Monday, June 30, 2014

EOFY update and production figures

Well, it is the end of the financial year (here in Australia) and so I sat down this morning and finished all the paperwork for tax that I had been putting off. It was a bit disappointing as I was expecting that I was closer to breaking even over the year than it actually was. At least next year I won't have as much outlay for shadecloth so it should be better. A bit disheartening though.

As far as the farming goes (remembering that my beds are 1 x 4m in size) I have found that the vegetables that make the biggest earnings/profits (bring in over the $100 that I am aiming for by each bed) are carrots, beets (when they grow), yacon, garlic, oca (also in good years) capsicums, tomatoes, celery, rhubarb, amaranth, silverbeet and potatoes. Basically anything that has a double income and plants that can be harvested multiple times.
Really poor income earners are corn, eggplant, melons, pumpkin, kurrajong and onions
On the fence are celtuce, snow peas, scorzonera and some of the other crops.

The best earners are yacon, oca and garlic and I will put a lot more of those in next year.

Garlic: 150 bulbs per bed selling for $2 per bulb. The bed is tied up for only 6 months or so so you can fit in at least one more crop of something else.

Yacon: poor crop of tubers this year with only about 2kg per plant. 20 plants per bed so 40kg at $4 per kg. Then each plant produces around 5 growing sets that I wholesale for $1 per set, so I also get 80 sets to sell (minus the ones I replant) so the bed gives me around $240 for the bed.

Oca: 30 plants per bed giving 1kg tubers per plant. 30kg selling for $4 per kg. They flew off the table at the market just gone. I also sell the smaller tubers wholesale for $1 per handful so they make just under the same as yacon brings.

Potatoes are another decent earner with sales of tubers to eat as well as seed potatoes to wholesale/retail. about 36 plants per bed harvesting twice a year. At least 1kg of tubers per plant, per harvest at $2 per kg.

Growing for seed to sell does bring a decent income from the other vegetables but sales of them fresh is not great.
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I am going to keep planting some of the other crops but this coming spring I will be concentrating on the high income ones, I really have to start making a profit or I might as well give it away. Here are some more figures:
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Lettuce: would be great if I could sell them, they just don't sell well at markets. 64 plants per bed at $2 each and only in for 3 months so you could grow at least 3 crops per year.

Amaranth: 36 plants per bed harvesting every month and replacing every three months while there is no frosts. I am guessing that the income per bed is 10 bunches per harvest at $2 per bunch.

Rhubarb: 5 plants per bed harvesting 1 bunch per plant every 6 weeks all year round (some old varieties die down in the winter though)

Silverbeet: 36 plants per bed harvesting around 10 bunches every month for around 8 months.

Celery: Similar to silverbeet

Capsicums: 16 plants per bed. Harvesting for 4-5 months. Production depends on the type.

Tomatoes: 8 plants per bed. Each plant should produce 4-7 kg per plant depending on type.

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I will be commenting more on yacon tomorrow as I have started pulling up my last bed.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Plovers and general stuff

What a glorious day today. I think nature was feeling sorry for us and letting us have a nice day before winter weather starts again tonight. I can already hear a few spots of rain on the roof.
I am thinking that I might not have a great day at the Hamilton market tomorrow. Unlike last year I am not inside in the warm, just under a shelter outside so the wind, cold and rain is going to deter people from coming out to buy. If it is too bad I will tell the people running the market that I will not be coming any more in winter if I am outside. The price of the stall, fuel and other expenses is too much if I don't get sales because of the weather.

I think it is because of the lack of frosts and the mild start to winter but the plovers have started laying eggs already. They are not waiting for spring this year so I am already feeling sorry for the chicks. I noticed today that the pair around the corner have already got their chicks out.
I am already getting swooped as I work and I guess that I will have to put up with that a lot longer this year. At least they don't often make contact, though last year one seemed to miscalculate a lot and I got a few hits. I might have to make a hat this time with eyes drawn on the back. They won't swoop if they think you are looking at them.

I have managed to gather enough for my stall tomorrow with some yacon, ova and other tuberous vegetables. At least if people don't come out in the rain tomorrow I will be able to hold them till next month.

