Friday, March 31, 2017

Perfect weather

It's absolutely beautiful! Every day is 23°-25° (73°F-77°F). We had a little rain, and everything is fast becoming green. It's a lovely time to be working outside, so we have been gardening. The hugelkultur bed got a good compost and manure layer as well as some lime. The asparagus that survived (all 5 of them) are sending up new shoots now. Completely the wrong time of year, but they're making hay while the sun is shining I suppose. Two out of four apple trees are alive, which is amazing, and the figs that popped-up on their own are thriving. It's going to be an interesting spot in a few more years.

Huglekulture bed with a loquat in the foreground
Amish Rockmelon, uhh.. cantaloupe?
I got some seeds because I thought Marty might like them, so I tried them out this year in the shadehouse. Planted between the beans, they've been easy to grow, not overly thirsty either. The first ripe fruit was left on the vine too long because the seed packet said to wait until the stem was brown before picking. We waited, the fruit turned yellow-ish, smelled amazing, but still the stem was green. Just when I couldn't take it anymore, it was too late!
The second one was picked today, it smells ready..

Home grown Amish rockmelon on the left,
honeydew melon from the health food shop on the right

Inside the Amish rockmelon
It tasted ready too, probably the best melon I've had, however I'm not a melon fan.. but..
Marty loved it! That makes me very happy! I've saved the seeds for next year, I'll definitely grow it again.

The beans weren't as much a success, I grew snake beans this year. They grew fine for a time, producing a handful of beans, then the older leaves became mottled with yellow, the younger leaves became small and deformed, and the beans themselves became small and deformed too. Guessing it's a nutrient deficiency, I looked into our soil test results from a few years ago. Turns out we're lacking a few things, but Molybdenum is missing in action. It's kinda important for beans and all legumes in general. I've since applied a trace mineral product to the beans, but I think they're past due now. Still, it's good to know for the future so we can work on adding Mo, and the other nutrients needed, to the soil.

Summer was very hot, but thankfully short. I'm wondering what this means for winter.

In the meantime, we're enjoying the perfect weather, and wishing everyone a good week.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The long tail end of summer

Snake skin in the dry grass
The weather has been over 30°C (86°F) every day with very warm nights. It's been tiring, but there's a little moisture in the air this morning. We're hoping for rain this week. It's got to be our turn! I hear there's been flooding in the more coastal areas of the state. Here, the tank is about 1/3 full, and filling watering cans is a slow process. We're not using our water for baths or laundry, just drinking, cooking, dishes and the garden. If the water level in the tank gets much lower, we'll have to stop watering the garden too.

Marty and I have been spending a lot of time planning lately. The longer we plan, the better the ideas become. I think we're ready to put one of the shed plans into action though, which is very exciting! It's also a bit nerve-wracking since we're quite willing to second-guess ourselves multiple times.

I've been reading (and reading aloud to Marty) "The Intelligent Gardener" by Steve Solomon, borrowed from the library. It prompted me to dig out the soil test we had done on the property just before we purchased it way back in 2012. I didn't really understand the soil test when we had it done. Thanks to this book, I am starting to get the picture. I've still got a lot of homework to do, but it looks like our soils are quite deficient in multiple ways, and it would explain some of the difficulty we're experiencing growing food.

In the meantime, summer drags on, everything is holding it's breath in anticipation of (or perhaps just in hope for) rain.

Monday, March 13, 2017

The 2017 almond harvest

8 almonds

We have about a dozen almond trees here, of various ages between 1 year and almost dead from old age. They bloom beautifully every spring, and provide some much needed shade in the summer, so I'm not complaining. :)

We are hoping to improve the health of the soil by adding rock dust as soon as I can find some, and keeping the area mulched, but the water comes from the sky, and that is always variable.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

The heat of the Summer

It's difficult to write a post and not mention the hellish weather we have been experiencing the last couple of days. We reached a new record under the varandah area yesterday, hitting a very uncomfortable 46°C (115°F). The house temperature rose to 34°C (93°F) and didn't drop more than 2°C degrees overnight. Grumpiness is only to be expected on these mornings!
Sadly, one of our older Dorking chickens didn't survive the hot weather even the day before.
Our brave broody hen, Toupee the naked-neck, hatched out one baby chick nearly 2 weeks ago (happened to be another 40°+ day with horrible northerly winds), so it's already a tough little chick who is accustomed to hot weather. He or she is keeping cool with no neck feathers (from Mum) and running around on 5 toes (from the Dorking Dad).

Having a bee in our bonnets again about rodents living in our walls (it's a theme continued over from living in the old miner's cottage in Stawell), we pulled down the false walls in the alcove area. The framework needs to remain in place for a little while yet.

Yes, we cleaned up nest sites and all manner of mess. There was a little render left on the walls, and the plinth over the doors are concrete painted white. The walls look in very good condition and we'll protect them with render again real soon.

Marty and I braved a clearing sale or two, brought home this neat meat-safe. It's in need of repair, but we're thinking it'd make a good fruit drying safe. Just need to figure out the best way to put racks in there..

And my favourite part, first thing in the morning, just as the sun is rising, I water the shade house. It's beautiful and green in there, probably THE best spot on the whole property. It attracts plenty of insects, to be sure, but in turn, the Willy Wagtails and more recently, the Grey Shrike Thrush have figured out that the buffet is free. We've seen frogs on the shadecloth and in saucers of water in the evenings, and the strong north winds are effectively blocked by the house and water tank. It's the ideal spot. I took a chance and planted beans directly in the soil on the south side of a row of straw bales and now we're getting a yield! The same beans planted in the kitchen garden have long since gone. Infact, the kitchen garden gets almost as much attention as the shade house does (although, I do raise seedlings in here, so they get attention twice a day), yet the kitchen garden is struggling to survive, let alone produce much food. There are plans for "Shade House Ver. 2" in the near future.. definitely before next summer!

In the meantime, we're keeping the humidity up with a wet towel in front of the fan. It's 34°C inside still, so I can't say we're keeping cool, but it's a lot more comfortable than being outside! It's easy to forget some simple measures to keep cool, so here's a link to an ABC article as a reminder!

Stay alive. :)

Monday, January 16, 2017

The toolshed

We put up the toolshed a while ago now, and it's been keeping various garden tools dry and out of the way (out from under the varandah) for a year now. I always intended to use cob to fill in the front wall, since tin is ugly (there is SO much corrigated iron around!!) and the wood used to construct it was bits of various sizes and shapes that we happened to have lying around. Since there are no straight edges, cob is a great choice.

Then I saw in a borrowed Ownder Builder (no.181) the back page has a great article about installing a bird nest into their cob garage as it was being built. This inspired me! See, we have a great problem, lots of native blue banded bees call our cottage wall home, and this year they managed to burrow right through and into the kitchen. We've plugged the hole temporarly, but I would love to build them more mud walls. I don't feel right about repairing the kitchen wall until they have somewhere else to call home first.

So, we're poking blue banded-sized holes into the cob to start them off. I also would like to add some bamboo on end for some of the small mud wasps (they fill every little hole with mud), and of course the bigger mud wasps are always welcome to add their nests to the walls as well. They're enjoying making a muddy mess of the bathroom mirror right now. Yep, mud wasp central here. Luckily for us they all seem friendly enough.

I've also inserted a few old Fowlers jars for a little extra light when looking for the shovel. I don't know that they'll make a difference, but they're fun anyway. It's going to take a while to finish, it's not as fast as putting up a few bits of tin, but it'll be a whole lot nicer to look at, and hopefully create some habitat as well.