Saturday, January 31, 2009

currency of the neighbourhood

So, like, the biggest hippy gives me two huge bags of santa rosa plums. Sue next door turns these into bottled plums and plum and cinnamon jam while I am away. Sue gives me 6 bottles of plums and 3 bottles of cinnamon plum jam, and a bottle of apricot jam and two bottles of elderflower cordial - one for the biggest hippy to say thank you for the plums.

Sue and the duck herder spend last monday bottling my rhubarbd rhubarb and we split the bottles.

I give Ma and Pa Duck herder some of my plum jam and Sue's apricot jam.

Yesterday I picked blackberries and make blackberry jam, and blackberry/plum/necterine jam. This morning I picked more blackberries (my picking rate is 1 kg / hour....sigh) and there are 5 more bottles of jam boiling away in the vacola. One of these will go to Sue next door, one to Eilleen from the community garden in return for the marlalade, and one for the biggest hippy in return for the plums and another bottle of apricot jam. With luck there will be one left for the Cougarnaut next week, just because he is so appreciative and if I get it together tomorrow morning before the temperature hits 30 degrees, perhaps a few more spares for the pantry and a bottle for the Northern Pickle.

There are no beginings or ends to the threads of these transactions. It is a cycle of gifting and reciprocity for no other reason than the love of sharing fresh produce and wonderfull food. Who knows how many times some of these old jars have changes hands.

Fresh produce and preserves - the currency of my community. The threads that weft and weave my community together. Amen.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Avocado Shanty is BACK

I haven't quite let go off the possibility/desire/interest/obsession with growing avocados in ONC. Regular viewers may recall the previous aborted attempts a growing an avocado hedge in what is now the orchard. Neighbours lovingly described my elaborate polystyrene sheeting and shade cloth frost protection and shade arrangements as "looking like a shanty town" which is where the whole avocado shanty thing came from. Anyhoo, here we go again with a pared down version.

Avocados do not like wet feet. The ONC has an abundance of nice thick wet clay subsoil and while most of my efforts were focused on stopping my babies from drying out, it only took an unusually wet couple of days in winter to invite a nice rooty fungus and thus avocado disaster.

So, this next attempt involves growing my beloved avocado in a large half wine barrel. This my friends will hopefully achieve a number of benefits. Firstly, Miss Bacon's roots are well out of the clay, secondly, the extra height should give me perhaps another one or two degrees warmth in winter, thirdly, I can fill the wine barrel with loads of excellent soil, fourthly, by drilling lots of holes in the bottom of the barrel, there is no chance of water logging and once (if) she gets big, her roots can get down into the soil as well.

Other site design elements include a strategic location along site the water tanks which should further insulate my darling from the cold and make daily watering in summer a breeze. I haven't completely ruled out the possibility of using my chick brooder heat lamp overnight in winter.........

So far so good. These photos are from when she first went in and since then, she had put on loads of growth including lots of all important side shoots. You see, avocados are a bit special in that their trunks photosynthesis which makes them susceptible to direct sunlight and frost until they grow up a bit and bush out. This explains the hessian cover to protect her leaves and stem from the sun.

Fingers crossed. Will keep you posted.

For the most EXCELLENT Gardening Australia article on growing avocados including the avocados in a pot idea, see here.

For avocado trees, you might like to try sunraysia nursery - I have had great service from these friendly folks. They also have an excellent range of kiwi vines.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Bringing in the Harvest

Where has the duck herder been? Off to the south coast for a whole week of meditation and yoga and swimming in the ocean. Can you imagine? What bliss and what a lovely way to start the year.

Mr Duck Herder did a "highly commended" job looking after the garden while I was away. You know, I think he is getting better at being a tenderer of the fruits and vines and fields and feathered ones. Many thanks my darling.

My neighbour and I have been busy bottling plums (from the biggest hippy) and rhubarb and making jam. I have rows and rows of burgundy and green bottles lining the pantry.

We are eating nashis (hmmmmm crunch) and nectarines (aaaaah slurp). Look at THESE little beauties.

Have you ever seen such beautiful colours? I think this is a goldmine or something similar - yellow, fragrant cling stone.

And my pride and joy - All this fruit from my little two years in the ground seedling. This one is a white fleshed free stone. Some folks don't think nectarines make very pretty trees but I disagree. I love their long elegant leaves.

And here are the tomatoes. Lots of green. Not a lot of red yet! And a lovely view across to Mt Stromlo.

And here is another view of my plot at the community garden.

Started digging up the taties today.

Do you know what I love? I love my garden.

Friday, January 9, 2009

cucurbits and calcium

oh, so like remember when I whinged that the slaters were eating all my zucchini and cucumber and pumpkin seedlings? Well, after a work trip to Townsville to spend some time with a very clever person who knows more about soil biology and fungi and yeasts and little tiny fellas than anyone rightly should, I found a SOLUTION

Apparently my problem is a lack of CALCIUM in the soil. My little seedlings were all super sweet and delicious to bitie things. But worst of all, the lack of calcium was letting a fungus attack the seedlings and the slaters were eating the fungus. Anyway, the solution has been a top dressing of dolomite with the new seedlings and voila, I picked our first cucumber today and the zucs are not far behind.

The moral to the story is slaters are not eating healthy seedlings, their job is to help with decomposition. The lovely thing is that the slaters are still there, zillions of them under the mulch, but they are ignoring my little seedlings.

