Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tea Cosys #5 and #6

Behold the new season duck herder tea cosies. These are for medium sized teapots - and can you believe with all the teapots in abundance here, there are no medium ones for photo purposes?

Tea cosy number 5 (above) - for one of my teapots at work.
Tea cosy number 6 (below) - for my friend Robin. I surreptitiously measured up her naked teapot during lunch the other day. (do you think she will like it?)

Ok, so I got a little carried away with the flowers.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

onions for all seasons

We have run out of onions. Well, there are some smallish gladalans left - but only a few. The leeks are almost ready to start eating, but well, I liked having bunches of onions hanging from the roof in the shed for the last 6 months.

Late last winter I purchased hunter river brown, sweet red and red shine seedlings from a local farmer at the farmers markets. (Mr Duck Herder and I love red onions the best) This year I have decided to try and grow my own "sets" from seed. But to make them last the whole year, I think I am going to have to get cleverer about variety selection and try and grow two successive plantings.

Things I have learned about onions over the past week:

There are short, medium and long day length onions. The day length lets you know how many hours of daylight the onions need to trigger the big bum response. So, all things being equal, if you planted short, medium and long varieties in autumn/winter, the short ones would mature first, then the mediums then the long.

Short, medium and long day length mostly, but not necessarily corresponds to early, mid and late season. These relate more to planting time than day length (I think). ie autumn, early winter, late winter respectively.

The bestest keeping onion is the Pukekohe Long Keeper. In ideal conditions they can keep for up to 9 months. There is a commercially available Australian version of the Pukekohe Long Keeper called Vecon Regular Creamgold.

If I grow short, medium and long day length onions early in the season, we can start munching out on the shorts by perhaps November, while the others mature. Then, in late spring or early summer I could plant another short day length variety, ready to be transplanted into the garden by January or February to mature before the day length gets too short.

If the long day length varieties are super good keepers (like PLKs) I could store them under the house while we work our way through the shortest keepers through to the longest. The other idea floating around my head is to get an old fridge or freezer and put it in the shed set on around 5 or 6 degrees to keep all the other veggies in.

So far (before I worked out this fiendish plan) I have sown Gladalans (short), Red Brunswicks (long, good keeper), Ailsa Craigs (brown, huge, long day length, good keeper) and Red Wethersfields (long day length, eat first, poor keeper).

Today, I discovered Cornucopia seeds - and I have ordered more Ailsa Craigs and some Pukekohe Long Keepers. I am going to have way too many onion seedlings. Perhaps I can sell the extras at "sets" wrapped in newspaper and ready for folks to plant in spring. All up I have spent $15 on onion seeds. I will need to decide which "short" season variety to plant in December so add another $3. If the plan works, I reckon that's OK for a year supply.

Today I cleaned up where the tomatoes were, added some gypsum, chook poo and mulch. All ready for onions in early spring.

Friday, May 15, 2009

new skills

I am learning new things. This autumn is going to be about learning how to graft. I have splurged on new books.

The other day, while having lunch with my friend Robin, (you know, with the amazing old apple tree) we had the most luscious quinces for desert. Serendipitously the tree from which said quinces came from, is on her "to prune" list, so I have organised to get the prunings and will try and strike them, because well, because I can! It is a smyrna quince. yay.

Today Lesley and I were walking around my backyard looking at the fruit trees and well, Lesley is a REAL horticulturalist and she showed me the different between leaf buds and fruiting buds on the nectarine and peach trees. Even now in May, she pointed out how the little triple buds are flower buds, and the single or double ones are for leaves. And well, obviously for me to learn this, there much have been some triple buds on my new little trees. HEAPS of them. How clever. How MARVELOUS!

Also, I have three new holes waiting waiting for some new fruit trees. I have three pear trees coming, which will be planted all together in the one hole, and an angelina plum, and a santa rosa plum, and another apricot coming. Yes, I know, I am missing a hole. Not sure where the apriot is going to go. But I will worry about that later.

well, thats all for now.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Everything is NEW

Technically the first of our autumn veggies ready to start eating. That OK, I was sick of eggplants, capsicums, zucs and tomatos anyway!

So beautiful! I really only put these seedlings in a few weeks ago and already the beetroots are big enough to start picking.

Newly planted English Spinach seedlings. Note the toilet roll seed raising tubes. They work so well.

Newly separated and planted leek seedlings - bit droopy. I grow my leeks by sowing very densely in one small place. Then, when they are between 2 - 15mm wide, I dig them up with a fork, separate them and plant them deeply. Leeks are so forgiving and generous and with a little bit of planning, easy to have available all year round.

More newly planted English Spinach and lettuce sheltering this side of the corn.


Meet Esmond. "handsome protector". He is AGGRESSIVE! He hisses at me if I get too close. Shows character I think. (hope) I have him separated atm. Amelia isn't much interested in him just yet. Mind you, she yelled a LOT less today knowing he was in the yard.

And just one more new experience - I had my first bee sting yesterday. RIGHT ON THE CHEEK! Am happy to report I am not allergic to bees. Poor little thing - we were having one last look in the hive and for some reason she came up out of the hive and flew up SPLAT into my face. I don't think she was attacking me - and no one else got upset. I think I was just too close and standing too far over the hive.

Anyhoo, I scraped the stinger out and when we had finished, wandered across the road and picked some plantain leaves to squish and put in it. Have done this a few times again today, and am happy to report my little sting just looks like a little pimple (phew!). Really, I swell up more from mosquito bites which is happy news indeed if I am to continue being a herder of the bees.

And the GREAT news is that Queen Atalia and her daughters fill SIX FRAMES which is officially enough to get her colony through the winter. I will have to feed them though - they don't have a great deal of capped honey - some but not heaps. It is not my preference - hopefully if they survive then next year I will make sure they have a full super of honey going into winter. I feel very happy they she has done so well and that there are so many now.