Thursday, April 30, 2015

New update on the new block

It is sooo close, but I have run into a small stumble with the new block. Our water authority will not allow more than one tenant to use a single water meter and post the bill to one of them, so they ask that I take over the whole bill (including the tenants in the house attached to the land, they post the bill to the land owner/landlord who then sends it back to me to pay.

I don't mind doing this as I doubt the tenants in the house use a lot of water but it is a pain because, not only because the landlord has to agree to it, and it seems that the water board has had trouble with her in the past so I hope that does not become an issue, but it also means that the landlord will be more involved and might lay a claim to the tenants share of the sharecrop.
I really hope it works out, I will find out if the landlord is ok with it tonight or tomorrow.

I had to bring this issue to the water board because of their 'Fair use' thingy so that the tenant in the house doesn't get in trouble for using much more water than they should.

On a brighter note, the seed company that I will be growing for has asked for a lot more seed from other veggies that I grow, as well as garlic and other tubers that they want to put in their catalogue in the future. I wish we had got together earlier so I had time to put more in for them, but I did go out and find some manky, left over garlic bulbs in the shed and dig a couple more beds for it.
As long as I am able to get these extra acres I will be set. It will be a hell of a lot more work but it should pay well.

 My potato onion beds are shooting nicely. These are some that I got at a market to try, but I was also sent about 50 million seeds (lol) of Green Mountain potato onion from a friend, some of which I have planted.
I promised not to sell any of those seeds so with this extra land (fingers crossed) I will have plenty more beds to plant it so I can do some serious selecting later in the year.

My tamarillos are ripening now. Boy, they take a long time. They went from green to purple and now to red which is when you know they are ripe.

I was going to pull out the trees as most of them didn't fruit at all but I think I will keep this one which seems to be a better bearer.

The new restaurant in town wanted a few bunches of white beetroot today so I took the opportunity to pull one bed to select seed parents for the spring. I usually don't do my digging and selecting until winter but I suppose it doesn't hurt to do it now.
The restaurant got the second best and the best and biggest for their age plants were replanted.
Hmmm, maybe if I do my root crop selecting now I might free up enough space to put in another bed or two of seed crop. It is a bit late but I can risk a bit of seed in case we get a mild winter.

The only other bit of news over the last couple of days is my continuing addiction to seed buying. It was too cold to get out and do much yesterday so I got on the computer and couldn't help myself - if you are interested, among my seed purchases was 'Bear necessities' kale from adaptive seeds in the US. Have a look - I bet you wouldn't be able to resist them either.

I really have to stop, I am not going to be able to afford to buy anything from now on.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New block ready to go

Ok, it is now a 'go'. I have the new block (Hmmm, what am I going to call it) and will start working on it shortly to get it ready for spring planting.
It will take a lot of work and money to get it going but I have big plans for it.

At least with a sharecropping plan in action I am not forking out lease money so I am able to spend the cash I have to improve and plant it. A share of the seed crop whe it is sold takes the place of rent.
Now I will start by buying in a couple of trucks of compost to start getting the very poor sand to a point that I can grow vegetables in it. I will spread out the compost in a 6 inch layer over as much of the land as I can, adding more to fill up the 3 acres as I can afford it. Then I will dig it in with a rotary hoe (We will have to organise getting the rotary hoe here Craig :)  and plant green manure crops in it.

I have a heap of spare broad bean and silverbeet seed so I will use that as green manure, and sprinkle it with Seasol and fertiliser until I get the sand fertile enough that I won't need to use artificial fertiliser. I then have the option of harvesting some for seed or fresh veg as I go.
A few weeks before spring I will dig it all in to the soil and that will start the process of turning the sand into good soil. The last three years have given me a lot of experience in turning sand into soil so it shouldn't take as long this time.

At least at this time of year I stall have 6 months to get the water pipes and taps in so I don't have to worry about water at this time.

 I have dug a few of my hopniss plants for tubers to sell. These were only one year plants so not yet big enough to eat. I will keep one bed over for second year bigger tubers next year.
I didn't really have much interesting to take pictures of today so I snapped off a pic of a rhubarb plant. They are looking magnificent at the moment. I will pick a heap for the market next sunday.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Autumn turning into winter

We still have another month of 'official' autumn to go but the days are getting colder now and I think today got not much over 10 c, with a bit of drizzle, so, making the excuse that it is sunday, I decided not to do much outside work today.
I was good though - I got all the paperwork that had been piling up done. Tax time is coming up fast, lol.

