Showing posts with label Eco Challenge gardening. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Eco Challenge gardening. Show all posts


Old Wisdom and the Spring Equinox in Australia

I just love spring! It has such a special feel to it.

The Spring Equinox happens in Australia between September 21 and 23. This year it happens today at 6.23pm.

Mathematically, we are at a quarter point for the seasonal year. Day and night are completely equal in time and from tomorrow day will be longer than night.

This balance in the earth’s days reminds me that we should stop and calibrate things in our own lives. We should seek balance. This often means that we need to do a clean sweep, re-evaluate and change things a little.

In days of old, the Spring Equinox held great hope to people because it symbolised the end of the cooler weather, the emergence of seedlings and the anticipation of new crops. The houses were opened and the soot of winter fires cleared out.

We still hold onto this time of ‘Spring Cleaning’. It’s time to pack away blankets, tidy our cupboards, donate clothing that doesn’t fit and generally de-clutter.

We take this time to sow our summer seeds, work out what seedlings we will need and think about harvesting what is abundant now.

Lavender is in abundance at the moment, which tells me it is time to make new skin care products and soap. After harvesting this crop of lavender and picking some rosemary and spinach for dinner, the house smelt sensational ! 

On the 28th of September I celebrate my birthday, another reason to stop and think about the season and the year to come.

The many new colours of the flowers, the sounds of the birds and the smell of a potential summer breeze on the wind makes me stop, think and bring everything back into balance, ready for a fresh new season.

Do you have a spring ritual, a cleaning ritual or any other special things you do to bring in the new season ? 


Mandarins and Macadamias: Mother Nature's M&Ms

Wandering around the backyard with a basket in hand, there are so many delicious offerings to be found!

I am starting to call this area 'the food forest' because there is always something to snack on.

The Macadamias are starting to fall from the tree. They are in a green pod which breaks open to reveal the hard brown shell. Inside the nuts are creamy and lovely tasting - a true Aussie Bush Food !

I add macadamia nuts to banana bread instead of using walnuts.


Garden Update

 Considering that we were away on and off for almost three whole months, our garden is going quite well.
 Broad beans are starting to burst out. Not a single one has made it inside - they are all eaten raw in the garden.
 Even though the chooks jumped the fence when we were away and dug up the potato plants there have still been enough for me to go and scratch around and pull out enough any time we need some for a meal. We had them slow roasted last week when we had friends visit and they were beautiful!
 The strawberries have started to go mad. I am so glad there was enough rain while we were away to keep the garden functioning.
There are also tomatoes, corn, climbing beans, celery and lots of herbs coming along. Hopefully I will have some great photos to share soon.


Garden Update: Tears of {Onion} Joy

I will be crying tears of joy when I finally chop and cook this little baby! Actually, it is not so little. They are remarkably huge!

This is the first time that I have grown onions. I always had it in the back of my mind that onions take too long and they take up too much space. But..... the time was going to pass anyway and I don't believe they took a lot of space. They are now ready to be pulled out, tied and hung up until we need them. I will be planting more for sure!

  Everything else is plodding along nicely. This silverbeet is going much better since a relocation into a much wetter area.

Rows of beans are powering now that the weather is warming. So too is the sweet corn. This year we are really trying to get our succession planting worked out. We always struggle with feast or famine when it comes to our garden so this year we are determined to try and stagger the plantings and have an ongoing supply of produce.

Tucked away there is the shadow is a little pumpkin that wasn't there yesterday. They say magic doesn't exist, but how was there nothing yesterday and today there is a pumpkin ? That is a miracle in my books!
There are also some exciting chook house renovations happening to prepare the girls for a luxurious summer in their new penthouse. Stay tuned for further updates.
A question for you.... how do you plan and/or organise your succession planting so that there are no gaps in your backyard production ? I have been really encouraged by the show River Cottage and borrowed the DVD from the town library. I like the way Hugh has his seedlings starting again as soon as the last lot go into the ground. He has a great system worked out.
Do you have any fabulous system for what to plant when ? I'd love to know what you do.


Garden Update: Compost Bin Changeover

The time had arrived to empty the compost bin. We have a pretty plain compost bin. I won it in a radio trivia competition. That was about ten years ago and it still seems to be going strong.

I don't know whether we do it the 'right' way or not, but for years we have been using the same system with great success. We simply fill the bin with scraps from the kitchen, the garden and the some paper and try to keep the balance right between wet and dry materials.

