but others I have are Cranberry Red, Blue Congo, Pink Fir Apple (Someone on drugs must have made up that name), and more that I can't remember the names of at the moment.

I like to overwinter the spuds in the ground as they get off to a better start in spring, even if the spring frosts bite them a little.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Kohlrabi and Mexican Tarragon

My sister rang up today and told me she didn't know I had a blog and she thought it was very good, but it needed some funny stuff. Well... I don't do funny very well so I have been wracking my brain to find some ideas to make funny photos from. I can't think of any at this time so please help me out with some ideas. The best I can come up with in a couple of minites is below - what do you get if you cross a parsnip with a carrot? - A parrot. See how unfunny I am.

While I was out I took some pictures of my Mexican Tarragon (sometimes called Winter Taragon) while it is flowering. I like the plant and it is much like French Tarragon but much more hardy for my conditions. It copes well with heat and dry but it does die down a bit in winter.
It has the same aniseed taste as French Tarragon and is used the same but I never know what sort of recipes really go with a liquorice-flavoured herb so I just use it for prettiness rather than for cooking. Really, I don't know why many sites tell you that chefs go crazy over French Tarragon. Mexican Tarragon is actually a type of marigold (Tagetes lucida) and not related to other tarragons. 

It adds a bit of colour now when nothing else is flowering

This is my bed of kohlrabi that is growing for seed. It is the variety 'Superschmelze giant' which is a variety that doesn't go woody even when it is large.

I love kohlrabi, you can use it in many recipes, ferment it, or grate and use it for kohlslaw. I like it raw, sliced very thin and sprinkled with a touch of salt and some people sprinkle it with cayenne.

I have already started selecting the best plants for seed. I have pulled up any that didn't produce a good swollen stem within a certain amount of time so I am left with those with good shapes.

During the winter I will take a little piece out of each to select for tenderness. The chosen 24 plants left will heal ok and will flower when it warms up in spring.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Pumpkins and rhubarb

I needed the room so I went out and picked the last of my butternut pumpkins since the vines had died down. These vines started producing so late that I almost pulled them out before they produced their first flowers and some of the fruit didn't ripen in time for the frosts. I did get a few ripe ones but you can see that most of these still show a green tinge and stripes so they aren't ripe enough to store so I will take them to the market in a weeks time. They are fine for someone to cook in the next few weeks but they won't store for longer than that.

This morning I also went out to see which rhubarb plants needed to be divided. These are only young plants (grown from seed two years ago) so they shouldn't need dividing yet but some are really growing strongly and spreading well.
After looking over my couple of dozen plants I decided to only divide two of them. The rest can go for another year.

Here are two of the separated buds/crowns. I didn't really leave enough roots with these ones but they have all winter to recover. You can see how well grown they are, bigger than the picture shows.

I have 4 varieties in the ground - Victoria, Glaskins Perpetual, Paragon and Red Rover.

Victoria is a large, old variety with greenish leaf stems (contrary to popular belief, there is not much difference between the taste and sweetness of red and green stems). It dies down in winter.

Glaskins Perpetual is another old variety that doesn't die down in winter. It has thinner but longer stems that are sweet right up to late autumn. It's leaves can be very big and the stems come in a variety of hues from red, through pink to greenish. I have found this one to be the hardest to grow in my garden, the seedlings die off at the weakest excuse. It is always trying to send up seed stalks.

Paragon - This one doesn't stand out much, it just sits there producing its stems but not holding up a sign saying "Look at me". It is pretty average in all ways but the stems are nice and red, for those who prefer red stems, and it is consistent.

Red Rover - This is my own variety that is vigorous and produces well. It is a cross between Paragon and a commercial variety. The stems are bright red and it grows and bears prolifically. The plants I divided are this one. This one doesn't die down in winter.

If you want to know all about rhubarb check out this site: 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Looking at J block

It was a pretty dismal day yesterday so I didn't do anything worth taking pictures of - so no post. Today was a bit better, still loving the rain but it will be over for the next few days. Probably a good thing.

I went to Hamilton this morning to pick some feijoas of the street trees on the street that they are growing on. Damn, some bright sparks in the local houses obviously decided that it would be a good idea to topiary most of them which, of course, meant no fruit. I admit that trimmed trees sometimes look good but why do it to good fruiting trees. Shame. I managed to just pick one bag of ripe fruit from an untrimmed tree to add to the veg boxes at the end of the month.

I love feijoas, they taste like a cross between passionfruit and Kiwifruit to me. I could eat them all day.
As well as fresh fruit they are also good made into jam, well what isn't?

Oh well, at least I found a macadamia nut tree growing in a backyard and the owner said I can have all I want. The tree had only just started dropping the nuts so there wasn't a lot there but I will eat some and grow some. I got around 2kg of them.

J block (Used to be called the Melon Block) is coming along now. The grass is growing and I will have to deal with that soon but the veg are growing well after the recent rain. It still looks a bit messy with the rows of grass roots but they will be dug back in when the first crops come off.

Pictures below of J block

Another month and I should have some great stuff to harvest. One of the beds above was accidently oversown. I planted lettuce seed and didn't tag it so forgot. Then I planted over it with broad beans. Both the plants are doing very well together but there were so many lettuces that I had to thin them and replant the thinnings in their own bed.

Tomorrow I think I will get stuck into dividing some crowded rhubarb to give it a good start for the spring.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Harvesting water chestnuts today

Brrrr, I am not used to the chilliness that comes from being close to winter so today I have been rugged up in a coat, beanie and scarf - not really any different from normal to those who know me. It has been beautifully showering lightly for much of the day.

Between showers I went out to harvest my water chestnuts. I had been experimenting with them in plastic 45 litre tubs to see if they were worth growing that way. Only two tubs grew chestnuts but that was my fault with the soil I think.