Yesterday I went to find out about a new patch of dirt to grow my veg for seed on. The soil is poor and very sandy but at least I am used to dealing with that, even if it takes a lot of money to improve it. The land is rented and the tenants are very eager to earn a bit more money for no extra output on their part. All they have to do is make sure their landlord is happy with them subletting those acres. They seem to think their landlord will come to the party.
Just have to wait now while they get something in writing from their landlord and look over the draft contract I left with them.

 Here is a picture of the back half of 'Back' block. It looks a bit bare with the seedlings still too small to see well in a picture like this.
I think the time to plant seeds is over now so any empty beds will stay empty now. The soil is getting too cool to germinate and grow plants well now.

My bath tubs of water chestnuts are dying down fast. It will be interesting to see how big the tubers are as the plants, although healthy, never grew to a large size, even with better care and larger root space.
I will find out in the next couple of weeks.

As we have started to get some frosts I took the advice of someone who breeds oca and picked off some flowering stems and put them in water to continue to flower and set seed and placed them in my hothouse.
It certainly looks like some of the flowers have set as they have not fallen off, and I hope I get some seed pods to ripen.

My gourd plants have died so I will pick the fruits sometime soon. There is no hurry and it doesn't hurt them to wait in the block till I can find room for them.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Survival bow and land found - maybe

Sorry I haven't kept up with my posts this last week. I was either too lazy, or it slipped my mind - I really don't have any good excuse.

Ok back to business. I was messaged by someone this morning with some land on the edge of town so I am going to have a look at it tomorrow, and if it is suitable we will negotiate an arrangement for me to grow my vegetables for seed. I really hope it works out as I haven't had any other interest.
If it works out I may even be able to get some things planted now as the soil is still warm and I won't have to wait till spring.

While I think of it - I don't think I updated on my hopniss flowers. Unfortunately the flowers died with no sign of setting pods. It was disappointing but not surprising.
My lotus finally died without setting any flowers. I will have to pull it up tomorrow and see if it produced tubers.
I love eating lotus tubers so I hope it does better next summer.

 Today I received my survival bow from Primal Gear Unlimited. It is a folding bow designed to be small and easy to carry in an emergency.

Now I just have to buy some gear - arrows, guards and stuff. Oh... more stuff to buy, woe is me.

My friends who also got these bows and I did a little practice with a few arrows they had lying around and I found that although I like the bow it will take some getting used to.
As it is all metal, it is a bit weighty and I am not sure about the metal fatigue angle, but I am sure the manufacturers research has fixed any problems there.

Its best feature is its folded size (it folds like a pocket knife, not comes apart like some other bows) and it seems to be a good item to put away in a small, handy spot.

I will update you all on my search for land in my next post.

Monday, April 20, 2015

News bites

Here is a list of my bits of random news for today:

1, We had the first 'proper' frost of the year this morning. Lucky I had covered up anything that I needed to keep going a bit longer but it finished off the pumpkins, gourds and potatoes. I have been expecting it and it did no serious damage.

2, I have been having trouble with a wallaby living in the semi abandoned garden a couple of houses down coming out at night and chomping on my veg, mostly it has a taste for beets- silverbeet and mangels. The main problem is not the chomping, but the damage to my seedling beds. A dog has footprints only a couple of inches with but you can imaging the damage to soft soil and seedlings with the wallabys 40kg footprints that are as bit as your forearm, and if they are walkhopping, the heavy tail dragging behind as well. One or two passes through a bed and all the seedlings are gone.

3, Anyway, I decided that the main reason that it comes out at night is for water (from my baths of water chestnuts) so last night I put a bucket of water on that side of the fence and rammed a post in the small hole that it makes its way into my block through. It has been eating so much that I have noticed that it is getting too fat to jump over our 5ft fences. This morning I noticed that it had tipped over the water trying to get through the hole but it couldn't so I refilled the bucked and hopefully it will stay put now.