The bin is made of two halves that are wired together in the middle on both sides. When the bin is full I simply undo the wire twists and am left with a perfect pile. You can see in the picture above that the material on the top hasn't broken down yet but as you look down the pile - it is perfect.

By this stage the girls get a whiff of what is happening and they start hanging around - begging to be let into the garden area.

I then move the compost to a new location (this time it is right next to where it was) and wire it back together. I sit the bin up on a couple of bricks and put some twigs in the bottom for air circulation. I then lift the top centimetres off the old pile and put it back in the bottom of the compost bin in the new location.

We then fenced off a small area and let the girls come in and have a good dig through everything for a couple of hours before we scraped it all up and put it on the garden. The girls went absolutely mad! They scratched and pecked and jumped on bugs. It really was a joy to watch!
We also cleaned out the chook house and added the manure to the compost.
It is amazing to think that we put the soil compost on the garden and grow things and then mulch up the plants and put them in the compost which in turn becomes the dirt that we grow things in again. It is a complete circle....... the circle of {life} !


Garden Update: Bean Feedback

Thank you to all the people that left a comment or emailed me regarding the broad beans. Having not grown them before we have no idea whether we are just wasting time, effort and precious garden space with them or not. From the comments, it would appear that we are on track to a bumper crop.
Here is some of the comment from Aussiemade:
I have been growing broad beans for several years, and yours look fantastic and are doing all the right things. If bees have not been about much(as they have not down here) due to wind,rain or cold, than you may not get as many broad beans as you thought, however the way it works is that generally every flower in a perfect world will grow into a bean pod. If they have not been pollinated they will just fall off. Now in saying that I have some very small pods developing, the way to see them are that as the flowers drop of you should (if a bean pod is developing see a thin pod like structure but very small. It grows relatively quickly once the warmer weather starts, so in a few weeks you should have some yummy broad beans.
When I read that comment to Hubbie we both said 'oh no, if every flower turns into a pod we are in big trouble!'. LOL When I was taking these photos I noticed that there are a lot of bees around and that the beans are now forming. That's okay, there will be plenty of beans to give away. I will have to put a sign out the front that says " free beans - bring own truck"

Here are some sprouts that are growing on the kitchen bench. They are the easiest thing in the world to grow.

Today I was taking out some older potato plants to make way for some corn seeds when I found these little beauties in the ground. I love growing potatoes. They are so surprising. The plants are ugly, ragged and unsightly and when you dig them up there are all these little gems in the soil. This year I want to grow lots more in cages so I can build the soil right up around them and get bumper crops. Last year our potatoes lasted really well in the cupboard - I just needed a lot more of them.
Now is the perfect time to think about what you will need for the summer period ( sorry US readers, but we are dreaming of sun and surf at the moment). It is only 16 weeks until Christmas. Considering most things take about 14-16 weeks to grow, I am looking at what we need over the Christmas holiday period. The summer holidays mean lots of swimming, boating, barbeques and easy meals. That means we need lots of corn, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, potatoes, herbs capsicum and carrots. What better place to get them from than your own garden beds.


Garden Update: Wanted - Bean Expert.

Our garden was feeling a little unloved until I got out there a few days ago and pulled out some old plants and got the soil ready for the next growing season. The whole garden was flooded a couple of times over the winter period and we had so much 'time off' with sickness that the soil was quite compacted. We have freshened it up and added some organic fertiliser.

Can someone please tell me what is happening with these broad beans ? This is the first time we have grown them. We have lots of bushes, all about a metre tall with loads of flowers. They seem to be evolving every day, but we are not sure whether we have missed the fruiting stage. Our seasons have been so mixed up lately - we had summer temperatures earlier in the week.
So if you are an experienced broad bean grower - please drop me a line.

My onions are fattening up well. Once again, a first time crop. I was always put off growing onions because of how long they take to grow. These seem to be going okay and I hope they are amounting to something underneath the soil as well.

And of course I can't forget our beautiful girls! We were originally advised to get four because there would be times when each of them would go off the lay. Well....... we have had four eggs a day since they started laying. It doesn't sound like a lot, but believe me it doesn't take long before they are falling out of the fridge and even though you supply the neighbours, your family and their friends, there are still eggs galore. These productive little girls are so spoilt but we are grateful for their contribution.


