Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Monthly report

Sorry I forgot last months report but it wouldn't have been very interesting anyway, it will still be a few months before we really get any juicy info that is worth reading.

Quite a few beds are on track for their planned yearly profit ($100 per bed). It is not a real surprise that the best producers are carrots, rhubarb, celery and silverbeet. It is mostly the cut and come again vegetables that are bringing in the money, mostly because once they are mature they just keep on producing for months whereas with other vegetables you harvest them and then have to wait for three or four months for them to be harvestable again.

I will definitely concentrate more on year-round picking perennials and things you can crowd into beds like carrots and beets. I am also thinking of  growing those vegetables among the once a year harvestables like yacon so the beds are productive for a greater part of the year.

I took in my tax stuff to the agent today so I can't give any total profit figures but the beds I mentioned have already made their $50 profit each after only 5 months so they are well on track for the end of the year. The other good earners are the beds kept to produce seeds for sale.
I have yet to work out a good way to keep stats on them (because I only bag seeds when I need them and forget to write down how many have been bagged or sold) but with many types of vegetables I can get maybe 70 packets of seeds off the one bed and sell the packets at a profit of $2 each (after the packet and printing costs). I really should keep more of an eye on these as at the moment I tend to use my seed sales as petty cash and take no note of how many I am getting off a bed.

Another good producer is Chinese cabbage as I only pick what I need from the beds and the rest go to seed. I sell the flowering stems as 'Napini' which is delicious and my customers like it, and as long as I keep picking them they just keep on producing flowering stems until the plants exhaust themselves.

Lastly - A BIG THANKS to my sister Larceny who did a guest post for me yesterday, I loved it. Her family went home last night and the house is sooo quiet now without the boistrous kids and two extra adults. I miss them already.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Garden Larder's First Guest Blog.

My name is Larsy and I am guest blogging Rowan's Garden Larder blog to give it a classy air while she puts her feet up and watches television. Myself, partner, three kids and the goat have been invading her household for the past five days, which is ample time for a 'best of blog' to be written and posted. So, in no particular order, here is the 5 'bests' of her world I have noticed during my stay.

1. She has Shown me her Murnongs. (It is not as rude as it sounds, although I was sceptical at first too). Turns out that Murnongs actually grow in the ground and look rather grassy when young. In fact, Child Number Two pulled a handful out in the interest of 'helping her weed' which was rather distressing for all involved.

2. Rowan mightily impressed the 'Man from Melbourne' who came to scope out her growing patches. He was so amazed by her gardening prowess that he did not notice his wet shirt and shoes from the copious amounts of rain gushing from the sky lately. Actually, he was a very nice and ethical young man who I hope goes a long way in his interests of sustainability and local produce.

3. The local Nareen Produce Swap was an enlightening moment for the kids and me. It is such a great experience that a surprising amount of people travel surprising distances to a tiny hall in a remote 'town' that consists of said hall and one visible house in order to trade wonderful things. Rowan's horseradish roots caused quite the preverbial stir, and were poked, prodded and gazed at by all and sundry. When the kids got bored and we had to leave early, the best bit was having others offer to clean up the soil and mess the horseradish left on the tablecloth.

4. When picking carrots for the Garden Larder Vegie Boxes, the wee ones pulled two rather suspect carrots that had grown twined around each other in a loving embrace. These caused quite a stir amongst Miss 4 and Mr 3, and piqued their interest in growing copious amounts of carrots ourselves. Of course, the slightly pornographic carrots were put into the box of one lucky customer to open and surprise.

5. Mr 1 has been pooping capsicum seeds for days after trying and apparantly approving of Rowan's miniature capsicums. At least three were devoured whole, seeds and all, and the remnants are still appearing out of the other end. Good times.