So slaters are in, but there is still no room in my heart for earwigs. Although I must admit, I havnt had any problems with them this year - quite a few are floating disgustingly between the oil and water levels in my gruesome earwig traps in the glass house - but the living are leaving my babies alone and for that I am truly grateful.

So, note to self: curcurbits need calcium - especially to get them past the 2 leaf stage.

lacuna sabbath

In the interests of starting the year off the way I intend to keep it, today was decreed a lacuna sabbath day of worship. As such, all independent consultants hid their mobiles under their desks in the bottoms of their bags and headed outside into the world of green.

We have superb fairy wrens nesting in the garden. Mr Fairy Wren rouses on me whenever I walk up to the duck house. Usually we are told off each year with the chicka chicka chicka of the willy wag tails but this year the rousing emanates from the brilliant blue of Mr Fairy Wren. I will try and get a photo of him but if you are interested, they look like this.

In other news, I pulled up the last of the first lot of onions. They are AMAZING. Is it rude for an onion to weigh 330gms? Imagine - three onions to the kilo! Nothing tastes so good as caramelised red onions especially THESE sweet sweet onions.

This year I grew Red Shines, Hunter River Browns and Sweet Reds. I have another patch of gladalans in - but they are just babies and it remains to be seen if they bulb up before winter.

Big - but not as big as a little tubby Poppet tummy.

Other events of the day include fixing a leaking water pipe, collecting a trailer load of horse poop and sawdust from the stables up the road and cycling over to Ma and Pa Duck Herder because I heard Mama was baking orange rock cakes I mean for a visit.

Thats what the lacuna sabbath is ALL about.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Whats this? Is it a bottle of Cornwall's vinegar? oh nooooooooooooooooo!

Its a delicious bottle of home made elder flower cordial freshly made and gifted from Sue next door.
What a lucky duck herder I am!
I never realised how pretty those vinegar bottles were....

Saturday, January 3, 2009

resolutions and a roll call

Small but significant new year developments include a resolution to let go of desperately yearning for a farm and instead to totally surrender to being here. Anyhoo, the princess castle and surrounds pretty much looks and feels like a farm already - minus the fencing maintenance. After having a big long hard look at myself, I realised that the things I associate with living on a farm are deep peace, deep quiet, stillness, calm and solitude. Well, obviously these are things I can have RIGHT now. I can have a farm on the INSIDE and take it with me everywhere. And as such, 2009 will be the year of the farm on the inside. And its cheaper too.

And anyway, my kiwi vines are fruiting. I can't leave now.

Now, a quick look at who's who in the duck herder zoo.

This is "Big Fella" the $50 chicken. He is supposed to be a faverolle cockerel, but who knows. He has the wrong number of toes. Regular viewers will remember he was the only one of 12 faverolle eggs posted from far off Proserpine at great expense to hatch. He is called Big Fella because he hatched out with about 20 pekins and he TOWERED over them. I think he is going to be a boy, but he doesn't seem to be colouring up very well yet - too much black, not much red....... but he is quiet and lovely and is BFF with............

Winky. Winky is a pure bred pekin hen. Now unlike the faverolles, the pekin eggs hatched out wonderfully - 75% which adds further evidence to my theory that air travel does not do fertile eggs any good at all. One of Winky's eyes was stuck closed after she hatched, which explains the name. Nothing that a deft touch with a wet cotton bud couldnt fix. She is all good now.

Here is a shot of Miss Quentin and Annie Clare. Winky and Big Fella are hiding on the left.

And here is Camilla. The only chicken on the block who is actually laying. Everyone else is either too old, too fluffy or too young.

For example, dear old Charlotte here, is WAY too old to lay eggs anymore, but she has very important jobs like pooping in the garden and marching inside to steal the cat food and entertaining our guests by jumping up on the outdoor table to see what is for lunch. Charlotte loves BBQs.

Well, thats it for chooks. Perhaps ducks next?

Friday, January 2, 2009

news on the fruit front

Yesterday we glimpsed our first leg less higher order predator in the garden - Miss Quentin the silly white fluffy chicken hopped onto a rock and alerted us in no uncertain terms that there was something amiss. On further investigation, a brown snake slithered quickly away from the big girls house. After the mice I suspect. I will ask Poppet to step up her game. I think I would prefer to have Poppet in the garden after the mice that a resident snake.

Here are some of the nashis on Miss Kosui. They are still fairly small, but getting there. Poor Hosui and Kosui are bowed down with their luscious fruit!

And here is the new Apricot - a Morepark Early. Welcome to the family Miss Morepark

I am trying something new -duo plantngs. Here is a peachcot and an Angel (flat) peach.

And here is my tara fig / grape kiwi / kiwi berry call it what you will actinidia arguta. In case you are not familiar with them - they are the little hairless grape sized kiwi fruit you see in little square plastic punnets at the supermarket (for those of you who still go there!). They are sweeter than normal kiwi fruit. This variety "issai" is actually self fertile although depending on when it flowers, I am sure it will benefit from Mr Kiwi's presence. You can use a normal kiwi male to fertilise argutas.

And here is the real thing! As mentioned elsewhere, these are of the "hayward" variety. It is hard to believe how many kiwi fruit are on these two vines. I stopped counting after 200.

And finally, this is the first year that BOTH the feijoa trees have flowered - so it will be interesting to see if we get any fruit this year.