I am keeping my beds of potatoes till later in the winter so I have enough stuff to take then, and my mother will have some flowering cyclamen to add to the tables to fill them up. I think I will have to take a month or more off in spring if I don't have enough then. I remember that it was a struggle last spring.
With all my beets destroyed by the earth mites I don't have a lot that will hold till spring.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Winter hits, and lemons and murnong

Winter has hit hard yesterday and today with rain, storms and damaging wind. Yesterday the temperature did not get above 9 degrees, brrrrr.
During a quiet spell when the sun came out for 15 minutes, just enough to dry the polyhouse, I rushed out and put tape on a tear. I just can't afford to recover it at this time.

 It was way to nasty to go out and work and I knew I had to make a post on this blog so while the sun was out for a few minutes I took my camera out to take a couple of pictures of anything interesting I could find, which was not much.

I can't believe how loaded our little dwarf lemon tree is at the moment. It is covered with lemons and I will have to try and sell a bucket of them at the market on Saturday.
I think the tree is telling us that it liked the extra fertilising it got this year.

I have a tray of murnong seeds coming up. I hope I can get them going better this year as this is the last of the seed I have.
This native tuberous daisy has delicious tubers but I have found it hard to get going in the ground. It does much better in pots if you can keep the root woolly aphids from them, and they are very tempting to snails.
I will put them in two beds this spring and try growing with different conditions. I really want to be able to offer them at markets.

While I had nothing to do today, and with winter upon us I got stuck into organising my winter work. During the winter I earn money as a freelance writer online. I write product descriptions for websites. It is a good way to earn pocket money and a bit more, and stops me from getting bored.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Winter solstice and random ramblings

With the winter solstice last night it is time to start looking forward to longer days. Although we still have the worst of winter to come somehow it doesn't seem as bad when the days are getting longer. The solstice is always when I start to think of what I will be planting in spring, and the work to come.

 I decided not to spray the earth mite this year just to see if I could cope but now I have many empty beds because they decimated all my beets, lettuce and celtuce, as well as damaging most of everything else.
This is such a worry as I hate using sprays on them but they have no preditors in Aus and there are no good non-chemical controls.

At least I know I can get good crops of peas and reasonable crops of silverbeet though some of that was also decimated with them.
I have tried to cut their numbers by grubbing out their host plants like capeweed and clover but it is still not working well. I am just going to have to use sprays on them next spring or I can not make any profit at all.

Only two beds of silverbeet have mostly escaped the predations of the earth mite. This bed of pastels silverbeet and the plants that were planted amongst the amaranth.










 I have many beds of snow peas happily flowering and producing pods. At least I will have plenty of these through the winter and they sell very well at the markets.

Other winter veggies I will have for my tables are yacon, a few caulis and kohlrabi.
I wish I had more but I will just have to cope with what I have.



Saturday, June 21, 2014

Not again - misnamed seeds

I have been impatiently nurturing my pignut (Conopodium majus) seedlings for the past year but lately have been having doubts about them. The just weren't looking right, from not dying down in summer to the bushy growth they just didn't fit the pictures on websites.

 I thought that perhaps the better soil and growing conditions were causing the lush growth but it was still doubtful so I dug one up today to check for sure.

Pignuts have a single root leading to a small tuber but as you can see, these plants have a mass of fibrous roots. Damn. I have no idea what they are now.

I just bought another packet of seeds of Ebay but I suspect that it is from the same seller as the last lot. I think I will go onto some forums to ask for some true seed.

This was very disappointing as they tubers are supposed to be very tasty and I was looking forward to tasting them.

I hate it when this happens, it wastes a lot of time and effort.

I replanted the plant I dug until I can find out what they really are just in case they are useful in some way.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Early broad beans and raspberries

It was not a really nice day today with cold weather and showers so after a couple of quick jobs I spent the morning in Mt Gambier before coming home to visit a friend and take some pics for this blog post. It doesn't look much better for the rest of the week but I will still have to go out and do some work or I will end up looking like an elephant.


I am disappointed that all my broad beans are flowering early. They should not start till spring and I just hope they survive till then and flower again.

I only bought a few seeds of these two, a red flowering one and a red beaned one so I hope I don't have to buy some more. I think I might have to replant all my beds unless my research shows that thei early flowering won't hurt them.

I think that if these flowers do set seed, which I doubt, they will be ruined by any frosts we get during the winter, as well as the rain in the next couple of months.

They are only around 30cm tall so even if they do set seed they will not produce much, sigh.








This morning I quickly planted out two beds of raspberries in beds that I just took the yacon out of. In the spring when they start shooting I will add some manure to the soil but it is still pretty fertile so I am not worried.

