Friday, August 29, 2014

Black garlic experiment - FAIL

After almost a month in the rice cooker I took out the three bulbs of garlic yesterday. The instructions on the internet seemed so simple, but I failed. Instead of soft and spreadable, black cloves mine turned out caramel coloured and firm.

 The first bulb I took inside to take off the foil wrapper and see how it went... big mistake. It ponged to high heaven. not a rotten stink, just a garliccy 'not right' smell. The taste was even worse. I threw it out.

Today I inspected the other two bulbs now that they had dried and aired a bit. They didn't smell as much and the taste was a bit better but they were not black. I threw them out too.
Soo much for that experiment, I won't be trying that again

I spent some of today harvesting for the Hamilton market tomorrow. I decided to dig up all my Kurrajong plants as they were not putting on much new growth.

The tubers were not very big but they are very tasty. The cores are best eaten raw and taste a bit sweet and coconutty.
I will take a bunch to a local restaurant to see if the chef might be interested in them. If he is I might put another bed in soon.

Kurrajong trees are native to Australia and related to baobabs, which can also be grown for their roots, but they grow here where baobabs wont. The kurrajong seeds are also delicious roasted. They are commonly grown as street trees so it is easy to gather the seeds in early winter.

My selecting of scorzonera is starting to pay off. I dug some today and they are great, long, straight and thick. I know this photo of some of them doesn't do them justice, and they have been chopped off here to plant in my seedstock bed.

I love scorzonera, not only because it tastes good, but because it can stay in the ground as long as you like and the cores will never go tough. It is a true perennial.

Some people call them 'black salsify' but they are not related, and in my opinion better tasting. Last year they sold ok at the markets so I think I will plant more as I think they will sell even better now that customers have be able to try them.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Aaaand...spring is upon us

Today was a fabulous day, so warm that I was working in my t-shirt, a bit scary considering we are still in winter. I am going to have to do a search of my bedroom and find my summer hat I think. It is predicted that we will get a whole week in the twenties.
I got busy planting all my beds of oca and Chinese artichoke, and I also gave in and sowed some kale and mizuna. At least I have enough of that seed that if they immediately bolt I still have seed for later.

This is J block at the moment. It is much barer than the picture suggests. All the greenery is made up of broad beans and celery.
The dead stuff is a bed of old sorghum that I haven't got around to pulling up yet. It is so hard to pull up the dead plants that I keep putting it off. I did notice that some of the sorghum plants have not completely died off. I didn't realise it was partially perennial, there are a lot of new shoots coming off the bases.

 Many of my fruit trees, and those deciduous trees about town are now starting to flower and put out new leaves.
This is a pic of the new buds growing on one of my avocadoes. I am still surprised at how well they are coping with both the winters and the boiling summers. Time will tell if the temperatures will effect fruit production though. I lost my Hass seedling last summer so I will have to get another so I can get fruit.
 My little doughnut peach it about to burst out in flower. It is still a tiny tree so I will just let one fruit develop this year. I am expecting all my fruit trees to grow hugely this spring as this will be their second year in the ground.
This is my neighbours pear tree just about to burst its flower buds. Too bad no-one in town can get pears as they grow too high to net and the cockies take all the fruit before it is even close to ripe.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Spring and broad beans

The days are getting noticeably warmer and more glorious now and I have been getting to work preparing for spring.
My sister has been angry at me for letting it go so long without updating that I promised to make a long post with lots of pictures so I will write about some of the springiness that is happening in the garden right now.
After taking a beating by earth mites over the winter my beds of garlic are now starting to look a lot better and are growing furiously.
I planted a couple of beds with later cloves just so I can see just how late I can put them in and still produce decent bulbs.

I usually plant in Feb and then let them stay dormant till they start growing in May but the beds I planted a month ago are really coming along now.

My pots of oca tubers are starting to shoot so that is the next job. I have a few beds ready for them, I think I will plant 6 or 7 beds of them this year.