And, in the interest of fairness, here are five distressing things I have encountered in the past five days:

1. Rowan has no peas growing. I love peas. This scenario can only end in disappointment.

2. The goat who has been lugged 400kms for her 'holiday' has gone from giving 3 litres of milk a day to about 150mL. Seeing as the kids will only drink goats milk, this is quite a dilemma.

3. Rowan insists on pulling out her nettles and throwing them in a pile to rot. I have failed miserably in my attempts to introduce her to the concept of Nettle Beer Brewing.

4. Despite my best persuasions, Rowan does not want a goat. Or ducks. Or turkeys. Or a sheep. Or a pig. Apparantly she is not planning to branch out into livestock and fresh manure production.

5. Singing to the Brussels Sprouts had no discernable effect upon growth. Not even the dulcet tones of the three young kids singing Old Macdonald made them develop any faster.

And so, as we leave for home tonight the world of Garden Larder's Heirloom Vegetables will once again become a peaceful place. So long.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Going AWOL and back

I know I deserve a kick for not posting for a few days but my excuse is that I have been far too busy tripping around to Hamilton, Mt Gambier and Ballerat to get out in the garden. My sister is yet to give me a serve but I am sure she is saving it up till she comes to visit tomorrow :)

Although it often cold and wet at this time of year, it is nice to see daffodils starting to come out and show us that spring is on the way.

They make everything so bright and cheerful.

As I went on my daily inspection I noticed that my celtuce is nearly ready. I love celtuce, it is so crunchy and I love the flavour. Unfortunately I can't describe the flavour to you if you haven't tasted it as it is unique and not like anything else.
Celtuce is a type of lettuce that is grown for its stems rather than its leaves and it is great peeled and eaten raw or in salads.

I have been picking the flowering stems of my Asian cabbages for my veggie boxes. These ones are Michelli cabbage which is my new favourite, but all of them produce tasty flower stems that extend the season for months after you have picked some of the cabbages and the rest have bolted.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Artichokes and cherry guava

Brrrr, it was freezing and rainy today so I barely went outside, just popped out to get the paper and later to pick up some chairs for the tanning class I am holding in a couple of weeks.

Apart from losing all my cherimoya trees all the rest seem to be handling the cold and frosts well so I am not worried. Luckily the weeds aren't growing any faster then the vegetables with the cold so I don't have to work too hard to keep them under control, though when it warms up I will be swamped with weeding.

I wasn't going to keep growing globe artichokes because they are such a pain, taking up room all year for such a small amount of food, but I just can't help myself.
Last years plants were shooting again a month or two ago so I found myself separating them and planting a long row along the fence around my potted plants. Well at least they do provide some shade in summer.
They are really taking off now.

Because they are such a pain to prepare I just tell my customers to just cut them in half, steam till tender and scoop out the heart. Saves all the fiddling and mess even though it isn't the usual way to use them. I never bother with sucking the leaf bases, that is not food in my opinion.

My tiny little yellow cherry guava bush is ripening some fruits again. These plants always seem to have fruit on them, even now in winter. I love them.
They are very closely related to the 'normal' red cherry guava but oh, so much better and sweeter. I will try to grow a heap from seed in the spring and I think everyone will love them in their boxes.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Checking out some of the beds

It was pouring rain all day today so I barely got outside. Luckily I took some pictures yesterday to put up tonight.
I got another roll of poly pipe and weldmesh to make more hoops for my beds so I will get onto cutting that up in the next couple of days when the rain stops. My blocks re going to look like they are covered with green waves by summer. That will be a sight, lol.

I have been waiting impatiently and at last my Emperor Tainong heading mustard is starting to form heads. I have had to pull out a couple of plants that were obviously going to go to seed without heading but the rest look good.
This is the plant used to make fermented mustard greens 'Kimchi'. It has a definate mustard taste but not too strong. A friend picked some and ate it raw and declared it tasty.
I don't have enough plants to sell so my bed will be used for seed.
Having trouble with snails as you can see.