This is better soil that they were in so I am hoping that they do better in the summer as I just about lost them over the last two summers.
Before spring I will put up some trellis for them and some posts and shadecloth to preotect them in the burning sun this year so I can get some fruit.

I love raspberries but they are a bit tender in the heat.







Thursday, June 19, 2014

Kurrajong and more oca

I did a heap of odd jobs today that I had been getting around to doing for ages. I rolled up the hoses out of the way, put in a few more posts to stop the hoses being dragged over the beds, and replanted my poor, suffering raspberries into new beds with better soil.

 I dug my good bed of oca to sell at the market. Most of the tubers were too small and the mice had got into all the plants on the edge of the bed so the only plants to do any good were those in the middle. At least those produced well at around one kg or more of tubers each.
I ended up with only this bucket of tubers to sell but at least it is something.

Finely, after 8 months my kurrajong seedlings are ready to pull. They are not as thick as baobab seedlings and have taken twice as long to get to carrot size, but at least they are not yet tough in the middle.

I peeled this one and sauteed it in a basic honey soy sauce. It was nice but took too long to cook so I will boil or microwave them first before frying next time.

I am not sure whether I will bother to plant more in spring as the time it takes for them to grow doesn't make them very cost efficient, especially if I were to charge my customers for the time and extra looking after. I doubt they would pay the price, even for something so unusual.

They don't have a lot of taste but still are a nice ingredient for stews and such. The seeds are delicious too when fried.

It is going to be cold and showery tomorrow so I don't know that I will get much done.





Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Started harvesting my yacon

My yacon is usually well and truly died down at this time but with the lack of frosts over the last couple of months most of the plants are still green, a bit sad, but still upright.
I need some tubers to sell at the HIRL market at the end of the month so I dug one of the beds that was the most died down. This bed was in full sun over the summer so the plants didn't grow very well and the tubers were small.

 I ended up with only 10 kg of tubers for sale at the market. All the small tubers I left on the growing sets to replant in spring.

Luckily there is not nearly as much splitting of the tubers as there was last year. I think that is because we had more rain in autumn last year.

I had to dig them now, a couple of weeks early to get them sweet so people can eat them immediately. They are not very sweet when you first get them out of the ground.

I have a 60 l bucket of growing sets now that I will keep to replant in spring. They will keep quite happily in this bin until then. I will keep the lid on so rain doesn't get in and rot them.

I still have two beds to dig. One of the beds is poor like this one but the other had shadecloth over it in the summer and the plants did so much better. I expect that I will have a much better harvest from that bed.

At least that will give me something to put on my tables for the next three months.

I love yacon. It is a tuber from the Andes that is eaten raw after peeling. The amber coloured flesh is sweet (after a couple of weeks of outside storage) and crunchy. You can eat it just as it is like I did with a small tuber today, or cut it into chunks and add to salads. I also like to add it to stir-fries for a bit of crunch.
You can also juice them and boil down the juice to get a sweet syrup that you can use as a sweetener.

With the lack of frosts giving the plants an extra long season, some of the plants have flowered and I have managed to collect some seeds. I can't wait to see if they germinate.

Yacon is a great plant for a food garden. It thrives in part shade and is pretty care free, not even having any real pests. You can leave them in the ground if you forget to harvest them in winter and the plants will get even bigger next year. I have one plant I left in from last year and I will blog about the difference when I dig it up next month.
It has lovely big and soft leaves that look great in the garden and is strongly upright so doesn't need staking. I think I will put in 6 beds this coming spring.


I dug a couple of beds today and noticed that there isn't as many worms as there should be for this time of year. I think it is because we still haven't had much rain. With the El Nino supposed to occur over the next few months it is not looking good for enough rain to fill up the subsoil.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Results from my oca seedlings

I harvested the tubers from my seedling oca and had a good range of tuber colours. They were all in little pots which is why there were so few tubers but when I get them in the ground in the spring I will be able to make judgements on them come harvest this time next year.
I will be not only judging their tuber production but also trying to find some taste variations also. Not sure if they have much natural variation in taste though.

I love the bright colour of seedling number one which is very similar to a variety called 'Hopin'.

Plant number 4 produced lots of stem tubers and I am not sure yet whether this is a good thing or not at the moment.







The bottom pot is full of at least a dozen very small seedlings that I won't disturb until I plant the very tiny tubers in spring.

I am so excited to find out what the mature plants will be like and might buy in some more seeds over the winter just to keep the interest going.