The Smell Of Spring

Have a look at my beautiful sunflower. Boy has it been a long wait! I remember planting the seeds and wondering whether they would come up. Since then the garden has been flooded twice and I had weeks where I didn't even glance at them due to sickness and a series of other unfortunate events.

Add to that the fight with the galahs. Can you blame them for flying in and attacking them - they are like giant lolly pops screaming 'eat me, eat me'.

This afternoon I am heading off on my annual girls weekend away. Each year we go to "scrapmania" a weekend of scrapbooking and crafting. I am looking forward to going through my photos, reconnecting with them and making some great albums for us all to look back on and treasure. I love having the time to sit and think and write.

The camp is held at 'Camp Elim' which is just outside Forster on the banks of the most beautiful lake. I will take some pictures to share with you all.

Most of all, I am looking forward to some relaxation and renewal time. An opportunity to recharge my batteries. I have so many ideas for our garden and I smell spring in the air. I feel that it is almost time to plant. Just need a few more warm days to heat up the earth a little more before I plant the seeds.

I hope you all have a great weekend as well.


Garden Update

I can't believe after the awful weather we have been having that our garden is still standing! At one stage last week I looked out through the rain covered windows and was sure these plants were horizontal. The wind was incredible, not to mention all the rain and flooding.
The carrots here are going strong and my experimental onions ( to the right) are really coming up well. I haven't grown onions before so I hope they are going to be a real hit as they are one vegetable we use all the time. Behind that you can see the potatoes and broad beans coming along really well.

Looking at this little area today, it seems as though things are recovering. Thank goodness. I have a lot of seedlings that I have raised and am hoping to put into their new homes this week, but I couldn't put them into pure mud!

These two little tomato plants are going quite well, considering. They are little chili plants that are coming up around them. A friend around the corner from us had the most beautiful huge tomatoes all organically grown and she had chili plants practically wrapped around them. As you can guess, there was not a bug to be seen. As such, we are trialing that method with these two plants.

... and of course, how could I forget my lovely ladies that always do their job so well. Here they are turning scraps into eggs. How delightful!


Changing Seasons

Autumn really snuck up on me this year. We were swimming, water-skiing and applying sunscreen right up until about 3 weeks ago. That's when I saw the first red/yellow leaf drop to the ground. As soon as that leaf hit, everything started to change. Step by step I noticed that nature had begun preparing for the change of season and I instinctively started doing the same.

Don't you think it is funny how we naturally follow the course of nature - although we rarely stop and think about it. The biggest changes for me seem to be at the beginning of spring and the beginning of autumn. In the spring time we start to open up the house again. The front door starts letting the sun in through the day, the windows are opened up wide to let as much warmth in as possible and you feel the need to clean everything out and start afresh. It reminds me of a flower coming into bloom and slowly opening each of it's petals.

Autumn is the opposite. The flower starts to close and tuck itself in tight to weather the cooler months. The jumpers come out, the socks go on and the snuggle rugs are put out on the lounge. In our house the change of season means that we put blankets on each of the beds and even an electric blanket, ready to warm the beds before getting in each night.

Each winter I add the old pink blanket ( pictured above) to our bed. It is one that belonged to hubbie's mum and dad. It is so old, it even has their surname (and ours) embroidered in the corner. I love things that stand the test of time. They seem to bring their story with them!

In the garden there has been a period of nothingness. The last of the summer crops come out and the winter ones go in. Until they emerge, it looks like a heap of dirt with nothing to show! Lately things have started to come to life. There are potatoes, broad beans, peas, beetroot, carrots, broccoli, onions and still loads of celery, spinach and a few different herbs. I am just hoping the garden survives this awful weather we are having. We have had very wild damaging winds and about 71mm of rain in the last four days. Once again the back yard is completely flooded. This morning I had to go out a dig a trench to let the water out of the chook pen as they only had one little island to stand on !
Do you like the roses pictured above ? They are from my garden. I have them beside my bed because they make a room so pleasant and lovely and their smell is beautiful! So, does he love me, or does he love me not ? Considering he gave them to me from our own garden...... I'd say he loves me !


Lawns Into Lunch .... always busy !

On the weekend we extended our 'farm' area. We had a vision for many more garden beds so we moved the fence closer to the house, giving us an extra 2 metres in length and lots of room for extra beds. Today we dug out an area for a tomato and chili patch. Of course the chooks had to get in and help.