My open pollinated red choi project is going well. I have a mixture of types of small pak choi and bok choi type plants. Some are bolting early and they will be eaten in the next week. I am guessing that if I take out all plants that go to seed until I have around 30-40 plants for seed I will produce a plant that is less likely to bolt than most pak chois.
Quick bolting really annoys me as we rarely get a long enough period of stable weather and temperatures to get them to harvest stage properly.

I hope that many of these plants have viable pollen, that will make it so much easier and faster to get to a stable type.
These F1 seedlings have a bit of leaf and colour variety and it will be exciting to see how they segregate out in the F2s.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Waiting for the broad beans

This winter the broad beans have been really slow, and are just not setting. At the start they were afflicted with some sort of disease that caused many of them to have curled and shrivelled leaves, but the later plantings haven't had that problem. The first plantings have been flowering for a while but just won't set. I have tried pinching off the tops but it has made no difference.

 It is really odd as I have never had any trouble with them before and they are looking healthy.

I will have to leave the wondering about the beans till later as I am still having trouble with Red Legged Earth Mites. My beds are covered with them, I have never in my life seen them in such numbers and hanging around for so long. I am guessing that they will be around till summer now. I wish there was something that would fix the problem but I have tried everything and they don't have any natural predators in Australia.
I have been out and sprayed with everything from soap and garlic sprays to commercial sprays with no success.

They are even all over the beds in my Back block which had none last year because I had got rid of all the preferred host plants. I am tearing my hair out as they are destroying all my young plants so I might not have enough produce in the spring for even my few customers I have at the moment.

Here is a picture of the Cootamundra out in flower at the front of the house. When these flower you know that spring is only a month away, but we are still in for a lot of rain which starts around the beginning of August.
Anyway the ash trees around town are flowering now so, even though we still have a lot of cold weather to come, I can still see that spring is on its way. The days are slowly getting longer and that makes everything seem better. 

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Update for Sunday

After spending the day inside because it was too rainy and miserable out to do anything I don't have anything to write about, but if I don't post I will get my A** kicked by one of my sisters who waits every day for my post. Hmmm, I feel important now.

Got a call today from a fellow who was interested in coming over to see what I am doing here. Apparently they are trying to organise some sort of urban farming project in Melbourne but didn't realise how far Casterton is from anywhere. He will try again to get over in a couple of weeks or so.
I am really interested in talking to them and maybe helping out if I can. Anything to help people grow good, fresh food locally, anything to get people to realise how bad supermarket produce, well most supermarket food is. Most people don't realise how much waste is produced by supermarket policies, and how little choice they have when they shop there.
I have a lot of anger at supermarkets for many reasons.

"So that is your lot for the day" to quote that TV program that I can't think of the name of right now.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Today I was run off my feet and didn't get around to taking any pictures. I had to drive to Hamilton for a couple of odd jobs and then get back in time to pick produce for my veggie boxes. I had a couple more people call after doing my talk at the local garden club so I have as many customers as I can handle now.

I am still having trouble growing as much stuff as I should have. I think I am just too inefficient and space wasting so I am going to cover all the fences around the blocks with mesh and grow more beans and stuff up them. Hmmm, now to find the money to do that, lol. There is one fence that should be cool enough in summer to grow some kiwifruit up so I think I will give it another go after roasting all the plants last summer. I still have some hardy kiwi seedlings in pots so I will put them in.
Maybe a couple of passionfruit as well I think.

I have cleaned out a couple of beds of carrots and radishes today so I will plant some cabbages and hope I can get them ready before they bold in spring. It is a bit late I fear but at least chines cabbage flowering stems are great as 'napini' and all my customers love them. It is mild flavoured and goes well in stir-fries and steamed. And the best part is the plants just keep sending up more flowering stalks for months so it is an ongoing vegetable that takes little work.