I am impatient to see how my new, seed grown tubers fare. It will be great to be able to offer some new varieties.

I have been putting out straw everywhere to feed the soil and lock in moisture for summer, especially as this month has been so dry and I am worried about getting an early summer.

Unfortunately the straw had a lot of wheat seed still in it so the beds are getting green with new shoots after the bit of rain we have had. That will keep me busy later but I don't mind wheat, it is easy to pull out and control.

My broad beans are powering away now with the warmer weather. Some even have set pods on them already. I am loving the look of the red flowered ones which I am growing for the first time.
I have 4 varieties of broad beans this year. Aquadulce, Gippsland Giant, Crimson Flowered, and Black Seeded.

One of the red flowered ones is producing pretty pink flowers instead of red. I will save the seed and grow them again.

 Last year I didn't clean up the spent broad beans after I pulled up the old plants and many of those plants still had a few immature pods on them. Now I have heaps of self seeded plants growing all over the place, they are pretty thick in places.

I know I should pull them up and dig them into the beds but I so hate pulling up edible plants so they will sit around being a nuisance, getting in the way. I don't know what I am going to do with all the beans, sigh. I still have kgs of dried beans hanging around from last season. Hmmm, maybe I will just close my eyes and pull them up, after all, I don't want so many Aquadulce anyway.

I did tell my sister I would add some humour into my post when she insisted but I just can't find too much that is funny about broad beans, and I am not a funny person anyway, sorry sis :)

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Spring cleaning in the beds

Today the days was nice so I got busy spring cleaning some of the beds. I weeded and dug and pulled up a couple of beds of carrots and beets to select the best for seed.

 This is one bed of white mangels. For some reason they haven't done much good over the winter so I didn't have a lot of good ones to put back in, only 14, but that is enough for seed.

I have time to put in another bed of seedstock so I might do that this week.

My piddly harvest of hard-shell gourds are finally moulding and drying. These are some of them, the others are on the other side of the polyhouse. They are usually all very mouldy by now.

I have made shaded beds for this years crop so I should have a lot more to sell next year. At least all the ones that I managed to harvest this year were large ones which are easy to sell, even if they aren't very cost effective. I just love growing them.

While I was out working I decided to prune a couple of my beds of kale. They are looking a bit scrappy at this time of year so I got in and picked off all the yellow and older leaves.
This does two things, it makes the plants hurry up and grow more young leaves, and if someone comes and wants some kale it is a lot easier to pick without having to sort through the bad stuff to get to the good leaves.

I have got about half my straw out now. Whew, it seems to grow more as I am putting it out. At least all my potatoes are covered as well as all the beds I am planning to use for melons.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A beautiful spring-like day

After a cold, frosty morning the sun came out and the weather was perfect. I went over to the block I will be planting my garlic on and measured it out while checking on the soil. I have been wondering how wet it gets in the winter and It is nicely drained, so no worries there.

Other things I did today were, putting out a couple of barrows of straw, the amount doesn't seem to be getting any smaller. I also potted up a heap of plants for sale to the nursery in the spring.

Sorry about the short post but I have been pressured to update even though I don't have much to do this time of year - Just for you sis, lol.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Spring is edging closer

I always consider the start of winter to be when the top temperatures each day in a week are more below 15 degrees than above, and the end of winter is the opposite. This week we are supposed to get 4 days of 15 or above so if the next week is the same I am going to declare winter over.

Although we are due for some more frosts the days should be nice, as have been the last couple of days, and I have been busy putting out straw and planting 4 beds of yacon. I was going to plant more yacon but the growing sets are not selling well, and that is where I make my money. Maybe I could get local eateries interested in the tubers but I cannot bank on that.

I had to start planting the yacon early as it is already starting to shoot but I will hold off as long as possible with the oca and other tubers.

The blocks are looking a bit sad right now with a lot of empty beds and sickly plants. I am busy getting the empty beds ready for planting and putting straw on those beds that are going to have tuberous vegetables or melons in them.