I hope I eventually get some good new varieties and with these coming from good flowering parents I might be able to harvest some seed myself this coming season.

I harvested the one bed of oca that survived the summer and although many of the plants on the edge of the bed lost their tubers to mice, the centre ones produced well at over a kg of tubers each. I will sell the eating sized ones at the market at the end of the month.

Monday, June 16, 2014

I'm back again - aren't you glad!!

I know it hasn't been three weeks camping like I had hoped but at least I did get a bit done. It started to rain three days ago and wasn't going to stop for a few more days, and I figured that I could put my time to better use than sitting under my tarp waiting.

I thought that I didn't have much to say regarding my camping, but when I thought about it, all the little things add up to a whole experience, so let me tell you about all that I did during this week and a half as well as the week I did last month.

 I walked through lonely pine plantations, through blue gum plantations, and through natural forests filled with wildlife galore. I saw thousands of animals but not a single one allowed me to take its picture :(

I saw kangaroos, wallabies, emus, foxes and many more, and the kookaburras alerted me every day to the sun coming up and going down.
 I wiped my bum with large and soft leaves, more of a pleasure than with the most expensive toilet paper, but I also had a back up of nice flushable wipes which break down in the environment quickly.

I got blisters a quarter the size of my feet, and lost two toenails because I had to crush my feet into my boots with two thick pairs of socks just so I could walk on my blisters.

I washed my clothes and myself in public places in dirty dam water.
I was at times cold, wet, hungry, curious, tired, sore, and bored.
I drank out of puddles and tanks and spouts.

I walked where I wanted, when I wanted with no-one to tell me what to do. I was free.



I found a little lost dog in the forest and had to walk 5 km to 'The pub in the scrub', a tiny pub in the middle of nowhere to leave it so they could find the owner.
The pub is in a little place called Derghum that used to be a town but nearly all the houses there are now abandoned and falling down. Only a few people live there now.





I slept under trees, in sheds and out in the open, watching the stars.
With 14 hours of darkeness at this time of year, I had plenty of time to think while I lay in bed. I thought about how so many governments tried to get people to search an area for a lost aeroplane (MH 370) that could not possibly have gone down there and why they would do that. Maybe it was a very embarrassing case of friendly fire or something.
I would not have taken any notice of a lost plane but they way they handled it was so suspicious, and the people thay have tried to hush up was very suspicious.I have another theory but that can wait.

I took pictures of fungi, and trees, and birds nests. I took my new little camera that can fit in my pocket.

I wondered about the decades old rumours of feral puma living in these parts but I have to say that I don't believe them as I have never seen or heard any sign in all my years of camping in the area.
At least if one had come upon me caming in the open, the big cats kill their prey before eating it, not like members of the dog family who eat their larger prey alive. I'm glad we don't have packs of wild dogs around here.


 I ate two minute noodles, road kill and lots of muesli bars. I longed for a salad sandwich. The kangaroo was nice but I wish I had some seasonings to put on it.

I took a notepad and crossword book and learned to write with the Quenya (High Elven from lord of the rings) alphabet. I did the whole crossword book in Quenya.
Learning new things whenever you can is important for the mind and soul.

I had time to think about what I would do if I had a million dollars, well, a million dollars doesn't go far these days, so maybe 3 or 4 million.
I don't have an interest in money so I would use it to help people who can't help themselves - have a safe place for homeless people to sleep, or help women get away from abusive partners and start a new life. I know there are places for those people but they are too busy and turn people away, and I don't think they generally do a good job, or offer what those people actually want, and they are not as safe as you would like to think. Anyway, I will never see that kind of money so no need to think any more about it.


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Update and silverbeet 'Pastels'

Yes, I know I have been very slack lately but I have been in a bit of a funk lately, I really need to get away for a few weeks before I will be ready to come back and farm again. I will go bush on Sunday for my three weeks in the bush that was interrupted last month. It is cold and damp enough now that I don't have to worry about the crops.

After I come back, I will spend some time over the winter to visit friends that I haven't seen in a while.

I have just started picking my 'Pastels' range of silverbeet. I am still getting a few bolder colours but I am overall happy with the colours that I am trying to go for. I was worried that all the plants would be washed out and white because of double dilute genes but it doesn't seem to have happened with this generation. It will be a few generations before I am sure the colours have set though.

The plants did look all white at first and only as they matured they coloured up. I am liking the colours and some of them are nice and stripy as well.