I noticed that even though it is winter there are still some white butterfly caterpillars on the chinese cabbage so I have to look it over very well before bagging it. I really hope none of my customers have got a nasty shock in their cooking.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Brrr, frosty mornings and dead trees

We have had some bad frosts for the past few mornings, Tasmania has had the coldest mornings on record, down to -14 C. I can't force myself to get out of the house before 10am, lol.

Unfortunately, even with cover I think all my cherimoyas I planted out are dead but there are still a couple of tree tomatoes still struggling, whether they will make it right through the winter is another story. I did put a few small chrimoya seedlings away in the poly house and they are still alive so if they make it through the winter I will plant them out early in spring and feed them up heavily to try to get them to put on so much growth that they will be less vulnerable next winter.

I love the sunny days that follow a frosty morning but it is still hard to get up the courage to go and see what damage has been done. We usually only get one or two -2 C or -3 C days per year which is few enough to keep most sub-tropical trees alive but with the ongoing heavy frosts it is no good this year. I will have to work out something for next winter for the smaller trees.

On a good note, the veggie beds that I have left the shadecloth over are not getting quite as cold so I will plant a few beds of early veggies in spring and see if it makes a difference in stopping them bolting with the mixed cold and warmer days. It's worth the experiment I think.
Those in the Northern Hemisphere would have more experience with growing early spring veggies and the timing but I found that if I planted most vegetables in October last year the weather wasn't stable enough and they all bolted early.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Garden doings and other busyness

With winter stooping most of the work I have lots of time to turn to other interests (please note that I will only be posting every second day for the time being as there isn't much going on). When I go out to inspect my blocks each morning I tend to do a little bit of weeding while I am there, I keep a hoe on each block just for that purpose, and I also think about what will be ready for the next box day.
I think I will have a good box on the 12th with napini, beetroot, celery, Jerusalem artichoke, silverbeet, radishes, onions, broccoli shoots, carrots, and maybe lettuce.

So with the rest of my days a bit slow I am getting ready for the fur tanning course I am taking early next month. Today I picked up some sheepskins from Hamilton and foxes from a local hunter. I am glad that in Australia we don't have fur farms and hardly any leg trapping. I have no problem with hunters shooting pest animals as there is much less suffering than fur farming, poisoning or trapping. A quick and painless death for an animal by shooting is the only way I will use the skins, although I did get some baby lamb skins from the local knackery from lambs who died from abandonment or cold just after being born on local farms.
Foxes and feral cats are so destructive to the environment in Australia that there cannot be too much hunting of those animals.

Anyway, I almost have enough skins, just a few more foxes and some rabbits and I will be all set. I spent today cleaning up and salting the skins to be ready so they are now sitting under the house to dry and wait to be made into nice rugs.

I am getting excited now and I hope a few more of the people who showed interest in the course call to confirm they are coming. Oh well, if I have left over skins I can always sell them on Ebay.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Mountain pepper and yellow celery

I am growing yellow celery for the first time this year. It has just got big enough to start harvesting which is saying a lot as they are not big plants and the stems are thin but they are interesting.

I got my mother to eat a couple of stalks (I hate celery) and she pronounced it quite acceptable. It is very mild in taste and a bit stringier than 'normal' celery but ok.
Might put some in my boxes next Friday.

I am thinking of trying red celery again. I tryed growing it last year but it kept bolting as seedlings.

Here are three native Mountain Pepper bushes. These grow in cool rainforests in Tasmania and Victorai, and a bit of NSW.
We don't have many native herbs and spices and I think these are the best that we do have. You can use the fresh or dried and powdered leaves or the berries on female plants. I have two females and a male here. I will be getting more later.
The taste is very hot and spicy.
They need good shade and moisture and now that I am covering most of my beds I will plant a bed of them.

