Friday, December 9, 2011

More from that gorgeous girl at Itty Bitty

If Heidi lived near me, I think we would be friends. Well, I would stalk her and bring her home grown presents and flowers and make her cakes and cups of tea. I love this gal. You can see more of Heidi here.

Oh Blessed JOY

OK folks. This is the thing. I am frantically packing for New Caledonia. I leave at sparrow's fart tomorrow. Before you get all jealous, it is a WORK trip. I will be WORKING.

I am ALWAYS %#&*ing working it seems. Seems like I have been on the road for WEEKS. 

Anyhoo, I need to take some gear to wear on the landfill, (because that's how we roll) which means I have a bit too much luggage for carry on......So I need to take a larger suitcase.....which means it has lots of empty space, I mean, everything is just swiming around in there.

And then I realised

I can take my pillow.

My very own pillow.

Fucking bliss man.

Yes, I know. It is the little things.


Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Wolf Peach Wednesday

OK, so did Mr Duck get tomatoes for his birthday, well yes he did. Actually we have been eating them all week - just a couple each day......and three this morning. Happy Birthday my Beloved Duck.

Other things are going well too. I am loving the new raised garden beans are not being eaten by ANYTHING this year.

The basil is happy happy.

Mr Apollo is BIG but still green. He has some friends now.

And here we have a WALL of Wolf Peaches.

And here is a lovely capsicum. Loving the greenhouse.

Here is another happy raised garden bed shot. We are having salads for lunch every day. Yum Yum.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

little things

My daily affairs are quite ordinary;
but I'm in total harmony with them.
I don't hold on to anything, don't reject anything;
nowhere an obstacle or conflict.
Who cares about wealth and honor?
Even the poorest thing shines.
My miraculous power and spiritual activity:
drawing water and carrying wood.

Layman P'ang

Everything is pretty mellow here at duck central. Things are very quiet and still on the inside. The weather is just starting to heat up. The kiwi vines and other trees shelter and shade our house so we are dark and cool inside. Bruce the universe thinks I need to do a heap of traveling before Christmas. Armidale, Townsville, Noumea, Geelong and a conference. 

Queen Malina on the front deck is strong and amazing. The smell of ripening honey fills our house every evening.There will be honey for Christmas I think.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Mr Apollo progress report

 Mr Apollo continues to get bigger. He is looking mighty fine I reckon. Last year I managed to get our first ripe tomato in time for Mr Duck's birthday on the 23rd of November.......I think that was a "swift". Anyhoo, things are tracking well for another first tomato birthday pressie.

Closely following are the cherry tomatoes.

 They are trying to make a break for it out the top of the greenhouse. You can see the all important automatic vent. If you are thinking of making a greenhouse purchase, I reckon these are an absolute must and well worth the extra expense.....the little piston is fill of some sort of oil that as it heats up, starts expanding and this forces the vent open. If the temperature drops the vent closes. It is magic. It also provides a nice place for bees and other pollinators to get in and out of the greenhouse. And this is good news for tomatoes which need some bee friend help.

 And here in the autopots are some other bits and pieces. I am really happy how these are going. The plants are thick and strong. I think I have finally cracked the whole greenhouse tomato thing.......(she said hopefully)

In other news, I am using the same VRM XLR8 products on my curcubit seedlings...... using a deep mulch system at the community garden means there are LOTS of slaters and things just itching to munch up anything that is a bit weak or susceptible to fungal hopefully the XLR8 Ca will help to toughen them up a little......They look healthy, and seem to cope with direct sun and wind a lot better than other seedlings from past years so I am REALLY HAPPY. I think I might just need to wait until they each have 2 true leaves before putting them out......most have 1, so perhaps just another week or so........what do other folks do?

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

More on Micronutrients

Following on from my last post, I thought some of the other tomato obsessed folks out there might be interested in this nice link:

Colour pictures of mineral deficiencies in tomatoes

Now I truly rooly believe that healthy soil grows beautiful, healthy, perfect plants and fruits and veggies. Organic does NOT mean blemished and mottled - it may mean irregular and oddly shaped but not unhealthy looking. To me organic means BOLD and OUTRAGEOUS and HEALTHY and STRONG, and BUXOM. Now you can hide health problems with chemicals at least superficially, but the thing I love about organic veggies is that they never lie about the soil they come from. Its the same for caterpillars and other bugs.....if they are munching on your plants...then there is something not quite right with your soil health or your plant health....something is making those plants weak and susceptible to buggies whose sole job is to dismantle diseased or weak plants........unless your plant predator is a duck...they are very discerning and only eat the best, most healthy things........that's for sure.