 4, My finger limes are ripening now so I will have a few to pick over the next week or so.
These are more than just a novelty. They are tasty and I love the citrussy, caviar-looking flesh on crackers with cream cheese or ham. It also makes a great garnish on many dishes.

I picked my first Silver Edge pumpkin today. This pumpkin is grown for the large seeds, not for the miniscule amount of flesh.
These are not terribly productive, don't produce a lot of fruits for the size of the vines, but the fruits produce more seeds than the fully hulless pumpkins I grew a couple of years ago, and the size of the seeds make them not too much trouble to peel.

I only grew one vine but it produced 5 full sized fruits and a couple that were too immature to survive after last nights frost.

5, The seed company I posted about in my last post got back to me and I was surprised and happy with the prices they are willing to pay for the seeds they wanted. Many of the seeds they wanted are from veg that I already grow, I just have to grow more of them.
Now I just have to find 3-4 acres of land to either lease or sharecrop. Unfortunately most of the small paddocks on the edge of town have horses on them. I am busy asking around to try and find someone willing to let me use their land.

This is the time when I wish I could win tatts just for the amount of money need to buy a small block and not have to bother leasing as land around here is pretty cheap. I hope that the fact that I already have a sale for the crop sways someones mind and they think about the money they can make from the deal. Time will tell.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Rosella and kohlrabi

After a beautiful morning we had a few lovely showers which will be enough to keep everything damp enough that I won't have to water for a few days, especially with the cooler weather helping. I might even be able to cut the watering down to once a week until the rain comes now if I am lucky.

My rosella plants are ripening their pods now. It is strange that the smaller pods are opening well before the larger, older ones.
I picked a pocketful today and will have to pick every day I think as they open because the seeds will easily fall out onto the ground. I have noticed that many pods are starting to go mouldy on the plants with this cooler and moister weather so I might have to try and select for earlier ripening.

I was pleased at how these grew in my climate and will plant them every year now. The caylix and young leaves are tasty and although I didn't have enough this year to cook with and make into drinks (I only grew 6 plants) I will plant a lot more next year.

I decided that I just didn't have the energy to dig holes and bury the corn stalks this year so I have planted snow peas between them which will give the added bonus of me not having to put up a frame for them to grow on.
I think that as the corn is now dead that the roots will not be putting out any reed damping chemicals so the peas should grow fine.
By the time I have grown a couple of lots of peas the stems should be pretty much rotted off and will not be too much of a hassle.

Some months ago I wrote about some kohlrabi plants that I didn't get around to removing and since they flowered very poorly they kept growing and were producing small bulbs on the branches.
I left the plants in the ground just to see how they developed and now each plant has a number (3-5) large bulbs on them. I will pick them for the next market.

I am not sure if growing them this way is cost effective because of the time and need to plant them further apart but with each plant producing multiple bulbs it is something to think about.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

I'm getting old *sigh*

I am so loving this Autumn - not only has the weather been perfect, but there is still no sign of the earth mites that always decimate seedlings at this time. It is good to get out and spend the day weeding, planting and digging and enjoying it.

Yesterday I noticed that some of last years oca seedlings are flowering so I thought I might try my hand at hand pollinating as the weather is good enough at the moment to allow them to set seed, as long as the frosts hold off a bit longer.
Well I got out my tweezers as is shown in a tutorial that I looked up and grabbed a flower - and I couldn't see the tiny flower parts. I know my eyesight has been getting worse, but it was a shock to actually realise that I just can't do all the things I have always been able to do easily.

I didn't have a magnifying glass so I just rubbed a few flowers together and hoped for the best, I know that sounded a bit rude and I hope they enjoyed it, lol. I think I will have to bite the bullet and finally get the reading glasses that I have been putting off.

It is hard to have to admit that you are getting old. I visited an optometrist a year or so ago when I started getting worried and she explained why our eyes start failing as you get older but that only made it worse - you just can't escape it.

On a brighter note. Those of you who have been reading posts on this blog for a long time might remember me mentioning a weird looking zucchini that grew a couple of years ago. I collected seeds from it and one of the offspring last year looked even weirder but only had two viable seeds inside it.
Unfortunately mice ate those two seeds last season, but I still had seed from the original plant.

The offspring from those seeds this year produced a huge range of zucchini plants with varying growth patterns as well as fruits in all shapes, sizes and colours.
One of these plants is pictured here. It has wonderful, frosted silver leaves and is still producing madly where all the other plants have died or are covered in mildew.