This is D block right now. It still has a few beds of kohlrabi, kale and silverbeet growing as well as a couple of beds of broad beans.
The soil is looking so good after adding heaps of straw, manure and compost for two years. You wouldn't know that this block was almost pure sand when I begun. I seems to have fixed the nematode problem also. If I could fix the Earth Mite problem I would be extremely happy.
I love this block, maybe because of all the work I have put into it. I am going to be sad when the owner decides he wants to build his house on it. he said 5 years, and I have had it for 2 1/2 years now.

Thursday, August 7, 2014


I got another two bales of straw delivered yesterday but it was too rainy to put it out. The seller was only asking $20 per bale but I felt I was ripping him off at that price so I made him take $100, which is still a bargain.
He told me that even at his price he didn't get much response from his newspaper ad. That is so sad, you would expect to pay AT LEAST $7 per bale anywhere else, and that is before delivery. I would have though that heaps of people would be ringing him up for that price. Oh well, at least I got mine and he will put away another four bales for me till after Christmas so I can mulch my walkways when I put my garlic crop in next year.
Today I got busy putting out one bale mulching my fruit trees and a heap of empty beds. As the trees didn't grow very much last year I am hoping that the straw will keep their roots a bit damper because I can't water most of this block.
In these pictures the trees look even smaller than they actually are. As this is their second year in they are really going to power away this coming year.

The taller tree in this picture is a white sapote. I am really impatient for these to grow and fruit.

The two larger trees in this second pic are a couple of avocados. I am surprised they survived so well out in the open last year.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Black garlic and shepherds pie

Today was a bit of a slack day for me. Apart from putting out a little straw I didn't get much done at all. I went to Hamilton to do some odd jobs and remembered that I have been wanting to have a go at making my own black garlic (look it up). So I bought a cheap rice cooker and 3 bulbs of garlic to see how it goes.
The best way to make it, so I read, is to wrap each bulb in foil with a teaspoon of water, put a cup or so of water in the bottom of the rice cooker, then switch it onto 'keep warm'.

It takes about 4 weeks to ferment but the end result is supposed to be amazing.

You must do this outside because of the strong garlic smell at first so I have mine sitting out on top of the air conditioner unit, which thankfully, has a spare power plug next to it.

I know this will take quite a bit of electricity but if you can make a big batch at a time it should be worth it, especially considering the cost of commercially bought black garlic.

Since I didn't do anything else worth taking pictures of I will show you some of my parents cyclamen that they grow from seed.

I usually take a few to sell on my tables at the markets for mum.

I made a shepherds pie this afternoon. I have to admit that it turned out beautifully so I just had to show it off.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Cold and wet, and it won't be getting better anytime soon

Sorry I haven't posted for the last three days. The weather has been very cold and wet and I haven't been able to do anything. Today the temperature didn't even get to 8 degrees which has been the coldest daily maximum since I was a kid. Brrrrrrrr

Apart from the cold and rain, the wind was gale force for a couple of days but didn't do a lot of damage except to my polyhouse door which was wrecked. Luckily it was just an old screen door so I will replace it soon.

 Three days ago I ordered some straw bales. After one was delivered it started to rain so the guy won't be able to deliver the rest to the blocks without getting bogged. He will have to bring them after we get a week or more of nice weather but I don't know when that will be as August and September are our wettest months.

I like to get them out just before rain so it gets wet on the beds and too heavy for the starlings to spread about. I will finish spreading out this bale in the next few days between showers.

The back block is now a swamp. I am going to be up to my knees in mud as I spread the straw but it has to be done. I hate bogging up the ground though.

Luckily I don't have a lot in the beds there at the moment but I am worried about the two beds of garlic. Oh well, there is nothing I can do about it now.

Today it was so cold that my parents went over to the Grampians to see the snow on the mountains. The Grampians are pretty puny compared to other mountains in Australia, and certainly to mountains overseas, but they are nice to hike in and explore.

The road had so much snow on it that my mother was too worried to go far so they just took some pictures out the car windows and came home.