I realised some time ago that rather than a veggie grower, I am a soil nurturer.....and the rest takes care of its self. My job is to love and nurture and coddle the soil.....and the plants I grow are the ultimate litmus test of what sort of job I am doing.......

Anyhoo, roominations over......

It is a bit early, but I pulled up a garlic just to see how things are progressing....these fellas have another 3 or 4 weeks left to get a bit bigger. Some of them are just starting to scape. I think they are going to be OK.

And here is some oregano drying in the dryer...well, my friend Eileen's dryer. 

Happy tomatoing everybody.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tomato Mahal 2011

Well, tomatoes, eggplants and capsicums are IN and have survived two nights and a very cold below 4 degree night last night. Behold the Tomato Mahal 2011.  Yes I know, every year there is a new structure. But as we also know, tomatoes are VERY SERIOUS BUSINESS around here. So why the tunnel? Well, the community garden is just on the edge of a frost hollow. So, night time temperatures are always a couple of degrees cooler and that my friends means there is always a risk of frost.......AND, since the bush fires, the garden is exposed to the PARCHING ONCian westerly / north westerly winds. So the tunnels protect  my little babies from the frost and the wind.

I am particularly happy with the seedlings this year. The earlier ones look a bit longer (taller?) than one might like, but that is OK with marties because you can plant them very deep and they will shoot roots from the sides. I think there was a light issue while they were upstairs in the mezzanine level. I have been experimenting with a biological product from VRM the company I do some work for. I LOVE these guys. I LOVE learning about soil biology. It does my head in but I LOVE it. Anyway the product I have been using is called XLR8 Ca (link will download brochure) and it is especially designed to help make calcium available to plants. Which means they are tougher and hardier and stronger and less sappy and less irresistible to the 44578902987 insects pests and diseases that like to pounce on weak seedlings.

And lets face it, pretty much anything bad that happens to tomatoes (blossom end rot, fungus, wilt etc) happens because of problems with calcium deficiency or uptake issues. Well, Calcium and other micro-nutrient issues like Boron. Oh, and except for the strange affliction that suddenly comes upon one's tomato, pumpkin and eggplant seedlings especially when they are outside in the sun "hardening up" for which I think the technical term is "duckus proximinatus". Yep, that is BAD. But only seems to affect the plants on the edge of the benches.......

Now they are all in, I will start using VRMs  XLR8 P for phosphorous uptake, and possibly the nitrogen one as well, to help boost flowering and fruiting.

This poppy thought you might like to admire her........Poppies self sew down at the community garden. We have the most amazing colours. They pop up in the weirdest places but they are lovely. You just have to remember not to weed them all out when they are little.

And here are some vista bella apples. These are a very early variety.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011


I love everything about this gal!

You can read more about Itty Bitty adventures here. 

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Sweet joys of working at home

This is my office. Here is Ziva. She likes the warmth from my desk lamp. I had to give her my felted laptop cover to sleep on. Previously she insisted on sleeping on my mouse mat....which made life a bit difficult.

Once we get over the daily cable chewing and mouse hand pouncing, things settle down and we get on with it.

The weather has turned a little wet and cool. But it is cosy in here. Over my desk I can see the ducks preening themselves in the rain on the lawn.  The seedlings that were on the deck are safely hanging out on the dining room table. The others are squished back into the glass house. Standing room only in there. And no room for humans.

Well, I had better stop procrastinating and finish this report. Perhaps after a pot of tea......

Monday, October 24, 2011

Bragging Rights

Ok, I am trying not to be too smug here.....but here is the first tomato at duck herder central ripening on the vine. 

 Yup. In the glass house we have an apollo and a cherry tomato growing in large pots, sitting in a tray of water so they don't dry out. Being coddled and loved and fertilized and covered and double covered and well, here we are.