I am really loving the 'farm' area. I spend quite a lot of time up there now, planting seeds, filling in the garden diary, sketching plans and reading gardening info. As part of the 'farm' extension we took out the clothes line. It was far too close to the chook house and took up quite a bit of space. I now have a temporary makeshift clothesline along the veranda in this area until we 're-purpose' the old clothesline into a new model that better suits our needs.

Someone commented on the simple savings website that they enjoy my blog, but I don't write enough. I have been thinking about this...... I guess the reason is that sometimes I am too busy doing things to sit and write about them! lol

People can go to work and be busy all day and get paid for their efforts and then spend that money outsourcing their life needs. They get someone else to grow their food, bake their bread, make their clothes etc. Some even outsource even more of their ‘needs’ – they have other people mow their lawn, wash their car, take care of their children, and even cut and buff their toenails! Lol

When you don’t have a job, you have to do many of these things yourself. This means that your job is ‘life itself’. I find that living this DIY lifestyle is somewhat busier than a ‘normal’ life.
You see, If I want bread, I have to make it. If I want baked potatoes for tea I have to grow them. These tasks are not easy by any means! I can’t just get up at 7am and realise that there is no bread and ‘whip one up’. It takes about 2 ½ hours using a bread making machine and if i make it by hand I still have to allow time for rising etc. So there is a lot of forethought in a loaf of bread.

Potatoes! ::geesh:: they are even worse. If I want baked potatoes for my tea then I have to think about 14 WEEKS IN ADVANCE ::lol:: so that I can actually grow them.
This translates into a lot of busyness on any given day. Life is always about getting ahead and thinking ahead.

Thinking about needs for the future – what will I eat tomorrow, next week, next month? What can I do today to make sure that happens? That might be as simple as getting some meat out of the freezer or planting some broccoli seeds. It might be baking a cake for afternoon teas for a few days or making jam. Each action we do today is a sowing that we will reap some time in the future ....... therefore,....... :: AS YOU SOW, SO YOU REAP::

So if it is such a busy life, a life that takes planning and preparation – why would you bother ? Why would I bother growing potatoes when I can go to the supermarket and buy them for $2 a kilo ? Why would I make soap when it is on special around the corner ? Why not just go and earn money and just buy these things ?

The answer is THE JOY FACTOR. An undefinable, unquantifiable invisible element that some people see everywhere, whilst other people miss completely. There is a deep sense of satisfaction in roasting your own potatoes, or snipping off your own shallots. Sure sure, there are other factors at play. People have a number of reasons for doing things like growing their own food. It may be as a way of saving money, a way of obtaining fresh, organic produce or a way of securing a food supply in times of uncertainty. These factors DO play a role in my decision to grow my own, but the number one benefit to me is JOY, HAPPINESS, FULFILLMENT, ACCOMPLISHMENT, SATISFACTION or whatever other title you want to put on it!


Last Night's Meal

With what feels like thousands of eggs on hand the obvious choice for dinner last night was a quiche. This one has a little bacon and handfuls of herbs ( basil and coriander) and shallots. It was very tasty indeed.

We combined it with some home grown corn and beans. The corn is SO tasty. We always leave it in the husk and put each cob in the microwave for three minutes and then take them out and peel the husk and silks off it. They come off really easily and the corn is cooked beautifully. It is crisp and very very hot!

Maybe it is all in our mind, but things that come from the backyard seem to taste so much better. Is it the freshness? Is it because they are organically grown ? or is it the secret ingredient of the joy factor that comes from knowing that you grew it, you picked it and you then took the twenty steps back to the house and cooked it ?

Sad to say that some things didn't survive the huge amount of rain we had while we were away. While we were in Sydney for five days we had over 90 mls of rain.... and I was worried about getting someone to water the garden !! My poor butternut pumpkins became completely waterlogged and just dropped off the vine and the chook house turned into a swimming pool. At least the seeds I planted before I left were up when I got back.

Here is one of our chooks. I thought I would give her a little spot in the limelight considering their wonderful contribution to our food supply.


Garden Update

You can menu plan all you like, but sometimes the garden will dictate what is for dinner.