 The leaves had died down a few weeks ago so I thought it was about time to have a look. They had certainly filled up the tubs (I had put only one tuber in each tub).
 I tipped them out and was very disappointed in the size of the tubers and especially the yield. I was expecting to harvest around 1.5kg of tubers from each tub but I ended up with only 400g from one and 280g from the other.
I will try them again in the spring but am guessing that I will have to add more manure next time. The soil mix I used here was too sandy, an even mix of compost, garden soil and sand. I think that a heavier and more fertile soil will up the harvest.

I was hoping for some bigger tubers also but this is the size I got. I did peel, cook (microwaved) and ate one though and it was delicious. 500% MUCH better than canned and tasted like artichoke hearts - I am going to have to find out why so many foods, especially unusual foods, taste like artichoke. It is beginning to be a curious puzzle.

I have a few ideas for getting a bigger harvest next year so this year wasn't much of a waste.

I also managed to do some other work between rain showers like thinning and replanting the thinnings of a bed of celtuce and weeding a couple of other beds. Not too bad for such a miserable day.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Weeding, storms and rain - at last

It is storming and hailing as I write this post - we haven't seen rain like this in a long time. Look, an inch of rain in the rain guage this afternoon and I don't know how much it will hold in the morning. This is great.

I will even have to mow the lawn for the first time since before Christmas. Maybe if it keeps up I will be able to get out of weeding tomorrow. I feel like a kid at a party.

Below is part of the first bed of salsify that I will have ready for the market at the end of the month. I grew a few plants last year just to test them out and harvest some seeds. I like it but I think Scorzonera (sometimes called black salsify) in much better in quality and taste. I will see how they both go at market to see if I will continue to grow both or just stick with scorzonera.

They both are a bit fiddly to prepare for cooking but that is probably because they haven't had as much breeding and selection work done on them as some of the better known vegetables. The taste of both is quite nice, sort of like artichoke hearts. On the net most people say they taste like oysters but I think that is by those who have just read that and have not tasted these vegetables for themselves.

I didn't gather nearly enough seeds from the salsify in the summer so I will be sure to get more from my seed bed this time. 

This morning while the weather was clear I got to work weeding some of the beds in D Block and my mother came over to help me. She wanted to break in her new weeding stool and tools I think. Anyway, the silverbeet and cabbages now look very clean and tidy. It always feels go to be able to see the work you have done afterwards.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Wonderful rain and loads of work

Woke up this morning to the lovely sound of light rain on the roof. It is so good knowing I won't have to hand water for the next few days. This will bring on the just germinating grass on the nearby farms and make the hills green and beautiful. It was only 10 mils for the day but every bit counts and everything looks fresh and damp - sooo wonderful. There are showers predicted for the next few days as well. It makes me happy.

Of course the rain brings weeds with it and I spend some of the day between showers weeding and putting chook poo on some of the empty beds where I harvested for the last farmers market.

Here are a couple of pictures of D block at the moment. It looks a bit bare still because the seedlings in many of the beds are still very small.

This block doesn't get too wet in winter so I am busy putting in veggies for the spring which is out wettest time of the year when my back block is usually flooded. As long as the winter is mild they should grow in time for spring harvest. It is a chance but it will pay off if the weather is just right. If the winter gets too cold they will just sit without growing then many will bolt to seed in spring.

I am changing the beds to put perennial herbs down one side in the smaller beds. I don't use a lot of herbs in my cooking and they don't sell well at the market but my veggie box customers like them. A lot of those smaller beds will go into seed veggies too.

There are a LOT of self seeded rainbow silverbeet seedlings coming up in this block from the great seed harvest I got last summer and I always hate trashing them as they are so beautiful so I am replanting them in some of the other empty beds. I really hope I get good sales for them at the markets as I have about 7 beds of them now. I notice that there are a lot of pretty orange and peach stemmed ones in this lot so they will make the bunches look great.
There are still heaps to thin out so I am just going to have to close my eyes and throw them away. I can't sell the seedlings as this is the block infested with root knot nematode so I can't risk infecting other peoples veggie patches.

I looked in my diary and I have no things to do in the coming week so it will be heaps of weeding every day I think.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Ahipa, jicama news, and the Merino veg swap - a fun morning

Visited the second Merino veggie swap morning, they are planning to have it every month. I love veg swaps, they tend to be more social occasions than anything else. You get there early and do your swapping then spend the next hour chatting with friends and other people you meet.

I guess there were around 50 people there this morning and the weather was perfect, sunny and warm. There were lots of quinces as well as jams and I swapped my capsicums, seed packets and pumpkin for a dozen eggs, quince tarts and cupcakes.

I hope no more pop up in the neighbouring towns or I will be even more busy, I already attend the monthly one at Nareen as well. I like to support local initiatives, and these events are good networking occasions also.

This afternoon, after doing some watering, I decided to have a closer look at my ahipa and jicama plants now that they have died down.

I dug them all up and found that all three of the jicama had made small tubers around the size of golf balls, pretty good considering the size of the tiny, scrawny plants.
Two of the ahipa plants had made small tubers, one under the plant and one on a horizontal root. All the plants that had made seed pods had not made any tubers at all. I picked the seeds but most of them were not developed enough to be viable. I ended up with 11 seeds from two plants that look big and viable enough to grow which will be the foundation of my selection of ahipa that will grow here. It might seem like an awful result but when you consider the difference in climate between here and Peru, I am happy to have any seeds and tubers at all to use.

I replanted the jicama and ahipa plants with tubers in the hope that the tubers will give them a head start in the spring and they will make big plants to produce better and earlier seeds next year. Well, that is my hope. It is an interesting project anyway.
I am just sorry that I have no ahipa seeds to give to the two people that I promised seeds to :(