Saturday, August 31, 2013

Magnificent celtuce and fruit mould samples

I have given in, it is just too hard in this warm weather to not plant seeds so I went out and planted some carrot and silverbeet seeds. At least I can afford to lose these if they decide to bolt early. And we have at least another week of mid 20s days to go yet. Already things are drying up.

My celtuce is looking fantastic at the moment. I picked some for the last veggie boxes yesterday and I will have a heap to take to the Sandford market in a weeks time too. The picture below is of the plant as you pick it. Celtuce is a type of lettuce that is grown for the stem rather than the leaves.

Below is a picture of the stem after you pull off all the leaves and are just left with the stem. You peel it and chop it into pieces, then just eat it raw or you can add it to a stir-fry. I can't describe the taste as it is different than everything else but it is delicious.

Yesterday I received my box of fruit and vegetable mould samples in the post. There is a good variety but they need to be put together with little screws which I doubt many people would like to bother with. I won't be promoting them until I can find out if I can use a different method of attaching them

 I will try using bulldog clips to see if they will hold. It will be great if they work but I am a bit worried about the weight. Maybe quickly sewing them together might work. I will have to experiment.

A couple of the smaller ones like one of them below are held together with little caps on projections. I am worried about losing them but it is a lot simpler.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Everything is growing amazingly

With our warmer than normal days everything in the garden is waking up and I am getting so impatient for planting time. Luckily I have had a couple of distractions like some friends coming yesterday to take my mind off it for a few hours. I have to settle myself by getting out my seed packets to sort them - again- and buying more seeds of Ebay :)

 Some of my globe artichokes are 5 feet tall and will still grow a lot taller before they are finished. This is such a tall variety that I have to cut down the branches to harvest the buds.

I don't like growing them because they produce so little food for the space and time but I suppose they do make good shade and wind shelter.

 My maqui berry tree is budding out with new leaves and getting flower buds. Pity it is a female and I can't seem to find a male. I just bought some seeds off Ebay so I can grow a male as Bunnings no longer stocks the plants. Bunnings lables don't say whether the plants are male or female anyway so that is still not a good choice for stock. I got this one there.

My swedes are ready to go into the last veggie boxes tomorrow. I am actually glad that I won't be offering them any more as I don't have to worry that I have enough of each type of vegetable to put in them. At the markets I just take what I have ripe whether there is a lot or a little.

I have a little local market in a bit over a week so I can get rid of a few things that I know are going to bolt before the Hamilton market at the end of the month.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Sun, warmth and colour

Before I get onto what's happening in the market garden I just have to share a picture of what I bought yesterday. Out here in the country people tend to be very conservative so all the houses are white or off-white inside and out, clothing is boring and plain and everything is without vibrancy, so I was really happy to come across my new favourite piece of clothing:

 I was with my sister doing some shopping yesterday and we popped into an op shop to have a look. This wonderfully colourful, pure wool, new jumper just begged to be taken home with me :)

To show you what I mean about lack of colour and imagination, this jumper was placed in the dress-up/ costume rack.

I LOVE colour

We had a wonderfully warm and sunny day today, unusually warm for this time of year at 20C (it is even predicted to go up to 25C in a few days) so I had to get out and do some work. It has only taken today and yesterday which was also sunny to start drying up the bog that is my Back Block so I can walk around it without sinking.

Look how sunny it was, I even caste a good shadow. I don't care that it will cause everything to bold, I am just enjoying the sun.The potatoes are already springing away but I know we are in for a few heavy frost yet that will cut them back.

I just hope this isn't a sign for an early and terribly hot and dry summer like last year. At least I will be ready for it with my new shade row covers.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Spring time not too far away

I keep looking at the weather forecast thinking that they are playing a cruel joke on me (how narcissistic is that?) with their predictions of up to 21 degrees in a few days. But they haven't changed it so maybe I should start to be a bit more hopeful perhaps. It is a bit early but after so many weeks hovering around 10 to 13 degrees and wading in mud it will be very welcome.
WOW, I just checked again as I am writing this and the predicted temp has gone up to 23 on Friday. It might be a blip and then back to 'normal temps' but then again it might just mean a very early spring. It will cause trouble if it is with plants shooting out early then getting hit with frosts. Oh well, you get that.