Home On The "FARM"

Well....... 'farm' may be a bit of an exaggeration, but with my garden beds now fenced off from the chooks with a stretch of makeshift netting and a wooden gateway it has affectionately become known as 'the farm' and I am fully embracing it!

I have a vision for the 'farm'. It is a vision splendid. I have been looking back through the archives of Path To Freedom and have seen that they started with something not that much different to what we currently have. I think we even have a little more space.

Reading their journal is so inspiring. They didn't wait until they had their acreage in the country to start leading a more self sufficient lifestyle, they jumped in where they were, in the city in Pasadena and just made the most of the space they had.

So, whilst my 'farm' is not a huge area, it does have it's advantages. It is only 20 steps away from my back door, yet I am still within walking distance from the little shop, post office and the boys' school. It is small but extremely manageable. There is room for expansion ( a whole two square metres! ) and I can run and get anything from the area when I am cooking.

It would appear that the more joy I am finding around my home, the less I search for outside 'entertainment'. I like the planing, digging, seed raising, harvesting and preserving that comes from having a garden. They are 'feel good' activities. I could never find that sense of joy in shopping mall!

I like falling into bed at night knowing that I have worked hard all day. It seems I fall into bed exhausted yet wake refreshed ready to start a new adventure, or try something new.

Our boys finished school on Thursday and don't go back until the 28th april. I am really happy about having them home because there is so much 'home learning' to do. Sometimes their school days interrupt real learning ( and my boys have great teachers this year!) - I know that sounds strange, but to me ( and I spent eight years as a primary school teacher) parents are the first educators of their children. Kids learn the most amazing things by osmosis up until the age of five. They learn at least one language, how to crawl, walk, count, the names and attributes of animals and things in nature. They even learn to read! Then, once they start school, we seem to think that they can't learn independently anymore. They need a 'teacher' to tell them what to learn. For boys that classify birds, write 'how to manuals', cook, build, design lego robots, paint artworks and solve puzzles, it can be pretty boring to go to school and colour in sheets that say " F is for firetruck" LOL

So, school holidays is the chance to rev up some passion for learning. We will even take them to Sydney to some museums to spark some curiosity.

But for now....... can't stop to talk..... got to get back to the farm... - crops to plant, corn to harvest! LOL


A Busy Beetroot Sunday

The day started off with a request for pancakes. Seeing that I had an extra hour this morning ( daylight savings finished and the clock was wound back) I kindly obliged.

Then it was time for a quick trip to town for Easter Hat Parade supplies and some seedlings. I managed to get in some more broccoli, beetroot and a heap of onions. While I was pottering I also got a lot more corn plants. I have also decided to grow sunflowers so that I have lots of seeds to feed the chooks. They go totally mad over them, to the point where they always pick them out first in the seed mix.

Then it was time to get the creative juices flowing. The boys had excellent designs for their Easter hats and I had to beg to have a go at painting the foam eggs. The parade is on Wednesday.

While the paint and glue was drying I managed to process some beetroot that I picked yesterday, using my mother-in-law's recipe.

When you pull the beetroot from the ground, twist the leaves off and leave the messy stumpy bit on the top and the root ball. at the bottom. Wash all the dirt off and boil them in a little salted water until a cooking fork will go right through them.

Remove them from the pot and let them cool completely. Then peel them by rubbing the skins off. They come off really easily.

Then slice them up ( cutting off the yucky top and bottom) and put them into a container. I had my trusty Tupperware on hand. I like the way it lifts the beetroot up and it has a lifetime guarantee.

Then mix 500 mL of vinegar and 250 mL of boiling water and dissolve two dessertspoons of sugar into it. Pout the mixture over the beetroot and discard the remaining mix.

After retrieving the washing from the line and managing to get some ironing time in it was time to start preparing dinner ( by my body clock - but the clock said it was only 3.45 pm lol)

Dinner was very easy tonight, just some 'special' fried rice because we had a big meal last night. . I just cook the rice first, stir fry some bacon and then scramble some eggs into it ( i used three) a clove of garlic and a few splashes of soy sauce and then pour in the rice ( I use basmati ). Then I pour in a chicken stock cube dissolved in a cup of water and then add some peas or shallots or corn or whatever I have on hand.

I hope you had a lovely Sunday. I certainly did.

April Theme: Re-organise and Transition

In the Southern Hemisphere, April is in Autumn.  The days here are still warmish, but there is a sneaking whisper in the wind. That whisper ...