On the other side of the glass house we have tomatos slowly replacing auto pots of winter salad greens. The Auto pot system is great - only kind of hydroponics because you can grow the plants in soil rather than a non soil medium.

Meanwhile, the main tomato, eggplant and capsicum seedlings are hardening up outside.

Today is very windy - so they are being extra hardened up!

Just one more shot - of my lovely capsicum seedlings - these are "cherry time" - a small red cap. Everything looks very healthy. Growing veggies from seed is very rewarding. It also teaches you a LOT about soil and plant nutrition and soil biology and balance and health. It is all love.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Bee Keeping for Complete Idiots

OK, so, today was/is lovely. Was because I have mucked around all morning, and most of the afternoon, and now I MUST chain myself to the 'puter and do some work....because I have a report due for a client this week, and because I won't get paid if I don't deliver!

SO naturally it is time to blog......

I thought more about the crazy comb, and decided on two things......

1) to minimise the chance of crazy comb happening in these new boxes I just added to both hives
2) to see if it is too late to salvage that box of crazy comb before it gets full of honey
OK, so, strategy 1: I did a thing called pyramiding...which involves pulling out one or two nicely built combs from the box below the one you are adding, and placing these in the centre of the new box which gives the girls something to work from when they draw out the rest of the frames......

Then, on the box below, move the frames all inwards to fill the space, and add empty frames to the outside to fill the gap.  Clear as mud.

Queen Malina on the Front Deck has plenty of lovely straight frames...... so I took an extra one for Queen Aprilia of the Crazy Comb.

Now both lots of bees have new boxes with at least 1 very straight well built comb so that they will hopefully build out all the remaining frames in the same way.

Which leaves the crazy comb box......the girls have not only half filled this box with random cross frame combs.... they are filling these up with honey as we speak. So, this box is already half full of un capped I am leaving it on.......and will deal with it later......Because if I trash it now, they won't have anywhere to store the honey, because there is no spare comb until they build it..... see my problem?

Sheesh. Some of you may realise that I do not seem to use conventional beekeeping methods. And you would be correct. I let the bees make their own comb - what ever size they like. I do not force them to use commercial, chemical filled foundation.......I do not mind if they need to spend extra energy and time building their own combs because I think they like it. I have a secret theory that this time of year especially, bees like to build comb....and if they don't have room to do this, then they are perhaps more likely to swarm. I do not know this for a fact. And, I do not particularly need or want to prevent the girls from swarming - I don't mind a bit. And it is just a theory.

Anyway, I model my bee herding methods on these folks here:
Yes, I am a backwards beekeeper! Who are we?

We're a group of organic, treatment-free beekeepers in Los Angeles, with branches now forming in other cities.

We're "Backwards" because we rely on observation and natural practices to keep our bees thriving rather than pesticides, chemicals, or treatments of any kind.

There is a really cool book you can buy which I think it s very handy resource. It is called Bee Keeping for Complete Idiots.

For any Oncian Urban Homesteaders - I have a spare copy if you would like to borrow it.

Anyway, this is my third year of bee herding....(or is it my fourth?) . So I am still a beginner - although I guess you always are.......and I love it.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Bee Crazy

OK so it wasn't quite the weather for it, but I snuck a look in both the bee hives today and popped another box on each. Both colonies have come through winter very strongly. What different operations those girls have going. Queen Malina on the Front Deck has used up all the honey I left her - I am glad I left that extra box of honey on for winter. It is all cleaned out and hopefully ready for a bit of a spring nectar flow. There are a few gum trees coming into flower - some iron barks and a couple of fingers crossed we will get some more of the sweet stuff soon. her hive is mostly well organized with neat combs that follow the frames making having a look see and harvesting a breeze.

So now to Queen Aprilia - what a MESS. I left them some stickies from Queen Malina's hive in autumn....which they have cleaned up....and they are way ahead starting to build lots of lovely new comb already this season .....but they are building it across the frames - CRAZY comb! The bees don't give a shit, but it does make it more exciting to harvest as it is impossible to pull out combs individually without making a huge mess..... hee hee. I like their anarchic style!

 Here is Queen Aprilia's hive with the lid off - the girls are building in the lid cavity....AGAIN.