 I will have to dig up a couple of beds that I planted to cauliflower as I planted them too late and they are already bolting before making decent heads. It was a gamble that didn't pay off but it doesn't matter as the plants will go back into the soil to feed the next lot.

You have to take some chances as you never know what the weather will do and you do win sometimes.

Here is a picture of the top half of J Block. It is looking very green and healthy right now and a few veg have gone to flower as you can see. With a few days of warmer weather everything is going to bolt so I had better get up my insect mesh covers for the beds I want to collect seed off.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Wintery weather again and my Dr Hogg is here

My Dr Hogg apple tree came today, after a bit of a run around the country. I just love online tracking, I got a kick out of checking out where my tree had visited, almost like I was there. Every morning and night I could look up where it was and where it was going, it was almost as exciting as receiving the tree at the end.

This tree started off being packed away on the farm at the bottom of Tas, then spent a couple of days sightseeing in Hobart, Tasmania before flying off to Melbourne, Victoria. After an overnight stay it took a bit of a wrong turn and found itself in Warrnambool. A quick check of the GPS and maybe an embarassed word to a local it was on its way over to Mt Gambier in South Australia where it boarded a local courier to Casterton.
Now it is comfy in its now spot next to my other apple. I LOVE online tracking, did I tell you that :)

Anyway, after a morning replacing a door in my shed it came in wintery again so I got nothing else done, and no pictures, sorry. I know there is quite a bit more cold weatehr to come but it is great to see what is waking up and preparing for spring when I go on my inspection rounds in the mornings. I see today that the potatoes are popping up and the cherry tree is about to pop its flower buds.

Yesterday I went to Hamilton to do a bit of spending. Visited the tip shop to buy the door for my shed and then to Mitre 10 for hardware. I have decided to pay a bit more for better quality water hoses this year as they will last a lot longer than the el-cheapo hoses I have been uses. They cost a lot of money but I will save in the long run and it is difficult to get rid of old hose in town. As it is a few months till I will be needing them I will be able to buy a bit of hose each time I go to town without blowing a hole in my budget all at once.

In the last few days we have had some very windy weather but my shadecloth bed covers are holding up well. I am very pleased. I am feeling much more positive in all than I have in a long time, this will be the year when the market garden really gets going.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Asparagus woes and water everywhere

I went out yesterday between wintery rain to check on things and discovered that every new shoot on my asparagus had the top nibbles off. I have no idea what would have done such a thing but I am lucky that I divided and transplanted them all in the Autumn so I won't be harvesting them this year. It would be a bugger if I was relying on selling them. If it happens again I will have to cover them.

The ground around here has finely reached saturation point so it is time for everything to turn into a swamp. It always makes me wonder because we are on a hill and have well drained sand down to around 70cm.

At least I have a few blocks that don't get as wet so I planned it to have most of the veggies off my wettest block now (the back block) and the spring ripening stuff on the the driest blocks. Seems to be working so far.

At least I am now used to the swampy conditions at this time of year and there is only a month of it to go now. It is amazing how quickly the soil dries out once the warmer weather hits though, this sand doesn't hold it for long even when I try to add a lot of organic matter into it.

The worst part is waiting for the water to go down before I can mow the lawn, it still keeps growing right through the water and looks dreadful by spring.

Friday, August 16, 2013

veggie moulds and more

Forgot to post yesterday as I have been taking advantage of two lovely days to get out and do some much needed work. Now we are back to winter with gale force winds and rain for the next 4 days *sigh*

I have some news though, I have decided to become Australias only seller  (at the moment at least) of fruit and vegetables moulds, no, not the furry green kind - this kind

They are so much fun and not just for backyard veggie growers. The are great for moulding fruits and veg to sell at markets or to chefs. If you can double or triple the price on some vegetables it can be worth the mucking around for a small commercial grower.

I realise these are just novelties but it is so much fun to make fruits and veg with different shapes and I'm sure it is easier to get the kids to eat up with these on their plates.

There are moulds to suit all sorts of produce from square and heart moulds for watermelon and pumpkins to hearts for tomatoes and many more - AND I can sell them for a LOT less than anyone can find them on the net.

I am going to to experiment with them on root vegetables as well this coming spring. I know it won't be cost efficient but I have been thinking of how I can use them to shape carrots and beet,s as well as the usual apples and other fruits.

