Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Mid-Autumn Update

It seems a long time since I've posted, reading that last update. I've been writing some guest posts about Living Simply over at Rhonda's Down To Earth. I've written three of five posts for April, they're submitted every Tuesday.

I've been doing a bit of a grocery challenge this month, trying to cut our food bills down without compromising on the quality and variety of food that we eat. On my main blog I share weekly menu plans and the odd recipe. I get tons of ideas from Simple Savings and other people's menu plans found through the Organising Junkie site. Doing this challenge is showing me how important the garden is and how I need to increase its yield to a consistent level.

Autumn is really creeping into the garden now. The pumpkin vines are slowing down, but there are still a lot to pick yet. We've had plenty of nice big Jap pumpkins from my vine, and barrow-loads of very strange pumpkins from Abby's vine (which is strange itself with bizarre stem and leaf formations happening). I gave her several types of seeds to plant one day, and we believe that her small pumpkins are all cross-pollinated. The seeds I gave her were Jap, Jack-Be-Little and Butternut.

The asparagus is looking tired, and I'm trying to decide whether to cut it back or not. I have some asparagus and rhubarb which need to be in different spots, so will need to look up when the best time is to dig up the crowns. The cucumbers and greens from the Permaculture Seed Mix are doing well. We're still getting winged beans, the various greens (perennial types), the very last of the bush beans, the odd eggplant and capsicum... I see the latter 2 are flowering again, so should be back in production soon. The lettuce are nearly ready some of the tomatoes in pots are setting fruit. I'm quickly discovering that the perennial plants are my friends. When the weather or bad timing mean we have a break in greens to harvest, for example, having the kang kong, brazilian spinach, ceylon spinach and miscellaneous unidentified greens is a relief (they're only unidentified by me, other people know what they are called!)

I put four more tomato plants into pots recently, and a pepino cutting. I planted corn, bean and pea seeds and they're just beginning to germinate. I am still battling mice and so have them inside a pet mouse cage, up on a stool in the greenhouse! I have other punnets tucked into the hanging baskets with the strawberries and Warrigal greens. Fingers crossed! In the styrofoam boxes I'm raising seeds in, none of the corn germinated (stolen by mice?) but all of the cabbage and carrots are growing. The radish seeds I sprinkled amongst the lettuce and silverbeet in the long garden bed are doing well - so fast! I planted Greenpatch's Winter Permaculture Seed Mix on a newly manured-and-mulched bed and there are seedlings everywhere. I'm yet to identify many of them though, which is an exciting challenge.

My garden is getting to the stage where I have strawberry runners, corriander, ginger etc to share with other gardeners! I just love working with others, either together on a project or sharing seedlings, seeds, cuttings etc.

I still don't know what to do about the sweet potato. I might tidy it up a bit on the weekend and see if there's any sign of tubers amongst the jungle. The purple flowers are pretty, and I wonder if they mean that it's nearly harvest time?

I finally emptied the tubes of the dozens of tree seeds I planted a couple of months back and in those which did nothing the seeds were gone! Mice again? I have jakfruit, albizzia and icecream bean seedlings to further raise - these were successful. I also got some pigeon pea trees which I planted out already. I really wanted to grow a lot of my trees for planting next wet season to save some money, but so much to learn there still. I have a couple of mango seedlings from the compost, and will plant them out next Spring, even though they probably won't fruit here I'm told. Oh, well, plenty of room for some nice big trees anyway!

Our chickens are doing well. Buttercup has been sitting on eggs. One hatched two days ago but the chick died. We're hoping the other two hatch today, as they're 'due'. Immi saw a great doco on SBS last night and now she's keen to increase our flock, get hold of an incubator and be more like Madeleine on the Inside Australia. Two more of our 'hens' started crowing in the past couple of weeks, so looks like I need to plan them into the menu sometime soon...

We ran a lot of water lines on the weekends to feed the milking bails, small paddock at the front of the block, new banana plantation and second greenhouse (to be). It was hard work!

Of the natives I planted earlier in the year, I've only lost a handful or so altogether. The chickens scratched up a couple - despite the little tree guards we manufactured for each one. And the combination of very wet weeks and transplant shock killed a few more. I also lost a few passionfruit vines to those scratching chickens, which was quite annoying. I like having them free-range but it does mean that I need to protect my plants.

We transplanted ALL of our banana trees in the past couple of weeks. Where they were, they leaned onto the milking bales and because the soil had built up around them, mud and mulch washed into the bails when it rained. So we've moved the lot across the house paddock and we're hoping some suckers survive the shock and that they'll do well over there.

I fed all of the fruit trees down in Stage One of the orchard a couple of weeks ago now, but I need to walk up the hill and feed those in Stage Two. I made up a manure/comfrey/seasol/minerals stinky liquid for these ones, but up the hill I'll need to use dynamic lifter because I can't cart all the liquid that far without a tap to dilute it etc.

We've had a couple of lemons of our baby tree, and we have a few lemonade ripening now. I left up to 4 fruit on the young trees because I'm impatient! I think I was meant to remove them all this first year in the ground. Thankfully we have the wild fruit - yellow guavas this past month. We eat them fresh and I also made about 6L of guava jelly for the pantry. It's lovely - sweet and tangy.

We're still getting a LOT of macadamias. One tree makes twin nuts - inside the green husk are two hemispheres intact in shell. They're really cute and the children rush to collect these special nuts (there are nuts inside too!)

One fine day I'll take more photos. I promise!

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