And here is the top box with the hive mat taken off - you can see how the combs are being build across the frames..... I need to think about how I deal with this - whether I take this box away, clean it out and start again......or leave them to make a big heaving mess......

Happy swarm season!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Nashi Rompy Pompy

 We grow two types of Nashi- Hosui and Kosui. They are BEAUTIFUL. For the last 2 years, Hosui has been a bit sickly, and last year, I bought a replacement Hosui which was lucky because old Hosui finally succumbed.

 Anyway, new Hosui wintered well and has 7 flowers, which is good because Kosui needs Hosui for pollination, and visa vesra.

So I was a little worried when Hosui flowered a whole 5 days before Kosui. This is normal. But when we are only talking about 7 flowers....well, the odds of good pollination are a little longer.

Here is Kosui. She is flowering beautifully. The bees are working her very enthusiastically, but I have yet to see a bee on poor little Kosui.

Meanwhile Kosui's 7 little flowers become older and more bedraggled and as far as I can see, bee less.

Fingers crossed there was a little bit of Hosui / Kosui rompy pompy because I would be sad and sad and sad if there was a year without nashi.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Duck on the Waydeeow

OK, so moving on from the whole Chicken Massacre Debacle, things took a more upbeat turn today. I got to play on the waydeeow. You can listen to our little Bush Telegraph biddy bit here

(ok, so that link isnt working very well - it is stopping before the you could try the 11:40 interview from today's Bush Tellie)

AND, if you are interested, you can watch the roll out of City to Soil in Armidale HERE!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

All gone

OK, So I have been away all week for work. Mr Duck gets 10/10 for looking after the tomato seedlings and 1/10 for looking after the chooks.

My poor darlings. Their cage door wasn't locked one night and a fox got them all. Except the big fella. Who is is deep shock.......propped up on pillows being fed through a syringe.....

Poor Winky
Poor Camila
Poor Victoria
Poor Paris
Poor Dipsy

and poor Big Fella.

(heehee, I suspect that big fat rotund faverolle was too heavy for the fox! Score one for the fat arsed big bottomed girls!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Mt Mountains, My ONC

So like, this is for Marla - Marla, this is the Jerrabomberra  Wetlands. (Marla gets such an Oklahomian kick out of the word "Jerrabomberra") What is that white stuff? Well, that be FROST. So it was kinda like -2 the morning my big sister and I decided to take our Dad hot air ballooning!

And here are my mountains. That's Mount Painter in the fore ground, Mt Stromlo in the mid ground, and MY MOUNTAINS in the back ground.  

And this is us, in the balloon! It was joyous. Marvelous.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Ruth Stout is my SUPERHERO

I have an old (1981) gardening book - it is called "Indolent Kitchen Gardening" by Libby Smith. It is all about continual deep mulching. I especially love it because it was written right here for the ONC. How cool is that? 

If you ever see this book in a second hand book shop - BUY IT. And if you are somehow connected to the Australian University Press, then get off your asses and do a reprint. I am just saying.

Anyway, I have a new gardening super hero role model guru goddess. Her name is Ruth Stout. She was born in 1884 I think. She is actually credited in the Indolent Kitchen Gardening book.  I love both of them, but Ruth more, because she was first, and the best, and the most righteous, and because they both managed to get the word "Indolent" into their book titles. I want to be just like Ruth Stout when I am still gardening at 98.

The book of Ruth's I have is called "Gardening Without Work - for the Aging, the Busy and the Indolent". Because I am all three, I believe this book was written just for me. But perhaps it has been written for you too.

Anyway, last week I took possession of 10 bales of lucerne hay and went crazy.  I am going to devote myself to her method down at the community garden for ever more. Amen.

There is a little documentary about Ruth - in two parts. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Things are happening!

 Firstly, WELCOME Angel Peach flowers. Welcome.

And it is not just the Angel peach - everyone is getting into the act. Here we have the Duck Central orchard - well, part of it anyway. Like I always say, if you want a food forest, you don't need a lot of space, just a lot of trees! Just out of shot is a nectarine, three pears, then two flat peaches, then a peachcot, then another Angel peach, then an apricot, and then Mr Bacon.


So how IS Mr Bacon going? Well, lets just say that -8 frost was a little traumatic for him, but he is going to be OK! 