I know that seeds from it will still be very variable next year but it is looking so good that I am going to try and select for this type of plant. It is a bush that, unlike most other bush zucchini, has not started to vine as it aged.
I am quite excited by this plant and what the seeds will bring next year. It has given me an aim, and another project. Hmmm, so many projects, so little energy and time.

I am not sure that we need another zucchini (from someone who thinks that all zucchini tastes the same) but I think it will be fun to do some serious selecting next year.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Licorice troubles and selling seed

Today I called up a small, Australian heritage seed business (Eden seeds) as they are always looking for people to grow seeds for them. I figured that if I had a business who wanted to buy any seeds I produce then it might be easier to find someone who will be willing to lease me some land.
Anyway I had a phone interview with them to find out what I knew about growing veg and saving seeds which was great, and I was happy to find that they also mentioned parent selection, the questions were not as detailed as I would ask if I was getting someone to grow seed for me, but good all the same.

They seemed very interested. I don't know if growing seed for a seed company pays well, I doubt it, but it might just get my foot in the door, both to find land to lease, and to convince a bank to lend me money if I want to buy land later. And, of course, it will give me some great experience with growing on a larger scale.

They are sending me a letter outlining the seeds they need and what they will pay and other details for growing for them. I was upfront with the fact that I already grow and sell my own seed and that is not a problem for them, I think it actually went in my favour. I also told them I would not be ready to start growing anything for them until spring if the terms were satisfactory so that gives me a few months to work out if I can actually get somewhere to grow them, assuming it all works out.

I hope I am not getting myself out of my depth here but I am at a stage that I have to take a chance even though I don't have any money. Maybe I will find someone generous enough to give the first years rent free, or maybe come up with a land sharing/sharefarming type of agreement. I don't even know where to start there.

My licorice (liquorice) plants have died down now so I dug them up to see if the roots were any good. If you had been reading this blog last year you will have read that I tried chewing on a root but I didn't find it very good so I decided to give the plants one more year before making a decision on whether to pull them out or not.

Well the first thing I noticed when digging is that the twisty roots go almost straight down instead of horizontally, which made it very difficult digging, even in my sand as they are very tough and fibrous.

Anyway, to the taste. The roots taste a bit sweet and sacchariny but there was no hint of an actual licorice taste.
These plants have gone on the waste heap so I can use the bed for something productive. That was a waste of three years.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Random musings

I was going to post last night, but everything is purring along nicely and I don't have anything interesting to report, so I nearly didn't bother tonight either.

I suppose the only thing I have been doing over the past couple of days, besides the never ending weeding, is thinking about where I am going to go from here as far as the business goes.
Over the past few months I have occasionally mentioned how I am going to concentrate on seeds more than fresh veg and it seems to be the way to go. I think I will start being a seed farm instead of a market garden but I cannot think of a good logo, hmmm
Garden Larder - rare seeds for home food growers    Hmmm, doesn't really have a memorable ring to it. I will have to work on it. I would be happy to hear other ideas.

I don't know if I can really afford it but I have started putting the word out that I would like to lease a few acres on the edge of town to consolidate my gardens, and grow the business. I will see if it will be doable if I get any offers. The main problem is that I will hardly have any income off it for the first year after doing all the beds, planting and then waiting for plants to flower and set seed. And I would need all the money I have to get it going and won't have much to pay a lease with.

More land will be harder as far as my time and effort goes but I would be able to grow more and also do some more work on some breeding projects I would like to start. Even if I had the money, or someone was generous enough to offer land with the first year rent free, I am not sure I could physically do all the work myself, and I doubt there would be enough money in it, at least for the first couple of years to interest a working partner.

More thinking to do I recon.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Chinese yam taste test

Last post I promised to taste test my Chinese yams.After reading some poor reviews on the net, well... not much of what I want to know about the taste anyway, I was pleasantly surprised at how tasty it is.