Since I am getting them cheaply straight from the factory and they are hard to get outside China and Japan I think I will have a good market if I can use some imaginative marketing.

I have a list of types and prices and I am working on a website right now - it is not finished but you can have a look if you like

When I get my fist shipment of samples of all 24 moulds (so far) I will post up pictures.They are popular in Asia and I hope I can make them so here as well.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

It's here!!!

Yesterday my long awaited red fleshed apple tree (Huonville crab) arrived, I already had the hole dug so it went straight in. There is no picture as it is really just a stick right now and I am already being impatient to try the fruit but I know I will have to wait another year before it flowers. Although it is called a crab apple it is actually a cross between a crab and a normal apple so it is good eating and bigger than a crabapple.
I just have to put up the picture of it again

Now I just have to wait for the other apple I ordered to pollinate it Dr Hogg - a large eating and cooking apple, with differing reports on the taste. I really hope they flower at the same time or I will have to get another as well.I think they will by my research but I am not averse to buying another weird apple variety. Just have to deal with the coddling moths.

In other news, with us getting a few more warmer days interspersed with the cold ones I am expecting the silverbeet (Chard) to bolt to flower in a few weeks so I thought I will take a picture of my variety made from a few crossings of 'Rainbow'. You can't really tell from this pic but there is an amazing variety of pastel hues in my mix.

I particularly love the pale orange one in the middle, my single plant looks amazing among the others. The colours are all hit and miss because the pastels aremostly , I guess, dilute genes which don't come true by themselves. I am only guessing as my colour knowledge comes from horse colour genetics which could well be entirely different than chard colour genetics. It is fun to see what pops up every year though.

The picture doesn't do them justice, you have see them in person to appreciate the range of hues. I will be planting each colour seperately next year just to experiment with colours.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Broccoli coming out my ears

After filling my customers boxes with broccoli on friday and spending the last two days giving it away to neighbours I finely have my broccoli under control, well... for the next week anyway.

I love that after picking the main head it keeps producing more 'sprouting broccoli' for the next couple of months so it is well worth putting in. Great plants :)

When I start going to markets again next month I will have something to take at least.

Last year I grew a few beds of different coloured cauliflowers and broccoli go to seed together and cross pollinate just to see what I would come up with when I planted the seeds

The results of those seeds are just starting to head now and I have some great colours for my customers. Here is a 'normal' purple (Purple of Sicily) which always goes down well but below is a couple of crosses with various shades which obviously had Romanesco as one of the parents.

I will let one of these beds of crosses go to seed and see what the next generation looks like just as a matter of curiosity rather than any commercial interest.

You can see that my sandy soil means that I don't get big heads but I like to grow them anyway.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Goodbye CSA, hello markets

After a week of mulling it over I have decided to cease my CSA program and box deliveries and concentrate on markets instead. It has been difficult to get anyone to commit to paying for a seasons worth of produce in advance and because they don't have that commitment many of my customers feel that they can cancel and rearrange box deliveries as they like. This is a problem for me as I have to plan my growing in advance and I can't tell the plants to hold off for a couple of weeks or change their schedules, lol.

At least with the markets I will be able to charge a lot more for the produce so the extra costs are not a problem, and I love the customer service. I wish the box program had worked but at least it is not hard to adjust what I do. I told my customers my decision as I dropped off their boxes this afternoon and they were very understanding. I have one more box delivery day at the end of the month then I will start at the Mt Gambier and Hamilton markets next month.

Those of you who have been reading this blog for a while will know that I have been trying to dehybridise a red choy for home growers. The main problem with this variety is that it is male sterile so last year I crossed it with two other varieties of bok/pak choyi in the hope that I could get some plants with viable pollen to go on with.

The two beds that I sowed with those seeds have started to flower but I am disappointed to report that not a single flower has viable male parts so far. I might still keep the plants as there is a bed of Asian cabbage starting to flower not far away and if my choy produces pods it will have crossed with that and I will plant the resulting seeds and see what I get.
At this point I don't care what Asian cabbages and choys get crossed together as long as I eventually get some red or purple plants with viable pollen and I will breed up from there.