And look - we have wolf peach lift off. Ever since I found out that lycopersicum meant "wolf peach", I love them even more. Actually those front trays are eggplants....but anyway, this year I am growing:

  • Marzano
  • Black Russian
  • Black Krim
  • Wapsipicon Peach

  •  Siberian
  • Roma

Plus a few others from the Burkes Backyard winter tomato packet.

On the eggplant scence we have prosperosa and lunga - both from the Italian Gardener.
And in the capsicum department we have little topepo and  cherry time. These are both small, red, sweet ones that only get to about 5 cm.....which might work better in our short summer.

Down at the community garden I have something special - this is an elephant garlic that was given to me by my gardening buddy Anthony. It came from his nanna - Elizabeth Tibbet. She bought it with her when she moved to Australia from England many decades ago, and it has been divided every year and grown continuously since then. And now it is mine too!

Here is the rest of the garlic - this is all Glenlarge.

I like spring.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

None of us is as stupid as all of us.

One just can't help oneself........ Rather than feel hopeless and despairing, one must take refuge in humor.Even if it is old humor.

sheesh. old but still painfully relevant.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A few things

 I don't have much to add to the world today. Leunig as usual knows exactly what to say.

We return once again to the question of why are there humans.

Anyhoo, in other exciting news, folks everywhere it seems are chatting about establishing a city farm / sustainability hub / lets grow more of our food right here in the ONC and looky the nice people at COGS are holding a forum to bring it all together. Bless you. $@^#ing bless you. 

And in less happy news, my beloved Mr Kiwi got wet feed, mostly because I left the washing machine hose on him for too long during winter....and I think he has a terrible disease and I think he might be dying. He is OOZING ectoplasm like something from the ghostbusters. And I think one of the Mrs Kiwi's might have the same thing, but not so bad. I feel GUTTED. My lovely gorgeous coddled 8 year old kiwis that shade our house, keep us cool and shower us with buckets and buckets of kiwis every year.

I think I need a moment.

I am grateful for my lovely neighborhood. My girlie friends. Today was lets order from the Eden seed cattle dog day. So I went next door for Sue to add her things to the list. Then pedaled up to Eileen's while she added things to the list. Then pedaled home with 2 glasses of shiraz in me (well, I AM grieving about the kiwis) and them made the order. I like that.

Can I just say, to those stupid truck drivers, that you don't speak for me. Just to  be clear. And just to be SUPER clear, I want you to consider, just briefly, that if most young folks think that 1) climate change is probably probable enough that it might be prudent to shift our economic trajectory away from coal and towards renewables, and 2) a carbon tax - while perhaps clunky - is one way to do this and 3) lets just have a cup of harden the #@%&^ up and get on with it, and finally, why/how can you put your selfish individualistic, short term, greedy, blinkered, moronic scarcity consciousness nastiness above the needs of the rest of the planet, your children, your children's children and the planet they will inherit FROM YOU and the planet you will leave them.

I am just saying.

Sunday, August 7, 2011


Actually, this is my latest beanie. Beanie #6478920. Alpaca thank you - the yarn of duck herding choice. I am liking that ribbing so much I have started another one that is all alternating front and back post treble thingies. And it is looking pretty good. Super thick, variegated and squidgy.  I decided a clever way to do the increases was to do two front post trebles around one post, and then on the next row, when you get to those two front post trebles, add a back post treble into the second one before you add a front post treble into the same one....which gets you back into a front back front back alternating pattern.....if that makes sence.....hmmm, better wait untill there is a picky.

anyhoo. The DAPHNE is flowering like crazy and the house is full vases oozing that gorgeous kinda froot loop smell which I love so much and which is like a special special gift of colour and scent in the dead of winter. Yay for Daphne.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

peak oil - bring it on!

Today I am especially looking forward to peak oil because:

a) I just saw a cool documentary about Cuba and urban agriculture and it would appear that life without cars and pesticides and herbicides and agricultural chemicals is going to be awesome. Decentralized, local, organic and fresh for all!

b) The average Cuban lost 20 pounds as a result of eating less and better food, walking more and riding bikes.

c) sooner the oil runs out, sooner I can get a donkey.