Raw, it was bland and slightly sweet but not too bad, not something I would go out of my way to eat though, but boy, did it get better when cooked.
I peeled one tuber and cut it into three. One part I ate raw, one part boiled and the last, roasted.
When boiled or roasted it turned out the taste and texture of potato but a little sweeter. Not like sweet potato but normal potato. I have to admit that I preferred it boiled but roasted was not far behind, and it did roast to a satisfying golden colour and crispness, just like 'normal' potato. It was delicious so I will be putting a lot more plants in next spring. I will have to hill the beds though as they grow deep adn are a pain to dig, even in my sand. I will wait a few more weeks then check the ones in my raised be which I made to pull apart just for this problem.

 Here is a picture of one of my beds of garlic. All the garlic beds are looking great and growing well.
If the spring doesn't heat up early like it did this last season I will have a great crop of all my varieties.
With weeds really taking off now I will have to get busy weeding them shortly. I am guessing that the weatehr is so good that I will have to do at least three weedings.

I have started filling up the raised beds in my new greenhouse ready for the slightly frost tender perennial veg. I am going to experiment with growing a couple of beds outdoors too this year as I have a good amount of spare plants now.

I am filling the beds with layers of this commercial compost, wheat straw and chicken manure. This always works well and keeps the soil friable. The only downside from using so much straw is that the soil sinks a lot as it breaks down and I have to top up the beds a couple of times a year.

This particular delivery of compost seems to be very good so I will get another load for D block before they get new stuff in. It breaks down so quickly in the sand that I have to add more to the beds constantly. On the up side, the plants are growing better than ever so it is working.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Puter troubles and Chinese yams

Sorry about the late post, my 'puter monitor decided to give up the ghost, it was pretty geriatric anyway, and of course I couldn't get another one over Easter. After my sister and her family who were visiting left this morning I popped over to Mt Gambier to buy another monitor - boy, they are more expensive than I expected.

Of course, I never get anything done when my sister and her kids are here because I just want to spend time with them, so I am grateful it was a bit cold and showery over the holidays. I went and inspected everything this afternoon and it is all great. There is still no sign of the Red-Legged Earth Mites which is great.

 I dug up a couple of young Chinese yam plants (Dioscorea opposita) from the garden and will taste one tonight. Last year these were tubers the size of my thumb. I expected them to be a bit bigger but I shouldn't expect much as they were planted late.

I also picked the first of my Kumi Kumi pumpkins which are a heritage pumpkin from New Zealand.
They can be picked young and used like zucchini or allowed to mature and used like pumpkin.

So far I have only roasted it but my mother and sister announced it as delicious and one that I must plant again. Apparantly (You can tell I didn't have any) is is a pumpkin for people who don't like pumpkin as it is sweet and nutty but with little 'traditional' pumpkin taste.

Luckily this one is a good keeper but not nearly as hard to get into as the small sugar pumpkins I was talking about on one of my posts not long ago. All I could wish to have extra is more flesh to seed ratio.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Frost scare and Love Lies Bleeding

After the second very early light frost gave me a scare this morning I am going to have to make some plans for the plants that still need time to mature. It should be at least another few weeks till frosts are due but the nights have been getting quite cold and I think there will be more early frosts.
The oca has not even thought about tuberising so I have decided to cover them with a second layer of shadecloth not only to give them a degree or two of extra protection, but in the hope that the extra darkness will encourage them to start tuberising now. I will cover the ends tomorrow when I find a few odd pieces of shadecloth.

I have left one oca bed with the usual one layer so I can see if the extra is making a difference. It will be a good experiment if nothing else.

This is a picture of my neighbours 'Love lies bleeding amaranth. I took a picture as it is quite spectacular - much better than this picture shows. It is 6 feet tall and the flower heads are heavy.

I am always being asked if I sell flower seeds as well as my vegetables and I think I will take some seed of this plant and put into packets when it is ready.
I will look around for other flowers that I can collect seed from, I am growing more flowers among my veg so that will be a start.

Now that we are half way into autumn I am very pleased with how things are going. With the cooler weather the veg seedlings are growing very well, as are the weeds, lol.
I have started bringing in the pumpkins and put in a few new beds of peas today. In another month I will put in come more beds of broad beans, I am always impatient and put them in all at once but I am trying to spread the plantings out more now.

The new greenhouses are going well and I already have a heap of potted plants in there, but I have to wait till after Easter till I get some compost to fill up the raised beds.The Arracacha and other Inca perennials are still in pots ready to transplant back into those raised beds.