A friend of mine convinced me to try soil blocking for my seedlings. I have wondered about it for a while but he gave me 5 blocks to see if they would work with my system here. I have to say that I was impressed and can see how they would be very handy, but then we had a lot of rain last night and disintergrated them with the small seedlings that were in them.
I can see how they would work well under cover where you can control the watering but I don't think the system works for me.
A lot of people swear by them though.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

I just can't help myself - I bought an apple tree

It was a bit too wet and windy today to do anything outside other than go around and check on my plants so when I came inside I did a bit of mucking around on the computer and ended up at Woodbridge trees, an Australian nursery specialising in some old fruit tree varieties.
I saw this apple and had to buy it even though I don't grow apples because of coddling moth problems.

I didn't think we had any red fleshed apples in Australia so I am very pleased that I found one. This one is only a cross between a crab apple and a 'normal' apple but it tastes good (similar to a 'Granny Smith') even though it is rather small at palm size. Maybe I will work on breeding to get a larger fruited red flesh.

Of course now I will have to stop being lazy and work on the coddling moth prevention. It isn't hard but I just haven't bothered until now that I have a reason.

This is going to wow my box customers in a couple of years. Now to quietly wait a few weeks till the nursery is ready to dig and send it.

Oh wow, I was just looking at the site, they don't have any left so I was awfully lucky to get one.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Reveling in a perfect day

Today was an impressively elysian, sunny day, with a touch of empyrean majesty that would bring tears to a crutical but discerning eye. * throws away the thesaurus now*.

Oh, how beautiful the blueness and warming the sun on my back as I toiled in the green paradise that is my garden. Inspired by ancient and half forgotten instincts I rejoiced at the fruitage and carefully singled out errant weeds that forfeit their wayward essence at my probing fingers. *enough of the poetry*.

Anyway, we had a glorious day so I did some weeding. Mum even came out in the sun to lend a hand among the small beds of shallots. The photo shows the beds to be much more weedy than they really were, you gotta believe me!

I shall remember this day through the dark and drizzly days of winter when I shall look out of the window at... Oh, I must stop it... I think I am drunk on sunshine.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Murnong and wonderful winter

Today It was nice enough to get out and do a bit of weeding of the potato beds and while I was there I planted the small pot of murnong (microceris lanceolata) seedlings into the bed I had ready for them. Murnong is an Australian native root vegetable also called 'Yam Daisy'.

Oh, you cant see them? How about now?

They are tiny little things and I was worried about them but they had to go out as they didn't seem to like being in the pot and had stopped growing. They are so valuable that I will be worrying about them all the time now till they start to put on some growth.
This bed will be for selection and seed. I have another tray of seedlings coming up and they will be planted into a bed on J block after the radishes in there are harvested.

I am loving this time in winter where there isn't much to do so I can rest a bit before the rush in spring starts. I can just do a couple of things a day and if the weather is bad I won't mind staying indoors.
Today all I did was weed a three potato beds and show some visitors around my veggie blocks. Quite relaxing really.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Market Gardening Rules

Today when I was outside inspecting my plants I got to thinking about the 'rules' that I think you should know about when starting a market garden. I have forgotten most of them but here are a few:

  • If you forget who is boss Mother Nature will quickly put you right
  • If you find that you have some extra money in your pocket don't use it for a treat as it has only been put into your possession temporarily - there is a bill coming.
  • Where you see one snail there are hundreds unseen
  • Market gardening is not for sissies
  • Weeds grow faster when you turn your back 
  • Any valuable plant seed will not germinate or grow if they think you care so you should scatter the seed randomly, even tipping some down the side of your bench, then totally ignore them. This will guarantee that they all grow.
  • Half your customers will want more salad vegetables and the other half will want less. You can't please everyone.
  • If you shove your spade in the ground but it falls over, it will always fall on ready to pick lettuces, weeds are immune to falling impliments.

And, for your picture of the day- Last night I fried some boiled scorzonera in butter with a splash of roasted sesame oil, corn, peas and a couple of reject baby Asian cabbage from my red choy breeding project. Yum, I love scorzonera.