With spring coming up quickly and rain keeping me in for much of the day it was a good day to get to and plan my spring planting. I have so many new things to go in that I am chafing at the bit to start. I have to be careful not to get to impatient and start planting too soon as there is still a lot of cold and wet weather to come yet.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Whew, I've been so busy with my tanning course and finishing off some skins that were left over that I forgot to post last night. I am writing now a bit earlier than usual because I am attending the first meeting of the 'Casterton and area food growers club'. I have just made some biscuits to take and I hope lots of local people turn up.
The aims of the group are to support and encourage people to grow food at home, even if it is just a couple of tomato plants by their back door. I try as much as I can to encourage people to grow their own veggies and I hope this club will attract people because of a sense of community, that they have other like minded people around to discuss and help with problems and stuff.

I love the look of these - Brussels sprouts that have bust from the buds so I steamed a couple for my parents last night. They thought these were quite ok steamed and would be even better with a sauce (just like 'proper' sprouts), and they certainly looked good on the plate. I don't know why they are not marketed as a vegetable since they are so pretty.

These red ones would attract people back to sprouts if they were picked at this stage I reckon, and it would be an outlet for over ripe sprouts that would save on some farmers waste.

All you need to do is pick your usual sprouts and any that are left just open like this to give a longer season. I think I will grow a lot more just for these 'flowers' to put in my boxes.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Tanning course and spring on the way

I am exhausted. It was day two of my three day tanning course and everything is right on schedule. I am really pleased with how it is going and my participants are really seeming to enjoy themselves, but I am pretty tired now.

There are 6 participants in the course. I was expecting 9 but three that were coming together couldn't make it, but it turns out that 6 is an ideal number for the size of my tanning shed.

Here are two ladies fleshing sheep skins. Everyone did a really good job on their skins and they should be proud of what they take home. They each have a fox, sheep and rabbit skin to do.

I did have a few moments to go around the veggies and everything is making ready for spring. I know that the plants don't really decide but it is obvious that we have had enough cold hours and dark hours to prompt them all to start their spring growth.

I am picking off rhubarb flowers most days to keep them producing, and the buds on the gooseberries and redcurrents are almost popping.
I went to pick the neighbour some parsley and it is also sending up flower stalks.

We have the coldest and wettest weather of the year yet to come over the next 6 weeks but the plants will have to put up with it.

Spring is my worst month for vegetables as everything starts bolting and I don't have much to offer. I hope I am a little more prepared than last year. At least I had more stuff over winter but I still have the spring problem which doesn't have any easy answers :(

Friday, August 2, 2013

What the!!!

Today my sister Larceny, who doesn't have anything like a green thumb, phoned all distressed.
She had pampered and coddled her little patch of beetroot for the past 5 months and was so proud of them. Today was the day of reckoning and she proudly picked and brought them into the house to make a choc beetroot cake. All was going well, peeled, boiled and mashed. Then sat on the bench to cool.

Well blow me down, she came back to find that her 4 cats had got up on the bench and gobbled the lot, all half a kilo of it. I was flabbergasted, I never would have guessed that cats liked beetroot. You learn something every day. Apparently they looked a bit strange with their pink bibs but my sister wasn't amused at all.

 Well I did my own cooking last night. I know it isn't related to food gardening but I just had to share as these Nutella brownies were so good. I made a double batch but they are all gone now, yummo.

Here is my recipe (the double batch which makes around 24 or so)

2 1/2 cups nutella
2 eggs
1/2 cup plain flour
1 cup SR flour
1 banana, mashed

Warm the oven to 180C (350F). Line a slice tray with baking paper. Mix all together to make a firm mix and spoon into the tray. Cook for 15 to 17 minutes, no longer or they may go a bit dry. Cool for 10 minutes before slicing. They will be gooey and chewy.

PS, I did give some to the neighbours so I wasn't THAT greedy.

Ok, so I have to add something to this post about the gardens so I took a picture of some perennial leeks. I love these as they are always around so useful to give my customers when there is nothing much else around.

They produce 'babies' around the base of each mature plant and you can just take the little ones out and replant. If you have too many offsets you can use them like spring onions. You can see one of the offsets in this photo.

For some reason perennial leeks don't grow very large for me no matter how I look after them. They are very small compared to regular leeks, but I suppose that if I grow enough of them it doesn't matter.